With just nine points covering the first nine drivers, it is all the play for in the final race of the Le Mans Endurance Series at the Otodrom circuit in Istanbul, but after qualifying it was the Pescarolo team that took first blood, edging out their arch rivals Zytek around the high-speed circuit.

It has been an eventful week for championship leader Hayanari Shimoda, who is racing despite a mammoth accident in Australia last week when he took to the track in the A1 GP Championship for the first time. Indeed, it was not the Japanese driver, who shares his seat with Tom Chilton and Casper Elgaard, who set the fastest time in the car. Instead it was Dane Elgaard who proved fastest of the trio, getting to within a tenth of the pole winning Emmanuel Collard.

Along with team mate Jean-Christophe Boullion, Collard currently sits just three points adrift of Shimoda and is hoping to keep ahead of the Zytek, despite knowing that their rivals are likely to have the upper hand on the slower final section.

"Since we got here, we have been quick", said Collard. "My next lap was three tenths of a second faster on the data, but I messed up a corner. We still have too much understeer and tomorrow we will have to try something else. We are losing a lot of time on the brakes and we are much slower through the final section of corners than the Zytek."

Behind the top two, the Creation DBA team will line-up in third place but while they are still in contention for the title they remain an outside bet for victory. Nicolas Minassian, along with Jamie Campbell-Walter and Jean-Denis Delatraz were able to get the better of Stephane Ortelli and Allan McNish in third,

The Audi R8 pair meanwhile are attempting to give a fitting send off for the hugely successful car, which will be replaced by the R10 next year.

Marginally behind in sixth place Guy Smith, Gareth Evans and Peter Owen emerged as the leading LMP2 runner, despite it being the former Le Mans winner Smith's first drive the class. "I have never driven an LMP2 car before, so I had no idea what to expect. We had understeer yesterday so we dropped the ride-height at the front", Smith commented.

"That was fine, but I got a little sideways through the corner before, and then just put a wheel on the kerb, which was enough to spin me around. I was in second gear, couldn't get neutral and then the engine stalled. The marshals were not too happy with me. I saw Allan and I am glad it was him driving or we could have had a very big accident. "

The Rollcentre Dallara, the Team Jota Zytek, the Ray Mallock Lola, the Courage C65 and the second Rollcentre Dallara rounded out the top ten, with the five teams being covered by less than a second on the lengthy circuit.

The hotly contested GT1 class was won by Pedro Lamy in the Menx Ferrari 550 Maranello, securing 15th place overall. Sharing with Robert Pergl and Peter Kox, the Portuguese driver is seventh in the drivers' standings but remains just four points off the leading Ferrari of Matteo Cressoni, who will start in 17th and third in class.

"I didn't have any traffic that lost me any time," said Lamy . "I had a good first lap, the second was rubbish because I was trying too hard, and then the third was again good. The car has been doing the times since the first practice. Michelin have brought the right compound of tyres, learning from their experience here in the FIA GT Championship a few months ago."

In the GT2 class, Andrew Kirkaldy and Nathan Kinch secured pole position in their Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 360, with Jamie Melo in second place and the TVR Tuscan of Laurence Tomlinson, Jonny Kane and Warren Hughes.

"We were not sure what our pace woul d be," said the Scottish driver. "I did a flying lap, followed by a slow lap to cool off, then another flying lap. I did a best of 1m51s and I was behind the GPC Ferrari of Jaime Melo. I could see that he was sl iding and locking up, so I knew that he would not be able to beat my time."

Although the GT2 championship has already been decided in favour of the Sebah Automotive Porsche team, Kinch and Kirkaldy are still embroiled in a Franco Groppi and Luigi Moccia for second in the championship.

 

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