Frank Biela has admitted he is unsure whether Audi will be quick enough to prevail in the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours for the eighth time in nine years this weekend, confessing that he was 'annoyed' by the speed arch-rivals Peugeot demonstrated in qualifying.

The German is one of the most successful drivers in La Sarthe history, triumphing five times since the turn of the Millennium. Whether he will add to those impressive laurels in the 2008 edition, however, is another question, with Peugeot blitzing all comers in Wednesday's qualifying session to steal the top three spots on the starting grid.

Worse still, the petrol-powered Lola Aston Martin got itself in amongst the works Audis to leave defending race-winners Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner to begin the round-the-clock French classic from just seventh place - almost seven seconds shy of the pole. The German insisted, however, that it had been no major drama.

"We all knew that if this car (the Lola Aston Martin) put soft tyres or qualifiers on for example they could be very strong," the 43-year-old reflected in an exclusive interview with Crash.net Radio. "That's what they experienced in the Le Mans Series as well.

"The other thing is we really did not do anything to do one quick lap time; even at the end it was never really a try to beat the others. Of course you go as fast as you can and you want to push as hard as possible, but we never had a configuration where we were really going for it. From that point-of-view, we are actually quite happy.

"The car I think has a good set-up and a good balance for the race - that's what we were focussing on, and in fact at the end of the day whether you are fourth, fifth or seventh it's not such a big difference.

"Of course, in this position the first corner could be a little problem, because the others will be coming like crazy from behind and you have to be careful of those in front of you too, but I hope that's not going to be a problem, and after that there are still 23 hours and 59 minutes to go!"

What Biela acknowledged had worried him was not St?phane Sarrazin's scintillating pole lap, but rather the sequence of consistently fast laps put together by all three Peugeots towards the end of Thursday night's qualifying session, what the former BTCC and DTM Champion feared did not augur well for Audi for the race, the Ingolstadt marque's superior reliability notwithstanding.

"I don't know if it is," he replied when asked whether he believed the 3m18.513s effort was the quickest Peugeot could go. "I would guess that on Wednesday they really tried. Maybe they can put a little bit on top of that, I don't know.

"On Thursday I think it was quite obvious that they too were concentrating on race set-up and harder tyres to see how the car was there. That's my impression. The 3m21s, 3m22s laps at the end of the night session were more annoying than the 3m18.5s [pole position time], because I guess that's their race speed and it's really fast.

"I think we are in good shape, though. Whether it's good enough to put them really under pressure and give them a hard time, we will see on Saturday, but I think we are well-prepared, well set-up and everybody knows what we are here for. That's what we will try to do, and do our job as good as possible."

by Russell Atkins at Le Mans

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

 

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