PREMA Racing will start the Centenary Le Mans 24 Hours with two cars in the top-8 of the LMP2 class after qualifying both its Oreca 07 racecars for the Hyperpole session. In Qualifying Practice, Mirko Bortolotti and Bent Viscaal handed the team a great result overall. The Italian set the third-fastest lap time in a top-5 covered by less than three-tenths (over a lap of more than 3 minutes and 30 seconds). Dutchman Viscaal put in a solid effort to capture P7 despite late traffic preventing him from using his last flying lap.
With positive results already in the bag, the team lined up for the Hyperpole, a 30-minute session featuring the 8 fastest drivers of Qualifying practice. Bortolotti and Viscaal played it safe in the initial stages and went for a late attack. Unfortunately, when they were both tracking for a front-running result and a shot at pole, a Hypercar prototype caught fire, which prompted a red flag with around 5 minutes to go.
With the little fuel remaining and the tyres now past their performance peak, Bortolotti and Viscaal went on track for a late attempt. While the Dutchman took P7, the Lamborghini Squadra Corse Factory Driver pulled a stellar last-gasp run to clinch P5. Both cars will start within the first four rows of the LMP2 field in a brilliant team performance.
Wednesday and Thursday practice confirmed the good vibes for the rest of the driver line-up including Juan Manuel Correa and Filip Ugran on the #9 and Doriane Pin and Daniil Kvyat on the #63.
The drivers are now set for a magic experience on Friday as they will take part in the world-famous parade in the city centre of Le Mans before tens of thousands of cheering fans. With Friday, the weather might come into play, as variable conditions are expected for tomorrow and Saturday.
9 BENT VISCAAL
“The pace was there to move up a few positions, a top-5 I think was definitely possible, probably more. The red flag came out at the worst possible moment for us, and luckily we saved the last run, as we were running very low on fuel. However, sometimes you are on the good side of things, and sometimes you’re on the bad, but in general, looking at the race, I think we are very strong. This is the race where the starting position matters the least, and I’m looking forward to the fight.”
63 MIRKO BORTOLOTTI
“It’s a bittersweet day because I was on a really strong lap when the red flag came out at the worst moment, it was my peak lap, and I think we would have had a shot at pole. So, being in P5 is a bit of a disappointment, but at the same time, it’s a great achievement because I had to set my lap on the same set of tyres after a full course yellow and a red flag. We still managed to improve and had good damage limitation. At the end of the day, P5 is a good spot to start a 24-hour race from.”
Source | Photo: PREMA Racing