1st Le Mans 2014 Qualifying Report: Porsche ahead after Audi crash

Although this first day of practice and qualifying at Le Mans was overshadowed by Loïc Duval’s violent accident in the No. 1 Audi, it was Porsche who grabbed the headlines by putting themselves at the top of the timesheets during the first qualifying session Wednesday night. In the LMP2 class, Morgan finished in the lead while Ferrari dominated in both the GTE Pro and Am classes.

The free practice session that took place between 4 pm and 8 pm was marked by the crash that happened to Loïc Duval at the wheel of the No. 1 Audi. The French driver, winner of the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans and World Endurance Championship title holder, had an accident at the exit of the Porsche Curves. The ACO medical and technical services came to his aid immediately, taking him first to the circuit medical centre before transferring him to the hospital in Le Mans for examination.

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His status is considered satisfactory, but he will not be able to take part in the 82nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Saturday. Considering the violent impact experienced during the crash, it is a testimony to the safety of the prototypes that Loic Duval has only suffered minor injuries.
Marc Gené, the Audi reserve driver (entered until now in the No. 38 Zytek Z11SN-Nissan) has been authorised by the college of marshals to join the No. 1 Audi driver line-up as of Thursday. At the same time, the college authorized the Jota Sport team to replace him with the British driver, Oliver Turvey.

Following the incident, the No. 1 Audi chassis is beuond repair. However, Audi Sport Team Joest presented a request to the technical marshals to be able to use a new tub. They gave their authorization for Audi Sport Team Joest to rebuild the No. 1 car around this new tub. The team will present it tomorrow for technical inspection.

Strictly in terms of performances, the free practice session, cut short by almost an hour, was dominated by the No. 8 Toyota with a fastest time of 3:23:652. However this time did not count towards qualifying.

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At 10:00pm, the first qualifying session was underway. It was another session unfortunately cut short. It was just over an hour old when the No. 99 Aston Martin had an incident at the Karting curve, driven by the Brazilian Fernando Rees. Although it was not the driver’s fault, the debris left by the incident meant the session would not resume. All the teams waited patiently to go after the pole position, but it was an assault that could not take place.

At the close of this first qualifying session, the No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid clocked the best time in 3:23:157 ahead of its sister car, the No. 14 by seven tenths of a second. Next came the two Toyota TS 040 Hybrids followed by the two remaining Audis. The fastest LM P2 car was the No. 26 Morgan-Nissan in 3:38:843.

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In the LM GTE Pro class, the best time was returned for the No. 51 Ferrari 458 Italia in 3:54:754 and in the LM GTE Am class another Ferrari was quickest, the No. 72 car recorded 3:56:787.

The 55 competitors in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2014 return to the track on Thursday starting at 7:00 p.m. for four hours of qualifying (7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. then 10:00 p.m. to midnight). All will be hoping for longer uninterrupted sessions and no serious accidents.

Written by Richard Webb