After the two free practice sessions being dominated respectively by Team Kawasaki France and Yamaha GMT 94, the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team took the lead this evening by scoring the best lap times in the first qualifying session.
The Suzuki 1, current World Champion, was the fastest with the average lap time of its three riders. Vincent Philippe, Matthieu Lagrive and Julien Da Costa took the lead with an average time of 1’38.781, ahead of the Yamaha GMT 94 in 1’39.005. However, when it comes to individual lap times, the best one was made by Sébastien Gimbert on the Yamaha GMT 94.
Kawasaki France, with Gwen Giabbani, Erwan Nigon and Julian Mazuecos, is taking the third place on the starting grid, ahead of the SERT Suzuki number 2 of William Costes, Guillaume Dietrich and Barry Veneman. Those four teams are the only ones to lap under 1’40 at Le Mans.
The best performance behind this quartet of official machines was made by Midi Pyrénées MV Agusta. Patrick Piot, Sébastien Scarnato and Josep Monge took the fifth place in 1’41.091. Close behind them are the first Superstock machine of Junior Team Suzuki, then the Yamaha Austria Racing Team and the Kawasaki of the Bolliger Team Switzerland.
Endurance Moto 38 takes the eleventh place but its third rider, Swiss Hervé Gantner, never rode in Le Mans before. Phase One Endurance is only thirteen, due to the crash, without consequences, of Stéphane Duterne. Spanish rider Dani Ribalta was very fast at YMES Folch Endurance but his two team-mates are discovering the track; hence the Spanish Yamaha is sixteenth for now.
The most disappointing results certainly comes from Honda National Motos. Engine and chassis problems gave some hard time to the Honda and the team could not do better than thirty-second on the grid. Maco Moto Racing Team is facing the same problems and have still to make decisions on some technical options. They are in thirty-seventh position.
The 2007 qualifying lap times have already been beaten, but the Bugatti track underwent some changes last winter. The "Garage Vert" corner was made safer and the track length increased from 4180 to 4185 meters, but also made obviously faster. The first riders on the track had the benefit of a better weather, since it was drizzling towards the end of the session.