Before the first qualifying session on Wednesday night was over, Audi Sport Team Joest began to assemble a new Audi R18 e-tron quattro on the base of a spare monocoque. The spectators and members of the media at Le Mans could hardly believe their eyes when three Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars were standing in the pits again on Thursday night. In the afternoon, the R18 passed Technical Scrutineering and car number ‘1’ was ready to run again in time for the second qualifying session on Thursday night.
A defective sensor and guard rail contact by Lucas di Grassi caused further minor setbacks in the second qualifying session. But in the final third qualifying, which was extended to 2.30 hours, the newly prepared Audi R18 e-tron quattro was running without the slightest problem late on Thursday night.
There is good news for the fans of Loïc Duval too. On Thursday, the Frenchman was released from the hospital where he had spent the night under observation as a precaution. The Frenchman briefly visited his team and team-mates in the paddock before heading home to Geneva together with his father in order to recover from the consequences of the accident for the next few days.
Loïc Duval’s name will continue to be present on the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro at Le Mans. His place in the cockpit was taken over by the Spaniard Marc Gené. Together with Lucas di Grassi and Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen, Gené will start the race from grid position seven. The fastest time of car #1 was achieved by di Grassi in 3m 25.814s.
The two other Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars were able to complete the test program on Thursday as planned and will be sharing the third row of the grid on Saturday. The fastest lap within the Audi squad was achieved by Oliver Jarvis shortly before the end of the second qualifying session in 3m 23.271s although the Briton had to reduce his speed due to yellow flags in the last chicane and lost several tenths of a second. Jarvis is sharing the cockpit of car #3 with Le Mans rookie Filipe Albuquerque and Marco Bonanomi.
André Lotterer in the #2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro secured sixth place on the grid for himself and his team-mates Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer by setting a time of 3m 24.276s.
All nine Audi drivers completed the prescribed night laps on which they again had the opportunity to experience the advantages of the Audi laser light. The Audi R18 e-tron quattro is the first Le Mans prototype with laser light and continues Audi’s string of technical innovations in the Le Mans 24 Hours. The night before the race, the brand with the four rings will also be presenting its first production model with laser light at Le Mans: the Audi R8 LMX.
The two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso will be sending the field at Le Mans on the long journey twice around the clock on Saturday at 15.00. The world’s most important endurance race will be broadcast live by 31 TV channels and aired in 190 countries. In Europe, Eurosport will provide live non-stop coverage. On www.audi-motorsport.com, Audi offers free coverage by live streaming from the onboard cameras of the three Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars from 14.30 (CEST) on Saturday. On Facebook and Twitter, Audi Sport will provide extensive live reports from Le Mans as well.
With twelve wins in only 15 runs Audi is the most successful brand in recent Le Mans history. The top five in qualifying on the 13.629-kilometer race track were separated by less than 1.5 seconds. As a result, suspense before the race which some 300,000 spectators are expected to attend is huge. More than 1,000 members of the media – some of them several days ago – have arrived at the venue to watch the first meeting of the two most successful brands in Le Mans history – Audi and Porsche.