Le Mans 2002

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13th June 2002

Blundell takes fifth after first night at Le Mans.

EX257 with Drivers Mark Blundell put in a stunning lap as darkness fell across Le Mans, leaving the No.27 MG Lola EX257 a superb fifth overall after the first four hours of qualifying. As track and air temperatures dropped, Mark went round the 8.45mile lap in 3min33.254secs ­ matching the pace he showed during the test day for the race.

“We're very happy and we've replicated our performance from pre-qualifying,” said Mark. “ We know there's more time in there. The car took some damage when a GT3 car caused me to use too much road but the team have done a tremendous job in putting the car back together.”

His team-mates in car No.27 were equally happy: “We're pleased with Mark's position,” said Julian Bailey, “and we haven't yet reached our full potential. The car's running really well and were in good shape so far.”

“Our objective tonight was to take things easy but qualify the car for the race and that's exactly what we've done,” commented Kevin McGarrity. “We know we've got the potential to go faster and 5th position tonight is encouraging.”

Things weren't so straightforward for car No.26, as Jonny Kane explained: “I was trying to pass a car, he didn't see me and I had to break really hard. I down-shifted too early, trying to slow down, over revved the engine and damaged a valve. Unfortunately, it wasted track time for us but we'll be back tomorrow.”

The car was forced to sit out the second session, and Warren Hughes summed up the crew's feelings: “It's disappointing as we really wanted to tackle qualifying this evening. It was nice to have the time I had in the car tonight and it was like learning a new circuit again. As I didn't get much dry running in the car last year it was great to get some laps in. It was starting to feel really good and I'm pleased with the lap times considering I missed the official test. We'll fix the engine overnight and I'm hoping to be quicker tomorrow to get a good grid position.”

Hugh Chamberlain, team manager, CMS said after the sessions: “Obviously the target tonight was to qualify the drivers and the cars. Everything seems so simple but in reality its not. The guys have done a good job tonight. Car 27 and drivers qualified with 5 minutes to spare!”

“Another strong performance from Mark has again reinforced the potential we demonstrated here in May,” said Rob Oldaker, managing director, MG Sport & Racing. “But, it's as much about endurance as it is speed, so we will have to wait and see what the weekend holds.”

Tomorrow evening sees another four hours of qualifying, while Friday is a rest day to allow teams to prepare for Saturday's race.

Times after Wednesday Qualifying sessions:

5th overall, 1st in Class: 27 Bailey/Blundell/McGarrity LMP675 MG Sport and Racing MG Lola EX257 3min33.254secs
16th overall, 2nd in Class: 26 Hughes/Kane/Reid LMP675 MG Sport and Racing MG Lola EX257 3min42.835secs

- David Knowles

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