The SRC Kawasaki team dominated the first qualifying session at Le Mans, with Fabien Foret setting fastest lap. It was an early show of strength for the French team, with uncertain weather predicted for the remainder of qualifying tomorrow.
Straight away, the riders set a rapid pace over the demanding Bugatti circuit. With four groups of riders taking it in turns to qualify, reigning Supersport champion Fabien Foret was convincingly fastest, setting a time of 1m36.900s aboard his SRC Kawasaki.
Team manager Gilles Stafler said: “The team did an extremely good job, with all three riders very closely matched and following instructions exactly. But we can’t afford to relax as another qualifying session awaits tomorrow and rain is forecast. The main thing, as always, is the race – so we want to make sure that we don’t make any of the same mistakes we made last year.”
The Austrian YART Yamaha squad was classified second fastest, ahead of Team Honda Racing in third. Team Honda Racing manager Steven Casaer commented: “From the start, we decided that we weren’t going to go chasing fastest times. On the one hand, it’s because we don’t get qualifying tyres from Dunlop, but mostly it’s because the emphasis in our set-up is on endurance. That’s a strategic decision we’ve made from the outset, and over the last two years we’ve steadily got closer to our rivals.”
Last year’s Le Mans winner, SERT Suzuki, was fourth; again having prioritised performance over outright pace. Team rider Vincent Philippe pointed out: “Just like Honda we’re not supplied with qualifying tyres from Dunlop, which makes the times set by their riders all the more impressive. Hats off to them.”
Reigning world champions, Yamaha GMT94 were less lucky, with David Checa coming off his bike during the evening session.
Julien Da Costa was the quickest rider for Honda Racing, setting a 1m37.594 on the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP, his teammates Freddy Foray and Sebastian Gimbert also posting competitive times.
Julien Da Costa – “We decided to do a small race simulation during the session. The track was clear during my first two laps so it allowed me to make a good lap time. Then I settled myself on an endurance race rhythm in order to get ready for the race. Everything is going well for the team, we are definitely in on it, we are relaxed and this is really important before the race start.”
The fastest Australian rider on Thursday was Damian Cudlin who is a reserve rider for YART Yamaha this weekend, his time, 1m38.107, a full second quicker than the reserve rider of any other team and the tenth quickest overall.
Gareth Jones is competing with the BMW Motorrad France team and set a competitive time of 1m39.117.
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