Filipe Albuquerque has criticized the driving standards of drivers in the GTE categories after he says two claimed instances of blocking in qualifying practice caused him to miss out on a spot on Hyperpole at Le Mans.
Albuquerque was in the car for the hour-long session in the #22 United Autosports ORECA 07-Gibson, but was unable to make it through to Hyperpole after he says he was blocked twice by two separate drivers during flying laps.
As a result, the defending class winners in LMP2 will start the race from twelfth position, 1.427s off the fastest time in class and some four-tenths away from a spot in Hyperpole.
After the session, a frustrated Albuquerque told MotorsportWeek.com that he struggled to understand the driving behaviour from some of the other cars out on track.
“I don’t get as frustrated when people do mistakes and cause a yellow flag or slow zone or red flags, they’re doing their best, I really understand that there is nothing you can do about it, just bad timing.
“It’s for me a struggle to understand and that I don’t accept from other professional drivers is deliberately deciding to destroy the laps of people that are on a flying lap, so when they are on the out laps, or even on in laps.”
“The in laps is hard to say, because we never know when they are pitting. But definitely on the out laps, it’s what is the most critical because you can choose a gap. And you know exactly where you’re going to pick the GT if they’re on a normal pace, so you pick your gap. But if they’re coming from the pits, it’s impossible.”
Albuquerque went on to explain he had a particular problem with Ben Barker, who was driving the #86 GR Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19. TV footage showed a frustrated Albuquerque confronting the British driver after the session was over.
The Portuguese driver accused Barker of failing to give him the necessary room on his flying lap.
“I did the whole straight, going to the first Mulsanne from Tertre Rouge to the first chicane on Mulsanne, flashing him.”
“And he saw me because I dived in super late, and if he would have not seen we would have crashed, so he opened it to let me pass, but I still lost four tenths. I still lost four tenths, and for me, that’s a decision that he took.”
“I went to talk to him and he said he didn’t see. But I don’t believe that, because they have a nice rearview camera, they have one kilometre to see who is in their mirrors and there is flashing lights. And if it was a small straight, I could still believe that, but it’s one kilometer.”
“I struggle with that. And then the other one was the Porsche with Bruni. I mean, we’re talking about pro drivers, they know what they’re doing and this is just unacceptable.”
Albuquerque went on to explain how a disappointing qualifying result could potentially have an impact on his race on Saturday.
“You can say ‘Yeah, but you don’t win the race in qualifying’, but I can tell you something – it’s a snowball effect. Starting from behind around other guys and to get you know, when you have a better pace to fight, let’s say 10 drivers, you know, three of them have a gentleman driver on it.
“To pass them, they’re going to make my life hard for me to go ahead they are not even fighting for the same race because when the gentleman drivers all go in, it’s going to be different.
“I’m going to put take risks to pass him when I should not be. As we know, Le Mans sometimes little things add to your race, like you forced too much the car into the brakes, into the curbs.
“It’s just little things that adds to the 24 hours, and the way it is nowadays, we’re so much on a limit that you need a perfectly clean race.
And that’s the only reason I’m frustrated because I can come next year with the exact same package being one of the fastest but we will never control that flipping of a coin, clean lap one qualifying when you have only one hour. That’s it, it is out your control, always.”