Nuerburgring, Germany -- The new Volvo S60 2.4 has set the fastest time of it´s class during first timed practice prior to the prestigious Nuerburgring 24 hour race on Friday midday. German Ulli Andree tackled the 25-plus kilometre long track, a combination of the old "Nordschleife" and the modern Grand Prix circuit of the Nuerburgring, in 10.27,904 minutes.<P>Andree´s time, which meant an average speed of 148.764 kph, made the brand new car top the time sheets of the class "A4" for Touring Cars with an engine capacity of 2.5 litres for the first time since the German team of Bernhard Muehlner has entered the Volvo in a race. Muehlner had only started development work on the car as late as January and has worked in close cooperation with both Volvo Cars Germany and the British Prodrive team which has developed a race version of the Volvo S60 2.0 for the European Touring Car Championship. Even though the ETCC car and it´s sister outfit for the Nuerburgring differ in terms of aerodynamics, gearbox and engine, there are certain areas in which Muehlner and Prodrive could exchange knowledge and parts. The car has so far contested two rounds of the German Longtrack Championship which is held exclusively on the long Nuerburgring. It finished third in the first race but retired in it´s second outing.<P>Prior to the 24 hour race, the world´s biggest motorsports event with a massive grid of 210 entered cars and about 195,000 spectators, Muehlner had developed a sharper version of the 2.4 litre five cylinder engine. It´s latest specification delievers 255 bhp - and has enabled the Volvo S60 to be faster than the BMW M3 which have been the dominant force in the "A4" category on the Nuerburgring so far. "I don´t need to push the revs up to 8200 rpm as I used to do with the other engine", stated Andree. "Thanks to the new engine, I can already change gears at 7500 rpm." His team mate Andy Middendorf, who has driven Volvo cars on the Nuerburgring ever since the very first project with the Volvo 850 T5 back in 1985, noted during his only timed lap: "The new engine requires a totally different driving style. If you enter the turns slightly too fast, you´ll immediately get a huge understeer. But once you´ve gotten used to working with the new engine, you can feel an enormous step forward."<P>Andree´s time was no less than 9.9 seconds faster than that of the best BMW in the class, turning the Volvo S60 into a clear favourite of a maiden class win in Germany´s most prestigious race that will be started on Saturday at 14 hrs. "We have to take a close look at the reliability of the car", warns team principal Bernhard Muehlner. "It is very hard to make a brand new car go the full 24 hours on the hardest race track in the world without problems. We have shown that we have the speed to be right up there, which makes me feel proud. But given the shortage of time and testing, we could only estimate the full loads that some parts will have to carry over the racing distance of 3,500 to 4,000 kms. There is always a certain risk remaining, especially on a track as long and tough as the Nuerburgring."<P>Ulli Andree and Andy Middendorf share the Volvo S60 with Heinz-Josef Bermes, who tops the all-time record books with an unmatched eleven class victories over the last 24 hour races, and former German Karting Champion Joerg Seidel who has raced in the same Karting club as the Schumacher brothers have.<P>The second timed session will take place on Friday night between 19 hrs and 23 hrs. Lap times are believed to be slightly quicker but the Muehlner Volvo team wants to concentrate only on adjusting the car´s lighting system rather putting too much stress on the car by trying to go faster than during the lunchtime session.