Le Mans 2006
Scrutineering - June 13

Le Mans week finally got underway on Tuesday morning, June 13, for the three LMP1 drivers from Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport – Bob Berridge, Gareth Evans and Peter Owen. The yellow Lola was fourth on the list to receive attention from the ACO at scrutineering, in bright sunshine in the town centre.

The drivers were straight through the signing on process and were out in the press area before their mount had even rolled into the cordoned off lane to begin the long process of documentation, safety and technical checks - before track action gets underway tomorrow afternoon.

The three main ‘stops’ on the way through the process begin with an initial documentation check, to make sure that the car you say you’re running really is the car you say you’re running, so, after a check of the chassis plates etc, it’s into what is probably the toughest stop for the team, the technical and dimension checks. After the car has passed through there, including time spent on the ACO’s pneumatic lift to check that the floor and aerodynamic aids are all legitimate, it’s on to the final stage, where the safety aspects are looked over. This includes extinguisher and lights etc.

Once everything has been signed off, teams are then handed their race numbers and official stickers, which have to be applied immediately, before the team, drivers and car are wheeled out before the waiting press corps for photographs.

The three drivers all agreed that the test day just over a week ago had gone really well, allowing them all to get plenty of laps under their belts in readiness for the main event. No dramas, apart from Peter Owen’s ‘miraculous’ avoidance of one of the Audi R10s as it was leaving the (now superceded) ‘new’ pit exit road, meant that they were able to work on getting comfortable and get down to their formulated game plan for the race week.

“Stay on the track and not go off!” was Bob Berridge’s, only slightly tongue in cheek, answer when asked what the aim for the race was.

“The test went really well and we were able to get through a few things during the day,” he continued. “Realistically, I reckon a top six finish is open to us, as long as we stay on course and keep it going. We’re not going to be going for a mega quick lap and I was held up on my fastest lap at the test when one of the Panoz was spitting oil onto the track. But the car was good, so we are in good shape for the start of the week.”

“We could always use more time during the test day,” said Gareth Evans. “We had a good test. We were one of the teams that did the most laps over the course of the day. We did what we needed to do and came away with everything intact and running well. Touch wood everything is going the right way,” he smiled.

Peter Owen was happy to be finally getting into the race week and was over the moon that the pit exit issue had been sorted out prior to track action this week.

“With all of the drivers now having the HANS devices fitted, it was going to be impossible for anyone to see whether anything was coming when you got to the end of the pit exit,” he said. “I was lucky not to hit the Audi during the test day and there would have been a big accident there if we were using it during the race.”

The three were in high spirits in the build up to qualifying and as Berridge and Evans also have Le Mans experience in the TVR GT car (all three raced in the LMP2 car last year), we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to find out what the major differences are between the lower and upper classes.

“It’s easier in the LMP, by far, simply because you’re not getting overtaken all the time,” said Evans. “You’re not concentrating on your mirrors all the time. The TVR was hardly the fastest GT2 car anyway, but in the LMP2 car you knew that when you were clear of the GT1 and GT2 cars that there was only going to be a handful of cars during the course of the race that were going to pass you.”

“It’s obviously a lot cooler too, easier in weather like we have at the minute for certain,” he added.

“The cockpit temperatures in the TVR could reach around 70 degrees,” chipped in Bob Berridge. “From a comfort point of view, it’s definitely easier in the LMP. But you get more stresses on your body in different ways, more G force in the corners and it’s more tiring on you at the end of a stint.”

“I never seemed to notice the fatigue in the LMP until I’d got out of the car though, whereas I knew I was ready to get out of the GT car, long before the end of a stint!” added Gareth Evans.

So, with the on-track events set to get underway on Wednesday, the thoughts turned to that “Stay on the track” plan and what the team hopes to achieve between now and Sunday afternoon.

“We’ll be looking for a top 10 place by the end of qualifying and a top six finish is on as long as we’re there at the end,” concluded Bob Berridge. “A good, solid run from qualifying will put us where we need to be to start the run for that kind of result.”

Almost the final duty for the drivers was on the Motors TV stage, where Martin Haven asked the questions. The last task was a few more autographs to be signed.


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