Team LNT – 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours - Scrutineering
And The Week (Or So) Since The Test Day

Scrutineering at any other race meeting on the planet is a somewhat tedious process of checking paperwork and consulting rulebooks.

For the Le Mans 24 Hours though things are different. Thousands of people, from the locals keen to soak up the atmosphere, through to the early arrivals from all over the world for race week, gather in the Place des Jacobins, in the shadow of Le Mans’ ancient Cathedral, to get their first glimpse of the 50 entrants for the great race on Saturday.

Among the 39 cars being scrutineered on Tuesday was the #81 Team LNT Panoz Esperante. The backroom boys in the team anxiously followed the car’s progress through several stages of checks and examinations to ensure that it complied completely with the rulebook that attempts to balance the performance of cars ranging from a rear engined 6 cylinder Porsche through to a carbon bodied, front-engined V8 powered Panoz.

For the driving squad meanwhile there are checks too – their eligibility to race and their safety equipment are scrutinised just as carefully as the car. For Lawrence Tomlinson it was a return to the scene he had first experienced in 2004 but for team mates Richard Dean and Tom Kimber-Smith this was something new and altogether different from their racing norm.

The day also gives an opportunity for the assembled world’s media to talk to the teams and drivers, perhaps their first opportunity to catch up with progress since the test day a week previously and to start to formulate the vast number of opinion pieces that help to inform (or sometimes the opposite) the opinions of the almost 200,000 people expected at the track for the race itself - and the millions who watch on TV or listen to the live radio coverage.

It had been a trying test day for Team LNT and the team owner was happy to explain the cause of the problems then:

“It was a simple problem – a change of spark plugs. The new plugs were tried on the dyno., but the different plugs, combined with the mapping, led to the engine problems. The fuel didn’t help, but it wasn’t the main cause.

“The engines from both cars were removed that evening, and flown back to Elan in the USA.”

Richard Dean: “The replacement engines from Elan were due to arrive so that we could test on the Bugatti on Friday, but they were held up in Paris and eventually arrived late on Friday – so the guys got stuck in and fitted the engine (for qualifying) into our car there and then, and finished at 2am. At 6 am, Tom was running it on the runway at the local airport. We’re back where we should have been.

“They’ll pull the test day engines apart this week, and let us know exactly what they found.”

Regarding the test day, the engine problems and the eventual ‘result’, Lawrence Tomlinson explained that “TK-S completed his ten laps with 10 seconds to spare.”

Tom had to complete those ten laps, as Richard Dean had done earlier in the day, to ensure qualification for the race: if either hadn’t covered the distance, they wouldn’t be racing here this week.

It has been a whirlwind introduction to sportscar racing for young Tom Kimber-Smith but the results so far have been hugely impressive.

“I came into this year not knowing what to expect from GT racing.

“I had been almost entirely single-minded about single seaters, but there you have to be in the right car with the right team at the right time and with the right budget.

“Me being here today started with the last round of the 2005 LMES. I tested the team’s TVR and really enjoyed, it but with the problems the guys had in Istanbul I didn’t race.

“I enjoyed the weekend though and since then I have had a lot of testing in the Panoz. 10 hours in the car at Sebring pre-season persuaded me that this might just be an alternative route for a motorsport career.

“Sebring was a good race for me, my first ever in a GT car. It was a huge race for the team too and fifth place was a stunning result.”

“The test day was really frustrating for everyone. Lots of problems and it really was touch and go as to whether Richard and I would be in the race.

“The chequered flag came out as I completed my tenth lap, what a relief!

“I had to really cruise around with our big problem (the engine running on seven cylinders) but the circuit really isn’t a tough one to learn, unlike Spa for instance.

“With my speed really limited so much, the closing speeds from the top prototypes were phenomenal. They would suck you in as they passed and spit you back as the airflow caught up. I was constantly adjusting for it throughout my run.

“Since Sebring I haven’t finished off the podium but this week is just something else. The guys got me to change into the overalls before leaving the truck and we were just swamped with people. I have never experienced anything like it. I cannot wait to get out on track with the car finally up to speed.”

All three drivers no doubt feel exactly the same. The first track action of race week starts on Wednesday with two, two-hour, qualifying sessions to start to fill out the formbook for the race itself.

Team LNT is well prepared. Their technical staff are a well drilled and enthusiastic bunch, confident that the team’s resources have been deployed in the areas that matter.

The best equipment means that the cars on track can be prepared, and if necessary repaired, to the highest possible standard. This is a team that not only does things properly, they do it in style too:

Richard Dean: “We have our brand new transporter here – it is a very nice piece of kit - Lawrence asked me not to even look at it until he could come and see it but unfortunately I was sitting on the leather sofa (in it) at the time!”

The preparations then are in place, the car is safely back in its pit garage and tomorrow the real action – this time on the hallowed track – begins.

 

 

 

 

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