LNT – 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours - Qualifying
Race Pace The Objective As The Team Catches Up
It was a frustrating but ultimately very encouraging pair of two
hour qualifying sessions for Team LNT on Wednesday (June 14) - the
rain began falling at the circuit just 40 minutes before track action
finally began, this after two and a half days of unbroken 30 degree-plus
saw Lawrence Tomlinson take to the track first on a surface which
was 50% damp and 50% almost bone dry. One out lap and then pit,
to check the car over: with new rubber, new suspension and a brand
new engine, the professional and conservative approach was the only
No sooner had Tomlinson left the pits again though
than the skies opened with a vengeance, Lawrence tiptoeing back
around to pit, his slicks very much not the tyre of choice in rapidly
The team then
got down to some serious work, cycling all three drivers but pitting
at regular intervals to check the car over, particular attention
being focused on the engine, Alan Mugglestone and his team scoping
the cylinders to check for any sign of the woes which had afflicted
the car during the test weekend.
“Absolutely no problem at all,” said
a clearly delighted Mugglestone post session.
In fact the
only issue of any sort whatsoever was what proved to be a diff sensor
failure, immediate examination of the diff temperature showing clearly
that the dashboard warning was false.
With the rain easing off at the start of the second
session (beginning at 22.00) there was a change of plan. The team
had initially planned to simply cycle all three drivers through
their compulsory three laps in darkness, but the improved conditions
meant that they opted to continue with some extra night running.
Lawrence Tomlinson: “I’m hoping to get
more of a run tonight, the traction when I was out at first though
was ridiculous, the exit of Arnage was just like a skating rink,
no traction at all on the slicks, The car though was good. We’re
back where we were before the issues last weekend.”
Tom Kimber Smith: “Lawrence and Richard finished
their three laps each and when I got out there Alan said that if
I was comfortable with the conditions I should do an extra couple.
Our race strategy at the moment should see Richard and I covering
most of the night hours, so that makes absolute sense.
“I may have done night running at Sebring
but it is entirely different here. In parts at Sebring it is very
well lit, but here it is almost pitch black for most of the way
around. We lost one headlamp during the run too, so that made things
doubly difficult. I had a bit of a moment into the first chicane
but ran straight on through the tyres and rejoined.”
Richard Dean: “I took the car out and tried
to do a bit of set-up work, really trying to make up for time lost
at the test, but it started to rain again. I was running without
wipers, the rain was barely falling at all and as I was running
flat out towards Indianapolis: what rain there was ran straight
of the screen. When I slowed for Arnage though I radioed in to say
it was raining again – but the boys didn’t know what
I was talking about, there was no rain at all on the pit straight
…. and then it really came down. It wasn’t nice out
there at times, but in a funny sort of way I enjoyed it, probably
a bit like having a tattoo. You don’t like it when it’s
happening but then you go back for another one.”
The net result of the team’s four hours of
A Panoz Esperante
in good shape and a competitive lap time on the timing sheets. With
the rain looking likely to stay away on Thursday evening for the
second (and final) pair of qualifying sessions it will be time to
finally show the true pace available from the #81 Esperante –
England (Yorkshire and Georgia) Expects.
Part of the frustration of a world class endurance event is that
the action takes place over several days. Those days can bring a
distinct change in the prevailing weather conditions and, if the
name of the game is to set the best time, any heroics during a wet
session, to gain the qualifying bragging rights, can be wiped out
at a stroke by a fair weather day following immediately afterwards.
That was the
picture at Le Mans on Thursday, with a completely dry circuit meaning
that each and every car would almost inevitably leave their Wednesday
qualifying time gasping in the dust.
Le Mans is a
unique circuit, a phenomenon: the majority of the circuit is composed
of roads normally open to the public and the result of this unique
configuration is that a lap consists of both smooth and well prepared
race track and bumpy, slightly rutted and dusty, public road.
The problem for Team LNT is that they had already
had their fair share of bad luck for the Le Mans fortnight. Track
time is precious here and whilst four hours of qualifying sessions
sounds like an awfully long time on track, there is a vast job list
to get through: set the time, get all three drivers through their
night time laps, find a race pace and a set-up for the car which
works best for all three drivers. Sounds simple, but it all takes
“We realized fairly early on today that we
weren’t on the ultimate class pace,” said Richard Dean.
“We decided to go for the best time we could safely get and
concentrate on race set-up.”
assessment, Team LNT’s trio made good progress, the car had
no real problems at all in the four hours of running and, as the
temperature dropped, the times began to improve.
Again the team
ensured that all three drivers got ample opportunity to try out
the latest batches of adjustments, made to set the Panoz up for
24 hours of hard, fast racing.
went out first, then Tom and finally me,” said Richard as
the team packed away their gear after the final session ended at
midnight. “For the night session I went out first, then Tom
and finally Lawrence.
The ultimate result of all their endeavours was
a time of 4:12.043, Richard Dean setting a time good enough for
tenth in a world class GT2 class, a lap that equates to an average
speed of almost 195 km/h over the full lap.
“As soon as we went to go for it we knew we
were still playing catch up. What we can say is that it’s
a race pace, there were no prizes for winning today,” said
That means that the team had made a substantial
move forward in bridging the gap of track time lost. The team had
run consistently during the evening at the level they expect to
run at during Saturday’s race and, if the team LNT boys have
learnt anything so far in their international racing campaign with
the Panoz Esperante, they’ve learnt that a fast and consistent
pace, with no problems, is the way to make an impact and, if at
all possible and racing luck is on their side, finish well up the