Sebring – And The Le Mans Entry List
From the point of view of someone stuck in the UK with a raging
virus (am I sweating buckets or shivering at this particular moment?),
desperately trying to keep up with posting the dscers’ output
from the track, the only disappointment I felt was the weather on
Thursday. ALMS qualifying is a fantastic event in itself, and as
it transpired later, qualifying could have seen a real upset….
but there’s always Road Atlanta etc.
Some observers have carped
on about the expected dramas and retirements in LMP2 – but
it’s not supposed to be easy, is it? All credit to Miracle
Motorsports for taking the win. John Macaluso has a very balanced
view of what it takes to get to the finish of an endurance race:
it will be fascinating to see how the ACO’s selections for
the 24 Hours in June affect the outcome of that race in LMP2 (see
LMP1 was an LMES 2004-type
thriller, wasn’t it? Hats off to team owners who allow their
talented men behind the wheel to go at it the way they do. One or
two cynics have suggested that Allan McNish was never going to catch
Tom Kristensen. Unfortunately, no one told McNish. His comment over
the radio - "You'd better tell Tom to get a hurry on - I'm
coming” – was a classic. Congratulations to the ALMS
Radio Web, not just for typically first class coverage of the event,
but for picking up that remark over the Champion team’s radio.
Kristensen – it doesn’t get any better, any tougher,
and more ruthless, than that. Yes, we’d have loved to have
seen a Dyson Lola in the thick of it too, but it was still a superb
effort to see one car stay on the lead lap for so long. The sprint
races will be different. Guy Smith was something of a star, wasn’t
GT2 was a real
surprise. Both AJR Porsches in trouble? The Petersen-White Lightning
entry has typically been the one to threaten the Job cars for season
after season, so that was a very well deserved win. As the pace
in GT2 gets faster and faster, it becomes ever more difficult to
have a charmed run over 12 or 24 hours. We’ve seen the GT2s
(as they now are) suffer even up to half way at Le Mans, and Sebring
inflicts mechanical turmoil more ruthlessly than the French track.
GT1 probably upstaged
LMP1, didn’t it? Personally, I was hugely impressed with the
gentlemanly way that David Richards dealt with the business of protesting
the Maserati. This wasn’t petty bickering, F1-style, this
was a man with a very serious point to make. In effect he was saying
“if we go down the same route as we did in 1997, we’ll
destroy all the good things that have happened in GT1 so far, and
prevent more good things happening in the future.”
Mid-week, who would have
bet on Aston Martin winning GT1? Even mid-race? The Corvettes were
doing enough on their debut to manage the DBR9s – until each
came across a racing moment, each entirely different. Johnny O’Connell
(and we’re sure all the other Corvette men would have produced
an equally good ‘save’) – that was a stroke of
genius, to scrub off that much speed into Turn 17. The fact that
the C6.R was largely undamaged after the impact into the tyre wall
speaks volumes for the driver’s skill and the car’s
strength. This is going to be a great successor to the C5-R.
The Aston Martin DBR9
has already shown, after just one race, that it is going to be a
classic GT1 car.
It wasn’t a huge
grid – suggested some moaning minnies. So?
It was a huge crowd,
a huge event, a thrilling spectacle, a festival of high speed, endurance
action – and a very, very good start to the ALMS season.
Back to LMP2
though. If you’d read between the lines on dsc, during late
February and early March, you might have come to the conclusion
that LMP2 pole at Sebring would have been of the order of a 1:50.
Supposing qualifying had taken place on Thursday, what time might
Jon Field have set?
to the question – what performance did the ACO actually have
in mind when they planned this class? With new LMP1s running a year
behind the LMP2s, and with us not yet having had the chance to gauge
the speed of the latest LMP1 hybrids yet (that will come at Paul
Ricard this Friday / Saturday – where the Dome, in particular,
is likely to be blindingly fast), you have to wonder whether these
low-drag, LMP1 designs are actually going to be too quick at Le
Mans. We’ll wait and see on that one.
Le Mans Entry List
One thing is absolutely clear – every team that was granted
one or two of the 50 entries for this year’s 24 Hours absolutely
deserves to be there. Every one of them has proven that they have
the racer’s ambition and skills to present a car worthy of
performing at Le Mans.
But the question remains
– are there entrants who are more deserving of a place?
It’s an invitation
event, and the ACO can invite whom it likes: they missed out a couple
of significant teams a year ago, but they’ve made amends (for
them) this year.
But the fact
remains that there are at least six entries that definitely applied
to race this year that could make a very, very strong case for being
there. Two or three of them even seem to have suffered because they
were at Sebring – which does seem very harsh. There are some
Porsche entrants missing from this year's 50 who have each played
very significant roles in recent 24 Hour races – yet they’re
not even on the reserve list.
hard to understand some of the choices – but the reaction
from the bulk of those who were turned down seems to be even greater
determination to prove the ACO wrong. Perhaps the Spa 1000 Kms will
give some of them the opportunity to shine - and make a point?
between the classes has changed dramatically this year – with
14 LMP2s listed. Is that going to end up being a wise decision (after
what happened to LMP2 at Sebring) or an unwise one? Aren't LMP1s
more durable? We’re all for Yves Courage enjoying the fruits
of his success, with so many entries at Le Mans: it was he, after
all, he stuck his neck out and built a batch of LMP2 hybrids, and
was rewarded with a queue of customers. It looks as though all of
his modern creations are in the field this year… but doesn’t
that give him an unfair advantage over other manufacturers?
final entry list will look subtly different anyway, come the first
weekend in June.