The 71st Le Mans 24 Hours – LMP75 Preview
Put Them Back Together Fast
What an odd entry we
have in this class. Were you expecting four MG-Lolas? Those from
RML / Chamberlain, Dyson and Intersport? And we just have the Jon
Field entry. The former factory cars from 2001 / 2002 were turned
away, Dyson Racing chose to develop their cars rather than run at
Le Mans and compromise the rest of their season, so thank heavens
for Intersport’s involvement.
seven cars into groups, Group 1 has to number three:
Intersport, the RN Motorsports DBA4-03S and the new Courage C65.
They’re probably not going to shake up the front of the 900
grid, but they will mix it with the middle group of the 900 class.
– MG-Lola. Unfortunately, we didn’t see Jon
Field on a flying lap at the Test Day, so we can’t answer
the question (yet) – how quick is a 2003 spec. standard MG-Lola
round Le Mans? Field will undoubtedly provide the answer on Wednesday
or Thursday though. “He’s as quick as anyone over a
single lap,” is a frequent description of this privateer’s
talents. Let’s take a stab at a 3:42.
- if that’s the right word - is that Field is also the current
expert at bringing an MG-Lola home in endurance races. He may not
have won Sebring this year (second) but he’s yet to fail to
finish a ten or twelve hour race – and Sebring this year was
his first non-victory. But each time his team has had to make running
repairs, and that’s going to be the flavour of this Le Mans
24 Hours in 675. Put them back together fast.
utilising some assistance from CMS, the operation that ran the factory
MG-Lolas at Le Mans in 2001 and 2002, and with Rick Sutherland and
Duncan Dayton on the squad, Jon Field has a neat balance between
pace and steadiness. AER has developed a revised piston / gudgeon
pin design, so there’s the potential for the little four cylinder
turbo to run and run.
- DBA4-03S. The second of the ‘proper’ 675
cars (a description open to a challenge there!), and this will be
this car’s fourth race, its third under ACO rules –
and third using the DBA name. Go on John, start off with PLM, Sebring
and Le Mans! Not that the big Dane has ever flinched at a challenge.
The first enduro suggested that development of the (now) DBA was
needed, but a winter of reorganising left little time before Sebring:
that was the scene of a new reason for retirement for John Nielsen.
The Le Mans Test day probably raised high speed issues that needed
resolving, so it’s been frantically busy for the RN team again.
A 3:47 last month probably wasn’t a good indication of this
Can Big John
(with Hyanari Shimoda and Casper Elgaard – we think) get under
3:40? Will the Zytek V8 run and run? It seems very happy in the
back of a car now. Issues will probably arise during the race, but
RN will get it back out if they can. Perhaps a chase of an older
‘plodder’ near the end?
Competition C65. Well done Yves Courage - creating a new
car for the class (and sensibly basing it on the C60). The C65 isn’t
near the weight limit, but at Le Mans, that won’t matter.
It’s been pounding round the Bugatti Circuit, seemingly pretty
reliably, the chassis ought to have no weaknesses – so how
will that new V6 perform? Do we call it the JI or the JPX (Graham)?
We’ve followed the development of this unit over the last
few months, but the French part of the partnership is still something
of a puzzle.
Alliot / Hallyday
/ Rosenblad looks like an interesting combination. The lovely blue
machine will probably run for anything between 24 minutes and 24
hours….as with the other two in our notional Group 1, anything
2. Just two of them - let’s call them the older cars.
Here we have the Noel del Bello Reynard and the #24 WR LMP-01 two
litre turbocharged car. It was these two that duelled for the win
in the closing laps last year: they could just do the same again.
Bello Reynard was scrutineered at 778 kg last year, the
WR at 706. Reynards seem to have been trundling round Le Mans for
years, their excess weight seeming to add a degree of indestructibility.
Remember the Barbour cars? They sounded more like it, but if a Reynard
sounds like an Audi, so what? To finish first etc…..and whatever
the Reynards’ record in the 900 class, they do seem tailor
made for an unspectacular but successful time at Le Mans.
have been spectacularly quick in the past, but the drivers just
seek reliability now. This one will be after a run just like last
year’s, but without the suspension breakage. Gavin Pickering
picked #24 as his best chance to climb onto the Le Mans podium –
and it would be hard to fault his logic.
With only seven
in the class, we just have two left, the Group 3 cars, the brand
new ones – that is, the Bucknum Pilbeam MP91
and the new LMP-02 WR.
Big question marks have
to surround both, because neither beat the 4:20 barrier in May.
Both are new cars, both have new engines: not the ideal scenario
to tackle Le Mans, but stranger things have happened…..
endeavour to follow the progress of these two. You know, it is very
difficult to follow the trials and successes of all 50 cars at Le
Mans – or 60 at Sebring. We’ll be doing our best, and
have a specific aim to see everyone, if possible. Does anyone else
aim to do that?
this is an unusual class. It ‘always’ has been. Will
the highlight turn out to have been one of the factory MG Sport
& Racing cars chasing Audis last year, or a top finish by one
of our Group 1 or Group 3 cars this year? A new generation 675 has
yet to finish this race. Field, Nielsen, Courage, Welter and Bucknum,
it’s over to you.