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.

Dividing the 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.

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Intersport – 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.

The anomaly - 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.

Intersport are 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.

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RN Motorsports - 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 car’s potential.

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?

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Courage 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 is possible.

dailysportscar.comGroup 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.

The del 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.

dailysportscar.comWRs 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.

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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…..

dailysportscar.comWe’ll 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?

Last point: 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.

 

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