Le Mans Test Day – Saturday Report
Le Mans Mutterings – Weather, Tarmac, Kerbs & Things

The circuit has been resurfaced all the way from Mulsanne Corner to Indianapolis, there’s a new rule regarding white lines and kerbs, there are one or two new drivers in cars this weekend – and the weather is really looking quite promising.

That last remark relates to the weather yesterday evening: a gale battered its way across Northern France – but the hospitality awnings seem to have all survived – “I’ve got a boat, that teaches you to make good knots,” said Vanessa Weikart.

The drivers will have to be making good lines this weekend – between the white lines. There’s a new rule for the Test Day and race week: drivers are allowed to put wheels on the white lines, but not over them. And the kerbs are obviously beyond the white lines. JC-W, with all his experience of this track, suggested that this would really only be a factor at the Ford Chicanes and at Mulsanne Corner: “You don’t really want to be touching the kerbs anywhere else.”

The idea seems to be to keep drivers off the kerbs and therefore out of the gravel, because the official announcement refers to the number of punctures last year. This ruling will obviously have no effect on a driver who spins into the gravel and then spreads it all over the track – but it might make spins less likely.

John Hindhaugh was out on the public part of the circuit last night, and reports that the tarmac is now “billiard smooth” all the way from Mulsanne corner to Indianapolis. “It looks more like race track tarmac than road tarmac,” was his description.

John caught up with Johnny Dumfries, and we’ve got that item here now.

Clint Field – Team Manager at Intersport (the youngest manager here, one presumes) – described Ken May’s work at Putnam Park recently (for dailysportscar) as “a really good job.” Thanks Clint, we thought so too.

So how quickly is your father going to go tomorrow? “Well, he’s never been here before….but sure he’ll go for a time. You know what he’s like, he’ll go as fast as he can, he always does. Lola have helped us with a good set-up for Le Mans, and we’ll be using the 165 compound Goodyears, which we haven’t used before. But we know how good they are. But the first hurdle will be to get Dad and Rick (Sutherland) getting their ten laps in tomorrow.”

dailysportscar.com

Clint was full of praise for the AER engine, explaining that “in the last three races last year and at Sebring this year, we just had one minor engine-related problem, and that was easily solved.”

AER’s “Big Steve” – Steve Dumelow – will be joining the likes of Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger on Monday, as they all head to Mosport Park for the Dyson Racing three day test. Paul Collins will be covering that one for us.

Back to the present – and Team Nasamax are running Michelins as of….well, tomorrow, really. The Reynard Cosworth wasn’t using the French rubber during its test here on Wednesday, but will be tomorrow. The starting problem at Sebring has been explained in detail on the Nasamax report from Le Mans today. “Now we’ll see what we can do,” said Robbie Stirling, John McNeil having a quick but realistic target time in his head for the conclusion of track action tomorrow. The team are using a “third generation” engine this week.

dailysportscar.com

It was all smiles at Listers.

dailysportscar.comNathan Kinch was still beaming after leading the FIA GT race at Magny-Cours throughout his stint…or was it because he had his first experience of the LMP a few nights ago? “The first stint was eight laps last Tuesday night – beginning at 3.30am. “I was taking it very easy,” said the Scot – who dashed back to Edinburgh to get his laundry done, before appearing at Le Mans for the first time. In the Magny-Cours FIA GT race, the p/steering had stopped working early on in JC-W’s stint, but Kinch had no problems at all. Switching the engine off and back on at the first pit stop had re-set it, so until Nathan Kinch got out and explained that he had been driving with the benefit of p/steering, the team had been even more impressed with his speed.

Lister truck drivers have a tough time: Steve Webb will be leaving Le Mans on Sunday evening, because he’s due at Genoa by 17.00 on Monday, for the ferry to Sicily and the Enna FIA GT race.

From an Italian source we hear that Larbre may not make that race with their lone Viper.

How heavy are the TVR Tuscan T400Rs? We haven’t been able to find out yet…

dailysportscar.com

Another two car team is Racing for Holland. The #15 Lammers / Wallace / Bosch car has new bodywork (new and 'old', below), and the experienced pair spent much of the day showing the newcomer the lines around Le Mans.

dailysportscar.com

dailysportscar.com

Also new to Le Mans is Tristan Gommendy in #16…or maybe not. He first came to Le Mans when he was eight years old, and decided there and then he wanted to be a racing driver – no, a sportscar driver. This young man is going to make a real impression this weekend and next month.

dailysportscar.com

Orbit. There’s a whole item to be written about this team. The business skills of Leo Hindery, the talking / driving skills of Peter Baron and the charm of Marc Lieb. The young German might have an advantage over the experienced Le Mans hands because he hasn’t got to relearn the lines here, obeying the new white line rule. Lieb understands the heritage of sportscar racing, Bob Wollek featuring heavily in his memories. “It was unreal what he did for so long, maintaining his pace all the time. I only just got to know Bob, but it was great listening to him.”

Peter Baron suggested that the Dunlop Chicane, the Esses, the two Mulsanne Chicanes, Mulsanne Corner, Arnage and the Ford Chicanes will all see time lost because of the white line rule, “but maybe only a second or so in total, and the technology will see us gain that back.”

David Warnock is here for his fourth Pre-qualifying / Test Day – but is looking forward to this one rather than more than in the past. “In the late nineties when it was Pre-qualifying, there was never a chance to get me in the car: it was always the case that someone else had to go for a time to get us in the race.” That was Rob Schirle’s task – in Warnock’s Marcos in ’96, and a Saleen Mustang in ’97 and ’98. “We missed out by a second in ’96, and we lunched the engine trying to get in. Rob made it in ’97, and then we had the ‘shit-fight’ in ’98 when one car was still being built at the back of the garage until late in the afternoon. Rob nearly got it in with a desperate last minute effort, but with only one car in the race, we switched to a Roock Porsche for the 24 Hours. I’m just looking forward to going out and testing the car tomorrow. You can’t do that in June, with all the pressures of getting both drivers qualified.”

dailysportscar.com

No such worries this weekend then, and the tall Englishman, partnered by Robin Liddell and Piers Masarati, will have the benefit of a chassis “specifically built for Le Mans. It’s a ground up build, it’s effectively a new car,” said Mike Pickup – who was effusive in his praise for the ALMS, and the welcome he has received prior to starting the rest of the ALMS season in late June.

Gunnar Jeannette was happy to be back here for the fifth time “three Test Days, two races so far,” and very positive about prospects for tomorrow, and the race next month. Panoz are overdue a good Le Mans. John McLoughlin is recovering from the stroke pre-Sebring, but it’s a slow process.

dailysportscar.com

Marino Franchitti is here, and driving.

dailysportscar.com"It was a matter of making a few calls and making something happen. I'll be in the Luc Alphand Porsche: they're sixth reserve, so the chances of getting in the race....but I'll be able to get my ten laps in."

Paul Frere was spotted in a car (photo tomorrow), but he won't be racing it. Audi had chassis #605 with his name on it, and the old master slotted into it beautifully.

And finally….Jean-Luc Maury-Laribiere, aged 60, makes a Le Mans comeback in the del Bello Reynard, and the Maserati GT car which is due to appear in the FIA GT Championship towards the end of 2004 could well have Michael Schumacher at the wheel, “if everything goes to plan,” says our source.

Now, back to factory teams - the factory team. What are those Bentley boys aiming for tomorrow? They're in a post-drivers briefing drivers' meeting as the day comes to a close. Does the new kerb rule mean we won't see anything really quick tomorrow?

The senior drivers were bitterly unhappy at the prospect of a much narrower track at a good number of points on the circuit, with some privately suggesting that they might deliberately flout the rule to see what happens. A first offence is 'black flag, pit, get out of the car.' But what happens if they do it again? There's some prospect of a compromise, with white lines being blacked out at certain points, Doug Robinson acting as mediator in the debate. What happens if a driver is squeezed by a slower car? What happens if...."No exceptions," is what they were told.

 

Contents Copyright © dailysportscar.com. All Rights Reserved.