Mans Test Day – Saturday Report
Le Mans Mutterings – Weather, Tarmac, Kerbs & Things
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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.”
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
It was all
smiles at Listers.
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.
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
How heavy are
the TVR Tuscan T400Rs? We haven’t been able to find out
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
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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.
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.
is here, and driving.
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."
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.
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?
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.