Le Mans Test Day Round Up

Thanks for the positive remarks regarding Test Day coverage here. The Ed. is never satisfied unless every team is covered, so he’s feeling a little dissatisfied today – as well as utterly wrecked. 56 cars is a lot to cover, while posting text during the action…but we think you understand that problem. We're posting this as a news item, just to assure you that we're still here: forum problems are related to a simultaneous inability to FTP anything to the site (the latter now fixed, obviously - and the forum too)
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Let’s try and fill in some Test Day holes.

dailysportscar.comTVR had a nightmare Sunday. Tim Sugden had the engine let go (actually a head gasket) in #92 TVR T400R, and after a replacement was speedily fitted, that failed too (no, it didn't, apologies for duff information). With a (head gasket) failure in the other car too, the yellow and black machines were marooned in 55th and 56th spots.

At the other end of the grid, it was a fine performance from the Team Goh Audi, second fastest on the day, fastest of the Audis. Jan Magnussen was at the wheel: “I am very happy about our result. We made a big progress on our set-up today and I should say this is my best Le Mans! For the race I think I can do even better.”

Discussing the three R8s (Goh, Champion, Audi Sport UK), “we’ve got the fuel mileage advantage and the repairability factor of the Audi R8s,” concluded Rod Bymaster, Motorsports Manager for Audi Sport North America.

Ulrich Baretzky, Head of Engine Technology, described the R8s as “our used cars,” which are “fast, really fast. The drivers are experienced and the crews are experienced. It was a very good performance throughout the day. The overall speed of the cars is good. These cars will be very competitive.”

Lehto, Johansson and Pirro certainly think so regarding their Champion entry, as do Biela, McCarthy and Pirro of their Audi Sport UK car. The accident to Frank Biela will be more of an inconvenience than anything else – but presumably an expensive one.

The Pagani oil slick that Biela met was an inconvenience to a number of others too, and rather spoiled the end of day ‘going for a time’ last hour. Olivier Beretta had a set of super sticky Michelins on board when the red flag came out, and didn’t get another go with them during the last half hour. Had he gone for a time, he would robably have found that everyone else was going for it too. It turned out that just before 17.00 would have been the best time to try for an out and out lap. Tom Kristensen put in that flier at the end, which may well exaggerate the genuine gap back to the Audis.

Did Panoz have a good day? "We worked pretty hard on taking some understeer out of the car and made a great deal of progress,” summarised Gunnar Jeannette. “Reliability was perfect all day and both the cars completed the day without any damage so we are in pretty good shape to come back for the race in June."

Well spotted Tim Pendergast, Special Projects Director at IMSA. No Gunnar, this wasn’t your fifth visit to Le Mans, it was your seventh, apparently. You first ran here in 2000, and Tim says you’ve done four Test Days and three races, so far.

Lister had a very good day, the #13 Courage seemed to go round and round all day, with a best that almost matched the faster (developed) Pescarolo Sport #18, the Durango set a 3:55 on its first visit to the track, the Nasamax Reynard squad had a slightly frustrating morning followed by a chance to launch in large scale repairs in the afternoon – what an effort to get out again at the end – while the Norma set a best of 4:03….

Veloqx-Prodrive were more than satisfied with their Sunday performance, with just the concern over an engine failure to worry them during the next five or six weeks. Peter Kox: “We had a very good day, despite a few small problems including the engine this morning. This was a bit of a set back but the Veloqx Prodrive team changed it really quickly, very impressive, so we didn’t lose too much time. After that we did some back-to-back testing of the rear wing and the car was running really nicely so, now at the end of the day, I can say I am really quite confident for the race.”

Tomas Enge set the best time in the red cars, quickest by 1.7 seconds over the #50 Corvette in GTS, but the Czech didn’t have a happy rally on Saturday. He won the first special stage of the rally in his Skoda Octavia, but then the suspension / hub broke, causing his retirement. He’ll have another chance on the rough stuff in two weeks time, in a Ford Focus WRC car.

The Luc Alphand 550 (Jerome Policand) made it a Ferrari 1-2-3 on the day in GTS.

Corvette were almost on 550 pace, particularly with #50. Can you imagine Ron Fellows and Johnny O’Connell not being terribly interested in going for an absolutely flat lap? Doug Fehan: “We used this session to make some decisions on our set-up for June, such as the fact that we will use our new sequential 6-speed gearbox. We know that our braking is improved and there are some parts of the track where we can really make gains. In a situation like this we’re running short four or five-lap stints and then make some minor adjustments.”

More downforce seems to have helped braking from high speed, and the C5-Rs are quicker than before through the Porsche Curves.

Franz Konrad seems to have been best of the Saleens with his own #66, 3:59.071. The GNM Saleens were hampered by engine trouble for the Ramos / Chaves car (no Amorim) and a down on power V8 in the Erdos / Newton / Pickering reserve: a fine 4:03 from the reserve car in the circumstances.

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We’ve no idea why the Scorp Motorsport Viper was so slow (4:21). Larbre were typically efficient with a 4:00 best lap. We never did get a chance to check whether they’re going to Enna this week, or not.

We never did catch up with the Nielsen / Dumfries / Shimoda combo., but will aim to during the week. John Nielsen was planning to go for a time at the end of the day, but circumstances dictated otherwise. He would like to think that his unique car is in the race for the overall, not class, win. With Intersport in engine trouble in the morning (very early on), then having to get the ten laps in for two of the drivers, and then the 17.00 red flag, they weren’t going to get a fast time in – so Nielsen’s 3:47 in the morning was the best in 675 by ten whole seconds. The 3:33 last year in qualifying by Mark Blundell is worth remembering. The older WR just about scraped under four minutes yesterday…while apart from the DBA4-03S, the rest of the class averaged over four minutes for their best laps.

We covered some aspects of the GT class yesterday, but didn’t connect with any of the Ferrari teams – although XL Racing’s best of 4:28 sums up their pace. We’ll get hold of that Mowlem fellow this week, he’ll tell us about the 360s. The Mike Petersen accident in the morning took some of the sting out of the class, Marc Lieb not going for a banzai time, PK not using qualifiers either, and the Ferraris very close to the pace but not quite there were all factors too – so fastest time in LM GT went to Daytona winning team The Racers Group, and a fabulous 4:08.636 from Jorg Bergmeister. We come hoping they’ll all do a Bergmeister / Kristensen, but it’s never as simple as that, is it?

More tales from the Test Day during the week, starting on Tuesday.

One of these two is off to the Lausitzring next, the other to Mosport...

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