Drivers have given their verdict on the “challenge” of The Bend Motorsport Park describing it as a “good film you don’t want to end” following the first day of running for the Asian Le Mans Series.
The field hit the track for a pair of two-hour private testing sessions on Friday followed by Free Practice 1 in the afternoon.
Eurasia Motorsport Racing New Zealand’s No. 1 Ligier JS P217 Gibson ended FP1 at the top of the times after newcomer Shane van Gisbergen set the benchmark on a 2:36.496.
Although rain did impact the middle part of the day and limit running, teams and drivers were still able to get a good sampling of the 7.7 km (4.8 mile) layout, which is the second-longest permanent race track in the world after the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Thunderhead Carlin Racing driver Harry Tincknell labeled The Bend as “one of the best tracks in the world” for “the pure driving experience”, highlighting the variation in camber and numerous corners with a high-speed change of direction.
“Thirty-five corners, it’s double what you get on a normal circuit at least so you only practice each corner half as much,” Tincknell said.
“You go into the race feeling less prepared than what you would on a normal circuit because you’re not physically driving each corner as often.
“It does seriously go on and on and on, but not in a bad way either, it’s like a good film you don’t want to end.”
Racing New Zealand’s Nick Cassidy was a big fan of the flowing corners after using prototype-level downforce having only been around the track in a rental car before.
“It’s fairly different to anything I’ve done but awesome. Not what I expected; I watched a bit of video and went around in the rental car but actually when you get in the race car with a lot of downforce it flows really nicely,” said Cassidy.
Teammate van Gisbergen is making his prototype racing debut this weekend in a Ligier JS P217 Gibson, however, he has plenty of track experience at The Bend in GT3 machinery.
Van Gisbergen noted the sheer difference in lap speed between an LMP2 car and a GT3 car over the course of the full lap.
“The biggest thing is it’s 30 seconds quicker than a GT car and when you come across them it’s like you’re racing rental cars, it’s amazing how slow they are,” he explained.
“It’s amazing the speed difference; good to see it from the other end looking out the front window rather than the back window but just still learning. Looking at data we’ve all still got a bit of time left to find.”
Ross Gunn, who is at the wheel of the D’station Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3, believes that traffic will be a “mess” in the second sector where there are a number of tight corners in close proximity on a narrow part of the track.
“I loved it. It’s a very, very challenging circuit, it’s all very low-speed and a lot of the corners lead into more corners so there are not many places to rest,” Gunn enthused.
“It’s a big challenge for the drivers and also the cars, but so far it’s been a very positive and different circuit and one that I’ve really enjoyed. It’s going to be difficult to overtake on, so pole position and qualifying are going to be important.”