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Catone (SMP): “Our Opponents Have Experience; For Us, Running is Vital”

BR Engineering’s Paolo Catone discusses BR01’s chances at Le Mans…

Photo: Brecht Decancq

Photo: Brecht Decancq

After making its race debut last month at Imola, SMP Racing’s all-new BR Engineering prototype is set to embark on its first 24-hour race, in what’s been a whirlwind start to the year for the Russian operation. (En Français)

Delays in sourcing components for construction of the Paolo Catone-designed BR01 resulted in the LMP2 car not making its debut until the second round of the European Le Mans Series season, a full month behind its original schedule.

Despite the late start, the pair of Nissan-powered cars have shown potential, with chief designer Catone pleased with the progress made during last weekend’s Le Mans Test Day, although facing some continued teething issues.

“The car ran without any major problems but we experienced a glitch with the tank sealing, as in Imola,” Catone told Endurance-Info. “It’s quite complicated to get [to the tank], so it somewhat changed our work program for one of the two cars.

“In Italy, we encountered the same problem on the brand-new BR01. Here, it was the other car that was hit. It was in fact the only concern which made us lose time.

“Time is playing against us, with the lack of running time [making us unable] to refine the setup.”

The No. 27 car of Maurizio Mediani, Nicolas Minassian and David Markozov was the best of the BR01s at the test day, thanks to Mediani’s 3:47.827 lap time that put it 15th quickest in class, although coming in less than ideal conditions.

“We put the cars on the ground Sunday morning for one hour of running in the dry before the rain arrived. It was a strange day,” Catone said.

“Our opponents have experience but for us, running is vital. That’s why we also decided to run on the Bugatti Circuit on Tuesday with the two BR01s in different configurations.

“It’s impossible for us to [gain] the experience of others in just a few days. Between the changing weather and the timing, we can’t say we have benefited.”

While having come off a positive endurance test at Paul Ricard last month, Catone heads into Le Mans with a realistic outlook, knowing that experience is often rewarded by success.

“The endurance test went perfectly, which is good for a brand-new car,” he said. “But the idea was to complete 20,000 km before validating the car. We’re finally at about 8,000 km.

“There’s no miracles in motorsport. The team has worked very hard but you can’t catch up by just working hard. It’s not possible to reproduce the Le Mans circuit elsewhere.

“BR Engineering started with a blank sheet. Like everyone else, we’ll roll up and do our best to do well.”

While there’s no current plans for BR Engineering to step up to LMP1 competition, Catone, the chief designer of the Peugeot 908, has been impressed with the level of advancements made in the top prototype category in recent years.

“When the Peugeot 908 arrived, everyone said it was like a fighter jet,” he said. “The current LMP1 cars no longer have any comparison to it.

“Everyone knows it’s quite complicated to make a good lap time during the first two or three hours at Le Mans on a dirty track. Yet Porsche turned a 3:21 from the beginning.

“With Peugeot, it took three years for us to reach 3:19. The new regulations are good. Motorsport allows for technical innovation. The only problem is [an increase] in costs.

“LMP1 now reaches an incredible performance with different technologies”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John


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