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Road to Le Mans Weekend Notebook

James Newbold’s weekend notebook from the Road to Le Mans paddock…

Photo: Joao Filipe Alves Beato/

***The second annual Road to Le Mans has attracted 49 entries, an increase of 12 on last year’s event. Among these, 28 are confirmed for Le Mans only, in addition to the 21 entries that will contest the full Michelin Le Mans Cup season.

***Four cars have been added to those confirmed on the provisional entry list. These include the No. 12 SVC Sport Management car, No. 85 and No. 86 Eurointernational entries and the No. 87 RLR MSport car, all Ligier JS P3s.

***Defending Road to Le Mans winner M.Racing – YMR is back with three cars, including two Ligiers and a single Norma M30, which won in the ELMS last time out at Monza.

***Ligier moved to counter fears that the Norma’s straight line speed advantage would render them unbeatable by reducing the gurney flap on the rear-wing by 10mm, however concerns that this would not be enough appear to have been proved correct, as DKR Engineering dominated both qualifying sessions.

***RLR MSport driver Alex Kapadia explained that the aerodynamic change for the Ligier contingent would also upset the balance.

“By doing this, yes we will be quicker in a straight line, but we’ve also lost a load of aero, so the big thing now will be to find a balance,” he told Sportscar365. “What will be interesting to see now is whether or not this change will be enough for us to take the fight to them during the rest of the year, but it looked at Monza like if you had quick drivers in a Norma, it could end up being unbeatable.”

***In addition to Ligier and Norma, there is also a single Adess LMP3 entered by DKR Engineering. Sylvain Boulay is joined by Japanese veteran Yojiro Terada, the third most experienced driver in Le Mans history with 29 starts, behind only Henri Pescarolo and Bob Wollek. Of those competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans itself, Jan Lammers and Emmanuel Collard are the most experienced with 22 starts, ahead of Olivier Beretta with 20.

***Claudio Schdanewitz complained of pain in his hand after the Free Practice 1 accident that cut the session short, but was fit enough to race and qualified 26th for race two.

***Drivers have universally supported the decision to introduce a second points-scoring race to the program. Both 55 minutes in length, the races will have a mandatory pitstop between the 22nd and 32nd minute, with pitstops run to a minimum time of two minutes in duration from pit in to pit out.

“You can never get enough time on this place, so as much time as we can get and obviously getting two hours of racing instead of one is a huge benefit,” said United Autosports driver John Falb. “Last year I did the race by myself, but I think it will be more in the spirit of the series to have the driver changes.”

***The ACO moved to clarify its pitstop regulations after the race-leading Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS was given a drive-through penalty for using Proton Competition’s pit boom during the pitstop at Monza. This contravened a grey area in the rulebook, since closed, that teams must use their own refueling bottles and tire guns.

“There’s a minimum pitstop time so there was no advantage to using the boom, the boys used it because it’s safer to do that than drag airlines around the back of the car in a busy pit lane,” Optimum driver Joe Osborne told Sportscar365. “I don’t think we broke the rule but the ACO are saying the whole system must be your own which is now the drafted regulation.”

***Osborne drafted in five-time Le Mans class-winner Oliver Gavin to share his wealth of knowledge with co-driver Flick Haigh. The pair shared a Barwell Lamborghini at the Spa 24 Hours last year, finishing third in Pro-Am.

“I’ve never been here before so there was no point in me telling her how to drive it; we drafted Olly in for a sim session and he also came with us on the track cycle, which was really invaluable.”

***In addition to its race debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, TF Sport has entered Ahmad al-Harthy in an Aston Martin Vantage GT3. TF Sport boss Tom Ferrier told Sportscar365 that the deal was a one-off for now.

“It’s a dream for him to do Le Mans eventually, so it’s a good bit of experience on the track seeing what it’s all about,” said Ferrier. “It’s like Salih [Yoluc] did it last year and that swung part of his decision this year to get involved in it properly.”

***GT3 championship leader Lee Mowle admits that he has struggled to readjust to the Pirelli tire in British GT after racing on the stiffer and more durable Michelins in the Le Mans Cup. Mowle endured a difficult outing in the Silverstone 500 and is planning more testing before the next round at Spa.

“The sidewall [on the Pirelli] is softer than it is on the Michelin, so that movement has played with my brain a bit,” he said. “When we went from the Avon to the Pirelli it was a similar kind of thing on the crossover, so we’re going to need to change the tyre pressures on the Pirelli to get me back in a place where it’s not such a step change as there is at the moment.”

***The art-car livery on Larbre Competition’s older-generation Mercedes SLS AMG is designed by Ramzi Adek, who also created the “Human” livery for the team’s Corvette C7.R GTE.

***Larbre’s Christian Philippon is one of five drivers set for double duty across the Road to Le Mans and 24 Hours of Le Mans. James Winslow, Richard Bradley, Lucas di Grassi’s stand-in Michele Rugolo and Ben Barker will also run the two races.   

***Race two will be streamed live on the Le Mans Cup’s dedicated YouTube channel at 11:30 a.m. local time on Saturday. Race one gets underway later today at 5:30 p.m. local, with highlights available later in the week.  

James Newbold (@James_Newbold) is a UK-based freelance motorsport journalist. A graduate of Politics and International Relations, James is also the editor of Autosport Performance.

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