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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Friday Notebook

Check out Sportscar365’s first notebook after the opening day of Le Mans scrutineering…

Photo: MPS Agency

***A total of 37 of the 62 cars entered in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans passed through scrutineering in the Place de la Republique in downtown Le Mans on Friday, with the remaining 25 cars set to feature on Saturday.

***Hypercar teams that saw their cars pass through the sporting and administrative checks on Friday included BMW M Team WRT, Hertz Team JOTA, Lamborghini Iron Lynx, Isotta Fraschini Duqueine, Alpine, Cadillac (both Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing) and Peugeot.

***Jordan Pepper was confirmed on Friday as Lamborghini Iron Lynx’s official reserve driver. The South African is set for seat time aboard both Lamborghini SC63s during Sunday’s test day.

***Peugeot reserve driver Malthe Jakobsen told Sportscar365 that he is not expecting to turn any laps aboard the 9X8 on Sunday, despite featuring on the entry list for the test, as he focuses on his duties aboard the No. 37 Cool Racing Oreca 07 Gibson. “Right now, my main focus is on Cool Racing, because that’s where I expect to do the race,” said Jakobsen.

***By contrast, Jakobsen’s co-driver in the No. 37 car Ritomo Miyata is expecting to pull double duty on Sunday aboard both the LMP2 car and the Toyota GR010 Hybrid, in what is set to mark his third outing at the wheel of the Japanese LMH car.

***One of the drivers from Cool’s No. 47 machine, Frederik Vesti, was absent as the car passed through scrutineering on Friday. The Dane is with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team at the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix as a reserve driver.

***BMW’s Raffaele Marciello revealed a special helmet design for his Le Mans debut, inspired by and paying tribute to the late Jules Bianchi. The two drivers were part of the Ferrari Driver Academy at the same time, with Bianchi going on to compete in Formula 1 before his crash in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix that eventually cost the Frenchman his life.

***While Marciello attended scrutineering alongside Dries Vanthoor, Robin Frijns was the only driver for the No. 20 BMW M Hybrid V8 to be present as co-drivers Sheldon van der Linde and Rene Rast are both in Zandvoort.

***Sportscar365 understands that all drivers affected by the DTM clash (Rast, van der Linde, Marco Wittmann, Kelvin van der Linde, Mirko Bortolotti and Jack Aitken) are set to share the same private jet to go to and from Le Mans this weekend, with a helicopter on stand-by to transport them from Amsterdam airport to the nearby Zandvoort circuit.

***GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser indicated she was not concerned about Alex Palou’s absence from Sunday’s test day as a result of clashing commitments with the NTT IndyCar series round at Road America. “In a perfect world, we’d have people maximizing their seat time as much as possible, but he’s a well-renowned, very good driver and he’s going to come in and he’s going to do the best that he can,” Klauser told reporters.

***Palou is one of five drivers in action at Road America this weekend along with Chip Ganassi IndyCar stablemates Scott Dixon and Kyffin Simpson, Romain Grosjean and Nolan Siegel.

***Rahel Frey cut a baffled figure at the ACO’s decision to allocate 25 extra kgs of minimum weight to the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 for Le Mans, with the Swiss driver saying “it will hurt” the brand going into the event.

***Frey added: “Honestly speaking, it’s a bit difficult to understand why we got 25 kilos and even less power under 200 [km/h]. It will hurt us. But in the end, we cannot change it, so we have to make the best out of it.”

***TF Sport boss Tom Ferrier says he’s “very conscious” of representing Corvette Racing’s history at Le Mans, now that the British squad is the only representation of the marque at the race this year. “We’re all focused on doing the best job we can for them,” Ferrier told Sportscar365. “The guys from Pratt Miller, the guys from GM are here in masses supporting us as well.”

***Ferrier estimated that roughly eight technical staff members are on site to assist the TF crew, noting that the team has “all of the support that you might ever want.”

***TF’s No. 82 Corvette Z06 GT3.R, featuring Daniel Juncadella, Sebastien Baud and Hiroshi Koizumi, is one of two cars in the LMGT3 class featuring driver lineups with no Le Mans starts between them. The other is the No. 59 United Autosports McLaren 720S GT3 of Nicolas Costa, James Cottingham and Gregoire Saucy.

***Juncadella said he doesn’t see his crew’s total lack of Le Mans experience as a disadvantage. “Nowadays we have simulators and many tools to help us prepare,” the Spaniard told Sportscar365. “I feel like I’ve been to Le Mans before because I’ve done so many laps virtually. I’m intrigued to see whether the track is actually like it is on the simulator.”

***United Autosports LMP2 driver Ben Keating is set for his third Le Mans start at the wheel of an LMP2 car, but doesn’t hold fond memories of the times he piloted an Oreca 03R and a Riley-Multimatic Mk. 30. “Both the 2016 experience and the 2017 experience were terrible,” he laughed. “I don’t mind saying that, I was in the wrong car. I didn’t have the right tire. That was back when you had decisions to make on those types of things.”

***Defending LMP2 winner Fabio Scherer, who is driving for Nielsen Racing this year, joked he is aiming to avoid any injuries in this year’s Le Mans after breaking his foot en route to the top step of the podium in 2023. He said: “I told someone at home, if I need to break my foot again to win it this year, I’m fine with it!”

***ORECA held the grand opening of its new Technocentre on Thursday. The 86,000 square-foot facility, located adjacent to Circuit Paul Ricard in the Signes business park, is dedicated to the design, construction and assembly of race cars.

***As well as the remaining cars passing through scrutineering, a parade featuring 17 of this year’s cars (including nine Hypercars, one from each brand) will also be held on the streets of Le Mans starting at 3:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. EDT).

John Dagys and Davey Euwema contributed to this report

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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