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Le Mans Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook from Le Mans…

Photo: John Dagys

***Eurasia Motorsport has replaced the tub of its Ligier JSP2 17 Gibson following a heavy crash by Erik Maris that brought out the red flag in Qualifying 2. Team boss Mark Goddard told Sportscar365 that he expected the original tub to be repairable, but not in time for this weekend’s race.

***Ten Eurasia crew members labored over the car until 4 a.m. on Friday, then returned to work before 10 a.m. Goddard said the car should be back together late tonight in time for morning warmup on Saturday morning.

***Qualifying at Le Mans finished on Thursday night as the fastest ever, with lap records falling in all four classes. Besides Kamui Kobayashi’s overall lap record in LMP1, Alex Lynn’s effort of 3:25.352 was also a track record, beating last year’s LMP2 pole time by 11.2 seconds.

***In GTE-Pro, Darren Turner went 0.3 seconds faster than the 2016 pole time for Aston Martin Racing, while Fernando Rees’ effort for Larbre Competition in GTE-Am was nearly four seconds up on last year.

***Kobayashi’s lap record in LMP1 was remarkable enough, but it also wasn’t too far off the lowest time ever recorded on any full Le Mans circuit layout. Pedro Rodriguez holds that record from 1971 with a time 3:13.90 on a 13.469 km track. The current layout is some 160 meters longer, making Kobayashi’s lap the fastest lap of all time.

***Trouble hit both the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid and No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid in qualifying last night, with an oil leak leading to an engine change for the Toyota in Q2 and a heat temperature warning resulting in Brendon Hartley stopping on track in Q3. While the Toyota rejoined to qualify second, the Porsche ended the night early.

***ByKolles engineer Russell Eacott said the team were disappointed with the time achieved in qualifying, despite lapping ten seconds faster with its Nismo-powered ENSO CLM P1/01. “I don’t want to say exactly where we could have been, but I think we could have been quite a lot quicker if we hadn’t had traffic,” he told Sportscar365.

***The No. 65 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE was unable to partake in Qualifying 3 on Thursday night after Christina Nielsen struck a curb at the second chicane, which caused the car to lose oil. The car will start from the back of the grid in 60th position.

***A number of Dallara and Ligier LMP2 teams have switched to their standard, high-downforce aero kits ahead of the race, after struggling for pace in testing, practice and qualifying. Racing Team Nederland ran both packages earlier this week, in a direct comparison. Rules do not prohibit the use of the standard aero kit.

***While the Ligier runners in LMP2 think they may have an edge over the Orecas when it comes to tire management, few expect it to be enough to make up the time difference. One Oreca-running team source said to Sportscar365 that they doubted it would be enough to make up a four-second per lap difference in pace, pointing to another Oreca sweep in the race.

***Four out of the seven Ligier teams, and two of the three Dallara outfits are making their Le Mans debuts this weekend.

***ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil said that variable aero, which will be introduced as part of the new 2020 LMP1 regulations, will make the cars more efficient, while eliminating the need for a second aero kit. “It’s really quite an innovative thing and this is why we needed it in the front and in the back,” he said.

***Beaumesnil said introducing the same system in LMP2, which currently features two aero kits, is premature. “For the moment, I think maybe the best timing is to test the system and make it really good with the top manufacturers and we see after what we do in LMP2.” he said. “It’s really important to keep the most configurations for LMP2 at the moment.”

***The incentive package for new LMP1 manufacturers entering the championship could continue into 2020, although Beaumesnil said a decision has not yet been taken. “You can see that the step is very high because you look at Porsche and Toyota, the level they have reached, and they have admitted that we need to help in the first year of the new manufacturer,” he said.

***Recent Audi LMP1 driver Lucas di Grassi has doubts about the new regulations announced for the class from 2020 by the ACO today. “This approach is (still) way too complex and expensive, and road relevancy won’t matter anymore,” di Grassi tweeted.

***Tony Kanaan may be making his Le Mans debut this weekend, but his IndyCar roots are still shining through. When asked what his favorite corner was on the Circuit de la Sarthe, Kanaan said: “Coincidence or not: the Indianapolis corner! The name is very familiar, but that corner, it’s so much fun. I think that’s probably one of the most fun ones. And it has nothing to do with the name, to be honest!”

***Jeff Segal flew direct from an Acura test to arrive at Le Mans on Friday in time to assist the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa team as a spotter. Segal won the GTE-Am class last year but was left without a drive after being promoted from Silver to Gold. “I’d love to be driving, but if I can’t do that then if there’s anything I can do to help, then I will,” Segal told Sportscar365.

***A number of racing stars are guests of Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing this weekend, including A.J. Foyt, Leonard Wood of the famed Wood Brothers NASCAR team, drag racing legend Don Prudhome and rally driver Ken Block. Foyt teamed with Dan Gurney to score victory at Le Mans in 1967, in the only all-American overall winning effort to date.

***Audi’s absence from Le Mans has been felt in more ways than one, with the German manufacturer’s traditional signage at Indianapolis and Arnage having been replaced by French clothing brand Gant.

***One mainstay at Le Mans has been Vanessa Weikart of Vanessa’s Hospitality Services, who celebrates her 27th year at Le Mans. Weikart and her hard-working and friendly staff serve a number of teams, including Scuderia Corsa, Risi Competizione, Keating Motorsports, Jackie Chan DC Racing and JMW Motorsport, with round-the-clock meals and other personalized services.

***Both Algarve Pro Racing and ARC Bratislava are planning to return to the Asian Le Mans Series next season, with the Portuguese team set to defend its title with two Ligier JS P2 cars in LMP2.  “It’s very close to being a done real right now,” team boss Stewart Cox said. ARC, meanwhile, could make the move from LMP3 to LMP2, according to team owner Miroslav Konopka.

Luke Smith, Ryan Myrehn and James Newbold contributed this report

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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