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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook on the eve of the 24 Hours of Le Mans…

Photo: MPS Agency

***While it was a quiet day on-track, there was plenty of off-track activity at Circuit de la Sarthe and in the city, with multiple press conferences, a pit walk and the drivers’ parade through the city center.  A 45-minute warmup session on Saturday morning will mark the final track action prior to the drop of the tricolore flag by Rafael Nadal at 3 p.m. local time.

***Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon said they are not able to simply ‘cruise’ around should the pair of Toyota TS050 Hybrids build up a large enough of a lead, due to the technical complexities of the on-board hybrid system.  “We need to reach the top speed,” he said. “If we don’t reach the expected top speed, we lose too much kinetic energy. These cars are very precisely developed for those conditions.”

***Vasselon indicated the only precautionary measures the drivers can take in the race is avoiding curbs and not taking unnecessary risks through to traffic. Short-shifting is not even an option due to the amount of top speed the car would lose.

***In addition to 2020 and 2024 regulations, the ACO made several other announcements at its annual press conference this morning. It launched the Le Mans eSports Series which will be contested on Forza Motorsport 7 and will run in parallel with the rest of the WEC season. More details will be revealed at the Six Hours of Silverstone in August.

***The ACO, meanwhile, awarded the Spirit of Le Mans trophy to Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones in recognition for his contribution to endurance racing. Owen-Jones had served as President of the FIA Endurance Commission from 2012-17, having been replaced by Richard Mille this year.

***The FIA is set to outline plans to encourage participation of female drivers in the FIA World Endurance Championship in a press conference tomorrow morning, featuring FIA President Jean Todt, ACO President Pierre Fillon and Michele Mouton, the president of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. The initiative was announced at the World Motorsport Council last week.

***ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil said they haven’t yet decided on whether LMP2 cars will be slowed down for the launch season of the new ‘hypercar’ regulations in 2020-21. The ACO has targeted a 3:20 lap time for the new prototype platform, which is close to the current performance of LMP2, which is locked in through the end of the 2020-21 season.

***Beaumesnil also said it hasn’t been decided if the eligibility of the current LMP1 non-hybrids will be extended beyond the 2019-20 season. 

***Juan Pablo Montoya says his “life doesn’t really revolve around the Triple Crown.” The former Indianapolis 500 and Monaco 500 winner is competing at Le Mans for the first time this weekend. “I just want to win races as I’ve never done Le Mans before and I thought it would be a lot of fun to experience it so that’s why I’ve come here.”

***Zak Brown believes there will be no clash between the Sebring WEC round and the Australian Grand Prix in March, thus allowing Fernando Alonso to compete in both. The F1 calendar is yet to be released but the McLaren Racing CEO said: “The tentative schedules I’ve seen, they don’t clash. They’re a week apart.”

***ORECA has been on LMP2 pole for the last four editions of the race. The French constructor scored two poles with its Oreca 05 and two with the Oreca 07 since 2015 with IDEC Sport claiming top honors in qualifying for this year’s race.

***Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has brought a special mascot to the race, named ‘Turbo McBoost’. He has been walking around the paddock asking for autographs and taking selfies with fans.

***Ferrari unveiled its 488 Pista “Piloti Ferrari” road car this morning, which features a new livery incorporating the Italian flag. The tailor-made specification of the 488 Pista has been designed as a tribute to WEC and dedicated to AF Corse’s 2017 GTE-Pro title-winning campaign, and will be made exclusively available to Ferrari racing customers.

***Toyota, meanwhile, presented the GR Super Sport Concept in Le Mans, marking its European debut following the official reveal at the Tokyo Auto Salon in January. The hypercar incorporates hybrid electric technology honed through Toyota’s WEC participation, including a V6 twin turbo engine and its LMP1 hybrid system.

***Velocity will carry live, flag-to-flag coverage of the race in the U.S., beginning Saturday at 8 a.m. EDT. It will feature commentary from the Eurosport broadcast team led by Mark Cole, Carlton Kirby and David Addison and supported by Damien Faulkner, Sam Hancock, Chris Parsons, Jennie Gow and studio presenters Tom Kristensen and Neil Cole.

Jake Kilshaw and Luke Smith contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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