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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday notebook from Le Mans…

Photo: John Dagys

***All 60 cars taking part in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans were assembled for the traditional group photo on the start/finish straight Saturday afternoon (pictured above).

***Teams will have eight hours of track time tomorrow, with sessions running from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-6 p.m. Forecasts currently call for mostly cloudy skies, with only a 10 percent chance of rain, which should result in ideal track conditions.

***The test, which is mandatory for all teams taking part in the race, also requires any Le Mans rookie driver or those that have either not raced in the event in the last five years or Bronze-rated drivers that did not race last year, complete a minimum of ten laps (including five timed laps) in the test. They also must take part in the ACO-approved sim session.

***A handful of Platinum-rated drivers, including Tony Kanaan, are exempt from the test day requirement, although they must still complete the sim session. Kanaan is scheduled to fulfill the requirement on June 12.

***Any potential reserve drivers for race week are also required to complete at least ten laps in the test, which is the reason why both Marc Lieb and Laurens Vanthoor have been nominated in Porsche’s LMP1 and GTE-Pro entries, respectively. “[Laurens] needs minimum laps to be eligible as a non-defined reserve driver,” Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser told Sportscar365. 

***This year’s test day does not see any additional entries, despite being open to other ACO-approved categories, as well as “innovative cars.”

***Toyota Gazoo Racing Team Director Rob Leupen confirmed to Sportscar365 that Jose Maria Lopez will return to the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid following Le Mans. He said there was no considerations of replacing the Argentinean or Yuji Kunimoto, who struggled in his LMP1 race debut at Spa, in the Le Mans lineup.

***Lopez had another crash while on his out lap in last month’s shakedown at Spa, when the car had a “small issue with brake balance” according to Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon. The accident, which resulted in bodywork damage to the car, was not the fault of the driver, Leupen said. 

***While only having four laps of race experience entering Le Mans, Vasselon revealed to Sportscar365 that Lopez had served as an unofficial test driver with the Japanese manufacturer last year, during his final year as a Citroen WTCC driver. 

***Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl said last month’s Spa round, which saw Porsche’s low-downforce-spec 919 Hybrid outpace the No. 9 Toyota, which was also in Le Mans specification, is not indicative for the race due to each manufacturer being able to fine-tune downforce levels. “It’s difficult to judge,” Seidl said. “We both have no idea exactly where we will end up in terms of relative pace with each other.”

***Seidl said that Lieb will likely carry out his minimum ten laps in the No. 2 Porsche tomorrow, despite being listed in both 919 Hybrids, which are different monocoques than the German manufacturer ran at the last round. 

***Both LMP1 team bosses have downplayed going for a time on Sunday. Leupen said not to expect any “spectacular” times for the three Toyotas, while Seidl added: “We will focus on our program. We know what we want to do tomorrow. We have a job list we want to achieve. The focus is not on setting special lap times.”

***Porsche’s Walliser believes the Le Mans-specific Balance of Performance, which was released last week, is “what we expected” although questions the 0.7mm restrictor increase for the Corvette C7.R was fully justified. “Just compare the restrictor difference between Porsche and Corvette at Daytona and here and you see the difference is too small,” he said.

***The FIA and ACO reserve the right to make BoP adjustments to GTE-Pro following the test day, and also during race week, as was the case last year.

***Selected drivers arriving from Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race in Detroit will have a special driver’s meeting at 9:15 a.m. The plane set to carry Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ricky Taylor, Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan and Cooper MacNeil is scheduled to arrive at the nearby Arnage airport at 6:15 a.m., according to Keating Motorsports team manager Greg Jones.

***Jones told Sportscar365 they are undecided whether they will have Nico De Bruijn, who is on the entry list in the No. 43 Riley Mk. 30 Gibson, turn some initial laps in the morning or wait for Keating, Bleekemolen and Taylor to be cleared to test. Both the Keating Riley and No. 65 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE have all of its race-week drivers arriving from Detroit.

***Both JMW Motorsport’s Will Stevens and Dries Vanthoor, the latter who makes his Le Mans debut in the No. 84 Ferrari 488 GTE, will attempt to complete his ten minimum laps on Sunday morning before flying to Zolder to compete in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Main Race, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. The 19-year-old Belgian finished 13th in today’s Qualifying Race at his home circuit and is currently en route to France.

***Three Ferrari 488 cars competing at Le Mans were initially built to GT3 specification. Both Scuderia Corsa Ferraris, as well as the JMW entry, have all been upgraded to GTE configuration, which includes changes to the engine and bodywork. It’s understood to be the first three 488s to have taken advantage of the manufacturer’s chassis flexibility, a concept initially proposed in the first round of GT convergence talks in 2014.

***A decision on a customer program for the new mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR has been postponed, according to Walliser, who now expects final word to come sometime next month. “We have some discussions internally,” he told Sportscar365. “We’ll stick on the original plan. We’ve just postponed it by some weeks.”

***The GTE-Pro class-winning Ford GT will be on display at the Le Mans Museum during race week. The car, which Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais took to victory last year, completed the WeatherTech Championship season before being retired and restored to its Le Mans-winning condition.

***Laurens Vanthoor has hinted that he will take part in this year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, at the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT3 R. “It’s looking very positive,” he told Sportscar365. It’s believed the Belgian could be part of Team 75 Bernhard’s likely entry for the race, which could also feature team owner Timo Bernhard in the driving strength. 

Laurent Mercier contributed to 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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