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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Saturday Notebook

Daniel Lloyd’s notebook on the eve of the annual pre-24 Hours of Le Mans test…

Photo: Alexis Goure/ACO

***Several drivers are factoring in multi-series commitments this weekend, with the Le Mans Test Day taking place a day after both the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup round at Paul Ricard and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race in Detroit.

***A total of 18 Le Mans drivers are in today’s Paul Ricard 1000km. It’s understood that Vincent Abril, Jules Gounon, Rob Smith, Felipe Fraga and senior personnel from Panis-Barthez Competition will share the same early Sunday morning flight from the south of France.

***While not driving this weekend in Detroit, Patrick Lindsey will again be serving as “pilot in command” for nearly a dozen IMSA drivers and support staff heading to Le Mans directly after the race. Lindsey, a pilot and owner of Mira Vista Aviation, will charter Patrick Long, Renger van der Zande, Pipo Derani, Oliver Jarvis, Harry Tincknell, Jonathan Bomarito, Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor and Multimatic’s Larry Holt to France.

***Ford Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais will not take part in the Test Day because of their commitments in the IndyCar Chevrolet Detroit GP double-header. Both drivers have been granted exemption from this weekend’s on-track running at Le Mans due to their prior experience and Platinum driver ratings.

***All 62 cars are expected to run at the Test Day, while some teams have included supplementary drivers for the annual prep event. The list of extras includes Ross Gunn in both Aston Martin Racing GTE-Pro cars, BMW works driver Nick Yelloly in the Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR and James French in the Algarve Pro Racing Oreca 07 Gibson.

***The full grid lined up for the annual pre-event photo on Saturday afternoon (pictured above).

***Brendon Hartley is set for his first laps of Le Mans in the Toyota TS050 Hybrid. The two-time WEC champion with Porsche sampled the Japanese LMP1 car for the first time in a recent test at Spa-Francorchamps, completing around 20 laps, and is expected to contribute to the set up of the car tomorrow morning.

***Toyota has yet to decide on the exact composition of its 2019-20 driver lineup, although team director Rob Leupen hinted that Hartley will slot into the No. 8 car alongside Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.

“We will announce later at the end of the season or the beginning of next season. It’s likely that it will be as we have normally done with a replacement. We will make a decision a bit later,” Leupen told Sportscar365.

***Several teams are introducing new liveries this weekend. ByKolles Racing, Racing Team Nederland and TDS Racing’s cars have each received makeovers, while Ford and Porsche’s commemorative designs are making their public debuts.

***Both the Jackie Chan DC Racing cars have different liveries to the team’s primary design that it has used for most of the 2018-19 ‘Super Season’. The No. 38 Oreca is now sporting a Konica Minolta paint job, while its No. 37 sister car is continuing with the black and yellow scheme it competed in at Spa.

***Kessel Racing and JMW Motorsport have also launched special liveries for their GTE-Am class Ferrari 488 GTEs. The Andy Blackmore-penned JMW design includes the team’s own section from Blackmore’s Le Mans spotters’ guide.

***The first hot running of this year’s event took place on Wednesday, when Graff’s No. 39 Oreca took to the streets of Le Mans city centre for a demo with Vincent Capillaire at the wheel.

***Charlie Martin, who is bidding to become the first transgender racer to compete at the Circuit de la Sarthe, has set up a fundraising campaign for her Road to Le Mans entry. The British driver is aiming to raise £50,000 ($63,000) to secure her spot on the support race grid.

***Both Aston Martin and Ferrari are celebrating Le Mans victory anniversaries this year. The 2019 race marks 60 years since Aston Martin’s first and only overall win with a Carroll Shelby/Roy Salvador-driven DBR1, and 70 years since Ferrari’s maiden victory.

***Pierre Fillon made a trip to Indianapolis last weekend to attend the Indy 500. The ACO president took the opportunity to meet Matt Damon and Christian Bale, the two lead actors in the upcoming Ford vs. Ferrari motion picture, who were also Grand Marshals for the triple crown race.

***The worldwide trailer debut for Ford vs. Ferrari will take place during Game 2 of the NBA playoff finals tomorrow night on ABC.

***Team Project 1 will expand its WEC presence next season, according to team principal Axel Funke. The German squad unveiled a one-off Le Mans art car livery today, designed by American photo-realist Richard Phillips.

***Sportscar365 understands that Porsche’s next-generation GTE contender, which was recently spotted testing at Monza, is set to be formally announced at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July.

***While the ACO remains quiet on the future of its top class regulations, it’s understood that there has been attendance in recent meetings by a Volkswagen Group manufacturer not currently in WEC competition.

***Track action gets underway tomorrow at 9 a.m. and will continue until the lunch break at 1 p.m. A further four hours of running will then take place in the afternoon, between 2-6 p.m. Live audio coverage will be provided by Radio Show Limited.

John Dagys and Laurent Mercier contributed to this report.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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