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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Saturday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Saturday notebook from Le Mans on eve of test day…

Photo: ACO

***The remainder of the cars and drivers taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans went through scrutineering on Saturday morning at Circuit de la Sarthe, as well as several test day-only additions including Michael Fassbender, who will be in the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 as a fourth driver. 

***A total of 11 drivers are set to miss Sunday’s Le Mans test day, with ten of them racing in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season finale in Berlin: Sebastien Buemi, Alex Lynn, Nyck De Vries, Stoffel Vandoorne, Tom Blomqvist, Robin Frijns, Antonio Felix Da Costa, Norman Nato, Sam Bird and Alexander Sims. All with the exception of Nato (Gold) are Platinum-rated and therefore not required to turn laps.

***Kyle Tilley is the only other driver not slated to be present tomorrow, with the Silver-rated IDEC Sport driver and Era Motorsport team owner taking part in the NASCAR Cup Series round at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Tilley is exempt due to taking part in last year’s race.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical director Pascal Vasselon believes that the reduction in energy for the Alpine A480 Gibson was not a Balance of Performance adjustment but rather a “correction of a mistake” by the the FIA and ACO that will primarily affect the car’s refueling time. 

“It looks like a mistake,” Vasselon told Sportscar365. “It has an importance on the refueling time as the refueling is proportional to the energy you consume. If you are allocated too much energy you don’t consume it and the refueling time will be reduced. We expect it to have an impact on their refueling time.”

***Doug Fehan is not present at Le Mans for the first time since the inception of Corvette Racing in 1999. The longtime program manager was let go from his position last year after a 25-year run with General Motors and has since taken on an ambassadorial role with the manufacturer at selected IMSA events.

***Fehan was instrumental in Corvette’s success at Le Mans — highlighted by eight class victories with three different generations of cars — while also having forged personal relationships with ACO executives over the last two-plus decades, including what had been an annual dinner with the ACO held in the team’s garage. 

***Panis Racing has introduced a pair of special liveries for its own and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Oreca 07 Gibsons. The designed have been produced by French artist Laurent Minguet. Prints will be sold in the Le Mans shop to raise funds for the Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque children’s surgery.

***Another team sporting a special livery for Le Mans is JMW Motorsport. The British Ferrari squad has enlisted American artist Cleon Peterson to compose a design involving ‘mythical warriors’ in line with the team’s usual yellow and black colors.

***Laurens Vanthoor told Sportscar365 that he’s been asked for tips on driving the GTE-spec Porsche by his younger brother Dries. Both are racing in separate GTE-Pro privateer efforts. “He’s been asking me tons of questions about the Porsche. I’m like, ‘Tough luck, I’m racing against you!”

***The No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche is a different chassis from that used in the European Le Mans Series according to team principal Christian Ried, who said the car has been converted from GTE-Am to GTE-Pro spec that includes several changes such as FIA-mandated sensors. 

***It marks the fourth different mid-engined Porsche GTE car Cooper MacNeil will have driven this year, with the team having swapped between two chassis in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “As long as they have the right seat in the car for me, which is important because I don’t fit in the small seat these guys like to use,” said MacNeil, who is 6 feet 6 inches tall. 

***MacNeil confirmed he will contest the remaining ELMS rounds at Spa-Francorchamps and Portimao with Proton.

***Ried told Sportscar365 they’ve had to bring in an additional ten crew members for the team’s five-car effort, which includes the two WEC season-long Dempsey-Proton cars, the WeatherTech Porsche, Absolute Racing’s entry and the No. 99 Proton-entered Porsche that includes support from Multimatic.

***Absolute Racing is running without any of its Malaysian-based mechanics that helped service the No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche at Spa, with team co-owner Ingo Matter explaining that they were unable to travel back to France due to quarantine restrictions.

***Shanghai-based Matter, who has been in his native Germany since Spa, said he will face a 21-day mandatory hotel quarantine upon his planned return to China next month.

***Matter explained that if Southeast Asia doesn’t open up by next year, the team will have to “look at everything” including the possibility of building up a European-based crew. “The thing is if the crew can’t travel you have to build everything from scratch, which is a bit pointless. But if the core crew can’t travel, you’re [screwed],” he told Sportscar365. “Something has to happen and we’re looking at everything currently.”

***Absolute’s drivers traveled to Le Mans in style, taking three classic Porsches from the German manufacturer’s museum at Zuffenhausen over to France. The 850 km trip emulated the journey made be a 356L ahead of Porsche’s Le Mans debut in 1951.

***Felipe Nasr confirmed that he has been in discussions with multiple manufacturers about a future top-level prototype drive and is “likely” to feature in that era of sports car racing. The 2018 IMSA champion told Sportscar365: “There have been a few approaches so far.”

***Nasr acknowledged that Porsche is one of the teams he has been in contact with, while Sportscar365 understands that LMH constructor Ferrari has also shown interest in the ex-Sauber-Ferrari Formula One driver, who currently drives full-time for Action Express Racing in the WeatherTech Championship.

***Earl Bamber, meanwhile, said he has “nothing to say” about rumors linking him with a Cadillac DPi drive in the WeatherTech Championship next year. The Kiwi is understood to have tested Chip Ganassi Racing’s Cadillac DPi-V.R earlier this week at Road America and could end up as Nasr’s replacement at AXR.

***There is a link between Nasr and his Risi Competizione performance engineer James Goodfield, as both worked at Carlin during the 2013 and 2014 GP2 seasons. Nasr finished third in the latter campaign, after which he graduated to F1.

***Both the No. 71 Inception Racing Ferrari and No. 69 Herberth Motorsport Porsche feature all-rookie driver lineups for the 24 hours. Brendan Iribe, Ben Barnicoat and Ollie Millroy make up the Inception squad with Robert Renauer, Ralf Bohn and Rolf Ineichen in the Herberth entry.

***Inception team manager Bas Leinders explained that the Optimum-run team elected to skip the GT America powered by AWS race on the streets of Nashville in order to squeeze in an additional pre-Le Mans test at Paul Ricard for American driver Iribe.

***As was the case during its early exit from the weekend at Monza, the British-based McLaren GT3 outfit is working with members of Kessel Racing. “I’ve worked with collaborations before and it can get quite tricky. Maybe that experience from my side in the past made it a little bit easier,” Leinders told Sportscar365.

***Rinaldi Racing, which is making its Le Mans debut, is utilizing the same pit box as Keating Motorsports’ Ford GT effort in 2019. The common link between the two teams is Jeroen Bleekemolen, who is part of Rinaldi’s lineup alongside Pierre Ehret and Christian Hook.

***The test day consists of two sessions, totaling nine hours of running. The opening session, lasting four hours, starts at 9 a.m. CEST (3 a.m. EST). Session two lasts an extra hour and is due to begin at 2 p.m. CEST (8 a.m. EST).

Daniel Lloyd 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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