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Le Mans Sunday Notebook

Sportscar365’s latest notebook following the 24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day…

Photo: MPS Agency

***The fastest time set by Porsche’s Kevin Estre in Sunday’s 24 Hours of Le Mans test day was around 2.6 seconds faster than the best time set in last year’s test day. Estre’s session-topping time of 3:26.907 compares to the benchmark of 3:29.504 laid down by Ferrari driver Antonio Giovinazzi in 2023.

***In LMP2, United Autosports’ Oliver Jarvis’s best time of 3:34.704 was the best part of a second faster than Pietro Fittipaldi’s 2023 test day benchmark of 3:35.472. TF Sport Corvette driver Sebastien Baud’s chart-topping LMGT3 effort of 3:59.883 meanwhile was around 3.8 seconds slower than the best GTE-Am lap of last year.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director David Floury said a combination of the Hypercars running with less weight across the board, as well as favorable track conditions, were possible explanations for the rapid pace seen on Sunday.

***Floury said: “All cars are lighter than last year, so that makes a difference. The track was also quite a bit quicker; straight away this morning the track was quite good. I did not necessarily expect it but the track was better than last year’s test day.”

***Porsche Penske Motorsport managing director Jonathan Diuguid also gave his take on the faster-than-expected lap times. “I think it’s attributed to the temperatures for one thing,” he said. “It’s pretty much perfect conditions today, low wind and nice and cool. The tires were in a good operating window. Also it’s the second year with a lot of these teams having their cars, so everybody is a lot smarter in general.”

***Floury also remarked he was impressed by the performance shown by last-minute stand-in Jose Maria Lopez, who is taking the place of Mike Conway in the lineup for the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid. Lopez’s fastest lap of 3:28.827 was within four tenths of Kamui Kobayashi’s best effort in the same car.

***Floury said: “By the look of the lap times, you would think [Lopez] drove the car yesterday. He was up to speed immediately, and clearly he is motivated like hell. He has worked hard to get up to speed with all the car systems and we can see he is on top of things. We are quite confident that there will be no issues in the race.”

***BMW M Motorsport director Andreas Roos told Sportscar365 that Dries Vanthoor was instructed to stop the No. 15 BMW M Hybrid V8 during the morning session after the team detected “some abnormalities on the engine.” A precautionary engine change was then carried out, with the car eventually returning to the track for 12 laps late in the afternoon session.

***Roos reported no further reliability problems during the test day, which saw BMW turn laps at the Circuit de la Sarthe with a top-class effort for the first time since it won the race overall with the V12 LMR in 1999. “It’s a big day, I have to say,” Roos said. “Everybody was waiting for this day and preparing the last years to be back with our BMW M V8 Hybrid to really do the first laps here. We are super happy.”

***Marco Wittmann completed 15 laps aboard the No. 20 car during the morning session and then emerged victorious during the second DTM race at Zandvoort after traveling to the Dutch circuit by plane and helicopter. Roos quipped: “When I talked to the guys when we had this crazy plan, they all came to me, ‘Oh when we come out of the Hypercar, how should we then directly go into a DTM race?’ I think it worked quite well to be honest.”

***The plane taking Wittmann and his fellow DTM racers, Sheldon and Kelvin van der Linde, Rene Rast, Jack Aitken and Mirko Bortolotti, took off from Le Mans Arnage Airport, which neighbors the Circuit de la Sarthe, at around 12:30 p.m. local time, while the morning session was still ongoing.

***Notably, JMW Motorsport driver Larry ten Voorde traveled in the opposite direction. After taking back-to-back Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland wins as part of the DTM support package at Zandvoort, the Dutchman flew to Le Mans in time to complete laps aboard the No. 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 296 GT3 he shares with Giacomo Petrobelli and Salih Yoluc.

***Another driver to have arrived at Le Mans in time for the afternoon session was Cool Racing LMP2 driver Frederik Vesti, who flew in overnight from Montreal after having been on reserve duties at the Mercedes Formula 1 team for the Canadian Grand Prix.

***GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser confirmed that Chip Ganassi Racing has brought in a spare chassis after Earl Bamber’s crash in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps last month, with the car that served as last year’s full-season FIA World Endurance Championship chassis now pressed into action.

***The Cadillac V-Series.R involved in the crash – ironically the same chassis that Renger van der Zande had his accident in last year’s Spa race – is now at Dallara’s headquarters in Italy and is likely to be turned into a show car according to a Cadillac spokesperson.

***CGR’s No. 3 Cadillac, meanwhile, is a brand-new chassis, which was shaken down by the team’s reserve driver Tristan Vautier at Putnam Park in Indiana in mid-May before being air-freighted to France.

***Action Express Racing, meanwhile, has built up an additional Cadillac chassis to be used as a program spare for race week and is due to arrive after test day according to the team’s director of race operations Chris Mitchum.

***Owing to the tight turnaround time to the next IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Watkins Glen International the week after Le Mans, both teams already prepped their IMSA cars following last weekend’s Detroit round.

***Pipo Derani, who set Cadillac’s best lap of the test in the No. 311 AXR car, described the day’s running as “much smoother” than on the V-Series.R’s debut in 2023.

***The Brazilian said: “Having been here a year before, learning and being much more prepared this year is a big plus. We’re running through the program smoothly while continuing to improve over last year. Everything we wanted to do, today we did, so it was a positive day for us and gives us a good foundation to get back Wednesday and go from there.”

***With the test day complete, teams and drivers now get a two-day break until the beginning of official practice, which begins on Wednesday with Free Practice 1 at 2 p.m. local time (8 a.m. EDT). First qualifying follows at 7 p.m. (1 p.m. EDT).

John Dagys and Davey Euwema contributed to this report

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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