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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s notebook from a busy Thursday of 24H Le Mans track action…

Photo: IDEC Sport

***The No. 28 IDEC Sport Oreca 07 Gibson is undergoing a tub change following an accident for Paul Lafargue in Free Practice 2. The car went off exiting the second chicane on the Mulsanne Straight and impacted the right-side barriers, incurring heavy right-front damage.

***It’s set to be a busy evening for the IDEC Sport mechanics after the French team’s No. 17 car also crashed in FP2 with Dwight Merriman at the wheel. Both Orecas were sidelined for FP3, leaving the drivers unable to complete the required minimum of five laps at night.

***The No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson underwent an engine change in Free Practice 2, missing out on the session. Bruno Senna put the car provisionally third on the grid in qualifying for tomorrow’s hyperpole session.

***The new-for-2020 hyperpole, which gets underway on Friday at 11:30 a.m. CEST (5:30 a.m. EST), will involve the six fastest cars from each class in Thursday qualifying. With only five LMP1 cars entered, it means the entire class grid will be eligible.

***Cars taking part in hyperpole will not be allowed to return to their garages during the session but will have an additional two sets of tires to utilize.

***A brake issue for the No. 16 G-Drive Racing by Algarve Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson saw the Nick Tandy and Oliver Jarvis-spearheaded entry complete only five laps in FP2. The car will start eighth in class, having missed out on hyperpole by two positions.

***The No. 21 DragonSpeed Oreca will face a 20-second hold during its first pit stop in the race due to Timothe Buret not reducing his speed within the required time and accelerating too early while under a Slow Zone in FP1.

***Ozz Negri, who is making his second Le Mans start, was forced to miss several days of pre-event private testing in Europe due to contracting COVID-19. The Miami-based Brazilian, who took part in the 2016 race with Meyer Shank Racing, is making his GTE-Am debut in an AF Corse-run Ferrari alongside  Come Ledogar and Francesco Piovanetti.

***A total of seven drivers are pulling double duty between the pair of Road to Le Mans races and the 24-hour race: Julien Andlauer, Rino Mastronardi, Andrea Piccini, Claudio Schiavoni, Garett Grist, Anthony Wells and Paolo Ruberti.

***Michelin has brought 11,000 tires to Le Mans to supply a total of 54 of the 59 entries in this year’s race. The French manufacturer has 64 tire fitters and 50 technicals and engineers on-site. 

***For the first time in recent memory, there are no staff from Michelin North America present due to a company-wide travel ban under the COVID-19 pandemic

***Michelin’s global Motorsport director Matthieu Bonardel told Sportscar365 that the company has needed to recruit around 20 volunteers to help make up for the absence of its international workforce that would usually be on-site at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

***The 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship schedule is expected to be released during Friday’s annual ACO press conference (4:40 p.m. CEST/10:40 a.m. EST), which will be streamed in a TV-style format instead of in front of an invited audience. Sportscar365 understands the WEC schedule will feature a reduced six-race calendar, likely kicking off at Sebring in March.

***The final set of LMDh regulations is also expected to be confirmed during Friday’s press conference, along with an update on the ACO’s MissionH24 program.

***IMSA President John Doonan and IMSA technical director Matt Kurdock will be part of the press conference along with ACO President Pierre Fillon, WEC CEO Gerard Neveu, FIA Endurance Commission President Richard Mille and ACO technical director Thierry Bouvet, among others. 

***Toyota’s ‘protection mode’ issue, which struck both its cars in last month’s 6 Hours of Spa, has been disabled this weekend according to the team’s technical director Pascal Vasselon. “The [issue] from Spa was related to running at very low revs in some places after safety cars,” he said. “It was a combination of circumstances which will not happen here.”

***Goodyear endurance program manager Mike McGregor explained that the tire manufacturer is working closely with G-Drive Racing by Algarve to ensure its drivers get used to the Eagle SuperSport compounds as quickly as possible. Nick Tandy told Sportscar365 that he feels the No. 16 Oreca crew “has potential” despite its late addition to the field two weeks ago.

“The more drivers are used to a certain package, the more we have to work with them to make sure they can extract the most out of the tire,” said McGregor. “It’s still very important even with very high-level professional drivers, and especially ones that go category to category.”

***Algarve Pro is sharing a tire engineer across both its cars, owing to the last-minute nature of the G-Drive entry’s arrival, while the other Goodyear-shod cars continue to have one engineer each as is custom.

***Road to Le Mans held its first practice sessions on Thursday, with FP1 taking place before the first session for the 24 Hours field and FP2 going ahead after qualifying.

***Niko Kari set the early pace with a time of 3:50.145 onboard the Eurointernational Ligier JS P230 Nissan, while Malthe Jakobsen was second for RLR MSport. Rino Mastronardi led the GT3 class with a 3:58.172 in the No. 8 Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020.

***Kari then went quickest again in FP2, raising the bar with a 3:47.054 flyer during the evening session. Gilles Magnus ran second-quickest in the Muelhner Motorsport Duquinee D08-M30 Nissan on a 3:47.745, while Julien Andlauer paced GT3 with a 3:55.355 in the Pzoberer Zurichsee by TFT Porsche 911 GT3 R.

***Friday’s track action for the main Le Mans field starts with Free Practice 4 at 10 a.m. CEST (4 a.m. EST) leading almost straight into hyperpole.

John Dagys 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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