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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s news and notes from the 24 Hours of Le Mans paddock on Thursday…

Photo: Clement Marin/Goodyear

***Kazuki Nakajima apologized for his “mistake” in Thursday’s Free Practice 3 that saw the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid crash at Indianapolis. “I locked the brake into Turn 16 and damaged the car,” he said. “The hit was not huge, but it cost a lot of track time and it also cost the preparation for Brendon’s qualifying as well. Big apologies to the team and my team-mates, mechanics and everyone. It was not the best thing to happen.”

***WRT’s No. 41 Oreca 07 Gibson was given a 20-minute stop-and-hold penalty at the beginning of FP3 after a random safety check found that the car’s head protection was “impossible to remove” without tools. The car was not found to be out of technical compliance, however.

***The No. 46 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR-19 was “quite easy to repair” overnight following Robby Foley’s accident that brought Free Practice 2 to an early end on Wednesday evening according to Anders Buchardt. The car completed a total of 23 laps in FP3.

***A language-based miscommunication ultimately led to the No. 24 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson of Patrick Kelly stopping on track in Wednesday’s FP2 according to team principal Bobby Oergel. The car returned to action once it was retrieved with no damage sustained.

***David Perel had an eventful night-time stint in FP2: “Our radar wasn’t working, so I couldn’t tell what was behind,” the Spirit of Race Ferrari driver told Sportscar365. “And then our rear-view mirror dropped after hitting the sausages, so I couldn’t tell what was on the right at all. I was looking to the ground! That was a cool experience.”

***Hendrick Motorsports’ Vice President of Competition Chad Knaus arrived at Le Mans on Thursday in what’s understood to be a fact-finding mission ahead of a possible Cadillac LMDh effort involving Hendrick and/or Action Express Racing in 2023.

***It comes after GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser’s comments about a likely return to Le Mans for Cadillac, including a potential full-season FIA World Endurance Championship effort alongside its expected multi-car IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program.

***A Hendrick spokesperson told Sportscar365 there is no truth that the team is in talks to purchase Action Express, as multiple sources have indicated as a possibility in recent months.

***The No. 18 Absolute Racing Porsche is sporting a special ‘One World One Race’ livery featuring the depiction of rubber ducks in a sharing of an anti-discrimination message. As a result, the car has earned the nickname ‘Underducks.’

***Corvette Racing has completed 98,770.18 racing miles at Le Mans. The team needs to complete 1,229.82 miles to reach the 100,000-mile mark, which is expected to come this weekend.

***ORECA has its largest Le Mans presence in the organization’s history, with 24 LMP2 cars, one LMP1 car (Alpine A480 Gibson) as well as the Garage 56 entry for Association SRT41.

***Brake management will be key to the GTE-Pro battle, according to Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor, but teams in GTE-Am are also hoping to go the distance in a repeat of TF Sport’s winning run without a disc and pad replacement last year.

***TF team boss Tom Ferrier said his outfit is keen to go through the race without a brake change again: “I’m sure people will be looking at options to try and get them all the way through the race,” he told Sportscar365. “There wasn’t a lot of meat on them last year, so not a lot has to change to make us have to do a brake change. Ideally we won’t, but it might be a possible scenario.”

***Ferrier added that brake wear can depend on how the driver brakes: “Left foot brakers are harder on brakes, and other drivers tend to be softer. It’s tricky because you get wear rates over practice, but it’s not linear in terms of whether it wears [as much] over 24-hours.”

***Kessel Racing driver Scott Andrews explained that he attained his maiden 24 Hours of Le Mans drive through Mikkel Jensen, after the pair kept in contact following an on-track duel at the 2018 Road to Le Mans. “We had a really good battle and a good laugh about it after, and since then we’ve had a mutual respect,” he said.

***Dominique Bastien is driving two Porsches at Le Mans this weekend. The 75-year-old, who is the oldest driver in the 24 Hours field, is also contesting the Porsche Sprint Cup Challenge France race in a Speedlover-run Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (992 gen) car.

***The Sprint Cup Challenge single-make event includes a handful of Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, including Team Parker Racing’s British GT machine and a car for EBM Giga Racing which entered at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa three weeks ago.

***Team Project 1 is aiming to continue in the WEC next year with two Porsche 911 RSR-19s. “We want to continue for as long as possible with the WEC project,” team principal Axel Funke told Sportscar365.

***Project 1 brought in a new team manager for HubAuto Racing after the original person in that role tested positive for COVID-19 before the event. The HubAuto entry is a half-and-half share of full-time members from each team. Project 1’s Richard Selwin is forming a communication link between all three of the German team’s cars, including HubAuto.

***Funke added that there some adaptation was initially required, to mediate the different working styles of European and Southeast Asian crews: “Philip [di Fazio, HubAuto team director] has so much experience, he’s been engineering for a long time. But it’s something different. From Asia it’s a different culture. I think we have managed quite well to get everyone on the same page.”

***Some previously-unseen design studies for the Peugeot 9X8 are on display in a corporate suite on-site. The French manufacturer, which will enter the WEC next year, held a reception for VIPs and guests on Thursday evening. 

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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