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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Thursday notebook from the 24 Hours of Le Mans paddock…

Photo: MPS Agency

***The No. 93 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR-19 underwent a chassis change following Michael Fassbender’s accident in qualifying on Wednesday. The GTE-Am entry re-joined the action during Free Practice 3.

***TDS Racing also brought in a new chassis to replace its Oreca 07 Gibson that was damaged in an accident for Philippe Cimadomo during FP3. Another LMP2 casualty from that session, the Graff Oreca, did not undergo a chassis replacement after Sebastien Page crashed just after Indianapolis. The angle of impact helped the team to determine that its chassis was safe.

***Brendon Hartley became the first driver from New Zealand to claim pole for the 24 Hours of Le Mans since Bruce McLaren in 1967, a gap of 55 years. Somewhat fittingly, both drivers lapped in the 3:24.4 range, albeit on different circuit formats.

***Toyota drew level with Audi for second in the list of manufacturers with the most Le Mans outright poles. Both have eight and sit behind only Porsche’s haul of 19 poles.

***There was hardly anything to separate Corvette Racing teammates Nick Tandy and Antonio Garcia at the top of the GTE-Pro order, with the difference sitting at less than two-tenths of a second: “This is such a long lap so you do mistakes which change the lap a little bit,” Garcia told Sportscar365. “A Corvette 1-2 is something we haven’t seen in a long time, so we’re happy with where we are.”

***Corvette Racing last locked out the front row of a Le Mans grid 12 years ago in 2010, when the manufacturer recorded a 1-2 qualifying result in the GT2 class.

***The issue that set the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid in its garage for the first part of qualifying on Wednesday was related to work on the suspension, the Hypercar manufacturer’s technical director Pascal Vasselon explained on Thursday. “Something went wrong in a change of suspension corner and it took more time than expected,” he told Sportscar365. “We have a precise plan with the use of the parts. We did not want to bring another suspension corner, so they have had to endure the problem.”

***Last year’s winning No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid, still bearing dirt from previous use, and a Porsche Mission R concept feature on the Michelin stand in the fan village.

***Porsche has brought a mock-up of its LMDh car to Le Mans. The car, sporting its camouflage testing livery, is on display in a hospitality unit in the fan village area.

***Le Mans marks the final race with Toyota for the manufacturer’s marketing, events and communications manager Alastair Moffitt, who has been with the company for more than 15 years supporting its activities in Formula 1 and, more recently, WEC.

***Nelson Piquet Jr. is at Le Mans as a guest with United Autosports. The Brazilian ex-Formula 1 racer will compete with the team in the European Le Mans Series next year.

***Ricky Taylor will be making his sixth LMP2 start at Le Mans, joining as a replacement for Alpine driver Nicolas Lapierre at Cool Racing. “I’ve never come to Le Mans with a full season lineup,” Taylor said of his super-sub status. “I’ve always come to Le Mans as a sub or with a team that’s only doing Le Mans. It’s never been a fully comfortable situation.”

***Nielsen Racing team manager Stuart Moseley described how the British squad is viewing the future of its LMP2 program, which currently races in the European Le Mans Series. “Our current focus is on what we’re doing at the moment, and to do that well,” he told Sportscar365. “If we expand to more than one P2 car, or if we had the opportunity to do that, we will. But not for the sake of doing it.”

***Paddock sources have indicated that Toyota Gazoo Racing No. 8 car race engineer Jakob Andreason is understood to be joining United Autosports as its new technical director later this year, as part of the Anglo-American team’s burgeoning Hypercar prospects. Both TGR-E technical director Vasselon and United team co-owner Richard Dean declined to comment when asked by Sportscar365.

***CD Sport’s Ligier JS P217 Gibson previously contested Le Mans with Panis Barthez Competition before going on to Eurointernational, which ran it in the first half of the 2021 Asian Le Mans Series. CD Sport purchased the car shortly after securing an automatic Le Mans invitation for winning the Asian LMS LMP3 title earlier this year.

***CD Sport technical director Jean-Noel Le Gall told Sportscar365 that the French team encountered a gearbox issue during testing and borrowed one from United Autosports. A new gearbox was fitted between FP3 and FP4. The crew installed the United gearbox on Tuesday last week before heading to the Val de Vienne circuit for a shakedown two days before scrutineering.

***The team’s goal is simply to reach the checkered flag. It does not plan to run the Ligier in further races after this weekend. “Nobody knows the Ligier on Goodyears,” Le Gall noted. “We are really proud to be here and participate with all the greatest teams.”

***Graffiti artwork appeared on a hoarding beside the Team WRT hospitality on Thursday afternoon. It includes the tagline ‘Rebelation’, with associated social media channels pointing towards a launch on July 8. WRT driver Ferdinand Habsburg is followed by the Rebelation Instagram account.

***The Mission H24 prototype achieved a personal best speed of 290.8 km/h (180.7 mph) during a straight-line record attempt on Wednesday, the program announced last night. Rainfall before the attempt introduced some trepidation, as Stephane Richelmi had only a short distance to warm up his slick tires from the pit lane to the measuring area at the start of the Mulsanne Straight.

***The Le Mans Virtual series is hosting a public esports competition in the fan village. The fastest 16 drivers on the hot lap leaderboard will be invited back for semi-final races, with the top four from those progressing to a grand finale to decide the champion. View the best qualifying times here.

***Lilou Wadoux described her transition from the Alpine Europa Cup to LMP2 this year as a “big step” but that she is “learning a lot” during each WEC race. “It is difficult to learn the aero very fast,” the Richard Mille Racing Team driver said. “This year is for learning LMP2 in WEC.” Wadoux then hopes to remain in the category next year before pushing on for a Hypercar seat.

***Kazuki Nakajima will deliver the Le Mans trophy to the grid during Saturday’s pre-race ceremonies. The three-time winner and Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe vice-chairman will drive down in a Toyota 85C, which was raced at Le Mans by his father Satoru in 1985.

***The first of two Road to Le Mans races took place on Thursday evening. A number of teams and drivers present on the Le Mans grid pulled double duty for the race with Mikkel O. Pedersen, Laurents Hoerr, Matt Bell and Mark Kvamme taking to the track for the 55-minute contest between FP3 and Hyperpole.

***The Road to Le Mans LMP3 teams pulling double duty are Team WRT, Spirit of Race and Kessel Racing contesting the GT3 class. United Autosports, DKR Engineering, Nielsen Racing, IDEC Sport, Optimum Motorsport, Cool Racing, CD Sport, Graff and Inter Europol Competition. AF Corse had cars in both the LMP3 and GT3 classes.

***Management figures from the ACO and IMSA gathered for a photograph at the newly-renamed Daytona Chicane, which is the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight.

***The 24 Hours of Le Mans field will return to track action on Saturday, for the warmup and race start. Friday leaves time for some final preparations at the track, while the drivers will take part in the returning town center parade at 5 p.m. CEST.

***Furthermore, the annual ACO press conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. when the Le Mans and WEC organizer is expected to announce key elements of its future plans.

John Dagys and Davey Euwema contributed to this report

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

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