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Le Mans Tuesday Notebook

John Dagys’ Tuesday notebook from Le Mans…

Photo: John Dagys

***Tuesday’s activities at Le Mans included the traditional driver photo in the morning and a packed autograph session in the late afternoon, which saw thousands of fans flock to the pit lane ahead of the start of official on-track action tomorrow.

***A number of Ligier JS P217 teams and drivers held a meeting last night to discuss the current speed deficit issue surrounding the Onroak Automotive-built car at Le Mans. It’s understood the French constructor’s proposed revised aero kit, which was evaluated on two cars at the test day, will not be permitted to be raced this weekend.

***The 44 debutants for this year’s race posed for a rookie photo on Tuesday morning, featuring some notable names. Two-time Formula 1 championship runner-up Rubens Barrichello will make his first start, while fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan will debut after being drafted in to replace Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 68 Ford GT.

***Also keep an eye out for three-time WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez, Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto, ex-F1 driver Jean-Eric Vergne and Formula E racer Felix Rosenqvist, among others. Rosenqvist features in the only all-rookie line-up on the grid alongside Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman at DragonSpeed.

***Defending GTE-Pro class-winner Dirk Mueller said the biggest challenge for his new co-driver Kanaan will be learning the WEC-specific rules that are foreign to the Brazilian IndyCar ace who is subbing for the injured Sebastien Bourdais. “He was plenty fast in Daytona, and he knows how to win the race,” Mueller told Sportscar365.

***Kanaan spent Tuesday getting acclimated with the No. 68 Ford and co-drivers Mueller and Joey Hand, as well as going through the mandatory administrative checks he missed on Monday due to his ACO-mandated sim session in Paris.

***ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil said there was no considerations to slow down the LMP2 cars despite their slight top-speed advantage over LMP1 cars in the speed traps at the test day. The No. 47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara P217 Gibson topped the overall speed charts, at 341.3 km/h, with driver Roberto Lacorte admitting he managed to pass LMP1 cars on the straight.

***Beaumesnil explained that the LMP1 hybrid coasting phase results in a slowdown for the cars at the end of straights. “If you go a few meters before, the P1 is higher,” he told Sportscar365. He said there’s no concerns for the race. “I know that it’s a big improvement for the P2 to manage the traffic with the GT cars, which was the biggest concern. And then between prototypes, we have top professional drivers in LMP1, they know what they have to do.”

***Cosworth has rolled out with updated traction control settings for the LMP2 cars, which were first evaluated at the test day. The update, which resolves an issue during “extreme low traction environments” has been one of the many bugs faced with the new-for-2017 prototypes, which have battled electrical issues since the car’s debut at Daytona in January.

***Risi Competizione is running a new chassis at Le Mans this year, which ran as-delivered at the test day before being stripped down and reassembled by Risi engineers. “It saves a lot of shipping, flying a car over and then flying it back,” technical director Rick Mayer told Sportscar365. “It makes it a lot more cost-effective because you’re getting the car from Italy and bringing it to France, all in the EU, so we’re only shipping it to the U.S. once.”

***Oliver Webb says that ByKolles’ goals are to get to the finish and remain ahead of the LMP2 runners at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO has been far more reliable after the switch in engine for 2017, running for six hours straight at Spa with no issues. “We just need to do it for four times that now,” Webb told Sportscar365.

***Formula 1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey is set to be a guest at this year’s race, taking advantage of the week’s break between grands prix in Canada and Azerbaijan. Carey has shown a more open stance towards rival series than his predecessor, Bernie Ecclestone, having recently met with WEC CEO Gerard Neveu and FIA president Jean Todt to avoid future calendar clashes.

***In other F1-related news, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier is also going to be at Le Mans this weekend as a guest of United Autosports. Boullier works alongside United co-founder Zak Brown in F1, where Brown is McLaren’s executive director. A fan of Le Mans, Boullier wanted to see McLaren driver Fernando Alonso take part in the race this year, only for the Spaniard to decide on entering the Indianapolis 500 instead.

***Another guest of United Autosports will be former MLB star CJ Wilson, the team which runs him in the UK-based LMP3 Cup. Speaking at Spa-Francorchamps, where he and co-driver Andrew Evans achieved a best result of fifth in Race 1, Wilson told Sportscar365 that racing at Le Mans was firmly in his plans for the future, although it would likely be in a GT car.

“I’m going to go around the track and make notes on where the cars go, where they make passes and get a feel for where they’re picking up throttle and also just see the overall operation of what it takes,” he said.

***Toyota’s Mike Conway would be open to adding some more racing to his program in the future, angling for a return to Formula E. Conway has appeared ad-hoc in the electric series, but would “love to do some more”. However, not wishing to face the same quandary Sebastien Buemi currently does, the Briton stressed it would need to tie in with his Toyota WEC commitments if he were to pursue it.

***It’s understood a recent meeting between WEC boss Gerard Neveu and Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag in Monaco has resulted in an agreement, in principle, for no clashes between the two championships in the next calendar year.

***As he discussed with Sportscar365 on Monday, Scott Dixon is showing no signs of being affected by his foot injury sustained in his frightening crash at the Indianapolis 500, spending much of the morning cycling around the paddock.

***Scuderia Corsa driver Townsend Bell spotted the first runner of the weekend to get beached in the gravel at the Mulsanne Hairpin while out on his track walk. We’re not quite sure how this one got through scrutineering!

***Bill Sweedler has revealed that he was the winning bidder in the auction of Level 5 Motorsports’ Rolex 24 at Daytona GT Daytona class-winning Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. Sweedler, who teamed for victory with Townsend Bell, Jeff Segal, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Scott Tucker in the 2014 race, now owns three iconic Ferrari race and/or championship winners.

***Sweedler’s two other owned cars are the 2016 Scuderia Corsa Le Mans GTE-Am class-winning Ferrari 458 GT, which ran under the Farnbacher Racing and Alex Job Racing banners in Europe and America, as well as the 458 Italia GT3 that he and Bell took to the 2015 WeatherTech GTD title and also claimed the 2012 Grand-Am GT championship with Segal.

***The Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans class-winner also has acquired Level 5’s Ferrari 430 GT car that has zero race mileage, also sold in the liquidation of the team’s assets last month. “These are sentimental at the end of the day,” Sweedler told Sportscar365. “They have my name on it and a win. I had no intention of collecting race cars, but it ended up that way!”

***The honorary starter for the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be revealed at the ACO’s annual press conference on Friday. Rumors of A.J. Foyt, who makes a return visit to Le Mans for the first time since winning the race in 1967 with Ford, has circulated. ACO President Pierre Fillon said “it will be a surprise.”

James Newbold and Luke Smith 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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