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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Tuesday Notebook

Tuesday notebook from Le Mans as preparations ramp up for the 24-hour race…

Photo: Sportscar365

***The 88th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is being held under extraordinary circumstances, with no public access permitted for the first time in the event’s history due to strict social measures in place to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in France.

***The lack of a trackside public has created an unusual atmosphere, with the typically bustling campsites all sitting empty. The manufacturer engagement stands and hospitality lounges that normally line the Ford Chicane infield are absent, as are the stalls selling event merchandise and models in the ‘village’ area.

***Julien Andlauer is set to drive the No. 99 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, in place of Julien Piguet. Porsche Young Professional Andlauer, who won the GTE-Am class in 2018, has his name on the car alongside Lucas Legeret and Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak. The Frenchman was due to drive a GTE-Pro Porsche operated by the CORE autosport-run IMSA team before that entry was pulled due to COVID-19.

***Piguet has since moved over to the No. 89 Team Project 1 Porsche, following the late withdrawals of Benoit and Bruno Fretin. Project 1 team principal Axel Funke told Sportscar365 that Piguet will share the wheel with the previously-confirmed ‘Steve Brooks’ and occasional prototype racer Andreas Laskaratos.

***There has been an adjustment to the LMP1 Equivalence of Technology. All cars have been given a small addition in the amount of fuel they can burn per stint. The rise is 0.1 kg/stint for both non-hybrids and hybrids. This means the Rebellion and ByKolles Racing cars now have 55.5 kg/stint, while the hybrid Toyotas have 35.2 kg/stint.

***The ACO has allotted eight new tires for each car taking part in Friday’s new ‘hyperpole’ qualifying session. These will be in addition to the allocations for Free Practice, qualifying and warm-up, which are six sets for prototypes and seven for GTs.

***While there are two G-Drive Racing cars on the LMP2 grid, these are being operated by different teams at different ends of the pit lane. One is for G-Drive’s European Le Mans Series entry which is directed by TDS Racing, while the other is being run by Algarve Pro Racing.

***Algarve Pro team principal Stewart Cox explained how his team’s extra entry came together at short notice: “G-Drive approached us and we weren’t sure there was an entry available, but as we saw cars were dropping out we approached the ACO and asked what their view was,” he told Sportscar365. “They said to put an entry in and they put it in front of the selection committee.”

***Risi Competizione is the only ‘All-American’ team in this year’s race, with the Houston-based operation utilizing its full U.S.-based crew, as usual, despite challenging travel logistics amid the current border closure between U.S. and Europe. Several American PR representatives and photographers were denied travel to France.

***In anticipation of the travel challenges, WeatherTech Racing’s GTE-Pro effort is largely being run by Kessel Racing mechanics. The only exception is Scuderia Corsa technical director Roberto Amorosi, who has made the trip.

***Jeff Segal completed a shakedown of the team’s Ferrari 488 GTE Evo at Fiorano on Saturday. The chassis, which ran in GTE-Am last year, has been upgraded to 2019 Evo spec and was stored at Bacchelli & Villa, a high-end automotive restoration shop in Modena, Italy that team principal Giacomo Mattioli recently acquired. 

***Max Root, who is making his Le Mans debut in the No. 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari, is missing this weekend’s penultimate round of GT World Challenge America powered by AWS at Circuit of The Americas, where he typically drives a Porsche 911 GT3 R for Wright Motorsports.

***Porsche’s special liveries for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, commemorating the 50th anniversary of its first outright win, are nearly identical to the designs the German manufacturer utilized in the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

***Nick Tandy was part of Porsche’s virtual Le Mans-winning lineup although he’s now in G-Drive Racing by Algarve’s Oreca for the real-world edition due to the withdrawal of Porsche’s two CORE-run GTE-Pro entries.

***Other new liveries include a black and gold scheme for Eurasia Motorsport’s Ligier JS P217 Gibson and the Risi Competizione ‘art car’ offering that was revealed last month.

***A famous art car from the past – the multicolored 2017 Larbre Competition Chevrolet Corvette C7.R – recently took part in a charity meeting at Circuit du Val de Vienne, three hours south of Le Mans. Several historic race cars also appeared at the event.

***The lower entry of 59 cars means the ACO has not needed to install temporary garages near pit entry. United Autosports used those two berths last year when the field had 62 cars, while this time around the Anglo-American squad is in central pit lane.

***HubAuto Corsa’s Asian Le Mans Series title-winning Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 was delivered to the paddock today, having arrived in Europe ahead of the Total 24 Hours of Spa next month. The team has yet to confirm its drivers for that event.

***The Goodyear Blimp will be over the skies at Le Mans during race week, assisting with TV footage and providing flights to guests. Goodyear tested its famous dirigible, which is a Zeppelin NT semi-rigid, over Frankfurt and the company’s facility at Hanau in preparation for its first engage ent at a European motor race in 35 years.

***Goodyear endurance program manager Mike McGregor said the blimp is so large – comparable to the size of a Boeing 747 airliner – that it needs its own take-off and landing area located about 15 minutes away from the Circuit de la Sarthe, rather than using the airport opposite the track entrance.

***Goodyear has brought all three of its LMP2 slick compounds to Le Mans but only expects to use the B-spec medium and A-spec soft, while McGregor said the C-spec ‘medium-plus’ will only come out if track temperatures exceed 50 degrees C (122 F). “The C-spec is there and if we get ridiculously hot conditions, then it may be something we consider,” he told Sportscar365.

***Air temperatures have been hot so far, with the Sarthe region of France undergoing a mid-September heatwave. Forecasts suggest rain could arrive during the race.

***MotorTrend has announced its broadcast details for Le Mans week. Flag-to-flag race coverage on MotorTrend TV starts at 8:15 a.m. ET on Saturday. Other sessions will be shown live on the MotorTrend app, which has what’s billed as a “customizable 24 Hours of Le Mans live viewing experience” with in-car cameras for six vehicles added to the usual live coverage.

***Wednesday’s schedule is headlined by scrutineering, which is taking place at the track rather than in front of the public at Le Mans’ Place de la Republique. Technical checks will be carried out from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time (2 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST).

John Dagys 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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