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Le Mans Tuesday Notebook

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

Photo: FIA WEC

***All 62 cars taking part in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans assembled for a group photo on Tuesday afternoon on the front straight (pictured above).

***Despite having initially been in question for the race due to a positive COVID-19 test following his victory in the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, Nicklas Nielsen was spotted in the paddock Tuesday and is set to join Francois Perrodo and Alessio Rovera as planned. Perrodo and Rovera were the only two drivers in the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo during Sunday’s test day.

***The ACO’s COVID protocol states that a person must have tested negative for the previous ten days in order to be granted access into the paddock bubble. It’s unclear when Nielsen first tested positive.

***Sam Bird has been confirmed in the No. 52 Ferrari GTE-Pro entry by the Italian manufacturer, which published a presentation photo of its race lineups on Tuesday evening. Bird is replacing Davide Rigon who was ruled out on doctors’ orders as part of his recovery from a serious accident at Spa.

***The 2020 race-winning Toyota TS050 Hybrid was inducted into the Le Mans museum on Tuesday as part of a new Toyota exhibit that also includes the TS010 and GT-One, among other cars from the Japanese manufacturer’s success in sports car racing. 

***Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe’s Hypercar drivers spent some time in the exhibit and were able to sit behind the wheel of the GT-One on display. The company is seeking its fourth consecutive Le Mans victory in the first year with its GR010 Hybrid LMH.

***Representatives from the FIA, ACO, IMSA and manufacturers held a technical working group meeting on LMDh Tuesday at Le Mans. It’s believed to have been the first in-person meeting since its Paris summit in June that ultimately led to the LMDh/LMH convergence agreement.

***The MissionH24 project will take to Circuit de la Sarthe with both of its hydrogen-powered prototypes this week, with dedicated sessions scheduled from Wednesday to Saturday with Stephane Richelmi at the wheel of the previous-gen LMPH2G and newer H24 model. A session on Friday will see “leaders from the world of the motor car” get passenger rides in the LMPH2G alongside the Frenchman. 

***The H24 Racing team is installed in the Maison Blanche paddock where the two prototypes and the TotalEnergies mobile refueling station developed especially for the project can be seen.

***Goodyear has brought 5,000 Eagle F1 SuperSport tires to Le Mans, to service all 25 of the LMP2 cars plus the lone Innovative-class Oreca 07 Gibson. The American brand expects 2,200 slick tires to be used in total, over the course of a dry race.

***Goodyear has brought its ‘C’ specification to Le Mans. This medium-plus spec was also deployed for the opening WEC rounds. Despite rumors of a softer tire being introduced for Le Mans, Goodyear has retained the C.

“In the initial build-up at the start of the season, we would have loved to have had something softer,” explained Goodyear’s endurance racing program manager, Mike McGregor. “But we’ve still got to work with the ACO on stratification. The driver lineups are so strong in LMP2, there’s every chance that if we put softer tires in, they could out-qualify Hypercars.”

***Twenty-five of the 31 GTE entrants taking part in the race are running on Multimatic’s DSSV dampers. The Canada-based firm supplies shocks to Porsche and Ferrari in the GTE classes.

***Four crew members from PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports have joined team principal Bobby Oergel for the team’s Le Mans debut this week. As was the case at the 6 Hours of Spa, the No. 24 entry of Simon Trummer, Gabriel Aubry and Patrick Kelly is largely being run by Panis Racing.

***Oergel told Sportscar365 that he’s still pushing to debut the team’s second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship LMP2 entry for the final two rounds of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, with Kelly as one of the drivers.

 ***Ben Keating is taking part in his seventh consecutive Le Mans with seven different cars. The Bronze-rated Texan made his debut in 2015 in a Dodge Viper GTS-R prior to runs in an Oreca 03R-Nissan, Riley Mk. 30 Gibson, Ferrari 488 GTE, Ford GT, Porsche 911 RSR and this year, a TF Sport-run Aston Martin Vantage GTE.

“I keep saying that I have to figure out a way to race a Corvette next year!” Keating told Sportscar365. “It’s not out of the question but I would say it’s not likely either.”

***Realteam Racing has eyes on an Asian Le Mans Series debut according to team owner Esteban Garcia. “We think Asia is a good championship because it’s in the winter and good preparation for the new LMP2 season,” he told Sportscar365. “As soon as we have all the calendars we will be able to take a decision.”

***WRT is fielding three cars in the five-hour Fun Cup race on Friday. One of the team’s VW Beetle-based racing cars is competing in a Gulf livery, the same paint scheme as one of its Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos for Road to Le Mans.

***Team Project 1 has nicknamed its two Porsche 911 RSR-19s, with the No. 46 called ‘Valentina’ and the No. 56 christened ‘Elsa’. Team principal Axel Funke said that cars with all-male crews take female names, and vice versa. This approach harks back to his DTM days when he worked as a mechanic on Mercedes-Benz entries.

***The No. 46 driven by Anders Buchardt, Robbie Foley and Dennis Olsen is therefore a nod to motorcycle racing superstar Valentino Rossi, who rides with the same number. ‘Elsa’ has no clear-cut origin, although Funke suggested that the blue and white livery is reminiscent of the Frozen movie protagonist.

***Darren Turner and Oliver Gavin, who have eight Le Mans class wins between them, have joined an expanded official WEC broadcast team for this weekend. Martin Haven, Graham Goodwin, David Addison and Allan McNish complete the commentary lineup, while Louis Beckett and Duncan Vincent form the pit reporting team for the official app broadcast, which is geo-blocked in North America.

***Motortrend is showing the full race live in the U.S. View full broadcast details here.

***Wednesday’s track action consists of three sessions for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, totaling six hours of running time. Free Practice 1 starts at 2 p.m. CEST (8 a.m. EST) and lasts three hours. Qualifying practice follows at 7 p.m. (1 p.m. EST) while Free Practice 2, which lasts two hours, is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. (4 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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