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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Wednesday Notebook

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

Photo: FIA WEC/Adrenal Media

***COVID-19 restrictions meant that there was no traditional pre-event photograph with all the participating drivers, which is usually taken before track activity starts. Instead, a group photo of all cars on the start/finish straight was taken on Wednesday evening.

***Scrutineering took place at Circuit de la Sarthe on Wednesday. Rebellion Racing kicked off the administrative checks at 8:10 a.m. while TF Sport’s Aston Martin Vantage GTE was the last to go through at 6 p.m.

***The cars were checked roughly in class order with LMP1 going first, followed by GTE-Pro and the GTE-Am entries from AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing. LMP2 scrutineering started just before midday and ended shortly before 4 p.m. while the rest of the GTE-Am field took their turned after the prototypes. 

***Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon said the team presented a “strong argument” to the FIA and ACO against the Equivalence of Technology changes made for this year’s race, which includes a 7 kg increase in minimum weight to the Toyota TS050 Hybrids and the cars losing its one-lap stint length advantage to the LMP1 non-hybrids.

“Now we have no benefit at all from our hybrid technology,” Vasselon told Sportscar365. “We are balanced with the non-hybrid cars in all performance categories.”

***Vasselon, who said the weight difference is projected to cost the cars four-tenths of a second per lap, admitted that the Rebellion R13 Gibsons will “run together through the end of the race” with the Toyotas should the Swiss squad not run into any issues or make any mistakes.

***Amato Ferrari, the head of the AF Corse Ferrari squad, is this year’s recipient of the Spirit of Le Mans award which has been presented before each edition of the race since 2001. The award is for those who embody the “fundamental values of endurance racing”.

***Ferrari said: “I used to watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans with my father, but I never once imagined I’d be a part of it one day. I’m proud to receive this award. It’s an acknowledgement of my team, our attitude.”

***Corvette Racing’s absence ends the longest-running consecutive appearance for a single team competing in the race. The factory Pratt & Miller squad made its Le Mans debut in 2000 and celebrated its 20th consecutive start last year. It was due to debut the mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette C8.R prior to its withdrawal due to COVID-19.

***Neither Darren Turner nor Patrick Long are competing this year, marking the end of long participation streaks for both drivers. Turner has taken part in the last 17 editions without a break while Long has contested 16 editions in a row, all in Porsches. Turner was on-site at Le Mans today.

***TF Sport team principal Tom Ferrier told Sportscar365 that teams will need to run “under the limit” during the condensed track schedule to avoid mishaps that might compromise participation in the race. Ferrier echoed the thoughts of Risi Competizione’s Rick Mayer who said that getting the car setup right from the start will be key.

***The Oreca 07 Gibson being used by Nielsen Racing for its Le Mans debut is the Algarve Pro Racing ELMS car in which Loic Duval had an airborne accident at Paul Ricard three weeks ago. In turn, Algarve Pro is using a chassis that was originally going to be used by DragonSpeed, which is now receiving equipment support from Racing Engineering.

***DragonSpeed’s Renger van der Zande reckons the different driver lineup configurations in LMP2, between those running Silvers as a minimum and those running Bronzes, will create an interesting dynamic in the race. “It’s going to be like having two classes within one class,” van der Zande told Sportscar365.

***Roman Rusinov has ruled out his G-Drive Racing operation joining the WEC grid for the 8 Hours of Bahrain, which it contested last year as a guest entry. It’s understood that Rusinov is eyeing other winter racing opportunities in LMP2.

***The No. 17 IDEC Sport Oreca is utilizing a chassis owned by Era Motorsport as part of its collaborative effort that features Era drivers Kyle Tilley and Dwight Merriman, who are both making their Le Mans debuts.

***The brand-new car was shaken down at Road America earlier this year in a test that also featured the team’s third Le Mans driver, Jonathan Kennard.

***Katherine Legge, who was initially targeting a return to the wheel for Le Mans following her accident in pre-season testing at Paul Ricard, has continued her recovery from a broken left leg, having since returned home to the Atlanta area for further treatment.

“I am walking now – which I will never take for granted again – albeit slowly and still with pain,” she said. “I am cleared to drive, but repeated stints over 24 hours might do more harm than good to my recovery and put unnecessary stress on the team.”

***Beitske Visser is filling in for Legge in the No. 50 Richard Mille Racing Oreca, which is one of two all-female lineups in this year’s race.

***Just over a fifth of the drivers in the field are taking part Le Mans for the first time. The list of debutants includes Bruno Spengler, Tom Blomqvist, Louis Deletraz and Kenta Yamashita, as well as all three drivers in the Richard Mille Racing crew.

***Of those contesting the race for the first time, Dominique Bastien is the oldest at 74 years of age, which also makes the American the oldest-ever Le Mans competitor.

***The latest version of the entry list confirms Andreas Laskaratos and Julien Piguet in the No. 89 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR, and Julien Andlauer in the No. 99 Dempsey-Proton Racing car.

***PSA Group chairman Carlos Tavares, who is this year’s honorary starter, will drive a Peugeot 908 for a lap around Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday afternoon as part of the pre-race buildup. Peugeot staged a photoshoot involving its 908 and 905 Le Mans winners on the pit straight today.

***Eurosport will present nearly 36 hours of live coverage this week, kicking off with Free Practice 2 on Thursday (2 p.m. UK time). The English language team, which will be simulcast on MotorTrend TV in the U.S., will be anchored by Mark Cole and Tom Gaymor along with Louise Beckett, Chris Parsons, Sam Hancock and Damien Faulkner. Toby Moody, Jennie Gow and Gwenaelle Longy will be in pit lane.

***Hagerty Radio Le Mans will have extensive audio coverage of the event as well, broadcasting every session including FP1 and both Road to Le Mans races. John Hindhaugh is joined this year by Jonny Palmer, Bruce Jones and Nick Daman in the booth with Joe Bradley and Shea Adam serving as the pit and paddock reporters. There will also be special appearances from Paul Tarsey, Jim Roller, Graham Tyler, Sam Collins, Andrew Cotton, Paul Truswell and Diana Binks throughout the event.

***Peter Dumbreck is undertaking a unique double duty between Le Mans and next weekend’s 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. The Scot is on Le Mans commentary duty with the official WEC team before taking part in the N24 with the Falken Motorsports Porsche squad.

***The full list of broadcast options can be found here.

***Track action gets underway tomorrow with Free Practice at 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. EST). There is then an hour off before FP2 at 2 p.m. local (8 a.m. EST) while qualifying practice takes place from 5:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. (11:15 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST). The busy day of running concludes in darkness with FP3 at 8 pm to midnight (2 p.m. to 6 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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