The unique fuel management system in the new temporary pit garages occupied by United Autosports has proven to be one of the Anglo-American team’s major challenges at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this week.
The two temporary structures, erected to increase grid capacity from 60 to 62 cars for the 87th edition of the French endurance classic, come without standard fuel systems.
United Autosports managing director Richard Dean detailed the obstacles faced by the two-car LMP2 team with its makeshift fuel solution.
“[With] the fuel management, our two cars are working completely different to the rest of the grid,” he told Sportscar365.
“The underground fuel tanks with every garage, we don’t have, so we’re managing our fuel out of 200-liter drums from Total.
“With an LMP2 car pitting what we expect to be every ten laps, if the pace is 3:30, then [every] 33 minutes we’re in refueling and we’re having to manually manage our fuel throughout the 24 hours for both cars.
“Every 30 minutes, we’re wheeling drums from the Total station, right past the tire place, to the opposite end of the garages and decanting it into fuel bowsers.”
While Dean said it could prove problematic come the race on Saturday and Sunday, he made clear that the Yorkshire-based team has been working to avoid any slip-ups.
“I think that is our potential banana skin,” he admitted. “We have to stay on top of that. I think we’ve got six dedicated people here on fuel management alone, which you wouldn’t need, normally.
“There’s some equipment required in all that process and therefore, there’s a chance of something going wrong, because you’ve got human error and mechanical equipment error built into that.
“We’ve been worried enough to be planning and practicing and thinking of every eventuality, so worried enough. We think we’ve thought of everything that could go wrong and have a plan for it.
“We’ll see. If you see me running up and down the pit lane, waving my arms around, you’ll know we got it wrong!”
ACO: Temporary Garages Could Return in 2020
ACO sporting director Vincent Beaumesnil says he’s received positive feedback from United Autosports about the temporary garages, suggesting a similar solution could be employed in next year’s race.
“We will make the decision later on,” he replied, when asked by Sportscar365 if the two structures could return to again allow a 62-car grid in 2020.
“It’s working very well, the team is very happy. I think nobody realized, outside of the companies, the amount of work there has been to make this possible.
“There were a lot of constraints in terms of administrative authorizations. This was clearly a long and heavy process and we had to introduce a lot of additional works for all the safety requirements.
“In the end, it’s a real success, we’re happy.”
ACO President Pierre Fillon has hinted the grid could expand to 65 cars by as early as 2023 with the planned new pit complex to be ready for the race’s centenary.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report.