Sunday, 17 June 2018

86th 24 Hours of Le Mans - Toyota slay the ghost of 2016

The strains of the French national anthem had barely finished reverberating before French army soldiers dropped from a hovering helicopter to present the starting flag to tennis legend Rafael Nadal who had the honour of waving it to start the 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans.



By 14:52 all drivers were aboard and the cars peeled away from their 'en-epi' configuration to take the formation lap. All except Dillman in the Bykolles #4 which was reluctant to start. He finally got it going and was in such a hurry to catch up he had a minor off track moment at the Dunlop chicane. At 15:00 the race started spot on time and in the first corner there was contact between Lotterer in #1 Rebellion and Hanley in the #10 Dragonspeed. Lotterer got a blinding start and was charging up behind the #8 Toyota when they touched, disloging the nose of the Rebellion before the contact with Hanley. Lotterer in #1 Rebellion made an early stop to get a new nose, followed by Jaafar in the #37 JCDC car which was going slowly on track suffering with overheating problems. #10 Dragonspeed car also stopped a little later, presumably also with damage from the 1st corner incident. The #8 had rear deck replaced as a precaution at the first opportunity.

Early leaders in P2 was Berthon in the Dragonspeed #31 followed by Chatin in the #48 Idec Sport and Duval in the TDS #28. In GTE Pro it was Bruni in the #91 Porsche followed by Estre #92 Porsche with Mucke in #66 Ford GT 3rd after 3 laps. In GTE Am it was Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche leading Fisichella in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferarri and Cairoli in the #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche.

At the front, the pair of Toyotas changed places and Conway the #7 car led the first lap before letting by Buemi in the #8 car. In the first half hour the 3:17.993 fastest lap for Buemi in #8 Toyota was faster than best lap in the race last year (3:18.604 also by Toyota #8) but not outright race record (3:17.475 by Andre Lotterer in 2015. In LMP2 3:28.557 was an outright LMP2 lap record for Berthon in #31 DragonSpeed (was 3:28.632 for DCRacing #38 in 2017). At this time the fastest lap in GTE Pro was Dirk Mueller in #68 Ford GT with 3:50.108 a class lap record (was 3:50.950 for Aston #97 in 2017). Records falling in GTE Am also with 3:52.600 for Ben Barker in Gulf Racing #86 Porsche (was 3:53.320 for Aston #90 in 2017).

At 1 hour: P1 8,7,17,3 / P2 26,28,36,48 / Pro 92,68,91,93 / Am 86,54,88,61

At 16:50, Loic Duval set the fastest lap time in LMP2 in the #28 TDS Racing Oreca with a time of 3:27.901. Wainwright in the #86 Gulf Porsche had an off at Indy and managed to limp home but it took quite a while to repair the tyre wall and a slow zone was in place from Mulsanne corner to Arnage for sevral laps around the 2 hour mark. At 17:25 three Ford GTs were 3rd, 4th and 5th in GTE Pro, #68 ahead of #69 and #66 with #67 in 8th. At 17:29 Alonso took over the #8 Toyota from Buemi. At 17:40 there was a change of leader in GTE Pro as Fred Mako passed team-mate Laurens Vanthoor to put the #91 Rothmans-liveried car, which began on pole, back into the lead.

At 3 hours: P1 7,8,17,3 / P2 26,36,23,34 / Pro 91,92,68,93 / Am 77,84,88,54
At 4 hours: P1 7,8,17,3 / P2 26,36,39.23 / Pro 92,81,69,52 / Am 77,84,56,98

The #11 SMP car spent a very long time in the pit garage. The team contined to work on getting it back out. It was fixed after having spent over 2 hours in pits. Button was sent out in the car at 19:10. Alonso in Toyota #8 swept past Lopez at 18:23 and retook the overall lead from Lopez in the #7 Toyota. At 18:38 the #38 JCDC car shredded a tyre and distributed debris on track as Aubry returned it to pitlane. Clearing the debris required a Safety Car period. At 19:18 Dominic Kraihamer in the Bykolles #4 LMP1 tangled with the #80 Porsche GTE Am (Maris) in the Porsche curves and tagged barriers front and rear. Kraihamer was soon safely out, but the car looked very ugly. A 30 minute Safety Car period was necessary to recover the #4 and debris. At 20:52 Montoya put the #32 into the gravel at Indianapolis, causing a slow zone from Mulsanne to Arnage.

At 5 hours: P1 8,7,17,3 / P2 26,36,23,48 / Pro 92,81,93,91 / Am 77,84,56,54
At 6 hours P1 8,7,17,3 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,81,93,91 / Am 77,56,54,84

Renger Van Der Zande in #10 Dragonspeed spent a long time in the pits with broken car after riding the curbs spectacularly. Lapierre brought the #36 Alpine up to 2nd in LMP2 at 21:30. Dumas in #94 Porsche had problems at 21:39 and returned to pits for a very long visit to the pit box. At 21:51 Dalla Lana in #98 Aston went into the tyre wall in the entry of Porsche curves bringing a slow zone for recovery until 22:03 At 22:46, Newey in #35 SMP suffererd a right rear tyre failure and crawled slowly back to pitlane, arriving at 22:55. Isaakyan in #17 SMP at 22:58 put the car into the tyres at Porsche curves. Hankey spun the #90 Aston at the same time in a separate incident. The problems for the #17 promoted the #26 G-Drive LMP2 to 5th place overall. Isaakyan had three attempts to restart the #17 and was recovered back to a safe place each time. At 23:54 Tandy in the #93 Porsche was pushed back into its pit box with problems. Just after midnight at 00:18 Buemi in #8 Toyota was penalised with a 60s stop and go for speeding in a slow zone. The #81 BMW pitted for work on brakes and dampers. Extended stop dropped the car from 3rd to 12th in class. To add insult, they were later hit by a drive through penalty for a pit stop infringement. The #6 Ginetta stopped at Tertre Rouge then got going again slowly and limped back to pit lane.


At 7 hours: P1 7,8,17,3 / P2 26,48,36,23 / Pro 92,93,91,81 / Am 77,84,56,86
At 8 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,93,81 / Am 77,84,88,56 
At 9 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,81,68 / Am 77,84,88,85
At 10 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,36,23,48 / Pro 92,91,68,52 / Am 77,84,85,88
At 11 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,36,23,48 / Pro 92,91,68,52 / Am 77,84,85,88
Retirements at 11 hours: 98,94,17,4,6
At 12 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,52 / Am 77,85,84,56

At the half way point the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche continued to dominate GTE Am. Similarly the #92 'pink pig' Porsche remained solidly in the lead of GTE Pro as the challenge of BMW in GTE Pro faded as they were beset by technical problems with brakes and dampers on both cars. Long time leader in LMP2 the G-Drive #26 seemed fixed at the top of the class and an impressive 5th overall. The Toyotas were predictably untouchable ahead of the pair of Rebellions #3 and #1.

'Legality' plank problems resurfaced for the #3 Rebellion which visited to the pit garage in the 13th hour. Gutierrez in the #40 G-Drive had a big slide and impact with the barrier in the Porsche curves. A slow zone was in place while the car was recovered.

At 13 hours: P1 7,8,1,3 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,52 / Am 77,85,54,84
Retirements after 13 hours: 98,94,17,4,6,40
At 14 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,52 / Am 77,85,54,99

On the stroke of 05:00 the #52 AF Corse Ferrari (4th in GTE Pro at the time) was given a 1 minute stop and go penalty for speeding in a slow zone. Berthon in the #31 Dragonspeed was going slowly on track and limped home to the pits with what appeared to be a tyre problem but it turned out to involve brakes and the car was pushed back into the box.

At 15 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,54,85,84

There was a slow zone at Indy for Sernagiotti at 06:33 in #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse stuck in gravel. At the same time Sims in BMW #82 came into the pits with tyre problems after hitting barrier in Porsche curves. Almost the same time Segal went off at Mulsanne Corner in the #84 Ferrari and had to be recovered.

At 7:04 Cairoli in #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche went into tyres at Ford chicane bringing out a slow zone to recover the car, then at 7:20 Hanley in #10 Dragonspeed went off at Porsche curves into tyres. A short time later both Toyotas #8 and #7 were then given a one minute stop and go penalty for speeding in slow zone. Hanley managed to get the #10 back to pits in poor shape.

At 16 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,85,54,99
At 17 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,69 / Am 77,85,54,99
At 18 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,63 / Am 77,54,85,56

The retirements with 6 hours remaining were: 88,40,34,94,82,4,98,17,6,10

At 09:13 there was a Safety Car period to re-fit and weld-down a drain cover and 'floppies' at Tertre Rouge. Maxime Martin in #97 Aston Martin was going slowly on track during SC period and was overtaken by SC and the 'train'. At the same time the #64 Corvette was pushed into its pit garage with an overheating problem. The process of fixing the broken drain required welding and quick setting cement. Also during SC period, Gonzalez in #31 Dragonspeed came into pitlane with a left rear flat tyre. At 09:42 the safety car was replaced by slow zone 3 and instruction to stay to the right to allow the cement to set.

The safety car bunched up the second and third place cars in GTE Pro with the #91 Porsche followed by the #68 Ford GT. On the first lap after SC period, Ricci in the #50 Larbre Ligier went into the gravel at Porsche curves and snagged the tyre wall. Ricci limped the car back to pit lane.

At 10:00 DiResta in United Autosports #22 Ligier had a big impact with the concrete barrier at Porsche curves. This brought out the safety cars again. The destroyed #22 became the 11th retirement of the race. DiResta was taken to medical facilities to be checked over.

At 19 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,22 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,54,85,56

From second place in LMP2, Will Stevens in the #23 Panis Barthez Ligier was pushed into pit box with technical problems. The track went green again at 10:17 except for the Tertre Rouge slow zone which remained for another 30 minutes.


At just before 11:00 Priaulx in Ford GT #67 passed team-mate Bourdais in #68 then makes the pass on Mako in #91 Porsche for 2nd in GTE Pro class. The change in position lasted until the #67 had to make a scheduled stop, leaving Bourdais to snap at the tail of the #91. The Porsche / Ford battle was the spectacle of the closing hours of the race.

At 20 hours: P1 8,7,1,3 / P2 26,36,48,39 / Pro 92,67,91,68 / Am 77,85,54,56

The desperate efforts of Fred Mako in the #91 Porsche to hold off Bourdais in the #68 Ford GT won him a driving standards investigation but it was ultimately dismissed with no action. The Ford seemed capable of making the pass but just not quick enough to make it stick on the Porsche. Both cars pitted together but Mako stayed ahead. Meanwhile Lafargue in the #48 Oreca which was 3rd in LMP2 was pushed into its box with technical problems and slid back to 5th in class when it finally rejoined.

There was a spin at Dunlop for Lopez in Toyota #7 at 11:45. He was lucky to get away with no harm done.

At 21 hours: P1 8,7,1,3 / P2 26,36,39,32 / Pro 92,91,67,68 / Am 77,85,54,56

On a pit stop exit, Nakajima the #8 Toyota appeared to spin front wheels while on jacks, flirting with the possibility of a penalty.

At 22 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,36,39,32 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,54,85,56

The retirements with 2 hours remaining were: 88,40,34,94,82,4,98,17,6,10,22,64,25,48

There was a fright for Toyota at 13:22 when the #7 car was going slowly on track. It appears to have been a short fuel problem, necessitating most of a lap in slow zone mode before diving into pitlane for a top-up. Hankey in #90 TF Sport Aston then had a spin into gravel at Porsche curves. It looked like he would drive out but the car died at the edge of the gravel bed, bringing on another slow zone to recover it.

At 23 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,36,39,28 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,54,85,99

The #11 SMP that was delayed early on in the race but continued without incident almost the entire remainder of the 24 hours suddenly let go of its engine with just under an hour to go and in the hands of Jenson Button. It was a great effort and a cruel end. Ten second stop and go penalties were awarded to the #7 Toyota for exceeding fuel allowance and exceeding the number of laps per stint, presumably due to the whole extra lap in slow mode thing, although it really changed nothing.

In the final half hour there was no repeat of the last dash to the line we had last year in GTE. The emphasis was more on bringing the cars safely home. Final pit stops for the leaders were uneventful and under blue sky and sunshine the final few minutes counted down. There was a brief slow zone to recover debris on the Porsche Curves with 20 minutes on the clock.

Under the chequered flag, Toyota laid the ghost of 2016 and claimed victory in the 24 hours of Le Mans. It was a well deserved win also for the G-Drive #26 which led almost from flag to flag in LMP2. The same applies to the Dempsey Proton #77 in GTE Am and the #92 'pink pig' Porsche in GTE Pro, both of which ran flawlessly twice around the clock.

At 24 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,36,39,28 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,54,85,99

The retirements were: 88,44,40,34,94,82,4,98,17,6,10,22,64,25,48,11,90


Dave Davies

Full Timing results HERE







Saturday, 16 June 2018

When the Talking Stops, What can we expect in the GTE classes?

GTE is in rude health and the competition is strong for victory. Of course Balance of Performance(BoP) reigns and it is a manual process for Le Mans rather than the algorithm that is applied in the World Endurance Championship (WEC). Late on Friday the final(?) adjustment came through hence the below report has been amended to take that into account.  Of course as John Gaw at Aston Martin Racing told us the Organisers want this to be a close race, so hopefully the presents that have been delivered in the form of Boost adjustments and weight changes will be received by all.. Expect 3:49s as the appropriate desired lap time from the authorities. We look forward to an exciting inspiring race! 


GTE-Pro – Porsche, Ford, Ferrari or is a surprise on the cards?


Porsche +10kg Gianmaria Bruni may be regretting that extraordinary qualifying lap, indeed dropping a 3:47.504 on Wednesday evening although not then breaking 3:50 in the subsequent qualifying sessions perhaps lifted the lid on the potential of the RSR when everything hooks up. It was evident by the number of excursions by the Porsche fleet that it was a knife edge, and for the race the positioning of an extra 10kg may be undoubtly detrimental the opportunity to adjust balance could support a better, more reliable race trim… 

Ford +8kg Expressed that they now have little opportunity to hide their performance as 3- years of pre-existing data cannot be taken back/hidden. The pursuit of Porsche in qualifying may have led to a weight penalty but similarly there are pluses & minuses to that situation. Certainly George Howard-Chappell looked like a man far from defeated when briefly discussing the revised BoP in the paddock end of day on Friday 15th June.

Ferrari – Effectively no change, although can carry an extra litre of fuel, which of course has a weight penalty to it, but may prove vital in terms of stint length and being able to return to the pits. As ever we have to expect the Prancing Horse to go the distance and be there on Sunday after the 488 Evo being both quick and well-proven now.

Corvette Racing -5kg The #63 of Magnussen/Garcia/Rockenfeller throw down some mighty laps and its sister car were loaded up with an extra 10kg earlier in the week. Half of that has now been removed, and the C7.R could be considered something of a dark horse, and a few on the roster have not forgotten how the win last year was stolen away at the end of the race.  Expect a strong show and a solid run to the chequered flag.

BMW -10kg – Well some weight off, but where to start?!  When you consider the frontal area and aspect of the BMW M8 GTE it does look formidable, but so does a strong barn door! At the speeds attained around Le Mans that bluff, bold front end has no wear to go and whilst we have little doubt about the reliability of the BMW it is clear that the bow wave is likely holding this beast back from achieving its potential..

Aston Martin Racing -10kg +Boost increase worth circa 20bhp! John Gaw was keen to get the boost increase when we spoke with him on Friday morning and the organisers have clearly listened and having inspected the data and the enormity of the gap have come back with both weight off and the extra power which another team principal estimated to be worth an extra 20bhp.  John was very clear that  the car has proved safe and reliable they just need to find its speed buttons!  In terms of reliability it was fascinating to hear that the new #95 was built in an elapsed 3x 24hour days and run down a runway before coming to Le Mans. AMR then ran it in practice on Wednesday throughout the session with no, nil nada sign of a problem!  

GTE-Am – Porsche customers looking strong in its 70th year


In terms of the -Am category of GTE the big news is the arrival of the ‘mid-engined’ RSR Porsche. The timing from both practice and qualifying shows it to be a step forward for those customer teams in the 70th anniversary year with Porsche clearly keen to score a multi-category victory…  Of course much in -Am comes down to the pace of the combined driver line-up both of the Dempsey-Proton Racing RSRs #77 & #88 and Gulf Racing #86 look strong pursued by the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE.  We should not forget that the “Old Girl” #98 Aston Martin Vantage of Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda has conquered WEC rounds everywhere except at Le Mans could this be that cars swansong?  We would never bet against it! 

Enjoy the show follow along and get involved, We fully expect Awe & then Some! 

GTE – Normalised Times – 


Again below a derived table of averages potentially more reflective of true race pace rather than a single lap. GTE-Pro pole-sitter #91 with its single flyer from Bruni drops off to seventh, but is replaced by its sister cars #93 & #92.  Note how the Corvette #63 steps up and the phalanx of massed Ford GTs..  We are still expecting a BoP adjustment as we write…


Analysis with Thanks to @theBpillar

Nick Holland - via Sportscarglobal

When the talking stops - A look at what we can expect in the prototype classes

Its is now less than 24-hours to the start of the 86th edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans.  Qualifying has been concluded and despite many cars throwing themselves at the scenery all are understood to be fit for the fit, so we express a mass grid of the 60 selected cars to take the flag (dropped by Rafa Nadal & the Grand Marshall Jacky Ickx) at 1500cet tomorrow Saturday 16th June. All the talk, banter and speculation will stop and we will see a great fight up and down the field on-track for 24-hours and the car and its crew that covers the greatest distance will be crowned champions! 

By category let us try and tackle some of the things that we think you should look out for and keep an eye on.  There will be more, you will have your favourites, but these are where we think the struggle for victory will be fought for and eventually a winner will succeed and many a story will be written into legend.


LMP1 - Toyota's to lose


With just one manufacturer entry this was always going to be a challenge for the Organisers to manage. It is important for many commercial reasons for Toyota, the Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO) and FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) that a fight both takes place but that the right result is reached.  Toyota have become infamous for stealing away defeat from the jaws of victory and despite all the testing, what-if scenarios etc… it is still possible that with just two-cars we could see a non-manufacturer victory. 

We can take some issue with which car, but a Toyota victory overall would be a good outcome, a dominating 1-2 would be something of a disappointment.  The gaps are too large to realistically consider any other outcome. Below it is evident that Toyota can comfortably run 3:20 laps which is at the limit of the Rebellion Racing R13 and SMP Racing BR1 performance. Hopefully that is a laurel they will rest on and pray for no significant incidents. Team orders if within range is likely and the potential for Fernando Alonso to achieve the second prong of the Triple Crown trident could not be more possible, but then Le Mans is never predictable… 

Behind the battle between Rebellion and SMP Racing could not be better and especially as they have different power units we could see a fascinating duel well-worth focusing on.  The driver line-up in the #1 of Lotterer/Jani/Senna looks tempting but then in many ways #11 Petrov/Aleshin/Button while possibly less experienced has an edge to it. No distinction in the Equivalence of Technology(EoT) will get in the way, it is a straightforward dog-fight and will be a joy to behold, noting each car also has a back-up second car in the team too! 

Furthermore the sleepers of the ENSO CLM ByKolles #4 and Dragonspeed BR1 running the same engine from Gibson Techonology (GL458) as the Rebellion could both have immaculate runs and whilst slower, has the opportunity to run both long and clean which could be the approach to achieve a win. All bar ByKolles (& Toyota) are running new equipment and hence will face issues and the serviceability (how teams cope with those challenges) will be a significant factor in who takes the third, possible second or could it just be the Top step of the podium come Sunday afternoon.

Finally Le Mans and its fans always loves a trier! And the challenges that have been thrown the TRS Manor Racing team and Ginetta have not been inconsiderable. They are both for registration purposes logged as Chinese entrants, but that funding seems to have been the root of many of their issues to-date, and a cash-strapped approach in this category will never ever be a successful option. Both cars have delivered sufficient laps for their driver squads to qualify and in the few days from Test Day to this week they have found in excess of 5-seconds with the #6 of Rowland/Brundle/Turvey start from the fifth row, and it will be a joy to see either that car or the sister car at the finish on Sunday.  That could be the biggest victory for restricted budgets in the history of motorsport!



LMP2 – Driver Squads & Tyre Choices


We have ourselves a tyre war, and its clear that the Michelins in warm temperatures that they perform. However since the warmth of the Test Day conditions have dropped from high 20s and are now more in the low numbers, and its evident from the details below that a number of the Dunlop runners are in a better place over a longer period of time. 

As a category the stock approach to LMP2 manufacturers whilst swelling the numbers and controlling the costs has resulted in a premiership and championship team situation. If you run an Oreca 07 – Gibson it is clear you are premiership and you have to look down to seventh to find a non-Oreca runner, irrespective of the efforts to improve the ‘balance’ in the category. Drivers in this category play a larger role than any other, and hence its is the slowest member of that driving squad that will hold a car back. This is evidenced on the normalised timing analysis below with IDEC Sport falling from pole to fourth. 

Whilst the squad at G-Drive #26 is formidable (Rusinov/Pizzitola/Vergne) and well practiced as a full seasonn WEC entrant, as we are in France we suggest keeping eye on TDS Racing #28 (Perrodo/Vaxiviere/Duval) & the Alpine-Signatech Matmut #36 (err. Oreca) of Lapierre/Negrao/Thiriet. Home advantage may seem more relevant in football, but at Le Mans we believe its worth at least a couple of tenths, and more likely the odd penalty for your competitors! 

The table below takes best stint values and creates an average table potentially more reflective of true race pace rather than a single lap. Hence for example we see Toyota targeting 3:18s, Rebellion in the 20s etc…  Note the changes in the running order for LMP2 with pole-sitter IDEC Sport #48 falling off to fourth in category…



Analysis with Thanks to @theBpillar

Remember last year, an LMP2 can come with a strong no-fault run and get very close to an overall victory.  There is always cause for optimism at Le Mans. Revel in the show, enjoy the weekend and engage with the story as it is written for you by the travails and tribulations of 24-hours of World Class MotorSport. 


Nick Holland via SportscarGlobal 

Nakajima clinches Le Mans pole in #8 Toyota

Kazuki Nakajima was fastest on track again on Thursday evening in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, confirming pole position . His time of 3:15.377 eclipsed the 3.17.270 he set in Q2 and exactly 2 seconds faster than the sister car #7.


Friday, 15 June 2018

Friday at Mulsanne Corner

We have listed the 'Virage de Mulsanne' event in the Club Arnage Guide for several years but this is the first time I've had the chance to visit in person.


The theme for 2018 is Corvette and there were many examples old and new lined up on the approach to Mulsanne corner, with a host of other interesting cars parked in Le Mans herring-bone configuration all the way almost to Indianapolis.

There were food and drink tents, a driver autograph session, a stage with interviews in both French and English. There was even a VIP area for invited guests.

There was a friendly party atmosphere and the free event was well attended, no ticket required! It was well worth going, and I'm sure to be coming back in 2019.






Dave Davies.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Le Mans: Nakajima takes provisional pole for Toyota

Kazuki Nakajima was the fastest man on track yesterday evening in his #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, claiming provisional pole position after the first of three qualifying sessions.  The Japanese driver set a quickest time of 3.17.270, just over 0.1 seconds faster than last year’s pole sitter Kamui Kobayashi in the #7 Toyota. 



With the difference between the hybrids and fastest non-hybrid LMP1 under a second in yesterday’s practice session, it seemed that the Rebellions might be reasonable close to the Toyota’s. Qualifying denied all hope for a somewhat close battle though.  Stéphane Sarrazin was “best of the rest” in his #17 SMP Racing BR1 but already 2.213 seconds behind Nakajima in 3.19.483. Bruno Senna in the #1 Rebellion R13 was second fastest in the non Hybrid cars, giving in 0.179 seconds to the BR1. 



SMP Racing’s #17 BR1 was seventh fastest with Egor Orudhzev at the wheel, in front of the #11 SMP Racing BR1 and the #4 ByKolles Enso CLMP1/01. The ByKolles clocked off a 3.22.505 but lost all of its fastest laps due to “exceeded instantaneous fuel flow limit”, as did the #17 SMP Racing.  The Toyota #8 also saw several laptimes deleted; exceeding the fuel/lap quantity limit.   



Both Ginetta’s are closing the order in LMP1, setting lap times in the middle of the LMP2 class and over 13 seconds adrift from pole position. Electrical gremlins halted Ginetta’s progress during both of yesterday’s sessions, and forced the team to an engine swap between sessions in the #6 car. 



In LMP2 it’s the #48 IDEC Sport of Paul Loup Chatin which was quickest overall last night in a record setting laptime of 3.24.956, almost half a second faster than last year’s pole time. Chatin was 0.284 seconds faster than Loïc Duval in the #28 TDS Racing Oreca 07 who was closely followed by Jean-Eric Vergne in the #26 G-Drive. Oreca once again dominated the LMP1 class, claiming all top five positions after the first qualifying session.  The #31 Dragonspeed which saw its tracktime decimated after damaging its front early in the session, and #36 Signatech Alpine rounded out the top 5. 



“Best of the rest” was Filipe Albuquerque in the #22 United Autosports Ligier in 3.26.772, 1.8 seconds off the pace of the quickest Ligier. The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing of Jazeman Jafaar went seventh fastest. Felipe Nasr in the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara set the eight fastest - and fastest Dallara - time in 3.27.993.  



After leaving LMP1 at the end of last season, Porsche is now aiming for succes in the GTE Pro class in the second season of their not-to-be-called mid engined 911 RSR. In both of yesterday’s sessions, the Porsches were on top of the timetables.  Gimmi Bruni outpaced everyone in the qualifying session with a staggering lap record of 3.47.504, over three seconds faster than last year’s pole time. Even more impressive was that he set that time at the start of the session in only one of two flying laps before parking his #91 Porsche in the kitty litter at Dunlop curve.   



Michael Christensen was second quickest in the #92 Porsche in 3.49.097, still faster than las year’s pole time but over half a second adrift from Bruni’s lap. Ford took third and fourth place with Olivier Pla quickest in the #66 GT (3.49.181) followed by Dirk Müller in the #68.  Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari set the fifth time, almost 2.5 seconds slower than the #91 Porsche.  



BMW returns to Le Mans in their new M8, and clocked off on ninth and 11th position inbetween Ferrari and Ford.  Antonio Felix Da Costa was the fastest BMW driver with a time of 3.50.579.  Corvette is - as usual - steadily going through their pre Le Mans test programme, finishing 13th and 14th by the end of the qualifying session.  Despite the new BoP, the Astons still are struggling for pace, both new Vantage AMR’s finishing dead last yesterday, just under 5 and over 7 seconds off the pace. 



Dempsey-Proton Racing is leading the GTE Am class with both of its Porsche 911 RSR’s. Matteo Cairoli showing his outright speed again, going round in 3.50.728 in the #88 which was even quicker than the Corvettes in GTE Pro.  Matt Campbell in the #77 Porsche was just over 1.2 seconds slower than the young Italian to take a provisional second sport on the grid.  The top 3 was completed by another Porsche: the #86 Gulf Racing of Ben Barker. 



Giancarlo Fisichella in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari was the first non Porsche driver on the list in fourth place, 2 seconds slower than Cairoli.  The #56 Team Project 1 Porsche and the #85 Keating Motorsports Ferrari completed the top 7 with the #98 Aston Martin of Pedro Lamy in eight position.  Bad luck for the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin of Salih Yoluc & co who suffered a puncture causing some damage to the car, limiting their track time in the first qualifying session. 

There’s a short list of drivers who still have to complete their 5 obligatory night laps after yesterday’s qualifying: Gimmi Bruni, Richard Lietz and Fred Makowiecki in the #91 Porsche after Bruni parking it into the kitty litter at the Dunlop chicane; Nico Lapierre in the #36 Signatech Alpine; Earl Bamber in the #93 Porsche 911; Olivier Beretta in the #70 MR Racing Ferrari and Renger Van Der Zande in the #10 Dragonspeed BR1. 

Qualifying resumes later today with two 2 hour sessions from 19h to 21h and 22h to midnight.  Rain might be on the forecast so the pole times from yesterday could be the ones that determine the grid for Saturday’s race.  

Text and pictures: Kristof Vermeulen

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Road to Le Mans: 50 cars on the grid

Fifty cars will take part in the 2018 ‘Road to Le Mans’ race this year. The race, which forms part of the Michelin Le Mans Cup series, is designed as a part of the ACO’s ‘Endurance Pyramid’ to give drivers a taste of racing at Le Mans in LMP3 and GT3 machinery before graduating to GTE, LMP2 or LMP1 cars. 



The race runs the full 13.6km of the world famous Sarthe ‘Circuit des 24 Heures’ and consists of 27 teams fielding 100 drivers covering 26 nationalities! In the LMP3 ‘Prototype’ class Norma, Ligier and Ginetta, line up looking for the overall win whilst Ferrari and Porsche will be fighting for the top step of the podium in GT3; however, the odds are stacked against the Porsche with a 7-1 advantage to Ferrari! 

In 2017 Ligier and Norma took a win each over each of the two 55 minute races, while it was a double for Aston Martin in GT3, so which brand will be victorious in 2018? 

Le Mans is a fast, low-downforce track so the Ginetta could be in with a fair chance having set the top speed through the speed-trap at the Monza round of 279.1 kph. Porsche was quickest of the GT3 machinery with a 275.5 kph, 1.4 kph faster than the Ferrari.

Many of the names will be familiar to those of us who follow the European Le Mans Series with 11 of the full-time teams choosing to attend the ‘one-off’ event this week. That said, many of the driver lineups have changed slightly; some like AT Racing merely dropping a driver (fielding their usual father and son team of the Talkanitsa’s with Mikkel Jensen stepping back), others such as M RACING – YMR fielding entirley changed lineups with Jonathan Bennett and Niclas Jönsson (ELMS regular in the Krohn Ferrari) in the #15 Ligier (#18 in the ELMS) and an all-French pairing of Laurent Millara and Natan Bihel in the #16 Norma (ELMS #19). 

Hong Kong based Win Motorsport are the only Asian Le Mans Series entrant to make the journey to the Sarthe fielding a Ligier JS P3 for William Lok and Jim Michaelian and we see eight entrants, 7 LMP3s and a single Ferrari GT3, who don’t regularly race in any of the ACO series (ELMS, ALMS or MLMC). 

The first practice session for the Road to Le Mans kicks off at 8.30 pm local time today where the drivers have sixty minutes to get used to the circuit and get the car set up just right.

Thursday sees Free Practice 2 first thing in the morning with the two qualifying sessions running from 1.30 pm – 2.25 pm later in the day. The green flag drops for the opening race at 5.30pm and the second race runs Saturday morning at 11.30am. 


This article was originally published by our friends at sportscarglobal.com

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Le Mans: class of 2018


It's Tuesday at Le Mans, so one of the traditions is the annual group shot with all 180 drivers who will be out on track this week. 



























With rain pooring down heavily at certain times, it was a bit of a challenge to find a dry moment and set up the group shot in a record time. 

The weather forecast is as unpredictable as it can be at the moment and changing daily.  Yesterday saw som heavy downpoors during scrutineering, today is a mix of reasonably dry and very wet conditions.  Race weather seems to be improving with showers on Wednesday and Sunday.   

Picture: JellyBaby.Media

The 2018 Club Arnage Guide to Le Mans is out !

Our 2018 edition of the annual Club Arnage Guide to Le Mans is ready and online.

Download it HERE

As with last year's guide, the content has slightly changed and now mainly puts focus to the race and competitors.  All the other info about Le Mans, the campsites, what's to be found in and around the track etc ... is still available in the Club Arnage Wiki pages which can be found here: http://www.clubarnage.com/wiki/doku.php?id=ca_guide:toc

We hope you enjoy reading the guide and find it useful, and if you do, please let us know by joining (if you haven’t already) and posting on the Club Arnage ForumBlog Facebook group or Instagram.  

Friday, 8 June 2018

Le Mans: Things to do in race week

Race week at Le Mans is approaching fast now, but it's not only the on track action that will keep you busy next week, also several events in the villages near the circuit.

Time for our yearly rundown of events in and around le Mans next week, in addition to scrutineering on Sunday and Monday and the pitwalk & driver's parade on Friday.


Autograph session (Tuesday June 12th)

A tradition for a few years now is the driver autograph session which is to be held on Tuesday afternoon.  At 17h00 the pitlane opens for the public for the 90 minute autograph session with all the drivers which will participate in the 24 hours.  It's also a great opportunity to watch the teams in their final preparations for the first practice and qualifying session on Wednesday.  Entry is free for all ticket holders.

In the morning the drivers and team managers' briefing will be held and the official group photo with all drivers will be taken at the start/finish line. 


Les R'Hunaudières at Ruaudin (Tuesday June 12th)

The R'Hunaudières is a recent event that started in 2015 but is surely worth a visit on Tuesday afternoon.  It is organised in the small town of Ruadin through which a part of the Hunaudières straight runs.  This year the Ford GT will be celebrated, as opposed to last year when Ford's adversaries Ferrari were payed tribute to. 

Guest of honor at the R'Hunadières will be Jacky Haran.  The French driver was very succesful in Formula Renault    Haran raced four times at Le Mans with Rondeau between 1978 and 1982, finishing second in 1981 with a Ford powered Rondeau M379C he shared with Jean-Louis Schlesser and Philippe Streiff.

A variety of activities will be on hand with exhibitions, movies, model cars, food & beverages, etc ... The festivities will start at 16h00 'till 23h00.  Ideal to stop over after the autograph session in the pitlane.







Arnage dans la course (Thursday June 14th)

The event in the centre of Arnage is now in it's fifth year, now celebrating "Porsche in the 24 Hours of Le Mans: from the 365 to the 919".  Along the centre of the town, at the Place de Mitterand" several activities will be organised.

An exhibition with several cars that actually ran in the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the centre of the acivities, displaying the history of Porsche at Le Mans.  Several historic racecars will be on site, including the #23 Porsche 917 that won the race in 1970.  The German manufacturer will also have it's new range of cars on display in the town. Not only Porsches will be on display, but also other vintage racecars, including the Ford GT, Cobra Daytona, Ferrari 250 GTO, Courage C70 and the Peugeot 905 amongst other surprises.

One of the main attractions is the annual parade through Arnage which will start at 12h30 in the rue Nationale.  This year there will also be several stands about the 24 Hours of Le Mans including model cars, books, photo's, paintings and a stand of the Porsche club Le Mans.  Also present will be Miss 24 Heures and Yves Courage who will talk about his Le Mans experiences with Porsche.

Place to be is the centre of Arnage, on Thursday June 14th from 9h to 17h.
More info: https://arnagedanslacourse.com/


Virage de Mulsanne (Friday June 15th)

The 2018 Virage de Mulsanne event will again be held on the Friday ahead of the race. this year's team is Corvette, who return for the 19th year in a row to the 24 hours. Cars will be displayed along the Mulsanne corner and the track heading on to Indianapolis.

The event starts at 9h00 and runs 'till 16h00.  Several drivers, current and former ones, are expected to pay a visit to Mulsanne between 10h00 and 15h00 as wel as Miss 24 Heures. Festivities continue later in the evening in the center of Mulsanne with another vehicle exhibition, a parade through town and a free concert.

More info: http://www.viragedemulsanne.org






Classic British Welcome (Friday June 15th)

If there's one event that doesn't need much introduction, it's the Classic British Welcome in Saint Saturnin.  The Classic British Welcome originated from a passion for Le Mans and the 24 hour race. It’s a fun, colourful car show to welcome visitors to Le Mans, held every year on the Friday before the 24 hour race. Over a thousand classic cars of all shapes and sizes, from all around the world, gather in Saint-Saturnin on the northern outskirts of Le Mans.

The theme of the 2018 Classic British Welcome is BMW, celebrating the return of the Bavarian marque to Le Mans. BMW debuted at Le Mans in 1939 with a 328, immediately winning its class. Their first - and so far only - overall win in the 24 Hours came in 1999 with the BMW V12 LMR of Joachim Winkelhock, Pierluigi Martini and Yannick Dalmas.  This year's Le Mans is very important for BMW, not only with their return to the GTE Class with the M8 GTE, but also with the official presentation of the M8 road car which will take place during raceweek. Several iconic BMW racecars will be on display during the day.

Special guest will be Dutch driver Jan Lammers, who's entering his 24th Le Mans this year.  Lammers' first race at the 24 Hours was in 1983, he won Le Mans 30 years ago in 1988 in the Jaguar XJR9 with Andy Wallace and Johnny Dumfries.

Entry is - as always - free for all, the festivities start at 9.00h.
More info at www.classicbw.org


Free access to the Museum (race weekend)

Access to the Museum next to the circuit is free for all general enclosure ticket holders on June 16th and 17th. Visitors can discover the temporary exhibition Blue & Orange; a team, a legend that retraces the incredible history of John Wyer. In just under two decades this team manager built a formidable race team which won the Le Mans 24 Hours on three occasions making his partner, the Gulf Oil Company and its famous blue and orange colours, a motor racing icon. 

Wyer was a visionary when it came to choosing drivers and he helped some of the greatest to victory including Lucien Bianchi, Pédro Rodriguez, Jackie Oliver, and Jacky Ickx who were responsible for his three successes in the Sarthe in 1968, 1969 and 1975. About the museum Throughout the year, the ACO’s Le Mans 24-Hours museum tells the story of the saga of the motor car in the Sarthe and the success of its international event through 120 vehicles. Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Ford, Porsche, Matra, Audi, etc. all the great names are represented by their iconic models.


Kristof Vermeulen.
Picture: Sportscarglobal.com





Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Le Mans: Toyota fastest on test day

Track action for this year’s 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans started on Sunday with the traditional test day.  As expected Toyota set the fastest times of the day, but Rebellion managed to get inbetween both Toyota’s in each session. Fernando Alonso set the pace in both morning and afternoon outings in his #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrids. Oreca still have a significant lead in the LMP2 class, while Ford an Porsche each were fastest in the GTE-Pro class. 


Several teams still have some homework to do before practice and qualifying starts in less than two weeks. In LMP1 both Ginetta’s have driven their first official laps, but seem to be way off the pace.  The Oreca’s still dominate the LMP2 class, despite the joker updates for Ligier and Dallara.  Aston Martin had what you could call a horrible Sunday; losing one of its cars in a big crash, the other seemingly off the pace of all other runners in the LMGTE-Pro class. 



As expected, Toyota had the fastest time in the morning session with a 3.21.468, set by Fernando Alonso in the #7 TS050 Hybrid. Thomas Laurent spoiled Toyota’s party a bit by putting his #3 Rebellion R13 inbetween both Toyota’s.  His lap of 3.21.828 was 0.360 seconds off Alonso and 0.328 seconds faster than the second Toyota. The #1 Rebellion managed the 4th fastest time in 3.23.595. Both SMP Racing’s BR Engineering BR1’s followed in fifth and sixth, but just under 4 and over 5 seconds behind the fastest Toyota. The #4 ByKolles was almost seven seconds behind the leading Toyota, despite going faster than their qualifying time from 2017. 



The Ginetta G60-LT-P1’s made it out on track in the morning session, the #5 however only managing an outlap.  The #6 only did 9 laps in total, with a best time of 3.34.766, over 13 seconds off the pace and in the middle of the LMP2 contenders. The #10 Dragonspeed BR1 did come out for a few installation laps but didn’t set a laptime. 



Oreca dominate the LMP2 class in the morning session, despite the joker upgrades for Ligier and Dallara.  Alexandre Imperatori in the #26 G-Drive Oreca set the best time of the session in 3.30.176.  Paul Loup Chatin in the #48 IDEC Sport Oreca was second fastest, 0.701 seconds behind.  For the first time this season, the #31 Dragonspeed wasn’t on top of the timetable now settling for third place. 



Fastest non-Oreca’s were both United Autosports Ligiers, the #32 a fraction of a second faster than the #22. The #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse was the quickest of the Dallara’s.  Jan Lammers in the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara must have had a few scary moments when he stopped at the second chicane with smoke coming out of the cockpit. A short stop and some help of the marshals with a fire extinguisher later, Lammers got off again onwards to his 24th Le Mans. 



Ford set the pace in the GTE-Pro class, claiming all four top positions. Andy Priaulx was the fastest driver in the class with a 3.53.008 in the #67 Ford GT. Priaulx was almost a second faster than the #66 sister car, followed by both American entries, the #69 and #68. Best of the non-Ford runners was Porsche with the #91”Rothmans” 911 RSR, 1.7 seconds slower than the fastest Ford. The #63 Corvette ended up sixth fastest.  

The first session of the test day was a tough one for several GTE Am runners.  Jorg Bergmeister had an off in the #56 Project 1 Porsche while Mathias Lauda damaged his engine in the #98 Aston Martin Vantage on a curb, leaving an oil trace behind. The #56 didn’t set at time over the shortened session. 



Keita Sawa in the shiny #61 Clearwater Ferrari was quickest overall in 3.58.569, with Julian Andlauer right on his heels in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche.  The young Frenchman only got 0.006 seconds short from the Ferrari. The #88 Dempsey-Proton set the third time, followed by the #86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche and the #90 TF Sport Aston Vantage. 

The morning session was red flagged almost an hour early after contact between Harrison Newey in the #35SMP Racing Dallara and Marco Sorensen in the #95 Aston Martin.  Both cars made contact near Indianapolis, with Sorensen going hard into the guardrails. Newey managed to bring his Ligier back into pitlane, but the Aston Martin appeared to be a complete write-off.  The Danish driver has been examined in the medical center and been released without any injuries.  The team released a statement afterwards that a new car needs to be built by the end of this week for scrutineering. 

AFTERNOON SESSION

To recover some of the lost time from the morning session, the second session of the day started half an hour early.  This session ran uninterrupted apart from a few local yellows and safety cars to recover stranded cars from the track, luckily all without any severe damage.  In the dying moments of the session though it was red flagged again when Pastor Maldonado had an off at Indianapolis. 



As expected Toyota (and Alonso) held on to the top spot of the timesheets, but the Rebellions stayed in the mix even when laptimes dropped significantly over the afternoon session. Kobayashi - who set the all time lap record during qualifying last year - seemed to have set the fastest time of the day in the #7 Toyota, but Alonso still managed to go faster.  The Spaniard improved his best time with almost 2.5 seconds, down to 3.19.066. 



Mathias Beche in the #3 Rebellion basically did the same and parked his Gibson powered R13 back inbetween both Toyota’s, now 0.614 seconds slower than Alonso. Kobayashi’s time of 3.20.008 put the second Toyota on third place.  The running order behind the top 4 remained the same, with both SMP Racing BR1’s in fifth and sixth, followed by the #4 ByKolles. The newly built Dragonspeed BR1 now also turned its first laps around La Sarthe, 3.26.951 its fastest one. 



Both Ginetta’s ran a significant amount of laps in the afternoon, going round in high 3.27’s and low 3.28’s.  Still around 9 seconds behing Toyota but already inbetween the top times of the LMP2 class.  



Nathanaël Berthon took command of the LMP2 class in the #31 Dragonspeed Oreca, shaving just under three seconds off Imperator’s best time from the morning session.  His 3.27.228 was just fast enough to hold off Paul Loop Chatin, who stranded in second place again with the #48 IDEC Sport, 24 thousands of a second slower.  The #26 G-Drive now set the third fastest time of the class. 



United Autosports again set the fastest time of the non-Oreca’s in the #22 Ligier of Filipe Albuquerque, although still 2 seconds slower than the quickest Oreca.  Felipe Nasr in the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse was the fastest Dallara again, ending the day in seventh place. 



Porsche had taken over the lead in GTE Pro by the end of the second session of the day, claiming the top 2 spots with the 911 RSR.  Patrick Pilet ended up quickest in class with a 3.52.551 which was 2.4 seconds faster than the quickest Porsche at last year’s testday.  Gimmi Bruni in the #91 “Rothmans” set the second time of the day, just 0.096 behind Bruni. 



Behind both Porsches all four Fords improved their times from the morning session, but couldn’t match the performance of the leading Porsches although all finishing within a second from Pilet. The #91 “Pink Pig” Porsche followed in 7th position ahead of the #81 BMW M8. 9th place was for the first Ferrari (#71 AF Corse), followed by both Corvettes. The #64 Corvette of Tommy Millner had an issue about half way the session when he parked the car right after the Dunlop bridge.   

Aston Martin didn’t have its best outing at Le Mans on Sunday.  Losing the #95 Vantage AMR in the morning session, and the #97 struggling for pace all day long.  At the end of both session, it’s best time was a 3.57.488, just under 5 seconds slower than the #94 Porsche. 



Julian Andlauer in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche didn’t miss his debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, setting the best time in the LMGTE-Am class. His laptime of 3.55.970 was 0.299 faster than Giancarlo Fisichella in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari F488 GTE. Keita Sawa who was fast all day long in the Clearwater Ferrari was third fastest by the end of the day. 



The first non-wec car in the Am class was the all American #99 Proton Porsche in Black Swan colours of Patrick Long in 3.57.515, good for fifth place.  The #85 Keating Motorsports Ferrari followed close in sixth. Last year’s class winners JMW Motorsports were seventh fastest.  Ebimotors also had a day to forget quickly, only managing 25 laps over the whole day after running into engine and gearbox problems.  Christina Nielsen, who was one of the drivers that flew overnight from Detroit, even only managed an outlap in the #80 Porsche. 


The next step in the build up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans is scrutineering which starts on Sunday at 14h30 in the center of Le Mans.  



Text and pictures: Kristof Vermeulen