Tuesday 11 June 2019

Le Mans: 'Pesage' Day Two

Although the unsettled weather made day two a little more 'low key' than Sunday, there was no lack of excitement in the Place de la République. An impressive number of intrepid race fans braved the conditions to see the 41 remaining competitors undergo technical inspection and the drivers sign-on.

We can't think of any other motor race in the world where the organisers turn scrutineering into a spectator event. It has become an essential part of the spectacle of the 24 hours of Le Mans. The rain stayed off for most of the day apart from the odd cloudburst, and we did have a brief spell of sunshine after 15:00. The most surprising thing about today was that the ACO managed to keep the proceedings uncharacteristically on time, with the last car, the #62 WeatherTech Ferrari rolling in promptly at 17:30.

The livery 'reveal' of the day was the Dragonspeed BR1/Gibson LMP1. It seems race fans will never tire of the distinctive colours of the Gulf oil company. It is an instantly recognisable and historic livery and good to see back on an LMP1 prototype again. The last time was the Aston Martin AMR-One in 2011, lets hope the pale blue and orange magic works for Dragonspeed. Although endurance racing fans tend to associate the colours most strongly with the Porsche 917 in the Steve McQueen film, it was the Ford GT40 driven by Rodriguez and Bianchi in 1968 and Ickx/Oliver in 1969 that scored the 'hat trick' win for Gulf. The colours were revived in the winning Ickx/Bell Mirage GR8/Cosworth in 1975 but were not seen again at Le Mans until 1994 on the Kremer K8 driven by Derek Bell, Robin Donovan and Jürgen Lässig but with the updated darker blue (6th overall). Since the 90's revival of the colours there have been numerous GTs and prototypes in blue and orange but no outright win since 1975.

The current leader in the WEC LMP2 driver and team standings, the #36 Signatech Alpine A470/Gibson that was do to be in the square yesterday but failed to show up due to a scheduling miscommunication, was rescheduled for 16:30 today.  Although the Alpine leads in the WEC, the two Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca/Gibson cars (through pesage yesterday morning) lie only a few points behind and with 50% extra points available in La Sarthe for the 'Grand Finale', the LMP2 driver and team result is far from a foregone conclusion.

At 16:30 and almost the last through scrutineering were the cluster of Ford GTs, the two WEC entered cars and the two IMSA, plus the first GT entered in the Am class of Ben Keating. Competition between manufacturers that has been missing in LMP1 is as healthy as it has ever been this year with five marques involved in GTE Pro. Although Porsche are unassailable in the GT manufacturers' World Championship, Ferrari, Ford and Aston Martin remain stacked close together in the fight for second place, and of course winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is arguably a greater honour on its own, and a more bankable PR coup than the Championship. Le Mans has always proved itself a more enduringly popular spectacle and a more historically significant event than any series or championship that it has been part of.

© Craig Robertson - www.racephotography.net

At BMW, Le Mans will be the final race of the M8 in the FIA World Endurance Championship as their #Mission8 will come to an and on Sunday evening. The M8 will, however, keep on racing in the IMSA Weathertech Series. BMW also celebrates a special anniversary at Le Mans this year, as it marks 20 years since the BMW V12 LMR claimed the overall win in the 24-hour race. To honour this success, the race-winning car will be on display this weekend at Le Mans.

The G-Drive team seemed te be in vacation mode already with their Aurus 01, bringing an "orange tree" and airbeds with them to relax during the "exhausting" autograph session. 

© Craig Robertson - www.racephotography.net

SMP Racing presented both its BR1 Engineering LMP1's which have come a far way in development over the past year.  Stoffel Vandoorne, the Belgian ex Formula 1 driver, being added to the line-up of the #11 might be one of the drivers to look for over race week. He adapted himself pretty quickly into his new work environment, scoring a podium finish in Spa last month, and braking the LMP1 top speed record here at Le Mans last Sunday when he touched 350,1 km/h on the Mulsanne straight. 

Amongst the other teams going through scrutineering yesterday were Le Mans debutants Car Guy (Ferrari #57), the return of ARC Bratislava (#49 Ligier LMP2), the Dempsey-Proton Racing armada with 4 Porsche 911 RSR's, Aston Martin Racing and the JMW & Project 1 "Art cars". 

© Craig Robertson - www.racephotography.net

© Craig Robertson - www.racephotography.net

With scrutineering now over and done, all attention goes onto the start of the track action for this years 24 Hours of Le Mans. The first practice session is planned for tomorrow, Wednesday at 16h00.   

Text: Dave Davies
Images: Kristof Vermeulen & Craig Robertson