Sunday 2 June 2019

Le Mans: Test Day morning session

Le Mans 2019: Test Session 1

The Test Day opened on Sunday morning under a clear blue sky and perfect conditions. It was a comfortable 20C air temperature at 9am as the light turned green a pit exit and the first cars took to the 13.626 Kilometres of the Le Mans circuit. Drivers were faced with a very 'green' track surface, particularly on the public road secions of the circuit. At the 30 minute mark the two Toyotas (predictably) topped the timing screens with relatively leasurly times of 3:23.438 for #7 and 3:27:138 for #8. 

At the one hour mark it was the #31 Dragonspeed quickest in LMP2 3:32.518 by Pastor Maldonardo. Driver of #31 Anthony Davidson: "It's more about getting the drivers up to speed and leaning how the tyres work ... in P2 it's a bit more conventional. You are working on the mechaical balance and the tyre balance. There is a lot to learn, I know the car of course buy not this car on this track ... hopefully the car will hit the ground running... the car went well last year and we have rolled those settings into today."

As Anthony pointed out, the goal of test day isn't necessarly to score bragging rights of fastest time, but to refine car settings and get drivers back in the groove. 

Will Stevens, driver of Panis Barthez Ligier #23, expected the track to improve during the day. "By this afternoon the track should be good ... today is a very important setup day".

A 4 minute Full Course Yellow was announced at 1 hour 30 into first session. As there appeared to be no cars off track, we had to assume it was a rehearsal of the FCY procedure. 

As we approached the two hour point, lap times continued to drift slowly down, with Kobayashi in #7 Toyota setting a time of 3:22.027, SMP Racing quickest non hybrid LMP1 #17 3:24.529 and most of the GTE Pro grid slipping under the 4 minute mark. 

At 10:46 there appeared to be problems for Jordan King in the #37 Jackie Chan DC racing Oreca. It was seen going slowly at the exit of the second chicane then staggered around to Arnage. There was a red flag at 10:55 that we presumed was to allow for recovery of #37 but the #95 Aston Martin was also showing as stopped on circuit after all other cars had returned to the pits. We went back to green at 11:07. The #95 Aston Martin was back in pitlane at 11:15 but not under its own power. 

By 11:20 the air temperature has risen to 24.8 Centigrade.

Our roving photographer Kristof reported that Konopka in the #49 ARC Bratislava Ligier was going slowly between 2nd chicane and Mulsanne corner. The car managed to come back to pitlane after a 23 minute lap.

At 11:49 Paul Loup Chatin in the #48 Idec Sport Oreca went off into the tyres art Indianapolis bringing out a local yellow. Chatin managed to make it back to the pits.

In the first few minutes of the final hour of the first session, Conway and Alonso traded fastest lap times with Conway putting in a lap of 3:22.027 in #7 Toyota and Alonso doing an almost identical 3:22.078.

With 45 minutes remining, Jeff Segal in the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari set the fastest time in GTE AM with a lap of 3:59.455.

At the top of LMP2 times at 12:30 was the 3:32.292 of Jonathan Hirschi in the Graff Racing #39 Oreca. In GTE Am it was 3:59.455 fastest lap for Jeff Segal in the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari.

The #10 Dragonspeed car was dogged by suspension (shock absorber) problems and only did a few laps in the session. The #37 Jackie Can DC Racing Oreca was not seen on track again in the session after its early problems.

Buemi posted the overall fastest time of 3:21.875 in Toyota #8 with 15 minutes remaining. By the end of the session at 1pm, the air temperature had reached 28.8 Centigrade.

At the chequered flag in LMP1 the Toyota Hybrid #8 was fastest with 3:21.875 from #7 Toyota and #3 Rebellion with the fastest non-hybrid time 3:23.926. In LMP2 the #22 United Autosport was fastest with 3:32.242 from #31 DragonSpeed with #39 Graff Racing in 3rd. In GTE Pro the #63 Corvette was fastest with 3:55.704 from #66 Ford & #91 Porsche. In GTE Am it was #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari fastest with 3:58.478 from #61 Clearwater Ferrari with #84 JMW motorsport Ferrari 3rd.
Dave Davies
Pictures: Kristof Vermeulen