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Le Mans, 01 June 2014

The annual Le Mans test day was held on Sunday 01 June, giving the majority of participants in the race over the weekend of 14-15 June the opportunity to see where they stood against the competition in the four classes, and also to fine tune their set-ups for the race. It was also open to competitors hoping to gain entry to the race in future years, thus there were a total of 54 cars running during the course of the day.

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Scrutineering, administrative and technical checks took place on the Friday and Saturday, with Sunday providing two sessions, each of four hours duration, in the morning and afternoon. Fine sunny and warm weather, and the opportunity to see the latest in sports car technology, including the first public appearance of the Nissan ZEOD RC innovative technology car, plus the first public appearance in France of the latest weapons from Audi, Porsche and Toyota, attracted large crowds to witness proceedings.

It was also announced that the official race starter of this, the 82nd edition, would be current Ferrari F1 star and two time World Champion Driver, Fernando Alonso, the first time that a current F1 driver has been appointed as race starter. Actually, this is quite fitting, as although Ferrari aren’t in contention for overall race honours, they have a very strong presence in the two GT categories, with no less than fifteen 458 GT2s in the entry list, which in percentage terms is over 50% of the GT field. It was concurrently announced that three time Le Mans 24 Hour Race winner, recently retired Allan McNish would be the “Grand Marshall” of the 2014 race, and he will drive the lead car that precedes the competitors on their formation lap prior to the rolling start.

With Toyota having won the first two rounds of the 2014 FIA WEC, they had the psychological advantage over their rivals, and they built on this further by posting some impressive times as the quickest lap pendulum swung between them, Audi and Porsche. At the end of the day, they had improved that psychological advantage as their two entries topped the time sheets, with Sebastien Buemi putting a storming lap during the afternoon, to go fastest overall in 3min23.014secs, an average speed of over 240kph (150mph), in the # 8 Toyota TS 040-Hybrid that he was sharing with Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre. The # 7 example of Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima was only 0.142sec adrift, whilst the fastest Audi R18 e-tron Quattro, the # 3 car of Albuquerque/Bonanomi, was over half a second slower than the # 7 Toyota. However, as we know only too well speed isn’t everything in a 24 hour race, as there are many other factors that come into play as the race unfolds, so it promises to be a fascinating battle for overall honours in the 2014 edition of the world’s most prestigious endurance race.

In the other categories, it was the # 26 G-Drive Racing entered Morgan-Nissan of Rusinov/Pla/Canal that posted the fastest LMP2 time, with the # 92 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR of Holzer/Makowiecki/Lietz taking the LMGTE Pro honours, ahead of the # 51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT2 of Bruni/Fisichella/Vilander. In the LMGTE Am group Ferraris filled the top seven places, led by the # 90 8Star Motorsports example of Montecalvo/Roda/Ruberti, which in the hands of the latter driver set a time better than the trio of LMGTE Pro Ferraris, and was only 0.143sec slower than the # 92 Porsche, which was the quickest GT entry. With such a large and competitive Ferrari entry, this is a race that fans of the Cavallino Rampante will not want to miss.

This is definitely a race to be savoured, so if you are a fan of endurance racing, cancel any plans that you might have for the weekend of 14-15 June, and head to Le Mans for what promises to be the scene of epic battles in all categories. Further details and ticket prices can be found at www.24h-lemans.com

Keith Bluemel