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Le Mans, 05 June, 2016

The annual Le Mans test day was held on Sunday 05 June as a prelude to the main event over the weekend of 18-19 June, with all the accepted entrants taking part in the two four hour sessions. One of the main concerns was the weather, as France had been battered by storms and torrential rain leading to flooding in many places, in the days preceding the test day, and the forecast for the weekend was more of the same. Fortunately, although it stayed overcast but warm, there was no precipitation, and thus the teams could get some meaningful running done during the course of the day.

Despite the ominous weather forecast, over 23,000 spectators turned up to see what race weekend would hold in store, and with sixty cars running they had plenty of track action to witness during the course of the day, fortunately mainly without major incidents. The only one of consequence was about half an hour before the end of the afternoon session, when Oswaldo Negri Jr. crashed the # 49 LMP2 Michael Shank Racing entered Ligier JS P2-Honda heavily at the Michelin Chicane. Although he was able to walk away, the impact resulted in heavy damage to the barriers, which couldn’t be repaired within the time remaining in the session, so it came to a premature conclusion.

In the premier LMP1 category, the battle for fastest time swung between the pair of Audi R18s and the pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids, with the pair of Toyota TS050-Hybrids not far behind. At the end of the sessions, it was the # 8 Audi that posted the quickest time of the day, with Lucas di Grassi putting in a lap in 3mins 21.375secs, at an average speed of 243.6kph. This was around 4.5secs off the 2015 pole position time, set by Neil Jani in the Porsche 919, so we are still left to ponder whether the times were truly indicative of the respective team’s ultimate performances. Certainly, from the times posted during the test day, there appears very little difference in performance between the Audis and Porsches, and the slowest Toyota was less than 2.5secs off the quickest time, which over a 13+kms long lap is a relatively small difference. As we all know, endurance racing is as much about team work and reliability as it is about speed, with a dose of luck thrown in for good measure.

The LMP2 class was the largest in terms of numbers, with 23 entries, and at the end of the day it was the # 33 Eurasia Motorsport entry of Pu/Gommendy/De Bruun that took the honours for the quickest time, with a lap in 3mins 36.690secs in the hands of Tristan Gommendy. The top four cars were covered by less than a second, with the next four all coverd by the same amount of time. In the two GT classes, LMGTE Pro and Am, it was a Corvette that headed the times in both classes, with the # 63 C7.R driven by Antonio Garcia taking the LMGTE Pro honours with a lap in 3mins 55.122secs, whilst in the LMGTE Am class it was the # 50 Larbre Competition entered C7-Z06 driven by Nicky Catsburg that posted the quickest time, with a lap in 3mins 57.999secs. In the LMGTE Pro class the top seven cars were covered by less than a second, whilst only 1.868secs covered all fourteen cars in the class, so there is likely to be some close competition for overall class honours come the race. Times were a little more spread out in LMGTE Am class, but still only 1.375secs covered the top seven cars, four of which were Ferrari 458 GT2s.

With a sixty car field, some close times from the test day in the four classes, the race over the weekend of 18-19 June shows great promise for some exciting action. There is also plenty of peripheral activity in the forms of exhibitions, one of which is “Americans at Le Mans”, manufacturer displays, live music, the fairground, vendor areas, and two support races on the Saturday morning prior to the “main event”, whilst “people watching” at Le Mans can be entertainment itself.

Race # Model Chassis # Team Colour Drivers Best Lap
51 Ferrari 488 GTE 3806 AF Corse Red-Multi G. Bruni / J. Calado / A. Pier Guidi 3:55.900
71 Ferrari 488 GTE 3802 AF Corse Red-Multi D. Rigon / S. Bird / A. Bertolini 3:56.115
82 Ferrari 488 GTE 3810 Risi Competizione Red G. Fisichella / T. Vilander / M. Malucelli 3:56.170
55 Ferrari 458 GT2 2854 AF Corse Dk Green Met’- White D. Cameron / M. Griffin / A. Scott 3:58.869
60 Ferrari 458 GT2 2884 Formula Racing White-Red-Black J. Laursen / M. Mac / C. Nielsen 4:00.415
61 Ferrari 458 GT2 2880 Clearwater Racing Chrome-Orange-Yellow M. Sun / K. Sawa / R. Bell 3:59.300
62 Ferrari 458 GT2 2830 Scuderia Corsa Red-Blue & White Stripes B. Sweedler / T. Bell / J. Segal 3:58.981 83 Ferrari 458 GT2 2886 AF Corse Red-RWB Stripes F. Perodo / E. Collard / R. Aguas 3:59.313

Keith Bluemel

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