Final preparations complete ahead of Le Mans assault
A studious first test for Alpine A450
- The 2013 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours is go, as the first official on-track action took place this evening – although a red flag deprived teams of 55 minutes of the first qualifying session.
- Nelson Panciatici posted the Alpine A450’s best time with a lap of 3m43.835s.
- Two further qualifying sessions are planned for Thursday, June 20 (7pm-9pm and 10pm-midnight).
Ten days after a positive Test Day, the Alpine A450 has returned to La Sarthe for the first official timed sessions ahead of the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours. Pierre Ragues only covered five laps during free practice, whilst the intended programme for qualifying was not able to be completed as a red flag interrupted proceedings shortly after midway through the two-hour session.
“We had decided beforehand that we would go for a quick lap time at the end of the session,” explained Signatech Alpine Team Principal Philippe Sinault, “but evidently the red flag prevented us from fulfilling our programme. Only Nelson Panciatici and Tristan Gommendy were able to take to the circuit in the evening. It was vital that Tristan got some track time in the Alpine A450 in the dry, and he duly achieved that. Now we have two more qualifying sessions tomorrow to move up the order…”
Having set the 16th-best time overall (and eighth-fastest in the LMP2 class), Nelson Panciatici was disappointed that he had not had the opportunity to demonstrate the full potential of the Alpine A450: “We began the session on part-worn tyres and full tanks in order to continue to work on our race set-up. We wanted to settle in before attempting to set a representative lap time, but the red flag unfortunately meant we were unable to complete our programme. We will have to keep our eyes on the sky now in the hope that the track remains dry tomorrow, because I am convinced we have the ability to set a quick time!”
“It was good to get back out on-track again,” acknowledged Tristan Gommendy. “There was a lot of traffic out there and, at night, it is always more difficult to establish solid reference points. I found that the car was under-steering quite a lot, so now we will conduct a full debrief in order to perfect the set-up of the Alpine A450 before the race.”
On Thursday, there will be two further qualifying sessions from 7pm until 9pm, and from 10pm until midnight. The starting grid for the race will be determined by the best lap times set over the course of the three qualifying sessions.
Pierre Ragues makes steady start on opening practice day at Le Mans
Signatech-Alpine driver Pierre Ragues has completed a steady day of activity at the La Sarthe circuit today as inclement weather conditions and a number of red flag periods have reduced the possibility to gather valuable track time on the opening day of practice.
Pierre, who is taking part in his seventh Le Mans, has had a positive build up to this year’s 90th anniversary event, having shown excellent pace in the official test day and having worked with simulation experts Ellip6 to prepare for the event. Pierre has worked closely with Ellip6 in the past to derive benefit from their state-of-the-art simulation technology to get to grips with circuits and this year’s Le Mans is no exception.
Pierre also has the honour of representing the prestigious Alpine brand at Le Mans, the first time that the Alpine name has been at Le Mans for 35 years. In fact, the Signatech-Alpine team and the striking livery of the A450 LMP2 car has generated a lot of buzz with the motorsport fans at La Sarthe so far this week.
With changeable track conditions in the first session, the team opted to carry out only five timed laps to carry out a brief assessment of the car and to conserve their efforts for the late evening session.
Nelson Panciatici started in the night time session handing over to Tristan Gommendy. The duo completed 16 laps between them as Pierre was due to take over but unfortunately the session was red flagged just as he was heading out and was not restarted. Pierre will therefore be looking forward to getting back into the cockpit in tomorrow’s two sessions, with the team keen to set a qualifying lap reflective of the pace of the Michelin-equipped Signatech-Alpine A450.
Pierre Ragues commented: “It was great to be out on track in the first session today, in front of the passionate Le Mans crowd and in spite of the difficult conditions. The opening practice was cut short by a red flag and we were not able to get any decent running due to the frequently changing weather. However, Nelson and Tristan got some good laps in this evening and we carried out some system checks and set-up evaluation, which will help us for tomorrow. Still, there is more to come as I have to get my required running in tomorrow night and the team will be looking for a good qualifying performance. I have no doubt that we will be able to achieve that and to start to show the sort of quick pace we demonstrated in the pre-event test. I’ve been fortunate to have worked in the Ellip6 simulator before this event and I am sure my years of experience at this track will help a lot. It’s a long, long week and we are only at the beginning, so we will keep focussed on the job in hand. We are a strong team and will be looking to uphold the Signatech-Alpine name.”
Pierre Ragues got a taste of La Sarthe in the first practice session on Wednesday afternoon
Pierre Ragues is backed by Group Auto www.groupautointernational.com
Franck Mailleux secures overall top ten place on opening practice day at Le Mans
Morand Racing driver Franck Mailleux has set the second best time in LMP2 in the first qualifying session at Le Mans, securing the team an overall top ten place after the opening day of track action.
Intermittent rain conditions and red flags resulted in an interrupted first day of free practice and qualifying for teams on Wednesday as they prepare for this weekend’s 90th anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The four-hour opening practice at the La Sarthe circuit was significantly affected by mixed weather conditions with a combination of wet, damp and drying track conditions preventing teams and drivers from completing much meaningful running in the late afternoon session. Nonetheless, the Morand Racing team amassed 16 laps in the first session even if the lap times were not representative of their true potential with the session also being stopped early due to a red flag.
The team embarked on their technical set-up work with the Dunlop-shod Morgan Judd LMP2 car in the changeable conditions but without compromising their focussed approach for the 24 Hour race, which starts on Saturday afternoon.
The two hour qualifying practice in the late evening was held in dry conditions with drivers endeavouring to complete the mandatory five laps to qualify themselves for the race. Another red flag period brought the session to an early end but Franck completed his required laps and registered the second quickest time in LMP2, a best lap of 3m40.741s.
Franck Mailleux commented: “We completed a total of 32 laps today which was quite an achievement considering the changing weather conditions in the first session and the fact that both sessions were cut short due to red flags. It wasn’t an easy day but we completed the required five laps in night-time conditions this evening and set a decent time to place us in the top ten overall and second in class. There is plenty more work to be done which is what we will use tomorrow’s two sessions. We had the chance to look at the car’s performance in wet, damp and dry conditions today so that was useful and the team is definitely pulling in the right direction. The atmosphere here at Le Mans is buzzing and I am looking forward to our progress in tomorrow’s two qualifying practice sessions.”
Franck Mailleux ended the opening day at Le Mans in tenth overall and second in LMP2
Final preparations complete ahead of Larbre Competition’s Le Mans assault
Larbre Competition’s preparations for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours continued with scrutineering in the city centre on Monday following the team’s annual team building training camp.
Over a week might has passed since the event’s official Test Day on June 9 but the French squad has not wasted a moment in its efforts to capture a third consecutive GTE Am class victory, and fourth in succession, with its pair of Corvette C6.Rs.
That evening all six drivers – Patrick Bornhauser, Julien Canal, Ricky Taylor, Manu Rodrigues, Philippe Dumas and Cooper MacNeil – along with Team Manager Jack Leconte, flew straight to the Golf du Medoc in Bordeaux for what has become its traditional pre-race team building exercise.
After all of the drivers were assessed by Larbre’s physical trainer Jerome Vassia, it was on to the National Centre for the Training of the Gendarmerie Forces (CNEFG) in Saint Astier near Perigueux where a special programme of activities, designed to instil team spirit, had been planned high in the tree tops.
Corvette factory driver Taylor then headed to America to fulfil his Grand-Am commitments, but was back in France, along with the rest of the team, for scrutineering at La Republique Square on Monday.
Patrick Bornhauser, #50 Corvette C6.R: “The camp at the Golf du Medoc again went well and allowed us to better get to know our new American team-mates. We completed the training course with the French gendarmerie, which included some new exercises that all of the drivers completed with flying colours.
Then on Monday we had scrutineering in downtown Le Mans. Once again it was a huge success as a lot of media attended and asked us if we could win the class for the third time in a row. The car and all of the drivers were passed fit for the race so all that’s left is to get out on track and see what happens. Let’s wait and see.”
Julien Canal, #50 Corvette C6.R: “We spent three great days at the training camp where Jérôme Vassia and Jack Leconte surprised me again! We have become closer, bonded and got to know each other better. I discovered different and very interesting character traits amongst the other drivers that I did not know about beforehand. I’d like to thank Larbre for that unforgettable experience. Scrutineering meanwhile is always a special moment, especially as I live in Le Mans. We can get closer to the public who get involved and help to create a warm atmosphere. It’s a great place to meet and chat with the fans and members of the media.”
Ricky Taylor, #50 Corvette C6.R: “I didn’t know what to expect ahead of the training camp, but the bond created between everyone was amazing. We all overcame our fears and struggled through some difficult exercises that required us to work together. I had a great time! I arrived at Le Mans following the Grand-Am race at Mid-Ohio over the weekend and have shifted my focus to concentrate entirely on this race. I’m delighted to have arrived without any issues and can’t wait to get out on track with the team to get a feel for it in dry conditions. Working with Larbre has been an excellent experience and I’m looking forward to continuing to build on our relationship this weekend.”
Manu Rodrigues, #70 Corvette C6.R: “The three-day training camp was a dream and everyone worked well together. Everybody was pulling or pushing in the same direction and this compensated for our differing physiques. In addition, the other drivers were relying on you, so there was no way you could disappoint them. The Gendarmes team was exceptional. Attending scrutineering with a team like Larbre, which has a big reputation and notoriety, is quite impressive. It is well structured and you can’t fail to be impressed. Everything is looked after 100% and you don’t feel alone: you are part of a team. In fact, you are the team. We have two great cars, two great crews and two great driver line-ups. Everything comes together to achieve our single goal: to finish in the best possible position.”
Philippe Dumas, #70 Corvette C6.R: “The training camp was a great idea to improve the team’s cohesion and there was a friendly atmosphere. After that you feel ready to participate in this team event. The two young American drivers are fantastic and have different personalities. To attend scrutineering in downtown Le Mans for the first time was one of the week’s special moments, and you can’t fail to enjoy it. To be part of a structure so well organised can only give you pleasure. My situation is quite unusual as I am also the Team Manager of a different outfit, so to find myself racing for Jack Leconte’s team is not common! It’s a great feeling. All that’s left to do is take part.”
Cooper MacNeil, #70 Corvette C6.R: “After the June 9th test, where we finished in the top eight of the GTE Am class, the drivers and team boss Jack Leconte went to Bordeaux for some team building. We had a great experience working out with the French National Guard. The drill instructors put us in fatigues and we jumped over logs, went through the obstacle course, helped each other climb a vertical wall and even crawled on our elbows through barbed wire. It was a very unique experience and great way to get to know my co-drivers Manu and Philippe better. During the rest of our stay in Bordeaux we kept physically fit by mountain biking and circuit training. We returned to Le Mans last Saturday for scrutineering. It’s a great way for the fans to get close to the cars and the drivers in the historic setting of downtown Le Mans. It was great! I must have signed 200 autographs. The European fans really like the American-made Corvette. It is a great part of the entire race experience. This is where you see the classic photos of the car, team members and drivers. It is a great way to present the team to the fans prior to the race.”
Jack Leconte, Team Manager: “As soon as the Test Day finished we headed straight for the Le Mans Arnage Airport where Patrick Bornhauser’s plane was waiting to fly us to the Golf du Medoc in Bordeaux. The following day we were welcomed at the National Centre for the Training of the Gendarmerie Forces (CNEFG) in Saint Astier near Perigueux. It now has a partnership with the Larbre team and, knowing the commitment of our drivers, an intense programme had been organised. The American drivers, who had not experienced these activities before, were happy to have a go once the surprise had sunk in! The team spent most of the day 25 metres above the ground. As all the activities could only be completed with everyone’s input, a strong spirit was able to spread throughout the team. Everyone then arrived at La Republique Square in Le Mans on Monday. Ricky Taylor only got there 20 minutes before scrutineering as he had been racing in the Grand-Am event at Mid-Ohio on the Saturday!”
The final two qualifying sessions take place on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s race, which begins at 3pm local time.
source: Larbre Competition