Teams & Drivers report from La Sarthe
TOMMY KENDALL DIARY
Tommy Kendall will pilot the No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R this weekend in the 24 Hour of Le Mans. He is teamed with Kuno Wittmer and Jonathan Bomarito and will be making his second start in the event. This is the first in a four-part series as Kendall provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of his return to Le Mans to compete in the historic road racing event.
I’ve been in Europe two weeks. I got here for the test (June 9) and we went through that. Didn’t get a lot of running in but we learned some stuff. After that, we had six days off. I went to Paris, met up with my wife, and had a great time taking in the sights. Really enjoyed myself; that city is something else. We rented the little Velib’ bikes that you can pick up and drop off all over the city and spent the day seeing the sights.
Then I crossed the channel to England for two days to film some SPEED Test Drive footage and then back to Paris for a day. Once we got here, there’s not a lot going on but it’s actually nice. Some of the guys are a little crazy, feeling cabin fever. I’ve actually enjoyed it, getting settled. We’ve got these little cabins here, they’re like a mobile home. They’re brand new, kind of IKEA-style inside, three bedrooms. Each car has its own cabin. It’s close quarters but fun. Life around Dominik Farnbacher is like traveling with the circus. He is just one of a kind in a purely positive way – just a total free spirit and fun to be around. That’s been great.
The buildup for this race is remarkable. It’s such a big event; it’s our version of the Indy 500 the way it’s stretched out. Some people, it might make ‘em crazy but I think the pageantry adds to the meaning. Everything is bigger.
Tech inspection as an event is bigger than a lot of races I’ve been involved in. There are probably 30,000 fans there for the two days. Not only do they have programs that you sign but a lot of ‘em have made their own autograph books, hand-lined, with your name filled in ahead of time with a space to sign.
And it’s a real tech inspection. Your paperwork has to be exactly right. If the wording is flipped, you get refused. I mean, it’s very, very official and so there’s some stress involved.
The payoff is when you get through tech and you do the team photo. A lot of time goes into how we are going to line up the cars, line up the people. Those photos are you’re memento, a keepsake. That, to me, summed up more than a year of total dedication and commitment by a ton of people to get to this point.
On Tuesday, we had an autograph session at the track and then team photos on the circuit last night. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I was happy that we were going to finally do something other than take pictures and get inspected. It was time to burn some high-test racing gasoline and hear some engines.
Rain put a little damper on Wednesday’s practice but we got in some quality track time.
The schedule here just underscores how different this event is. The first on track activity Wednesday was at 4:00 p.m. The first on track activity Thursday was at 7:00 p.m. It’s almost like you never have to get off U.S. time. The whole jetlag issue where you can’t fall asleep at night and you don’t want to get up in the morning actually works in your favor if you stay on it. You force yourself to try to get on it because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do but it would really behoove you to stay up late every night. Race day, we’ll be at the track early but the race doesn’t start until three o’clock.
Again, the schedule is just so odd. We were on the track four to eight Wednesday and then 10 to midnight. That’s the night session, even though it’s not even dark yet at 10. Race day Saturday is literally the day after the shortest night of the year so there’s probably about five hours of total darkness, which is nice.
We had practice seven to nine and 10 to 12 Thursday night. There’s absolutely nothing on track on Friday. That’s when the parade takes place downtown. I’m looking forward to it as well.
There was a lot of nervous energy in the driver briefing today. Like I said, a lot of work has gone into this, a lot of anticipation. Now, the real work starts. We’ve got a lot to do. A lot of these teams have been coming year after year after year and I’m sure even they are a little bit nervous but it’s a little more automatic for them in terms of what’s going on and what to expect and so forth. We’re just trying to make sure we’ve thought of everything that can happen and have plans in place and be prepared. Now it’s doing what we do – race.
Based on the data we gather during the June 9 test session, Kuno (Wittmer, a teammate) flew back to Canada with Matt (Bejnarowicz), the engineer on the 93 car, to work on some things we thought would improve performance.
Straightaway speed is really, really important here. They tried some things that they thought would work but they didn’t. They kept working and discovered some things they hadn’t thought of before that did work. We’re anxious to find out if what they found correlates as well on the track as it did during their test.
Until tomorrow, have a great day.
source: Denny Darnell, darnellcommunications.net
Lotus Praga LMP2 Second Day at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
- #31 Kevin Weeda (USA) – James Rossiter (GBR) – Christophe Bouchut (FRA)
- #32 Thomas Holzer (GER) – Dominik Kraihamer (AUT) – Jan Charouz (CZE)
- Qualifying 2
- #32 Position 9 (LMP2) Lap time 4:12.327
- #31 no time
- Qualifying 3
- #32 Position 15 (LMP2) Lap time 3:46.490
- #31 Position 16 (LMP2) Lap time 3:47.920
Lotus Praga LMP2 hit the track at the second day of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Thomas Holzer, Dominik Kraihamer and Jan Charouz in car #32 will start from position 15. Kevin Weeda, James Rossiter and Christophe Bouchut (#31) qualified 16th for the legendary endurance race.
There have been a lot of red flag periods during all qualifying sessions which didn’t make it easy. The weather has also played an important role in finding the right timing to go out on track. Due to heavy rain showers before the start of the second qualifying, it was quite tricky to drive at the Circuit des 24 Heures. The track was still damp during the third and final qualifying, but dried up until the end of the session.
Lotus is now getting ready for the race and looking forward to representing the black and gold colours on the legendary circuit. The race will start on Saturday, 22nd June, at 15:00 hours local time.
Christophe Bouchut, Race Driver #31:
“We had good practice sessions and the car has a big potential. It is always a special feeling to race at night and also quite challenging for the driver. At Le Mans, racing at night is simply amazing. I know this circuit quite well and I am very looking forward to the start of my 20th race at Le Mans.”
Thomas Holzer, Race Driver #32:
“It was great to be back at Le Mans and driving the new Lotus Praga T128 LMP2. We have made another step forward and I am quite happy with the car. I think that we can have a good race and I am very confident. It is going to be a long race and I am looking forward to fighting with our competitors.”
FRANCK MAILLEUX AND MORAND RACING TO START LE MANS 24 HOURS FROM POSITIVE FOURTH IN LMP2
Franck Mailleux and the Morand Racing team will start this weekend’s 90th anniversary Le Mans 24 Hours race from fourth in LMP2 after another interrupted day of running at the La Sarthe circuit.
More inclement weather conditions met the teams and drivers in the opening qualifying practice session, which prevented anyone from improving lap times compared to yesterday’s dry session. Franck completed just one exploratory lap in today’s first qualifying session as the mixed track conditions, which saw two thirds of the track wet and the other third dry, made for complicated driving conditions.
This evening’s session was extended to 2h30 after a red flag in the first qualifying practice cut short running time. With the 13.6km track drying out all the time, it was looking to be a real fight to the finish for the overall best qualifying time of the week but a combination of yellow flags and traffic affected Franck’s final attempts at pole position. Nonetheless, his impressive lap from Wednesday still stood as the fourth quickest LMP2 time of the three qualifying sessions and the Morand Racing team will be starting Saturday’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with the podium well in their sights.
It has been a disruptive week of Le Mans action so far with a total of six red flag periods over the four timed sessions but it will all be good practice for the Morand Racing team as they look to prepare for any eventuality for this weekend’s race. The lack of dry weather running will be an issue that all teams will have to prepare for but thankfully Morand Racing and Franck Mailleux have plenty of experience of Le Mans which will prove invaluable if conditions continue to be unpredictable. Starting from fourth in class, the team will be hoping to continue their recent strong performances from the European Le Mans Series into the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Franck Mailleux said: “It was another really tricky day here at Le Mans but ultimately I think we can be satisfied with fourth in class and 12th overall. We had a good result yesterday and I am pleased with the performances that I have put in considering the changeable weather conditions. Today’s opening session was a write-off because of the weather and the fact it was cut short because of a red flag. In the extended second session, we were able to get more running but it was still intermittent because of red flags and then lots of traffic later on. As the track dried, everyone was trying to make improvements but there were just too many yellow flags and a lot of traffic which made it impossible to get a clear lap. We tried our hardest but eventually our time from yesterday remained our best and was still good enough for fourth in class. This position gives us a good chance to fight for a class podium but it is an arduous race so we have to work hard to make sure we have the best strategy and to ensure we get everything out of the Morand Racing Morgan Judd LMP2 car and ourselves. We are heading into the final pre-race build-up and we have lots to discuss, although I am confident in our car and the Dunlop tyres, and I am very motivated for the race. We have the drivers’ parade tomorrow which is also something I always look forward to.”
For more information about Franck Mailleux, please visit www.franckmailleux.com or www.quadrasports.com
PIERRE RAGUES AND SIGNATECH-ALPINE SET TO CONTEST LE MANS 24 HOURS FROM 8TH IN LMP2 AFTER FRANTIC FINAL QUALIFYING
Pierre Ragues and the Signatech-Alpine team will line up in 16th place overall and eighth in LMP2 when the 24 Hours of Le Mans gets underway on Saturday afternoon after a tough day at the La Sarthe circuit on Thursday.
Ragues completed his required five night-time laps early on in the weather and red flag-affected session to confirm his participation in this weekend’s 90th anniversary event, which was his top priority for this evening’s session. However, the team will now prioritise finding the best race strategy to improve on its eighth place on the grid in the 24 hour race itself.
The tricky track conditions experienced in Wednesday’s first qualifying practice sessions continued into Thursday with the opening session of the day, the second of the week’s two-hour qualifying session, cut short due to an extended red flag period. The Signatech-Alpine squad opted for just a few exploratory laps in that weather affected opening session but the running was meaningless with parts of the 13.6km La Sarthe circuit wet and other parts dry.
Similar conditions started the second of Thursday’s sessions, which was extended to 2h30 to make up for the shortened first session, meaning that teams were initially unable to improve upon their best times from Wednesday’s qualifying session. As the track dried out in the latter stages, all cars were looking for key improvements but the combination of traffic and yellow flags meant that Signatech-Alpine had to settle for its eighth place.
The team will use Friday to look into all the data accumulated from the free practice and qualifying practice sessions as well as the information gathered from the official test day to prepare for the race, which could well be held in similarly mixed and changeable conditions as have been experienced this week.
Pierre Ragues said: “It was important for us today to set our required five laps in the night-time conditions to allow all drivers to take part in the race, and we achieved that in spite of the difficult track conditions. The first of today’s two qualifying practice sessions was really tough with some awkward mixed track conditions, some bits dry and some bits wet, so we only really carried out some careful laps to explore the track. In the evening session, we completed more laps but when I was on track the conditions were not as good as yesterday so we were not able to improve much on lap times. As the track improved in the closing part of the session, we were able to improve our time a bit but we will be starting eighth in class and 16th overall. It might not be the qualifying result we wanted but I am confident in our package, and with the Michelin tyres, and we know that 24 hours is an extremely long race in which anything can happen. We will use our combined experience and focus to make sure we get the most out of the car, the team and ourselves. We have tomorrow to sit down and plan our race strategy, as well as taking part in the drivers’ parade, which is always one of the highlights of Le Mans week.”
For more information about Pierre Ragues, please visit www.pierreragues.com or www.quadrasports.com
Pierre Ragues is backed by Group Auto www.groupautointernational.com
JOTA SPORT LEAVES IT LATE TO LINE UP THIRD AT LE MANS
Jota Sport will line up third on the LMP2 class grid for this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours thanks to Oliver Turvey’s excellent late flying lap during this evening’s night qualifying session at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Formula 1 Test Driver, who shares the team’s #38 Zytek-Nissan with Simon Dolan and Lucas Luhr, made the most of the dry conditions late in the final session to initially vault up to second place in the ultra-competitive LMP2 category, before a late improvement elsewhere left the British squad a still-impressive third.
Wednesday night and Thursday evening’s sessions had taken place on either a damp or wet circuit, and although that remained the case at the start of final qualifying, the track quickly improved as the night wore on. A late stoppage to clear debris then left less than 30 minutes to make the most of the week’s best conditions, and Turvey didn’t disappoint: not only was the Briton’s 3m40.459s lap good enough for third in class but it also put Jota ahead of its ELMS rivals.
What is more, all three drivers performed impeccably in the tricky conditions that caught out a number of their class rivals, allowing the team to enjoy a well deserved rest day tomorrow ahead of Saturday and Sunday’s main event.
Simon Dolan: “Out of 12 hours of scheduled running this week I’ve managed four timed laps! Red flags at the wrong time, sessions ending early and our need to run through the programme didn’t help matters. But the car feels good and that’s been translated into starting P3. So bearing in mind where we were 20 minutes before the end I’m very pleased!”
Oliver Turvey: “The conditions have been tricky and we’d not had a lot of track time before the last 30 minutes of qualifying. However, I’m pleased to be third even if pole position was perhaps a possibility on a fresh tyre run. But we’ve focused on the race, which ultimately is the most important thing. This is my first Le Mans and driving at night has been the biggest surprise, but also very special.”
Lucas Luhr: “It was difficult for everyone with the changing conditions and red flags, but that’s Le Mans. From our point of view we still need to work on the set-up a little bit. We’re almost there as it’s just a case of fine-tuning during Saturday’s warm-up and we’ll be in good shape for the race. It’s going to be an exciting battle, but also the toughest we’ve had this year in LMP2. It’s the strongest category and I’m looking forward to it.”
Sam Hignett, Team Principal: We wanted to be in the top six so to be starting third is a great effort. There have been no dramas, the car’s in one piece and it’s been reliable so it’s gone exactly according to plan thus far. Most of the preparations have been done – what you saw out there tonight was pretty much the car that will line up on Saturday. Overall I couldn’t have asked for much more.”
Dolan, Turvey and Luhr can now look forward to the traditional Drivers’ Parade through the centre of Le Mans tomorrow ahead of Saturday’s 24 Hours, which starts at 3pm local time.
Keep up to speed with the team at Le Mans by following @JotaSport on Twitter.
THE ALPINE A450 TO START FROM THE EIGHTH ROW OF THE GRID
- The starting grid line-up for the 90th anniversary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend was determined in the very final minutes of the last qualifying session.
- The Signatech Alpine-prepared Alpine A450 will begin the classic French endurance race from the eighth row of the grid, after setting the eighth-quickest time in the LMP2 class at 3m41.654s.
- The highlight of Friday will be the Drivers’ Parade through the centre of Le Mans. Track action resumes at 9.00am on Saturday with a 45-minute warm-up session ahead of the race which starts at 3.00pm.
The dreaded rain was largely conspicuous by its absence today, but the few short showers that did materialise were sufficient to leave the track wet for quite some time – to the extent that right up until the final hour of qualifying, yesterday’s benchmarks remained unbeaten.
The closing minutes, however, provided all crews with the opportunity to chase a quicker lap time as the clock ticked down towards midnight. At the wheel of the N°36 Alpine A450, Nelson Panciatici achieved a best effort of 3m41.654s to place the car eighth amongst the LMP2 runners.
“We have made a lot of progress in terms of the car’s performance,” explains Signatech Alpine team principal Philippe Sinault. “That is a great source of satisfaction. Nelson Panciatici did an excellent job, even if a combination of traffic and yellow flags prevented him from featuring amongst the class’s front-runners. We’re not going to look at the lap times anymore, though; now is the moment to shift our attentions to the big clock!”
After setting off on a last-ditch effort in the dying moments of the session, Nelson Panciatici ultimately wound up eighth in class: “I was hampered by traffic. Ok, perhaps we weren’t going to be battling for pole position, but a place inside the top four at least was well within reach. The Alpine A450 is performing well. That is promising for the race.”
A little earlier, Tristan Gommendy had been able to complete a number of laps: “Away from the racing line, certain parts of the track were still damp – with sections ready to catch you out right the way from the Mulsanne Straight to Indianapolis. We made good progress with the set-up of our Alpine A450, and now I can’t wait for the race to get going!”
Having taken to the circuit right at the beginning of the session, Pierre Ragues found himself needing to contend with a track surface that was still rather wet: “Two thirds of the lap were dry, the rest of it soaking wet. The team asked me to do five laps in order to ensure I completed my necessary night-time quota. That brief has been fulfilled.”
The cars will not run tomorrow, but will return to the track on Saturday morning for a 45-minute warm-up session. The start of this 90th anniversary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours will follow at 3.00pm, with the N°36 Alpine A450 going off the eighth row in the hands of Nelson Panciatici.