74th Le Mans 24 Hours LMP1 Preview Is the scheduling of the Le Mans test day two weeks before the race a good thing? On balance, wed stick with last years view that it is.. but perhaps there are a few more buts in the equation this year. The June 4 test day was an eventful one, wasnt it? The time factor (so few days back at base, plus more lost time travelling) necessitated an attempt at rounding up the test day on the evening of the event, but with hindsight, perhaps a longer pause, to absorb what happened, might have been appropriate. Anyway, in previewing the race itself, well inevitably be looking back at what has just occurred. Although there never seems to be enough time (were departing for France again on Sunday), were acutely aware that for some teams, the pressure this week is going to be intense. Rebuilding / modifying / testing / modifying again for some at least. And for the ACO, theres the tricky problem of that pit exit to be resolved. The teams were unanimous that the current layout is inappropriate. Dindo Capello admitted that he was scared by the current design, while Franck Montagny was very blunt: he wont be using the test day pitlane. Of course, less economical cars will lose more time with the test day layout (than last years pit exit) than more economical cars Team by team, heres dscs LMP1 Preview beginning with the Pescarolos and Audis, and then in no particular order. Pescarolo Sport Pescarolo Judd #16 Collard / Comas / Minassian Test Day: 3:32.205 (3rd) #17 Montagny / Helary / Loeb 3:30.195 (1st) Theres a theory that one car will be the hare on June 17/18, the other the tortoise. Add Nic Minassian to the #16 (in place of Christophe Bouchut) and #16 is the hare although Franck Montagny was the hare at the test day of course. Could the test day have gone any better for Henris team? Apart from the issue over whether Bouchut was in or not (for the race) probably not. 86 laps for one car, 96 for the other, and first and third fastest with Montagnys best lap nearly two seconds quicker than Audis best. The Pescarolos were faster in a straight line too but we can be confident that they dont get to 300 kph as fast as the R10s. The latest Judd 5 litre V10 is an impressive endurance engine, but even that doesnt have the torque of a turbo-diesel. The Pescarolos wont be as economical as the R10s, so in simple terms it looks as though the Audis have the potential to build an advantage as the hours tick by. But then theres reliability. The Pescarolos are at their peak this year: all those years of development have brought the green hybrids to this point where if they are more reliable than the R10s, they could win. Thats a slightly different situation to last year: they definitely would have beaten the R8s in 2005, but for one or two dramas. Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R10 #7 McNish / Kristensen / Capello 3:32.090 (2nd) #8 Werner / Biela / Pirro 3:33.160 (4th) Three months after the cars first race, a period which has included a massive amount of testing (30,000 km) and we probably shouldnt have any doubts about the reliability of the R10s. On race pace (and economy), the Audis almost certainly have the potential to win this one from the front and create the first instalment of the R10 diesel legend. It could be 2000/2001/2002 all over again. But still, its new (diesel) technology. But if an R8 train could swamp the field in 2000, why shouldnt the R10s? The diesel monsters, whatever the rumours about straight line speed at Paul Ricard, do not excel in that area at Le Mans. What they do do very well is apply their massive downforce through the fast corners. Overtaking slower traffic shouldnt be a problem out of corners, and youd have to believe that Audi could turn this race into a very long chase for the rest. Absolutely top-class driver line-ups. Can #8 spoil the Kristensen sequence? So an LMP1 thriller, like last year, or an Audi runaway win, like so many years in the current millennium? You decide. Courage Competition Courage LC70 Mugen #12 Frei / Fisken / Hancock 3:39.031 (10th) #13 Gounon / Nakano / Kurosawa 3:33.511 (5th) Here we really do have a hare the #13 Courage LC70 Mugen. Sam Hancock is the quick man in the #12 entry, and Gregor Fisken is enjoying driving a factory car, but the #13 is the quicker one. Jean-Marc Gounon enjoyed (Mugen and Yokohama assisted) pace at the test day (fifth fastest, 3:33.511), and the LC70 is really coming into its own now. Rear wing problems at the test day will have been sorted by race week, the Mugen is revving higher and smoother these days, and Jean-Marc has two quick co-drivers. Watch the Frenchman charge after (and among?) the top four at the start of the race he wont be able to stop himself! Can Yves Courage persuade either car to be around at the end though? Could a steady run by #12 pay dividends in the second half of the race? Swiss Spirit Courage LC70 Judd #5 Premat / Fassler / Peter 3:44.405 (11th) A superb run at Spa, to second in LMP1, vindicated Harald Primats choice of a Courage LC70 and Judd power. Philipp Peter joins the two regulars for Le Mans, and both he and Marcel Fassler completed their ten laps at the test day. The car owner didnt get in much track time though, a gearbox problem halting the LC70 at the start of the afternoon. Unusually for Courages, the new cars werent among the quickest on the straights, but with wing issues resolved, perhaps they will be during raceweek? With a reliable run, and problems elsewhere, a top three finish is a distinct possibility. Chamberlain-Synergy Lola B06/10 AER #19 Berridge / Evans / Owen 3:38.527 (9th) The 2005 Le Mans (Endurance) Series LMP2 Champions have enjoyed wildly differing levels of success so far this season. A fine run at Istanbul was further proof of the reliability of the new LMP1 package (which had been clocking up the miles in testing): damage to an air-jack in the warm-up created delays in the race, but these three still came home third in LMP1. Spa is best forgotten, as is Le Mans last year but the Le Mans test day saw the Lola completing almost as many laps as the big four. It wont challenge for a podium position in the first quarter of the race, but it might in the last quarter. The C version of the AER twin-turbo provides a broader power band than earlier versions, and still seems bullet-proof. Follow the privateers in the yellow B06/10 on dailysportscar, throughout race week. Racing for Holland Done S101HB Judd #14 Lammers / Johansson / Yoong 3:35.209 (6th) The re-engined Dome stuttered at the start of the test day, but came good in the end - and it set the fastest straight line speed, as well as finishing up an excellent sixth on the time sheets. That is a terrific endorsement of the skill of the Dutch engineers, in installing the Judd GV5 so competently and so quickly. The only team with three ex-F1 drivers: not F1 hot-heads of the current era, but F1 men with massive endurance experience between them. The team has a history of getting cars home too. Theres the potential here for a very good story at 17.00 on June 18. Creation Autosportif Creation 06/H Judd #9 Campbell-Walter / Ortiz / Gabbiani 3:37.556 (8th) JC-W is the perfect man to step up as the team leader. Nic Minassian didnt get a chance to really show us what the 06/H can do at the test day (fuel pump/filter problems at the end of the afternoon), but this team is sensibly looking at a top five finish but is still looking at a front two rows starting spot. Punctures were a worry on June 4, and the rear end is being re-worked this week, to make repairs quicker. If Felipe and Beppe can avoid on-track dramas, there is the possibility for a very good finish from the little blue car, to make amends for last year (and the lack of an entry the year before). Lister Storm Racing Lister Storm LMP #6 Moller / Kiesa / Pickering 3:54.099 (12th) The Lister wont be in contention for the win, but it might be a contender for a top six finishing position. Istanbul showed what can happen to a P1 class, especially with a number of new cars in the field: the reliability there was poor, and the Lister took second. Le Mans in the dry should see the winning car travelling seven times as far as the Istanbul winner, and nine of the LMP1s could legitimately be regarded as new cars. The Lister is effectively three years old, and will be looking to reliability as the first requirement, speed second. Zytek Engineering Zytek 06S #2 Nielsen / Elgaard / Andersen 3:36.774 (7th) The Zytek hybrid hasnt set the world on fire yet but Spa in early May was its maiden race. Theres a nice balance about the driving squad (youth, experience and pace), and its been commendably reliable. Perfectly placed to pick up the pieces if the top four have problems? Its always a pleasure to see John Nielsen at Le Mans. He missed out on an entry last year (and promptly won at Spa) and is threatening that this might be his last Le Mans. Summary: might we be heading for an LMP1 meltdown? Or a fantastic four car race for the win? Or Audi uber alles? Say one Pescarolo and one Audi meet problems: who is going to pick up a podium?