The Circuit de la Sarthe played host Sunday to the annual day of testing two weeks ahead of the 24 Hour French endurance classic at Le Mans. It marked the first time all 60 cars competing in the event were on the same track. With new liveries unveiled and press pouring over the time sheets, the test weekend left plenty to discuss and recap.
When the cars arrived mid-week, a Corvette grabbed the headlines with a radical liveried “Art Car,” that had the entire Motorsport world talking. Larbre Competition’s No. 50 Corvette C7.R features a comic strip-esque ‘Human’ livery. Deigned by street artist Ramzi Adek, the car looks nothing short of fantastic and is being praised by many as the best looking art car in recent memory. Perhaps the most unique piece of the livery is the artist used Day-Glo paint and will light up at night. Seeing the No. 50 circling Le Mans at night should be a special sight.
Once the timing screens were turned on and the cars took the track, familiar car No.’s occupied the top slots. Toyota dominated again, logging significantly more laps compared to Porsche and running without incident. The No. 7, 8, and 9 cars conveniently and sequentially finished a respective 1-2-3 on the day. The fastest time being turned by Mike Conway in the No. 7 at a 3:18.132.
Porsche meanwhile experienced some setbacks and finished 4th and 5th in the session. The No. 2 Porsche required a floor change after Brenden Hartley hit a cone in the 1st test session. This problem was followed by an engine change after an oil leak was discovered during the break between the two sessions. The problems limited the car to 74 laps on the day compared to the 100+ for the Toyota’s. Porsche’s No. 1 car finished behind the No. 2 on the timing sheets despite turning more laps and running problem free. The over 3 second gap between Porsche and Toyota is discouraging for the German marque, however Porsche undoubtedly possess some pace in hand.
The test session also signified the first laps for the new Gibson powered LMP2 machinery at Le Mans. All 4 FIA Homologated chassis (Oreca, Ligier, Dallara, & Riley-Multimatic) were represented, clocking top speeds faster than the fastest LMP1’s and setting impressive lap times. Although a lap time in the 3:25.000’s some engineers claim the cars are capeable of was not achieved, LMP2 cars did crack the 3:30.000 barrier for the first time ever at the track.
To put this pace in perspective, Martin Blundle’s ’99 pole time in a Toyota GT-One was a 3:31.857.
Nelson Panciatici lead the way in the category, turning a 3:28.146 in his Alpine-badged Oreca 07. The quickest non-Oreca chassis required some scrolling to find on the timing sheets. Finishing 14th quickest in class, the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier lapped La Sarthe at a 3:31.907 nearly a full 4 seconds slower than the fastest Oreca. Clearly, the Oreca chassis is the car to have at the moment. The pecking order appears to be Oreca, Ligier, Dallara, and Riley in LMP2.
In GTE-Pro, the US based No. 64 Corvette set the best time with a 3:54.701 followed by the pair of Porsche 911 RSR’s. Off the pace on the day were the Ferrari 488’s and Ford GT’s despite expert predictions heading into the weekend of being the favorite’s. The Ford team seemed especially concerned regarding their pace on the day. With a car designed for one purpose, repeating their dominance of Le Mans from ’66-’69 some 50 years later, Ford will have to find some time in their car before race day.
In GTE-Am, the No. 98 Aston Martin lead he way at the hands of Pedro Lamy with a 3:58.250 lap time followed by the stunning No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette.
As always with GTE, the final pecking order will depend on inevitable BOP changes ahead of the race. Hopefully sandbagging on test day was at a minimum and will result in a competitive 24 Hour race for all manufacturers.
Just two weeks remain between now and race day. Keep checking ltmsport for the lastest news and coverage coming from Le Mans. Follow @rob_c_14 for even more WEC and Le Mans news. We expect the announcements to be plentiful in the lead up to the green flag.