Series Teams, Drivers Prepare For Le Mans
Plenty of familiar faces, cars on display at this year’s Test Day
The return of the Test Day for the Le Mans 24 Hours proved beneficial for teams and drivers affiliated with the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. The 79th running of the world’s most famous auto race is set for June 11-12.
A number of drivers and teams from ALMS took advantage of the eight hours of track time on the full 8.3-mile circuit – a mix of purpose-built track and public roads. Level 5 Motorsports and Robertson Racing each had two cars present Sunday with each at Le Mans for the first time. In addition, Corvette Racing sent its full-season ALMS drivers to the Test Day, and a host of other drivers were present as well.
Christophe Bouchut set the fastest time of the Level 5 cars – a 3:48.147 in the four-hour afternoon session – in one of its two Lola-Honda coupes which ranked sixth among the LMP2 runners. Team owner Scott Tucker drove the sister Level 5 car to a fastest lap of 4:00.382 in his second time at Le Mans.
The lead Robertson Ford GT, running in the GTE-Pro class, set a best lap of 4:06.748 in the four-hour morning session. David Murry, Anthony Lazzaro and Colin Braun are sharing the entry. The second Robertson Ford – currently the first alternate among GT reserves for the race - of David Robertson, Andrea Robertson and Boris Said set a lap of 4:12.971 – also in the first session. This year will mark the first time at Le Mans for the GTE version of the car.
BMW Motorsport, winner in GT at the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, stood third and seventh in GTE Pro with their BMW M3 GTs. The No. 55 car, with Augusto Farfus, Jörg Müller and Dirk Werner at the wheel, set a best lap of 4:01.631. The Sebring-winning trio of Andy Priaulx, Dirk Müller and Joey Hand – making his Le Mans debut – shared driving duties in the second car, which stopped the clock at 4:03.856.
Although Corvette Racing will compete in the 24-hour race in the GTE-Pro class – reserved for professional teams – it used Larbre Competition's No. 50 Corvette C6.R that is entered in the GTE-Am class – for one-year-old cars with at least one gentleman-driver – and came away fastest in the category. Tommy Milner, making his first Le Mans run since 2007, set the car’s fastest time at 4:04.222 near the end of the afternoon session.
Most of the attention on the Test Day focused on Audi’s new R18 TDI factory prototype. Making its debut the coupe sat first, second and fourth as eight-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen set the fastest lap of the day – 3:27.687 – in the No. 3 car that he will drive with fellow former ALMS LMP1 champions Allan McNish and Dindo Capello.
The top four cars were less than 0.191 seconds apart. Fans planning to attend Road Atlanta’s Petit Le Mans in the fall should take notice as it will be the R18’s first race in North America as part of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.
Two of the new 2011-spec factory Peugeot 908s were in the top-five – the No. 8 Peugeot of Stephane Sarrazin at 3:27.876 on his final lap of the day and the No. 9 of Sebastien Bourdais at 3:28.304.