24 HOURS OF LE MANS WEEKEND NOTEBOOK It's not as easy as just one car at Le Mans compared to three in the American Le Mans Series for Flying Lizard Motorsports. No, we're talking about the 76th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans - a ...
24 HOURS OF LE MANS WEEKEND NOTEBOOK
It's not as easy as just one car at Le Mans compared to three in the American Le Mans Series for Flying Lizard Motorsports. No, we're talking about the 76th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans - a twice-around-the-clock classic enduro on one of the most demanding circuits in the world against sports car racing's best from all over the globe.
Jorg Bergmeister, Johannes van Overbeek and Seth Neiman will drive the Flying Lizard entry at Le Mans for the second straight year in GT2. Each also drives in separate Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs in the American Le Mans Series. To get a sense of scale, Le Mans is the equivalent of more than eight standard Series races at two hours, 45 minutes.
"Running a single car at Le Mans as compared to running three cars in the American Le Mans Series decreases the workload for some team members but doesn't provide much relief for some others," said team manager Eric Ingraham. "For the mechanics working on the car, the workload changes minimally, and the added work of preparing a car for a race of this length replaces any let-up as compared to an American Le Mans Series race weekend schedule."
Then he gives a few examples.
"For the folks that manage pieces which spread across multiple cars in the Series, the amount of Le Mans-specific work replaces the decreased breadth of view which we must have with three cars in the American Le Mans Series," he said. "For Tommy Sadler, our crew chief, the special Le Mans-specific prep tasks he must deal with include building complete spares packages, scheduling engine and transmission changes during race week, and many other pieces. For Thomas Blam, our chief strategist, the additional focus is on planning pit work practice and improving our pit work in general including brake pad changes, etc. For me as the team manager, I must focus on the logistics of getting all of us, our tools, equipment, spares, and car to and from France, plus the details of our garage and paddock environment to provide an effective work space for our team."
In case anyone is wondering, Flying Lizard leads in both the GT2 team and driver standings in the American Le Mans Series and was second-quickest in Sunday's annual Test Day.
AUDI'S ROAD TO LE MANS: This year at Le Mans, Audi will make its 10th start in the world's greatest motor race. The German marque debuted with third- and fourth-place overall finishes in 1999 with its R8R. But the year prior, the first on-track steps toward Audi's dominance came with a McLaren GTR entry that had very little fanfare.
Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro, now legendary Audi works drivers, drove the McLaren with Dr. Thomas Bscher for Gulf Team Davidoff. The event wasn't much of a success as the car retired after an accident in the 17th hour.
"It was like a dress rehearsal for Audi's Le Mans debut the following year," said Capello, a two-time Le Mans winner who made his debut that year. "Frank (Biela) did pre-qualifying with Thomas Bscher and me, but Frankie had to step down for the race because his wife was unwell, and Emanuele drove the McLaren F1 GTR with us.
"My first experience at Le Mans in 1998 was not a good one," the three-time Le Mans pole-winner continued. "I had gone from Super Touring to Le Mans and it was so much faster - I couldn't believe the speed. But saying that, along the Mulsanne the Mercedes, Toyotas and Porsches passed me as if I was stopped - it was incredible. These two sensations almost made me go home."
But he didn't and neither did Audi. Capello won his first Le Mans in 2003 with Bentley (which used an Audi TFSI engine) and repeated in 2004 for the independent Japanese Team Goh in an Audi R8.
Audi has won the race seven times since 2000 including three straight from 2000-2002 with the R8 and four consecutively from 2004 to 2007. The last two victories have come with the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI.
WHAT IF?: For the past year, the Corvette Racing trio of Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows have had to wonder - what if?
What if the last couple of hours at Le Mans last year had been run in the dry? What if the safety car had not come on course for nearly an hour (much to the delight of Audi's Emanuele Pirro ... among others), only to leave with 10 minutes to go in the race? And what if Fellows had been able to catch the leading Aston Martin? Would he have been able to pass for the lead?
No one will ever know. The Corvette C6.R finished a lap behind the class-winning DBR9 of David Brabham, Darren Turner and Rickard Rydell. At times, Fellows was cutting nearly 30 seconds a lap off Brabham in the final three rain-soaked hours.
"It would have been very interesting," O'Connell said. "We were strong in the wet. You don't know how hard Brabham was pushing. But that late in the race when someone is eating away at your time, it's hard to say how it would have shaken out. It would have been a much better finish to that race. But you look at the other guys' perspective and they were saying, 'We shouldn't be racing in this.'"
The 76th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans runs from 9 a.m. ET (3 p.m. local time) from the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France. Forty-two drivers will represent the American Le Mans Series, whose teams have captured seven overall victories and 22 class championships since 1999. SPEED will televise the event live, and Radio Le Mans will have flag-to-flag coverage of the race as well as the June 1 test day, and practice and qualifying on June 11 and 12.
The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. The race is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 12 at Lime Rock Park. SPEED will televise the race from noon to 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 13. XM Satellite Radio will air the event live on XM Sports Nation Channel 144. Additional live coverage from American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring also will be available at americanlemans.com.