Lowe's Fernandez Racing Wraps Up Sebring Winter Test; Michel Jourdain Jr. Returns to Line-Up
Lowe's Fernandez Racing continued its preparations for the start of the American Le Mans Series season with its second test of the year at Sebring International Raceway. Participating in the ALMS "Winter Test" which concluded today, team regulars Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz shared the cockpit of the #15 Lowe's Acura ARX-01b LMP2 prototype with Michel Jourdain Jr., who will join the squad for the Sebring and Petit Le Mans endurance classics.
The team enters its third season of ALMS competition with few changes from its 2008 campaign. In addition to a slightly modified paint scheme on the Michelin-shod Lowe's machine, adjustments were made to the chassis to conform with new ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest) guidelines. The ACO, which administers the technical rules, requires all LMP2 cars to weigh 850 pounds in 2009, up 110 pounds from last year, as well as mandating a 10 percent smaller engine intake restrictor (which is now 40.7mm) and increasing the rear Gurney flap by 5mm making it now 20mm total.
Lowe's Fernandez Racing turned 216 laps over the course of the three-day test on the 3.7-mile road course and is preparing for an additional day of testing on Sebring's short course tomorrow in preparation for the Long Beach and St. Petersburg events. Fernandez posted the quickest lap for the trio with a 1:46.540 (125.023 mph).
* A priority for the test was to give Michel Jourdain Jr. driving time at Sebring. Jourdain last drove at Sebring over 10 years ago, turning a handful of laps in a test with Panoz Motorsports.
* Jourdain's first appearance with Lowe's Fernandez Racing was at the 2008 Petit Le Mans.
* The off-season provided time for Fernandez to relocate. He and his family are now residents of Miami, Florida.
Fernandez on testing and the new season: "I am excited for the start of the season and, obviously, we enter with new expectations in competition and with the new rules. We have tested the car twice now at Sebring and have put up quite a few miles. We feel positive that the things we have learned from last year are going to help us be more reliable and to finish races, which was our number one issue. We are preparing Michel, Luis and myself for our next test here in February which will be the last one before the race weekend, so we are going through all of the necessary and normal things we do in preparation for these long races. So far, everything is going well. We have put some good miles on the car and Michel is getting up to speed after not being in the car since Petit. He and Luis are doing a good job. We are looking forward to a good season and to representing our sponsors and partners Lowe's, Acura and Michelin with strong results. If we can finish races, I know we can win."
Fernandez on the new rules: "The car is 50 kilos heavier plus the intake restrictor is 10 percent smaller than last year which makes the car quite a bit slower. We also have a five millimeter bigger Gurney on the back which makes the car go a little bit slower on the straights. In all, the car feels heavier and slower and it is harder to pass the GT2s than before. For us, we have to focus on our competition which, at the moment, is Dyson Racing with the Mazdas. We are doing our work as always."
Fernandez on developments to the chassis: "We feel pretty positive about our season and the performance of the Lowe's Acura car. It's a car that has been well-developed so there is not much additional development that is going to happen on this car. It's a car we know pretty well. The only thing we have to consider is the speed which is going to be different with the new rules so there are going to be some changes with gearing and setup, and the car may need to be a bit stiffer in some places because it is heavier. It is like putting both Luis and I in the car at the same time. That's how much heavier it is and that changes the way the car behaves."
Diaz on the ALMS Winter Test: "The test has been very positive. There have been no major problems with the car. We have been looking more for durability than speed. I think durability last year was our weakness. We don't want to get too confident about the performance of the car because we know conditions will be a lot different for the race here with the weather, but we are showing progress with the changes we are making. We are expecting to lose some overall grip so we are trying to find even more grip than we normally have. I am anticipating a lot of very tough competition from the Mazdas. Even though we are expecting fewer competitors, the quality of the ones that are going to be here is quite high so I am not relaxing at all. Everyone needs to keep working and we will relax after the year is over."
Jourdain on returning to Sebring and ALMS competition: "It is fun to be back here at Sebring. The short course is one I know quite well but it has been about five years since I have been there. The big track is quite difficult, especially the last corner and Turn One. There are a couple of bumps that are hard to miss and it is difficult to get a good line. We have another test before the race and I am just taking it easy. I am in no big rush to be on the limit. Adrian and Luis are doing a good job at that and setting up the car so I am just building up the speed in those two corners. Everywhere else, I feel quite good. There is just so much history at this track. My dad raced here a couple of times in the '70s and also my uncle. It is a race that I have always wanted to do and it is even better to be able to do it with two of my best friends."