Risi's Rick Mayer - ALMS Le Mans spotlight

RICK MAYER THE INSIDE TRACK: THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, LE MANS, FRANCE I won't go into a detailed lap at le mans as lots of drivers put those articles out on the web and they do a much better job with the lap description than I could. However,...

RICK MAYER
THE INSIDE TRACK: THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, LE MANS, FRANCE

I won't go into a detailed lap at le mans as lots of drivers put those articles out on the web and they do a much better job with the lap description than I could. However, from an engineering standpoint, Le Mans is a totally different challenge from any other race on our circuit (or anyone else's!)

The Track

Le Mans is an 8.5 mile long track with a lap time of just over 4 minutes for the GT2 cars. A lap seems to go on forever here. You're constantly looking at the stop watch to ensure that you weren't day dreaming and just happened to miss a lap. Le Mans has 3 straights longer then a mile; trimming for speed here is key. We don't run this low down force level anywhere but here, so the Le Mans setup is unique.

It's difficult to endurance test the running gear (gearbox, drive shafts, wheel bearings etc.) in conditions that would mimic Le Mans running speeds and durations. Where can you run at such sustained (non-banked tracks) strait speeds (+295kph/+183mph) for such a large portion of a lap? Component wise, there's always a bit of "hope this will last" thinking going through your head in testing. The high budget teams do private endurance testing at Paul Ricard; that's an expensive endeavor and not quite in the Risi budget. We rely on Ferrari/Michelotto to do that testing and supply endurance proven components.

The F430 retains many components from the F360 which were endurance proven. And you have to think if you can run the Sebring 12 hours and 3 street courses with the same running gear, as these are extremely bumpy tracks, without problems, then Le Mans will not be an issue. The mechanical setup here isn't that tricky. The track is smooth and very high speed with only one slow corner. It's relatively easy on tires and you can typically double stint tires and drivers, and possibly triple stint at night. The night is quite short as it's light until 10.30p.

The Race

This is a true endurance race (crew and the car). The race warm-up is at 9am and the race starts at 3pm; the goal is "don't crash or otherwise hurt the car". Pit for fuel and tires and not to repair anything peripheral. Don't use the curbs; curbing could hurt the drive shafts. Run the ride heights a bit higher than normal to decrease the angle of the drive shafts and save the tripod joints.

The car that wins isn't always the fastest car but typically the car that only pits for fuel and tires. The benefit of being a few seconds a lap faster by possibly taking some risk are quickly negated by spending 30 minutes in the pits repairing crash damage.

-credit: alms

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Series ALMS , Le Mans