Le Mans Series Paul Ricard test report 2011-03-11

Story Highlights

  • Rebellion Racing finishes with the fastest time
  • Pescarolo's comeback
  • Seven cars in LM GTE Pro

This Friday saw the kick-off of the Le Mans Series on the first day of official testing, Twenty-seven cars took to the track on the legendary Le Castellet circuit for the first skirmish of the 2011 season. The majority of teams used the day to get to know their cars, and some were already testing at racing speeds.

Rebellion Racing with two Lola-Toyotas

In LM P1, all the teams had new equipment that they had to run in on the Var circuit. Rebellion Racing had a couple of Lola B10/60s powered by new Toyota engines. “We're very happy with this engine partnership that we're developing on a long-term basis,” explained Bart Hayden, the Swiss outfit's team manager. “We've put our finger on all the problems that prevented us from winning in the past, and we hope to convert our potential into quick lap times. We're ready to take up the challenge.”

Pescarolo's comeback

#16 Pescarolo Sport Pescarolo - Judd: Emmanuel Collard, Christophe Tinseau, Julien Jousse
#16 Pescarolo Sport Pescarolo - Judd: Emmanuel Collard, Christophe Tinseau, Julien Jousse

Photo by: DPPI

The Pescarolo squad has decided to keep the Pescarolo-Judd, that was supposed to race in 2010, and the French team used the first day to rediscover its car after a year's absence. “As we didn't race in 2010, we don't really know it well,” said Henri Pescarolo. “So it's like a new racer and we're tackling things methodically by carrying out aero tests and taking certain measurements to prepare for the Le Castellet 6 Hours and the Spa-Francorchamps 1000 kms. We're finding our marks again.”

Quifel-ASM – upsetting the applecart?

The newcomer in LM P1 is the team that knows its car the best as the Quifel-ASM outfit has taken advantage of the regulations to change categories while keeping its Zytek 09SC. “Miguel Amaral wanted to race in LM P1,” said Olivier Pla. “It's not going to be easy against Rebellion and Pescarolo, but we're determined to do our best.”

Two Oreca chassis in LM P2

In LM P2, innovation was also the name of the game. RML turned up with its new HPD ARX-01d, and the Oreca 03 made its debut in the paddock with the Race Performance and TDS Racing teams, the latter also running in the Le Mans Series for the first time. “We've got eveything to learn,” admitted Pierre Thiriet, one of the TDS Racing drivers. “There's a great field and the prototypes are very quick. Cornering speeds, the aero grip and the braking are all very impressive. We've got a lot to do.”

#51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia: Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni
#51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia: Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni

Photo by: DPPI

Seven cars in LM GTE Pro

The LM GTE Pro category consisting of Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin, seemed to be the most competitive with seven cars on the track. The most attention-grabbing new arrival, the Ferrari F458 Italia prepared by AF Corse is being driven by Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella. “It's my second season and last year I had good results for a rookie” said Fisichella, a former Ferrari F1 driver. “I'm now with Gianmaria, one of the best GT drivers and also a good friend. We're up against tough rivals, but we've got a lot of potential and we hope to win the title this season.”

LM GTE Am shared between Ferrari and Porsche

In the GTE Am category made up of less experienced drivers, the teams are also going flat out to find performance. Kessel Racing is competing against battle-hardened outfits like IMSA Performance Matmut and AF Corse and is putting a lot of effort into its Ferrari F430 GT. “We're trying to find the best solutions for the car,” said Tiziana Borghi, the team manager. “It's our first year in the Le Mans Series and we're proud to be part of the field. We've still got a lot of work to do to find pace.”

A no-holds-barred battle in perspective in Formula Le Mans

In Formula Le Mans, the four teams involved took to the track straight away to start their season. “It's a day for fettling in the car,” smiled Farida Zadi, the JMB Stradale logistics manager. “The drivers are not here to push or set a time, but to get to know the car.”

Practice summary

The opening day of Le Mans Series test session launched the eighth season of the championship. The Paul Ricard circuit weather was cool and overcast (10°C) which lasted all day. The teams began testing almost immediately as several of them had new cars.

#36 RML HPD ARX -01d: Mike Newton, Thomas Erdos, Ben Collins
#36 RML HPD ARX -01d: Mike Newton, Thomas Erdos, Ben Collins

Photo by: DPPI

A hotly-disputed opening morning

In the morning the Quifel-ASM Team dominated in 1m46.851s set early on, and it was not beaten until the end of the first session. In LM P2, despite the fact that it was the team's first outing with the Oreca 03, TDS Racing was quickest in 1m50.062s. JMB Racing, which knows the Paul Ricard circuit well as it is based there, dominated in Formula Le Mans in 1m57.952s. The closest-fought battle was in LM GTE Pro, which agures well for ding-dong duels in the races. In the morning, the Hankook Team Farnbacher Ferrari F430 GT set the quickest lap in 1m59.306s in front of the Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 997 RSR. In LM GTE Am, the no. 72 AF Corse Ferrari was fastest in 2m00.340s. Hope Racing's no. 91 FLM-Oreca 09 covered the most laps with a total of 71.

Rebellion Racing finishes with the fastest time

The weather was the same for the afternoon. The hierarchy evolved, though. The no. 13 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota led at the start before being beaten by the Pescarolo-Judd in the middle of the session. The Quifel ASM Team set the fastest lap in 1m46.597s, but the no. 13 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota finished on top in 1m 46.573s, the quickest of the day. In LM P2, TDS Racing again set the best time in 1m50.291s. In Formula Le Mans, Neil Garner Motorsport put in a stunning lap in 1m54.179s. In LM GTE Pro, the Team Hankook Farnbacher Ferrari F430 GT remained unbeaten and improved to 1m58.106s. IMSA Performance Matmut dominated in LM GTE Am with its no. 67 Porsche 997 RSR lapping in 2m00.080s.

Teams and drivers are back on the track this Saturday for the second day's test sessions from 09h00 to 13h00 and 14h00 till 18h00.

-source: le mans series