Ed Fahey – Le Mans Correspondent
Driving for one of the smaller privateer GTE-Am teams is no less of a challenge than driving for one of the larger GTE-Pro teams. The goals might be lower, but the focus is still the same. The lower number of staff on the team really brings people closer, with more of a family atmosphere than at a large works outfit.
One such entry is the JWA Avila Porsche 997, driven by Markus Palttala, Paul Daniels and Joel Camathias - Palttala being the Pro driver of the trio. “It’s a bit different to other teams I have raced with” commented Palttala. “I have much more involvement with this team off the track than I would with Marc VDS (the team that he races with in the Blancpain Endurance Series). I’m coaching the drivers not only in race craft and advice, but also in fitness training”. As we speak the other two drivers are behind us doing pushups and stints on an exercise bike in the paddock. Later on they were spotted running around the paddock together.
The team are also the only one in the race running on Pirelli tyres. There are pros and cons to being the only car on a certain brand of rubber: the main disadvantage is that you cannot compare your car’s times or swop setup tips, and also the tyre manufacturer cannot compare between cars.
“I’d rather be on Michelin development tyres” shrugs Palttala, “We did not have pressure sensors fitted during Wednesday’s qualifying sessions, so I went out to do a few laps and had a puncture almost immediately, which forced me to pull over out on the track. So I didn’t have much time in the car then, but they’re fitted now so it’s one less thing to worry about. The Pirellis might lack the ultimate pace of the Michelins, but over time we might pull a surprise: we certainly won’t be leading at the start, but if we stay consistent and out of trouble we could be in it at the end. Le Mans is a long race.”