Aston Martin Racing enjoys its first taste of the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours
Le Mans, 9 June 2010. For Aston Martin, along with all the other teams that will start at Le Mans this year, the waiting is finally over. After a year of anticipation, the team took to the track for the first time this afternoon for the opening free practice session from 16:00 to 20:00. Later on this evening, the team will embark on the first of three qualifying sessions -- from 22:00 until midnight.
As a large part of the circuit -- namely the legendary Mulsanne straight -- is usually the N138 main road towards Tours, the full Le Mans circuit is only open once a year. Consequently, the first session of running is always an adventure, with grip levels varying hugely.
Despite its name, the Mulsanne is actually far from being straight -- and the asphalt on it is very different in nature to that used on the permanent circuit. Consequently, it is important to take great care during the first outing on the track.
The two Works Aston Martin racing crews ended the first free practice session successfully, proving themselves to be the quickest of the petrol runners and giving each driver the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the unique conditions.
Now the team is embarking on the first of the qualifying sessions this evening -- although the times set are unlikely to count towards the final grid positions, unless it rains during the two sessions scheduled for tomorrow. With unpredictable weather on the horizon, this remains a possibility: underlining the importance of the preparation work that has been carried out so far.
In the end, success at Le Mans is rarely about speed over just one lap though: it's all about keeping a consistent pace over the 24 hours and achieving a solid level of reliability. The work done in free practice plays a vital role in meeting this objective.
After the opening four-hour free practice session, Team Principal George Howard-Chappell concluded: "We're working through our programme and it's nice to have some dry running. All our drivers have had some experience of the car now and they're in the groove. We're well prepared to decide our strategy for qualifying."
Adrian Fernandez (MX): "Free practice was good for me: I strung 12 or 13 laps together, which is going to give me a good taste of what's to come. I've competed at Le Mans just once before, in an open-topped LMP2 car, but the LMP1 car is quite a different experience and I've already noticed that the visibility is much more limited in a closed car. I've not got the same amount of experience as my team mates here, so for me it's just about learning today and getting in as much distance as I can."
Stefan Mucke (D): "I think we've got off to a good start; during the free practice session I was actually only about a second off my qualifying time from last year. This doesn't mean too much though as I'm sure that there is plenty more to come from everyone else, as well as a bit more from ourselves. The weather tomorrow could be uncertain, so it will be important to have a decent qualifying lap in the bank tonight in case we need it later. Normally though, I'd expect the fastest times to come tomorrow."
Harold Primat (CH): "We're definitely getting there. I was quite encouraged by my first experience of the car here, as you always need a bit of time to play yourself back into the high-speed corners: Le Mans is very different to anywhere else. So far we've shown we're the best of the petrol runners in the first free practice, so while we still need to make some improvements, we're on target to achieve our objectives."
Juan Barazi (DK): "I didn't take any risks at all in the first free practice session. This was just an initial try-out: we've still got some way to go before we reach our final race configuration. We've got today and tomorrow to work on the set-up, so I'm sure that we'll have the car exactly the way we want it by then. The Aston Martin LMP1 is everything I expected it to be: the speed, the power and above all the sound of the V12 is completely charismatic. As for the team I've only got one word: awesome."
Sam Hancock (GB): "The track was very 'green' and slippery, and we mustn't forget that there are 42 rookies in the race this year, so we all made a very cautious start. I had a few problems with traffic in free practice and then I also came across another car that was broadside in front of me, so at first I didn't get that many clear laps. I'm looking forward to driving it at night now for the first qualifying session tonight."
Darren Turner (GB): "So far so good: it's just been a question of dialling ourselves back into the LMP1 car. In my estimate, I've only done 100 kilometres in the car since last September, so it takes a bit of time to get used to the way it handles again. We've really been doing what I call 'housework' during free practice: ticking off all the things we need to do before the start of the race. Basically we all need a bit more mileage in the car, but everybody is doing a very consistent job so far."
-source: aston martin