Last year's GTS winning team returned to Le Mans today with a varied programme of testing and development work planned. After eight hours on the 13.6km Sartoise track, the Care Racing supported Prodrive Ferrari team and all six drivers were ...
Last year's GTS winning team returned to Le Mans today with a varied programme of testing and development work planned. After eight hours on the 13.6km Sartoise track, the Care Racing supported Prodrive Ferrari team and all six drivers were satisfied with the progress attained, and - despite not ending up at the top of the GTS time sheets - are now confident that yet more progress can be made when they return for the 24 Hour race in June.
Five of the six drivers were returning to Le Mans, but it was the rookie driver, former World Rally Champion Colin McRae, who attracted much of the fans' and media attention.
Partnering Briton Darren Turner and Swede Rickard Rydell in their Ferrari 550 Maranello, McRae was allocated the majority of the seat time so he could familiarise himself with the track fully before June. The Scot made impressive progress during the day, his lap times lowering each time he went out, and ending up just a few tenths of a second behind his team mates.
Two of last year's GTS victors were in the sister car, Tomas Enge and Peter Kox, and they were joined by Alain Menu of Switzerland, returning to Le Mans for the first time since 2002. The trio worked solidly through a number of areas including tyre evaluation, race set up and fuel economy, and team director George Howard-Chappell was upbeat at the end of the day.
"The Corvettes were very fast today - very impressive. However, we made good progress and I think it's going to be very close when we get here in June. I wouldn't say I was unconcerned about the pace, because the competition speaks for itself, but clearly today we concentrated on preparing for the race and not on trying to set a fast lap time."
Tomas Enge: "Its lovely to be back at this fantastic race and especially at this fantastic track. We did a lot of work today, I think more than we did this time last year, so we are happy with all that. We hope at the race it will all work to our advantage."
Peter Kox: "I think we had a successful day, completing the programme we wanted to do. We really concentrated on the race set up and for that we now have lots of data. For sure the competition is fast - we expected that - but we still have some time in the car and I think we will catch up and be capable of beating them again."
Colin McRae: "It's been a good day and my lap times have been getting a bit closer to the other guys in the car which was my goal today. Bearing in mind we lost quite a bit of time this morning for the engine problem, I'm pleased with the time I did in the end.
"Physically, I was beginning to feel it a bit after the end of an hour, across the shoulders, and the race stints are going to be two or even three hours. It's more physical than driving a rally car but I enjoyed the challenge of that and don't think it's going to cause me any problems.
"I'd been sent a video of some in-car footage of the track which helped me learn where everything was. This morning I knew I was having some difficulty with the braking points, but also knew where I was losing time, so we compared the telemetry of car 66 to my laps and it was straight away better this afternoon."
Alain Menu: "I'm pleased to be back in the car for Le Mans. It was a good day's work and we got through all the programme we'd planned and we're pleased with the way it's going. We'll be even stronger in June."
Rickard Rydell: "I'm happy to be back at Le Mans and with Prodrive Ferrari. I think it went quite well today. I had a full stint in the car and our times were very consistent so it's looking okay for the race. We don't know what the Corvette can do though - it will be interesting for sure!"
Darren Turner: "It's nice to be back and good to get back in the car as well as the last time I drove it was in November at the Le Mans 1000kms. It's a special car and obviously it's a special track as well. Colin needed some time to get up to speed so it's been a bit of a 'bitty' day for me and I'm a bit disappointed I didn't get more laps but that's the way it goes sometimes. Overall it's been good though and I think I'm pretty much there or thereabouts on times - we worked well together and it's all looking good for June."