Wednesday, June 12, 9:30 p.m. after first practice session
AURORA V8 DEBUTS AT LE MANS
AT LONG LAST LE MANS! A new chapter in the Aurora odyssey opened today at the Circuit de la Sarthe, the home of the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. After winning the Daytona 24-hour and Sebring 12-hour races earlier this year, the Doyle Racing Oldsmobile Riley & Scott team took another step in its quest to win the "Triple Crown" of international endurance racing.
The Aurora V8's debut at Le Mans was another motorsports milestone for Oldsmobile -- in the auto company's 99 years, an Oldsmobile has never competed in the world's most prestigious and demanding endurance race. Olds can make auto racing history this weekend by becoming the first manufacturer to sweep the "Triple Crown" in a single year with the same car, drivers, and team. The 4.0-liter Motorsport Aurora V8 is based on the production four-cam Aurora V8 that is available exclusively in Oldsmobile's performance luxury sedan.
Drivers Wayne Taylor, Jim Pace, and Scott Sharp all made qualifying runs in the first practice session for the 64th annual 24-hour classic. Taylor turned the Motorsport Aurora V8's fastest time at 3:53.272 (209.884 kph), which placed the Riley & Scott entry tenth on the qualifying list after the first of four sessions.
Under the rather arcane rules for this event, all three drivers must qualify within 130 percent of the average qualifying time in both daylight and darkness. Under this complex procedure, it's vital for the drivers to clear the hurdle of qualifying before the crew can focus on extracting the maximum performance from the machine. Taylor was the team's quickest qualifier, followed by Sharp (4:02) and Pace (4:05). The second qualifying session will begin at 9:00 p.m., and conclude at half past midnight.
"The car is much improved since we came to pre-qualifying in April," said Taylor, 35, of Altamonte Springs, Fla. "We're running lower revs now, and I'm very, very happy with the car. It's more stable over the bumps and through the fast sections, so I think we've made good changes to the chassis. Our goal for this session was to give all three drivers a few laps in the car; we'll take a step forward in the next session.
"After all the months of speculation and anticipation about going to Le Mans, it's a relief to finally get down to the business of racing. It's going to be a lot of fun!"
Jim Pace, 35, of Jacksonville was next on the track. "The car feels better than I remembered it," Pace reported. "The pre-qualifying session in April was the first time I had ever been to Le Mans, so my perspective may have been affected. The circuit's coming back, and everything feels really good. We've talked and talked about coming to Le Mans, the team has done all the work, and now it's time to start racing."
"It's important to have this car set up as well as we can for the twisty sections rather than try to make it go 240 mph down the Mulsanne Straight."
Scott Sharp, 28, of San Ramon, Calif. flew to Le Mans directly from the Detroit Grand Prix, where he competed in the Trans-Am event. During Memorial Day weekend, he became the Indy Racing League co-champion in the open-wheel series inaugural season. "I only had one timed lap today, but it was a good one," Sharp said. "I got caught up in traffic and had to back off, but still ran just over 4 minutes. We had a small oil leak from the breather hose; I saw the smoke in my mirror, so I came in. It turned out to be nothing, but it's better to be safe than sorry in practice.
"We know the Oldsmobile Aurora V8 is going to put out a lot of power -- and the Riley & Scott chassis is putting the power to the pavement well. We're trying to maximize our cornering speed, and an important part of that is coming off the turns well. I think we have everyone beat in that area now, and we'll continue to try to exploit that advantage. We only had a single day to pre-qualify in April, so we really didn't have time to work on the chassis. Now we're just starting to talk about the adjustments we can make.
"Coming to Le Mans is such a fabulous experience! There's such an intensity about the event, it's all I've been thinking about for the last three days -- but it still takes a few laps to get used to how the car shifts, brakes, and feels in the turns."
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