Le Mans Test Day Can Be Strong Indicator of What Is To Come Petersen/ White Lightning Looks to Get Off on Right Foot Sunday LE MANS, France, June 2, 2006 -- Past successes show the significance of Sunday's (June 4) Test Day for the 24...
Le Mans Test Day Can Be Strong Indicator of What Is To Come
Petersen/ White Lightning Looks to Get Off on Right Foot Sunday
LE MANS, France, June 2, 2006 -- Past successes show the significance of Sunday's (June 4) Test Day for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Test Day can give a great deal of insight into how a team will perform when everyone returns for the 74th Annual 24 Heures Du Mans on June 17-18. In 2003, Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing came to Le Mans, France and debuted by setting the fastest lap on Test Day. The team, then collaborating with Alex Job Racing, went on to win the LM GT class of the event. In 2004, Petersen/ White Lightning returned and again dominated pre-event testing with driver Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany). The Michael Petersen-owned team went on to take their second Le Mans LM GT (now LM GT2) title. Last season, the 2005 American Le Mans Series GT2 Champions entered the world's most famous sports car event and set an unofficial track record of four minutes, 4.915 seconds in testing. They would finish second, on the same lap as the class winner, when the clock turned 24 hours. The test marks the first laps of 2006 that the No. 90 Krohn/ Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR will turn on the 8.6-mile Circuit de la Sarthe. The two-time Le Mans winners hope that they can continue the streak of strong test and race performances by getting off on the right foot this Sunday.
Owner Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev., USA) and official entrant/ team manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA) have entered regular American Le Mans Series team driver Bergmeister as well as endurance race team driver Nic Jonsson (a native of Sweden currently living in Buford, Georgia, USA). Tracy Krohn (Houston, Texas, USA) will be the third driver in the Krohn-sponsored car for the 24 hour classic.
Sunday's Test Day has always been important to the overall success of any program at Le Mans. Due to the nature of the Le Mans circuit, which utilizes large portions of public roads thereby preventing pre-event, private test sessions, the eight hours of open practice are crucial to teams in fine-tuning their machines. While the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that Petersen/ White Lightning has brought to Le Mans differs very little in design from the car they have utilized to take a win and second-place in GT2 the last two years in France, the smallest change can have a major impact on lap times. A case in point; the Michelin Tire-shod Petersen Porsche that set the fast time in 2005 was the same car that was nearly a second slower on its way to the 2004 class pole position and race victory.
Mechanically, the only major change for 2006 is a smaller restrictor placed on the Porsche 3.8 liter, flat six, "boxer" engine. The restrictor will not allow as much air into the engine thereby lowering horsepower numbers on the long, Mulsanne Straight that makes up nearly the whole back portion of the Le Mans course. The reduced horsepower will force Petersen/ White Lightning engineer Frank Funke (Wetter, Germany) to find more speed through cornering and lower aerodynamic downforce settings.
Beyond learning the longest track they will race on all season, the Test Day will also have another major significance for two of the three team drivers. While both Jonsson and Krohn are experienced drivers, each is a rookie at Le Mans, and will be required to run ten laps for the Automobile Club De L'Ouest (ACO)-- official sanctioning body of Le Mans-- to earn certification to return in two weeks to race. Bergmeister is making his fifth Le Mans start, his third straight with Petersen/ White Lightning, and therefore does not need to earn certification this year.
A scheduling conflict will keep all three drivers in the United States up until approximately 9 PM (ET) the night before. The all-night flight will land in Le Mans during the break between the morning test session, scheduled for 9 AM to 1 PM local time, and the afternoon session, to run between 2 and 6 PM. Therefore, both drivers will need to turn their ten laps in that second session. As the most experienced of the drivers, Bergmeister will focus purely on race setup during his limited time behind the wheel.
Official practice and qualifying, four sessions in all spread across two days, are scheduled for June 14 and 15. The 24 Heures du Mans will start on June 17 at 5 PM local time.
Dale White, Team Manager/ Entrant: "Test Day at Le Mans is always important. It is a momentum builder. This year it will be as important as any since the first time we came here in '04. It will be our first chance to shake the car down after the complete rebuild we did following the ALMS race at Mid-Ohio. We also need to get Tracy and Nic approved by the ACO. Neither of them has ever raced here so they both need to do ten laps each. That can take a lot of time at Le Mans with the out and in laps and over four minutes a lap at speed. We'll also only have half a day to do it which makes it that much tougher. I don't have any concerns about them both getting up to speed and approved quickly but we still need things to go smoothly. Eight hours, or in our case four hours, isn't as long as you might think. So far, things have been going well and we're confident for the rest of our stay here."