THE OLDSMOBILE UPDATE
"AMERICA'S TEAM" AT LE MANS: THE BID FOR RACING'S TRIPLE CROWN
Saturday, June 15, 1996; 4:00 p.m.
FIRST HOUR NOTES
ONE DOWN, 23 TO GO. The Doyle Racing Oldsmobile Riley & Scott Mk-III completed an uneventful first hour in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Lead driver WAYNE TAYLOR quickly settled into a comfortable and conservative race pace, turning laps between 3:55 and 3:57.
The track temperature today is significantly warmer than the conditions during qualifying and practice (qualifying sessions began at 7:00 p.m., as compared to the 3:00 p.m. race start). The crew is monitoring the tires closely, but has elected not to change tires through the first and second stops.
Taylor was running in eleventh place until he made his first scheduled pit stop at 3:33 p.m. The Riley & Scott crew was refueled, a larger air restrictor was fitted to the radiator inlet, and the Pirelli tires were inspected but not replaced.
The second routine stop for fuel came at 4:12 p.m. Taylor remained in the car, which was running 19th and remained on the lead lap.
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Saturday, June 15, 1996; 6:00 p.m.
THREE HOUR NOTES
5:00 p.m. (2 hours): Taylor is 12th, 29 laps (one lap behind the leading TWR Porsche).
5:47 p.m.: Taylor pits, and SCOTT SHARP replaces him. Sharp runs consistent laps at 3:55.
"The third stint of my three was very good," said Taylor. "Our lack of experience at Le Mans showed in the first stint when we restricted the air to the radiator too much, and the coolant temperatures ran a little hot. I had to back out of it and let everyone go until we could make the necessary changes [increasing the size of radiator air inlet opening] at the first stop. That brought the temperatures down, and now we're able to run the lap times we expected. We've run the same Pirelli tires for four stints now; if we are able to run long stretches without changing tires, you'll see the race come to us."
5:35. Sharp pits for fuel only. Tires are inspected but not changed.
6:00 (three hours): The Riley & Scott Oldsmobile is 6th, 43 laps, one lap behind the leading TWR Porsche of Reuter/Jones/Wurz.
6:02: Sharp in for fuel and first tire change.
PIT STOP STRATEGY is almost certain to play a role in determining the outcome of the 64th annual 24 Hours of Le Mans. Americans who are accustomed to watching lightning-quick NASCAR and Indy Car stops would find the stops at La Sarthe agonizingly slow. In fact, the slow-motion stops are a product of the unique rules under which the 24 Hours of Le Mans is contested.
The car must come to a complete stop and the engine turned off before any work commences. No one may touch the car while it is being refueled. Only after the fuel nozzle is withdrawn are the four mechanics permitted to begin working. Since tire changes dramatically increase the time spent in the pits, it is a strategic advantage to use the same tires as long as possible.
Each member of the crew wears a brightly colored vest which designates his function. The four mechanics wear orange; the scorers wear blue; the crew chief wears red, and the suppliers wear green armbands. The organizers have assigned a marshal to every pit; the marshal's job is to ensure that all rules are obeyed. The penalties for violations are almost as severe as those imposed during the French Revolution.
One additional crew man can assist the driver in buckling his safety belts. Kevin Pranger, the WSC engine program manager at Katech, Inc. (which builds the Motorsport Aurora V8 engines that power the Doyle Racing Riley & Scott Mk-III) is assigned the role of "manservant" at Le Mans.
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