The Racer's Group participated in the traditional test day for the 24 Hours of Le Mans today, completing eight hours of free testing under glorious blue skies in the northwest of France. As track temperatures rose throughout the day, teams found...
The Racer's Group participated in the traditional test day for the 24 Hours of Le Mans today, completing eight hours of free testing under glorious blue skies in the northwest of France. As track temperatures rose throughout the day, teams found their ultimate pace declining in the afternoon's second session, and all three TRG drivers used the time to put in their requisite laps for entry to the race. The team carried out a rigorous setup process, and watched as drivers' times declined, then stabilized through the afternoon, a sign of a growing comfort with the ultra-high speed circuit and a properly set-up car.
Lars Nielsen, who turned his first laps at the world famous circuit today, was impressed with the experience. "The track at Le Mans lives up to its reputation, and then some," he said. "It's a very mature track, unlike anything else in the world. The turns are banked right, and whoever laid the place out is a genius. The Mulsanne straight is fast and thrilling, but carrying all the speed through the turns here is the real key. TRG gave us a proper car to drive, set up so that it's easy to get around here at speed. Having eight hours here today to get some seat time was very helpful, and once I was able to settle down, I got a good rhythm going."
Gregor Fisken, who just prior to the test day drove a Porsche 356 Carrera in the Tour de France, a historic rally held annually in the south of the country, noted the difference between an early Porsche and a factory-fresh 911 GT3 RSR. "The TRG Porsche is unlike any other Porsche I've ever driven," he said, "its more than another level. The track is really, really, really exciting, and after I got used to driving such a responsive car 'round here, I've got a good idea of what a fast lap looks like. With the practice that the qualifying sessions afford us on race week, I think we 've got an exceptional race ahead of us. On the whole, I'm very happy and calm about the experience -- I have a very high level of confidence in the team, car and my co-drivers. We'd developed a plan for the test and then the race, and we're very happy about its progress."
Ian Donaldson, who will race at Le Mans for the first time come June, was happy with the day's results. "TRG gave us a very comfortable car," he said. "Other than a bit of low-speed handling fussiness, the car was spot on. The high-speed corners, where you really want to keep your nose clean, were perfectly set up. The '04 RSR is a big improvement over the '03 cars I 've driven; this car really seems to look for its edge -- it's got great brakes and terrific weight transfer. It's very compliant, and won't bite you in the arse, which is always good. I think we've got a great 24 hour car."
Team owner Kevin Buckler, who has stepped aside from driving in order to manage his team at Le Mans, was proud of the day's effort. "Lars, Ian and Gregor were splendid today," he said. "I'm proud of the three of them for getting accustomed to this place -- Le Mans is a pretty daunting place sometimes. As usual, our crew were flawless, and judging by the progress we 've made between the test and the race the past two years, I'd say we're sitting pretty for the 24 Hours."
The 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans runs on June 12-13 this year, and will be broadcast on Speed Channel in the US.