LE MANS SERIES SET FOR MEDITERRANEAN EXTRAVAGANZA The tight, twisting 4.750km (2.951 mile) Circuito Ricardo Tormo, 30km west of Valencia, will play host to the second round of the Le Mans Series this weekend, and the racing looks certain to be...
LE MANS SERIES SET FOR MEDITERRANEAN EXTRAVAGANZA
The tight, twisting 4.750km (2.951 mile) Circuito Ricardo Tormo, 30km west of Valencia, will play host to the second round of the Le Mans Series this weekend, and the racing looks certain to be even more thrilling than April's opening round in Monza The Valencia track was opened in September 1999 and has never hosted a round of the Le Mans Series before, yet many of the teams already know what to expect after winter testing here.
The field is limited to 46 cars for the first time, due to constraint of space, but traffic is still expected to be a problem. The Le Mans Series has four classes, each of different speeds and overtaking is a common feature even on the larger circuits.
On a circuit such as the Ricardo Tormo, the faster cars will have to thread their way carefully and effectively around the slower cars, the drivers of which will in turn have to keep one careful eye on their mirrors throughout the six-hour race.
Spain is well represented in three of the four classes. Marc Gene, the Ferrari Formula One test driver who now drives for Peugeot, won the opening round at Monza with Nicolas Minassian in their diesel-powered 908 HDi FAP to open an early lead in the drivers' title race. Yet their car is still at the beginning of its development, and Valencia may prove to be its toughest test yet.
The Portuguese-entered Quifel - ASM Team will also be looking to make up for disappointment in Italy when retirement meant that Spanish drivers Miguel de Castro, Angel Burgueno, and Portuguese Miguel Amaral, scored no points as they chase the 2007 drivers' title. They will drive in the "LM" P2 class, for cars weighing 750kg and with less power than the 925kg "LM" P1 cars, but they are more nimble and may be better able to cope with the anticipated traffic problems.
Aston Martin driver Antonio Garcia finished fourth in Monza, sharing his DBR9 with American Liz Halliday. They will be joined by former Grand Prix driver Christian Fittipaldi in Spain, and at Le Mans in June.
The competition in the GT1 class is fierce. The Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette team opened an early lead after finishing first and third at Monza, split by the AMR Larbre Competition, and Team Oreca will be looking to make up for its Italian disappointment after a rare engine failure with the Saleen.
Debutants in Valencia
This race will feature new cars in the "LM" P1 class, the first time they will be seen before they go on to race in the Le Mans 24-hours next month.
The Swiss Spirit Audi-powered Lola missed the first race but which has since passed its compulsory crash test. The Lola, powered by Audi's 3.6 litre V8 engine that won the 2005 Le Mans 24 hours, will be driven by Jean-Denis Deletraz, Maarcel Fassler and Iradj Alexander, who completed 75 laps at Silverstone in Britain on April 20 without a problem. The car was subsequently shipped to Ledenon in France where it underwent a further two days testing prior to the Spanish race.
Arena Motorsport will debut the Zytek 07S with Stefan Johansson and Hayanari Shimoda. The team tested for three days at the Paul Ricard circuit with Johansson, Shimoda and Tom Chilton, who will not race in Spain due to a clashing date with the British Touring Car Championship.
Series regulars battle for podium The Pescarolo Sport team is expecting to run its new 2007 bodywork at the Spanish race in a bid to get onto level terms with the series leaders.
Emmanuel Collard will be replaced for this race by Romain Dumas alongside Jean-Christophe Boullion. Jan Lammers will also be hoping for a better weekend than at Monza in his Racing for Holland Dome.
The RML team will be looking to avenge its defeat by the Horag Lista team in the "LM" P2 class after a water leak in Monza, and the reigning champion team, Barazi Epsilon is looking forward to its first racing laps in Spain after a fuel leak was discovered on the Monza grid.
In the GT2 class, Ferrari claimed the podium at Monza, and with its midengine configuration can again expect to be competitive in Spain.
Yet the Felbermayr-Proton Porsche of Xavier Pompidou and Marc Lieb was unlucky to lose a lap behind the safety car in Italy, and the team expects to be more competitive in Spain.
Three cars entered for the season will miss the Spanish race, including Creation, whose chassis passed its crash test in April, Scuderia Lavaggi and Markland Racing.