Alex Brundle was confident that the all-new Ligier would compare favourably with its seasoned LMP2 rivals.
Alex Brundle was left ‘extremely satisfied’ with the performance of his new G-Drive Racing by OAK Racing-run Ligier JS P2 Nissan as preparations for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours began in earnest at the official Test Day on Sunday (June 1).
After helping to spearhead Onroak Automotive’s winter development programme, the 23-year-old King’s Lynn resident – who finished second in the same class at last year’s race – was confident that the all-new Ligier would compare favourably with its seasoned LMP2 rivals. And so it proved during the first and only opportunity for teams to test at the 8.4-mile Circuit de la Sarthe ahead of the world’s greatest endurance race on June 14/15. 1671642 Lacking any relevant previous data, the team spent much of the morning working through aerodynamic configurations before settling on the best compromise between maximising downforce and minimising drag. The special nature of Le Mans, which comprises sections of high-speed closed public roads and purpose-built race circuit, makes this a tricky task, especially as it’s so difficult to replicate such conditions anywhere else in the world.
To end the day fourth in a class of 17 was therefore an excellent start for the car, which was making its first public appearance of the season at the Test Day ahead of its race debut in two weeks’ time.
But while undoubtedly delighted with the Ligier’s performance, Brundle was also keen to play down the significance of the result.
“We’re in the ballpark performance-wise, that’s for sure,” he explained. “We aren’t in the business of setting headline-grabbing times because there’s no practical value in it. What we’ve seen is an honest appraisal of where we stand, so I’m pretty happy to be P4.
“We had a good day, moving through downforce settings before settling on one that seemed to offer a good compromise. We’ve certainly learned something new about the car that we couldn’t during previous tests, either because you can’t replicate the same conditions elsewhere or there’s no other teams to compare against. We’re still looking for a little bit of straight-line speed but that’s been balanced out by excellent grip through the corners.
“Because the circuit gets used once a year conditions were quite tricky early in the day, but as soon as the rubber started going down it was actually quite quick. I wasn’t able to do a new tyre run when the track was at its best in the afternoon session and as a driver you’re forever left wanting more, but race preparation is always a more valuable use of precious track time. After all, we’ll spend much longer on worn rubber than fresh, and finding a way to manage that degradation can have a big impact on the result.”
Brundle returns to Le Mans on June 8 for the start of race week with scrutineering, a significant event in itself held in the town centre. That’s followed by free practice and qualifying on Wednesday and Thursday, before the final 24 hours begin at 3pm local time on Saturday afternoon.