Category Archives: 24 Hours of Le Mans

Scuderia Villorba Corse Takes Postives And Great Experiences Away From ‘Road To Le Mans’

Treviso-based Scuderia Villorba Corse took many positives and some great experiences away from its two-car entry into the inaugural ‘Road to Le Mans’ race, which was run on the Circuit de la Sarthe on the morning of the 2016 24 Heures du Mans.

The #8 Ferrari F458 Italia GT3, piloted by Cedric Mezard and Steeve Hiesse finished 24th overall and 11th in the GT3 class while the #7 Nissan-powered Ligier JS P3 with Roberto Lacorte and Giorgio Sernagiotto at the wheel finished 34th overall and 17th in class.

“The weekend of this official ‘Road to Le Mans’ served as a Road to Le Mans for the team,” said Team Principal Raimondo Amadio. ”All the work the team did has been a preparation for the future. The team and the drivers used all the miles, as far as possible, that were available to them. Sernagiotto, despite only one lap in free practice, was able to set the fifth fastest time in qualifying and was then fast in the race. The progression in terms of the stop-watch is undoubtedly positive but the important thing is the experience lived by the whole team and the information and data we have been able to gather, even in the wet.”

Photo: Scuderia Villorba Corse
Photo: Scuderia Villorba Corse

Although the participation of the LM P3 cars did not count for the overall standings in the 2016 European Le Mans Series, the race for GT3 cars counted as the second round of the inaugural Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup.

The third round of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup will be held at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on July 16.

Triumph And Disaster – The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans – Part 1 – LMP1

When writing the story of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2016, one word summarised everybody’s thoughts about the LMP1 class and what the fight would boil down to. That word was – reliability.

As one commentator, when discussing the weather forecasts for race weekend, said:

“I want it to be dry so we can see these things break.”

As race weekend approached these facts were known: Toyota Gazoo Racing had rapidly advanced its development programme to race the 2017 car in 2016. Inevitably this had caused some head-scratching at the early rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship as the TS050 was being sorted. Porsche Team, Audi Sport Team Joest and Toyota Gazoo Racing were all only bringing two cars to Le Mans for financial and political expediency purposes. Audi and Porsche each had one less ‘bullet in the gun’ to fire at the challenge of the world’s greatest motor race. Porsche had changed to the 2015 battery pack for Le Mans. Audi had encountered some damper issues at the Test Weekend that took longer to resolve than we had come to expect from a team that could change a whole back end of a car in less than ten minutes.

Continue reading Triumph And Disaster – The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans – Part 1 – LMP1

Notebook From Le Mans – Final Thoughts

As a day has passed since the EnduranceAndGt team sneaked on a ferry before chaos ensued in Calais, I thought I would record some thoughts on the race, and race week, when I could put them in perspective whilst they were still fresh in my mind. Detailed reports on four classes, and race results, will follow shortly. Anyway…

The Experience:

Anybody who has attended a 24 Hours of Le Mans has lived through an experience that few global sporting occasions can match. The Indy 500 possibly matches it. The Monaco Grand Prix as well but in a different way. But the immense challenge of racing a car round the Circuit de la Sarthe for 24 hours in weather that is guaranteed to present extremes is, well, in my opinion, in a class of its own.

This year, however, the experience was off the scale. A number of factors, which included the weather, the build-up in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the expectations of history being made, all conspired to produce something which will live in the minds of all those who were there for a long time. Let’s look at some of those factors in more detail.

Photo: Roger jenkins
Photo: Roger jenkins

The Weather:

The weather this year was biblical in the extremes it threw at all concerned. I have never known a Le Mans where it was either raining, had just rained or was about to rain for the entire week leading up to the race, which curtailed the final qualifying session and which caused the race to start under a safety car.

Continue reading Notebook From Le Mans – Final Thoughts

Notebook From Le Mans – Friday – June 17

Friday June 17 dawned as have all the other days so far for Le Mans 2016 – damp, overcast with the threat of rain and soggy underfoot.

The previous night’s second qualifying session was red-flagged for an hour due to the poor weather conditions and teams, drivers and spectators alike are all massively frustrated at the lack of dry running that we have seen this week.

As there was no track action on the Friday before the race weekend, the EnduranceAndGT team took some time first thing re-arranging the Mont-Bizot Data Centre before venturing off to the ‘Virage de Mulsanne’ event which takes place at the world-famous Mulsanne Corner. The theme of this year’s event was ‘Fifty Years of Ford’ and, parked on the apex of the Mulsanne Corner were a number of beautiful examples of Ford machinery. These varied from some immaculate Ford GT40 replicas to more contemporary Ford GTs along with some interesting Capri and Taunus examples.

Collection Of Inalteras - Photo: Roger Jenkins
Collection Of Inalteras – Photo: Roger Jenkins

What made the event even more interesting was that the track was closed to vehicles from Mulsanne Corner towards Indianapolis, allowing the visitor to walk unimpeded along the circuit towards the Rolex signage over the track.

If you did not visit the Mulsanne event this year, I would strongly recommend it for future years as it made for a fascinating trip.

We then drove back down the Mulsanne Straight (yes, I know it has two chicanes) and back past Le Mans to get back to our camp-site just before another thunderstorm struck and the heavens opened. We sat it out and finally jumped in the car to get back to Le Mans for the ‘Grands Parades des Pilotes’.

Thankfully the rain stayed away and we found ourselves an excellent viewing spot next to the start of the Parade where EnduranceAndGT photographer, Roger Jenkins, could capture some great images of the festivities.

Roman Rusinov, Driver Of #26 G-Drive Racing with Rene Rast and Will Stevens (Background) - Photo Roger Jenkins
Roman Rusinov, Driver Of #26 G-Drive Racing with Rene Rast and Will Stevens (Background) – Photo Roger Jenkins

First through while we were there were the Porsche LMP1 drivers who seemed to be having fun even though they must be ‘champing at the bit’ to get racing by this stage of the week. Pictured below are the Porsche LM GTE drivers.

Drivers of #91 Porsche 911 RSR - Patrick Pilet, Kevin Estre and Nick Tandy. Photo: Roger Jenkins
Drivers of #91 Porsche 911 RSR – Patrick Pilet, Kevin Estre and Nick Tandy. Photo: Roger Jenkins

But that is it. Practise, qualifying, media events and parades are over. The real reason why we are all here begins in earnest on Saturday June 18. The weather forecast suggests that clearer, dryer weather should start to move in as the weekend progresses but Saturday could see some very mixed conditions as the build-up to 15:00 approaches.

We shall be at the circuit from 08:00 to observe the final warm-ups, the support races and finally the flag dropping on the 24 Hours of Le Mans at 15:00. This is where it gets really interesting….

Porsche and G-Drive Racing Take Provisional Poles At Busy Le Mans Qualifying

The #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid with Neel Jani at the wheel took provisional pole with a 3:19.733 in a two-hour qualifying practice that took on extra significance because of the weather.

In a week that has seen torrential downpours at some stage every day and with more bad weather forecast, many teams were looking to put in a ‘banker lap’ in the first qualifying session on the basis that better opportunities may not be available.

The #1 Porsche was second quickest with a 3:20.203 lap time set by Timo Bernhard. The #6 Toyota Gazoo racing Toyota TS050 – Hybrid was third quickest with a 3:30.737 set by Stephane Sarazin. Although some of the Toyota drivers made it plain that they were using the session to establish a race balance and were not looking to make headlines, clearly the issue of the weather was on everyone’s mind.

In LMP2 the #26 G-Drive Racing Nissan-powered ORECA 05 set an early provisional class pole time of 3:36.605 with René Rast driving and that was never bettered throughout the rest of the session. Nelson Panciatici was second quickest in the #35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine A460 with a 3:37.225. Rounding out the top three in LMP2 was the second Alpine A460, this time the #36 Signatech Alpine where Nicolas Lapierre set a 3:37.225.

The #68 and #69 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GTs were quickest in LMGTE Pro. Dirk Muller in #68 car set a 3:51.185 whilst Ryan Briscoe was less than half a second behind with a 3:51.497. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE in the hands of Gianmaria Bruni was third quickest with a 3:51.568.

In LM GTE Am Clearwater Racing with the #61 Ferrari 458 Italia took provisional class pole with Rob Bell driving with a 3:56.827. Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage was second quickest with a 37.198. Closing out the top three in class was the #55 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia which set a 3:57.596 with Matt Griffin driving.

Although Thursday morning’s forecast was for light rain with the risk of thunderstorms, there were deluges in various areas close to the circuit so many teams must be looking nervously at the two two-hour qualifying sessions this evening, the first of which starts at 19:00.

Porsche Tops Timesheets At Le Mans Practise

As track action started in earnest, it was Porsche who took first blood after Neel Jani set the fastest time of the session in the last hour of the four-hour practise session on June 15 with a 3:22.011 in the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid. .

Second quickest was the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid with a 3:22.550 set by Mark Webber earlier in the afternoon.

Rounding out the top three in the LMP1 class was the #8 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 in which Lucas di Grassi set a 3:22.985 before the car was pushed back into the garage for some work on a damper.

In the LMP2 class last year’s class winners KCMG set the fastest time of the session with a 3:39.133 with Richard Bradley at the wheel. The #36 Signatech Alpine A460 was second quickest with a 3:39.721 set by Stephane Richelmi. Third quickest was the #23 Panis Barthez Compétition Ligier JS P2 when Paul-Loup Chatin set a 3:40.308.

Ferrari set the top two quickest times in LM GTE Pro when the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE driven by Gianmaria Bruni set a 3:53.833. Second quickest with a 3:54.180 was the #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE with Toni Vilander at the wheel. Third quickest, with a 3:55.436 was the first of the Ford GTs, the #68 car, with Sébastien Bourdais driving.

In LM GTE Am it was Clearwater Racing in the #61 Ferrari 458 Italia which set the pace when Robb Bell set a 3:57.543. The #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia was second quickest with a 3:59.103 with Townsend Bell at the wheel. Rounding out the top three in class was the #83 AF Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia when Emmanuel Collard set a 3:59.294 in his 22nd appearance at the French classic.

The first qualifying session starts at 22:00 local time and runs for two hours.