Amid all the usual "sandbagging" that happens each and every year on testday, the name of Glickenhaus, entering only their third ever race, topped the charts at the end of nine hours of testing, with Olivier Pla topping the charts with a lap of 3:29.115 with almost the last lap of the two sessions.
Team Manager, Luca Cianchetti, said afterwards “It’s the first time we have come to Le Mans with this car, so we are trying to find out all of the performance, We are not hiding anything, so we are just trying to do the best we can. It was a good session. There are still some things to improve on the car, some small issues."
Sitting just two tenths behind came the first of the Toyotas, showing a similar pace. Indeed, the gap between the leading car and the Alpine in fourth place was less than half a second, so it will be interesting to see just how much "improvement" there will be between yesterday and Wednesday's qualification pace, or whether the ACO are close to their desired wish for the fastest cars to be making 3:30 laps.
Mike Conway, one of the partnership driving the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing's GR010, remarked, "We worked on improving the car step by step as the day went on. The conditions have been similar to what we expect for race week, so this helped us to understand what to do with the car. We are still learning and trying to optimise everything. It's always nice to be fastest but the important days are next week; today was just about getting things dialled in.”
The fastest LMP2 cars were less than two seconds behind the fastest of the Hypercars, a possible concern given the known reliability of the class against the newness and possible fragility of the Hypercars, which again raises the possibility of a LMP2 prototype overall win.
Fastest ended up being the #48 IDEC driven by Paul-Loup Chatin, the French team leading a host of others in the 3:31 bracket, and seventeen cars in total finished within three seconds of the class leader. All the usual suspects, like United Autosport, Team WRT, Panis Racing and Racing Team Nederland showed similar pace, the only championship team "off the pace" appeared to be JOTA Sport with both cars finishing close together in the middle of the class. But they know the pints and prizes are awarded next week, so maybe they were keeping their powder dry for the main event.
As Alex Brundle has remarked on a Twitter quote, "It looks like a race won/lost in the pits potentially!"
An honourable mention must be made of Frederic Sausset's SRT41 team, running in the Invitational Class, who's driving squad of Takuma Aoki, Nigel Bailly and Matthieu Lahaye beat a number of the regular LMP2 teams. "A test day of the 24 Hours of Le Mans that allowed Team SRT41.com to ride, and drivers to discover or rediscover the mythical Sarthois route. All in all, a very encouraging performance", was how Sausset summed up the day's action.
In both of the GTE classes, it was Porsche to the fore, with the Porsche GT team followed by the WeatherTech Racing team achieving a 1-2-3 in the Pro class, but both Ferraris were just 0.2s behind.
The mid-engined Corvettes appear to be close behind as well, but may need a small boost within the BoP calculations to bring it into parity. Antonio Garcia, long time Le Mans competitor and driver of the #64 CR.8 said "“I would have liked to do some more laps for sure since it’s the first year with the C8.R in Le Mans. But mostly out of the box it felt pretty decent, pretty good. We know which way to go; the things we worked on in the simulator seem to be working, which is a good thing. We’ll now try to get as much data as possible from both cars and work our way forward toward this week.”
Proton Competition and Team Project 1 led the twenty three runners in the Am category, with three seconds covering the entire class, so another close race long battle is expected. It is noticeable that the fastest of the Aston Martins was a full second behind, and the two cars run by TF Sport finished bottom of the pile. But will this order remain the same come Wednesday, when the racing takes on its official guise, and counts towards the results?
Overall, no major shocks or surprises, and thankfully no major incidents during the day, although some teams have some repairs to do after incidents out on track. It's now time to start the process of Race week, and ramp up the pressure stage by stage.
Text: Steve Tarrant
Photos: IDEC Sport, Antonin Vincent/ACO, Porsche AG