Le Mans Test Day Completed Ahead Of 24-Hour Race

Photo courtesy Audi Sport

Photo courtesy Audi Sport

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A week ahead of scrutineering for the 80th 24 Hours of Le Mans, the invited field congregated at The Sarthe race track for a test session to prepare for the seminal twice-around-the-clock endurance contest.

About 23,000 spectators came to the track on Sunday and watched the 61 cars perform.

In truth, there are 56 cars entered in the Le Mans race, but alternates are available should anyone fail to make the final call.

In the LMP1 category, the Audi cars were quickest with the pair of R18 e-tron quattro hybrids heading the brace of R18 Ultra TDI coupes.

Allan McNish was the quickest man of the day at 3:25.927, yet ended his test early when he hit the barrier at Tertre Rouge, unable to continue. "Our day was very productive but ended in disappointment," McNish said. "I drove fast and consistent lap times but unfortunately, toward the end while entering Tertre rouge I briefly touched the grass, spun 360 degrees and touched the guard rails," he explained.

The pair of Toyota TS030 hybrid coupes were also on-hand and were fourth and fifth on the day; Alex Wurz at 3:27.204 was only 1.3-seconds off the best mark set by McNish who noted, "The Toyotas amazed me. At top speed they were really much quicker than us."

The fastest of the pure gasoline cars was the No. 21 Strakka HPD ARX-03a driven by Danny Watts, coming in seventh just behind the second Audi R18 Ultra of Audi Sport North America. Rebellion Racing's two Lola/Toyota coupes were eighth and ninth with the Pescarolo team's Dome/Judd completing the top 10.

Despite an accident that caused spinal damage to driver Guillaume Moreau in the LMP1 Oak Pescarolo/Judd, OAK Racing placed its LMP2 Morgan/Nissan in first place for the test, ahead of Level 5's HPD ARX 03b driven by Scott Tucker, Chrisophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz.

Photo courtesy Highcroft Racing

Photo courtesy Highcroft Racing

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Slotted in the midst of the LMP2 and LMPC cars was the resident of Garage 56, the Nissan DeltaWing, which managed a best lap of 3:45.980, successfully running better than any of the LMGTE Pro teams.

"It was very encouraging for the race and we know in which direction to go in order to gain performance," said Marino Franchitti, one of three drivers. "The physics didn't lie and we've produced a car that does what it says on the box," added designer and creator Ben Bowlby. The DeltaWing is unclassified for this race.

In that LMGTE Pro category the Luxury Racing Ferrari 458 Italia was quickest while Corvette Racing was second and AF Corse's Ferrari 458 Italia came third. The Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8, best in the LMGTE Am category was right behind them.

A private test on the Le Mans Bugatti circuit took place on Tuesday, June 5 (in rainy conditions) with four teams participating: Audi Sport, Pescarolo, Toyota Racing and Starworks Motorsports, all looking to solidify their setups in advance of next week's race.

The cars qualified to run Le Mans will go through scrutineering on Sunday and Monday while practice begins on Wednesday, June 13th. The race begins on Saturday the 16th at 3PM and runs until the same time the following day. Weather reports call for showers in the area through the week, but should be updated as we get closer to grid time.

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