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Le Mans: Monday Scrutineering Notebook

News and notes from the second day at the Place de Republique (and the end of the first!)

Belicchi confident of improved Dallara balance

Cetilar Villorba Corse driver Andrea Belicchi told DSC that he believes the Italian team will be able to close the gap to the Orecas during race week. The Dallaras reported to be lacking grip through corners, but extremely fast in a straight line, losing the team valuable time each lap.

“We think that we can make the car balance better, making it better through the corners,” he told DSC. “At the Test Day though, we had to focus on getting Roberto Lacorte and Giorgio Sernagiotto their first laps on the circuit.”

It begs the question though, why were the other Dallaras unable to extract better pace either?

Scott relaxed ahead of second Le Mans

Aaron Scott, this year racing with Spirit of Race in GTE Am with Duncan Cameron and Marco Cioci, told DSC that he feels relaxed about returning to the race after making his debut last year.

“Test Day was good,” he said. “Last year it was may first time and I didn’t feel totally comfortable. You feel pressure to, because it’s a big event.

“I’ve gelled pretty well with the 488 this year, it’s a lovely car to drive, the only thing I miss, and I think we all do, is the noise of the 458. The traffic is interesting. It’s different this year because of the LMP2s being so much quicker. On the plus side they’re going quicker down the straights so they can get past us before the braking points. But, they’re coming at us quicker this time, so we’ll have to react quicker, and we’ll see them more often. ”

He also commented on the difference in tyres at Le Mans. Racing in the ELMS, Spirit of Race is using a spec Dunlop tyre, while at Le Mans, they’ll be using Michelins.

“Tyres was a main focus for us at the Test Day, getting to grips with them. That was the first time we got to see them. They have a lot more grip round here than we were expecting, so it was a surprise.”

Stevens looking to return to the WEC

JMW Motorsport’s Will Stevens told DSC that he hopes to return to driving in the WEC this year, after making his debut last year with Manor WEC, and his Le Mans debut with G-Drive Racing in LMP2.

“I’m looking to return to the FIA WEC,” Stevens said. “I’m open to most options, but I am looking to race in GTE, as I believe it’s the best route for a driver like mine’s career, with the amount of factory interest.”

He also explained that his connection to JMW, securing his Le Mans drive came through former JMW driver Tim Sugden.

“I’ve known Tim for years, and he put me in touch and helped me get the drive,” he said. “I only want to come and race here if I have the chance to compete for a result, and in this year’s GTE Am field, I do with JMW. It’s a new car, and there will be a lot of learning to do, but at the Test Day, in my limited running, my impressions are that it’s an easy car to drive.”

Priaulx: “Let’s talk about BoP on Sunday night.”

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK’s Andy Priaualx – who currently leads the FIA WEC standings in GTE Pro – told DSC that he wasn’t surprised at the spread of the field in GTE Pro at the Test Day on pace.

“I’m not surprised by our performance at the Test Day,” he said. “We’re slower than last year, but with different BoP. It seems to be that Ferrari on the same BoP as last year are slower than us last year, slower than the fastest Porsche. I don’t think it’s worth talking about until after the race, until Sunday night, then we can see how wrong everybody got it.

“To be honest, everyone thinks: ‘Ford this, Ford that’, but just take a good look around at everyone else. We’re getting hung left right and centre for winning last year, but we’re racers, everyone else has been tittering around while we went out and won races, and this year, we won Silverstone. We have pushed like crazy.

“I would say put the mirror on the wall, maybe Ferrari should look at where they’re at, and see where they are come race day. Let’s see… Let’s see…”

Priaulx was also keen to point out how important Le Mans is in terms of points for the WEC.

“I have to think about points, with where we are going to be with the car we have to think about that. We’re going to drive as fast as we can and take the points, I hope we’d finish with good points. I’d love to win it, I’ve led it so many times, I think in 2011 BMW led here for 23 hours…”

Rao graduates

This week is going to be one to celebrate for Signatech Alpine driver Matt Rao, but not concerning his potential in the big race. The young Britain found out last night that he had graduated, receiving his final results from university after a sleepless night in anticipation. He’s now a qualified Motorsport Engineer after completing his Degree at Oxford Brookes University.

When asked if he’d be quitting driving and getting a proper job, he responded ‘not a chance!’

DSC sends him congratulations, a great achievement.

Conway quietly confident after Test Day showing

Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Mike Conway says he’s confident about his chances at winning this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours after such an impressive showing from the team at the Test Day. Despite that though, he’s sure that Porsche will have pace up its sleeve.

“It was a good roll our for us last week, all three cars were fast,” he told DSC. “We found good pace, and picked up from where we left off last year. The car is so improved too. It’s going to be a close fight anyway though, I can’t see one of us having a true advantage.

“I’m confident, but not thinking too far ahead. It’s such a long one, last year we thought Audi would be fastest but the conditions effected them.”

He also thinks that the lap record – set by Neel Jane in 2015 (3:16.887) – can be beaten this year, after Kobayashi managed to set a 3:18 at the test.

“I think we can better that, if you get a full clear lap maybe we’ll be knocking on the door of Jani’s record a few years ago. But it’s so hard to do that. It’ll be interesting to see what Porsche can do. It’ll all be who can do three or four stints on tyres, the average times at the test.

“The downforce kit for here is good though, the car is a lot lighter, and therefore better on the tyres. It’s one of those circuits that demands a lot of precision though, so getting as many laps in before the race will be key.

“If it’s a scorcher, it throws us into another window in terms of compounds we’ll take. We’d probably end up changing compounds during the race, and if you pick the wrong one, it can really hurt you.”

Cairoli looking forward to his first Le Mans

Proton Competition driver Matteo Cairoli is still new to the endurance discipline, making his WEC debut this year with the German Porsche customer, but feels up to speed with racing long distances already.

“I’d never competed in a 24-hour race before 2017, but I’ve done Dubai, Daytona and the Nürburgring already this year!” He chuckled. “Le Mans will be a bit easier than the N24, as there we have like 180 corners, here there’s lots of straights and you can relax a little bit. It is the most important race though, and we need to perform.

“It’s been a great experience in the WEC, driving with Christian Ried, I trust him 100 percent, and he’s fun to work with. We (himself and Marvin Dienst) are quicker than him,” he smirked, ” but that’s probably because of age. He’s a gentleman driver, but he doesn’t drive like one.

“Le Mans is going to be great, the Am field is very competitive, and even with the older Porsche, we feel we can still score a good result here, as it’ll all come down to BoP.”