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Le Mans 24 Hours: Wednesday Paddock Notes

News and notes before the track action begins at Le Mans

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Jenson Button gets engaged

There is a double reason for Jenson Button to celebrate this week. Not only is the former Formula 1 Champion making his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this week, he has also announced his engagement to girlfriend Brittny Ward.

The SMP Racing driver has set the British tabloids alight with his Instagram post yesterday. To save you having to do the research, Button and Ward have been together since March 2016, not long after the breakdown of Button’s first marriage. Button will now have to work hard to concentrate on the task at hand, principally coming to terms with the updated SMP chassis following the team’s difficulties at the Spa 6 Hours. From all of us at DSC, we offer our congratulations to the happy couple.

Soon to be Mrs Button! 😍

A post shared by Jenson Button (@jensonbutton_22) on

Faces in the paddock

The allure of the Le Mans 24 Hours and its bustling paddock always brings with it many recognisable faces not competing in the race.

DSC spotted a variety of big names out and about in the paddock, including representatives from RML (scouting the Road to Le Mans paddock), former winner Benoit Treluyer, Mr Le Mans himself Tom Kristensen, as well as former Nissan LMP1 head Darren Cox and current Super GT star Jann Mardenborough.

“I missed Le Mans last year for the first time in 15 years,” Cox told DSC. “Now I’m back again for a look around, and I have to say, I want to find a way for Jann and me to be back here next year now.”

Darren Turner shows first photo of liveried Aston Martin Vulcan

Darren Turner gave the world a sneak peek at the new Aston Martin Vulcan Thunder that will race at the Aston Martin Festival on Saturday. The Vulcan will join the 38 car grid with Peter Dumbreck and Top Gear’s Chris Harris behind the wheel of the #14.

There will be three examples of the Vulcan, which features a 7.0 litre V12 engine. It will join a bunch of different Aston models for the race, including V12 Vantage GT3, Vantage GT1 and GT2s. The entry list for the race, including cars and drivers can be found HERE >>>.

Pescarolo honoured in Le Mans city centre

The now traditional hand print ceremony took place on Monday with last year’s winners Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard being immortalised with their handprints in bronze in Le Mans town centre.

The Le Mans legend, Henri Pescarolo, was also honoured (above) for his contribution to the sport with another plaque featuring his handprints. 2018 is the anniversary of his legendary drive in the 1968 when he and teammate Jean-Luc Lagardère drove through driving rain but without a result. He did go on to win four times (1972, 73, 74 and 84).

He has the most number of starts at 33, and also ran his own team from 1999 – 2013. A true Le Mans legend.

Notes from the Road to Le Mans paddock

With a 50-car entry the official Le Mans ‘feeder’ series has an impressive presence here this week, the Road To Le Mans paddock looking very professionally turned out.

The news is that the Ligier JSP3’s have been handed a performance boost for their 4 litre Nissan powerplants, though one or two other adjustments have confused the LMP3 fraternity.

The RLR MSport camp was in upbeat mood, with the team’s two-car Ligier entry, rapid Dutchman Job van Uitert positive about their chances having been drawing more speed from Canadian co-driver John Ferano. Aussie Josh Burdon was in similar mood, his Chinese team-mate Neric Wei enjoying his first experience of the Le Mans vibe.

Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen are fielding no less than four JSP3’s here this week; three of which are their own (one the ex-Speedworks LMP3 UK Cup car), the fourth on loan from United Autosport.

Alex Kapadia took time to explain how the car feels from a driver’s perspective: “The ‘P3 car is quite similar to a ‘P2 in its basic form, but apart from the lesser degree of control and adjustment allowed from the cockpit, it’s the aero that is noticeably different. The LMP3 is flat bottomed for a start, which means any kerb contact can be far more detrimental.

“An LMP2 has curvature in the undertray consistent with more sophisticated aero, so you can take more kerb without worrying about damage. Small adjustments to the ride height and rear wing can make a radical adjustment to how this car handles, a couple of millimetres the difference between neutral handling and understeer / oversteer.

“The Ligier is a fairly stiff car to drive from that point of view, the suspension is fairly unforgiving, particularly in the slower corners, and the power delivery is less progressive than a ‘P2 machine. But it’s a positive experience; these cars are proper prototypes and once you’ve dialled them in they give a driver a good, confident feeling.”

Having been permitted a rear-view camera at Monza, this apparatus has somehow been dropped from the homologation for LMP3 cars here at Le Mans.

It was also good to see James Wimslow back in a drive at DKR Engineering, keen to get stuck in with the distinctive green-liveried Norma M30, having recovered from his serious brake failure and high-speed accident at the Gulf 12 hours.

“It’s not been easy; loss of balance and vertigo was an issue that took time to settle, but it’s great to be here with a well-prepared team and I’m keen to get back in the groove.”

The eight-car GT entry is almost entirely Ferraris, a lone Porsche 911 GT3 R brought by Ebimotors prospects against the six 488s and single 458 GT3s, soon to play out as we approach the first Free Practice session this evening.