Riley upbeat ahead of customer Ford debut with Keating
Bill Riley, who is part of the team running the Keating Motorsports GTE Am effort with the Wynn’s Ford GT told DSC today that he is really enjoying the chance to run the first customer car for the ‘Blue Oval’s GTE programme.
Even at this early stage he is confident that the team’s driver combination of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and Felipe Fraga can be a force in this year’s race.
“Working with the Ganassi team is a real pleasure,” he said. “They’ve helped us a lot, getting up to speed with this, now it’s down to us to deliver it. The car came to us pretty much turn-key, so we’ve just got to do maintenance and set up work.
“At the test we made sure Felipe got his minimum laps in, and that Ben and Jeroen got used to the car. It was a true test day, lots of box ticking. We wanted to be a little faster, but it didn’t happen, we didn’t go for a mock qualifying run.
“There’s plenty to look forward to, we have a strong line-up and this team is the same we run in the US, which means there’s a lot of familiarity for us, and that’s really important.”
Risi hoping for dry running prior to the race
Risi Competizione race engineer Rick Mayer says the team is hoping for more dry running during practice and qualifying to help it prepare for the race. The American team, which is the only privateer running in GTE Pro this year, is competing with a brand new chassis and three drivers with limited experience behind the wheel of the Ferrari 488 GTE.
Both Jules Gounon and Oliver Jarvis hadn’t even driven a GTE car prior to the Test Day, while Pipo Derani only has one start in a 488 GTE under his belt, at last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours with AF Corse.
Unfortunately for Risi, a combination of new car niggles and the dash from Detroit (for Derani and Jarvis) and Paul Ricard (for Gounon), meant the trio missed out on valuable track time and completed the fewest laps of anyone in the class.
“It’s going to be tough for us, because we lost a lot of track time at the Test Day,” said Mayer. “Jules didn’t know the track but he was up to speed so fast, he’s going to be rock solid. Oliver is going to be awesome and Pipo drove in Pro with a Ferrari so driver wise we should be ok in this company.
“The only thing we lose is the knowledge from drivers that have driven the car for years. The race looks like it will be mild and dry, but the lead up could be very wet, which isn’t ideal for us. We’d like to get up to speed in the dry, we need to know how to double stint these tyres, and we haven’t done a long enough run yet.
“Worst case there’s the warm-up, but it’s not ideal, especially as this is probably the most stacked GTE Pro class ever.”
Gonzalez considering future LMP1 move?
Roberto Gonzalez (#31 Dragonspeed ORECA 07) indicated that he was considering a move of his crew (of himself, Anthony Davidson and Pastor Maldonado) to the LMP1 category in the future.
“We are definitely thinking about a move to LMP1 but not in the near future. The plan is for us to stay in LMP2 for the 2019-2020 season where the competition is great. We would like to take overall wins but there is just too great a gap between the Toyotas and the [other LMP1] privateer cars currently.”
DragonSpeed BR1 reliability
DragonSpeed revealed that its (now Gulf-liveried) BR1 Gibson has undergone significant work since its last work, the team focusing on improving the reliability of its package.
“We’ve been working really hard on the reliability of the electronics,” said driver Ben Hanley. “We had issues in the gear shift areas. These had a tendency to reoccur and we weren’t able to pinpoint what was causing it during our last race in Sebring. We had no problems during the test day so hopefully, these issues are behind us. I hope we can have a solid run now.”
Renger Van Der Zande also indicated some improvements with the engine: “We drove the Gibson under wet conditions in China. It was hard, especially with our traction control. We are coming here with a nice evolution.”
When asked on whether this car would be raced again after Le Mans, Henrik Hedman was evasive and said: “let’s first see how we do on this race.”
Davidson enjoying DragonSpeed campaign
Anthony Davidson (#31 DragonSpeed ORECA 07) reflected upon his swap from LMP1 to LMP2 at Le Mans, explaining that by the end of his tenure as a Toyota LMP1 driver, he had lost interest in racing.
“It’s a breath of fresh air [to be with Dragonspeed] after the LMP1 Toyota program to be honest,” he explained. “It was getting quite difficult there, in the end, and particularly after missing out on this race in 2016. I felt really hurt. I lost interest not only for this race but also for racing in general.
“After leaving Toyota, I got in touch with Roberto, Pastor and DragonSpeed. We looked at the various opportunities and I’m really glad I decided to carry-on. I’ve found my love for racing again.”
Andersen relishing Le Mans debut
High Class Racing’s Dennis Andersen told DSC it’s a real dream to be racing at Le Mans 24 Hours this year, after the team was initially placed on the reserve list and looked set to miss out once again on a chance to make its Le Mans debut.
But, the Danish outfit is here, one of the two teams which benefitted from the ACO’s new temporary garages for this year’s 24 Hours, which pushed the grid to a record 62 cars. Thus, Andersen says finding out he’d be racing at Le Mans at the 11th hour has brought challenges, but motivated him to push hard.
“There’s a lot of emotions. I’m excited but also stressed, it’s been hard getting everything sorted beforehand. So much preparation. We had an idea before we found out that it might happen, but we were a reserve last year and it didn’t happen, so we didn’t want to jinx it. But we didn’t really know we’d be coming until it was fully official.
“And so far for me it’s been surprisingly difficult. I’ve been here before in Ferrari Challenge, but in an LMP car its so different, very tricky. it’s taken time to build confidence, and I still need to find more time in the Porsche Curves. I hope we’ll get dry weather and a dry race. I just need a little more confidence.
“I have a lot to adjust to, including driving with Mathias (Beche), but he’s been excellent.
“As for the race, I’d like to finish the race, be incident free. There are so many cars here that are strong, there’s so much quality, so I don’t have an expectation in terms of results. The main thing is to work for this.”