As usual also this year the season of Le Mans Series started on Paul Ricard circuit with a two-day race of official tests which took place under a spring warm sun and a strong Mistral wind that sometimes annoyed the fervent activity of the teams. Notwithstanding the reduced number of cars present on track (only 26 with respect to the 49 that we will see in Barcelona), the expectations haven’t been failed for the novelties that caused more than 3.500 people to crowd the immaculate stands of the circuit.
Lola Aston Martin, so eagerly awaited, besides showing a renewed and decidedly attractive streamline in comparison with the B08 of last year, has also shown a good potential, above all if we consider that it was its first appearance of that prototype: while the new drivers have been working on the car “009” in search of a valuable setup, the most expert crew made by Mucke, Enge and Charouz lavished all energy in search of the limit of that car, sometimes approaching the performances made by the Courage LC70 of the Oreca Team, also improved thanks to the new powered AIM. Unfortunately during the session which took place on Sunday afternoon, Enge was protagonist of a disastrous off-track trying to improve the time trial obtained up to that moment: vast damages to the fore carriage have prevented going on with tests, with partial ruin of the development schedule made by the English Team. At the end Aston Martin finished the two-day test with 1:42:575 time, which however represents an encouraging starting point for the championship that will be starting within three weeks in Barcelona.
As already said above, it was the Courage Oreca that was instead successful, as it seemed to avail itself of the passage to AIM, the Japanese engine designed with John Judd’s cooperation, and the new layout of suspensions which allowed a drive, more aggressive on bend entering and with less wear of tyres. Panis and Lapierre have immediately aimed at reaching the record for prototypes with petrol on the home track (the team is at Signes, few kilometres from the circuit) gaining it thanks to the time of 1:40:903 on Monday morning. Bruno Senna appeared unexpectedly on track in the twin car, invited by Hugues de Chaunac to try a new sports car: the Brazilian driver said he was very satisfied with this new experience and, given the engagements for the season that is going to start, we cannot preclude his entering next 24Hours of Le Mans, perhaps just beside Ayari and Ortelli.
Among the other P1s we have to point out the good competition degree of the Lola Speedy Racing, that on Monday managed to reach the second best time of 1:42:141 and that was also driven by Nicolas Prost for some laps, and the Courage-Judd of the Signature Plus, while Strakka Team, debuting in the queen category with the Ginetta-Zytek, after reaching some good times in the first day, was obliged to renounce most of the tests on Monday because of the strong vibrations needing a good check at pits.
Even among the P2s novelties didn’t fail, among them the new Mazda-turbo 4-cylinder engine 2000 cc for the Lola RML and the Pescarolo of Jacques Nicolet’s Oak Racing, this latter also struggling with the new supply of Dunlop tyres. But, however, the Porsche Essex driven by Elgaard and Collard and the Ginetta-Zytek of the Quifer ASM Team, have been contending the leadership of the category, at least till when, during Monday morning tests, the Danish driver hasn’t been protagonist of an off-track which damaged the car: the Ginetta has, however, confirmed the best of what it had already shown in the February Estoril tests, proving that this year the category will be also in a position to offer great duels.
Relatively numerous the GT1s on track, if we consider that for the moment only five cars have been entered the championship, above all due to the high costs it involved. In all trial sessions we have to point out the Lamborghini Murcielago of the Spartak Racing, appeared completely renewed with respect to last year and overcome only on Monday tests in the last minutes by the Corvette of Olivier Beretta in 1:53:933. It was also interesting the time reached by the ex-Larbre Saleen of the ARC Bratislava-Kaneko, driven by Bouchut on track: on the occasion the team has also used a second car with spec. FIA GT championship, made to run on Sunday and Monday mornings.
But it was the GT2 that exhibited the biggest number of cars on track, a category also very heterogeneous as for models: Ferrari F430 GT, Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, Aston Martin Vantage GT2. Spyker C8 Laviolette GT2R and Lamborghini Gallardo LP560, even if this last had run only one lap of track. The most interesting innovation was the supply of Hankook tyres for the Ferrari of Farnbacher Team, immediately very speedy in the 2008 spec., and followed by Porsches Felbermayr and IMSA Very good score gained by the Spyker, very close to the opposing teams thanks to the innovations introduced in winter time, while the Ferrari of the JMV driven by Bruni and the one of the Modena Team, at its debut in GT2, seemed a bit late with Garcia-Leo Mansell crew.
During the final press conference there was the introduction of the new F1 Le Mans (mono brand Courage propaedeutic for Endurance races) that will take place beside the different engagements of Le Mans Series (since Spa) and a revolutionary system on solar energy for the tyre heating studied by the Swiss Green GT and checked exclusively by the Oak Racing: by means of flexible solar panels lying on the roof the electric energy at 40V is conveyed to a power plant that turns it into 120V for battery charge; allowing to save 140 lt. of gas oil for car every week-end race. In Barcelona and at Spa this system will allow to heat four tyres every time, while starting from Algarve the number will be doubled.
The meeting for all fans will be on the 3-4-5th April in Barcelona for the Catalunya 1000 km, obviously with Connectingrod.it.