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Flat Spot On: Americans, Imbroglios And Le Mans

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 3 2012

The Delta Wing is at Le Mans testing this week. Is it a car? (File photo courtesy of the American Le Mans Series)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

LE MANS, France – Top “Tweets” from the Le Mans Test Day:

1. As The Clouds Parted – …and the sunshine returned at the end of an overcast day, Audi’s e-tron quattro of veterans Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello outshined the new Toyota TS 030 by a gap of 1.277 seconds. (The Audi , which clocked 3:25.927, also went further between stops by two laps, suggesting the Toyota’s capacitor system may still be in flux.)

2. Beaucoup LMP2 – OAK Racing’s Morgan-Nissan led a long list of 23 LMP2’s. Among these times came the Delta Wing, seven seconds behind the fastest LMP2. (The Delta Wing ran with a de-tuned Nissan four-cylinder and was given a “floor” lap time of no faster than 3:45 by the officials of the ACO; the team turned 3:48’s much of the day.)

3. Excluded – The No. 74 Corvette Racing C6 ZR-1 was quickest among the GTE Pro runners in the hands of Oliver Gavin. (But the Brit was not invited to the post-test media conference because the team does not contest the World Endurance Championship.)

4. Americans in Paris via Le Mans – Only ten American drivers out of a possible 168 positions are currently slated for the race. There are more if one counts adopted son and longtime ALMS competitor David Brabham. (Virginian Tom Milner was inexplicably listed as being from Great Britain on the entry list.)

5. Americans in Le Mans via Helicopter – Several competitors flew into Le Mans on Sunday after Detroit’s round of the Grand-Am to get the obligatory 10 daylight laps required in advance of the race.

Jordan Taylor to drive a Corvette at Le Mans.

(That includes Jordan Taylor, driving for Corvette, who arrived via helicopter from Paris. Unfortunately, he spun in the Porsche Curves after completing his required laps, damaging the Corvette’s rear extensively. “I got greedy,” said Taylor, who won his GT race in Detroit aboard a Camaro GT.R.)

6. American Motors – If one includes American company Honda Performance Development’s HPD chassis, there were three Amercan car models present. (The list also includes DeltaWing and Corvette.)

7. Revolution and Evolution – The radical Delta Wing doesn’t look like a car. (But, as cultural perceptions evolve, it might one day be considered as looking like a car.)

8. American Equipes – This year seven American teams will compete at the Sarthe circuit, but none in LMP1. (This list does not include Audi Sport North America, which is a factory team run by Joest and American in name only.)

9. What’s in a Name? – Apparently French-speaking teams believe that English names are more commercially palatable. (Hence the names OAK Racing and Rebellion Racing.)

10. Sounds of Silence – One of the weirdest things you’ll see at Le Mans is an Audi diesel overtaking, say, an LMP2 car out of a corner. (What you hear are the shifts and revs of the LMP2 as it struggles to keep up, but what you see is the whispery Audi diesel pull away.)

11. Beware of Hybrid Zones – The ACO is using Braking Zones to limit the application of electric power recovered from braking. There are seven such zones after which a team may apply up to 500 kilojules of electric power prior to the next zone. (So the hybrid portion of the show is really about endurance, not necessarily power if everybody can use the same limited amount.)

12. Imbroglio Pescarolo – The two LMP1 cars of Henri Pescarolo were temporarily seized by legal authorities on Friday by the father of Julien Jousse, who was displaced on the team when his seat was sold to British driver Stuart Hall. (Just as in the “Imbroglio Luxury” after Spa, when Pescarolo seized two Ferraris in an attempt to settle a debt, the judges overturned the temporary hijackings, er, injunctions.)

13. Tall and Narrow vs. Low and Wide – The Corvettes are taller, but narrower as are the Porches. So they go faster on the straights. The Ferraris are lower and wider, so they go faster in the turns. (Or so the popular wisdom goes. The Luxury Racing Ferrari was the fastest through the speed traps in the morning at 292.1 klm./hour; Corvette was second at 291.4.)

14. Brundle & Son – “Now I know what my son’s mother was going through when I was racing,” said Martin Brundle after observing son Alex Brundle’s crash in the GP3 race at Monaco. (“I guess Le Mans will be doubly difficult for her,” said Brundle of his co-drive with Alex at the Sarthe.)

15. GT Green – Talk about going green. A new prototype on display at Le Mans called the Green GT employs hydrogen to create electricity for its motors, using a process that is the reverse of electrolysis. (The only by-products are heat and water – and an enormous air scoop that looks more like a tower behind the driver, which is used for both cooling and as a source for oxygen.)

16. Here Comes Vickers – Longtime NASCAR driver Brian Vickers will substitute for Michael Waltrip in the AF Corse-Waltrip Ferrari. (Michael Waltrip is committed to the NASCAR telecasts of the Sprint Cup for Fox Sports.)

17. Monsieur Le President – The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) has a new president after the retirement of Jean-Claude Plassart due to the age limit of 70. (Pierre Fillon said he will accelerate the creation of an Asian Le Mans Series, build a scoring pylon at Le Mans and consider alternating the World Endurance Championship round in the U.S. between Sebring and the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.)

18. Sarrazin Crashes …On Bike – After replacing a departed Japanese driver in the Toyota TS 030 Hybrid, Stephane Sarrazin had a bad crash while training on his bicycle in Le Mans. (He suffered extensive friction burns on his face and missed the Test Day.)

19. Bob Was Brilliant – A book on “Brilliant” Bob Wollek, who was killed during a cycling accident near Sebring, was released this week. (Written by veteran French racing journalist Jean-Marc Teissedre, it’s titled “Outside the Glory” as a reference to the great sports car driver’s lack of a victory at Le Mans, among other setbacks.)

20. Audi’s No. 1 Squad – Last year’s winners (Lotterer, Faessler and Treluyer) are driving car No. 1 this year for Audi. Once again, they will be directed by engineer Leena Gade and an American, former Champion Racing team manager Brad Kettler.)

21. The Delta Takes Wing, Sort Of – The managing partner behind the Delta Wing and American Le Mans Series founder Don Panoz was all smiles as he paused for a cigarette following the morning session. (“It didn’t fly,” said Don, who always has at least one erroneous story to debunk.)

22. Why Bother To Rent? – Of the nine American drivers who are listed for the 24 hours, four are car owner/drivers. (Scott Tucker (LMP2), Tracy Krohn, Rob Kauffman and Seth Neiman.)

23.Allo, Allo? – The ACO conducted a fire drill in the aftermath of the fire in the garage of Williams Grand Prix Engineering at Barcelona. (That meant journalists in the Media Center were locked in – ?!?)

24. Life Imitates Art – Brian Vickers had a flashback of sorts during his first lap in the Ferrari of AF Corse-Waltrip. “When I came onto the straight and saw all those trees along the track,” he said, “I thought I was in the Steve McQueen movie.”

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 3 2012
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