Aston Martin Racing: Pit stop procedure at Le Mans

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

One of the most crucial ways that time is won and lost at Le Mans is during pit stops. During the course of the Le Mans 24 Hours, the two Aston Martin LMP1 cars are expected to stop at least 25 times, and each stop will last around a minute if it includes a tyre change. Depending on weather conditions and rate of wear, tyres are usually changed every other stint.

So it’s easy to see how races can be won and lost in the pits, which is why Aston Martin Racing is devoting a large part of the day to pit stop practice. There are three important elements to every pit stop: re-fuelling, driver changes and tyre changes.

Unlike most other forms of motorsport, the Le Mans rules demand that the driver must switch off the car’s engine before the stop and then restart it unassisted once the procedure is over. This small detail forms an important part of the endurance element of the race, because starter motors and the electrical system have to be able to cope with the demands of this constant stop-start cycle.

In order to get the car in and out as quickly as possible, Aston Martin Racing has developed a well-rehearsed routine that is practised regularly in the build-up to the race…

Car enters pit box area, stops, and switches off engine.

Fuel will always be added before anything else is done. The rules state that no other work is allowed during refuelling, but a driver change can begin to take place. The driver taking over opens the car door and helps his colleague to get out of the car. The departing driver takes out his seat insert and drinks bottle, and the pit crew member who is assigned as the driver assistant helps to strap in the driver who is taking over.

Once the refuelling is completed, the air line is plugged in and the internal air jacks lift the car up. The tyres are then changed, with a maximum of two mechanics working together to change all four wheels and tyres.

After the new wheels are on, the mechanics signal by raising their arms and the car is dropped to the ground.

The driver fires up the engine, and the car leaves the pit lane. The car must start on its own, as push-starts are penalised.


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