Gulf AMR Middle East: Satisfied with Le Mans test day progress

Monday, April 25, 2011

The newly formed Gulf AMR Middle East racing team, which is making its debut at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE-Am category, completed a full day’s testing programme on Easter Sunday at the one official practice day available to competitors in preparation for the main event on 11-12 June.

On a 14-kilometre track mostly comprised of public roads, drivers Fabien Giroix, Roald Goethe and Mike Wainwright completed over 700 kilometres of trouble-free running. An unexpected puncture towards the end of the first four hours of practice caused the only slight delay to proceedings for the David Price-managed team.

With exceptionally warm weather reigning over the western part of Europe, thunderstorms and isolated showers had been predicted for Sunday's eight-hour test. Instead, however, a short shower mid morning over one third of the track was the only disruption, and competitors benefited from a freshly-washed track after a heavy thunderstorm on Saturday night.

Drivers who haven't raced at Le Mans before, or in the past three years, are required to complete a minimum of 10 laps to be eligible for the practice sessions in June. All three Gulf AMR Middle East drivers, with the patronage of team partner Gulf Oil International, familiarised themselves thoroughly with the track, completed their mandatory laps and additionally worked with Aston Martin Racing to assess a new aerodynamic package for Le Mans on the Aston Martin Vantage GT2.

Professional driver and proven endurance winner, Fabien Giroix, who last competed at Le Mans in a McLaren GTR, commented: “I’m very happy with the day. We have been able to prepare our gentlemen drivers in the best way possible to race here. They ran a lot of laps, we had no problems and they did good times, and we know the car set up is good for the race. It was a good day!”

Although new to the 24-hour event – the jewel in sports car racing’s crown – Dubai-based Roald Goethe was able to profit from participation in the 2010 Le Mans Classic to gain track knowledge. He was unlucky to be behind the wheel for both the puncture and a damp track in the morning, but delighted with the overall experience. “It’s a day with a happy ending. The morning was a bit tricky in the damp as I am not the most experienced driver, and the puncture didn’t help as it limited seat time in the morning. During the afternoon everything fell into place and it was great fun. We are looking forward immensely to being back for the race.”

Mike Wainwright has been racing for just a year but acquitted himself with the results and performance of a far more experienced driver, methodically improving his lap times each time he took to the track. He said afterwards, “I enjoyed it very much; it was a good experience. The track wasn’t as technically difficult as I was expecting, and I think the biggest challenge will probably be working out the braking points at Arnage and Indianapolis. The Porsche Curves were easier than I expected – you’ve just got to have the confidence to go through them quickly and cleanly. We’ve had a good guiding hand from Fabien, and can now work with the data to improve over the coming weeks.”

Gulf AMR Middle East now heads to the equally iconic Spa-Franchorchamps track in Belgium for the second round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the 1000 Km of Spa on Saturday 7 May.
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