Kronos Racing: Inside the #22 Lola-Aston Martin

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The #22 Lola-Aston Martin that Vanina Ickx, Bas Leinders and Maxime Martin will be racing this weekend at Le Mans is a pretty special car. Despite being experienced racing drivers, it’s not everyday the Marc VDS drivers get behind the wheel of an LMP1 car. We will be taking a closer look at the car and what it’s like to take place behind the wheel.

Seventeen LMP1 cars will be participating during the 2011 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Only one of them will be having a screaming V12 however, and that’s the #22 car of team Kronos/Marc VDS/Orbello. This machine is the result of a cooperation between Lola and Aston Martin with the former supplying the B09/60-chassis and the latter the engine and bodywork. It’s 6-litre engine produces over 600 brake horsepower and at Le Mans, is able to get from zero to a hundred kilometers an hour in 2.8 seconds. It is possible to do it in less time with shorter gear ratios, however for this circuit longer ones are required.

Getting into the car then, the driver has to get onto the sidepods first since they are quite big and just leaping in is impossible. The cockpit itself is made up out of carbon fibre and has the racing seat and steering wheel located slightly to the right side of the cabin leaving room on the left side for the control-panel, air-vents and water bottle. On the control panel you find things such as the power-switch, start-button, headlights switch, HFS-switch (Heated Front Screen), rain lights-switch, wiper-switch, side-mirrors-switch and AC-button (Air-Conditioning) which are self-explanatory. However, there are also some controls which can’t be found in a road car and these are explained below.

GB, ALT, WP O/R (GearBox, Alternator, Water Pump OverRide):When a sensor has detected a problem causing the system to go into safety mode, the driver can override this, canceling the mode, just to get back to the pits.

PAS (Power Assisted Steering): Adjusts the level of power assistance to the steering. The higher the number, the easier the wheel turns.

IND (Indicators): Activates the car’s indicators.

E (Extinguisher):Deploys foam extinguishers in the car and engine in case of a fire.

Dash bright:Makes the lights on the displays of the steering wheel dimmer or brighter.

At the driver’s feet, similar to a normal road car, three pedals are localized: clutch, brake and accelerator. He only uses the clutch for taking off. The rest of the gear changing is done operating the gear paddles located on the left and right side of the steering wheel. Shifting up, the driver isn’t required to lift off the throttle since their is an engine cut allowing the gear to disengage and reengage the next gear. The steering wheel the drivers operate, is used for far more than turning alone. The information and buttons that are found on it, are explained below.


Displays on top of screen:Shows the information chosen by the driver. This can be the cooling temperature, lap times, split times, engine map, traction control and so on. Which gear the car is in, is permanently shown in the top display.

Page-button:Enables the driver to scroll through the different pages to choose the info shown on the displays.

Fuel-button:Resets the fuel meter. The driver presses this button when the car is refueled. Consequently he/she knows how much of the fuel is burned at all times.

Pit-button:Activates the pit limiter, making sure the car doesn’t exceed 60 km/h in the pit lane.

ECU up/down-button: See ECU-button.

Alarm-button:Stops an alarm from going off. When there possibly is a problem in the car, the driver is notified by an alarm. When reassured by the data-engineers in the pits that it’s not critical, he/she can cancel the alarm and continue, if it is, the car will have to pit.

Flash-button:Enables the driver to flash his lights, most commonly used for alerting slower drivers up the road ahead.

Radio-button:Opens the radio channel, enabling the driver to talk to the pits.

Neutral-button:Puts the car in neutral, so the driver doesn’t have to keep the clutch compressed while idling in the pits.

ECU-button:selects the parameter on a display that the driver wants to change, like traction control for example. If the driver wants to increase assistance, he increases the number by pushing the ECU up-button.

Explaining what sitting in the car in the pit box is like, is one thing. What this extraordinary car feels like when driving it on the track is another and can only be explained by one of the drivers. “There’s no comparison between the LMP1 and say, our Ford GT1 car” says best rookie driver in qualifying Maxime Martin. “The LMP1 is better in every way: it accelerates better, brakes better and turns in better. It’s easier to drive for multiple reasons. Chief amongst them are the aerodynamics which play a much larger role than in GT1. I’m very thankful to have the chance to drive this car, it’s the fastest car I’ve ever driven and I hope I will be able to do it over in the future.”

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