Le Mans Test Day 2019

Thursday, May 30, 2019

With some of the factory team already having been working down at the Circuit de La Sarthe for nearly a week now setting up the camp that will become their effective home for the next two weeks, we take a look forward to this weekends preliminary events at Le Mans as everybody readies themselves for the Le Mans 24 Hour Official Test this Sunday.

Nearly fourteen months since first racing with its brand new V8 Vantage GTE at Spa Francorchamps within the GTE Pro Class, Aston Martin Racing and all who support them have come on leaps and bounds throughout this transitional season of the World Endurance Championship to arrive back in France as previous pole setters and now class race winners in time for the final round of this extended 2018-19 season.

Over in the GTE Am Class, Le Mans 2019 will be the final time that we will see the venerable normally aspirated WEC Championship winning Vantage GTE come to the end of its factory supported, top flight motorsport racing life as the new 2019 - turbo charged specification of racer becomes available to the Am Class runners for next season that starts again in September.

Arriving with the same driver line up as Aston Martin Racing and Partner team TF Sport did at the start of this super-season, at least all drivers are 'qualified' to compete so Sundays test day can allow them all to concentrate on house keeping and other set up requirements.

Like most teams, there will be no expectation that any car will be setting any personal best times around the 8.5mile purpose built cum street circuit to the south of Le Mans town as the risk of damage remains just as great as it does in the race. Indeed, Aston Martin Racing found that out to their cost only last year when Marco Sorensen's #95 car made heavy contact with the armco barrier at Indianapolis following reported side to side contact with an LMP2 car. Fortunately not injured, that accident all but destroyed that chassis and forced the team to build a new one totally from component parts back at the Prodrive factory in the week between Test Day and scrutineering. That endeavour won them great accolade and admiration within the paddock and fan base as a truly sterling effort of hard work and determination.

With Saturday being filled with official Championship business including grid and car photographs, all track action of the Test Day is limited to just two sessions either side of lunch on Sunday leaving all sixty two listed competitors for this years LM 24 to just eight hours of available track time ahead of the first Free Practice session on the Wednesday afternoon/evening ahead of the race weekend itself.

All six AMR factory drivers are due to attend the test including for the first time this season, AMR reserve driver Ross Gunn who has been listed as assisting within both the #95 and #97 cars as drivers Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Jonny Adam will all have had overnight flights into Le Mans having raced late into Saturday night down at Paul Ricard where they were competing with their respective AMR Partner teams in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup 6 hour/1000km event. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Nicki Thiim and Darren Turner make up the driving contingent for the #95 GTE Pro car.

At the Test Day, all GTE Pro cars are mandated to have fitted and run the FIA WEC's new fuel meters that were recommended but remained optional last time out at Spa Francorchamps at the start of the month.

In GTE Am, Aston Martin Racing continue to support the #98 car entry of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda - the latter a young man who will obviously be competing with a great deal of emotion having lost his father and motor racing legend and multiple F1 World Champion Nicki Lauda just two weeks ago. We can rightly expect some significant homage to the great man aboard many of the race cars and from the FIA WEC over the race weekend itself.

That leaves TF Sports #90 car of Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Euan Hankey. Whilst the #98 car has a mathematical chance of challenging for the GTE Am season honours, it is the #90 car that has the most realistic chances between them with just 26 points behind and 38 points being on offer so Le Mans 2019 could very much be a winner takes all event in that class.

As usual, the Test Day will have no live stream or timing (not that lap times will necessarily be of any relevance as previously explained of course).

Photo credits - AMR / Andrew Lofthouse

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