News and notes from the first day of Le Mans Scrutineering at the Place de Republique:
Nicolet confirms no changes to Ligier JS P217 for the race
The seven Ligier JS P217s which will compete at Le Mans this year in the LMP2 class, will race in the same trim as at the Test Day, when they were significantly slower than the ORECA 07 Gibsons, which finished the day locking out the top 13 positions.
Onroak Automotive has attempted to find a way to close the gap since the test in a number of different ways. In LMP2, only one performance upgrade is allowed during the four-year homologation period for each chassis.
Jacques Nicolet, boss of Onroak Automotive, told RACER today that a proposal to the ACO and FIA to make an early change outside the current regulations to the current JS P217 has been refused by the other three LMP2 chassis manufacturers.
“The other manufacturers have decided that we cannot make this change,” he said.
When asked if he would change the JS P217 with its one permitted performance upgrade before the race, he continued: “It is too early to do that, we will race with what we have.”
Still no word on Honorary Starter
ACO President Pierre Fillon continued to tease the personality who will wave the French Tricolour at the start of the race next weekend on the interview stage in front of the fans.
“You will discover who waves the French flag on Friday only, at the press conference,” said Fillon. “It’s a surprise. We will announce on Friday as well, what is at the heart of the 2020 regulations.”
In the past, French President Francois Hollande, actor Brad Pitt, Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Fernando Alonso, NASCAR’s Jim France and Ford’s executive chairman Bill Ford have been honored at the start of the race.
Among the potential names to take the flag is A.J. Foyt, who is in attendance at the circuit this week to celebrate his win with Ford back in 1967.
Porsche LMP drivers confident
Porsche LMP Team drivers Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber expressed their confidence about taking the fight to Toyota during the race, despite not matching the pace of their rivals during the Test Day.
“We weren’t shaken up by the performance of Toyota at the Test Day,” Hartley said. “The folks in Weissach have been working flat out ever since. We know how to win this race while none of the nine Toyota drivers have ever done that.”
“We will be much closer to Toyota then during the Test Day,” added Bamber. “It was a surprise to see LMP2 cars being faster than us [on the straights]. I don’t think it should be that way. We have to learn how to manage this new element during the free practice sessions.”
Larbre putting together 2018 GTE Corvette WEC program
Larbre Competition’s team owner Jack Leconte has revealed that he is trying to put together a two-car program in the 2018 World Endurance Championship, with two Corvette C7.Rs.
“We are still working on a WEC program for 2018,” Laconte said. “It would include one Corvette in the GTE Am category and another one in the GTE Pro category. A decision is expected this summer.”
Larbre Competition has competed as a Corvette customer team since 2011, with a single C6.R in GTE Am at Le Mans in ’11 and ’12, before upgrading to a C7.R in 2015, and racing in the WEC. This year the team has scaled back its effort to just competing at Le Mans and the ELMS race earlier this year at Monza.
Roman Brandela, who is racing with the team this year at Le Mans, in its art-liveried C7.R, also revealed further details about the “HUMAN Art Car” project (pictured above).
It took over 90 hours spread across seven days to get the pain job done on the car. To showcase its true potential, the team has also placed dark light projectors in its pit garage, to reflect the florescent colors on the car in the dark
Stevens aiming to return to the WEC
Former Formula 1 driver Will Stevens told RACER today that he plans to return to the WEC this year, following his appearance at Le Mans with JMW Motorsports in GTE Am, racing its brand new Ferrari 488 (pictured). Last year Stevens made his WEC debut with Manor WEC, and raced at Le Mans for the first time with G-Drive Racing, both in LMP2 class ORECA 05Rs.
“I’m looking to return to the FIA WEC,” Stevens said. “I’m open to most options, but I am looking to race in GTE, as I believe it’s the best route for a driver like mine’s career, with the amount of factory interest.”
When asked about his Le Mans run with JMW, Stevens, who is currently competing full-time in the Blancpain GT Series with WRT, he explained that his relationship with Tim Sugden (who in the past drove with the team) opened the door.
“I’ve known Tim for years, and he put me in touch and helped me get the drive. I only want to come and race here if I have the chance to compete for a result, and in this year’s GTE Am field, I do with JMW. It’s a new car, and there will be a lot of learning to do, but at the Test Day, in my limited running, my impressions are that it’s an easy car to drive.”
He’ll race with Dries Vanthoor and Rob Smith at La Sarthe, in what will be the JMW team’s first ever race with the 488, after it retired its 458 Italia GT2 with a win at Monza in the ELMS prior to the Test Day.