INSIGHT: Le Mans reserves play the waiting game

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INSIGHT: Le Mans reserves play the waiting game

Le Mans/WEC

INSIGHT: Le Mans reserves play the waiting game


With the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in the rear-view mirror, and the next round of the WEC being the first of two runnings of the Le Mans 24 Hours in the ‘Super Season’, it’s all hands on deck for most of the teams on the entry list, who are preparing to head to the official Test Day in just under three weeks.

But after the dramas that unfolded in Belgium, it’s not yet clear whether the full 10-car LMP1 field will run at La Sarthe.

Let’s start with Ginetta. RACER understands that the British manufacturer is working to ensure that both its G60-LT-P1s run, after financial problems prevented it from releasing its cars to CEFC TRSM Racing for Spa. Should the cars take to the track, it would still be alongside Manor (the M in TRSM), which is still pushing to get funds released for the program after assets from TRS and some of its other Chinese partners were frozen as a consequence of the current legal proceedings against CEFC’s Ye Jianming.

Meanwhile, SMP Racing is also working hard to get its cars to Le Mans, and is confident that both will be present. After the No.17 BR1 flipped at Eau Rouge/Raidillon, the team has had to find a solution to prevent a similar incident occurring when it runs its low-drag kit again at Le Mans (DragonSpeed, BR’s other LMP1 customer, ran high-downforce aero at Spa).

RACER understands after speaking to a source at BR Engineering that the cause of Matevos Issakyan’s accident is known and understood, prompting them to explore making an aerodynamic change to the car ahead of Le Mans.

SMP Racing has a spare chassis one ready to replace the one damaged in Issakyan’s incident. The team has already tested since Spa, with Jenson Button getting his first taste of the No. 11 car ahead of the race.

Then there’s DragonSpeed. Its post-Spa movements are more complex; the incident which broke both of Pietro Fittipaldi’s legs raising the prospect of some very tough decisions in the coming days. The American-flagged team is understood to still be waiting for more answers from the ACO and FIA investigations before it commits to any more LMP1 running, despite being named on the full Le Mans 24 Hours entry list and the Test Day list.

The incident, RACER understands, was caused by a systems glitch while Fittipaldi was on the entry of Eau Rouge-Raidillon. The head-on impact damage and subsequent work by the extraction team to help Fittipaldi out of the wreckage resulted in the car being left unrepairable.

Immediately after Spa, there was no spare tub available to the team, as it requires a significantly modified BR1 compared to the SMP examples in order to house the Gibson engine as opposed to the AER.

If no chassis is available, or if the results of the enquiry are either unknown or unacceptable to the team, there could be an option to request a switch to the team’s full-season ELMS LMP2 ORECA chassis for Le Mans on the grounds of force majeure. In order to do that, permission must be granted by the Le Mans selection committee.

Should all the pieces fall into place though, then the team will continues as planned with its LMP1 program.

Incredibly, should SMP, CEFC TRSM and DragonSpeed all make Le Mans, it would mean that none of the original nine reserve entries will have been given the call-up.

As it stands, of those nine reserves, just two remain if the opportunity for a last-minute entry should arise due to issues from within the LMP1 ranks or from elsewhere in the currently-confirmed entry, both with invitations to the Test Day.

As recently as the week following the WEC’s Spa race, the tally was believed to be at four, with APM Monaco Team KCMG and Repsol Racing Engineering still investigating the possibility of taking up a late entry. However, both team’s sponsors were unable to commit at such a late stage. Spirit of Race and High Class are therefore the only two left.

A source at High Class Racing told RACER that it is in the process of clarifying whether being listed on the Test Day entry means it will be allowed to run. Should the team – which hasn’t raced at Le Mans before – be granted permission to run, it will attend the test. The team has stressed that it will be ready for a full race entry, should it get the call.

Additionally, it is understood that High Class driver Anders Fjordbach will be in attendance at the Test Day whether the team makes the trip or not.

Spirit of Race, meanwhile, will also not travel to France unless there’s a more concrete chance of a race entry. All three drivers listed – Duncan Cameron, Aaron Scott and Marco Cioci – have recent experience at Le Mans however, and thus are not required to complete laps at the test to be eligible for the race.