24 Hours of Le Mans news roundup
JUN 10, 2014 4:39p ET
With scrutineering complete, catch up with the latest news and notes from the paddock at Le Mans ahead of the start of official on-track activity on Wednesday.
***Following Millennium Racing’s withdrawal from Le Mans for the second time, next weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will see now see a 55-car starting field. The ACO confirmed Saturday there will be no replacement for the UAE-backed, UK-based effort.
***Shinji Nakano has landed a last-minute ride with Team Taisan. The Japanese driver, who took part in the test day in the team’s No. 70 Ferrari F458 Italia, replaces James Rossiter as the Gold/Platinum driver in the GTE-Am lineup. Nakano joins Martin Rich and Pierre Ehret in the car, which is being run with assistance of Farnbacher Racing.
***Corvette Racing celebrated its 15th anniversary at Le Mans in style at scrutineering on Monday, displaying a banner thanking the French fans for their support, as well as inviting select fans into the team picture. The Pratt & Miller squad sounded sirens and “Born in the USA” was played on the PA.
***Dempsey Racing has revealed an additional new partner for its effort in GTE-Am, as Tag Heuer was confirmed aboard the No. 77 Dempsey Racing-Proton Porsche 911 RSR on Tuesday. Hollywood actor/racer Patrick Dempsey will drive alongside Joe Foster and Patrick Long.
***The No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR has been forced to revert to a replacement chassis following Joerg Bergmeister’s high-flying trip through the gravel trap at the Ford Chicane at the test day. JMW Motorsport’s Ferrari F458 Italia, which suffered similar fate in the hands of Spencer Pumpelly, also reportedly sustained minor chassis damage but is believed to have been fixable. Both incidents were due to the drivers’ trying to avoid newly installed curbing in the corner.
***Additional Balance of Performance adjustments have been made to GTE cars following the test day. All of the production-based machines have been given a 5-liter fuel capacity increase, while the Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs (997 model) can run 20 kg lighter, along with a 10 mm adjustment in the 2012 model’s gurney. This is in addition to a 5-liter fuel capacity increase given to the Aston Martins prior to the test day.
***This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans features an influx of Russian entries, including three from SMP Racing, which plan to debut a Russian prototype next year. Team principal Sergey Zlobin confirmed the Paolo Catone-designed LMP2 coupe has continued development, with crash testing scheduled to begin in November prior to on-track testing shortly after.
***Drivers lined up Tuesday morning for the annual group photo (pictured). Typically shot during the busy grid walk on Saturday, the photo shoot was done in a much more relaxed environment, prior to the driver's briefing and the afternoon's autograph session in pit lane.
***While the Nissan ZEOD RC takes the place of Garage 56 this year, no decision has been made on a potential entry for 2015, according to ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil, who said they are talk to two to three contacts at the moment. "It's not necessary that we have a Garage 56 every year. It depends on the quality of the project and many parameters," he said.
**This year's race features a reduced American team presence, with only Corvette Racing (GTE-Pro) and Krohn Racing (GTE-Am) having made the trip over from the States. Dempsey Racing-Proton and 8Star Motorsports, both running under the U.S. banner, are operated by Proton Competition and AF Corse, respectively. Nonetheless, there are still 17 American drivers represented, but predominately in the GTE-Am class.
***Notable American absences include SRT Motorsports, which was forced to withdraw in March, Flying Lizard Motorsports (although select drivers/crew supporting JMW Ferrari), and Level 5 Motorsports, which had taken part in the last four events in LMP2.
***Despite not taking part in this year's race as a driver due to SRT's withdrawal, Dominik Farnbacher is at Le Mans, acting as team manager for the No. 70 Team Taisan Ferrari F458 Italia. Dom's family run team, Farnbacher Racing, is helping run operations for the Japanese outfit and its 2012-spec Ferrari for drivers Shinji Nakano, Pierre Ehret and Martin Rich in GTE-Am.
***After more than a week of buildup and preparation, cars return to Circuit de la Sarthe Wednesday for practice and qualifying. Free Practice is scheduled from 4-8 p.m. local (10 a.m.-2 p.m. ET), with the first of three rounds of qualifying set from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. local (4-6 p.m. ET).