New Audi tops LeMans Test Day The Le Mans 24–Hours test day has been a great success from a popular, sporting and technical point of view.
Without a doubt, the enthusiasts were looking forward to the revival of the test day on the Le Mans circuit as much as the teams. The attendance figure was 24 987 spectators who flocked to the Sarthe circuit to thrill to the sight and sound of the cars that they will see in seven weeks at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The test day provided a lot of interesting information from a sporting point of view. Tom Kristensen in the no. 3 Audi R18 set the quickest time, and the 8-time Le Mans 24-Hours winner lapped the unique circuit in 3m 27.687s, an average speed of 236,687 km/h, just under 8 seconds slower than last year’s pole (3m 19.711s). Mike Rockenfeller in the no. 1 Audi R18 was second quickest in 3m 27.815s proving that the German engineers have got their sums right.
The three R18s monopolized the top of the time sheets for a good part of the session, but in the dying seconds of the afternoon, Stéphane Sarrazin put in a stunning lap in a time of 3m 27.876s to bag third place showing the potential of the new Peugeot 908. The first five cars, three Audis and two Peugeots, were covered by only 0.617 seconds!
The highest top speed fell to Franck Montagny with 340,5 km/h. However, the two major contenders for victory in the coming LeMans 24 Hours did not only go for a time, they also did a great deal of work on the setups the aerodynamic configurations and the use of tires.
The three Audis covered 3257 km and the three works Peugeots, 3407 km. The first of the petrol-engined cars was the no 16 Pescarolo-Judd driven by Emmanuel Collard who got round in 3m 36.583s. The performance of the Aston Martin AMR-ONES was a bit disappointing. The two cars covered a total of just twelve laps! The English manufacturer still has a long way to go as it seems to be faced with chronic engine problems.
In LM P2, the battle raged between three cars with Nissan power, the nos 26 and 48 Orecas and the no. 41 Zytek. Franck Mailleux at the wheel of the no. 26 Signatech Nissan finally came out on top with a lap in 3 42.992s.
The GTE Pro category was again the theatre of a mind-boggling scrap . Quickest was the Hankook-Farnbacher Ferrari F458 Italia driven by Allan Simonsen who got round in 3m 59.966s, the only driver to dip below the 4-minute barrier.
The gap to the BMWs and Porsches is tiny. Only the Lotuses which were there to learn, were not on the same pace due to their comparative lack of experience. Larbre Competition’s two cars dominated in GTE Am with the best time going to the no. 50 Corvette with Tom Milner at the wheel with a lap in 4m 04.222s closely followed by Jean-Philippe Belloc’s Porsche in 4m 05285s.
The Le Mans 24-Hour entrants still have seven weeks to analyze their performances today and prepare for the race on 11th-12th June. 2011. Beforehand, however, the teams entered in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup will do battle on 7th May in the Spa-Francorchamps 1000 kms. This time, though, after the performances in the practice, the verdict will be handed down in the race.
Quotes after the test day
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "We have prepared a comprehensive test program for all three cars. The weather conditions allowed us to complete all our schedules. We have achieved very good results. I think that we can put that to very good use in the Le Mans race. It was important to do a lot of kilometers here with the all-new car before the race weekend in June comes up."
Dindo Capello (Audi R18 TDI #3): "We have worked very well for eight hours without a single problem. We have completed every aspect of our plan. We have learned many small things which will help us again in the next test. This was really very, very positive. I’m also eagerly awaiting the analysis of all data. Of course, there is always one aspect or another that can still be improved."
Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 TDI #3): "It was perfect for the whole team to complete the test day with the new car. For me it was the first time since 2003 that I’ve sat in a Coupé. The efficiency and the work of Audi have really impressed me. You can really feel the aerodynamics and the car is very comfortable. Already now we have gathered valuable information. As a driver, I very much appreciate the six-speed gearbox. It fits well to the engine with its down-sized cubic capacity."
Allan McNish (Audi R18 TDI #3): "There is no other circuit where you’ve got such long straights and consecutive long straights on the same lap. But there are also the high-speed sections through the Porsche curves and the Esses. It was very important here for us with the new R18 TDI to try to understand how the car would react on this type of track. We have found a good base set-up. Admittedly the circuit will change between now and June. But we have found a good base and a good confidence level. The chassis has been pretty consistent, the tires have been very good. We are on target but until we get to the race in June we are not going to see what everybody has got."
Timo Bernhard (Audi R18 TDI #1): "It is very nice that there has been a test day again at Le Mans. This gave us a lot of possibilities to set the car up for this unique track. You can’t just simulate Le Mans somewhere else. You’ve got to drive on the track. To split the workload during the test between the three cars makes sense. The team result is important. We didn’t focus on lap times. It was important to gather kilometers and findings. We have tried different set-ups to see how the car reacts. That has worked pretty well. I can’t wait to drive here again."
Romain Dumas (Audi R18 TDI #1): "That was a very constructive day. We’ve worked quite a lot. With three cars, we had to learn a lot. We have worked through a well-defined program. We’ve improved the set-up continuously throughout the day. Thus, the car was really easy to drive. Our performance was also very positive. This was what we had in mind. Plus we’ve got to know our new mechanics even better. We’ve also practiced driver changes today. I think that come qualifying day at Le Mans, we will be much better sorted-out than last year."
Mike Rockenfeller (Audi R18 TDI #1): "It is great to come back to Le Mans after last year’s success. It’s nice that a pre-test is back and that we have the chance to test the Audi R18 TDI. For a driver, it’s also about getting used to the track again. It is fantastic to have this feeling of the speed through the fast corners. For us it was a good day. We’ve generated much data. This will be analyzed to improve further. Then we should be well-prepared for the race."
Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 TDI #2): "I’m very happy with the whole car. It felt super. I felt save and well in this car. In fast corners, the car was sensational, too. In Mulsanne, I once spun under braking and slid into the gravel trap. I didn’t want to make a mistake thereafter and approached the limit slowly again. When you look at the whole day, I’m very happy with our performance and with the things that we’ve tested."
André Lotterer (Audi R18 TDI #2): "Since December, we’ve tested a lot with the R18 TDI. Now it had to show its mettle for the first time in the Le Mans pre-test. We were all eagerly anticipating this day. For me, the car is very pleasant to drive. It is comfortable which is a big advantage at Le Mans. You can easily adapt and drive very soon very fast without having to care. Now we need to clock up even more kilometers up to the race."
Benoît Treluyer (Audi R18 TDI #2): "For the first time, we’ve driven the Audi R18 TDI at Le Mans. The car felt very pleasant: It’s easy to drive and you quickly gain confidence. Hence you’re quick out of the box even when conditions are tricky. Especially in fast corners, this is important. Bearing in mind those were our first kilometers with the R18 TDI at Le Mans, it is a very good basis."
Marco Bonanomi (Audi R18 TDI): "I’m very happy after this day which was unique for me. A great thank you to Audi and the team for this chance. It was a nice feeling to drive at Le Mans as a rookie. I’ve done ten laps. The car felt very well. We now have reference data for the race. Now there are more test kilometers coming up. It is nice that I was allowed to help the team in preparation for this important race."
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): "We’ve had a pretty good test day. Plus we were lucky regarding the weather - there was only a little bit of rain. We were able to tick all the boxes of our working plan. And we have very good results. During its first outing at Le Mans, the R18 TDI behaved exactly as we had expected and hoped. A big part of our program was to work with the tires. As there is no other chance to drive at Le Mans, this was very important. This is always exciting before it kicks off. We have an excellent co-operation with Michelin. The tires work brilliantly. We were also able to complete the tasks of setting up the car and looking after the aerodynamics. There is a list of things which still need to be done but we can head back now with a pretty good feeling."
1 Capello/Kristensen/McNish/Bonanomi (Audi R18 TDI) 3m 27.687s
2 Bernhard/Dumas/Rockenfeller (Audi R18 TDI) 3m 27.815s
3 Sarrazin/Davidson/Montagny (Peugeot) 3m 27.876s
4 Fässler/Lotterer/Treluyer/Bonanomi (Audi R18 TDI) 3m 27.878s
5 Wurz/Bourdais/Vernay/Davidson (Peugeot) 3m 28.304s
6 Lapierre/Duval/Panis (Peugeot) 3m31.141s
7 Minassian/Gené/Lamy/Pagenaud/Vernay (Peugeot) 3m 32.549s
8 Collard/Tinseau/Jousse (Pescarolo-Judd) 3m 36.583s
9 Jani/Prost/Bleekemolen (Lola-Toyota) 3m 37.809s
10 Belicchi/Boullion/Smith (Lola-Toyota) 3m 38.716s
Full Results (PDF)