Le Mans 18-Hour Report: Too Close to Call
Two Laps Separate Four GT1 Contenders as Showdown Looms in Final Six Hours of 24 Hours of Le Mans
LE MANS, France – The heat is building at Le Mans, and so is the drama in the GT1 class. After 18 hours of hard racing, the two Corvette C6.Rs and two Aston Martin DBR9s were within two laps of each other. With six hours remaining, the British and American rivals held alternating positions in the GT1 standings. The No. 58 Aston Martin led with 262 laps, followed by the No. 64 Corvette C6.R and No. 59 Aston Martin with 261 laps and the No. 63 Corvette C6.R with 260 circuits to its credit.
Sunrise at the Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans came at 6 a.m., and within three hours the temperature had climbed to 85 degrees. The prospect of higher temperatures in the final quarter of the 24-hour enduro will test teams and machines.
“With the rising temperature, I believe we are crossing paths with our competition,” said Corvette Racing engineering manager Doug Louth. “We were better in the heat of the day yesterday; we appeared to have a better package and our tires were working well in those conditions. While we went quicker than we had run all week in the evening, we were still not as competitive in the cooler conditions. Now with the heat building again, we’re starting to see a relative improvement in our cars and we’re putting on tires that we know work well for us in hot conditions. That could put us on par with, or a little better than, the competition. With six hours to go, we should have something left for them at the end.”
Human factors will also play a crucial role in determining the outcome of this test of endurance. The Corvette Racing engineering team has taken steps to help the drivers perform at peak efficiency.
“The Corvette C6.Rs are equipped with an air conditioning system that blows cool air into the helmet through a flexible tube,” explained Steve Wesoloski, GM Road Racing group manager. “Supplying cool air for the driver to breathe lowers his core temperature. There is also a blower that pumps air through ventilation holes in the seat to cool his body by evaporation.”
“Large openings at the rear of the side windows vent air out of the cockpit,” Wesoloski continued. “The enclosed cockpit is an aerodynamic aid; the side windows keep the airflow attached on the sides of the car, improving the effectiveness of the rear wing. In the past we ran side windows on the C5-R only at Le Mans, but to optimize the C6.R’s aero balance with its shorter rear overhang, we now run side windows at every race. We have not yet run a race in weather as hot as this with the C6.R, so this is the first real-world test of the system.”
The 24 Hours of Le Mans will conclude at 10 a.m. EDT (4 p.m. local time) on Sunday, June 19. SPEED Channel will televise 17.5 hours of live coverage; check local listings for times.
GT1 Top-Five Standings after 18 Hours:
1. (58) Enge-Kox-Lamy, Aston Martin DBR9, 262
2. (64) Gavin-Beretta-Magnussen/Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 261
3. (59) Brabham-Sarrazin-Turner, Aston Martin DBR9, 261
4. (63) O’Connell-Fellows-Papis/Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, 260
5. (50) Goueslard-Dupard-Vosse, Ferrari 550, 249
Release Date: June 19, 2005