Sunday, June 9, 2013

Le Mans: Audi dominated the LM Test Day

By Johan Laubscher

June has arrived and Le Mans fever is beginning to build. The annual Le Mans test day was held today, with a total of four Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars taking part. 

All three race-ready Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars were present with the full line-up of nine drivers. The #1 with Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer. The #2 with Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval. And finally the #3 with Marc Gené, Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis.

The test day took place on Sunday following two days of scrutineering and other activities such as photography / PR work. The track action saw very fast times from the front runners, where Audi vs Toyota is the big story. The Audis topped the time sheets by the end of the first four hour session, with the #2 leading #1 and #3, in what was wet running. The most notable incident during the first session included an off for Duval in the #2, causing a lot of damage, but the car was repaired in time to take part in the second session. The afternoon session had a drying track and the lap times became very fast during the last two hours, entering the 3:25 minute bracket. By the end of the day the times saw that Audi had maintained its 1-2-3. Duval redeemed himself by setting a phenomenal lap time to close out the day, a 3:22.583 lap, 1.2 seconds clear of the 2012 pole position. The #2 lead home the #3 followed by the #1 inside the final top three. 

A fourth Audi R18 e-tron quattro was entered at the Le Mans Test day. The car was housed at an Audi Sport truck and tent set-up on the far side of the pits, near the pit entry, away from the team's three cars garaged at pit exit. The car was driven by Marco Bonanomi in an all-black testing livery. The purpose of the fourth car was to serve as a 2014 tire test with Audi’s tire partners, Michelin. The characteristics and load carrying ability of the new 2014 tires were tested. The new tires differ from the current generation of LMP1 tires as they are narrower. Bonanomi had set the fifth fastest time in the #4 by the end of the test day. 

This was a great result for Audi, but the Test Day is a far cry from the actual race. The 2013 spec Audi R18 e-tron quattro clearly has pace and it will be a great race in a fortnight's time.

The Le Mans Test Day results can be seen HERE.

Photo credit: Audi Sport Communication / Media