Around 23 000 spectators flocked to the circuit this afternoon to watch the 2013 Le Mans 24-Hours test day. The highlight of the day, the rehearsal for the event on 22-23 June, was Loïc Duval’s fastest time in his Audi.
Despite inclement weather there were as many spectators at the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours test day as in 2012 when it was sunny. A crowd of around 23 000 had a taste of what they will experience at the Le Mans 24 Hours in two weeks time. It shows just how much people are looking forward to the 90th anniversary event.
In the first part (09h00-13h00) the drivers had to cope with a track that was very slippery after the heavy rain that fell from Saturday evening to Sunday midday. In fact the battle against the stop watch didn’t really get under way until the middle of the second part (14h00-18h00). In the dying seconds Loïc Duval at the wheel of the no. 2 Audi benefitted from a clear lap and set a stunning 3m 22.583s, 1.22s quicker than the 2012 pole! Behind the Frenchman came the other two Audis (3 and 1), the first Toyota (no.8 Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin) in fourth place almost 5s in arrears. The quickest privateer LM P1 was the no. 12 Rebellion Lola of Prost/Jani/Heidfeld in 3m 31.987s.
In LM P2, just when it looked like the no.36 Alpine n°36 was going to finish first, it was pipped by a fantastic Olivier Pla in the no. 24 Morgan-Nissan in 3m 38.801s. The two Alpine-Nissans finished in second and third places with no. 36 (Panciatici/Ragues/Gommendy) in front of no. 37 driven by Chatin and Gommendy. This car was entered for the test day only and won’t be at the start of the race on 22nd June.
Aston Martin dominated both LM GTE categories. Peter Dumbreck in no 97 gave his team the quickest time in 3m 58.806s in front of his sister car no. 99. The two English V8s finished in front of the two works Porsches, nos 92 and 91. Giancarlo Fisichella went off in the no. 51 Ferrari, victorious in 2012, so he wasn’t among the front-runners.
In the Am category Aston scored another double with Jamie Campbell-Walter (n°96) in front of the second Vantage (no. 95). Into third came the no. 77 Porsche 911 in the hands of Dempsey/Foster/Long, which was eagerly-awaited by the crowd.
The LM PCs (Le Mans Prototype Challenge) were also allowed to run today but they are not eligible for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Anthony Pons set the fastest time of the baby prototypes in 4m 03.36s.
During the break in practice between 13h00 and 14h00, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the Préfecture de la Sarthe carried out a safety exercise as was the case in 2012. A serious accident in the Tertre Rouge Esses was simulated. All the services intervening in the case of such an accident were mobilised for this execise – marshals, first-aid personnel, doctors, firemen, police, etc. During the exercise the Automobile Club de l’Ouest called together its own crisis cell. Its task was to coordinate the operations on behalf of the organisation in permanent liaison with the authorities.
Now back to the Le Mans 24 Hours. After an hour of free practice on the Bugatti circuit on Tuesday (9 to 9:30 and 14 to 14:30) the 56 cars will go through scrutineering next Sunday and Monday at the start of the big Le Mans week, which will reach its climax with the race on 22-23 June.