Risi Competitizione’s 24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day
Rick Mayer, Race Engineer for Risi Competizione # 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro Le Mans race team, gives us a “behind the wall” look at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day, 5 June 2016, at the classic Circuit de la Sarthe.
Driving for the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 for the Le Mans Test are Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy), Toni Vilander (Finland) and Matteo Mulucelli (Italy).
How things look today 1st hand from Rick Mayer
The Le Mans race course is mostly public roads, except on event days, and the entire circuit is not available to test at any other time.
The Le Mans test day is one of the most important test days of this or any series, given its uniqueness . This time of year Le Mans weather can be variable, wet, dry, hot or cold.
“We need to maximize track time to understand the tire options in the different conditions, finalize the race event starting setup and get all the drivers comfortable and familiar with the many alarms, buttons, dials and switches.”
The circuit is 8.5 miles and just under 4 mins per lap for the GTE racers.
Telemetry and radio coverage is typically not 100% with a circuit this large.
“You can lose touch with where the car is on the track unless you judiciously time every lap with your stop watch. It takes nearly 15 mins to do 1 timed lap if you include the ‘out’ and ‘in’ laps.”
Team Risi has a total of 8 hours of practice time on the test day, but the number of actual practice laps is low because of the long lap time. It often rains in testing and or during the race. Team management hopes they have setup the car so it is compatible with the weather.
This year will be the most competitive GTE-Pro class ever at Le Mans: Ferrari, Ford, Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche and Aston Martin are all fielding multiple cars with factory supported.
Rick says, “There are no weak teams or drivers, these are the best of the best in every respect.”
During testing is unlikely any cars will show their true pace as the Balance of Performance can be adjusted to suit. All the manufacturers are hoping gain and advantage for the race.
Rick tell us about the setup
“1st, you need a super reliable car because you have to finish to win. The race car needs to be comfortable and predictable for the drivers. If the car is good in the Porsche Curves, it is probably good everywhere.
“The aero setup for Le Mans is like nowhere else.
“Every car has a special homologated Le Mans-only aero package to reduce the down force and drag for competitiveness and equality. The long straights here are so important, with 3 of them being over 5000 feet and 2 over 4000 feet.
“Teams will trim down force to reduce drag for straight-line speed. We need a good platform for the high speeds and change of directions, so the setup is on the stiff side; there is only one slow corner at Le Mans.
The majority of the track is smooth so there is not usually a grip issue. I always consider rain in the setup, because seldom is the race totally dry.”
What do you do on Test day?
“We have 2 4-hr sessions with a 1-hr break, it is a full day of running, learning and “tweaking”.
“In the 1st hr the course the grip will be low, the streets dusty and dirty. I need to get a handle on the conditions quickly.
“During the event week Team Risi, like all of the competition, needs to be in ‘race mode’ and concentrate on race prep and not setup. All the Michelin shod GTE-Pro cars have 3 dry tire options to choose from, and multiple damp to full wet tire options.
“Understanding the conditions that these tires all work best in is the main goal of this test. We will try and do long runs on tires, a stint being about an hour, to see how the balance changes and what the lap time degradation is throughout the run. We need to determine when and if it is advantageous to multi-stint tires in the race. Le Mans technical regulations only allow a limited number of dry tire sets to be used in the race. We do not have enough tires to change at each stop, so it is very important to understand when to cross them.
If we get a good test, the car reliable car and happy drivers, then we begin to work on race day event planning and fine tuning of our car, drivers, and crew throughout race week.”
Thank you Rick and keep me posted.
All the best
For more information, please go to Risicompetizione.com.