With just over two weeks to go until the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this weekend’s test day will provide teams with the final opportunity to prepare their set-ups for the big race. A total of 64 entries will take to the track on Sunday, divided into five classes. This year, the traditional LMP1, LMP2 and GTE Pro/Am order will be bolstered by two LMP3 runners, in preparation for the introduction of the ACO’s newest prototype class at next year’s race.
The teams have already started to arrive at La Sarthe ahead of the test day. Much of the media attention has centred around Nissan, which will be present for the belated public track debut of its three Nissan GT-R LM NISMOs. Yesterday it was revealed that the #21 Nissan, to be driven by Lucas Ordonez, Mark Shulzhitskiy and Tsugio Matsuda, will sport a commemorative livery in honour of the Nissan R90CK that took pole position 25 years ago.
The GTR-LM drivers were on hand to complete a day of testing at the nearby Arnage airport on Thursday, as a final shakedown before taking on the La Sarthe circuit.
Matsuda, along with fellow Le Mans debutants Alex Buncombe and Max Chilton, will drive one of Ginetta’s Nissan-powered LMP3 cars in order to satisfy the ACO’s 10 lap requirement for race day participation. 2013 GT Academy USA winner Nick McMillen will also receive time in the car, as part of his NISMO athlete development.
Furthermore, Sir Chris Hoy will get his first taste of the 8.4 mile circuit as he shares the Team LNT European Le Mans Series class-winning Ginetta-Nissan LMP3 will fellow Scot Charlie Robertson.
Elsewhere in LMP1, early season pace setters Audi and Porsche will run their trio of cars respectively, while Toyota has prepared its two full-season TS040 Hybrids. Frédéric Makowiecki is listed under all three Porsches, each of which will sport a commemorative livery for this year’s race. Elsewhere, Kazuki Nakajima, who fractured a vertebra during practice for the 6 Hours of Spa, is expected to drive the #1 Toyota although reserve driver Kamui Kobayashi is also on the entry list should his compatriot need more time to recover.
Team ByKolles and Rebellion Racing will showcase the complete LMP1 privateer grid for the first time, after Rebellion completed the testing of its two AER-powered R-Ones at Algarve last week. Despite missing the first two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship the team is now ready to tackle Le Mans, with its previously announced driver line-up ready to showcase the improvements. Meanwhile, former Grand Prix podium finisher Tiago Monteiro will take his place in the Team ByKolles squad, alongside Pierre Kaffer and Simon Trummer.
LMP2 is the most abundant of the four categories, with 21 entries from the FIA WEC and ELMS marked to run laps on Sunday. Reigning champions JOTA Sport will return with the same race day line-up as last year, while Extreme Speed Motorsports will sport a new Rolling Stone livery on its pair of Ligier JS P2s as a route around the stringent laws regarding alcohol advertising in France.
In addition to ESM’s two car effort, five other Ligier entries will take part in the test day. FIA WEC frontrunners G-Drive Racing will field two, as well as local team OAK Racing. Krohn Racing completes the group with the Judd-powered variant, although Le Mans signing Joao Barbosa will be unable to test the car as he is on Tudor United Sportscar Championship duty this weekend.
Nick Leventis, Jonny Kane and Danny Watts will all gain track time in the Strakka Racing S103 Dome, which is also running its first laps at La Sarthe. The British team is hoping to complete a comprehensive test of its new Dunlop tyres, after making the switch from Michelin earlier in the month.
SMP Racing will continue the development of its BR01 coupes as they make their Le Mans debut, while Thiriet by TDS Racing and KCMG will both field the new ORECA 05.
The GTE-Pro manufacturer teams have also pitched up ahead of the test day. Corvette Racing’s C7.Rs are already on site, as are AF Corse’s pair of Ferrari 458 Italias. Porsche and Aston Martin Racing have also arrived, although the AMR team is keeping tight-lipped over the unveiling of its special art ar livery for the #97 machine of Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Rob Bell.
— FIA WEC (@FIAWEC) May 28, 2015
The GTE-Am competitors have also been slowly assuming their positions in the Le Mans pit lane, including Taiwanese squad Team AAI which is fielding a pair of Porsche 911s. The Riley Motorsports/TI Automotive Viper has completed its voyage from the United States, while GTE reserve Gulf Racing has made the slightly shorter trip from Imola with its Porsche 911 RSR in the traditional livery. Proton Racing has two race entries, one in the Abu Dhabi guise and one under the Dempsey banner. Proton Competition, one of the reserves participating this weekend, will also field a Porsche 911 RSR. Nine Ferraris, including a seven-strong ELMS cohort, as well as a Larbre Compétition Corvette, will complete the GTE-Am line-up.
Teams will continue to set up at Le Mans in preparation for the test day on Sunday (May 31). The day will be split into two four hour sessions, with the first starting at 9:00 and the latter getting underway at 14:00 (both local time). Pre-test scrutineering takes place both today and tomorrow.