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September 21, 2019

Comment: Slow and steady wins the race?

Comment: Slow and steady wins the race?
Photo Credit To Gary Parravani/ www.Xynamic.com

With all the clamouring over BOP this week, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that Le Mans is, after all, a 24 Hour race, where ultimate reliability traditionally counts for much more than outright one-lap pace.

After their dominant display in qualifying caught everybody by surprise, Ford have been hit with an extra 10 kilos and a boost reduction, while Ferrari have been dealt an extra 15 kilos.

Meanwhile, the normally aspirated Corvettes and Aston Martins have been granted an increase of 0.2 mm to their air restrictors, while Porsche are the only manufacturer that remain unchanged. But will it count for anything by 3pm on Sunday afternoon?

Aston Martin Managing Director John Gaw has urged caution of his charges, pointing out that the GTE-Pro field in recent years has been decided by making no mistakes and good reliability.

“Over the last five years, on average, second place finishes two laps behind the leader, third finishes three laps behind, fourth finishes five laps behind and fifth finishes eight laps behind,” he told Racing.GT. “That’s thirty minutes to get in the top five and 15 minutes to get on the podium.

“Last year was an exceptionally wide year and there’s been some closer years, but never has there been a year decided by a sprint race. If it came down to that, do I think we have the fastest car? No, but do we need the fastest car? Probably not.

“It’s not about two or three tenths, it’s about laps – it’s more likely to be decided by the individual execution of technicians, engineers and the drivers, the decisions people make and that’s where you have to place your bets and stick to your own plan.”

After losing an excellent chance of victory in both classes last year due to driver errors, Gaw admitted that he has worked harder this year to press home his message.

“We knew all this last year, but obviously I failed because I didn’t get the message across to the drivers,” he said. “If you lose two or three seconds out on circuit, then don’t try and make it up on the rest of that lap because once they’re gone, they’re gone.

“We’ve often said when we go back on a Monday morning, I wish we had just turned off the timing screens and turned them on with thirty minutes to go, because the danger is your strategy, your decisions get affected by others performance.”

Corvette Racing will start from the tail end of the GTE-Pro field in 13th and 14th places, but Antonio Garcia agrees that the qualifying order will have very little relation to the end result – regardless of the BOP.

“We’ve been in this position quite a few times, in the end what you need to do is focus on what you have and try to execute it at 100%,” said the Spaniard, who didn’t get to start the race last year after team-mate Jan Magnussen shunted heavily in qualifying. “If you focus more on the other manufacturers than on yourself, you will not perform to the maximum of what you have.

“Corvette Racing is very good at that, we showed at Daytona twice and Sebring twice in the last two years that being the fastest doesn’t mean anything. If you execute and the only thing you do during the race is add fuel and tyres, then that puts you up there in contention.

“Last year with the problems we had, we came together as one team so we doubled the input into one car – every single person on the team worked for that car and it paid off. I’m sure we were not as competitive as the Ferrari, but we made it to the end and really proved what Corvette can do. Come Monday, if we perform to our 100% I will be satisfied no matter what.”

Porsche’s Head of Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser was reduced to tears during the pre-race press conference by the BOP situation, but Kevin Estre told Racing.GT that there was little point in concerning themselves with the single-lap pace of the turbo-cars.

Having won the race in 2013, the 911 RSR is a well-proven package over 24 hours, although it is nearing the end of its development cycle and is due to be replaced nest year.

“When you’re in the car, you just try to push and get the best out of it – you don’t think so much about the others,” said the Frenchman. “When you get out and look at the screen to see that you are P8, more than three seconds behind, of course there’s a lot of frustration, but we can’t influence what the others are doing. We’ll just do our thing and if we have no problems, we’ll be somewhere at the end to fight for a podium.”

About The Author

James Newbold

James Newbold is Racing.GT's Editor. He graduated from a politics degree at the University of East Anglia in 2015, which should help him navigate through the political minefield that is GT racing. He likes Marmite on toast and Oreo cookies. Speaks Spanish, but only when no one is looking.