Preview 24h Le Mans 2013 GTE-Class

John Brooks, David Lister
Preview of the 24h Le Mans 2013 GTE class
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P forecast for the GTE class at the 24h race in Le Mans in 2013 are particularly difficult. Imagine having to compile a weather forecast for Europe based on the meteorological data for Africa. You can also guess right away. The data for Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin come from the World Sports Car Championship, from slopes such as Silverstone and Spa, which have little or nothing in common with the Le Mans track characteristics. The data for the Viper and Corvette even come from the American Le Mans Series, where downforce is everything - and top speed counts little.

That is unsatisfactory, because the Le Mans circuit is unique - in many ways : The cult slope is only used once a year. Only there are the GT top speeds above 260 km /h. Only in Le Mans do the GTE drive with a low drag kit for little downforce, because the ultra-long straights cut the 13.629 kilometer long track into five drag strips, where acceleration and top speed are the trump cards also downforce for the fast sectors such as the Porsche curves or for the hard braking maneuvers from almost 300 km /h - the aerodynamics therefore play a decisive role. After all, only the Le Mans track has a full load share of over 70 percent, which means that the consumption factor is also included in the calculation.

In addition, no manufacturer shows what it can really do before Le Mans. Years ago BMW did a great lap in Spa - and then with a smaller restrictor at Le Mans it was just an extra. Everyone tries to keep their powder dry - until Le Mans.

Dress rehearsal in Spa with limited value

At the World Cup -Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche collided for the last time in front of Le Mans at Spa - and also crossed the finish line roughly in this pecking order. To be fair, one should add that an early safety car phase hacked the GT race up after an hour, because the two top Ferraris were already in the pits, while Aston Martin and Porsche had not stopped yet. So Ferrari had a buffer of well over a minute for the remaining five hours of racing.

That was the end of the race, but that doesn't mean that you haven't learned anything. Ferrari is the only mid-engined car in the GTE field that continues to be the benchmark, and only the Italians are allowed to drive direct injection because theyis also installed in the road car. What that means was seen in Spa: Ferrari had the lowest consumption, but still the best net speed and thus a superior efficiency rate.

You won the race despite two stop & go penalties that cost 51 seconds. Ferrari controlled the race after the early safety car phase and adapted the speed to the pursuing Aston Martin without being conspicuous. In the first race at Silverstone, aerodynamics were driven with little air resistance, in Spa they packed up more downforce than necessary - right, so as not to be conspicuous. headline__article - beta '> Aston Martin as a secret favorite

Nevertheless, the Italians are well advised to keep an eye on Aston Martin: The Aston Martin Vantage GTE was honed over two years, and it was given a friendly rating of ACO and FIA. The opponents rumored that the British would only play and even complained in writing about the classification, which, among other things, stipulates that Aston Martin may drive at Le Mans without the Gurney flap on the rear wing.

In Spa only could Aston Martin expected the new Michelin tires for Le Mans double stints, not even the extremely tire-friendly Ferrari could do that. And the lap time development remained almost linear: at Porsche the drop was a good 1.4 seconds, at Ferrari a full second.

Either Aston Martin has built a wonder chassis, or - according to the assumption of the opponents - the British regulate the drop in tire wear via the engine mapping, which could be evidence of performance reserves. Ferrari and Porsche sincerely hope that ACO and FIA will react before Le Mans. David Richards, boss of Aston Martin Racing, sees no reason for this: 'From my point of view, the balance is very good.'

Porsche between hope and fear

Porsche has not necessarily been able to cause a sensation with the works outing of the new 911 RSR in the World Sports Car Championship. On the debut at Silverstone, the top teams lost 59 seconds at the stops - five seconds per stop when refueling. For Spa, the tank construction was converted to a separate vent on the opposite side of the vehicle, which resulted in three seconds per stop. The rest of the time lost in Silverstone was due to a problem with the external refueling system.

Consumption caused confusion at the debut of the RSR. All manufacturers improved compared to the previous year (Aston by 5%, Ferrari was another 4% better), but Porsche shot the bird: A consumption improvement of 18 percent is due to optimization of the mapping (maximum 2%) or the new one , hardly any conclusive explanation of lower-friction transmissions (maximum 1%).

Consumption miracle atPorsche?

Porsche burned 421.14 liters for 164 laps at Silverstone in 2012, and one year later 357.06 liters for 170 laps. The consumption per lap fell from 2.57 to 2.10 liters. However, we are talking firstly about different vehicles (997 versus 991), secondly, of course, the speed has to be taken into account:

The racing speed without pit stops was 168.82 km /h in 2012, in 2013 it was 169.99 km /h H. The efficiency rate (racing speed divided by consumption per 100 kilometers) was 3.87 in 2012 and 4.60 in 2013 - a massive increase, and that without direct injection and with the same engine as in 2012. What does that mean for Le Mans? Perhaps Porsche is also focusing on range and consumption there?

Porsche is looking for performance for Le Mans

In Spa, the Porsche was closer to Aston Martin and Ferrari in terms of speed, and consumption was immediately clear higher. In the 50 fastest race laps they were four tenths behind Ferrari, the pit stop times were almost on par with the opponents. The increase in shape is pleasing, but the balance is darkened: The handling still shows too much oversteer, and the mechanical traction on the new RSR has suffered.

The fact that Aston Martin was able to drive double stints at Spa was received almost with horror in the Porsche box. After all, the Swabians are hoping to be able to drive double stints at Le Mans for the first time since 2010. Tire wear remains a critical issue. A Porsche engineer summed up the situation after Spa as follows: 'We are too slow - and the others are too fast.' That means: Porsche must continue to work on the performance and hope that ACO and FIA analyze the data precisely - and make adjustments before Le Mans.

What can the Viper and Corvette do?

The big unknowns in the Le Mans equation are those who drive races on the other side of the Atlantic: Viper and Corvette. Both brands have already proven their speed on the high-downforce tracks in the ALMS. We know from Corvette that they know the conditions at Le Mans perfectly, while Viper will be competing in France for the first time after more than ten years of abstinence.

Both manufacturers are well engineered, with the largest displacement engines of the GTE Field. In the past, Corvette managed 14 laps on one tank of fuel despite the 5.5 liter V8 engine, and triple stints with the tires are also possible. At Viper, the consumption of the eight-liter engine should cause headaches, but not the speed. Without much Le Mans experience, mechanical reliability is also an issue at Viper - the Americans are facing their first major 24h outing.

Readjustment of the vehicle classification?

The complicated battle situation becomes even more confusing because ACO and FIA at theVehicle classifications (BOP) can still be readjusted. But do they do it? From ACO circles one hears that at best Aston Martin could easily be tied back. But Ferrari was faster than Aston Martin at Spa. Good advice is expensive, and the chance increases that the ACO and FIA will no longer tackle the hot iron before the 24-hour cracker. The precision of the forecasts for Le Mans is unfortunately still on the level of flowery weather forecasts.

Conclusion: Aston Martin, Ferrari and Corvette are the favorites for Le Mans. The Viper could cause a stir in qualifying, in the race there are several question marks about consumption, tire wear and reliability. Porsche is only an outsider after the paper version - but maybe the Swabians will pull a white rabbit out of their hat.

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