24 Hours of Le Mans drivers weigh in on changes to the Porsche Curves
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24 Hours of Le Mans drivers weigh in on changes to the Porsche Curves

One of the changes affecting the upcoming 86th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans include the newly modified Porsche Curves. Though nothing has been done to the track itself, work has been completed to put in place a larger clearance area, new fencing and brand new guardrails.

What was done

Safety-related construction at the Porsche Curves is now completed, with the majority achieved between October and December 2017. A large clearance zone was created where the curves meet the Maison Blanche section of the circuit. Project management was carried out under the supervision of the Syndicat Mixte du Circuit des 24 Heures.

At the exit of the curve, 25,900 m3 of dirt was hauled away and 22,000 m3 of dirt was brought in as backfill to create a 35-meter clearance zone and put in place a grassy knoll. 350 meters of safety rails were erected as well as 370 meters of FIA-approved fencing. Roadworks were then put in place, including undercoats and then bitumen (600 tons of asphalt mix) covered with a special high-adhesion coating. The length of the circuit has been decreased by three meters and now measures 13.626 km. This was the first time the circuit had been modified since 2007.

Driver reactions...

Léo Roussel (#5 Ginetta G60-LT-P1 - Mecachrome, LMP1): It's good for safety reasons. It's what was needed given that cars are going faster and faster these days. From a driver's point of view, it's not so great because it affects such a legendary circuit. At least the curve hasn't been changed at all, they just enlarged the clearance zone. The Porsche and Indianapolis Curves are spots where you can really make a difference because some drivers are better at overtaking than others. Cars are going faster and faster but they're also safer. The gravel trap is on the inside so when a driver cuts through it, it will pepper the track with gravel.

Kazuki Nakajima (#8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, LMP1): It has radically changed. It's bigger and wider. For safety reasons, I think it's better for drivers and that is what is most important. But, I think it takes away some of the excitement and sense of speed at the Porsche Curves. That is what motorsport is all about! On one hand it's a little sad, on the other I think it needed to be done.

David Cheng (#33 Ligier JS P217, Jackie Chan DC Racing, LMP2): I admit it's quite different. Over the last 10 years, serious incidents have taken place there. I think the ACO made a difficult decision. This is a step in the right direction and better than having put in a chicane. Meanwhile, the Porsche Curves are still the Porsche Curves. During the day, you can easily see the clearance zone, but at night it's still going to be challenging. The cars are reaching higher speeds and the track must follow!

Andy Priaulx (#67 Ford GT, Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK, LMGTE Pro): ACO officials reacted to the accident that took place in this area last year. I think that's fantastic, they did great work and it really makes how they're making the circuit safer. I don't think they could have done any better. I spoke with some of them yesterday evening about future projects and they're going to continue to improve the circuit in the coming years. That's a good thing since the cars are getting faster and faster.

Olivier Pla (#66 Ford GT, LMGTE Pro): Honestly, for us drivers, it's about the same. The track wasn't modified and they haven't changed the curve itself. It's better though because there is a bigger clearance zone if there's a problem. It was a good decision.

 

PHOTO: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), PLACE DE LA REPUBLIQUE, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS. Aerial view of the Porsche Curves after the modifications done last winter.