24h Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans – How do drivers and teams fill the time until race week?
Test Day is over and the first practice session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is on Wednesday 15 June, so this is somewhat of a limbo period for racing teams. Drivers, team managers and mechanics all occupy themselves as best they can.
Waiting can be stressful as competitors have time to think about the race to come, so many drivers calm nerves by staying active.
For 24-year-old Roman Rusinov, this will be the fourth 24 Hours of Le Mans. The G-Drive Racing driver (#26 Oreca 05-Nissan) will be going home to Russia but it won’t exactly be a holiday. “I’ll be working out a lot," he says. “I’ll be running, going to the gym and boxing." The strong-willed trader who went to business school in Paris and speaks perfect French is full of energy and thinks nothing of jogging around the 13.629km circuit. “I don’t believe in luck. You have to be fit and everything needs to be right, at least on paper. That’s why the technical team stay in Le Mans to improve the car as much as possible."
The biggest teams often go back to base and only leave a few team members on site. The Ford Chip Ganassi Team (cars #66 and #67) will be going back to the UK and American driver Billy Johnson will be going home to Florida. Team manager George Howard-Chappell says: “Only the cars stay here."
Same with Toyota. A handful of team members stay in Le Mans for a few days. Marketing coordinator Jérôme Fougeray is one of them. “On Monday, we totally rebuild the cars. They are dismantled and put back together again. On Tuesday, we go out on the Bugatti track to make sure it’s all good. Then everyone leaves! We hand over to our sponsor to do the covering. They completely re-do the wrap so that the #5 and #6 look their very best for the scrutineering session [12-13 June].
Romain Dumas (#2 Porsche 919 Hybrid) will be taking time to relax this week. "Some of the team and equipment has left for the United States because I’ll be racing Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs after Le Mans, so now I have some time to myself. I’m going to try and relax and do a bit of sport. I approach the 24 Hours just like any other race. There’s no point in getting worked up and putting too much pressure on yourself. We’ll run our race the best we can."
In the Aston Martin camp the technical staff stay in Le Mans but the drivers up sticks. Englishman Darren Turner (#95) will be going back to his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. For the seasoned Le Mans driver (this will be his 13th), it will be an ordinary week: “I’m going to relax with my family, my two kids. I’ve got a one-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl. I’ve got media interviews and a work meeting planned. As far as fitness training is concerned, I’ll just go running. A fairly run-of-the-mill week as they go!"
Race Performance driver Shinji Nakano (#34 Oreca 03R-Judd) is disappointed: “It’s too far for me to go home to Japan. I was looking forward to visiting the Loire Valley chateaux, especially Amboise and Chambord. But with the floods, I won’t be able to, so I’ll be staying in Le Mans."
Photo: Japanese driver Shinji Nakano hides his disappointment at not being able to visit the Loire Valley this week.