Le Mans Test Day
Ascari Preparations
Saturday May 5

One year ago was a little too early for Ascari to be tackling the greatest sportscar race of all. The Le Mans Test Day in 2000 saw them struggling with a new car, a new gearbox that was delayed, the inevitable gear selection problems and the equally inevitable over-revved engine.

Robbie Stirling is pictured in the A410 last year.

Meanwhile, further up the pit-lane last year was the Multimatic outfit. They were racing a Lola in the smaller LMP675 class, and although they were suffering new car problems too, they made it into the race and....they won their class. Who was managing the team? Ian Dawson. Who is managing the Ascari effort this year? Ian Dawson.

He told Marc Laffeas yesterday that "our aim for the Test Day is to improve the reliability of the package."

'The package' is now two packages, because - does good news follow Ian Dawson around? - the team are blessed this year with two entries straight into the race. One team dropping out three weeks ago was Ascari's good fortune. They snapped up the chance to run the second car at the Test Day, which is just that - a test of the car, the drivers and the team, to prepare for the race itself next month.

The team's racing efforts this season have effectively been part of the build up to Le Mans itself. Ian Dawson took over shortly before the season began at Barcelona, and that race could well have seen a deserved podium position for drivers Ben Collins and Werner Lupberger...until they were hit by engine trouble.

Donington Park next for the first round of the ELMS. The lead car qualified well, and was running in a group of top flight sports prototypes - the new Chrysler, one of the Panoz LMP07s and the Courage C60 - but the drive failed. The pace was there...."improve the reliability," was the command.

Monza and the 1000 KM race demonstrated that the reliability was coming. Werner and Ben finished an excellent second after a five hour thrash around the famous Italian track, but "although we were thinking of victory.. the missing screw in the brake disc was against us," explained Ian. A long pit stop to cure that problem prevented that first victory - but the margin was just seconds after over five hours. Can you see the pattern of improvement?

So what are the drivers thinking as they mentally prepare for the Test Day itself (Ben on the left)?

Ben Collins cannot wait to drive the Ascari A410 at this famous track. "The car has a lot of inherent downforce and on the Monza circuit we lost out a little in straight line speed to the Ferrari-Judd and the Reynard, but the car was very good in the corners." Ben is sure that it will be very good on the high speed corners of Le Mans. "We really optimised the set up at Monza it was perfect and I canít think of any way we could have improved it."

He and Werner will share the full roll hoop car this weekend and Patrick Lemariť and Harri Toivonen the single hoop car which, after its Donington troubles, ran very well in the wet at the recent test the team held at Silverstone. "The single hoop car is set up in the same way as our chassis but should be a little quicker with its lower drag, improved engine intake position and less disturbed airflow over the wing," explained Ben.

The plan for tomorrow is consistent runs, but they will also try a qualifying set up because although they realistically have no pretensions to pole, they feel it is important to be able to run as near the front as possible in the early race laps, thereby avoiding any early lap incidents in a crowded midfield.

Ben explained there is no number one driver, he and Werner are equal number ones. Ben's only previous Le Mans experience was a troubled May test in a GT2 Porsche, while Werner hasn't raced here at all. Harri Toivonen has taken them round in a road car but he feels that their experience of the car will mean they should have few problems. Ben nearly convinced Werner that he would need to run to the car at the start of the race! Werner is plotting his revenge.....

Official website of the Le Mans 24 Hours
Official website of the Le Mans 24 Hours

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