Le Mans Test Day
Ascari's Test Day
Sunday May 6

For the Ascari outfit, the Test Day for the Le Mans 24 Hours couldn’t have gone better. The ‘full roll hoop car, #20, set the tenth fastest time of the day in the hands of Werner Lupberger, while the #21 was 15th, driven by Patrick Lemarie.

Jackie Radcliffe caught up with the team at lunchtime, when the cars were in highly promising 17th and 19th positions. There was a lot more to come.

Werner Lupberger:
“I must tell you, I have been watching these 24 hour Le Mans races every year with my Father since I was a kid but that’s the story of most racing drivers. I never thought that I would be here, it was not really a dream of mine because I did not think I would be able to reach that sort of goal. The other day, coming from England on the ferry, just the feeling of coming here, then Harri (Toivonen) took us along the Mulsanne straight…..he could only show me that part because the rest of it is blocked off. Its just unbelievable to be here and also racing against a lot of these drivers that I've seen on TV. Some of these guys are not that young anymore because when I was a kid I watched them racing so it’s a very special feeling to be here.

“It was quite frustrating watching Ben (Collins) going round this morning because I wanted to go round. It's really, really something special to be able to drive round this place. This morning was quite funny because I think I put a lot of pressure on myself coming here, not expecting a lot for myself, just that I want to do well. I told Harri if he could just wait for me, I just wanted to follow him out the pits and go round the circuit because I don’t know where the pit entrance is going to be, I don’t know any part of the circuit. So I followed him very slowly coming round just for the first lap trying to memorise it, doing radio checks on each corner and oil temperatures and water temperatures so it was quite hectic this morning. But it was really worth it, the whole thing and also the whole build up to the race.”

Later in the day, as Ben Collins was completing his appointed laps in the afternoon session, Werner was really looking forward to having a go for a quick time. Team Manager Ian Dawson reckoned a sub 3:40 lap was on, and Werner obliged with 3:38.399. The 3:31 that some team members were telling him to do was perhaps a little unrealistic!

Harri Toivonen:
“I am very pleased to be here. It was the first time (with Ascari) last year and we had problems in the test. The car is going very well, we are very happy. We just spent the morning doing some basic set up, to balance the car mechanically and to find a good set up aerodynamically. The car is going very well, we’ll just go quicker and quicker and try to learn the car and try to spend time to find the right balance. The Ascari is a nice car to drive, it has a lot of downforce and is a safe car, it’s is not a nervous car. The key here is to keep going round with no mistakes and this is a nice car to do that and that is what we are working at.

“Maybe we will try some new tyres this afternoon, to see where we are. We are using Goodyears and we may use a set to see where we are in the times but this is not the point today, we want to make sure we are reliable and find a good race set up for the car.”

Ian Dawson: (photo to be added)
“This morning is what I wanted to see happen, we ran two cars reliably with no trouble. The newer car took a couple of hours to get all the small bugs ironed out of it, but it’s all right now Yeah its quite good really. Patrick will bring his time down easily when he gets a clear lap; it’s the usual problem of some of the traffic not being helpful. Werner did a fantastic job - unlike a lot of people he has never driven here, for him to do a 3:46 on only his seventh lap is fantastic.”

Werner apparently came into the pits and was ecstatic about the track.

“Well it’s like a passion, a life time still, even with me. It’s still the same too, even at my eleventh Le Mans and you know, you either hate the place or love it. It’s one of the top three things in the world, Monaco, Indianapolis and Le Mans, yes its super. Probably our biggest problem is trying to operate two cars out of one garage, it’s difficult when you are trying to get a flow and you have got to wait, so we are struggling with that logistically but everybody is calm, the guys are doing a good job. We just want to go through the afternoon, make steady progress, finish with both cars somewhere around the middle of the 900 class, we will be happy. Then we go away and work again, yeah fine no problem. Ben's settled himself in well and did some good times there at the end. Harri has got a few laps now, he has not been in the car for a while but he is always a great team player and a big help so he's settling in as well so that's the objective today, to get everybody comfortable and go forward from that.”

Patrick Lemarie:
“So far, quite a good ‘qualification’ for me. I only did 5 or 6 laps this morning, so I have to learn the track, I have to learn the car. It’s the first time for me in a sportscar. Three years ago I was doing nothing so it’s a great experience for me in this car.”

So 17th and 19th became tenth and 15th, ahead of a number of factory cars. The engines – the whole cars – were perfectly reliable, and there’s an aura of confidence spreading through the whole outfit.

Next stop is Spa for the third round of the FIA Sportscar Championship.

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

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