LE MANS
Pre Le Mans
-
14/06/2001
 
Preview
LMP900s - Two
 
Thank heavens - for so many reasons - that Don Panoz is a stayer, not a quitter. The LMP07 had that hint of greatness about it eight months ago, but it's been a long haul since then. Go back to the old Roadsters? Certainly not for Le Mans. As Cadillac will prove, you can turn it around if you throw enough at it. Has Panoz? Should they try the old V8 in it? Would it fit? The list of problems is apparent for all to see - as the car often expires very publicly. Stubbornness is a great virtue that deserves reward. may something good come out of this Le Mans. 1999 was the Panoz dream, at least in terms of speed. Brabham led last year. He won't this time. LMP07 looks sensational standing still. It might do a lot of that.

One of the sights of the season so far was Olivier Beretta on a Qualifying lap at Donington Park. The Frenchman had the Dallara-built Chrysler chassis twitching and slipping in wonderfully aggressive style. This thing is very, very good. The engine seems to have been restored to proper running order too, after a disastrous initial test and then a switch to the Judd while old Mopar was fixed. Electrical? Oh, that kind of 'electrical'. A 3:36 last month was a very good starting point. One Mopar lasted the race last year, one didn't last a lap. Dalmas is the man to have to get you home, but these three could finish almost anywhere. A lesson in how Cadillac should have done it? Dabble with a test chassis in 2000, then ring up that Dallara chappie for 2001?

Henri Pescarolo had some unreliable, accident filled years in his early F1 / sportscar career, then he seemed to discover how to finish races. Never terribly quick himself through the 90s at Le Mans, he was almost always going to bring his 962 / Courage home. Now he's an expert at bringing his own team's cars to the grid ready for a finish - although the C60 doesn't yet support that argument. 2001 has all been about building up to the 24 though, so expect one of the Peugeot-powered greenies to make it, if not both. 3:37 and 3:39 at the Test Day were great times, the car is a Courage Le Mans-shaped special, of course, and he's got a well rounded driver line-up - who daren't let him down. It's all about being there at the end.

Just look at the shape of the CMG C60. Judd powered and very slippery, it will hurry down the straights as fast as anything. Gache / Policand / Beltoise are a strong group, and Michelins will fill out the wheelarches this time. Could be a surprisingly high finisher, or just another mid-race retirement. Anything is possible. Team seems to lack recent race experience. They didn't run for a long time late last year, and haven't raced in 2001. A one race wonder now? A lovely, lovely looking example of Yves Courage's C60. I'm a bit sick of green, to be honest.

The little guys with the big hearts. Ian Dawson has turned the operation around in a few, very busy, months. There's a sense of urgency and purpose here, and a great deal of optimism. Last year was a disaster at the Test Day, this year was a glorious success. Took the first reserve spot when a Saleen withdrew, and did everything you'd hope for to justify the two car entry. Reliable and quick, running Goodyears (along with just the Nielsen car) and perhaps about to shut up the Judd doubters once and for all. Lemarie was a late loss. Klaas Zwart is one of racing's great characters. He, Nielsen, Lammmers and Gache are the owner drivers in LMP900. Zwart leaves the organisation entirely to others. Lupberger is a star in waiting, but he might have to harness his pace for a week. Race pace will be everything.




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

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