LE MANS
Pre Le Mans
-
14/06/2001
 
Preview
GTS
 
Vanina Ickx - daughter of Jacky, of course, the Course Director - allegedly crashed one Viper in testing recently, confirming the suspicion that the Kumpen / de Galzain / Lagniez chassis (#56) should be the one to watch. Kumpen should sparkle in Qualifying, but the yellow and blue cars are likely to struggle to match the consistent pace of the furious battle between the other Vipers, the Saleens and the Corvetttes. A good, top four, finish for one seems a sensible target. These cars often seem less reliable than a top line Viper ought to be (in FIA GT events).

The French Federation is behind this Viper, although preparation is in the hands of Oreca. David Terrien is responsible for coaching his young partners. If Jonathan Cochet and Jean-Paul Dayrault can stay out of trouble, reliability should see them home to some success. The French have a history of backing their young drivers and helping them progress. The British have a history of letting them get on with it. Remember 'Racing For Britain' all those years ago? Britain has a new infrastructure dominated by an American advertising agency.



Larbre have worked wonders with this Viper in the FIA GT Championship. Reliability has been of ORECA standards, pace has been excellent, and wins have flowed - despite the maximum ballast penalty. None of that old nonsense at Le Mans. Bang on the qualies and go as fast as you can - in the build up to the race. For Christophe Bouchut, that was a 3:55.230 at the Test Day. A wonderfully impressive time, just eight tenths behind the professionally-driven Saleens. I'd choose a Larbre Viper as the ideal tool to cross the line after 24 hours. Jurgen von Gartzen joins the regular pair.

Terry Borcheller, Oliver Gavin and Franz Konrad in #60. Walter Brun, Toni Seiler and Charlie Slater in #61. As different as chalk and cheese, but without the likes of Brun and Seiler, we would presumably have one less Saleen to admire. Their car held up the M3 BMWs at Jarama, so let's focus on Borcheller and Gavin in #60. They drove a blinder at Sebring, able to conserve the car and out-pace the Corvettes. A Saleen had never attempted more than three hours before, but won over 12. 24 looks like a remote prospect, but the fascination is that you just never know. Eight tenths quicker than Larbre's Viper last month. One Saleen less than there was supposed to be.



Bruno Lambert, Ian McKellar and Johnny Mowlem. Now there's an interesting trio. Running Dunlops against Konrad's Goodyears, but a 3:54.472 was a wonderful debut at Le Mans last month, only thousandths behind the GTS 'pole' that day. Who did set that time? A wonderful win first time out at Donington, then engine trouble at Jarama. Absolutely anything is possible from the RML entry. Victory over Saleen themselves would presumably be sweet. No sign of that Ecurie Ecosse name that was bandied about last winter.

Corvettes suddenly look a little 'last year' don't they? Perhaps that's because they're based on a mass produced road car, so we've all seen plenty of them. Beaten by Oreca in the GTS punch-up last year; it couldn't be that they'll be pipped by the next pretender to the crown, could it? Proven reliability over 24 hours, but 'only' managed 3:57 at the Test Day. Could probably run 4:01s all day, all night, then all day again. Ron Fellows will lead the charge, backed up by the excellent O'Connell and Pruett. Strong second team too. A race to the flag with the Larbre Viper, perhaps? Vipers seem to pip them over 24 hours, if present.





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