In less than three weeks (14-15 June) Loic Duval will race in the 82nd Le Mans 24 Hours with Tom Kristensen and Lucas di Grassi at the wheel of the no. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. However, before taking part in the Sarthe classic the teams will be in action on the circuit on Sunday 1st June to see how they stack up during the test day.
Loic, how do you prepare for a race like the Le Mans 24 Hours?LD: “To be frank we began training the day after the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours! This race is a huge challenge for all the entrants from a technical, human and psychological point of view as well. It’s sort of our world cup. And I think that the word team finds its truest expression in motor sport at Le Mans more than anywhere else. Everything’s special. The week of the race gets off to an early start on Monday at scrutineering and so you’ve already been through a lot before you get into the car on Saturday for the actual race. You have to know how to pace yourself and find a few moments to relax. Physically you have to be in tip top form. Team strategies sometimes impose demanding four-hour stints. So you have to drink a lot to prevent the muscles from tensing up but at Audi Sport Team Joest we have doctors and a masseuse who look after us and ensure we’re in tip-top condition. This year every second will play an important role in the final outcome.”
What does this event mean to you?LD: “It’s quite simply awesome. The Le Mans 24 Hours has a worldwide impact. There’s also the ambience with all those campers who arrive a week before the race; they’re all dyed-in-the-wool fans and they stay sat in the grandstands all night. Funnily enough for me driving at night is a form of relaxation! I feel like an astronaut far away from everything. While the entire week at Le Mans is hectic and a blur of noise and speed, the quietness of the Audi’s hybrid-diesel engine, the speed, the lack of light and certain sectors that are totally deserted, gives me the impression that I’m floating. Nevertheless my concentration 100% at its maximum. This year will be a bit special: the official unveiling of the bronze hand print in the town centre early in race week then driving the No1 numbered Audi will bring home to me the fact that I won last year’s Le Mans race.”
What’s at stake in Sunday’s test?LD: “Our rivals are so strong this year that the slightest opportunity to run on this unique circuit is a rare means to fine-tune the setups. We have an advantage with three cars while Toyota and Porsche have only two each. It’s up to us to make the most of it. The race starts on 14th June, but for us it began 11 months earlier. I can‘t wait…”
What is the aim of the test day?The aim of this day of free practice is to give the entrants the opportunity to come and test their cars on the Le Mans 24-Hours track. The teams can set up at the circuit without having to move out again after which the different stages follow one another starting with scrutineering on 8-9 June, free practice and qualifying on 11-12 June and the race on 14-15 June.
Who has to take part in the test day?New cars with one model minimum, teams that have never raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours, ditto for the drivers or for those who are not on the list of confirmed drivers automatically allowed to take part in official practice since Le Mans 2009. Each driver in question must cover at least 10 laps during the day and the ACO reserves itself the right to refuse his/her entry if his/her performances or skills are not up to the mark.