Risi Competizione 24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day

Race Engineer's Perspective‏

Rick Mayer, race engineer of the Risi Competizione No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE-Pro Le Mans race team, takes a look ahead at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day, June 5, 2016, at the classic Circuit de la Sarthe.Pilots of the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 for the Le Mans Test are Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy), Toni Vilander (Finland) and Matteo Mulucelli (Italy).General: The track is mostly public roads, except for the event days. The whole circuit is not available to test at any other time. The Le Mans test day is one of the most important test days of any series, given the uniqueness of the venue. This time of year Le Mans weather can be extremely variable: wet, dry, hot or cold. We need to maximize track time to understand the tire options in the different conditions, finalize the race event starting setup and get all the drivers comfortable and familiar with the many alarms, buttons, dials and switches.The circuit is 8.5 miles long and just under 4 minutes per lap for the GTEs. Telemetry and radio coverage is typically not 100% with a circuit this large. You can lose touch with where the car is on the track unless you judiciously time every lap with your stop watch. It takes nearly 15 minutes just to do one timed lap if you include the 'out' and 'in' laps.We have a total of eight (8) hours of practice time for the test day, but the number of actual practice laps is low in comparison to a normal USA (or European) sprint race because of the long lap time. It almost always rains in testing and/or the race, just hope you have the setup and other essential testing sorted in the dry running.Competition: This will be the most competitive GTE-Pro class ever in this year's Le Mans, with Ferrari, Ford, Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche and Aston Martin, all fielding multiple cars with factory supported teams and drivers. There are no weak teams or drivers; these are the best of the best in every respect. It is unlikely any cars will show their true pace as the BoP (Balance of Performance) can be adjusted between the test and the race. All the manufacturers are hoping to keep what they have or get a BoP advantage for the race week.Setup: First, you need a super reliable car; you have to finish to win. It needs to be comfortable for all the drivers with no unpredictable handling tendencies. If the car is good in the Porsche curves, it is probably good everywhere and that's a reliable gauge. The aero setup for Le Mans is like nowhere else we race. Every car has a special homologated Le Mans-only aero package to reduce the downforce and drag for competitiveness and equality. The long straights here are so important, with three of them being over a mile long and two more over 4000 feet. Teams will trim downforce to reduce drag for straight-line speed. You need a good platform for the high speeds and change of directions, so the setup is on the stiff side; there is only one slow corner at Le Mans. The majority of the track is smooth (surprisingly for every day roads) so there is not usually a grip issue. Additionally the track gains grip in the test as the track rubbers in. Of course, that is only if the rain doesn't wash the rubber off! You always consider rain in the setup; seldom is the race totally dry.

Rick Mayer, Risi Competizione race engineerTest Day Methodology: Teams only have two 4-hour sessions with a 1-hour break. It is a full day of running. In the first hour the track will be low grip, dusty and dirty on the public street parts of the circuit. You need to get a handle on the setup at the test. During the event week you need to be in 'race mode' and concentrate on race prep (car, drivers, equipment, crew, pit work, etc.) and not setup. All the Michelin shod GTE-Pro cars will have three (3) dry tire options to choose from, and multiple damp to full wet tire options; understanding the 'windows' these tires all work best in and cross-over points will be the main goal of this test. We will try and do long runs on tires, a stint being about an hour, to see how the balance changes and what the lap time degradation is throughout the run. We need to determine when and if it is advantageous to multi-stint tires in the race. Le Mans technical regulations only allow a limited number of dry tire sets to be used in the race. The quantity is not enough to change tires on every stop for the whole race, so we will have to multi-stint tires.If teams have a good test with a comfortable reliable car and reasonably happy drivers (drivers are rarely ALL happy), then you can start working on race event planning and minor fine tuning of the car, drivers and crew for the race week.

The Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT during IMSA competition earlier this year

Test Day Methodology: Teams only have two 4-hour sessions with a 1-hour break. It is a full day of running. In the first hour the track will be low grip, dusty and dirty on the public street parts of the circuit. You need to get a handle on the setup at the test. During the event week you need to be in 'race mode' and concentrate on race prep (car, drivers, equipment, crew, pit work, etc.) and not setup. All the Michelin shod GTE-Pro cars will have three (3) dry tire options to choose from, and multiple damp to full wet tire options; understanding the 'windows' these tires all work best in and cross-over points will be the main goal of this test. We will try and do long runs on tires, a stint being about an hour, to see how the balance changes and what the lap time degradation is throughout the run. We need to determine when and if it is advantageous to multi-stint tires in the race. Le Mans technical regulations only allow a limited number of dry tire sets to be used in the race. The quantity is not enough to change tires on every stop for the whole race, so we will have to multi-stint tires.If teams have a good test with a comfortable reliable car and reasonably happy drivers (drivers are rarely ALL happy), then you can start working on race event planning and minor fine tuning of the car, drivers and crew for the race week.