Le Mans Series Paul Ricard preview
A flying start to the Le Mans Series at Le Castellet
A few days after the official test session, the 2011 Le Mans Series will be launched on the demanding Paul Ricard HTTT circuit between 1st-3rd April 2011. Thirty-six cars will do battle in all five categories to open their score in what promises to be a hotly-contested season.
LMP1: Aston Martin launches its latest weapon, the AMR-One
In LM P1, the main focus will be on the Pescarolo team, the 2005 and 2006 Le Mans Series LM P1 title winners, making its return to the championship after a year's absence. Rebellion Racing, fastest in the test session, will start the weekend as favourite with its two very quick Lola-Toyotas in the hands of a top-class driver line-up. The arrival of Aston Martin with its brand-new AMR-One could reshuffle the cards. It did not run in the official test session, and Stefan Mücke, Darren Turner and Harold Primat are determined to give the English newcomer a win on its maiden outing.
Guess Racing will also have its first run at Le Castellet in the opening round of the season, while the Quifel-ASM team will be out to confirm its encouraging performance during the test session on the French circuit. Christophe Tinseau, reckons it will be a very open championship. “In testing, four cars were covered by five-tenths of a second. It's very close and it looks like there'll be ding-dong battles in the races. Everybody's in with a chance.”
LMP2: Strakka Racing rejoins the field
The overall level in LM P2 has nothing to envy that of the top category with nine cars competing for victory. Boutsen Energy Racing (Oreca 03-Nissan) and Strakka Racing (HPD ARX-01d), who did not take part in the test session, will be out to get their season off to a winning start. TDS Race Performance and Pecom Racing laid down a marker as they were at the top of the time sheets during the Le Castellet test. Strakka Racing, winner of the LM P2 category at Paul Ricard last year, is chasing its second victory on the French circuit with its HPD ARX-01d. RML, the 2007 and 2010 Le Mans Series champions, has also entered a prototype designed by Honda Performance Development and Wirth Research.
LMGTE Pro: Four Ferraris against four Porsches and two Aston Martins…
The LM GTE category has attracted a strong entry with ten cars in GTE Pro and six in GTE Am. At Le Castellet, four Ferrari F458 Italias and four new-spec Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs will go head-to-head for victory with Aston Martin's two Vantages in the role of outsider. AF Corse has entered two F458 Italias, the latest weapon from Maranello, and is aiming for the Le Mans Series title like JMW Motorsport and Hankook Team Farnbacher, also Ferrari-mounted. In the Porsche camp, the Felbermayr-Proton team will be gunning for a hat trick of titles with its Porsche after those of 2009 and 2010. The IMSA Performance Matmut, Prospeed Competition and Gruppem-Eterniti Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs will also provide redoubtable competition in what will be a no-holds-barred battle. Jota Racing and Young Driver AMR will defend Aston Martin's chances.
LMGTE Am: Ferrari-Porsche duel
The Ferrari-Porsche duel will also be the highlight of the LM GTE Am category and six cars will fight for first place. The two Ferrari F430 GTs of AF Corse will be up against the ones entered by CRS Racing and Kessel Racing. Opposition to them will come from two teams already entered in LM GTE Pro, Felbermayr-Proton and IMSA Performance Matmut with two Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs. The French squad set the quickest time in testing.
FLM: Genoa Racing takes on the European teams
In Formula Le Mans, the American squad Genoa Racing, which has made a good start to the season, will join the Le Mans Series for the Le Castellet 6 Hours. Five FLM-Orecas will be present in the Var. Although Neil Garner Motorsports set the quickest time during official testing, Hope Racing, Pegasus Racing and JMB Racing will all take the fight to the British squad in what is a very open category.
The F3 Euro Series, the Speed Euro Series and the Porsche Matmut Carrera Cup are also part of the Le Castellet meeting
During the Le Mans Series meeting, in addition to the Le Castellet 6 Hours, spectators will be able to enjoy the opening rounds of three other championships: the Formula 3 Euro Series, the Speed Series and the Porsche Matmut Carrera Cup. The Formula 3 Euro Series is a pan-European Championship in which up-and-coming young drivers do battle with the aim of making it into Formula 1. The Speed Euro Series for prototypes is held mainly in the context of the Le Mans Series, and will also begin its season at Le Castellet. This year, the Porsche Matmut Carrera Cup is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, and the drivers are determined to put on a thrilling show in the opening round.
-source: le mans series
Pescarolo Team Paul Ricard test summary
Le Castellet is the scene of Le Mans Series' season opener