Bird suspicious of Ford's "unusual" Le Mans test pace

Ferrari driver Sam Bird has raised suspicion over Ford’s pace in the Le Mans 24 Hours test day, in which the reigning GTE Pro champion marque lapped nearly three seconds slower than its rivals.

Bird suspicious of Ford's "unusual" Le Mans test pace
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird, Miguel Molina
#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Olivier Pla, Stefan Mücke, Billy Johnson, #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell, Pipo Derani
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird, Miguel Molina
 Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird, Andrea Bertolini
#68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, Tony Kanaan
#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell, Pipo Derani
 Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing, and Alex Tai
#63 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor

Bird, who partners Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina in the #71 AF Corse-run Ferrari 488 GTE, believes Balance of Performance games were being played by the Ford Chip Ganassi squad ahead of race week.

The quickest Ford GT during the test day was the #69 car, which set a best time of 3m57.526s in the hands of Richard Westbrook.

This was 2.8s off the ultimate class place established by Corvette driver Oliver Gavin, and a shade under six seconds slower than the 3m51.534s best set in last year's race.

While Ford didn’t complete a qualifying simulation on the test day, Bird questioned the similarity of all four of the Ford’s laptimes, which were all within six tenths of a second.

“I just find it amazing that they say they are struggling when all their drivers were so close to each other, all nine of them,” Bird told Motorsport.com.

“If that is their genuine pace, fair enough for doing that, but I don’t think I have ever heard of that before at Le Mans. Let’s put it this way - it is unusual.”

The largest discrepancy between driver pairings was in the #68 Ford GT, with 0.6s separating Dirk Muller’s 3m58.011s best and Joey Hand’s 3m58.654s.

The closest matched car was the #66 Ford GT trio of Olivier Pla, Stefan Mucke and Billy Johnson, who all set best times all within 0.142s of each other.

“I think it is a big shame that this game is being played like this,” continued Bird. “I would prefer the racing to just happen on the track, you go as quickly as you possibly can.

"If you’re not quick enough, you go testing and you develop it and you make it quicker.”

He added: "I understand why we have BoP, I understand the reasons and the implications of it, to make it better for the viewer - because you don’t want a car which is three-seconds a lap quicker.

"But it can be frustrating having to play this game and play it well; it is like a game of chess at times and it gets you down sometimes.”

Ford is running 20kg heavier than it did at Le Mans last year, and with an amended turbo boost, while Ferrari is racing in an identical spec to 2016.

Last year at Le Mans, amendments to the BoP were made on the Friday before the race, and again race organisers Automobile Club de l'Ouest reserve the right to make changes up to and including the race itself.

shares
comments
Oreca LMP2s feared to be "in a different race" at Le Mans

Previous article

Oreca LMP2s feared to be "in a different race" at Le Mans

Next article

Le Mans lap record predicted to fall in 2017

Le Mans lap record predicted to fall in 2017
Load comments

About this article

Series Le Mans
Event 24 Hours of Le Mans
Location Circuit de la Sarthe
Drivers Sam Bird
Teams AF Corse , Ford Racing
Author Sam Smith
How an ingenious fix prevented Paul Newman from winning Le Mans Prime

How an ingenious fix prevented Paul Newman from winning Le Mans

It's one of the great what-if stories in Le Mans history. Paul Newman finished second in the 24 Hours in 1979, but it could easily have been a famous victory were it not for the resourcefulness of the late Manfred Kremer.

Le Mans
Apr 13, 2021
Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile Prime

Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile

Making a return to top-flight sportscar racing after 50 years away, Ferrari will enter the Le Mans Hypercar ranks in 2023. The Italian marque denies the link with Formula 1's new cost cap that frees up resources, but it's certainly no coincidence...

WEC
Feb 25, 2021
Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights Prime

Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights

Oliver Gavin has stepped down from the full-time Corvette Racing line-up after a stellar career with the team spanning nearly 20 years. He looks back on a stint that encompassed, among other successes, five Le Mans 24 Hours victories.

Le Mans
Jan 28, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Prime

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it…

Le Mans
Jan 24, 2021
The cherished curios kept by motorsport's professionals at home Prime

The cherished curios kept by motorsport's professionals at home

Keeping trophies and momentos of key triumphs is par for the course for motorsport professionals, but what are the most cherished souvenirs picked up by the drivers and engineers who have seen and done it all?

General
Dec 26, 2020
The Porsche icon that forged sportscar racing's greatest era Prime

The Porsche icon that forged sportscar racing's greatest era

Porsche is returning to the top class of Le Mans with an LMDh prototype that it hopes will write its next successful chapter in sportscar racing. But it will have to go some to emulate its 956/962, a car which defines the Group C age more than any other.

Le Mans
Dec 16, 2020
How Tom Kristensen forged his ‘Mr Le Mans’ legend Prime

How Tom Kristensen forged his ‘Mr Le Mans’ legend

He is synonymous with success at the Circuit de la Sarthe, but Tom Kristensen's sportscar legacy amounts to much more than his record-breaking nine Le Mans wins, as the most successful driver ever at Sebring and a world champion to boot…

Le Mans
Dec 7, 2020
Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars Prime

Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars

OPINION: The news that Audi will return to Le Mans means we'll at last get to see the fight promised in 2012 against Peugeot and Toyota. It also gives LMDh a tangible form, which could open the floodgates for more like-minded marques to follow suit…

WEC
Dec 1, 2020