Test Day 2013 - The Speed Chills Preview

This Sunday is an important one for every team who hopes to be taking home the trophy after the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours. It’s the return of the traditional Test Day, where we get an opportunity to have a good look at the machinery that each team will be running, and start to make our predictions about who’s going to be quick and who’s going to end up in the gravel.

Audi Toyota Following

Test Day serves a number of purposes: setting up the car, data gathering and just getting back into the swing of Le Mans’ unique challenges will be at the top of the list for established teams and drivers. But it’s also a requirement for the teams, cars and drivers that haven’t raced in the 24 before, with the ACO requiring attendance to ensure everybody’s up to speed.

So it’s going to be an extremely busy day. Almost all of the teams are already in their pit garages having flown their cars and staff over earlier this week, and nerves are rising in anticipation of finding out how their opposition will fare; fingers will be crossed hoping for a smooth and informative test session.

Cars are currently undergoing scrutineering, with officials poring over each team’s machine to check that they’re in line with the regulations. There’s some more of that tomorrow, and then Sunday is when the action happens. There are two 4-hour sessions, from 9am ‘til 1pm and then 2pm ‘til 6pm, which gives a great amount of running time but doesn’t include night racing.

So who should we be watching out for? The headline is likely to be how the Toyotas get on, or rather how they perform relative to the Audis, as these are the two teams battling it out for the overall victory. With Audi’s dominant victory at Silverstone and slightly-less-assured-but-still-ominous win at Spa, it’s fair to say that many still consider Toyota to be the underdogs. But in the context of Le Mans the last two races are water under the bridge; when you get to La Sarthe anything can happen. As for the rest of LMP1 there’s just one thing we’ll really be looking for; will Strakka have improved enough to be able to challenge Rebellion?

OAK art car

LMP2 will give us loads to watch on Sunday. This will be the first time that we’ll be able to draw a direct comparison between entries coming from the WEC, ELMS, ALMS and AsLMS. It would be a bit of a useless exercise to make predictions but it is worth following the Oaks in their pink and black (and massively multicoloured art car), the twin Delta-ADR and G-Drive Racing entries and the return of legend in the form of the Signatech Alpine team, but with 22 P2s in the running the day should give us more of an idea of who to look out for.

The GT Pro field looks mouth-watering this year: two Porsches, two Ferraris, two Corvettes, two Vipers and three Astons are all being raced by their own factory teams. While the Astons and Ferraris have looked strong in the face of a stuttering Porsche so far in the WEC, the addition of the two US teams (and a token customer Ferrari from Brit team JMW) the test day gives us the first opportunity to draw some ideas on how the 24 will play out.

GTE Am is similarly competitive, with a jumble of 911s, 458s, V8 Vantages and Corvettes all vying for the Pro/Am mix honours. Among the GT classes this is the one that features the least changes to the WEC field, with the only differences being second entries from Larbre and IMSA Performance Matmut and two new challengers in the form of Prospeed and Dempsey-Del Piero, both in 911s.

This time last year we were eagerly anticipating the first runs from the Deltawing, but if you’ve been following Speed Chills View you’ll know that its 2013 ‘new technologies’ successor, the GreenGT H2, was withdrawn from the race because it wasn’t ready, so the #0 pit box will be empty this year.

But it’s not just those competing at this year’s LM24 that will be there; a number of other cars will be around to put in an appearance and get a feel for Le Mans, and a couple of those who will be racing in 2 weeks have sneaked in a second car to try and double the amount of test data they generate.

So there you have it; that’s test day in all its glory. We’ll be following the events closely and making regular updates on our Twitter feed (@SpeedChillsView), and hopefully come Monday we might all have some idea as to how the race might turn out.

Jamie Snelling is a Freelance Motorsports Journalist and 7-time Speed Chills veteran.