Question – what do you do with your time once you retire from international football and you have a World Cup Champion’s medal in your top drawer? Answer – you could buy a wine farm and put your feet up or you could try the next best thing, go motor racing. That is what Fabien Barthez, the 1998 French World Cup winning goalkeeper has done, in fact he started racing a month before his retirement from football. Barthez has been busy on the circuits having won the ‘FFSA Gentlemen Trophy’ in 2011, and he now has his sights set on greater things. He will pilot a GM V8-powered prototype ORECA FLM during the Le Mans test day on June 3rd, and who knows, we may see him in a team in the 24-hour race in a couple of years from now.
Silverstone based endurance regulars, Strakka Racing, will be fielding the only all-British driver line-up at this year’s Le Mans race. Driving the Honda Performance Development ARX-03a in the LMP2 class will be Nick Leventis (London), Danny Watts (Buckingham) and Jonny Kane (Thame). The same trio retired the No.42 Strakka Racing HPD in 2011 just before the halfway mark, but in 2010 they won their class and finished in a very fine fifth place overall behind the three works Audis and the LMP1 Matmut Oreca.
TOYOTA Racing can confirm that Stéphane Sarrazin will drive its #8 TS030 Hybrid at the Le Mans 24 Hours. The Frenchman, 36, replaces Hiroaki Ishiura, who withdrew from the race earlier due to a back complaint. He completes the driver line-up for the #8 car which already includes Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi. Of the six Toyota drivers, four are ex-Peugeot 908 pilots (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Stéphane Sarrazin & Anthony Davidson), so Toyota is not short on Le Mans driver experience. In a game of musical chairs, or in this case ‘racing seats’, Tom Kimber-Smith moves into the Starworks team (HPD ARX 03b) to fill the seat left vacant by Sarrazin’s move to Toyota.
The Audi R18 TDI and e-tron quattro will feature a digital rearview mirror at the Le Mans 24-Hours this year. Contrary to what one might think, winning at Le Mans is all about micro-second gains over a twenty four hour period which accumulate into valuable minutes over the duration of the race, and if you can benefit from several little advantages in this way, it adds up to a useful margin at the end of the race – that is what winning is all about. So when Audi announced that their cars would be running with AMOLED digital rear view mirrors, you can be sure that this was aimed at bringing them an advantage – they wouldn’t just install such technology because it looked good. True, such technology has been tried before, but like many other features in racing that have been honed and improved over time on the race track, it is not inconceivable that you will see these on production cars in the foreseeable future.
In 2011, when all the racing had been done, the debriefing and post mortems carried out and the transporters packed, I was walking back to my vehicle in the car park that Sunday evening in the fading light of dusk when I was alerted to the unmistakable sound of screeching tyres. I whipped around to see Tom Kristensen exiting the Audi compound on two wheels in his golf buggy, dinner suit swaying wildly out the side with clenched teeth and a menacing look on his face…only TK could make the wheels of a golf buggy squeal in this way! It transpired that he was late for the Audi team bus that was about to leave for the post-race dinner – his team mates hollering from the bus in the car park made that pretty obvious. This would have made a great shot, but my camera gear was all packed away and after a week of hoofing around Le Mans I was looking forward to getting on the road, so that image will just have to stay in my mind…sorry.
It has been confirmed that Audi reserve driver Marc Gené will compete in the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours after all, replacing Timo Bernhard who is still recovering from injuries sustained in his training accident in March. Audi have taken the decision to rest Bernhard and allow him time to fully recover before allowing him to participate in races again. Due to the very demanding nature of the 24-hour race, Le Mans does not allow any compromises, and so 100% fitness is required. We wish Timo a speedy a full recovery!