Both of Wednesday's on-track sessions suffered from accidents that required premature halts to the activities.
The four-hour opening practice was cut short with approximately 30 minutes left to run when Tracy Krohn destroyed his Ferrari F458, leaving the track downhill from the Dunlop Bridge preparing to enter the Esses – at nearly the same spot Allan McNish had his crash in 2011, but on driver's right.
Krohn, who lost control under braking, got onto the grass and backed his unmistakably green GTE-AM car into the guardrail, getting airborne before crashing back down to earth. Krohn, seemingly angry with a slower Ferrari he happened upon, climbed from the car unhurt and promptly kicked the crumpled Prancing Horse.
“The car is destroyed, but we had a call from (F458 racing chassis constructor) Michelotto offering a replacement before we even got the car back to assess the damage,” says Krohn Racing PR rep Barbara Burns in an update for RACER.
“Our plan is to receive the chassis around noon today (Thursday) and begin working to switch everything over that was salvaged. They boys went to work immediately stripping the car down last night, but the only issue we might have is the (458) we're getting is a bit of a mystery. I think it's from the Italian Super Stars series, so it's gonna take seeing it to know what works and what doesn't. If everything goes according to plan, we'll make it out tonight for qualifying.”
Wednesday night's two-hour qualifying session was cut in half when the No. 46 TDS by Thiriet Racing ORECA 03-Nissan piloted by Pierre Thiriet pummeled the barriers at the first chicane. The repairs required more time than was available; teams waited to resume qualifying, but were notified at 11:45 p.m. that the remainder of the session had been canceled.
More dramas were had on Wednesday when Eric Lux ripped the left-front corner and a good portion of the left sidepod off of the No. 41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Z11SN-Nissan and the No. 66 JMW Ferrari F458 also found the wall.
Between the lost track time and the consumption of everything from a Ferrari F458 chassis to front corners and carbon fiber, the opening day of activity for the 90th edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans came at quite a cost to those who came to watch and those who came to compete.
TOYOTA'S AERO TWEEKS
One of my great pleasures in life is asking fellow race engineers questions about their cars I know they absolutely cannot answer in detail without getting in trouble…
I spoke with David Floury, technical director for ORECA and a key player in the ORECA-run Toyota TS030 P1 cars, looking for confirmation on two of the biggest changes to the gasoline-hybrid prototypes from the last time I saw them one year ago at Le Mans. The most obvious change from 2012 is found with the overhead air intake that feeds the 3.4-liter V8s in the No. 7 and 8 entries. The No. 8 sports the same squarish intake that has been used since its debut last year, but the No. 7 employs a wider intake with a shorter aspect ratio.
“It's a bit of both,” says Floury when I asked if the different intakes were being compared to test both airbox efficiency and rear wing efficiency. “We are trying to see which one gives us the best advantage in both areas.”
The original version follows a rather simple way of thinking that says the narrower the air intake can be made, the less it will impede the air reaching the rear wing (while also reducing turbulence with that air as it makes its way around the inlet), while the new inlet is a version on that theme.
The No. 7's inlet is indeed wider, punching a wider hole in front of the rear wind, but the tradeoff that Toyota is evaluating is whether the lower height of the inlet offsets the width and increases efficiency (reduces drag, primarily).
The next major change for 2013 is an ornate blanking plate used at the entry point to the TS030's keel/floor section.
With limited power available to the naturally aspirated V8 engine and a significant budget gap to Audi, the new Toyota has always staked its competitiveness on aerodynamic efficiency. Compare that to the Audi R18 e-trons which have massive torque from their turbodiesel engines and all-wheel-drive power thanks to the front-mounted electric motors, and where the Audis make speed with an excess of resources, the Le Mans-spec Toyotas have had to go in the opposite direction, shedding as much downforce and drag as possible to compensate for their lack of brute power.
The most noticeable internal aero change to aid the TS030s, along with a less sculpted monocoque, is the aforementioned blanking plate which limits airflow through and below the car – the area is makes the most downforce.
“Yes, this is the goal,” says Floury while choosing his words carefully.
Airflow to and through the keel has been limited, but not completely restricted, with the cutouts in the plate matching channels fed to it by the splitter/tunnels beneath the nose, according to Floury. A bit of tidying has also been done with the front back ducts which, in 2012, straddled the steering arms, yet have been moved below them for 2013.
The Audis have had the measure of the Toyotas so far in outright lap time – four seconds at present – but the TS030 team feels confident its cars will have the right pace when it comes time to race.
“That's what is important,” says Floury. “I don't know where we will be in qualifying, but I think things will be OK when we start the race.”