The Ginetta-Nissan LMP3 car completed its first laps of the famous Circuit de la Sarthe in France on Sunday, 31st May, as Team LNT fielded two cars during the official test day for the globally renowned Le Mans 24 Hours.
Behind the wheel of one car, Nissan’s LMP 1 rookie racers - Super GT Champion Tsugio Matsuda, ex F1 racer Max Chilton and Nissan GT star Alex Buncombe – jumped into the #75 Ginetta-Nissan LM P3 cars to complete the mandatory 10 laps for new entrants at Le Mans.
Speaking on his time behind the wheel, Chilton said; “I’ve watched so many laps of Le Mans on the TV since I was a kid. Today I got to see it from the driver’s perspective and I really enjoyed it! The conditions weren’t the best but I’m really looking forward to racing here.”
Meanwhile, ELMS teammates Sir Chris Hoy and Charlie Robertson also realised their childhood dreams of driving on the famous circuit as they shared the car with 2006 Class Winner at Le Mans and Ginetta Chairman, Lawrence Tomlinson.
Since declaring his intention to race in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2016, Sir Chris Hoy has been enrolled in Nissan’s driver development programme, and with the inclusion of the LMP3 cars at the official Le Mans Test Day, Hoy got his first taste of the Le Mans circuit.
“That was everything I expected it to be and more,” said Hoy. “I spent the first two laps thinking ‘Wow, I’m on the Mulsanne Straight’ and ‘Wow, I’m going through the Porsche Curves’, but then I got down to business and started to work on getting my times down. During the dry running I was just over four seconds off my team-mate but I was pleased with that as I wasn’t pushing, just learning the track. It was good to get some wet running too as now I know where the really slippery parts of the track are. The track is amazing with so many incredible corners. It is very exciting to drive here.”
Meanwhile, 18-year-old Charlie completed 41 laps and impressively broke the four minute barrier in the afternoon with a time of 3m58.308 seconds (205.9 km/h average). Charlie out-paced several drivers of more powerful LMP2 machinery leaving no doubt as to his potential for a 2016 race berth in the 24 Hours.
“It was such an awesome experience to drive Le Mans for the first time”, said the Investigo and Curo supported racer, “It started off wet and I just wanted to complete my 10 obligatory laps first to qualify – it was good to get that box ticked. It dried out for the second half of the day and everything just clicked, the circuit was amazing and to break the four minute barrier was something special.
“The car ran faultlessly, the team did a great job and I think I proved my worth. What we were able to do all bodes well for 2016 if I’m able to make my Le Mans 24 Hours race debut then. I’d love to be back next year with Sir Chris in a Nissan powered LMP2 car – that’s the dream!”
“Driving flat-out down the Mulsanne is a pretty cool feeling and it’s an unbelievable experience when the LMP1 cars come past you – they’re crazy fast”, he added, “ When you watch the P1 cars trackside you’re amazed by the sheer speed but when you’re actually on track among them, it really is something else. It’s been an incredible opportunity.”
Photo courtesy of Patrick Gosling / NISMO