Breathtaking action at Le Mans - ERL race with the Dallara LMP900
Breath taking action at Le Mans
For the first time the Endurance Racing Legends Series by Peter Auto was invited to a support race at Le Mans 24h.
As the Dallara Oreca LMP900 had not seen any action since 2017, this was the perfect event to bring it back to the track. Indeed this particular car, chassis DO-002 raced at Le Mans in 2001 and finished an impressive 4th place overall. Back in 2001 & 2002 the Dallara-Oreca was the only serious contender to the Audi and Bentley Titans.
After a successful shake down the week before, all lights were on green to hit again the legendary 13km track for a cracking outing.
We had to work hard on the set up between the two qualifying sessions as the aero is very important with ground clearance and spring choice paramount. However we qualified 3rd preceded by the 2003 Bentley Speed Eight and another Dallara equipped with later enhancements. With all three cars within a second of each other there were hectic battles to be expected throughout the races.
Race one saw an intense competition with the other Dallara for the first place but unfortunately Shaun Lynn’s Bentley overtook us during the pit stop. Due to a mechanical failure, the leading Dallara went off at the Porsche Esses and we finished a slightly disappointing P2, only 4 seconds from the Bentley.
Race two saw intense action at every stage of the race ! First at the start, our car managed to position itself between the other Dallara and the Bentley so at the first bend we were three in a row. At the Dunlop chicane though braking later, we were not in an ideal position to take the advantage on the other Dallara, that did well protecting its position. Then battling with the Bentley on lap 2, the car understeered and went off at the Dunlop Esses. The car behaved perfectly and the driver did not lift, the images are impressive but at the wheel it was pretty calm. We then had a couple of laps overtaking each other, it was an intense battle, remember our cars top more than 300km/h at four points on the lap. We were very good on the brakes despite the manual shifting, also the Judd V10 pulls strongly at high revs and achieves an impressive top speed. I was comfortably running to a creditable 3rd place finish when on the last lap approaching the Porsche Esses, the silver Dallara ran out of fuel. I killed the engine and by miracle it restarted at the second Ford chicane to cross the finish line. Wow those last seconds were pretty long !
Enjoy the video footage below and turn up the volume !
A few words with Florent MOULIN :
How was the event ?
It was a great honor be part of this race, Peter Auto and ERL’s creator Jarrah Venables did a great job organizing the event. It was, in my opinion, a huge public and media success. Many were impressed by the beauty and the sound of our plateau. Flat 6's, V8's, V10's and V12's without silencers… what’s better ?
What was Le Mans like when you were young, what does it mean to you ?
After my first love for F1 and Rallying, I became in my teenage years a great fan of Le Mans and slowly this became a real passion, one that I would be more and more involved with. Naturally I directed my activity towards these cars and my car collection reflects this too. I have always loved the Sport Prototypes and the GT race cars, especially since I can race them now, this is a kind of dream come true. Le Mans is the most fantastic race in the world when it is in an exciting phase.
How was the race ?
There were highs and lows but with a late delivery from Xtrac of the gearbox ( ten days before the race ) and a shake down at our local track, we can say the car was really good to drive.
The brakes even though they were the original ones from 2001 were fantastic and the aero balance too. We had more issues with the mechanical grip due to the the car’s springs being a bit too soft. We worked hard on the set up and in the end it was pretty good. Our Iconic Racing Team did a fabulous job and the car ran faultlessly all along the week end.
It was a tough race against the 2003 Bentley and the slightly higher specced other Dallara. I clearly saw that without traction control and paddle shift I was losing a considerable amount of time in the low speed sections, also holding the steering wheel with one hand was demanding at high speed in the bends due to the down force, making it extremely heavy.
However it went pretty well and we only lost race one in the pits, for race two the Bentley became much too fast; the car is run by the ex Bentley people and Shaun Lynn did drive it very well. What more could we expect ? In the end such a great and exciting memory !
What was different to the others ?
Well it was a kind of dream come true to drive such a car on the 13km track. It was also quite emotional to find my way twice to the very Le Mans 24h podium. I think the race was a huge success for the ERL Series, some were glad to see them again, some for the first time. Our cars represent a great period of Le Mans’ legend, which saw an important variety of cars, almost unrestricted, beautiful and spectacular in action. Ok I am rarely one who says « in the past it was better » but will we see again a full grid of naturally aspirated and unsilenced flat 6's, V8's, V10's and V12's? Oh boy what a sound track. The cars are very sexy too, look at the Bentley, Dallara, Ferrari 550, Viper GTS-R, Aston DBR9 and so on… A 991 RSR looks like a ugly frog and the narrow LMP cars makes you think your are watching TV with the wrong size of screen. Many told me there was more to see in our race than in the 24 Hour race…
What it is like driving a LMP900 ?
It’s a fabulous experience especially with the sequential gearbox when you have to hold the steering wheel with one hand and toe and heel downshift. You certainly lose a couple of seconds a lap but boy this is thrilling, especially with the Judd V10 at your back. The LMP900s are cars from a modern area and you drive them very differently than Group C for instance. To begin with they are open cockpit, you don’t suffer from the heat and benefit from good vision. The aero is extremely efficient and the the Dallara for instance is very thin, that means the drag is well mastered and the car flies on straights. The chassis is very predictive, you can push harder and harder but the car will never surprise you, I never lost the back for instance. They have a huge down force so there is a lot of load on the suspension at high speed, this is tricky because in low speed bends it makes the car too hard because you lose the aero down force. Back then the suspension and shocks were not as developed as today and I think this is what characterizes the Dallara. For instance, the mechanical grip, is not so good and the car is not much faster in low speed bends than a GT1 car, the curbs are not its favorite too. Lastly being a modern car it seems unbreakable and it is consistent; it is not the same kind of feeling at the wheel of a Group C and never mind talking about the safety !
Aiming for Le Mans Classic in 2022 … for a night race ?