MONDAY 12 APRIL 2010
DISAPPOINTING START TO 2010 LE MANS SERIES CAMPAIGN
Allan Simonsen just knew it was be a tough season.

The arrival of several ex-F1 refugees and new marques, including BMW and Aston Martin, meant that the GT2 category was the toughest out there. And 2010 had the biggest field by far, of any class in the championship.

Five weeks prior, all the LMS teams arrived at Le Castelet, or more commonly known as the Paul Ricard circuit (or even HTTT - High Tech Test Track - so called for the blue and red colours in the run off areas as they each provide a different level of retardation when a car goes off track. Hi tech sand?), for the official LMS test outing. It's a two day affair that allows significant night running.

This year, everyone was using the test day as serious prep for the series opener, which was, for the first time held at the same circuit.

Paul Ricard, like Estoril and Jarama, in Spain, generally offer friendly testing weather at ths time of year, but not so in 2010 – it was freezing!

Combine low ambient track temperatures and a very long straight, called Mistral, so named after the winds of southern France, it was difficult for teams to get their tyres to work well and provide any real meaningful data.

For the up and coming Korean tyre manufacturer, Hankook, who was trying to match the might of Michelin, Pirelli and Dunlop, in their favourite amphitheatre, it was a difficult start to the season.

Allan and his regular German co-driver, Dominik Farnbacher, had now worked together for several seasons and each new each others strong points.

The pair were positive about the season from the outset and new that the best way to steal points at each race was to ensure long life consistent running with the Hankook rubber.

Making sure their Ferrari 430 GT2 ran with out fault or incident was paramount.

Traditionally a 6 hour/1000km event, the organisers had decided to increase the duration to 8 hour, awarding double points. It provided a great opportunity to bag extra points, but equally miss out on them.

As usual, practice was used to find a suitable setup.

Simonsen worked on finding a balance between top speed and high speed corner downforce, whilst Farnbacher was on tryre duties, focusing on evaluating different tyre constructions and compounds – consistency was the key here.

Drivers often refer to a tyre that has faster drop-off than another. In real teams it simply means that one tyre will start to degrade quicker than another after the same distance. Perhaps one compound can offer a blistering pace for X number of laps before it simply can't produce the lap times anymore, and suddenly degrades. Another may not be as ultra fast to start with but it may offer 1.5 X laps before its optimum performance is lost. The rate of loss is also be less and that is what a driver is looking for. Naturally the perfect tyre is one that is fast immediately and stays there for a long stint. Ah, the never ending battle of choice!


Thirteen GT2 cars lined up for the race and it was somewhat disheartening to qualify 11th. But put into perfective, behind them were the reigning FIA GT2 champions, Prospeed, with Richard Westbrook, at the wheel, followed by the factory BMW M3 of Schnitzer.

Farnbacher started the race with the plan for each driver to single stint - a two driver lineup for an 8 hour race is a very demanding task. So it was taken in turn to drive and relax, which also gave the drivers a chance to download their tyre experience to Michael and James, their dedicated Hankook engineers.

The first hour was not perfect – Dominik made contact with a Spyker C8, damaging the bumper – but still quite strong, rising to 6th as he handed to Allan. The Spyker was less fortunate, driver Peter Dumbreck forced oto pit with rear suspension damage. Thereafter, the power steering pump failed, which took a 15 minute service stop. This was a severe blow, taking the team out of the top running order and resigning to the fact that someonelses bad luck would be their success.

During hour 5, the Dane has a scary moment, with the steering column coming loose, at an extremely fast part of the track. That required another pit stop. With the repair effected, Allan was sent back out with a full tank of fuel.

They were now almost into 7th place, when suddenly the rear left control arm broke, at full speed (276kph) on the Mistral Straight - another unpleasant scare and setback.

It was now 7.5 hours into the race and with a new upright needing to be installed, it going to take more than the remaining 30 minutes the team became the last DNF for the day.

That was a tough day at the office indeed. Everyone had pulled together and worked very hard to provide a perfect race car. It just wasn't to be.

Moving on, next LMS race is beautiful Spa, every drivers favourite circuit but one that usually throws in variable weather conditions.
Allan has perfect very well there on many occasions, so lets all hope the bad luck of the season is behind them.