Cancels Le Mans Test Day
rumours circulating over the past few days concerning
the possible future of the official Le Mans
Test Day, originally scheduled for 31st May,
it came as no great surprise when the ACO released
official confirmation today, 1st December, that
the test has been cancelled.
official communiqué is as follows:
Automobile Club de l’Ouest always listens
attentively to the manufacturers’ needs,
and so in agreement with teams that may be
invited to the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours, the
Club, remaining faithful to its firmly-held
objective to reduce costs, has taken the decision
to cancel the test day scheduled for 31st
May 2009, and to rethink the format of the
Le Mans Series events.
The Le Mans 24-Hours race has always been
in tune with the times and when motor racing
shows signs of disquiet linked to the economic
situation, it is the ACO’s duty to take
preventive measures while respecting the sporting
in keeping with the cost reductions already
begun with the 2009 ACO regulations, and the
new orientations in 2011, the test day originally
scheduled for 31st May 2009 has been cancelled.
the other hand, all the entrants invited by
the ACO will have to take part in free practice
on Wednesday before Thursday’s qualifying
session on 11th June to be allowed to start
on Saturday 13th June at 15h00. This decision
represents considerable savings for all the
entrants, who must be ready at the circuit
on Monday 8th June (scrutineering).
the same train of thought the 2009 Le Mans
Series races will be a day shorter so the
entrants will be at the circuit 3 days instead
of 4, scrutineering included. These measures
will favour the participation of entrants
in the Le Mans Series and American Le Mans
Series events from the start of the season
to prepare for the Le Mans 24 Hours.
This decision is nothing exceptional in the
history of the Le Mans 24 Hours as the test
day has not always been on the ACO calendar.
The test day before the race week itself was
held for the first time in 1959 as preliminary
practice and continued until 1974. It was
suspended because of the first petrol crisis.
It was reinstated for 1986 and 1987, and then
cancelled again before being part of the event
in 1993. According to the years this session
took place in March, April or May and since
2005 in June.
It lasted one two or three days and was called
practice day, preliminary practice, pre-qualifying
and test day since 2005.
the whole, this decision is likely to be welcomed
by most people. Although the test is extremely
valuable to teams preparing their cars for the
24 Hours, and especially to those introducing
new cars or drivers to the event, there is no
doubt that it has considerable cost implications.
is only relatively recently that the test was
moved to the weekend preceding the start of
the Le Mans week. For many teams this meant
setting up at the circuit, and staying there,
for nearly three full weeks, with all the associated
costs this entailed. Not only did team personnel
have to be accommodated, but there were also
charges levied by the ACO on those who maintained
a presence in the pit complex during the week
between the test and the start of scrutineering.
It was either that, or undertake an equally
costly return to base, wherever that might be.
cancellation of the test poses several fresh
questions, some of which will, hopefully, be
addressed by the introduction of the extra free
practice session on the Wednesday, prior to
Thursday qualifying. Rookie drivers will need
to gain as much track-time as possible, to familiarise
themselves with one of the world's most demanding
circuits. Teams with new cars will also need
that extra time to dial their cars into a track
that includes some of the fastest sections in
motor racing, as well as others which demand
high downforce and maximum grip. It is always
a challenge, but this will compress the timescale
required to achieve the perfect compromise into
just a few hours.
not crystal clear in the press release, it is
assumed that what was once the Wednesday evening
qualifying session is now re-classified as Free
Practice, although how long this period is to
be is not explained. Ideally, in order to compensate
for the loss of the Test Day, this allocation
needs to be extended from the usual four hours
(7pm-9pm and 10pm-12am ) to a longer period,
perhaps starting in the early afternoon.
the detail, the net result appears to be that
Thursday's pair of two-hour sessions will become
the only ones devoted to qualifying, thereby
compressing the excitement into one evening,
and simultaneously removing the weather wild-card
which has sometimes been a significant factor
in deciding pole for the 24 Hours.
hopes that those teams who have already booked
their accommodation for the test weekend and
intervening weeks can get a refund on their
details can be found on the ACO