With the RML AD Group HPD ARX-01d successfully through scrutineering on Friday morning, Saturday was a time for fettling the car ahead of Sunday's track action.
The only significant visual change to the HPD has been the fitting of the low-downforce aero package, homologated by the ACO for exclusive use at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The characteristics of the two packages approved for use on the HPD make them easily distinguishable. The medium-downforce arrangement, as used on all Le Mans Series circuits, has twin dive-planes and a flush-fitting mounting arrangement (see photo, lower right). The low-downforce package for Le Mans has a single, smaller, round-fronted dive-plane, and an additional side element that stands almost two centimetres proud of the underlying bodywork, with a visible step at the uppermost edge. This smoothes airflow around the side of the car and across the opening of the front wheel arch - see below.
Phil Barker, the Team Manager at RML, said he felt confident that being able to deploy the new aero package would probably have a greater impact on the car's potential top speed than the modest restrictor break offered by the ACO. It is understood that at least one of the rival teams has lodged an objection to the HPD's increase in restrictor size, even though the change is unlikely to have done more than halve the horsepower gap between the HPD production-based V6 and the most powerful LMP2 engines.
So, any perceived narrowing of the performance gap seen this weekend should be viewed in the light of the combination of the aero-package and restrictor change in tandem. The true impact of the larger restrictor will not be directly comparable until the cars arrive at Spa for the second round of the Le Mans Series (May 7th), when the RML and Strakka Racing HPDs will have to re-fit the medium-downforce aero.
With the car passed fit for action, and a lengthy photo session completed underneath the Dunlop bridge yesterday (of which more below), the crew knuckled down today to the serious task of completing final preparations for the test tomorrow, when the cars have the potential to spend as much as eight hours on track.
Up and down the pitlane, teams displayed varying degrees of readiness. Some had arrived with brand new cars and faced many hours of final assembly to complete. Several new and, in a few cases, unfinished liveries were in evidence, while more than one driver was seen being wrapped in plastic in readiness for a seat fittings.
The pitlane was open to the public nearly all day, and with entrance priced at just 10 Euros, attendance for the weekend was expected to be good.
There was an air of eager anticipation from late mid-morning onwards as a crowd began to congregate around the Audi garages, waiting for a first glimpse of the new R18, complete with new livery. The car has a low, mean, and very purposeful look, and the simple but effective livery enhances the impression.
The images below, and in the right-hand column, offer a flavour of the day.
On Friday afternoon, with scrutineering complete, the RML AD Group HPD was pushed up the hill towards the famous Dunlop bridge for a photo shoot in association with Le Mans Racing magazine.
Half a dozen of the mechanics and engineers went along to help with the maneuvering, including Vince Mitchell. Some of the excellent photographs he took are now included in our Le Mans Test Gallery, as well as the small selection featured here.
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