Wednesday’s schedule includes two track sessions: free practice (16:00–20:00) and the first qualifying session (22:00–00:00). The serious business starts now for the 180 drivers competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. All will be vying to clock the fastest time in their class and secure pole position for the big race.
What are Wednesday’s sessions all about?
As Nicolas Lapierre points out (see below), Wednesday is an important day as “you can now feel the pressure building when you go out to drive”. The 60 contenders are allowed out on the track from 16:00 for four hours of free practice. Like Test Day on 3 June, free practice is used to tweak settings and give rookies the opportunity to get some more laps under their belt. At 22:00, the serious business begins in earnest with the first qualifying session (until midnight). The objective for the teams is to set the fastest possible time and, for the favourites, to secure pole position... and valuable media attention!
If Wednesday’s weather conditions are not conducive to fast times, all is not lost as two more qualifying sessions are scheduled on Thursday (19:00–21:00 and 22:00–00:00). All drivers must complete five laps in at least one of the two night sessions.
Nicolas Lapierre, #36 Alpine A470, Signatech Alpine Matmut (LMP2): We’re now getting into race mode a bit more. There are more people and spectators around the place, and it makes it all that much more exciting. We go out later than on Test Day as free practice starts at 16:00. It has a different feel too. The track will certainly be a bit “green”, but not as much as on Test Day. You have to get into the groove straight away as the first qualifying session follows soon afterwards and you have to be properly prepared. Some of the components will be fitted to the car all week too. You have to start paying attention to the suspension, for instance. You can now feel the pressure building up when you go out to drive.
On Wednesday, we are already focused on our race preparationsP.-L Chatin
Paul-Loup Chatin, #48 Oreca 07-Gibson, IDEC Sport, LMP2: Test Day has a more special feeling than Wednesday’s free practice as we’ve been away from the circuit all year. We’re happy to go out on Wednesday, of course, but we are already focused on our race preparations. You can’t afford to let the excitement of being here cause you to lose that focus. You have to keep your energy. You have to tell yourself it’s just like any other race and do the best possible job. The real satisfaction comes from seeing the chequered flag on Sunday afternoon, with a good result if at all possible!
Olivier Beretta, #70 Ferrari 488 GTE, MR Racing (LMGTE Am): Wednesday is a long day because everything is just about ready. The dice are cast. You just have to set your mind on the two sessions. It begins late afternoon with free practice which gives the newcomers some time to get to grips with the track. We have to follow the agenda the engineers have decided on. Then we’re into the nitty-gritty of qualifying. If we come out of the day without the slightest hitch, 60% of the job is already done.