As do all debuting drivers, two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso spent a day in a simulator to familiarize himself with the features of the Le Mans circuit. As a matter of safety, at the end of the session he successfully passed a test. The Spanish driver is now approved to take part in Test Day for the 86th edition of the 24 Hours with Toyota.
Every rookie at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, or any driver who has not participated in the race in five years or more, must spend a day in the AOTech simulator so as to learn the safety procedures in place for the legendary race.
To learn the track and its traps, get to know the marshal posts, become comfortable managing traffic, understand the "slow zones" procedures and safety car deployment, both during the day as at night, and even deal with "surprise" elements like a sudden change of grip on part of the track.
How does the day transpire?
Thomas Laurent, winner in LMP2 and second overall at the 2017 edition for his first participation: "The exercises get more and more complicated as the day goes on. You start by learning the track alone, then in traffic that you have to manage, and lastly all the safety procedures are reviewed. At the end of the day, you have to pass a test, successfully of course!"
A tool tailored to each class
"The day was really quite useful for me to learn all the specificities of Le Mans, especially in LMP1 because you overtake so often!" says José María López, Fernando Alonso's future teammate with Toyota. Indeed, the traffic is adapted to the class in which the driver will compete since the race is a mix of professional, amateur, prototype and GT drivers. The faster competitors learn to overtake the slower ones as safely as possible while those drivers acclimate themselves to maintaining their trajectories every time a faster car does fly by.
At the end of the session, AOTech submits to the ACO reports of the exercises completed by each rookie who must then go on to take part in Test Day before receiving the green light to participate in the free practice, qualifying and race. Fernando Alonso, who took the start at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, passed the first test. So now the Spanish driver - set to compete in the entire 2018-2019 Super Season of the World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) with a Toyota TS050 Hybrid in LMP1 - can hit the 24 Hours of Le Mans track in "real life" on Sunday, June 3rd!
PHOTO: Fernando Alonso getting into the AOTech simulator at the beginning of a mandatory session ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.