How to manage traffic by Guy Smith

Guy Smith starts his 7th Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend joining the Rebellion Racing team and sharing the number 13 Lola LMP1 Coupe with Jean Christophe Boullion and Andrea Belicchi. After winning the race in 2003 with Bentley, Guy is in the perfect position to set the scene on how to maximise your lap at Le Mans and where to pick off the slower cars.

“The track is really fluid at Le Mans. You really don’t have any slow corners. You have got some slow turns like Arnage and the Ford Chicane, but you are only in these slow corners a relatively short period of time, so you must use the straights effectively and to pass cars cleanly. The biggest issue at Le Mans is if you get stuck behind two or three GT cars that are battling and going through the Porsche Curves.

"This is where you can get held up quite a lot and sometimes what you end up doing is try to pass them on the outside which is risky but you have got to take those risks if you want a good lap time at Le Mans.

“It’s harder driving an LMP2 car like I did in 2008 with the Quifel ASM Lola because you have got the cornering speed of the LMP1 car but you haven’t got the power in the straights. Trying to pass for example a GT Corvette on the Mulsanne straight is a real ordeal. Even the GT2 cars are now quick on the straights so you have to choose where you pass very carefully.

“There is no particular etiquette on the Mulsanne Straight with traffic. It’s a little bit for a free of all, as you come out of Tertre Rouge on the fastest line, which is the right hand side. Passing is usually done on the left as that is the ideal line to get in to the first chicane. At any time you have to lift on the straight, especially at the beginning of the straight, it will mean a massive time loss. You want to make that as clean and fluid as possible otherwise all the momentum is gone.

“I actually think it’s easier to lap traffic at night. Drivers are generally more aware, particularly in GT2, of cars coming up on them because at night-time you have the lights in the mirrors. Of course, with the different coloured lights you can distinguish what car is behind you. I actually find it’s probably easier at night-time than it is during the day as you can flash your lights as well to get their attention. I think that clever and aggresive use of the traffic is where the good drivers are able to make up the time.”

All pictures courtesy of Jakob Ebrey