Communiqué n°1 - Wednesday 9/6/99 - 14h

In the opinion of season-hardened Le Mans observers and the entrants themselves never has such a magnificent field of cars been seen in the Sarthe!.
The two days'scrutineering went off without problems apart from the odd shower or two on Monday. Following the withdrawal of the second of the J.B Team Ferraris the week before the race, it looked like the slot would be given to the W.R. Alas no as the driver who had qualified the car was ill. Thus, the lucky team was Rook Racing whose second Porsche 911 GT2 was added to the list to make up the total of 48 cars eligible for practice.


BMW : The works V12 LMRs set the ball rolling at scrutineering on Monday morning. The Schnitzer Team put in a fair number of kilometres testing on the Monza and Silverstone circuits developing the aerodynamic and mechanical sides of the car while trying to make it easier to handle. The rear wing mounting has been strengthened following Dalmas's scare at the beginning of May and the car which he is sharing with Winkelhock and Martini is the only one to have power assisted steering : "lt's a choice between comfort or feeling," as the drivers explained.
The two works cars have an engine that is lighter and more powerful than the 1998 models looked after by David Price. The pair of V12 LM 98s are entered by different teams : the Japanese Goh outfit which raced a McLaren at Le Mans in 1997 under the Lark banner, and the other by Bscher/Price. One of the Goh team drivers is Hiro Matsushita, heir to the Panasonic company.

AUDI : Audi's Le Mans debut is the talking point of the year and the team manager has put his apples in two baskets (Prototypes and LM GTP). The two R8R prototypes are in the capable hands of Joest Racing and are now equipped with steering wheel mounted gearchange. Following Yvan Muller's withdrawal the Belgian Didier Theys was called in as a last-minute replacement by a team that he drove for in 1996.

PANOZ : The Panoz, now baptised LMP-1 Roadster S after a road-going car sold by Panoz, blew off all the fancied contenders except Toyota during prequalifying and then went on to do some long-distance testing on the Paul Ricard circuit. It managed over 20 hours before being stopped by a blown cylinderhead gasket. Coolling and aerodynamics have been modified and the V8 Ford engine is no longer prepared by Roush as in the past but by Robert Yates, one the best-known NASCAR specialists. It puts out around 600 bhp.

COURAGE : The C52 Courage-Nissan has been entrusted to 3 Italian drivers already seen in F1. They are in the Sarthe under the watchful eye of Mario Cugnola whose team, R.C. Motorsport, is eying up the North American scene with Courage. The C50 Courage in the colours of Le Mans and "Eléphant Bleu" is powered by a Porsche 962 engine tuned by Joest. Its entrant is French veteran, Henri Pescarolo back for his 33rd Le Mans race which he has won 4 times. The car is looked after by Daniel Vergnes's Promotion Racing Team, a local outfit which prepared the Terada-La Filière Courage in 1998. Since prequalifying the Courage-Porsche has swapped its Koni dampers for Dynamic ones, also mounted on the other Courages and the Nissans. The works Courages are shod by Bridgestone (like Nissan) while Pescarolo's mount is fitted with Pirellis.

NISSAN : No. 21 is a Courage C52 almost exactly the same as no.13 apart from some detail modifications such as the air intakes mounted on the rear bonnet. It is looked after by Yves Courage himself with the help of Japanese engineers.
The two Nissan R 391s designed by Nismo are completely different from no.21 as they are powered by a 5 litre V8 normally aspirated engine whereas the Courage has the 3.5 litre turbo used in the 1998 R390 GT1.

LOLA : This event marks the come-back of the famous English make to Le Mans where it was last seen in 1992. The B98/10 has been designed by a team of engineers directed by Frank Dernie of F1 fame. The DAMS car is powered by a 4 litre V10 Judd engine as opposed to the Kremer and Konrad entries which have opted for a 6 litre Ford unit, Kremer's being prepared by Jack Roush while Konrad's comes from Panoz. The Kremer is the only prototype with steel brakes.

FERRARI : The only Ferrari in the field has a new chassis and long-tail bodywork designed by Jabouille­Bouresche. Testing on the Paul Ricard circuit has improved the overall set-up and road-holding.

RILEY & SCOTT EUROPE : Philippe Gache is the European importer for the American make and this year he has entered two cars one of which he shares with Gary Formato from South Africa and Olivier Thévenin. The Ford V8 engines are looked after by Solution F, a tuning shop in Aix-en-Provence. Team manager is Thierry Lecourt and the technical side is in the hands of Hugues Lardy who usually works for ROC.

AUTOEXE : This car bears the name of Yojiro Terada's company but is little different to the Riley & Scott entered by Philippe Gache. Like Pescarolo's Courage it has been prepared in the workshops of Promotion Racing Team, a local outfit. The team includes 3 American mechanics and the V8 Ford is tuned by Solution F.


The LM GTPs are the former GT1s running under virtually the same rules as the prototypes. ABS and traction control are forbidden and they have the same weight and fuel tank capacity as the protos (900 kgs and 90 litres).

TOYOTA : Toyota Team Europe has done an enormous amount of testing in their pursuit of a Le Mans victory. Over 15000 kilometres have bean covered on different circuits, in particular Paul Ricard and Spa. The car has not undergone any major modifications apart from adopting a steering wheel mounted gearchange like both Mercedes-Benz and the Joest-entered Audis.

MERCEDES-BENZ : Probably no constructor has ever covered as many kilometres in testing in view of Le Mans as Mercedes-Benz but of course, the German team is out of efface the memory of last year's setback. Although similar in appearance the CLR is very different from the 1998 CLK-LM and has a much lower profile. Its engine is a normally aspirated V8 derived from a series production block. British hope Daren Tumer is reserve driver.

AUDI : The Audi R8Cs from the pen of Tony Southgate have been entered by Audi U.K. The former BTCC team is looked after by Richard Lloyd back at Le Mans after a long absence. Pre-race testing at Paul Ricard saw the car over 5 seconds quicker per lap as compared to the times set in April. The engine, gearbox and rear suspension are the same as on the Audi prototypes. Chief engineer on Andy Wallace's car is Eddie Hinckly who looked after the latter's winning Jaguar here in 1988.


CHRYSLER : The 3 Oreca cars are the only ones fitted with carbon brakes. The Cica entry is a 98 model with steel brakes and has been prepared at Le Mans by Graff Racing.
The Chamberlain Racing Chryslers (new name for the team) are 99 models built by Oreca and thus very similar to the works cars but are fitted with steel anchors.
Paul Belmondo Racing based in Caen is making its Le Mans debut. No. 54 is a 1999 model built by Oreca and partnering Belmondo in this car is the young F3 driver, Tiago Monteiro, no relation to Manuel and Michel. The lead driver in no.55 is Emmanuel Clérico backed up by Claude Lagniez and Guy Martinolle, the 1997 GT2 winners. It has a new chassis following its crash in prequalifying. The engines are prepared by Heini Mader while those powering the Oreca and Chamberlain cars come from Caldwell.

PORSCHE : Pierre Yver, back for the 22nd time, is in a 3.8 litre Porsche looked after by Jack Leconte and his co-drivers are Jean-Luc Chereau and Patrice Goueslard. The other Larbre Competition entry has a 3.6 litre factory prepared unit. Its driver line-up is composed of Jean-Pierre Jarier, Pierre De Thoisy and a debutant, Stéphane Bourdais, Patrick's son, who won the Le Mans 24 Hour Karting race two years ago. The Estoril Racing 3.6 litre unit is also factory prepared while that of Freisinger Motorsport is home-tuned. Roock Racing and Konrad have entrusted the preparation of their 3.8 litre engines to Thielert who has also supplied the engine managements systems.


PORSCHE : The two 911 GT3s (Type 996) entered by Champion and Manthey are works cars closely followed by Roland Kussmaul. Their 3.6 litre water-cooled atmospheric engine with four valves per cylinder comes from the GT1 block. Tyres are supplied by Pirelli. They have no ABS which is forbidden in the LM GTS Categories.
In no.81 is Bob Wollek back for his 29th Le Mans race!. "I'm glad to be here otherwise I wouldn't have come," commented the veteran from Alsace who cycled to the circuit from Brest!.
The other two Porsches are 911 RSRs (Type 993) whose 3.8 litre engine is identical to the one that powered the Carrera RSRs in 1993/94. They have been entered by Perspective Racing (Thierry Perrier's new team) and by Gerald McQuillan, an Englishman who came to Le Mans in 1995 in the same car, then in GT2 trim!.