In my last entry, I tried my best to extract some meaning out of the numbers made available by ACO/FIA for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and LMP1 class.
Today we will take a look at the LMP2 class.
The LMP2 class was dominated on the track by the two Oreca 07 engineered by the TDS team (G-Drive and TDS own crew), with the G-Drive prototype winning in style and the TDS car being extremely fast and finishing on the podium after a hard start of the race. Both cars have been disqualified in the post-race phases because of a non-conformity of the refuelling system, with the victory being inherited by the Alpine squad.
The first thing that is evident is that, besides some teams doing a better job than others, the Oreca was still the car to beat, even if the Ligier and the Dallara were allowed to develop a “joker” update for this season, to close the gap to the French manufacturer.
What was also interesting to see is that in Qualifying, lap times improved nearly a second compared to last year and that the best two cars had Michelin tyres, with G-Drive/TDS cars being the only cars using Dunlop tyres getting closer lap times to the best ones. Not a surprise, as the two cars were the constantly extremely fast, during the whole Le Mans week.
It is also interesting to see how Panis-Barthez Competition Ligier (also using Michelin tyres) could get very close lap times to the best Orecas (about 0.5 seconds gap in Qualifying), with a gap of more than a second to the second best Ligier, engineered by United Autosport.
Basing also on what we saw analysing ELMS first race in Paul Ricard, it looks like Michelin tyres have indeed an advantage in qualifying. With our analysis, we will try to understand if any difference in approach between Dunlop and Michelin exist, with maybe one sacrificing “single lap” performance and the other working to obtain a more stable behaviour on the long distance.
Because of the three different chassis manufacturers involved, the two different tyres suppliers and the cars that finished first and third on track being disqualified, we will analyze eight cars in total here, in order to get a picture not only about the fastest cars on track, but also about the relative differences between chassis and tyres.
In particular, we will consider Paniz-Barthez competition Ligier n.23, G-Drive Oreca n.26, TDS Oreca n.28, Dragonspeed Oreca n.31, United Autosport Ligier n.32, SMP Racing Dallara n.35, Signatech Alpine n.36 and Graff Oreca n.39.
What do the numbers tell us?
As usual, we start by looking at the table showing the best lap times and the average of the best 20, 50, 100 and “all clean” laps of the race.
This table shows immediately some very interesting points.
First of all, it really looks like the Michelin have potential on a single lap, as Dragonspeed Oreca n.31 got the best lap time among the cars we consider, although by a very tight margin with respect to TDS Oreca n.28.
On the longer run the fastest cars on track are definitely the TDS and G-Drive Orecas, with the first one topping every metrics, except the “all clean” laps one. The two cars are faster than any other car in our table by a good margin.
Interestingly, Panis-Barthez Competition Ligier n.23 is constantly faster than United Autosport n.32 one.
This makes our analysis about tyres more complex, because while among the Orecas the Dunlop seemed to have a clear edge on the long run, among the Ligiers the Michelin can be associated to the fastest car.
The plots relative to the best 20, 50 and 100 lap times shows an even clearer picture about the relative performance of each car, compared to the others.
What is immediately clear, is that car n.28 was by far the fastest on track, with a good gap on car n.26 (who finished first, before being disqualified) both on the short and long distance.
Car n.31 is particularly fast if we consider their very best laps, lying between the performance of car n.28 and car n.26, but falls behind if we consider more laps, although still remaining among the “fastest of the others”, with the others being all the cars not engineered by the TDS team.
Interestingly, car n.36, that inherited the win after car n.26 disqualification, is not even the fastest of this second group.
As we anticipated, among the Ligiers car n.23 is constantly faster than car n.32, while the n.35 SMP Dallara seems to be the slowest car in our group.
Although we really know nothing about the setup approach each team used (this meaning, I could well be wrong with any of my conclusions), we can maybe dare to say that Dunlop tyres seem to offer a more stable performance, while the Michelin seem to have an advantage on pure speed over fewer laps. Among the Orecas, car n.31 is very fast if we consider only a very few laps, but falls down on a longer distance.
Among the Ligiers, car n.23 is constantly faster than car n.32, but the gap between the two gets thinner as we consider more and more laps. As I said, of course, these trends could also be up to different setup decisions that each team took for their cars.
As usual, let’s now break down our analysis, by looking at each track sector separately.
As who read Le Mans LMP1 Race Analysis know, the track was divided into three sectors, as shown in the following picture.
We will start from sector 1, the shortest and slowest of the track, a pretty twisty section composed mainly of slow and medium speed corners.
Car n.31 is here the best in terms of pure performance, staying clear of the closest competition by about 0.2 seconds on the best sector 1 time and remaining the fastest also if we consider the average of the best 20 sector 1 times, although now with a smaller gap to car n.28.
Car n.28 and car n.31 are very close to each other also if we consider the average of the best 50 sector 1 times (with car n.28 now being the fastest), while on the long run car n.31 falls a bit behind, although remaining among the three fastest cars in this track section.
The plots relative to the fastest 20, 50 and 100 sector 1 times help to also give a feeling about the advantage of the fastest three cars compared to the rest of the field.
The last plot shows very clearly how car n.28 was the best performing vehicle in this sector, over a longer distance.
Car n.31 was extremely fast if we only consider its best 15-20 sector 1 times. G-Drive car n.26 was the only one staying close to car n.28 performance. SMP Dallara n.35 is again the slowest car in this sector, while Panis-Barthez Competition Ligier n.23 was pretty close to the performance of Signatech Alpine car n.26, who inherited the win after car n.26 disqualification and sensibly faster than the United Autosport Ligier n.32.
As we saw during our LMP1 analysis, sector 2 is all about acceleration and top speed instead. Looking at the results in this sector, we get the first interesting hints about the setup approach that each team took.
Beside car n.31 signing again the best time overall (and with a good margin too), What we immediately see is that car n.28 was never the fastest in this sector, no matter which metrics of our table we consider. The gap to the best performing car n.26 gets smaller as we analyze more and more laps, but still G-Drive crew had an edge on the TDS one.
Car n.39 also performs pretty well in this sector, while the Dallara and the two Ligier are a step behind.
The plots relative to the best 20, 50 and 100 sector 2 times show very well how, in this sector, car n.26 was definitely the one to beat. Car n.28 follows closely, though and the gap gets smaller as we look at more and more laps.
Car n.31 performance were good if we only look at the few best times they obtained, but in general Dragonspeed crew didn’t perform particularly well in this sector. The two Ligier are pretty close to each other, with car n.23 still being the faster, while the Dallara is always a step back.
As we did for the LMP1 class, it is interesting to look at sector 2 and speed trap results in parallel, as the speed trap is placed before the first chicane on the Mulsanne straight and sector 2 is definitely a part of the track where top speed is key to achieve a good performance.
Both the table (relative to the best top speed overall and to the average of the best 20, 50, 100 and “all clean laps” recorded top speeds for each car) and the plots show something very clearly: the Dallara is the car with the best top speed. Still, SMP crew was pretty slow in sector 2, this signalizing either an aerodynamic that is not efficient enough (high speed means low drag, normally, but the question is how much downforce the car had to give up to get to this low drag) or handling issues (or both).
Car n.28 is constantly the one with the lowest top speed and by a good margin; nonetheless the car didn’t perform too bad in sector 2, being only slower than car n.26.
Car n.26, n.36 and n.39 seem to have a pretty similar aerodynamic setup, if we look at the top speeds, but car n.26 was significantly better than the others in terms of sector 2 times. This seems to suggest the package car handling+drivers worked better than the other crews; G-Drive did indeed a really good job.
Car n.39 performed also pretty well in this sector, being on the pace of car n.36, that got the win after car n.26 disqualification.
The crossed comparison of sector 2 times and top speed results for car n.26 and car n.28 seems to suggest that the first opted for a lower downforce solution, while the second sacrificed some top speed but preferred to have some more downforce.
This seems to be confirmed by the analysis of sector 3 performance.
By looking at the previous table, we can immediately recognize how much faster was car n.28 in sector 3 than any other crew on track.
The gap to the best second car is really impressive: if we exclude the best sector 3 time overall, where car n.28 has “only” about 0.1 seconds gap on car n.31, TDS crews is between 0.4 and 0.5 seconds quicker than the second fastest team in this sector in every metrics, with the only exception of the “all clean” laps one.
These plots give an even better feeling about the gap between car n.28 and any other crews in sector 3.
Beside this, we can see once again how off pace the SMP Dallara was. Michelin tyres seemed to help car n.23 to be the fastest Ligier. Among the “other Orecas”, car n.39 and car n.36 are very close to each other, while car n.26 was a bit faster but still not close to car n.28. Finally, car n.31 had once again a few very fast laps but was in general not close to the best cars pace.
As we did for the LMP1, it can be interesting to take a look to the best times each car got in the Porsche Curves section.
The LMP2 cars we are considering are marked with a red dot in the previous table. Car n.31 is the fastest here, with car n.28 following close. The next fastest car, Signatech Alpine n.36, is nearly 0.3 seconds slower, in a 14.5 seconds long section! Car n.28 and car n.31 were simply in another class in this sector, with the remark that car n.28 seemed to have a very stable performance in the whole sector 3 during the whole race, while car n.31 seemed to be able to only produce a few fast laps.
This seems to reinforce the idea that car n.28 carried indeed more downforce than car n.26, building up its advantage in sector 1 and 3. Even being a bit slower in sector 2, TDS crews could still be the fastest car on track.
Once again, LMP2 has proved to be pretty interesting, at least from a technical perspective, not only because of the chassis variety we have in the class but also because each team uses its own approach to setting the car up.
TDS and G-Drive Orecas were without doubt the fastest on track, with car n.28 actually being slightly quicker.
This seems to confirm that both cars could compete for the win simply relying on their pace, without taking any risks in trying to make their pit stops quicker, by modifying their refueling system. A shame, should none of them get the win (as it looks like at the time of writing) after the FIA/ACO will take their final decision because, basing on pace they would have both deserved it.