JAGUAR’S RACING HEART BEATS AT LE MANS
Remember the scene in the movie Le Mans when McQueen is in his 917, on the grid, waiting for the clock to strike four, his heart pounding like a jack-hammer? Well, my heart's pounding like that right now, writes Paul Gentilozzi, Principal Partner and Lead Driver with JaguarRSR.
This coming Saturday, our JaguarRSR XKR GT2 will line-up on the Le Mans starting grid, ready to do battle in the world's greatest endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
It's been 15 years since a Jaguar last competed here and 20 years since a Jaguar took the checkered flag. My heart is pounding because there's a great Jaguar history at this track. And I, like every man and woman on our team, desperately, desperately, wants to do well for Jaguar in its 75th anniversary year.
This is such an important race, yet it is coming at a time when we're so early in the development of the XKR GT2. Yes, we were pleased with our speed at Laguna Seca a couple of weeks back. And while we had issues with an alternator, mechanically we are much more comfortable than we've been all season.
But in the four days we had, from the time the car arrived back in Michigan after the race, to being flown out to France, we were taking no chances. We stripped the car to the last nut and bolt. Engine rebuilt. Transmission rebuilt. Drive line, suspension, brake systems. Everything was taken apart, analyzed, checked, double-checked and put back together.
But racing at Le Mans isn't like racing at Road Atlanta. It's 4,000 miles away, so everything had to be packed into boxes and shipped. We've brought with us two spare 5.0-liter AJ-V8 engines, two complete sets of bodywork, two sets of virtually every component that goes in the car.
Since arriving here on Saturday, we've spent this past weekend unpacking all those boxes and organizing the JaguarRSR garage on pit lane. Later today, the car will go to technical scrutineering. On Wednesday we'll start practice.
For the next couple of days, myself and our two other drivers, Marc Goosens and Ryan Dalziel, will spend a lot of time on the computer, re-learning the track with the latest PS2 video games, watching in-car videos. It really helps. Even for Marc, who has competed here nine times before.
The plan right now is for me to start the race and run the first nine or 10 laps. I've lived and breathed this car for so long and have a better mechanical grasp on it. Then Ryan, who is racing at Le Mans for the first time, will run some laps. When Marc gets in, he'll really begin working on the set-up.
Any driver will tell you that Le Mans is always a difficult race. Part of it is racing for 24 hours; part of it is the challenge of an eight-mile track and part of it is the incredible stresses that get put on components.
Our single-minded focus is to be there running at the end. To take that checkered flag. To be there for Jaguar. That’s all that matters. That’s our objective.
And hopefully by 3 p.m. on Sunday, when we stop racing, maybe my heart will stop racing too.