Fastest lap times during a 24-Hour endurance race reveal just one part of the story.
But analysis of Le Mans fastest laps in the GTE-Pro class are none-the-less revealing. The data from the weekend confirms the clear dominance of the new Ford GT and also highlights the talent of Kiwi star Scott Dixon.
Ford’s four-car Le Mans return involved 12 drivers. It was Dixon, Billy Johnson, Dirk Muller, Ryan Briscoe and Stefan Mucke who ranked one-to-six as the fastest GTE-Pro drivers in the race.
Ford’s other six drivers — in order Sebastien Bourdais, Harry Tincknell, Joey Hand, Richard Westbrook, Andy Priaulx and Marino Franchitti — had rankings from eighth-through-18th among the 42 drivers in the GTE-Pro field. In the mix with those Ford drivers were the fastest laps of the Ferrari 488 GTE pilots — headed by Giancarlo Fisichella who had the seventh fastest race lap.
It’s not till you drill down to the 19th fastest GT driver that you find a car that isn’t a Ford GT or a Ferrari 488. In other words a car that isn’t all-new for 2016, turbocharged and mid-engined. Aston Martin claimed that honour with Dane Nicki Thiim pipping the Corvette of Antonio Garcia.
Photo / AP
Dixon’s 3m 51.514secs race lap compares to Fisichella’s 3m 52.269s, Thiim’s 3m 53.293s and Garcia’s 3m 53.398s. New Zealander Earl Bamber set the fastest lap for any of the Porsche 911 RSR drivers at 3m 53.500s.
Dixon’s race pace is worth putting in context. The Kiwi IndyCar champion hadn’t raced at Le Mans before and the clashing Detroit IndyCar double-header and his status as a Platinum ranked driver allowed a waiver to miss the otherwise compulsory test day on June 5.
He had only raced the Ford GT on only one previous occasion and his endurance experience is in Daytona Prototypes and earlier in his career with Acura and Ferrari 333SP prototypes.
Dixon only got a total of 20 laps of the Le Mans track in a mix of weather conditions during the Wednesday and Thursday sessions and he completed four more in the Saturday warm-up.
He followed Westbrook and Briscoe in the driver rotation for the number 69 Ford GT — getting his first race laps in the early evening that produced a best lap of 3m 53.7s.
Second time in the car he improved to 3m 52.6s while his fastest lap — and new lap record for GTE-PRO — was posted in the third stint, on the 112th of the 123 laps he drove while bringing the car home in third place and on the lead lap with GTE-Pro winning team-mates Muller, Hand and Bourdais.
Dixon went to Le Mans as rookie and light on race experience in GT cars. He was up against full-time GT professionals with years of Le Mans experience.
To step into a specialised environment and complete his weekend of work by setting the pace and scoring a class podium might not grab the headlines of an IndyCar title but it’s a clear demonstration of Scott Dixon’s talent and versatility. And likely a preview of where he will be racing more often as he approaches his later-thirties.