Datum: 13.07.2021 · 24h Le Mans
Le Mans Comeback 2021 for Pierre
Pierre Ehret's Rinaldi Racing squad will make its first appearance under its own banner at Le Mans this year. The German Ferrari squad earned an auto-entry for the classic with it's involvement in the Asian Le Mans Series earlier this year. Main driver for the programme will be Pierre Ehret, who had to change his season plans for 2021 in favour of the classic.
"Originally, I had planned to compete in the new Fanatec Rebellion GT3 Series in the GT Sports Club package of the SRO in 2021. There, 2 bronze drivers were supposed to share a GT3 in the 3-hour race, which would have meant significantly more driving time for the privateers on the one hand, and on the other hand would have resulted in fewer incidents and damages for the private drivers and car owners due to the more balanced field in the absence of over-motivated professionals. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that the response to this good concept, which was still under the influence of Corona, would be very modest this year, so that the series ultimately had to be cancelled. When the opportunity arose with the Le Mans ticket from Rinaldi, I didn't have to think long and Michele and I put together a package relatively quickly with which we want to take part in the classic this year. I know a number of drivers who would be interested in taking part in such a race, and we started talking about it straight away."
In the meantime, Ehret's first team-mates have already been determined. "Christian Hook will be the second driver in the Ferrari. The third driver will be the very experienced Jeroen Bleekemolen, who has already competed with a Ferrari at the Sarthe."
Ehret and the team also went all in for a new car: "We bought a brand new GTE chassis in Maranello. Although it would have been possible to retrofit my existing Ferrari with a GTE-kit, there were a few reasons for a new car, even though it probably won't see too many races due to the imminent end of the GTE class. On one hand, there are the costs for the kit, which, with the Evo version, are now much higher than the figures originally reported. On the other hand, a used F488 chassis shows some signs of fatigue after all those racing kilometres, which you simply won't find on a brand new chassis. And in the end, buying a Ferrari for Le Mans is almost always worth it, because after a while you can sell the car to a collector without losing much money. If you can also show a class success, then the whole thing can even expand from a moderate loss into a financial investment with a profit."
As Ehret explained, the late timing of the Le Mans race - the classic had already been moved for the 2nd time in a row in the run-up to the season; this time to August - will at least open up an additional testing opportunity. "We had considered signing up for one or 2 ELMS races in advance. But as this field is filled to capacity, they have not been able to open up a starting opportunity for us there. Instead, we have now set our sights on the 6h of Monza of the FIA World Endurance Championship on 18.7. We will do a preparatory test there before heading to Le Mans on the third weekend in August."
Ehret believes that a test race is absolutely necessary because of the conceptual differences between GT3 and GTE. "The GT3 always uses an ABS braking system, whereas in the GTE you have to do without this help and brake very carefully to avoid flatspotting or even spin off the track. Professionals don't mind so much with the changeover, but amateur drivers, especially if they come from GT3 like Christian, find it very difficult. In GT3, you always have to jump like an elephant on the brake pedal and the ABS does the rest for you - in the worst case, you overshoot the turn-in point. If you do that in the GTE, you might find yourself backwards in the crash barrier before you even reach the corner. By the way, that's probably one of the reasons why I always lacked that last bit of speed in the GT3: I come from the GTE and always have in mind that I have to handle the brake pedal sensitively. But driving the GTE is therefore easier for me."
The planned Le Mans event would be Ehret's ninth of his racing career. He last competed in 2014 in a Ferrari F458 Italia GTE of the Japanese Team Taisan together with Martin Rich and Shinji Nakano. In 2006-2008, he and his crews managed a class podium result 3 times in a row at the French endurance classic.