Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Someone peed in their pasta

Remarkable events have unfolded before anyone even turned a wheel in anger at Le Mans.

When the entry list was first published, many people questioned the inclusion an LMP2-spec Lucchini prototype entered by veteran Italian team Racing Box. The chassis was old and slow and other more worthy entries had been denied in order to allow it entry.

Part of the paperwork requirements at Le Mans is a certification from a car's manufacturer that the entry is as originally homologated, and if any changes have been made by the team that they haven't compromised the integrity of the tub.

Racing Box asked for this paperwork from Lucchini prior to the LMS race at Monza and received it, only to make some modifications afterwards (and before the Le Mans test day). When Lucchini heard about the modifications they informed Le Mans organizers, the ACO, that they were withdrawing their certification pending a re-inspection of the car. The ACO informed Racing Box of this development and the team made hasty arrangements to bring the car to Lucchini. On the day of the meeting, Lucchini's CEO called Racing Box to say he couldn't meet with them due to a bad back. Later that day he called again and said that he would meet with them to certify the car but only if they paid him 28,000 Euro!!! This amounted to extortion and Racing Box immediately called the police who raided Lucchini's premises and caught them trying to destroy documents.

Racing Box still turned up at Le Mans but failed scrutineering due to the missing paperwork. As a result, a second Epsilon Euskadi LMP1 coupe has taken its place with the powerhouse lineup of Stefan Johanssen, Jean-Marc Gounon and Shinji Nakano. Quite why this happened is unclear - we are well past the deadline for reserve entries to take a place, and Epsilon seemed *very* ready for the turn of events. Perhaps the ACO suspected that Racing Box would run into trouble and informed Epsilon that they might be offered another grid place.

There's much to this story that remains a mystery, but for now it's just one more piece of Le Mans' rich and sometimes bizarre history.


Keith Collantine said...

"Epsilon seemed *very* ready for the turn of events"

I think that's a very astute observation - they certainly seemed to have a handy line-up of extra drivers ready at the press of a button.

Drew Smith said...

wait, so who's at fault - Lucchini or Racing Box??? seems like both parties pulled shaaaaaady moves

patrick said...

The ACO really need to create some kind of transparent 'pre-qualifying' system for Le Mans as once existed. This habit of just handing out entries to teams on who knows what basis does rather open the door for corruption, or at least favouritism.

Why on earth, for instance did that hapless Tokyo university entered team get a slot ahead of Epsilon Euskadi?