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Le Mans Road to Le Mans

Palou: Top speed weakness could hinder Cadillac at Le Mans

Cadillac’s top speed deficit compared to its rivals could hinder the American manufacturer in this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours, believes Chip Ganassi driver Alex Palou.

#2 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, Alex Palou

#2 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, Alex Palou

Photo by: Andreas Beil

Two-time IndyCar champion Palou made the comment after two of three factory Cadillac V.Series.R LMDh cars progressed into hyperpole, but were the slowest in a straightline in Wednesday’s first qualifying at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

The #2 Caddy qualified by Palou’s team-mate Alex Lynn clocked a top speed of just 332.9km/h in Q1, which compared to the 341.3km/h set by Alpine duo Paul-Loup Chatin and Nicolas Lapierre in their respective A424 LMDh cars.

“I think in the race we don't have the best BoP [Balance of Performance], in the sense that we are fast but we are really slow in the straights and really fast on the corners,” Palou said.

“So if you have traffic and your ability in the straight is really tough… But hopefully they can modify it – I don't think so. But it will be a tough race for us.

“In qualifying you normally don't have traffic and you can go at 100%. Maybe the BoP for qualifying is perfect, but I think for the race, for us, it's really tricky.

“We are really fast on Porsche [Curves], but you cannot overtake, and if you have traffic you have to lift, so then we lose a lot of time there. And also on the straights, so when we have to do race pace I think we are lacking quite a lot now.”

Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Cadillac Racing

Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Cadillac Racing

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

Asked by Autosport if there was scope to improve the performance of the car on straights using set-up changes, Palou replied: “Not really.

“We cannot really do [much] for straightline speed. We can only take downforce off, I believe, but there is some minimum, and we would just make our corners terrible.

“So no, there is not much we can do on set-up. It's more like we need more engine power and maybe more weight to try and balance so that way we can be a little faster on the straight and slower in the corners. We will see if it changes.”

The maximum permissible power of the V.Series.R was cut by 7kW to 509kW ahead of the 92nd running of the French endurance classic, although it is the lightest chassis in the class at 1036kg.

Although manufacturers are not allowed to explicitly talk about the BoP, it continues to be a popular topic among the teams and the drivers in the paddock.

Starting this week, organisers the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest have introduced a new ‘power gain’ element in the World Endurance Championship to make it easier to match the top speed and the acceleration of each car in the Hypercar class.

Under this two-stage BoP, the power values for each car can be adjusted beyond a certain speed, which has been set at 250km/h for Le Mans in 2024.

#2 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, Alex Palou

#2 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, Alex Palou

Photo by: Andreas Beil

Lynn impressed by Cadillac’s speed

Both Ganassi-entered factory Cadillacs progressed into the Hyperpole section in second and fifth respectively, while the other Action Express Caddy qualified 18th on the grid.

A 3m24.642s flyer by Sebastien Bourdais in the #3 Cadillac V.Series R put him just under two tenths behind Dries Vanthoor in the #15 BMW that took provisional pole, while Lynn was another three tenths adrift in the sister #2 entry.

Lynn admitted that the Cadillac LMDh car is geared more towards high downforce, but believes this has significantly uplifted the performance of the car in high-speed corners.

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Speaking to Autosport, Lynn said: “Long runs are good. We have high downforce as a car, as a package. If you look at our performance in the Porsche Curves as an example, we are very good. I think that's the strength of the corner.

“There is cornering speed, there is downforce and there is drivability, it's giving the drivers good confidence to be on the limit for a 24-hour race. So honestly I have my fingers crossed that our long run pace over the course of 24 hours will be a good package.”

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