Lap of Le Mans in a GTS Corvette

With Audi dominant in the LMP 900 class, the closest battles of the weekend could come from the ultra-competitive GTS category. With two qualifying sessions down, it's already shaping up to be a classic clash of the US muscle cars. The pair of Corvette Racing C5-Rs are already proving a match for ORECA's crack Chrysler Viper squad (see 'Qualifying from the classes' story) and are looking to narrow the gap even further in this evening's final timed sessions

Lap of Le Mans in a GTS Corvette

Chevy has focussed on US driving talent for its attack on the 68th Le Mans 24 Hours, but joining them in the number 64 car is Frenchman Franck Freon, a veteran of six Le Mans starts. Now, the 36-year-old takes you on a lap of the classic 8.45-mile Circuit de la Sarthe.

"Beginning as you cross the start/finish line, you drive alongside the pits, having just exited the last corner of the track in second gear,' says Freon. 'You're up to fifth gear at the first corner, Dunlop Curve, a little bit uphill, which you manage to do in second gear with pretty good speed, say about 60 or 70mph.

"The elevation decreases as you exit Dunlop and you travel about 600 or 700 feet, reaching fourth gear before you hit the Esses - immediate left and right corners - pretty fast in third or fourth gear, about 100mph.

"Immediately after the Esses you encounter Tertre Rouge, a right-hand corner, and maybe one of the most important corners on the course because you make it at about 100mph and it's the last corner before the first long straight. It's very important to have a good speed exiting this corner.

"After exiting Tertre Rouge, you're up to fifth gear, reaching maximum speed until the first chicane on the straight, sometimes known as L'Arche, but commonly referred to as the Nissan Chicane. I'm hoping we'll reach 200mph there in the Corvette. You brake pretty hard going in, down to second or third gear, about 60mph. This is a very hard deceleration point.

"You then start the second straight, which is a little bit shorter than the previous one. You reach about 90 per cent top speed before you hit the next chicane, La Florandiere, at about 60mph. This has the same design as the Nissan Chicane but just reversed. You accelerate out to complete the last third of the straight.

"Very hard braking brings you to Mulsanne corner, either first or second gear, depending on the car. It's a very slow speed corner, about 45mph. You need a very good exit because next you have a long stretch with two kinks in it, the second of which you take at about 180mph. You have to pay attention here, because it's a very tricky place. Right before you get to Indianapolis, the next corner, you have a very tight kink to go through, which is more of a right-hand corner. Here, you have to slow down by maybe 80mph to make it, going from fifth to fourth gear.

"Then, very rapidly, you slow to third gear to make the left-hander, Indianapolis. You can carry a pretty decent speed through here, because there is banking to the corner - hence the name.

"As you exit Indy, you have to slow down and shift down to second gear to take Arnage, a right-hand corner, at very slow speed. It's about 40mph and maybe the slowest part of the track. You accelerate to a long straight, flat-out, until you reach a right-hand corner, actually more of a bend, the beginning of which we call the Porsche Curves. This is a right, a left, and then a left again, right again, left again - a succession of five corners in fourth gear. If you run the Porsche Curves correctly, you can make up a lot of time here, but it's a very tricky place because between the railings on each side of the track, there are no run-off areas. If you make an error, you're in the wall. It's quick through here because you never go slower than 120 or 130mph. So it's a very tricky, very exciting place. If you make a mistake here, you can call it a day.

"Next you have a short straightaway, and a quick chicane before you enter the Ford Chicane, which is a double left, double right - two sets of left, right corners - very tight. You shift down to second gear for the first set and maybe 100 or 200 feet down the road you have the second set, where sometimes you're down to first gear. You accelerate and you cross the start/finish line. It's just a fantastic track - very, very smooth.

"I love it!"

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