Okay, the economic crisis hasn’t entirely disappeared, but the organisation of a test day seemed indispensable given the appearance of new prototype cars following the introduction of new regulations for 2011.
Known under various names before officially becoming the Test Day (Journée Test) in 2005, the idea dates back to 1959. Stopped in 1974, it was organised in 1986, and reinstated on a longer term basis in 1993 (cancelled in 2009 and 2010). Between 1971 and 1974, the session culminated in the Le Mans 3 Hours, then the Le Mans 4 Hours. In 1986, two 11-lap sprint races were organised, but in 2000 there was no official timing.
Over the years, it has been run in March, April or early May. From 2005 until 2008, it was staged a fortnight before the Le Mans 24 Hours, leaving the teams and tyre manufacturers very little time to react if they encountered a problem.
The day is not mandatory for teams who have already contested the Le Mans 24 Hours. It is obligatory, however, for rookies who must complete at least 10 laps.
The aim of the session is not to set the fastest the fastest time at all costs. Indeed, the driver who topped the order in the 34 tests days organised to date has only gone on to win Le Mans five times (1961, 1966, 1998, 2001 and 2003).
This year, the programme includes two four-hour sessions which the teams will use to work on their chassis set-up, engine, aerodynamics, refuelling strategies and tyres, etc.
Friday, April 22: documentation and scrutineering at the circuit (9am to 6pm)
Saturday April 23: documentation and scrutineering at the circuit (9am to 3pm)
Driver and team manager briefings (4pm)
Sunday April 24: testing (9am to 1pm, and 2pm to 6pm)