This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will host a record-breaking number of cars using a Gibson engine, in both LMP1 and LMP2. The event is shaping up to be one of the biggest challenges for the English engine manufacturer to date. We talked to Bob Baker, Gibson’s senior manager, to find out more about how the team prepared for the biggest race in the world.
Bob, from the 59 cars on the grid this weekend 27 of them are powered by a Gibson engine. What does that mean to you?
It’s incredible. I mean, in general, to have 59 cars on the grid at Le Mans is an impressive achievement given the global situation. It just goes to show how resilient and strong the motorsport community is in being able to pull all of this together. As for our own challenge, this is the first time ever we’ve had this many Gibson entries and we’re very excited for the challenge ahead. We’ve come well prepared so we’re ready to face the race head on.
Did you make any special preparations for this race?
No, not really. In fact, given the situation and the delay of the race, and the fact we didn’t have the Le Mans test, means we’ve had a comfortable margin getting all the engines ready for the big race. Our Gibson GK428 is made to last for 50 hours of running time. Taking into account both the race and practice sessions, Le Mans is about 34 hours so the participants should have more than 16 hours of running time left in it. This makes our life a bit easier because this year’s race is run on a very tight schedule, so there’s no time to change an engine throughout the week. It’s not unusual for a team to swap an engine on Wednesday or Thursday.
How do you manage these engines from a practical standpoint? Do the teams own the engine?
No, the teams don’t own the engines, we lease them to them by running hour. We have a pool of about 56 engines in circulation all over the world. So, when a race weekend is over, it either stays with the team for the next race or comes back to us for a complete revision. This way of working is one of our key strengths. This way we can make motorsport very cost efficient for the teams as they are only charged for the hours the engine has been running. If they have to abandon the 24 hours halfway through, they will only be charged for 12 hours.
What’s the Gibson operation like in the paddock?
For this year’s race we have 11 people on site who manage the 27 engines in the cars. For the LMP1 teams we have one engineer per team. So, one for Bykolles and one for Rebellion. In the LMP2 field one engineer usually manages up to three teams. This person mostly stays the same throughout the season so the teams can build a trusted relationship with their engineer. On top of the 27 engines in the cars we’ve also brought 10 spare units along for worst case scenarios.
Obviously, we need to talk about the lubricant. All Gibson engines run Motul 300V racing oil. Who manages the oil for the engines?
Oil management is usually up to the teams and whether they change it or not is up to them and depends on the running. We’ll only intervene if something is wrong, like if the engine is running too hot. Usually they will add oil throughout the week and do one full change before the race. During the race and, depending on the conditions, the engine will consume some oil. So during the stops, the teams will add anywhere from four to six litres of lubricant. The GK428 takes off-the-shelf Motul 300V 5W30.