The Automobile Club de l'Ouest has reacted to concern among teams about various 'unnecessary' expenses that would have been incurred by competing in either the 2009 Le Mans Series or at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Already attempting to curb spending via its technical regulations, the organising body has bowed to suggestions that it do away with the now traditional pre-race 'test day' at La Sarthe, which obliged all teams on the 24 Hours entry - including those based in the USA and Far East - to journey to Le Mans for a single day of running on the famous endurance course before returning a matter of weeks later for the event itself.
The day has been included on the schedule since 1993, when it was reintroduced to ensure that all participating drivers were capable of tackling the course, and has been billed variously as a practice day, preliminary practice, pre-qualifying or test day according to how long it lasted. The current one day format has been in place for the past four years, but previous sessions lasted anything up to three days. The first pre-race test day was held for the first time in 1959, and continued through to 1974, when it was suspended because of a fuel crisis. It was reinstated for 1986 and 1987, and then cancelled again until 1993.
Next year's test day had been scheduled for 31 May, and will now be replaced by a mandatory free practice session on Wednesday 10 June before qualifying for the 24 Hours gets underway on Thursday. Any car failing to take part will not to be allowed to start the race. The ACO believes that the move represents considerable savings for all entrants, who are already required to be at the circuit on Monday 8 June for scrutineering.
The club has also decided to trim Le Mans Series events from four days to three for 2009 by moving scrutineering from Thursday to Friday.