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     S102.5 Judd
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  Dome S102.5 Judd
 

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Country of origin:Japan
Produced in:2012
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:May 23, 2012
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Click here to download printer friendly versionFor nearly four years, the S102 that raced at Le Mans in 2008 sat motionless in Dome's lobby. Pictures even surfaced of the security guard's children climbing all over it. Company founder, Minoru Hayashi was confronted daily with the stationary Le Mans racer, which must have resulted in a mix of pride and regret. Using a second chassis for mock-up purposes, the design was continuously developed to comply with the latest regulations. During that period, several teams inquired about running/leasing the car but bad experiences with previous partners had left Hayashi hesitant.

What Dome really needed was to be incorporated in a manufacturer program as chassis designer and constructor. Partnering with Honda most recently, that has been the recipe for success in the competitive SuperGT championship as well. Toyota seemed to be the most obvious choice as it was a poorly kept secret that the Japanese manufacturer was eyeing a Le Mans effort with a hybrid drivetrain. We understand that an earlier Dome was even used by Toyota for testing purposes. The plans all changed drastically when Toyota withdrew from Formula 1 and the development of the car was instead entrusted to Toyota's European Motorsport arm in Cologne.

Disappointed by Toyota's decision to call in, what he considered outside help, Hayashi finally decided to dust off the long dormant S102 and bring it back to Le Mans to race against the German-built Toyota. Considering his company strictly a manufacturer, he did need a top-class team to run the car. In Pescarolo Team, Hayashi found an ideal partner with vast levels of experience of Le Mans and of running complicated machinery. No time was wasted trying to find outside funding and using Dome's own money, the S102 was rebuilt to comply to the latest regulations and rebadged the S102.5.

Left untouched was the carbon composite monocoque, which, after all, had only been used for just one race. A drastic cut in the displacement limit for naturally aspirated engines required Dome to substitute the 5.5 litre Judd V10 previously fitted for a 3.4 litre V8, also supplied by Judd. This was bolted to an XTrac-sourced six-speed gearbox, operated by Zytek's paddle-shift system. Meeting the latest aerodynamics regulations, the S102.5 was fitted with a fin on the rear deck and holes were cut on top of the four fenders. Both of these measures were meant, simply put, to ensure the car stays on the ground during an accident.

Hired to drive the Dome at Le Mans were former Peugeot and Pescarolo racers Nic Minassian and Sebastien Bourdais, as well as 2004 Le Mans winner Seiji Ara. Early in 2012, the rebuilt S102 was shipped to France where testing commenced. Hayashi's ultimate goal for Le Mans is to show just how quick the car can be and instead of completing a planned 24-hour test, he asked Pescarolo to focus on setup and speed during the pre-season runs. He explained that so much could go wrong during the race that is out of the team's control, that his pride would not be hurt if the car had to retire due to reliability issues or an accident.

As a final dress-rehearsal, Pescarolo Team did enter the Dome S102.5 in the second round of the World Endurance Championship; the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. As expected the car proved fast but concerns quickly rose about the Judd engine, which both lacked the power so desperately needed to achieve Hayashi's goal and the reliability previously shown by the V10. Driven by Minassian and Bourdais on this occasion, the Dome was among the fastest non-diesel cars but electrical issues dropped it down the order during the race. The sole Pescarolo Team entry eventually finished 15th; 13 laps behind the winning Audi.

Next up for Pescarolo Team and Dome S102.5 is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it will race against the Toyota TS030 Hybrid for the first time. Hopefully, the fabulous LMP1 racer will not be retired to Dome's lobby again after the race.

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