Le Mans 24 Hours Preview
Motoring.co.uk Heads To The Famous Race
If the words ‘Le Mans’ are mentioned most people think of one thing, the famous 24 hour race. if they don't, then they are not into motorsport or indeed cars. It has taken place since 1923 testing driver and team endurance as they drive around the various iterations of the Circuit de la Sarthe, providing a test to both physical endurance and engineering capabilities that has captivated manufacturers, drivers and fans with the romance of the world's greatest race.
The French town of Le Mans has 150,000 inhabitants, but in the week leading up to the race that figure nearly doubles as fans from all over the world descend upon the circuit to enjoy not only the racing, but the non stop entertainment provided. It is not just a race, it is as driver Paul Frere once said, "A week long holiday with friends, at the end of which there is a motor race." There aren’t many circuits where you can sit on a big wheel at night looking down at the cars as they race through the Ford chicanes, camp yards away from a car doing 210 mph or go to sleep to the tune of three, four, six and eight cylinder engines echoing around the trees.
The 82nd edition will commence on Saturday 14th June when 55 cars will head to the grid, and Ferrari F1 driver and two time F1 World champion Fernando Alonso will drop the flag at 3pm to start the legendary race.Main contenders
Audi cars have dominated Le Mans in recent years winning 12 times with Scotsman Allan McNish taking two of those victories, Tom Kristensen an impressive six and Emanuele Pirro five. The Audi Sport Team Joest have set many records including the first female to win the Le Mans 24 hours with their race engineer Leena Gade, in 2011 and 2012. She will be looking to make it the triple with their turbodiesel R18 E-Tron Quattro in the LMP1 class. Unfortunately the team have had a battle to get the number 1 car to the grid as last year’s winner, Loic Duval crashed at the Porsche Curves during practice, completely destroying the car. Duval was taken to Le Mans hospital for precautionary checks but was 'OK' afterwards. He will be replaced though by Marc Gene for the race weekend.
This year Audi have their work cut out as rivals Toyota Racing have won both FIA World Endurance Championship races so far this year at Silverstone and Spa with a brand new car over last year's. The team boasts former F1 drivers including Alex Wurz and Brit, Anthony Davidson who both have tens of thousands of miles under their belts in endurance racing. However, they have yet to win Le Mans as a team so will hope that one of their TS040 Hybrids makes it to the finish line first after 24 hours.
All the talk this year has been about the return of Porsche, who reigned during the 80’s and took their 16th and last win in 1998 with Allan McNish, Laurent Aiello and Stephane Ortelli. The 919 Hybrid will be driven b, amongst others, former F1 driver Mark Webber, a signing that has increased the popularity of endurance racing as the friendly Australian makes a return to sportscars. Webber drove for Mercedes-Benz AMG in 1999 and spectacularly got airborne in both practice and race-day warm up at Le Mans with dramatic flips that looped the car over and over, but this year he'll be looking to keep his car firmly planted on the track with team-mates Timo Bernhard and fellow Australian Brendon Hartley.
The Le Mans 24 Hour is going to be a thrilling race this year, but who will take the top spot come 3pm on Sunday? Follow Motoring.co.uk as we head to Le Mans and follow the Audi Sport Team Joest in the build-up to the race and during the 24 hours. We’ll be bringing you all the latest on www.motoring.co.uk www.twitter.com/motoringcouk and www.facebook.com/motoringcouk