Skip to content

Primer for the 90th Anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans

Jun 19, 2013, 4:58 PM EST

AUTO-FRA-MOTOR-RACING-ENDURANCE Getty Images

This weekend marks the 90th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the most prestigious races worldwide. Here’s a few tidbits on what has made it what it is, and what to expect for this year’s running on June 22-23. A further resource guide with race times, schedules and a spotters guide, can be found on U.S. race broadcaster SPEED’s website.

THE HISTORY

Recently, it’s been about one name: Audi. The four rings showed up at Le Mans in this current iteration in 1999, and a year later with the R8, scored its first win. Since 2000, only in 2003 (Bentley) and 2009 (Peugeot), has Audi not tasted overall spoils. A year ago, its win with the R18 e-tron quattro was the first for a hybrid at Le Mans – this after they were the first diesel to win, as well (2006, R10 TDI).

It’s always been a technological proving ground. It’s been home to some of the greatest cars winning races, and some of the greatest drivers showcasing their worth. Tom Kristensen, “Mr. Le Mans,” leads all-time with eight wins. An American hasn’t won the race overall since 1996 (Davy Jones), but that has hardly diminished its stature.

Audi is five back of Porsche for most overall victories (it trails 16-11), but ahead of other manufacturers such as Ferrari, Jaguar, Bentley, Alfa Romeo and Ford.  Arguably one of the most famous Le Mans wins was that of A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney in the Ford GT in 1967.

THE RACE

No longer merely a test of survival, Le Mans is a 24-hour sprint. Spend any substantial amount of time in the garage and you are pretty much toast when it comes to potential for class victory, or even a podium finish.

The 8.459-mile long Circuit de la Sarthe is known primarily for the Mulsanne Straight, and rewards cars that maximize the low downforce setup. There are very few slow corners on the track, other than Indianapolis (left-hander) and the following right-hander, Arnage.

THE CLASSES

56 cars compete in four classes. Here’s a primer on them below:

LMP1 (8 cars): The top class, comprised of factory prototype efforts from Audi and Toyota, two Rebellion Racing Lola Toyotas, and a single HPD ARX-03a from Strakka Racing. Bronze-rated drivers (the lowest-rated) are not allowed in class.

LMP2 (22 cars): Privateer, cost-capped second prototype class has Oreca, Zytek, Morgan, Lola, Lotus and HPD chassis, with engines provided by Nissan, HPD and Judd. Requires at least one Silver or Bronze-rated driver (the two lowest rated) and can have two pros.

GTE PRO (12 cars): Open, 2013-spec GT cars close to production from Ferrari, Corvette, Aston Martin, SRT and Porsche. Open driver lineup available although like in LMP1, only one team has a Silver-rated driver in its car.

GTE AM (14 cars): The same manufacturers as compete in GTE Pro, but privateer teams with 2012-spec cars. Only one pro driver (Platinum or Gold-rated) is allowed in the car, which makes this the class with the highest number of gentlemen drivers.

THE CONTENDERS

LMP1: As ever, it’s Audi’s to lose. Defending champions Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler seek their third consecutive win in the race. Toyota received a break from race organizers, the ACO, for an extra three liters of fuel ahead of this race. But whether Toyota’s TS030 Hybrid can claw back the performance gains to Audi remains to be seen.

LMP2: Roughly half of the 22 cars in class stand a serious chance at winning. OAK Racing (No. 24, 35 Morgan Nissans) and Greaves Motorsport (No. 41, 42 Zytek Nissans) each have two possible winners. Other cars to watch including G-Drive’s No. 26 Oreca Nissan, Level 5’s No. 33 HPD, JOTA Sport’s No. 38 Zytek Nissan, and the Oreca Nissans from Murphy Prototypes (No. 48) and Pecom Racing (No. 49). I’d expect the winner from that batch of 10.

GTE PRO: The pair of AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italias are probably the best all-around package in class and enters as defending race winner. But Aston Martin is primed to score a win with one of its three Vantages, and Corvette also stands a good chance in its last run with the C6.R. Porsche and SRT are slightly off, only because it’s debut for both the new 911 and Viper at Le Mans. JMW’s Ferrari is the only car without a chance.

GTE AM: Larbre Competition has won this class the last two years with older Corvettes, but about seven other cars have a realistic winning chance (No. 61, 81 Ferraris, No. 67, 76, 77 Porsches, No. 95, 96 Aston Martins).

 

Latest Posts
  1. Big Australian V8 Supercars shocker: Shane van Gisbergen heads to Triple Eight for 2016

    Mar 5, 2015, 6:44 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    “The Giz” heads to V8SC’s biggest team in a three-year deal as the team’s third car.

  2. Jean-Eric Vergne chasing “amazing” home win for Andretti at Miami ePrix

    Mar 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    Formula E Championship - Buenos Aires Getty Images

    JEV wants to clinch Andretti a home win when Formula E hits U.S. shores in Miami later this month.

  3. More movements in GP2, GP3, Formula Renault 3.5 for 2015

    Mar 5, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    © GP2 Media Service © GP2 Media Service

    All of the latest news from some of F1’s most prominent junior championships.

  4. GP2: Marlon Stockinger confirmed at Status Grand Prix

    Mar 5, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    _W2Q1556

    Filipino-Swiss driver moves from Formula Renault 3.5 for 2015.

  5. Hamilton: “I want to be better” in bid for third title

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Hamilton 262a Getty Images

    British driver sends out an ominous statement of intent ahead of the first race of the year in Australia on March 15.

  6. F1 2015 team preview: Williams Martini Racing

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:00 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi Getty Images

    Can Massa and Bottas pick up where they left off at the end of 2014?

  7. Manor passes final crash tests ahead of Australian GP

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:07 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS Getty Images

    Team now all set to race in Australia on March 15 after passing the FIA crash tests.

  8. Formula E: Scott Speed in at Andretti for Miami ePrix

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    Bojangles' Southern 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Add another American to the Formula E roster for 2015 as Speed replaces Marco Andretti for the first of two home races.

  9. Reports: Giedo van der Garde steps up legal action against Sauber F1 Team

    Mar 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EST

    Singapore F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Dutch driver reportedly seeking an urgent court order that would get him on the grid for the upcoming Australian Grand Prix.

  10. Ecclestone: Decision on German GP due this weekend

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Germany Getty Images

    With neither Hockenheim nor the Nurburgring prepared to host the race in 2015, the outlook is bleak for a German Grand Prix.

  11. IndyCar: Arrow Electronics to sponsor Hinchcliffe; number changes to 5

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    New sponsor, new number (again) for Hinchcliffe’s 2015 IndyCar campaign.

  12. Honda’s IndyCar aero kit launch plan comes into focus

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:14 PM EST

    Honda Indy Toronto - Day 1 Getty Images

    Honda hints at more about its aero kits, while tossing out two dates of note.

  13. PWC: 2015 driver/team rundown, GTS

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    WC

    Look through the Pirelli World Challenge field continues with a look at GTS.

  14. F1 2015 team preview: Red Bull Racing

    Mar 4, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    Ricciardo Kvyat 43 Getty Images

    Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat look to lead the team in the post-Vettel era.

  15. Justin Wilson has first ride of 2015 confirmed, back with Shank at Sebring

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:40 PM EST

    GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma - Day 1 Getty Images

    Justin Wilson returns to Michael Shank Racing for Sebring one-off.

  16. Manor Marussia F1 confirms trip to Melbourne

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:09 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS-PRACTICE Getty Images

    Manor Marussia F1 to make trip to Melbourne after all.

  17. Agag: Formula E off to “incredible start” heading into U.S. swing

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:15 AM EST

    Agag2 Getty Images

    FIA Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag outlines goals for upcoming two U.S. races, and recaps the first four thus far.