Skip to content

Primer for the 90th Anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans

Jun 19, 2013, 4:58 PM EDT

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. Carlin, Jones welcomed to America in their first weekend in Indy Lights

    Apr 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Photo: Carlin Photo: Carlin

    A double pole, double win debut weekend for Trevor Carlin’s team was a statement – but the team’s big takeaway was how different the U.S. environment is.

  2. Dixon on St. Pete: “The car was better than what I got out of it”

    Apr 1, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    DixonStP AP

    A challenging weekend for Scott Dixon occurs from qualifying through the race in St. Petersburg.

  3. Pierre Gasly to test for Toro Rosso at Barcelona

    Apr 1, 2015, 12:18 PM EDT

    ®GP2 Series Media Service ®GP2 Series Media Service

    Pierre Gasly to test STR10 after Spanish Grand Prix weekend in May.

  4. DiZinno: St. Pete provides solid 2015 season kickoff, but issues some warning signs

    Apr 1, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    STPcolumn AP

    While St. Petersburg had its positives as a weekend, Tony DiZinno reflects on two disconcerting themes that emerged from the race itself.

  5. American Alexander Rossi looks ahead to the GP2 season (VIDEO)

    Apr 1, 2015, 10:03 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Practice Getty Images

    Alexander Rossi looks ahead to the upcoming GP2 season.

  6. Off The Grid Mexico Kicks Off on NBCSports.com (VIDEO)

    Mar 31, 2015, 6:04 PM EDT

    Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg AP

    Off the Grid Mexico kicks off with episode one of a six-part digital series.

  7. Mardenborough, two spectators released from hospital after Nurburgring accident

    Mar 31, 2015, 4:17 PM EDT

    Photo: NISMO Photo: NISMO

    Jann Mardenborough and two spectators were released after this weekend’s VLN crash at the Nurburgring.

  8. Patron ESM heads to Paul Ricard (VIDEO)

    Mar 31, 2015, 1:52 PM EDT

    Photo: Extreme Speed Motorsports Photo: Extreme Speed Motorsports

    ESM recaps its test from the Prologue at Paul Ricard.

  9. IMS releases statement in wake of Indiana RFRA legislation

    Mar 31, 2015, 12:47 PM EDT

    IMS Pagoda Getty Images

    IMS statement comes out after Indiana’s recent religious freedom legislation.

  10. IndyCar notes: Rahal’s questionable penalty, one-off drivers, rookies have tough days

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    KimballRahal AP

    Catching up on the rest of the action from St. Petersburg, with a run through the moments of contact that triggered avoidable contact penalties.

  11. The Rolling Stones to hit IMS on July 4

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

    StonesIMS

    Rolling Stones to play at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  12. Spectator injured but in stable condition after being hit by debris at St. Pete race

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:33 AM EDT

    StpDebris AP

    Loose debris hit by a car, then goes over wall and hits a fan outside Turn 10 at St. Petersburg.

  13. Hawksworth, Filippi score solid top-10s to open season at St. Petersburg

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    HawkStp15 AP

    Hawksworth, Filippi impress on opening outings with their new teams in St. Petersburg.

  14. Experience trumps youth on IndyCar’s opening weekend with aero kits

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    JPMSTPwin AP

    IndyCar’s “old guard” reigned in St. Petersburg, as the new manufacturer aero kits debuted.

  15. Moto GP: Rossi wins opening-round thriller in Qatar

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    MotoGP Qatar Getty Images

    Victory number 70 of the Italian’s remarkable Moto GP career.

  16. Ecclestone considering creation of all-female grand prix series

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Practice Getty Images

    However, Williams test driver Susie Wolff believes that women should be reaching F1 in a more organic way.

  17. IndyCar: Bourdais opens strong for KVSH; Coletti impresses despite late stop for KV

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    SebStp AP

    KVSH’s Bourdais gets result after a consistent drive; KV’s Coletti stars but fades after late race splash-and-dash for fuel.