Category Archives: Le Mans News

Le Mans 2019

Le Mans 2019: Reserve your place now!

Le Mans 2019: On sale now

There are few events that people start planning the moment the previous one has finished. Christmas and the family holiday are probably on that list. Le Mans is definitely there.
Le Mans 2019 is already unique in that it will be the second Le Mans 24 hours in the one, not to be repeated, “Super-Season” of the FIA World Endurance Championship. From now on, the Le Mans 24 Hours will be the grand finale to a season that begins in September & October the previous year. If Le Mans could be any more important in the motorsport calendar, it will be now.

Le Mans 2019

Toyota dominated the 2018 race, but there was also a lot of positives to be taken from the new private teams, who now have the invaluable experience of a Le Mans 24 Hours under their belt. Expect some rule changes and “balance of performance” tweaks to enable the privateers to close the gap on Toyota at Le Mans 2019.

We know what to expect from the LMP2 battle. In 2018 we saw both a chassis war and tyre war mix up the grid, but it will perhaps be remembered for the controversy that saw teams disqualified after the podium presentation for tampering with their refuelling rigs. That was a shame for quite a few teams that either had their trophies taken away, or that missed out on that podium feeling in the first place. Hopefully lessons will be learnt by everyone before Le Mans 2019.

Le Mans 2019
The GTE Pro battle was exceptional in 2018 & there is no reason to expect it to be any different for Le Mans 2019. Porsche’s retro-liveried cars were instant fan favourites and were cheered on by thousands as every lap went by. However, they were pushed all the way by a mixture of the Ferrari & Ford with the new BMWs not far behind. The older Corvettes and the new Aston Martin Martins looked great, but lacked the performance to back it up, but a year on don’t expect the same results.

GTE Am continues to deliver. There was competitive racing, errors, moments of exceptional skill and a popular winner in the best performing car. What more can you ask for? Same again at Le Mans 2019 please!

Le Mans 2019

So now you know what to expect, why not join us track-side at Le Mans 2019? Travel Destinations are an official tickets agent for Le Mans 2019 and offer you the widest possible choice for you to stay at Le Mans and enjoy all the action. Here are just a few of the possible options:

Circuit Camping: Thousands of race fans camp at the circuit each year. Le Mans 2019 will be no different. The circuit run campsites such as Maison-Blanche, Tertre Rouge and Houx are all available through Travel Destinations. You will need to bring your own tent & expect to join a rowdy crowd at various locations around the track. Camping facilities will be basic at best but if you join in the party atmosphere you can have a great time.

Le Mans 2019
Private camping at Porsche Curves: Travel Destinations private campsite at the Porsche Curves remains hugely popular with race fans still wanting to camp, but preferring the added benefits of on-site security, serviced showers & toilets as well as hospitality marquee with café & bar exclusive to Travel Destinations customers. In addition, you also get the bonus of our very own exclusive viewing bank overlooking the fastest corner on the circuit!

Travel Destinations Event Tents: Our “Glamping” option is located across the other side of the track to our Porsche Curves campsite, but instead of having to bring your own tent, we provide a 5-metre diameter bell-tent, fully carpeted & complete with mattresses and all bed linen. The Event Tents benefit from security, serviced shower & toilet blocks as well as their own hospitality marquee for food and drink and all residents also have access to our private viewing bank at the Porsche Curves.

Le Mans 2019
Travel Destinations Flexotel Village: Each year we build a “pop-up hotel” in the centre of the circuit. This Flexotel Village provides customers with their own bedroom at the track. Each room comes with 2 proper beds & all bed linen and towels and you can choose from a standard room with shared facilities or your own ensuite room with shower & toilet. The atmosphere amongst the Flexotels is calmer & more relaxed than elsewhere on circuit, but there is still a hospitality marquee serving food and drinks all weekend for those what enjoy coming together with other like-minded race fans over a beer or a BBQ. All this is just a short walk from the paddock or Tertre Rouge corner.

Le Mans 2019
Hotel & chateaux offers: For some the lively nature of the busy circuit may be too much, so staying away from the circuit is a more comfortable option for them. Of course, there is the battle with traffic to get in to the circuit if you are driving, but some of our hotel options also have the option of using the excellent tram service to get to and from the track. Prices for nearby hotel rooms are not the cheapest options, but for those looking to enjoy the whole race week they are certainly a comfortable option.

Le Mans 2019
If you’re not sure which option is best for you, then why not call our team at Travel Destinations? Each member of staff has an intimate knowledge of Le Mans with multiple visits under their belts. They know the pros & cons of every option and will be happy to discuss the best option for you.

You can book Le Mans 2019 with Travel Destinations now. Early-bird prices are on our website and you can secure your place at Le Mans 2019 today with a small deposit.
Call us now on 0844 873 0203 to join us at Le Mans 2019.

Le Mans Classic

Le Mans Classic 2018: Review

Dailysportscar visits the Le Mans Classic

A relatively recent phenomenon in motorsport are the big historic festivals. In the UK, Goodwood; with the Festival of Speed and the Revival meeting, Silverstone Classic, and a host more besides, draw big crowds with a mix of on-track action and a festival atmosphere in the paddock and around the circuit grounds. The major European events have been building in popularity too: Spa-Francorchamps has the Spa Six Hours and Spa Classic events, Nürburgring’s Old-timer Grand Prix, Angouleme’s Circuit des Remparts and many more. The biggest, and arguably one of the very, very best is the Le Mans Classic – held every two years, this is the only event, aside from the Le Mans 24 Hours itself, that is permitted to use the full 24 Hours race circuit, with local roads closed to allow round the clock action.

Le Mans Classic

I was invited with my colleague Dave Lord, to attend the Le Mans Classic 2018 event as the guests of Travel Destinations, to take a look at what, for both of us, was a very different event in very familiar surroundings! We were accommodated in the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village – and whilst the container-like accommodation is perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing, it proved to have massive advantages over the more traditional camping option. With comfortable overnight accommodation for two, plenty of storage space and a secure lock on the door it was an ideal operating base for the extended weekend.

Le Mans Classic

Very high temperatures over the full Le Mans Classic meeting might have left some sweltering – indeed our friends on the campsites reported that their tented accommodations were challenging in the conditions – but the tree-lined Flexotel Village wasn’t too bad, and our room was great when we installed a fan! Make no mistake these were extreme conditions – 30-34 degrees across the whole weekend! Our bathroom accommodation was in the central toilet and shower block – showers with perfect temperatures, kept spotlessly clean throughout the weekend- although for those after more privacy, a little more outlay saw some customers choose upgraded Flexotel rooms with their own bijou bathroom facilities!

Le Mans Classic

As the Le Mans Classic came alive on Friday, then the Flexotel Village filled up nicely, and the ambience became immediately apparent – very relaxed and very friendly – individuals, couples and groups of friends either chatting quietly outside their rooms with a glass of red wine or a beer, or clustering around the central marquee where food and drink was available late into the evening – together with a big screen TV – pretty much essential during the latter stages of a World Cup! There were,  I am very pleased to report, no rowdy groups, no fireworks – just people enjoying their, and each other’s company, and it was never, ever, crowded – a host of ordinary cars (ours!), sporty, exotic and classic cars parked alongside the rooms – Everything from an MGA, via a Jensen Interceptor and on to Lamborghinis, Ferraris and a beautiful Jaguar D-Type Replica – Just perfect!

Le Mans Classic

As for the Le Mans Classic event itself – Wow!

700 cars from 1923 to the present day, competing and displayed on track with some 1000 drivers – including some VERY big names. Competition continued through the night with the six main – age-defined groups of cars having 3 x 45 minutes races – with the addition of races for the iconic Group C cars (simply glorious!), Jaguar and Porsche period one-make encounters, plus a pair of very well attended demonstration runs for the “Global Endurance Legends”, for cars from the 90s and noughties – with a short season of races for these splendid machines coming in 2019!

Le Mans Classic

The ‘Le Mans Classic Village area’ was packed throughout with eateries, bars and exhibitions, a fine selection of stalls selling books, models, vintage bits and bobs and much more besides doing a roaring trade – I stumbled (thankfully not quite literally) across Derek Bell signing copies of his latest book at one stall.

Le Mans Classic

And then there’s the ‘set dressing’ and the other main Le Mans Classic attraction – Thousands of classic cars in the club displays on the infield and around the shorter ‘Bugatti’ circuit – all friendly and welcoming, all with a common spirit to revel in petrolhead heaven. Love Renault Alpines? There were simply dozens, Porsches? Hundreds – Something more obscure? Believe me it as likely in there somewhere! Best of all if you regularly attend the big UK, or US historic festivals, there was plenty here that you likely haven’t seen before.

Le Mans Classic

Around and between all of this the Le Mans Classic VIP shuttles were all Citroen 2CV or the Mehari derivative; the competing drivers shuttled around in a bewildering variety of VW ‘buses’ – and the public shuttle buses to take fans out to the more far flung viewing spots were ‘period’ too! Competing cars were escorted through the event either by Gendarmes in period uniforms on historic police motorbikes (with the ever-present whistle!) or by actors dressed 1940s US Military police on rumbling Indians and Harleys complete with the wailing siren – Evocative stuff.

Le Mans Classic

Better still if the scale of the event, or just the heat, got the better of us, it was a short walk back to the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village, where, even in the thick of on-track action, there was an oasis of calm – the cars could be heard – but you could hear yourself think, grab a drink or have a nap – the Flexotel’s sound insulation proving ideal for the task.

Le Mans Classic

If you love the historic scene then the Le Mans Classic is a simply unmissable event – We’ll be coming up with excuses for another invitation – You should pencil it into your 2020 calendar too- and then get on the phone to Travel Destinations to reserve your place!

Written by Graham Goodwin – Editor in chief – Dailysportscar.com
Photography by David Lord –  Photographer in chief – Dailysportscar.com

Le Mans 2018

Le Mans 2018: A Review

In a flash, the 86th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours has been and gone. And while early preparations for the 87th running are already underway, there is still plenty to reflect on from last weekend’s race.

Here is five key talking points from the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018

1. LMP1 was messy, but still interesting and historic
Overshadowed by endless Equivalence of Technology debates, the LMP1 race at Le Mans this year left a lot to be desired for many, but still wowed some of the new audience who tuned in for the first time to check out the star drivers. What did we see? Toyota’s race against the race, rather than it’s privateer competitors. With the privateers forced to pit more frequently, and spend more time re-fuelling, any sort of wheel-to-wheel action was always going to be a long shot. The fact that most of them weren’t quick enough either though, meant the closest a privateer came to leading the race was at Turn 1 at the very start, and even that was messy!

Le Mans
So did Toyota deserve their big win? Will it feel as satisfying? Well, you can argue yes to both. This is a brand that has invested countless millions into the sport, and come close to winning so many times since it started racing since at Le Mans in the early 1990s. This win has been a long-time coming, and to many involved in the programme, a trouble-free (Kobayashi missing his penultimate stop aside), clean run with no issues will serve as a breath of fresh air. After all, the fact that the competition wasn’t as hot as year’s past, isn’t their fault. Oh, and seeing Kazuki Nakajima take the flag in the No.8, putting the demons of 2016 behind him, was a sight to behold!

Behind Toyota, the battle for the final podium spot was pretty open early on, with SMP Racing’s No.17 BR1 able to challenge Rebellion’s R-13s. Into the second half of the race though, it became clear that in a race of attrition, the BR1s didn’t have the legs, both cars hitting trouble (one early in the race, and one in the final hour) and therefore had to leave Rebellion’s two cars to fight amongst themselves for the third-place prize. Ginetta, ByKolles and DragonSpeed meanwhile, didn’t feature, perhaps unsurprisingly. The ByKolles CLM crashed out in a big way, both TRSM Ginettas ran effectively a public test programme (one G60-LT-P1 remarkably making the finish) and DragonSpeed’s race ended prematurely in the wall at the Porsche Curves after an error by Ben Hanley. So Le Mans 2018 was not a perfect race, but there were flashes of what could be to come from all the private teams. With a re-think in how the EoT works, and more development work done to the cars, next year’s race could spring a surprise or two!

2. GTE Pro was astonishing
It was far from a surprise, but GTE Pro provided the fans track-side and at home with the best action in the race. It was the only class which delivered the goods, and thank goodness it did as all the other classes suffered lengthy lulls throughout. While the ‘Pink Pig’ Porsche 911 RSR eventually took a comfortable (and popular) victory, due to the car being handed an advantage due to an early safety car period falling its way, the action behind was stellar.

Le Mans
For much of the race, the battles from second place down to as low as 12th, were superb. Some of the best GT drivers in the world were able to run door-to-door, and cleanly too, with no major incidents occurring despite the nature of the pack racing on the faster parts of the circuit. BoP was of course, a big talking point, and unfortunately so. However, once the race arrived, most of the negativity in and around the paddock was put to one side. Only one factory struggled, and that was Aston Martin, its new Vantage AMRs wildly off the pace, and by such a margin that after two BoP breaks, neither car was able to run much better than just ahead of the GTE Am class leaders. While, that was a shame, seeing BMW, Porsche, Ford, Corvette and Ferrari all battling hard was a treat. Ultimately, Ford and Porsche had a slight upper hand though, Porsche’s 911 RSRs improving further as the temperature dropped, but that did little to detract from what we saw.

3. The standout performances in the Pro/Am classes
Beyond the headlines focusing on F1 megastars, there were some very bright stars involved at Le Mans this year, with several putting in truly head-turning performances. In LMP1, the entire No.3 Rebellion line-up of Thomas Laurent, Gustavo Menezes and Mathias Beche was stunning. Menezes and Laurent have of course, already taken Le Mans class wins, but up against their teammates in the No.1 (Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna) they spent most of the weekend on the front foot and now look destined to become household names.

G Drive Racing

There were also some stunning drives in LMP2, with Andrea Pizzitola in the G-Drive Racing ORECA looking bullet-proof – until the team was disqualified. And the Panis Barthez three of Will Stevens, Julien Canal and Timothe Buret proved the surprise package of the entire week, putting the French team, Michelin and Ligier in contention for a win until reliability issues cost them a podium in the closing stages of the race.

Le Mans

Down in GTE Am, there were a number of young drivers that shone in what was a class that didn’t really ever get going. The talent of Dempsey Proton’s Matteo Cairoli (his off at the Ford Chicanes aside) is no real news here – but now looks even more likely as a full factory driver for the future after showing such poise once again. Julien Andlauer in Dempsey Proton’s ranks impressed too, winning on his Le Mans debut after not putting the team on pole and running a faultless race. Porsche has a real logjam now, with so many young hot shoes and experienced GT veterans on its books, all capable of much the same in terms of performances.

4. LMP2’s final result was unfortunately decided by penalties
Nobody likes to see a race decided by a stewards enquiry, but that’s what we got with LMP2. G-Drive Racing’s ORECA 07 Gibson which dominated the class from early in the race all the way to the flag, was disqualified after the team was found to be tampering with its fuel rigs, giving it an advantage in the speed in which the team could fuel its car.  In the end, the team was so dominant, that even without the handful of seconds gained at each stop, it would almost certainly have cruised to the line for a win anyway. But rules are rules, and Signatech Alpine was eventually crowned LMP2 champion for the second time in three years.

Signatech Alpine
The team’s other car (run under the TDS Racing banner) was caught out too, and lost fourth. This promoted United Autosports’ #32 Ligier JS P217 to the podium, giving Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Owen, and Hugo de Sadeleer, as well as chassis supplier Ligier a positive result after a tough week.

5. Alonso should be celebrated
There’s plenty of ways to look at the ‘Alonso factor’. You can be cynical, you can also be incredibly supportive, there’s no right or wrong answer. Either way, everyone had to sit down, soak up all the headlines he create and watch the Spanish F1 champion take on Le Mans for the first time. Ultimately, he is, a Le Mans champion now, and will be forever referred to as a multiple F1 world champion and Le Mans winner. Did he win a race in which there may have been an element of favouritism at play between Toyotas two TS050 HYBRIDs? Maybe. Did he have only the sister car as true competition? Yes? Is it his problem? No.

Le Mans 2018
If you are going to take away one thing from Fernando Alonso’s Le Mans 24 Hours, it’s that he was pushing. Despite the race not being the toughest and most competitive for Toyota, Alonso ended up with the fastest laptime average time of anyone in the class. He was not taking it easy, and put in the car for the least time possible to nab the win with the least effort. He didn’t even drive early on Sunday morning when the temperatures track-side provided the best conditions for drivers to put in qualifying-level lap times.

Will he keep coming back? That’s not something we know yet. But should we all appreciate that he has come along, and conquered the race? Yes. At a time where the FIA WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours is at its lowest in terms of factory involvement in the prototype ranks, Alonso kept the race feeling big, historic, and relevant. And we should thank him, in part, for that.

And so Le Mans 2018 is already just a memory, but Le Mans 2019 (the final race of the FIA WEC Super Season!) is already on the horizon. You can book and reserve your place at Le Mans with Travel Destinations now. Call our experts now on 0844 873 0203 to guarantee your place!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar 

Photography workshops at Le Mans 2019

Photography workshops at Le Mans 2019

Le Mans photosExclusive to Travel Destinations; make the most of your Le Mans photos by adding Jessops Academy photography workshops to your Le Mans booking.

Whether you are a novice looking to improve your photographic technique, or if you consider yourself a proficient amateur but are interested in a new perspective on your Le Mans photos, then these courses, run by our partners at Jessops Academy are perfect for you. Watch their video here.

Le Mans photos
Jessops Academy trainers at Le Mans

Following the success of the workshops from 2018, the Jessops Academy team will once again return to Le Mans to impart their knowledge to you first hand. The award winning Jessops Academy trainers will be hosting workshops at the circuit across race weekend, to offer everyone the opportunity to learn new techniques, understand how to get the best from your equipment  and generally achieve better Le Mans photos.

Le Mans photos
Capturing silhouettes at Le Mans

“The Jessops photography courses were fantastic. It was relaxed, informative and resulted in some great Le Mans photos!” – Jordan V.
“I have been taking photos at motorsport events for years, but Pete challenged me to try something different. And you know what; he was right.” – John B.
“As someone new to photography, I found the quality of instruction so clear and helpful – encouraging me to explore beyond “Auto”. Everyone in my group contributed something. It was great to learn from other people’s experiences” – Graham P.  

Le Mans photos
Trackside tuition from Jessops Academy staff at Le Mans

With a maximum ratio of 15 people to one trainer, these fun and informative workshops will enable everyone to receive first hand tuition from the professionals. Each workshop will focus on different skills, circuit locations and are specifically designed to achieve great photos at Le Mans. As well as the trackside sessions there are also opportunities to talk about camera set up, settings and equipment before heading out as well as chance to review the photos taken afterwards, all away from the noise of the track.

Le Mans 2019 Photography workshops with Jessops Academy
Workshop 1. Camera set-up and control for motorsport photography (Saturday, 11am – 12:30pm) £75.00 per person
Workshop 2. Mastering movement, panning shots trackside & editorial shooting (Saturday, 4pm – 7pm) £100.00 per person
Workshop 3. Dusk & evening light. Silhouettes & slow shutter work (Saturday, 8pm – 11pm) £100.00 per person
Workshop 4. Dawn & sunrise at Le Mans. The perfect time of day for Le Mans photos (Sunday 4:30am – 7:30am) £100.00 per person
Workshop 5. Reviewing images. Problem solving and post production editing (Sunday 11:00am – 12:30pm) £75.00 per person

Special Offer: Purchase all 5 workshops for just £250.00 per person

In addition to the above workshops all participants will also be invited to join the Jessops Academy trainers for an introduction & social evening at the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village on Friday evening.

Le Mans photos
Making the most of low light at Le Mans

All Jessops photography workshops can be added to your Travel Destinations Le Mans booking. Please just mention which workshops you wish to join at the time of booking. Payment for all workshops will be required at the time of booking.

Spaces on each workshop are strictly limited so please secure your place by calling Travel Destinations now on 01707 329988.

Le Mans photos
Expert advice trackside during Le Mans

Further information & tips:
– Jessops photography workshops are open to all Travel Destinations customers at Le Mans. They can be added to existing & new bookings.
– The workshops are designed for photographers of all standards and experience.
– Workshops will take place regardless of weather conditions. You should be prepared to protect yourself and your camera from the elements.
– Le Mans is a large circuit so walking is involved. You should wear comfortable shoes & be prepared to kneel or lie down to get the best angles.
– A digital SLR or mirror-less camera is recommended for all workshops. Workshops will still be relevant for compact and bridge cameras, however the obtainable results will be limited by the technology.
– Bringing at least two different lenses with your DSLR is recommended. Particularly a wide-angle lens and a form of telephoto (3 – 600mm).
– A tripod or monopod will be useful for low light sessions.
– It will be possible to hire different equipment prior to the your visit to Le Mans should you wish.
– You should expect to take a large number of photos during each session. Please ensure you have enough memory cards and battery life.
– Each trackside session will take place in public areas around the circuit. Media access is not necessary and is not included.
– Trackside locations are inevitably noisy. If you are sensitive to noise, ear defenders or earplugs are recommended.
– Due to advance financial commitments, all workshops are non-refundable.

Reserve your place on the Jessops Academy photography workshops at Le Mans 2019 by calling Travel Destinations now on 0844 873 0203.

Le Mans photos
Night time photography at Le Mans
Le Mans

Le Mans 2018: Prototypes Preview

Le Mans 24 Hours 2018: LMP preview

This year’s Prototypes field at the Le Mans 24 Hours, is big, full of variety and high-profile talent. LMP1 is the biggest it has been in years; bolstered by privateer teams, while LMP2 is again huge, and features a chassis and tyre war for everyone to look forward to. Both classes will be intriguing, and with so many questions yet to be answered in each, fans track-side and at home will have plenty of reasons to stay up all night and follow the action.

Let’s start with the 10-car LMP1 field, because it is the big story, and will (almost certainly) produce the overall winner. Porsche’s LMP1 programme may be over, but Toyota has stayed put, meaning that we will see Hybrid LMP1 cars running at incredible speeds around La Sarthe once again. The one question on most fans minds though will be whether or not the Japanese marque’s new privateer competition will be able to give it a run for its money. At this point, answering that question is hard, as it’s become a very complicated subject over the last few months.

Le Mans

What are we likely to see? Toyota having a noticeable (but not dominant) advantage in pace, being able to run longer, and spend less time in the pits, through the Equivalence of Technology (EoT) regulations which seemingly have pegged the privateers back. So do the privateers stand any chance at all? Well… Yes and no. There is a good chance that one of them will lead the race, most likely in the opening stint, before the artificial EoT restrictions come into place. But beyond that, if the race runs clean and to plan, then expect them to slip further and further out of contention. It must be pointed out though, that Toyota has entered 13 cars at Le Mans in the hybrid era, and only two of them have had a clean run to the finish. This is a team that has come achingly close, on multiple occasions, and fallen short. This year, the pressure is off more than it has been in the past – it’s running the same TS050 HYBRIDs as last year (with minor tweaks) and the privateer competition is (as expected) not going to be a strong as the might of Porsche and Audi. Anything can happen though.

But, even if Toyota does win the race in dominant fashion, it will more than likely be a popular victory, because this is a brand that at this point, almost deserves a win after showing such loyalty and class over the years, without claiming any wins in France. It will also go down a storm if Fernando Alonso is in the winning car. Say what you will, but this is a ‘Triple Crown’ run, and we should all be rooting for it. It is rare that we see Formula One drivers looking outside of the bubble for other opportunities while in the prime of their careers, so make the most of this. It’s a big story, and there’s no avoiding it. Keeping Le Mans and the FIA WEC relevant to the public is a very hard task, so having a two-time F1 champion fully committed to a dual programme should be greeted with open arms.

Le Mans

Outside of Toyota, we have five LMP Non-Hybrid entrants, with varying degrees of expectations. At this point, it seems that Rebellion Racing and its brand new R-13s are head-and-shoulders the best of the bunch. A good run at Spa, and a pacy run at the Test Day (where the No.3 finished up just six tenths off the fastest Toyota) have put the team in good stead to score an overall podium. Both cars have proven to be reliable (despite limited running) and have standout driver crews including 2016 LMP2 Le Mans winner Gustavo Menezes, and former overall Le Mans winners Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer. If there is going to be a privateer in with a shout, look no further than the Swiss.

Elsewhere, SMP Racing will hope it can also be in the fight with its BR1 cars. The car has shown potential, but the horrific blow which Matevos Issakyan suffered at Raidillon will inevitably put a microscope on this effort, especially as Jenson Button is joining the team from Le Mans onwards. Changes have been made to the car to prevent a repeat of what we saw in Belgium, but there hasn’t been enough running yet to categorically rule out any similar occurrences at Le Mans. Do Button and the Russian team have a shot here? Yes. Reliability could well become the deciding factor in which privateer finishes closest to the Toyotas, and the BR1 is the most developed of the non-hybrid chassis.

Le Mans

Outside of that, we have ByKolles, CEFC TRSM and DragonSpeed. All three have a lot of work to do, in the reliability and speed department to be considered contenders. It’s just too early for all three to expect much from Le Mans, which for them will be used as more of an extended (and very public test). DragonSpeed, like SMP, also had a huge incident (though a very different one) at Eau Rouge/Raidillon, leaving the team in a race against time to prep a brand new BR1 for the big race. ByKolles’ poor form over the years leaves very few with any sort of confidence and CEFC TRSM just hasn’t run its Ginetta G60-LT-P1s enough due to financial difficulties to expect anything more than a week full of new-car niggles and data gathering.

Then there’s LMP2. It’s a big field once again, with three of the four LMP2 chassis represented (ORECA, Dallara and Ligier) and two tyre brands (Dunlop and Michelin). There’s a lot to like about this year’s field, though it appears that in low-downforce trim, even with the new evolutions of the Dallaras and Ligiers, the ORECA is still the car to have.

Le Mans

At the Test Day, ORECA 07s ended up locking out the top five, with the fastest of the other chassis being the No.22 Ligier JS P217 from top team United Autosports. There is a divide in performance in raw pace, but during long runs, it remains to be seen what the Ligier and Dallara teams can do. As a result, for the moment it looks like the winner will most likely come from the ORECA camp, even though many will be rooting for the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya (also on a ‘Triple Crown’ run, with United) or the legendary Jan Lammers (in his 24th and likely, final appearance in the race) to feature up front.

Le Mans

Of the ORECA teams, who are the favourites? DragonSpeed’s No.31 car, spearheaded by a highly-motivated Pastor Maldonado, which is on Michelin rubber, looks to make noise. Former LMP2 winner Signatech Alpine does too, its A470 (an ORECA re-badged) driven by former Toyota factory man Nicolas Lapierre, the rapid Andre Negrao and fast amateur Pierre Thiriet. It does look though, like a more balanced class than years past. There’s no ‘outrageous’ line-up, and the fact that five of the 20 cars are running on Michelin could well add spice when the chips are down.

There is not long to go now, so soon all will be revealed. Hopefully we will have safe race & one that will live long in the memory.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Le Mans

Le Mans 2018: GTE Preview

Le Mans 2018 GTE Preview

While the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours may be packed with story-lines across all four classes, this year’s GTE battle looks more likely than ever to deliver the best racing in the field. Both GTE Pro and Am have numbers, quality teams and drivers, new cars and some of the best engine notes. They may not have the glamour of the LMP1 field, which features the likes of Fernando Alonso on his ‘triple crown run’ and Jenson Button making his LMP debut, or the sheer numbers that LMP2 has, but it does have 17 factory entries, and 13 further privateer outfits set to do battle, door-to-door, for 24 hours.

GTE Pro is, as it has been for the past few years, made up of pure factory teams. Manufacturers are taking the GTE Pro class increasingly seriously now, and that’s evident in the size of some of these efforts. Porsche and Ford are bringing four cars each to Le Mans and Ferrari is bringing three, while Aston Martin and BMW are debuting their new cars and Corvette is putting a huge amount of resources into what could well be the final run for its hugely popular C.7R.

It is near-impossible to call a winner, even this close to the big race, with so many cars and no weak driver crews. This really is, the most stacked GTE Pro field we’ve ever seen. The question is, who has the edge? Back for a third year, with a quartet of cars, Ford would like to think it has as good a chance as any. After dominating the field during its debut year in 2016, somewhat controversially, and finishing a surprise second in 2017 after the chaotic ending to the race, the ‘Blue Oval’ is back for a third crack at winning on the hallowed French ground.

Ford at Le Mans

It is incredible to think that the Ford GT is the second oldest car in the field at this point, only the C7 in its current form has a longer history. It still looks arguably the most modern of the six cars in the class and just keeps on earning silverware wherever it goes. Once again Chip Ganassi’s UK team will join forces with the US outfit at Le Mans, creating what is one of the strongest GT crews in the world. The car’s ability is obviously a major factor, but a big part of Ford’s successes stem from the perfect blend of experienced drivers such as three-time World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx and multiple Champ Car winner Sebastien Bourdais, as well as younger talent like Billy Johnson and former LMP2 Le Mans class winner Harry Tincknell. There is no weak link in the team’s 12-driver stable, and the car continues to be almost bulletproof. If the Balance of Performance is as solid as it was last year, and all the marques are in with a shout, expect Ford to be right there, and ready to take a second Le Mans win.

Le Mans

Porsche on the other hand, is searching for its first Le Mans class win since 2013 in GTE Pro, a result which the brand feels is long overdue, especially considering the successes at the top end of the field in LMP1 in recent years. The current 911 RSR though is an absolute monster, which is ready to win, and win now. If Porsche can break through, it may prove to be a very popular victory with fans, as the mid-engined, four-litre, flat-six in the car houses is a screamer. With four entered in Pro (two running retro liveries, that look stunning), Porsche, to celebrate its 70th anniversary, are going for the ‘loud and proud’ approach. To boost its chances of a win, the two additional cars re from its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship programme, which bolsters its already spectacular driver line up from the FIA WEC, with the likes of overall Le Mans winners Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber, Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard.

AF Corse meanwhile, has adopted a similar strategy to Porsche, but instead just adding one extra Ferrari 488 GTE. All three running with the 2018 Evo kit. Ferrari is another brand starved of Le Mans wins in recent years, it’s last coming in 2014. It will be hoping that its championship-winning form from last year’s FIA WEC campaign carries over into this year’s race, which is coincidentally the second round of the 2018/19 season.

Corvette Racing, the last of the brands using tried and tested machinery, has its trusty pair of IMSA C7.Rs entered. In what could well be the swan-song for the car, Pratt and Miller’s experienced outfit will be gunning for its ninth class win at Le Mans this year, and, as you’d expect, it has a real chance. The past couple of seasons, the C7.R has won races and titles in the USA, but fallen short on French soil. In 2016, the team were unable to unlock the pace of the car due to the Balance of Performance situation and last year, a titanic battle in the final laps with the winning Aston Martin ended in tears, with the leading ‘Vette limping across the line after multiple offs and tyre troubles when Aston Martin Racing’s Jonny Adam made his move. This time around, they’ll hope it can be different. Don’t count them out!

Le Mans

So that leaves BMW and Aston Martin; two brands that have a long, history in sports car racing. Both head to Le Mans with high expectations this year, and new cars that during their pre-season development work already look like race winners. BMW’s M8 may well have the advantage off the bat, after running at both the Rolex 24 and Sebring prior to Le Mans with its parallel IMSA programme. The car, which sounds great in the flesh, and is built like a tank, is likely to capture the imagination of the fans trackside. The brand, which let’s not forget hasn’t had a big result at Le Mans since the turn of this century, comes with an experienced team running its factory operation – MTEK – and a set of drivers more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the GTE Pro regulars. In amongst its crew, watch out for DTM champion and Martin Tomczyk and Spa 24 Hours winners Alex Sims and Philipp Eng; they know how to win big races.

In a class like this though, a driver is only as good as its car. But BMW has ensured that the M8 was put to the test, with multiple runs at a variety of circuits, and in a variety of conditions. So far it appears to be both reliable and fast, almost winning at Sebring in only its second race start. While it remains to be seen whether the Bavarian brand, this early in its programme, can take a big win against such stiff competition, they certainly can’t be counted out.

Le Mans

It is much the same story for Aston Martin Racing, which starts 2018 with far more factory support from Aston Martin and a brand new, stunning-looking Vantage. The new Vantage, replacing the previous model which remarkably, raced for 13 years, helps usher in the new era for the brand in motorsport. Aerodynamically it’s far more aggressive, the new turbo-charged Mercedes engine is touted as a revelation in drivability terms and just about every other system in the car is new and upgraded too. The driver-crew has seen a refresh also, with former BMW driver Maxime Martin, and all round rapid Britain Alex Lynn joining the team. The big issue here is that so far this season, the Vantages have struggled mightily. In both pace and reliability, it’s been way off, and at the Test Day, Marco Sorensen has forced the team to build up a brand-new chassis for the race after a heavy impact on the run down to Indianapolis during the morning session. Even with the other car managing a full day of running, the signs aren’t good; the No. 97 was just under five seconds off the pace. Now, this is GTE Pro, and things can change quickly, so don’t count them out just yet.

So far, it looks as if Porsche and Ford have the upper hand. At the Paul Ricard Prologue, the season opener at Spa, and the Le Mans Test Day, both marques have looked to have the pace required to win Le Mans. In a Balance of Performance world, and with the politics that come with it, it may be a smokescreen. There are rumours that only Porsche and Ford have shown their true hand thus far, though it’s impossible to know. Let’s hope that means next week we’ll see a close race, with the other marques able to go toe-to-toe, rather than a lop-sided affair.

In GTE Am meanwhile, there’s a few notable additions and omissions. The class, as in recent years, is hotly-contested and oozing talent. While we do have the addition of the new Porsche 911 RSR to the mix, what’s not on the entry are any Corvettes, meaning the entire class is made up of Ferrari 488s, Aston Martin Vantages and Porsche 911 RSRs. There is still variety, but maybe not as much as we’re used to. Nevertheless, with a wide array of top pro drivers, budding young talents and well-versed gentlemen drivers, GTE Am promises to be worth following throughout the 24 hours.

Who are the favourites? Despite having its running cut short due to engine damage, the 2017 WEC GTE Am championship-winning No.98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda is both in-form after winning Spa and due some good luck at Le Mans after falling short so many times. The old Vantage, let’s not forget, won the GTE Pro race overall last year, so still has life in it.

Le Mans
The three Dempsey Proton Porsches too should be considered contenders, the 911 RSR is likely the chassis to have, and all three sets of drivers entered containing a mix of experienced drivers and young hot-shoes. Watch out for Matteo Cairoli (last year’s surprise package), Julien Andlauer (fastest at the test) and the ageless Pat Long, the foundation of this ambitious three-car effort.

Another contender comes in the form of the the Clearwater Racing team, which surprised everyone back in 2017, winning on its debut in the FIA WEC. Matt Griffin, Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok work so well as a team, and the crew behind the scenes always turn out an immaculate (chrome liveried!) Ferrari. TF Sport too, could well prove to be a force. The British team, stepping up from a successful 2017 spent in the European Le Mans Series, almost won at Spa in its first-ever appearance; Euan Hankey, Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc combining for a near-perfect drive in the Ardennes. TF Sport has won both big races and championships before, and all three drivers are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best in the class. Watch this space!

Le Mans
Last year’s Le Mans winner JMW Motorsport meanwhile, may have a bit of a struggle this time, in its quest to repeat its 2018 feat. This year, its driver line-up isn’t quite as star-studded, though Cooper MacNeil and Jeff Segal both have plenty of Le Mans experience to draw from. That’s not to say after 24 hours, it couldn’t be at the head of the field, but this time around there’s no expectation of a run like last year.

So both GTE Pro and Am promise much for next week’s Le Mans 24 Hours. Close racing and stories throughout each field will unroll before our hours as the clock ticks by. The best place to be is track-side with Travel Destinations so you don’t miss any of the action!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Classic Le Mans

Classic Le Mans entry list

The Classic Le Mans entry list is always a sight to behold, with the paddocks full of cars that competed at the Circuit de la Sarthe through the era’s. Most of the cars entered will have originally raced at Le Mans in period. 2018 is no exception, take a look at the most recent publicised entry list. The action starts from 3pm on Saturday 7th July and runs through to 3pm on Sunday 8th July. The racing comprises of six grids that each run three times over the 24-hour period:

To give you a flavour of what to expect in each grid (this is just a small selection of what you will see):
Grid 1 – (1923-1939) BMW 328’s, Lagonda LG45’s, Talbot 105’s, Delage’s, Delahaye’s, Bentley’s
Grid 2 – (1949-1956) Jaguar D-Type’s, Porsche 550’s & 356’s, Healey 100 m’s, AC Ace’s
Grid 3 – (1957-1961) Aston Martin BB4 GT’s, Ferrari 250’s, Birdcage Maserati’s, Lotus XV’s
Grid 4 – (1962-1965) GT40’s, Cobra’s, Ferrari 250 LM’s, Low Drag E-Type’s, Porsche 904’s
Grid 5 – (1966-1971) Ferrari 512’s, Porsche 917’s, Chevron B19, Lola T70’s, Mk II GT40’s
Grid 6 – (1972-1981) Porsche 911 RSR’s, BMW 3.0 CSL’s, De Tomaso Pantera’s, Datsun 240Z’s

Classic le mans entry list
Aston Martin DB4 GT at Le Mans
Peugeot group C
Group C cars race at le Mans classic

And it doesn’t stop there, new grids and demonstrations on the Classic Le Mans entry list programme are:

Global Endurance Legends formed in 2017 to bring owners of GT and Prototype cars from the 90’s through to 2010 together. Expect to see McLaren F1 GTR’s, Ferrari F40’s, 360’s & 430’s, Audi R8’s, Chrysler Viper’s and much more.

Global endurance legends at le mans classic
Global endurance legends

Porsche Classic Race Le Mans – this is set to be a veritable feast of Porsche race cars through the ages all on one grid. Everything from 356’s, the popular 2 litre SWB 911’s through to beastly 356’s and RSR’s as well as 70’s prototypes. This will be quite a sight.

Classic Porsche race at le mans classic
Porsche Classic Race Le Mans

Equally as exciting is the ‘Jaguar Classic Challenge’ open to all pre-66 models: XK series, C-type, D-Type, Mk 1’s & mk 2’s as well as early E-Types.

Jaguar D-Type
Classic Jaguars race at Le Mans Classic

Back due to it’s popularity is the Group C race set to take place on Saturday morning. The iconic Group C cars ran during the late 80’s and early 90’s, famous for their ground effect aerodynamics they are devastatingly fast both through the corners and down the straights, reaching top speeds way north of 300 km/h.

Classic le mans entry list
Group C at Le Mans Classic

We think you’ll agree the Classic Le Mans entry list makes for a mouth-watering programme of racing.

There is still time to book we have spaces in both our private and public campsites, our Flexhotel situated in the middle of the circuit and also in our carefully selected hotels and chateaux. Ferries are getting booked up very quickly too. Call 0844 873 0203 to discuss.

Le Mans 2018; An LMP1 Update

When Porsche announced its withdrawal from LMP1 earlier this year, it appeared to many, to be a near-fatal blow to the future of top-line prototype racing and most notably for Le Mans 2018. But, since Porsche followed Audi in fleeing the LMP1 Hybrid ranks in exchange for a cheaper Formula E project in the wake of the emissions scandal, privateer teams and Toyota have stepped up to the plate. And to the surprise of many, everything is falling into place. Like the GTE field, LMP1 looks set to be healthy, and provide us with one of the most intriguing Le Mans 24 Hours in recent memory in 2018.

Toyota is set to return, meaning the hybrid era in LMP1 is not yet over! The Japanese marque announced its intention to return at the WEC end-of-season gala in Bahrain, meaning we will get at least two more chances to see some of the most technologically advanced racing cars at La Sarthe. It’s a decision which appears to be part of a strategy to continue racing at Le Mans into the 2020 regulations cycle, should the new rules attract other marques back to the fold.

Le Mans 2018

For Le Mans 2018, Toyota is likely to come back with a two-car effort, utilising 2017 TS050 HYBRIDs with minor upgrades. In addition to the hoards of fans that will be interested in seeing Toyota as a marque try once again win its first Le Mans, it may also be a landmark race in the driver ranks. As it stands, it looks incredibly likely that two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso will commit to racing with Toyota at Le Mans and in the FIA WEC, after he tested with the team at Bahrain after the season finale.

His LMP1 debut in Sakhir was the first step in his drive at Le Mans, in his pursuit of motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’, following on from his impressive Indy 500 debut last year, which he retired from after leading a significant portion of the race. If he does come and play, then it will certainly be unmissable, as it will be fascinating to see how he performs aboard what is a very different machine to his usual McLaren F1 car.

But who will Toyota race against? Well, over the last two months there have been a slew of announcements, the privateer grid set to rise from a single entry to more than seven; resulting in what should be an LMP1 grid for Le Mans 2018, the biggest it’s been since 2015.

This week saw Rebellion Racing throw their hat in to the ring by returning to the LMP1 class, after a short detour to win the FIA WEC LMP2 Championship in 2017. Rebellion are likely to bring 2 Oreca LMP1s to the start line in June (although this has yet to be confirmed at the time of writing). They have confirmed a driver line-up with considerable experience and well capable of being on the top step of the podium. Andre Lotterer & Neel Jani will join Bruno Senna and Mathius Beche alongside Gustavo Menezes and rookie of the year Thomas Laurent.

Le Mans 2018

In the Ginetta camp, TRS Racing/Manor is the only confirmed outfit so far; the former Formula One team, with Chinese backing confirming a single LMP1 entry with Ginetta last month. The team has yet to confirm which engine or tyre supplier it will use, or whether a second car is on the cards; either way though, they’re locked in for a serious effort.

Then we have DragonSpeed, the newly-crowned ELMS champion, which is set to be the first American-flagged LMP1 effort in FIA WEC history. The team, run by Elton Julian, will race with a Dallara BR1 LMP1 chassis and a Gibson engine. The choice to go with BR Engineering’s Dallara-built chassis comes after extended talks with ORECA, though the French constructor was unable to commit to supplying the team within the required time frame.

Le Mans 2018

In addition to that, SMP Racing will also compete with BR1s, though the Russian team will race with two cars, and a different engine; an updated AER P60B twin-turbo V6. The Russian team’s driver line-up should be strong for its Le Mans assault, the team having already tested the car at length, IndyCar veteran Mikhail Aleshin and ex-F1 driver Vitaly Petrov.

ByKolles has also confirmed its participation, the Austrian team making the announcement after a three-day test at Motorland Aragon last week in which it ran its Enso CLM P1/01, powered by the same NISMO engine as 2016. In Spain, ByKolles tested regular British drivers James Rossiter and Oliver Webb, in addition to single seater ace Tom Dillman, GT Asian Champion Edoardo Liberati and Mikael Grenier.

The confirmation from the team brings the total number of confirmed entries to nine for next season, although there are other programmes believed to be in the works.

Manor may run with a second Ginetta, in addition the other possible teams in talks with the Yorkshire-based marque. Ginetta is believed to still be in active discussions with its unnamed customer, which said back in the summer that it will purchase three cars, as well as a third outfit, that’s yet to make any sort of public announcement.

LMP2 constructor ORECA is also rumoured to still be working on supplying an LMP1 chassis for the ‘Super Season.’ The French company is known to have fielded interest from several teams, and is believed to favour working with just one for the upcoming season. Whether any plans come together or not though, remains to be seen, with much of its focus on the Acura Penske DPi effort that will debut at the Dyatona 24 Hours in January.

Beyond this, there are other teams within the FIA WEC and beyond that are evaluating, or have already evaluated programmes.

Nevertheless, even with what we have already confirmed, there’s nine cars on the list, a growth of five cars from this season. Within that there’s set to be a variety of chassis, and engine supplier too, which should make Le Mans as un-predictable as ever. Whether or not privateer entries can go toe-to-toe with Toyota is a question yet to be answered, but the ACO’s plan is to balance the both factory and private entries in performance terms, leaving Toyota with an advantage only in the efficiency department.

With so many new cars, and the potential for some real superstar driver talent to join the ranks, Le Mans in 2018 is set to be a corker; and with more announcements on the way, it can only get better.

Could we see more than 10 LMP1 cars on the grid at Le Mans next year? Yes, and if we do, you’ll want to be there to see how that pans out trackside!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

You can book your Le Mans 2018 tickets now by calling Travel Destinations on 0844 873 0203 or read more here.

Travel Destinations at Le Mans 2018

The Travel Destinations 2018 brochure is available now. It features all our events for the calendar year including the Le Mans 24 Hours & the Le Mans Classic. You can view the Travel Destinations Brochure 2018 here.

The Le Mans 24 Hours dominates our year. We begin bookings the day after the race finishes in June each year, but we can still accommodate you if you haven’t booked yet. 2018 promises to be an exciting race, with the changes at the front meaning we are guaranteed a new name on the trophy. The German manufacturers of  Audi and Porsche may have gone from the top class, but Toyota will remain (they may also be bringing a F1 champion with them) and they will be challenged by an exciting new brand of LMP1 privateers.

Travel Destinations at Le Mans

The Germans haven’t left Le Mans. Not only will Porsche remain to contest the GTE Pro title, but they will be joined by BMW’s new M8 GTE. As if that was not enough, the British are returning to Le Mans 2018 with a brand new Aston Martin Vantage GTE. They will all be going head to head with Ford, Ferrari & Corvette for the win.  What a race that will be!

Le Mans 2018

Travel Destinations are the leaders at Le Mans. Not only can we provide all the circuit-run campsites at the circuit, we are also the only company to offer a private trackside campsite with a private viewing bank! Our Porsche Curves campsite has always set the standard and it benefits from 24 hours security, fully serviced showers & toilets as well as a hospitality marquee on-site.

If you can’t bring your own tent then, glamping could be the answer. Our Event Tents are unique to Travel Destinations. Located near to the Porsche Curves, these are large 5 metre diameter bell tents, complete with carpet, mattresses and all bed linen. Thy can sleep up to 4 adults and benefit from their shower & toilet blocks as well as a hospitality marquee.

Le Mans 2018

For those that don’t like to camp, then our Flexotel Village is very popular. What could be better than having your own private bedroom in the centre of the Le Mans circuit? Each room sleeps two adults and their are options with ensuite bathrooms as well as shared showers & toilet blocks. Located close to the circuit tram terminus, the Flexotel Village offers an ideal solution for those travelling light and those arriving without a car.

The Le Mans Classic only happens every other year and it returns in July 2018. The Le Mans Classic sees cars that have raced at Le Mans from the 1920s through to the 1980s return to the circuit and recreate past glories. Real race cars, really racing on the full Le Mans circuit is a sight not to be missed. In addition to the action on the track there is a lot to see around it too. All our tickets include access to the paddock, where these cars from yesteryear are worked on prior to returning to the track. Elsewhere there are displays of thousands of club cars as well as boutiques and displays from manufacturers and clubs. The whole event has a retro-feel taking you back to a different era of motorsport.

Le Mans Classic 2018

Travel Destinations offer a similar selection of offers to enable customers to stay at the circuit for the Le Mans Classic as we do for the Le Mans 24 Hours. In fact we have more, with two different private trackside camping areas for the Le Mans Classic. We also offer our Event Tents & our Flexotel Village. For the Le Mans Classic we also have a variety of hotels, camping and B&B properties away from the circuit for those that don’t mind travelling in each day.

Le Mans Classic 2018
Camping with Travel Destinations at Le Mans Classic

Travel Destinations will continue to be the leaders at Le Mans with both the 24 hours & the Le Mans Classic, but we are also at a variety of other events including Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, Nurburgring 24 Hours and the Spa Classic to name just a few. Why not download our brochure and start making your 2018 plans now?

Le Mans 2018; The GTE Pro Battle

Whilst much of the chatter around the prospects for Le Mans 2018 endurance racing season has focused on the heavily revised FIA WEC calendar, and the comings and goings in the prototype marketplace, there’s an underlying story that deserves every race-goers full attention even before we find out who will be racing for the overall win.

GTE Pro is set to be a barnstormer!  New cars, star drivers, new teams and much more besides.

Le Mans 2018

For Le Mans 2018 there’ll be two new factory backed cars to add to the already established Ferrari 488 GTE and Ford GT, both of which still feel like the new kids on the block, by next season, in Pro, they’ll be the oldest cars from the FIA WEC ranks and only the Corvette C7.R is older. The first newcomer is the brand new Aston Martin Vantage GTE. The British marque gave its current car the best send-off possible this year by winning GTE Pro at La Sarthe after a dramatic finish. The new car, which has yet to be formally unveiled, has been out testing over the past month with some of Aston Martin Racing’s factory driver stable. It’ll look very aggressive with hints of the über-Aston Vulcan, sound aggressive thanks to its Mercedes turbo-charged V8 engine, and should be in immediate contention for a good finish at Le Mans if the scale of the upgrades reported by those who have driven it, are to be believed.

Le Mans 2018

BMW meanwhile, brings the other new bit of kit to Le Mans 2018, its M8 GTE, which sees the Bavarian marque return to the French endurance classic for the first time since 2011. Last time round, the world-famous Schnitzer team ran the programme – which saw two M3 GT2s take on the race – this time, it’s MTEK, who move over from DTM competition to take on the full WEC, and of course Le Mans 24 Hours.  The team has been practicing – hard! MTEK have had a full pit set-up to play with, with constant pit-stop and problem solving drills, for months, months before receiving their first M8! The new M8 is a looker, and under the hood is set to stun! It features a c.500bhp twin-turbo four-litre V8, with a cylinder block and cylinder head identical to the road going 8 series engine. It’s a light car too, weighing in at just under 2,700 pounds, the reduction in weight achieved through the extensive use of ultra-light CFRP components. BMW has never won at Le Mans in the GTE era, in fact the last BMW to win a class at the race was back when it won overall in 1999! The MTEK crew will be looking to right that in 2018.

Having BMW along for the ride at Le Mans 2018 means that at the very least, GTE Pro is slated to feature two car factory teams from Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Ford, Corvette and BMW, that’s without the potential for Ford to bring its other two IMSA-regular GTs, a third Porsche 911 RSR joining the fight plus the likelihood of a third Ferrari from the IMSA ranks too.

Le Mans 2018

Of the current crop of runners, there’s plenty to look forward to also. The 2017 Porsche 911 RSR is back for its second season; its screaming engine note, the team’s selection of world class drivers and year of running under its belt could well see the German team take its first GTE Pro win since 2013. Gianmaria Bruni will surely feature, a key signing from Ferrari last season alongside established GT racing superstar Laurens Vanthoor – with a number of the marque’s LMP1 refugees also likely to be involved including Britain’s Nick Tandy. Ferrari’s rapid Brits will be on hand too with James Calado and Sam Bird both on race winning form in the super rapid turbocharged 488 GTEs.

Le Mans 2018

Then there’s Corvette Racing, the Pratt and Miller-run American crew, which are always a fan-favourite, will race with the C7.R for the final time. The new car is quietly in development, and could well be a radical change for the American manufacturer. Fans will be urged to enjoy the C7.R one last time though, the attention firmly on its Le Mans and IMSA-winning GTE monster, which will be gunning for its second GTE Pro class title.

Being confident beforehand though, will be hard. This year’s new ‘Automated Balance of Performance’, with Le Mans-specific balancing proved a raging success, with a close race up and down the field in the GTE ranks, all the marques able to gun for podium spots. Gone it seems, are the days when the BoP ruined teams’ chances before the on-track action started on the Wednesday, and behind us, is the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours, where Ford dominated the field after revealing its true hand in Qualifying.

And all of that is before we look to GTE Am where a gaggle of new cars are set to feature, the 2017 Porsche 911 RSR, and the Ford GT are now eligible for the Pro-Am class in 2018 with Porsche sales already confirmed.

Le Mans 2018 will be loud, it’ll be close and it should be thrilling for 24 straight hours. The GTE Pro race at Le Mans in 2018 could be one of those ‘I was there’ contests, which will be looked at as one of classic bouts in a golden era for sportscars.

Book here to be at Le Mans 2018

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar