Category Archives: Le Mans News

Le Mans 2017

Le Mans 2017: Sunshine & shocks

The 85th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours may be most remembered for sunshine and shocks; the race was completed under clear skies and daytime temperatures in excess of 30 degrees centigrade, and shock results as most of the factory team cars fell by the wayside allowing two LMP2 cars on to the overall Le Mans 2017 podium.

Le Mans 2017
LMP1
Although the Le Mans 2017 had a relatively low attrition rate, that could not be said of the top LMP1 class. In the end, no car avoided lengthy time in the garage & only two cars actually completed the distance. The writing was perhaps on the wall early when a Toyota sustained damage in the early laps, causing debris to hit the ByKolles Racing team car. Despite it limping back to the pit lane, the car was never going to return. With the numeric disadvantage of only 2 cars, Porsche suffered a blow when the No. 2 car dropped out of the top 50 cars, after having to spend an hour in the garage for a rebuilt front axle.

Toyota looked to dominate the first period of the race. They secured a 1-2 for much of this time with the lone Porsche never far behind. The No. 7 Toyota leading the way and looking particularly fast in the early stages. However it was all going to go wrong for Toyota as darkness fell and the demons arrived. One by one, they experienced power problems. Only the No. 8 car managed to return to the race, but after losing more than 2 hours in the garage, they were never in contention for the overall win, despite setting the race’s fastest lap.

The demise of Toyota’s challenge left the No.1 Porsche with a free run at the chequered flag. They managed to survive the night and most of the morning, until, with just four hours to go, oil pressure problems left them limping with just electric power down the Mulsanne straight. Despite Andre Lotterer’s best efforts the car ground to a halt and could not get going again.

The demise of the No. 1 Porsche briefly opened the window for an LMP2 win, as No.38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca-07 Gibson, inherited the lead. However, their hopes were dashed, with the flying return of the No. 2 Porsche. Despite their early delay in the garage, the No. 2 Porsche came flying back through the field. Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber & in particular Timo Bernhard got the best out of the car, and managed to avoid and pass the traffic with ease. They took the lead with almost exactly an hour to go and didn’t look back, eventually crossing the finish line more than half a lap of the second placed car. A remarkable turnaround then from the No.2 Porsche team, who were not even in the top 50 cars after their technical woes.

Le Mans 2017

LMP2
Whilst the top class suffered with a very high attrition rate, the opposite could be said of the biggest field in the race; LMP2. Only four of the twenty-five cars in this class failed to finish. This is all the more remarkable considering there were new regulations for this class this year, and none of the contenders had completed a race of this distance. Despite many expert predictions to the contrary the LMP2 class not only showed the necessary endurance, but also very nearly pulled of the overall win.

For the majority of the race the two cars from Vaillante Rebellion showed their experience and stayed at the front of the pack. Having raced LMP1 cars over the last few year, the Rebellion team clearly know a thing or two about how to race at Le Mans. The G-Drive and CEFC Manor TRS Racing teams, also showed strong performances, but ultimately the story of this class enfolded late on. Having watched the LMP1 cars disappear in front, and finding themselves more than 10 laps behind the leaders, the LMP2 cars started to climb the leader-board as the manufacturer LMP1s began to retire. When the leading No.1 came to a halt on the track, it was the No. 38 Jacki Chan DC Racing car that caught up and inherited the lead of the race. They managed to defend that position from other LMP2 challenges, and for 2 hours they continued at the front. It would have been the most remarkable story. A David vs Goliath type victory, however it was not to be. Despite the best efforts of Thomas Laurent, Oliver Jarvis and ultimately Ho-Pin Tung, behind the wheel, they were unable to compete with the superior speed of the Porsche No. 2 car that reeled them in; hunting them down shark-like and then passing them with only an hour of the race to go.

Despite this the all involved with the No. 38 car should be immensely proud of what they achieved; not only winning the LMP2 class, but finishing second overall at Le Man. The No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion ended second in class, so took the third step on the overall podium which was just reward for the excellent Rebellion team.

Le Mans 2017

GTE Pro
There had been much criticism before the race about the rule makers and the changes made under the balance of performance regulations. It is a complex thing trying to make all cars competitive and in the past, this has been hugely unsuccessful. However, credit where credit is due, they definitely got it right this time and they provided the spectators with a remarkable race. In fact had Hollywood script writers come up with the story they would have probably rejected the idea under grounds of lack of reality.

No one manufacturer was able to dominate this class. Even Ford’s numeric advantage didn’t help them get ahead. Hour after hour, often minute after minute, the lead changed hands. The racing was so close, that as cars peeled off to complete their pit stops, the next car would inherit the lead. Once that car pitted the baton was passed on. And do it went on throughout the race.

Quite unbelievably going in to the last hour of the 24, each manufacturer had a car on the lead lap. Corvette, Aston Martin, Ford, Porsche and Ferrari all had a chance to win. Nobody was able to pull away and seconds separated all five cars. In the end it came down to pit lane strategy and a bit of luck as to when the race was actually going to finish. Aston Martin were leading, but had to have an extra stop for fuel. This opened the door for Corvette. With the other three cars fast catching, Corvette with Jordan Taylor at the wheel, left the pit lane with Aston Martin and Jonny Adam filling its mirrors. It was going to go right down to the wire. The two cars continued to lap just seconds apart as Jonny Adam looked for a place to attack. It looked as though Jordan Taylor had done enough to keep ahead and take the win, when the Aston Martin braked late at Mulsanne and tried to pass. Quite legitimately the Corvette closed the door as they exited and the corner, but there was contact between the two.

The two cars continued around for one more lap, but suddenly the Corvette had an issue and cut one of the chicanes on the Mulsanne straight, skidding across the gravel, but retaining the lead. However, Jonny Adam could sense he might get one more opportunity. It came literally at the start of their last lap. Coming through the Ford chicane on to the start finish straight, the Aston Martin took advantage of the damaged Corvette and powered past. Despite the great skills of Jordan Taylor there was nothing he could do to protect the lead. As the Aston Martin disappeared to take the win, salt was rubbed in to Corvette’s wounds as the No. 67 Ford managed to catch the limping Corvette and demote them to third in Class. Nevertheless all teams involved should take great credit for their efforts. This was a very hard fault battle that really entertained the fans, and should be remembered for a very long time.

Le Mans 2017

GTE Am
The battle in GTE Am was not as close as the Pro class. In the early running, it appeared that the No. 98 Aston Martin would run away with it. However, technical issues dragged them back. The speed shown by the Larbre Competition Corvette in qualifying never reappeared, and it was left to the Ferraris to dominate the class. The No. 84 yellow and black, JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE took the lead in the darkness and was not in the mood to relinquish the position once daylight returned. For hours they remained at the front of the class, often mixing with the back markers of the GTE Pro field. They managed to spend the minimum of time in the pit lane and came home to be quite comfortable winners in the end. The other class podium slots were also filled by Ferraris, clearly the car to have in this class, with Spirit of the Race and Scuderia Corsa coming home second and third.

Overall this was an excellent race, and one that will be much talked about around the trackside barbecues tonight. Porsche were the outright winners, but the plaudits will be taken elsewhere in the classes below. Le Mans 2017 will be remembered for the hot temperatures around the circuit and the amazing racing that took place on it. Roll on Le Mans 2018.

If you enjoyed the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, why not join us trackside at Le Mans 2018? Travel Destinations is an official ticket agency for Le Mans, and we have a large number of different options available for the Le Mans 24 Hours 2018 and the Le Mans Classic 2018. You can book this week with a small deposit and secure your place at Le Mans 2018. Call us on 0844 873 0203 to reserve your place.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

 

Le Mans 2017

Records fall in qualifying for Le Mans 2017

Toyota announced a strong statement of intent during qualifying on Thursday evening, as they locked out the front row of the grid and set a new circuit lap time in the process of claiming pole position. Porsche had to settle for the second row as the Japanese manufacturer grabbed the Le Mans 2017 headlines.

Toyota at Le Mans
The first qualifying session on Thursday evening was curtailed following an accident by the Eurasia Motorsport Ligier, that caused damage to the barriers. This meant all eyes were on the second and final qualifying session and the drivers didn’t disappoint in any of the classes. Kamui Kibayashi, at the wheel of the No.7 Toyota, was out early in the session and took full advantage. With a relatively clear track, new tyres & favourable breezes down the straight, the Japanese driver astonished everyone (possibly including himself) setting a new qualifying lap record (13:14.791) by more than two seconds. It was a quite remarkable lap that nobody else was able to get close to throughout the rest of the session. Porsche rallied and improved their times, but the new record was never really under threat as darkness fell at Le Mans.

G-Drive Racing at Le Mans
The new LMP2 cars have already proven to be extremely quick. In fact, they have been clocked faster than the LMP1 cars down parts of the Mulsanne straight. Lack of downforce elsewhere in the circuit means their fastest lap (3:25.549) was more than 10 seconds behind the LMP1 pole. Make no mistake though this is quick and some 7 seconds ahead of the previous LMP2 class record. With so many similar powered cars in LMP2 this class is going to be hugely difficult to predict, and all through qualifying the provisional pole kept changing hands. In the end, the fastest time in the class was set by the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca, with Alex Lynn getting the best from the car. Not far behind were the No. 25 CEFC Manor TDS Racing Oreca and the No. 38 Jackie Chan Racing Oreca. The Gibson powered Oreca appears to be the car to have this year.

Aston Martin Racing
Another close battle for pole took place in the LMGTE Pro class and another qualifying lap record fell in the final session. British driver Darren Turner brought the No. 97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage around in 3:50:837 to claim pole and cue the back slapping in the garage. There has been much criticism of the Balance of Performance regulations in this class, but judging from the qualification alone, they seem to have got most things right. Provisional pole changed a number of times throughout the session, with Ferrari, Corvette and Ford all having a shot at provisional pole. In the end it was the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari that pushed Aston Martin the most with James Calado, making it good evening for the Brits.

Larbre Competition
Not to be outdone the GTE AM battle was equally close and once again the qualifying lap record fell (3:52:843). This time however, it was the No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette that took the honours and class pole for the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours. Fernando Rees was the driver to get the best from the Corvette, although he was pushed all the way by the No. 98 Aston Martin and the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.

As the chequered flag fell to signal the end of the session, all participating cars had set qualifying times less than 4 minutes (another record) indicating that the Le Mans 24 Hours 2017 will probably go down in the history books again once the race gets going this weekend. One not to miss!

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

LMP1

Le Mans 2017: LMP Preview

This time next week the wait will nearly be over for the Le Mans 24 Hours 2017. Anticipation for the on track action will be at its peak and all the cars will be being prepared for action. Here we look at the talking points from a new look prototype field and what we can expect to see during Le Mans 2017.

Toyota vs Porsche
It is the clash of the titans we’ve all been waiting for. This year it is slightly different too, with Toyota, for the first time, bringing three cars to Le Mans. Toyota will be out to right the wrongs of last year, and try out some new talent too. The No. 9 car features returnee Nicolas Lapierre, Japanese Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto and WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez (who was in the No.7, but has been moved to the third car after his shunt at Silverstone cost him a race at Spa, and the experience to go with it).

Le Mans 24 Hours
Whilst the picture at Toyota has been of wholesale changes to technical parts and personnel, at Porsche, the car has taken a much more evolutionary approach, but the driver squad has had a thorough shake up. Out is the retiring Mark Webber, and last year’s Le Mans winners Roman Dumas (here in an Alpine LMP2) and Marc Lieb who is here as a reserve. In has come ex-Audi LMP1 star Andre Lotterer, and returning Le Mans winners from 2015, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.

So far it’s been advantage Toyota, winning at Silverstone & Spa and setting the fastest times at the Le Mans Test Day. However, Porsche shouldn’t be counted out, the new (for 2017) 919 has proved quick, using an aero package which wasn’t designed for use at Silverstone and Spa, and its driver set is both experienced and youthful. Who will come out on top? At this point it’s too early to say. One thing’s for sure though, it will be a historic result whatever happens. It’ll either be Toyota’s first victory, or Porsche’s 19th!

Le Mans 2017

ByKolles
Without competition, but still with interest, the ByKolles Racing Team has kept the LMP1 privateer on life-support this year. The Austrian team, with its Nissan-powered CLM P1/01 has the potential to mix in with the new and high powered LMP2s. It may not sound like much, but the car will be fast in a straight line, and should be competing with the top-end LMP2 teams. This year in particular, filling the gap between LMP1-H and LMP2 is not necessary, instead, the team will be excited about the prospect of seeing just how high up the order it can finish.

Le Mans 2017

Oreca vs everyone else in LMP2
The non-Oreca 07 runners could very well be in trouble. At the Le Mans Test Day, with their new low-downforce kits, the Orecas were seconds ahead of the competition, that without even being fastest in a straight line! In the end they finished 1 to 13 in the LMP2 running order, leaving frightened faces at Ligier, Dallara and Riley in their wake. Will this domination continue during race week? It’s distinctly possible. There are contingencies in the rules, to re-balance performance, but it’s by no means clear whether at this point the race officials intend to act. Certainly Ligier, has publicly accepted that its low-drag kit, is not working, with it becoming clear that Dallara has gone far too far down the blindingly fast route, and not nearly far enough on the goes round corners quickly aspect. The commercial future, for this brand new class, could well hinge on what, if anything, emerges in the coming days.

Le Mans 24 Hours 2017
World Endurance Championship vs European Le Mans Series
There has been plenty of discussions over the past couple of years about a perceived gap in standard between the FIA WEC and ELMS LMP2 teams. This will be put to the test next week, as the entire WEC field (all Orecas!) and all but one of the ELMS LMP2 teams are on the entry list. There are entries from the likes of Signatech Alpine, Rebellion, United Autosports, DragonSpeed and G-Drive Racing, some of the best teams in sports car racing. Which series will emerge with the winning, or highest placed car? Time will tell. It’s time to settle the debate!

Riley
While there’s strength in numbers for Oreca, Ligier and Dallara at Le Mans, the fourth LMP2 constructor, Riley, has just one bullet in its gun. There are some very good aspects to this programme, mainly Keating Motorsports fielding Jordan Taylor – who has won every IMSA WeatherTech race this year – and ultra-fast Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen alongside team owner Ben Keating. The problem though, is that the car has had little testing, particularly with its Le Mans aero set up. The Keating outfit only received the car six weeks ago, but it will receive support from Bill Riley himself and Multimatic at the race week, as Keating is their only customer racing in Europe. They will be desperate to show off what the car can do too, as a good result next week could well boost future sales.

Le Mans 2017
Reliability
We don’t talk as much about reliability in sports car racing now, because modern machinery is almost bullet proof at times. But this year in LMP2 there is cause for concern when it comes to niggles, serviceability and durability. While the new breed of LMP2 cars have been surprisingly durable, there have been signs that over the course of Le Mans there could be some issues which affect the race.
The electronic systems have had the problems that are the most widespread, with compatibility issues that have caused many teams to lose functions on their steering wheel. Gearboxes, and in particular, gear-shift actuators, have also played up, particularly on the Ligiers. While a race of attrition shouldn’t be expected, the age of the LMP2 cars must be taken into consideration. Expect at least some of the contenders to fall by the wayside, spending unscheduled time in the garage.

High speeds
One of the more spectacular aspects of this year’s 24 hours is going to be the speed of the new LMP2s. The new Gibson engine, and Le Mans aero has relegated the quickest LMP1 car to 13th on the speed trap in a straight line. The fastest of the bunch is the Dallara P217, which managed 341kph (about 205mph) down the straights during the Test Day. That can be bettered during race week too, when the track gets worn in. The new cars are seriously quick, and will breeze past the GTE cars in a straight line, which should dazzle the spectators on hand, who are used to seeing LMP2s have to fight traffic solely through corners.

Le Mans 2017
Tyres
It is not quite the GTE tyre war, but LMP2 does have a handful of Michelin and Dunlop runners in the race this year. It is fair to say that not only does Dunlop have the better rubber in ideal conditions, but also the customer base behind it, as there’s only three Michelin-shod cars in the 25-car field. If the conditions take a turn for the worst though, it may throw a spanner in the works, as neither tyre manufacturer has raced in the wet this year.

Noteworthy names
LMP2’s continued growth has led to many of the world’s best drivers, or most aspirant, wanting to give racing in LMP2 a go. In the field this year are former F1 star Rubens Barichello, Le Mans winner Jan Lammers, ex-F1 drivers Karun Chandhok & Jean-Eric Vergne, LMP1 Audi star Oliver Jarvis, GP2 race-winner Alex Lynn, Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jnr and Bruno Senna among others.
It is an incredible 75-driver pool this year, and up front should make for a fierce battle for the win!

Rubens Barichello at Le MansRecord times
It is hard to believe that the LMP2 Le Mans lap record is held by Jos Verstappen, in a 2008 Porsche RS Spyder. Since then certain cars have flirted with breaking it but the 3mins:32secs barrier is proving a tough one to break. This year though, it will be shattered, with drivers predicting 3mins:25secs during qualifying. The new LMP2s were lapping quicker than the Pole-time set by the Audi R10 less than a decade ago. It is staggering how far they have come. They are fast down the straights, grippy through the corners, and punchy on exits. They are so fast, that it is going to be like having 31 LMP1 cars on the grid for Le Mans 2017.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Le Mans 2017

Le Mans 2017: GTE Preview

With just days left before the Le Mans 24 Hours 2017, we take a closer look at the GTE entrants at Le Mans 2017 & what we should expect from them with our man in the stands; Stephen Kilbey.

GTE Am; The Second Battle of the Brands
While GTE Pro may feature full factory-backed GT entries, GTE Am’s grid this year, will be just as fiercely competitive, with almost as much variety. There’s something for everyone, with a smattering of Aston Martins, including a factory-supported Aston Martin Racing effort, lots of brand new Ferrari 488s, some Porsche 911s and as usual, a single Larbre Corvette. The driver talent is also high in the Am class, with plenty of factory talent placed in among the teams to assist the amateurs; and they’ll be the difference. When the world-class drivers are out of the cars, and its down to the more inexperienced gentlemen drivers, that’s when the race will be won. It’ll be fascinating, it’ll be unpredictable, and well worth keeping an eye on all week at Le Mans 2017.

Le Mans 2017

Tyre Wars
There’s a tyre war in GTE Pro and GTE Am. Michelin vs Dunlop. The Pro class Aston Martins and the Am class Astons and Porsches wearing the Dunlops. The Fords, Corvettes (Pro and Am), Pro Porsches and all of the Ferraris are with Michelin. Last season saw the Dunlops in Pro come on strong for Aston Martin (the weather at Le Mans 2017 could be another curve ball in this battle). Pace in the dry might not be the only story! Commercial success here will be measured by the colour of the caps on the podium on Sunday afternoon!

Porsche’s New Weapon
Porsche have followed Ford into the new era of GTE Pro racing by utilizing the more open rule-book to produce the fabulous looking 2017 spec 911 RSR. As is well known, the car now features a mid-mounted (ahead of the rear axle) flat six, and the car looks and sounds fabulous, particularly in the cauldron of the pit straight at Le Mans. With Porsche foregoing the opportunity for a turbo power plant the race long performance might be one to watch, certainly in wet running so far there’s no sign that Porsche have lost their wet-weather traction edge!

Le Mans 2017

Corvette
Fastest at the Test Day on the full circuit in the Pro Class, with the solo Am ‘Vette right at the sharp end too. Things look good for the 5.5 litre V8 bellowing Chevys. The soundtrack of the Corvettes is a highlight at Le Mans for many and a top pit crew, top quality and highly international driving squad and, by the look of things, a Balance of performance that should see the ‘Vettes back in the leading group should mean that ‘America’s SportsCar’ is back at the sharp end.

Le Mans 24 Hours

With Marcel Fässler back at Corvette for the first time since 2009 (after his Audi adventure) there’s even more depth of talent beyond the long-stay talents of Oliver ‘The Tall One’ Gavin, Antonio ‘The little Spanish One’ Garcia, Tommy ‘Don’t Call Me Junior’ Milner and Jan’ Kevin’s Dad’ Magnussen – Jordan ‘the Wacky One from Social Media’ is the other third man for this one.

Colours
Not the LA Gang turf war colours, instead the ‘give Andy Blackmore a nightmare by producing intricate liveries to stand out’ sort. From variations on the traditional Porsche white, Ferrari red (this year the Pro cars are in a gorgeous deeper shade), Aston Martin green and Corvette yellow, through the Gulf liveried Porsche in Am, the tricky to tell apart Fords, Duncan Cameron’s dark green Ferrari in Am and the oh so simple, but oh so very effective Risi red Ferrari.

Le Mans 2017

There’s also JMW’s new yellow Am Ferrari 488, Clearwater Racing’s pair of contrasting dragon liveried Ferraris (one chrome-based the other matt grey based) and the Art Car for this year, the gloriously bonkers comic book themed ‘Human’ Larbre Corvette – this grid of 29 GTE cars has something for everyone’s visual tastes!

Who’s The Daddy?
With the FIA WEC qualifying format not used at Le Mans its all about raw speed in qualifying. With such a depth of talent on tap it’s a tough call on who will be setting pole in GTE Pro. Nicki Thiim has been the pace man at Aston Martin, ably assisted by Darren Turner. Fred Mako and Patrick Pilet are amongst Porsche’s usual picks, Harry Tincknell has Andy Priaulx edging him on at Ford UK whilst Joey Hand has always been quick here too. Brit pair James Calado and Sam Bird look set to do battle for Ferrari, Toni Vilander for Risi, and at Corvette Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen just seem to forget that advancing years should take the edge off by producing stellar times.

Balance of Performance
A system designed to ensure close competition has become an annual battle of who can befuddle the rule makers by more than the opposition! Last year it was Ford, ‘finding’ a huge amount of pace between the Test Day and race week much to the irritation of the race organisers, and their competition! This year Ford were again off the pace at the Test Day after a turbo boost restriction was enforced as part of their BoP – the values can be amended at any point before the race – but will they be, and if they are what will be the response to another Ford win at Le Mans 2017?

Le Mans 2017

Aston Martin meanwhile have a car which is in its last season as the Factory weapon, up against cars that, for the most part, are no more than a season old. For them BoP is an important part of staying in the game, can they – or will a brand new Porsche, cutting edge Ferrari and four car Ford effort relegate them to minor placings at Le Mans 2017?

Am Dram
Whilst the big budget GT drama surrounds the factory-backed efforts in the Pro class don’t ignore what is likely the strongest GTE Am field in recent years. 16 cars, plenty of variety, and a tyre war there too, should dole out plenty of excitement. Pick a favourite or two and watch their progress. Eight Ferrari 488s (including teams from The UK, mainland Europe, Asia and the USA) four Porsches, including the gorgeous Gulf liveried No.86, three Aston Martins all upgraded to 2016 specification (GTE AM cars MUST be a spec that is at least a year old) and the single Art Car Corvette will entertain for sure. Check the entry list for some very familiar names from national and international racing.

Le Mans 24 Hours

Ford vs Ferrari
A classic confrontation and one which the events of 2016’s 24 Hours of Le mans did little to dissipate. Ironically though whereas back in period it was the Fords taking on the ‘establishment’, this time around it feels almost the opposite. 2016 saw controversy about Balance of Performance, a meltdown by the factory-backed AF Corse pair then a race long battle between the four Fords and a solo Ferrari from the Risi Competizione outfit that took the race to the wire. There is respect, but with a razor edge, to this battle at Le Mans 2017 – don’t miss a moment of it.

Le Mans 2017

Aston Martin vs Corvette
Another classic encounter, and one that is likely to be overlapping with the Ford/Ferrari battles for added spice! Here though whilst the on-track battles are no less more seriously contested, the off-track dynamics are altogether more respectful. It dates back to the old GT1 days, pit crews exchanging banter, an annual near impromptu car pushing race up the grid and much back slapping and bear-hugging depending on the result Green vs Yellow is as much a part of this great race as the factory battles in LMP1 at Le Mans 2017.

Le Mans 2017

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Test Day

Le Mans 2017; Test Day Results

The annual curtain raiser for the Le Mans 24 Hours race week is test day. This is chance for teams and drivers to experience the unique Le Mans track before the racing starts in earnest. Although many of the sixty cars have been running in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Le Mans test enables teams to practice in the new environment of Le Mans and try different aero packages and set ups before race week and the race itself on the 17th & 18th June.

Toyota at Le Mans
The Le Mans test has become an event in itself and more than 20,000 spectators were in attendance to watch the cars take to the full 13.6km circuit. It is often difficult to deduce much from the results of Test day, after all the laps are not competitive and it is unclear what fuel and tyres are being used during a particular session. However, Toyota will no doubt be pleased with their day’s work as not only did they set the best time of the day; a rapid 3 minutes & 18.132 seconds, but they also registered a 1-2-3 at the top of the time sheets at the end of the day.

Porsche at Le Mans
Porsche will be relatively pleased with their efforts, having had to perform an engine between the two practice sessions. This reduced the track time available to them and they managed 32 less laps in their No. 2 car compared to Toyota’s No. 9. Porsche will rather sort out those gremlins during test than have to do something similar in race week. The difference between the quickest Porsche and the slowest Toyota was just over half a second, so we can expect a close battle at the front of grid come race weekend.

Le Mans test
The speed of the new LMP2 cars was there for all to see. The fastest of which was the No. 35 Signatech Alpine which clocked 3 minutes, 28.146 seconds. There was a flurry of quick times towards the end of Le Mans test day, that saw second in class taken by the No. 24 Manor Racing Oreca and then third by No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing. Interestingly all of the top 13 cars were Gibson powered Oreca chassis.

Corvette Racing
Another engine change was required by the Corvette Racing team in GTE Pro. They performed a remarkably quick 90 minute turnaround on the No.64 car, mid-session, before setting the fastest time in the class at 3 minutes, 54.996 seconds. The two new Porsche 911 RSRs had previously dominated the timing screens and they ended the day second and third ahead of the second Corvette. Perhaps surprisingly the Ferraris and Fords weren’t able to compete with this pace, although they both could have been leaving their best times for race week.

Aston Martin Racing

Just a 10th of a second separated the first two cars in the GTE Am class. Aston Martin Racing secured top spot on the timing sheets with a 3 minute, 58.250 seconds lap ahead of the Labre Corvette. The No. 77 Proton Porsche rounded out the quickest 3 place GTE Am.

Race week will begin on the 11th June, when scrutineering for the Le Mans 24 Hours will begin. The cars will return to the track on Wednesday & Thursday 14th & 15th June, before the race itself on the 17th & 18th June 2017.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

Le Mans tickets

The Countdown to Le Mans

It is now that time of year when everyone’s thoughts turn to Le Mans. Thousands of people are counting down the days until it is time to return to La Sarthe. Routes are being planned, tents pre-erected following 12 months of storage, and supplies are being purchased. The Travel Destinations teams are making their final preparations before departure as well.

Travel Destinations Le Mans Ticket Packs
All Le Mans tickets have now been sent out from our office (unless you made a purchase in the last 24 hours or have arranged to collect tickets from us at the circuit). If you have received a card from the post office asking you to collect a package, then we request you do so as soon as possible, before your tickets are returned to us. When you receive your ticket pack, please do check all your tickets to ensure that you have everything that you require. Now would also be a good time to check that your passport is in date for when you travel too!

Le Mans tickets
Eurotunnel travellers

If you are travelling with Eurotunnel please ensure that you also complete your Advance Passenger Information by following the instructions on your ticket. You will need to do this for all passengers travelling in a car. You will need to input passport details for each person travelling. This is not required if you are travelling by ferry as your passports will be scanned at the point of departure.

Your Essential Guide & further campsite information
Along with your Le Mans tickets, you will also have received our new-look “Essential Guide to Le Mans”. Please do read this before you travel and bring it with you as there is a lot of useful information inside. Le Mans can be a confusing place at times, particularly if this is your first visit, however a bit of planning now can save on stress later. The guide contains directions, maps and a race week schedule to assist you in enjoying your visit to Le Mans.

Le Mans tickets
If you are staying in one of our private areas (our trackside campsite at Porsche Curves, our Event Tents & our Flexotel Village) then you will have been sent a separate email containing further information specifically for you. It is important that you read this information in conjunction with our essential guide as it will assist you with access and answer many questions. Even if you have been to Le Mans with us before, please ensure you have read this document as things to change at Le Mans.

Photography Courses
We have had a fantastic response to our Le Mans photography workshops in association with Jessops Academy. Important information including joining instructions has already been sent directly to those people who have already signed up. We are all looking forward to seeing the results. If you haven’t yet booked for these courses but are interested in joining in, please do call us for an update on late availability.

Le Mans Tickets
For those making a last-minute decision to attend Le Mans, then we can still assist you. There is very limited availability for Le Mans tickets but we can help you with on-circuit & off-circuit camping, entrance tickets & travel. As you would expect the availability situation is changing on a daily basis so please call us for up to date Le Mans ticket information.

Le Mans tickets
We wish you all a safe journey to the circuit & hope that we see you there. Should you need to contact any of our staff during your stay at Le Mans, please do call our on-circuit helpline provided in your pack. Our staff at the track will be happy to assist.

Le Mans 2018
For those planning even further ahead; we will go on sale for Le Mans 2018 during the week after this year’s race. If you wish to guarantee your place at Le Mans 2018 then please do call us on 0844 873 0203 when you return. A deposit will be required at the time of booking.

Le Mans tickets
Thank you for choosing Travel Destinations for your Le Mans visit this year & we hope you can join us again soon.

Le Mans photography

Photography workshops at Le Mans

Have you ever been disappointed with your motorsport photography? Or have you ever wondered how professional photographers obtain the best shots? Then we now have the answer for you.
Travel Destinations have created an exciting partnership with Jessops Academy Photography Training School to offer you the chance to join a number of photo workshops trackside at the Le Mans 24 Hours. These workshops are exclusive to Travel Destinations customers and can be added to any of our Le Mans 2017 packages.

JessopsJessops award winning academy trainers will be hosting photography workshops at the Le Mans circuit on the Saturday and Sunday, to offer you the chance to learn and practice professional techniques and obtain even better photos. These workshops are designed to be fun and educational, enabling you to be able to us professional techniques trackside at Le Mans.

Le Mans 2017
Silhouettes at Le Mans

Jessops Academy have been running motorsport photography workshops in the UK for the last 4 years however, this will be the first opportunity that anyone has had the chance to learn from their knowledge trackside at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

For Le Mans 2017 there will be a total of 6 different training workshops available with 2 Jessops Academy trainers. Each workshop session will be limited to a maximum of 30 people to ensure everyone is able to receive the assistance that they need.

Each 2-hour session can be purchased individually for £50.00 per person, or as a special Travel Destinations offer, all 6 workshops can be purchased together for just £150.00 per person. 

Le Mans 2017 Workshops:
1. Camera set-up and control for motorsport photography. (Saturday, 11:00hrs)
2. Editorial Shooting (photography with a theme) and mastering panning shots trackside (Saturday 14:30hrs)
3. Dusk lighting, silhouettes and making the most of low light (Saturday 20:00hrs)
4. Shooting at night, light trails and slow shutter pit lane action (Saturday 23:00hrs)
5. Using sunrise and the dawn light. The perfect time of day for photography (Sunday 05:00hrs)
6. Reviewing motorsport images, problem solving and post production set (Sunday 11:00hrs)

As well as training at various locations around the track, the training team will be on-site on Friday evening and encourage all workshop participants to join them for a chat & introduction before the workshops begin on Saturday.

Spaces are strictly limited, so please secure your desired workshop by calling Travel Destinations now on 0844 873 0203.

Le Mans 2017
Camera panning gives good results

Further information:
– The workshops are open to all Travel Destinations customers of any photography standard and experience. The workshops can be added to your existing booking.
– A Digital SLR or mirrorless camera is recommended for all workshops. Although the workshops will still be relevant for compact or bridge cameras, the obtainable results will be limited by the technology.
– Bringing at least 2 different lenses with your DSLR is recommended. Particularly a wide-angle lens, and a form of telephoto (3 – 600mm)
– Although a tripod/monopod is not essential, it will be useful for night-time and low light sessions.
– You should expect to take a large number of photos during each session, so please ensure you have enough memory cards & battery life.
– Each trackside session will take place in public areas around the circuit. Media access is not necessary and will not be provided.
– Each session will take place at the circuit, usually trackside so if you are sensitive to noise ear defenders or earplugs are recommended.
– Be prepared for all weathers. Le Mans can be warm, cold, wet, dry and dusty all in one day. The workshops will take place whatever the conditions so you may need to protect your camera from the elements.
– Wear comfortable clothing. We will be moving around the track so comfortable shoes are a must and you may wish to kneel or lie down to get the best angles.

Le Mans 2017
You only get light trails like this at Le Mans

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

Le Mans Classic tickets

Le Mans Classic Returns

Le Mans Classic 2018We are pleased to confirm that the 9th running of the famous Le Mans Classic will take place from the 6th – 8th July 2018. The Le Mans Classic offers a great motor racing retrospective every two years at the historic Circuit de la Sarthe, in Le Mans, France. The event itself is much anticipated by participants and spectators alike, so booking your place early is highly recommended.

Last July, more than 123,000 spectators made the pilgrimage to Le Mans to witness 550 race cars take to the track as well as an amazing 8500 classic and sports cars from various clubs and organisations gather on the infield.

Travel Destinations are official agents for the Le Mans Classic and so are in a privileged position  to offer our customers the best choice in travel, Le Mans Classic tickets and accommodation for the Le Mans Classic 2018. Local hotels to Le Mans will be in high demand, however we have a selection available within a few minutes drive to the circuit. Camping has always been a tradition at Le Mans, so as well as the basic circuit run camping, we have 2 different trackside campsites offering superior facilities and secure parking adjacent to the track.

For the Le Mans Classic 2018 Travel Destinations will also be able to offer our Event Tents (Glamping) and our Flexotel Village (pop-up hotel) in the centre of the circuit. These options will enable all guests to enjoy a little more comfort, whilst still staying on the circuit. All these options can include entrance tickets and paddock access, as well as your choice of channel crossings from the UK if required. Options are also available without travel if required, so please enquire at the time of booking. Grandstand seats, circuit laps/track laps and meals can also be added to bookings on request. All available options and further details are now available on this website.

All these options are available to book now & can be secured today with a deposit. To learn more and to reserve your place please call our experienced team on 0844 873 0203. We look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Toyota at Le Mans 2017

Le Mans 2017 Entry List Revealed

After much anticipation the provisional entry list for the Le Mans 24 Hours 2017 & the FIA World Endurance Championship was announced today. Le Mans 2017 will be the first season without Audi so the initial look of the grid is very different from previous years.

You can download a full copy of the entry list here: Entry List 2017

LMP1 Class
Not only is this class missing the headline act of Audi, but with Rebellion switching classes, the field was always going to be a little light this year. Just six cars will be making up the top tier at Le Mans 2017 with more teams promised to bolster the ranks in 2018. However, for 2017 Toyota have chosen to add a third car to their FIA WEC cars giving them the numerical advantage. The reigning champions Porsche will be fighting to retain the Le Mans trophy with 2 cars. The class is made up by the single privateer in ByKolles, with Robert Kubica their lead driver. They will be looking for a better performance than last year, but realistically they would be more than happy with a sixth place finish behind the big guns. LMP1 may not be what it was, but if Porsche and Toyota give us a finish like last year, nobody will be complaining about the missing Audis.

LMP2 Class
The biggest field by far is here with 25 entries. Most of these cars are stepping up from the European Le Mans Series and there are only 9 competing in the FIA WEC this year. It is new start for the regulations in LMP2 so this is a healthy number to see on the list. The split between Europe and the USA is clear to see with only Ben Keating making the entry list from the IMSA stable. With such a large field it will certainly be difficult to predict the outcome, which will make things exciting for everyone involved.

GTE Pro Class
Some of the most anticipated racing will no doubt be from this class. 13 cars and 5 manufacturers could actually make this class the headline act in 2017. Ford look like they could be the ones to beat, with a 4 car entry on the back of an impressive performance last week in Daytona. Porsche could be the challengers after returning to the fray with the new 911 RSRs. Aston Martin, Corvette and Ferrari won’t just be making up the numbers either, so this could well be a fight right to the finish.

GTE Am Class
There is a good mix of cars in the GTE AM class as well as good numbers. 16 cars have been invited with a spread across the FIA WEC, European Le Mans Series, Asian Le Mans Series and IMSA. From a British perspective it is great to see the experienced JMW Motorsports team back after missing out last year & the Gulf Racing team Porsche makes a welcome return after an underrated turn in 2017. Aston Martin will also be flying the flag for the UK with 3 cars, but Ferrari has the numbers again with 8 cars in the field. Last mention in the class should go to Labre Competition’s sole Corvette, that has new Rolex 24 at Daytona winner Ricky Taylor named as lead driver.

So there you have it with 2 cars in reserve, could this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours prove the doom mongers wrong and actually turn out to be a classic. Certainly the potential is there, so all you need to do is be at Le Mans 2017. If you haven’t already booked then time is running out, call Travel Destinations now to book your place.

Written by Richard Webb

Le Mans race

What to take to Le Mans

Part 4. What to take with you

Walking around Green Park at the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, I once came upon a campsite with its own fish-tank, complete with tropical fish swimming around and a chicken coop full of hens. At the Nurburgring 24 Hours I have witnessed a whole pirate ship on a steep hillside overlooking the track including cannons and crow’s nest with a man on lookout. At Le Mans I have seen most of a house, with a full kitchen including sink, fridge, chest freezer and dishwasher next door to a lounge with sofas and a TV. Every year this type of thing goes on and you can’t help but wonder what they left behind to fit all of this in.

Not everyone takes it to the extremes, but there are a few things to remember when it comes to packing for Le Mans. Some are obvious and some are common sense, but if I had a pound for every call we receive during Le Mans week saying “I am sorry but I have forgotten my…” then I would be a very rich man by now.

Documents:
Without fail somebody every year either forgets their passport or finds out that it has expired just hours before departure. Even with the UK still being in the EU at the moment, you cannot travel to France without your passport. This item is crucial and so should be checked well in advance and kept safe at all times. Check it now if you can. I bet you don’t know when your passport expires!

Le Mans tickets

Losing travel tickets either before you travel or during your stay is less of a problem these days. E-tickets are easily replaced & booking numbers can be quoted in place of a piece of paper, but it is a hassle. Much better to keep them in your vehicle so they are available when you need them. Race tickets are another matter. These are not easily replaced so should be kept safe and not left on the kitchen table. Your camping pass should be fixed in your windscreen and your entrance tickets should be kept with you (usually on a lanyard) so that you have them available to be scanned when you enter the circuit.

There are other documents that you shouldn’t leave home without such as your driving licence & car insurance documents. I am sure you would never dream of breaking the speed limit in France, but if you ever do the Gendarmes will ask for these documents as well as money to pay the fine.

Clothing:
Everybody knows the saying “It always rains at Le Mans”, so it is amazing how ill prepared some people can be for few days at the circuit. Of course it doesn’t always rain but a warm and waterproof outer layer is very important. When the sun goes down you don’t want to have to miss the racing because you are cold or wet so pack a coat. It is very difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t been to Le Mans before, quite how much walking is involved. Distances between viewing points and your campsite are usually bigger than you think. I have saying that where ever you are at Le Mans, you are 20 minutes’ walk from where you want to be. With that in mind a good pair of boots or similar sturdy footwear is essential. Following on from that is socks. You can never have too many socks. If you’ve ever got up in the night, needing the bathroom and been forced to pull on wet socks, then you know what I mean. I am sure a sock salesman would clean up if they set up shop in a Le Mans campsite. Otherwise layers of clothing is to be recommended. You can always remove a layer if it is hot, or add another layer when it gets cold, so pack your back with multiple layers to stay warm or cool at Le Mans. And finally, if you have flip-flops bring them. They are perfect for the communal showers!

Le Mans 2017

Camping items:
Forgetting your tent is unlikely (it has happened though) but there are other things that are worth thinking of. You can never have enough tent pegs, and if it has been dry then something stronger than the usual metal peg is required. A mallet will also be required, because it will be difficult to get the pegs in with just your hands. Sleeping bag and pillow could go without saying, but we have been asked for spares at Le Mans, so double check before you leave. An airbed or sleeping mat are equally useful if you plan on getting much sleep. A torch with batteries is good. Don’t rely on your phone, because when you need it, you will probably have it charging in the car. You can survive on circuit food, but nothing beats a Le Mans barbecue. Drivers swear they can smell bacon in the morning as they blast through the Porsche Curves and everything seems better with bacon doesn’t it. Event wet socks (see earlier). The local supermarkets are good for all your essential food items and some of the non-essential ones too. Try and stay clear of glass bottles if you can. Camping and glass don’t mix that well and in recent years there has been a crackdown on taking glass in to track-side campsites so it is best avoided. Alcohol? Can’t say I’ve tried it myself, but I understand its popular at these kind of events.

Camping at Le Mans

Essentials:
These are the things that you want to really add to the whole Le Mans experience but are easily forgotten. A bottle opener and a tin opener for instance. It is no good returning with from the shops with a tin of beans if you can’t open it. No doubt your campsite will be located in the perfect location, but if it isn’t a decent water carrier to get your supplies back from the nearest stand-pipe will come in handy. All Travel Destinations staff are consistently asked for phone chargers. We do carry some, but often not for the right model of Iphone or Android device, so think about it before you leave and ensure you have an adapter for your car. An FM radio is so important at Le Mans. If you want to know what is going on, then tuning in to the team on Radio Le Mans is essential. They are the best and will be broadcasting right through Le Mans week. You will kick yourself if you forget your radio. The last thing to mention is money. Even if you forget most things you can always buy them when you are at Le Mans. Even a tent! But you shouldn’t carry around too much. Sadly things do go missing at Le Mans, and you don’t want that to be your wallet. We would recommend a small amount of Euros for things like road tolls and your essentials but then have a credit card for anything else and keep that separate and safe too.

Radio Le Mans

Top tips for packing for Le Mans are:
• Check your passport is valid and keep it with you at all times
• Take layers for warmth and a waterproof as it always rains at Le Mans
• Don’t forget your FM radio to tune in to Radio Le Mans

Le Mans official ticket agency

Travel Destinations are the largest UK Tour Operator to Le Mans.
Travel Destinations are an Officially appointed agency for Le Mans and are a fully bonded ABTA and ATOL tour operator.
All our Le Mans options are available to view on this website or call us now for more details on 0844 873 0203.

This article first appeared on Motorsport Magazine online & is the fourth in a series of guest blogs by Richard about Le Mans.