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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

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.

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

Le Mans 24 Hours: A week of entertainment!

Le Mans 24 Hours: A week of entertainment!

In addition to the racing action unfolding on the track on 13th & 14th June, spectators can enjoy a full week of entertainment from 7th -14th June. A host of festive, fun-filled events will run alongside the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours, inside the circuit, on the track and around its immediate surroundings.

Scrutineering: Sunday 7th (14h30 – 19h00) and Monday 8th June (10h00 – 18h00)
As has been the case since 2012 scrutineering and administration checks (Pésage in French, term used in the early days of motor sport) will be held at the Place de la République in the heart of the town. Over a day and a half the 56 cars and the 168 drivers in the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours will present themselves one by one to the scrutineers to see if the cars comply and the drivers are fit to drive them.

Autograph session: Tuesday 9th June 17h00 – 18h30
During the autograph session in the pits straight spectators will be able to meet and speak to the drivers entered for the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours. They can also get a close look at the cars that will be on the grid a few days later.

Entertainments village: Wednesday 10th to Sunday 14 June
In addition to the Le Mans 24-Hours official village with its numerous exhibitors, stalls and boutiques, an new entertainments village will be installed in the International Karting Complex. The traditional fun fair with its big wheel, the children’s’ village, the Young Drivers’ Criterium and many other side shows (concerts, diving demonstration, etc) will be located in this space. The Alain Prost Kart track will be open to the public all week as well as the 24 Building with its simulators and games arcade. It’s accessible on foot and there will also be a permanent free shuttle service (lines 7 and 9).

The open-air evening concerts are a key ingredient of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Three POP & ROCK live concerts will be put on for spectators on the stage near the Dunlop Footbridge. It is free for general enclosure ticket holders.

Wednesday 10th June 2015 at 20h00
The Lemon Queen a foursome from Angers will warm up the crowd before Jabberwocky. The French electro-pop group will play its tunes infused with joyful and melancholy undertones.

Thursday 11th June at 20h00
Cali will be on stage to entertain spectators and thrill them with his proud and sentimental rock music as well as extracts from his latest album. Tom Zinc will ensure the first part of the show.

Saturday 13th June at 20h00
The star of this exceptional evening will be British singer, Charlie Wilson. DJ Loran will go on stage before him to fever up the ambience followed by the Honeymoonshaker duo.
The night at Le Mans will go on rocking until the small hours with DJ Moule and the Dixon Brothers bringing down the curtain.

In addition on Friday 12th June on the International Kart Complex site four groups of DJs will follow one another on the stage to entertain the crowd. They can dance to the rhythms of Jr Yellam accompanied by Green & Fresh Band, Trinity and DJs Willy Williams plus Irie Ites Sound who will mix live!

Women’s pavilion: Wednesday 10th to Sunday 14th June
In 2015 for the first time the Automobile Club de l’Ouest is providing a zone entirely devoted to women and the motor car during the Le Mans 24 Hours. The Women’s Pavillion covers over 400 m2 and will be an exclusively female meeting place with many activities.

Ford-Ferrari Duel exhibition: Wednesday 10th to Sunday 14th June
An exhibition devoted to the one of the most legendary duels in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours will be on show in the village.

Track and pits visit: Friday 12th June from 10h00 to 18h00
All spectators who have a general entry ticket can visit the pits and walk on the legendary tarmac as far as the Dunlop Footbridge. The cars in the Le Mans Legend field will be on display during the pit walk.

Starting ceremony Saturday 13th June
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest is bending over backwards to put on a great show for the crowd with a grandiose and moving ceremony prior to the start. The festivities will began at 07h30 with the parade, followed by the warm-up for the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Le Mans Legend race and the Aston Martin Racing Le Mans Festival, the national anthems of the entrants and various other events including the handing back of the Le Mans 24-Hours Trophy to the president of the ACO and the French Patrol’s overfly of the track.

And don’t forget the numerous boutiques of our partners, brands and suppliers and bring home souvenirs of the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours.

The Le Mans town centre and the neighbouring municipalities will also beat to the rhythm of the Le Mans 24 Hours with many festive events. A Concours Tradition et Elégance on the square on the Quinconces of Le Mans and the first R’Hunaudières in Ruaudin will be held on Tuesday 9th June. On 11th June Arnage will continue the fun with Arnage in the Race. No rest for the spectators on Friday either with the Virage de Mulsanne shows, the Classic British Welcome in Saint Saturnin, a show devoted to Porsche in Teloché as well as the Drivers Parade that will set off through the streets of Le Mans at 17h30!

Lots of entertainment for everyone during Le Mans week.