Tag Archives: Le Mans 24 Hours

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 2017

Getting to Le Mans

Part Two: Getting to Le Mans

The Le Mans circuit lies approximately 125 miles to the west of Paris and about 100 miles south of the Normandy coast, which makes it a good destination to visit for international race fans.

Around a quarter of the annual Le Mans visitors travel from the UK to the circuit each June and the vast majority of those will travel by vehicle. Travelling in your own vehicle has two major benefits. The first is social & economic. If you are coming in your own vehicle you can fill it with your friends & they can contribute to the price of travel. Everyone wins. The second is practical. If you are camping at Le Mans, you want to be as self-sufficient as possible, and it is amazing what you can fit in a car when you need to.

From the UK there is a choice of routes for travelling to Le Mans. There is no right or wrong way to do this and much will depend on your priorities, such as cost, time and driving distance.
The shortest and quickest way across the Channel is to head to Calais. You can choose either the ferry from Dover or the Eurotunnel from Folkestone. The ferry takes an 80 minute and you get the chance to wander the ship, eat & drink or go shopping. The Eurotunnel takes 35 minutes but you stay in your car the whole time. Both are priced similarly and they both get you to Calais. The route from Calais is an easy drive & can be done on dual carriageways all the way. These are tolled roads that will cost just over €30.00 in total. If your Sat Nav suggests going via Paris, ignore it and look at a map. The simplest route is going to be via Rouen. Expect the driving time from Calais to be around 4½ hours plus any stops that you make.

Le Mans travel

You can directly compare this with the longer sea crossings out of Portsmouth. You can choose routes to Caen, Le Havre, Cherbourg and St. Malo, but all are operated by Brittany Ferries. In our experience the service is generally good on these ships, which is a good thing as you are generally looking at more than 6 hours on board. You can choose overnight sailings on some of the routes which are popular but remember that any cabins you book will increase your costs. Price is usually the deciding factor when comparing these routes to Calais as they are generally at least 4 times the price of the Calais routes. So why would you choose them? Well if you live near the south coast, then Portsmouth could be your nearest port anyway, but most people will look at the drive times on the French side as the deciding factor. From Caen to Le Mans the drive time is going to be in the region of 2½ hours to Le Mans, depending on which route you choose and the tolls will be half the price if choose to use the tolled motorways.

For those living in the North of England or beyond a good option to look at is the route from Hull to Zeebrugge. This is an overnight ferry run by P&O Ferries. Initially this may look like an odd choice for Le Mans, but only closer inspection it often saves time and money. Zeebrugge is just over the border in to Belgium but remains within an hour’s drive of Calais. So not much driving difference from the Calais routes. The big bonus is that by sailing down you have avoided some of the more notorious British roads and driving on the continent is a lot easier with less traffic than the M6, M1 and M25 or M23. As it is an overnight ferry, this may not work for everyone, and cabins will need to be booked, but if you live within a 2 hours’ drive of Hull, then I would be taking this route quite seriously.

Le Mans 24

Traffic around the Le Mans circuit can also be tricky at times, so we are aware of a number of people recently who have decided to leave their cars at home. For many this may sound odd & I can understand the attraction of driving your car to Le Mans (it is a motorsport event after all) but hear me out as this is still an option. Travel Destinations also looks after large numbers of people flying in to France from around the world, so letting the train take the strain can be a good option. From the UK the Eurostar train service (not Eurotunnel, they are separate things) starts at London St. Pancras and finishes in Paris. If you are heading to Le Mans, then consider changing at Lille as you can then catch the train straight to Le Mans from there (and it is easier than traversing Paris). If you are arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport you can also catch this train direct to Le Mans. Alternatively, if you are combining a visit to Le Mans with a visit to Paris, then the fast train (TGV) goes direct to Le Mans from Montparnasse station. Once at Le Mans station, then the tram to the circuit is right outside the door, with the end of the line at Antares in the centre of the circuit, so that couldn’t be simpler.

Top tips for travelling to Le Mans are:
• Think about drive times on both sides of the Channel before booking your crossings
• Maximise the number of people in your vehicle to keep the costs down.
• Think about the economy of your vehicle. Maybe the more expensive crossings will work out cheaper in the long run. Or consider going by train.

Le Mans official ticket agency

Travel Destinations are the largest UK Tour Operator to Le Mans.
Travel Destinations are also 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 second in a series of guest blogs by Richard about Le Mans.

 

Le Mans 24 Hours

Post Le Mans talking points

Barely a week has passed since Le Mans 2016.; not even a chance for the dust to settle (or the mud). Whilst memories are still vivid, Stephen Kilbey reviews the five main talking points you have all been discussing this week.

Toyota is back
Let’s get the end of the race out of the way first. Le Mans was a bitter disappointment for everyone involved with the Toyota Gazoo effort. Having Kazuki Nakajima retire, grinding to a halt on the final lap, from the lead, minutes away from the marque’s first Le Mans win, in front of thousands of fans on the pit straight. It was heart-breaking to watch. 30 years after its first attempt, it seems that Toyota ran out of luck, yet again.  But the positive is that the TS050 is most definitely competitive – a far cry from its 2015 showing – and the team will be more motivated than ever to bounce back not only in the rest of this season, but at Le Mans 2017. Toyota is clearly capable of winning the big race, and it certainly deserves to as well. If Porsche, Toyota and Audi all continue to be there or thereabouts with each other on pace, then the remainder of the FIA WEC season should be an absolute corker!

Toyota at Le Mans 2016
Ford won big, but just how big?
There are so many question marks surrounding GTE racing as a whole after last week. Ford was clearly desperate to win, coming in with its GT which had had a myriad of testing, and money thrown at it from all angles. The result; a 1,3,4 at the race, with only one of its cars having issues. It is now more apparent than ever that the Ford GT is so advanced that even the ACO and FIA couldn’t reign it in. After very quiet outings at Silverstone, Spa and the Le Mans Test Day, the Fords suddenly lapping four to five seconds quicker in race week was conspicuous to say the least. Most personalities within the paddock genuinely believe that the car can go even faster; into the 3:40s at La Sarthe, had there not been the potential for further uproar, which is remarkable in terms of engineering but worrying in terms of the future of the class. Unless the ACO and FIA get their heads together and make some serious changes to the way that Balance of Performance is calculated, then the arms race is on, and it is unlikely to last long. GTE stalwarts Corvette, Aston Martin and Porsche deserved better.

Ford GT at Le Mans
Notable newcomers
Ford aside, there were many new names on the grid at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours who impressed all week long. In LMP2 Eurasia Motorsport bagged a top five finish with its Oreca 05, becoming a successful ELMS convert, along with Panis Barthez Competition’s Ligier which crossed the line eighth. Both teams ran their cars well, and managed front running pace with their star drivers. Tristan Gommendy in the Oreca and Paul Loup Chatin in the Ligier really showed their abilities during the race.

And in GTE Am, Clearwater, which loaned a Ferrari 458 after winning the GT class in the Asian Le Mans Series using a GT3 McLaren, managed to nab fourth in its class. It was an absolutely incredible result for the team on its first trip, with McLaren GT factory driver Rob Bell putting the car on pole, before having a reliable run to the finish. It is safe to say that the entire crew enjoyed themselves. One can only hope that we see another ‘chrome’ GTE car in the field next year.

Clearwater Racing
More bad luck for the champs
After such an incredible second half to last season, the current World Champions in the No.1 Porsche 919 just can’t catch a break in 2016. Brendon Hartley’s incident at Silverstone whilst running in the lead, followed by mechanical troubles at both Spa and Le Mans, has left the trio practically out of the running for the Drivers World Championship this year before the halfway point of the season.
With just 3.5 points apiece, Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Hartley sit 19th in the overall standings, and in desperate need of a positive outing. After such disappointment this year’s French classic, expect both the No.1 Porsche and No.5 Toyota to come out swinging at the Nürburgring.

Porsche at Le Mans
A flourishing feeder system
If Saturday morning’s Road To Le Mans LMP3-GT3 race told us anything, it is that there are plenty of teams and drivers with aspirations of racing at Le Mans in the future. The driving standards in the 40+ car field were overall pretty promising, and the numerical split between prototype and GT3 numbers shows that there is interest in both formulas. Martin Brundle headlines aside, what the Road To Le Mans showed us is that it is a worthy part of the Le Mans 24 Hours support bill going forward, and is a necessary step on the ladder to La Sarthe. Expect it to come back bigger and better in 2017.

Road to Le Mans

Don’t forget that if you want to be at Le Mans 2017 you make a provisional booking now by calling Travel Destinations staff on 0844 873 0203.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Le Mans 24 Hours 2017

Book now for Le Mans 2017

Le Mans 2017Le Mans 24 Hours
17th & 18th June 2017

 

The Le Mans 24 Hours this year will live long in the memory. The memories will be even more vivid for those that were there. If you would like to be at Le Mans 2017 then we can help you. The dates for next year’s race have already been confirmed for the 17th – 18th June 2017. Although ticket prices will not be confirmed until later this year, you can still reserve your travel, tickets and accommodation with us now.

From Monday 20th June, we will be open for provisional bookings for Le Mans 2017. Please take a look at our offers for this year’s race on this website. This year’s prices have been left as a guide to help you decide which option you prefer. Please be aware that many of the options did sell out before the end of January this year.

Take a look at our camping options on the track. These include circuit run campsites, our famous private trackside campsite at the Porsche Curves as well as our Glamping Option with our Event Tents. Also on circuit is our Flexotel Village providing your own bedroom in the centre of the circuit. Please be aware that although the prices include travel from the UK, many of the options are also available without travel for international visitors.

When you have chosen your favourite option, please call us to begin your provisional reservation. From the UK you can call 0844 873 0203. From outside the UK please call +44 1707 329988.

Travel Destinations is an Official Agent of the Le Mans 24 Hours and we are an ABTA and ATOL bonded tour operator, so you know you can book with confidence. Call us to book your tickets for Le Mans 2017.

Porsche at Le Mans 2016

Le Mans 2016: Reaction

Le Mans 2016: Instant Reaction

It may be a 24 hours race, but Le Mans 2016 will only really be remembered for the last five minutes. It is incredible that a round the clock endurance race can come down to such small moments in time, but Le Mans 2016 is the absolute proof of the old saying that “to finish first, you first have to finish”.

The start of this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours was memorable for all the wrong reasons, as the torrential rain that had made the campsites so muddy over race week, continued for the first hour. This meant that, for the first time, the race began behind the safety car. The cars paraded around the track in the wet for 50 minutes before the safety car came in and the real racing began.

Porsche were on pole and avoiding the spray were able to build a small lead, but Toyota were keeping them honest, as were Audi who were able to move up from starting 5th & 6th on the grid. It will be forgotten now, but each of the 6 factory LMP1 hybrid prototypes were leading the race at some point over the next few hours. It was quite a race.

Audi at Le Mans

Elsewhere, the superior power of the Ford GTs returning to Le Mans in the GTE Pro class was clear. With 4 cars entered, their superior numbers were also an advantage. Only the Ferraris could keep pace. Many would argue that the Balance of Performance gave Ford an unfair advantage, but that was not their choice and they could only race the teams around them.

The LMP2 class saw some exceptional battles. With the majority of cars powered by Nissan engines, this was always going to be close, but retirements and accidents throughout the 24 hours whittled the numbers down until Signatech Alpine, G-Drive Racing and SMP Racing were left to fight for the win.

Despite all the great racing, none of it will probably be remembered, because the headlines will be all about the finish. For more than the last hour, it had become a straight fight for the win between the Number 5 Toyota, and the No. 2 Porsche. The Toyota had a small advantage of about 30 seconds that ebbed and flowed with pit stops. The result seemed to be guaranteed when the chasing Porsche was called in to the pit lane with 5 minutes to go for fuel & tyres. There wasn’t enough time for them to catch the Toyota even if they wanted to.

Toyota at Le Mans

With 3 minutes left on the clock and the crowds all gathered to anoint a new winner in Toyota, disaster struck for the Japanese team. Initially the number 5 car slowed, almost as if waiting for the clock to tick around to 24 hours. But time seemed to slow down. It became apparent that as the Toyota came through Indianapolis, Arnage and then the Porsche Curves that something wasn’t right. The car was slowing all the time. The car was crawling through the Ford Chicane and barely made it across the start-finish line for what would have been the final lap, when it lost power and came to a complete halt.

Shock went through the pit lane. The No. 2 Porsche was more than half a lap back, but was closing rapidly as it scythed through the traffic. One can only imagine what was going through the mind of Toyota driver Kazuki Nakajima as he tried in vain to restart the Toyota hybrid. His efforts were in vain, as everyone watched the Porsche 919 Hybrid enter the straight and pass the stricken Toyota in front of the main stands. Joy turned to despair and despair turned to joy in that second. Everyone at Toyota was heartbroken. Everyone at Porsche was elated.

Porsche at Le Mans

Just over three minutes later the No. 2 Porsche of Neel Jani, Roman Dumas & Marc Lieb completed the final lap & were crowned the winners of the Le Mans 24 hours 2016. The number 5 Toyota Nakajima, Ant Davidson & Sebastien Buemi, was only able to complete the final lap under hybrid power, and as they took more than 6 minutes to do so, were cruelly unclassified from the overall result.
The Number 6 Toyota did pick up a consolation 2nd place, and the Audi Number 8, finished an embarrassed third, clearly not feeling they deserved to be on the podium at all.

In the LMP2 class, the Number 36 Signatech Alpine car was able to cruise to the win, whilst the Number 68 Ford GT of Chip Ganassi, were victorious in the GTE Pro class. In GT Am the Ferrari of Scuderia Corsa took the trophy having driven a brilliant race.

The result is already in the record books, but the emotional ending will be talked about by many. Especially those who were there and witness what was a quite unbelievable ending to the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

If you would like to be trackside for the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2017, then you will be able to make a provisional booking & reserve your space with Travel Destinations from Monday 19th June. Please call 0844 873 0203 to confirm your details & requirements.

Audi at Le Mans

Countdown to Le Mans: LMP1 Preview

With all the cars finally taking to the track later today, it really feels like Le Mans 2016 has begun. We are rounding up our previews by looking at 10 talking points from the top LMP1 class on the grid.

1.  Rebellion Racing
There’s a buzz around Rebellion Racing this year that has smiles on faces in the leading LMP1 Privateer camp. After engine woes in the latter part of last season the team have reverted to an earlier spec of AER twin turbo V6. That’s paid off in spades, the team finding speed, and taking advantage of an extraordinary early season set of failures for the factory LMP1s. A pair of overall podiums at Spa and Silverstone have put the #13 crew of Dominik Kraihamer, Alexandre Imperstori and the only teenage Le Mans starter in 2016. Mathéo Tuscher in the lead of the LMP1 drivers Championship coming into Le Mans. The other Rebellion meanwhile has Nick Heidfeld joined once again by Nico Prost with Nelson Piquet Jr added into the mix A Piquet and Prost together! Heidfeld and Prost have had a pair of fourth places overall at Le Mans and know how to produce the fast and reliable run that will be needed. Piquet has raced here before too, in an Aston Martin DBR9 back in GT1 days. Rebellion will have to play to their strengths, and keep to their plan – The R-One is the fastest car in a straight line in the entire field, 336 Km/h at the Test Day, but rather slower than the 1000 bhp+ hybrids over the full lap. They cannot win on pace, but will be looking to stay close enough that if those ahead suffer issues, the Rebellions could pounce!

Rebellion Racing at Le Mans

2. Porsche Team
Porsche took a famous win last year and are back for another shot, aiming now for an 18th win to further cement the 919 Hybrid alongside Porsche Legends including the 917, 936, 936, 956, 962 and 911. The signs look good for a reliable and very fast run, and a switch back to last year’s battery pack will only enhance their likelihood of a competitive finish. As above there have been reliability woes in the early races of the season, but Porsche say those issues are now well understood and if they can display the reliability shown there in 2015 then Porsche are looking very, very good indeed.

Porsche at Le Mans 2016

3. Toyota Gazoo Racing
This is a race that Toyota want to win – desperately. Their Le Mans history has been peppered with ‘almosts’. Second place does not feel like an achievement to this team., it tastes of failure. So they’re back for 2016 with a brand new car, the TS050, a brand new look – the blue and white is gone, and a brand new mechanical/ hybrid package, a 2.4 litre V6 turbo replaces the much loved wailing V8, and the Super-capacitor electrical storage medium is replaced by a battery pack, battery tech having overtaken the Super-Cap’s abilities. They have been much faster already than in 2015, helped too by a move up to the maximum 8 MJ category, and led convincingly as other faltered at Spa until they too hit trouble. Those issues are now well understood, the cars had been bottoming out badly and the shocks, passed through the structure of the car, caused vital components to fail – All fixed we are told! Will they be on Pole – unlikely, will they lead the early stages, unlikely – Do they have a plan – Most certainly! Expect to see the TS050s in the mix if the Hybrids stay out of trouble.

Toyota at Le Mans 2016

4. Audi Sport Team Joest
Audi are chasing an astounding 14th win in 2016, and they are doing it with a radically different new R18. Before we deal with the looks of the car let’s focus on the hybrid system, now equipped with the currently de rigour battery storage medium rather than the previous mechanical flywheel. It has allowed Audi to move up top the 6MJ bracket, more hybrid energy available then and with an improved, and now uniquely to Audi, diesel fuelled primary engine. The aero work on the car can best be described as radical, the car utterly different to anything that has come before from Audi and, whilst the car is certainly fast, it is unlikely to win anyone’s vote for “most beautiful race car”. If it first to take the flag next Sunday afternoon though few will care!

5. Dunlop
Dunlop have returned to LMP1 with both Privateer teams opting to use the rubber from the boys and girls in Yellow. They are finding new pace too. Dunlop’s LMP2 rubber has proven to be remarkably long-lasting in recent years – could that provide a further edge as the Privateers look to stay close enough to the hybrids to profit from misfortune elsewhere?

Le Mans 24

6. Swiss drivers in every team
Extraordinarily every single LMP1 team in the race this year has a Swiss driver on their roster – Except Swiss flagged Rebellion Racing who have two! Audi’s Marcel Fassler, Porsche’s Neel Jani, Toyota’s Seb Bulemi and ByKolles driver Simon Trummer are joined by Mathéo Tuscher and Alexandre Imperatori. Two of the factory teams have Brit drivers too with Oliver Jarvis in the #8 Audi, Anthony Davidson in the #5 Toyota and Mike Conway in the sister #6 TS050. Oliver Webbn fly the flag in the Privateer class for the UK in the #4 ByKolles CLM

7. Regulations change for boost and fuel
LMP1’s Hybrid Regulations are all about efficiency and once again in 2016 the powers that be have reeled in the fuel allowance – down 7% on 2015. That means that Audi, for instance, are now using much less than 50% of the fuel they used at the start of the diesel era for cars that are producing faster lap times! In no small part of course that is because of the increased capabilities of the hybrid systems but there too there is a change for 2016 – As the race organisers look to try to put a brake on tumbling lap times a Le mans only restriction on the amount of hybrid boost that can be deployed in one shot has been introduced. The reality though is that the overall energy capacity of the systems has not been reduced so the cars can deploy the lower power output allowed for longer! That saw lap times at the Test Day within tenths of the times seen last year!

8. Leena Gade
Le Mans in 2016 marks the final races in the FIA WEC for one of the most recognisable faces in the paddock. Audi Sport Race Engineer Leena Gade has been with the factory outfit for a decade, and in that time has contributed to multiple major race wins, including no fewer than three Le Mans wins, and a World Championship win. She’s moving on to a management role with the Bentley Motorsport outfit, handling customer programmes with their GT3 cars. She’ll be looking to make it a nice round four wins though for ‘her’ crew, the #7 car. And for the final time the Radio Le mans crew will be able to say – Don’t second guess ‘The Gade!’

Audi at Le Mans

9. No third cars
One of the most noticeable changes this season is the reduction from three cars to two for the Porsche and Audi squads, this a response to the VW Gate emissions scandal with all VAG group companies forced to make cuts in programmes. It adds a frisson of uncertainty, one fewer bullet in the gun means strategy options are reduced – Will they employ one ‘Tortoise’ and one ‘Hare’ once the race settles down? We’ll see!

ByKolles Racing Team
Last but not least is the solo effort from ByKolles Racing, the CLM P1/01 AER does battle with the Rebellion pair in the Privateer sub class. The only ever Austrian flagged LMP team at Le Mans it is, realistically, looking to run for the finish and see what that brings. The team invested in new aero for 2016 and whilst that has worked elsewhere their speed at Le Mans seems somewhat underwhelming at present. Brit Oliver Webb joins the team for 2016 and Pierre Kaffer rejoins the effort for Le Mans, the ex Audi factory pilot back from US racing commitments thus far in 2016.

Bykolles Racing Team

 

To all Travel Destinations customers at Le Mans this week, we hope that you enjoy a great race. We look forward to making your reservations for Le Mans 2017 when you return.

Written by Graham Goodwin
Photography by Dailysportscar

Manor at Le Mans 2016

Countdown to Le Mans: LMP2 Preview

With race week begun & scrutineering over we look at 9 things you should look out for in the LMP2 class

  1. Biggest ever P2 field
    3 cars is the biggest ever field of LMP2 Prototypes with the FIA WEC, ELMS, IMSA and Asian Le Mans Series all represented. Realistically at least half are capable of winning the class battle on sustained pace. All are now reliable enough to expect a finish of Le Mans doesn’t catch them out!

Algarve Pro Racing at Le Mans

2. Nissan vs Honda vs Judd
There are three different engines represented in the field, and it’s likely to be the last time we see at least two of them here with a chance of winning the class. Nissan dominate in the numbers game with 20 of the 23 runners featuring their venerable but hugely effective V8. But it will cease to be a competitive proposition from next year with a ‘spec’ Gibson V8 to be on tap with more than 100 bhp more than the current crop. Similarly the BMW block-based Judd will be outgunned next season, the Rugby-built engine features in just a pair of LMP2s, the So24! Liger and the Race Performance Oreca, neither are expected to be at the sharp end of proceedings, but they’ll sound great in the midfield! The twin turbo Honda V6 meanwhile has only one taker this time out, the very Orange Ligier of Michael Shank Racing – a very accomplished outfit on their Le mans debut, Audi GT star Laurens Vanthoor is the quick man here but he may not be enough to keep them in the mix and prevent a Nissan whitewash

3. Oreca blitz testing
An Oreca 05 Nissan won the class last year and that result certainly helped a sales drive – No fewer than seven of the cars are back this year, two badged as Alpines, but those cars are identical to their Oreca siblings. And the car seems to have retained its performance advantage – For much of the Test Day, held two weeks prior to the race on the same circuit, the Oreca/ Alpine squad filled the top seven slots on the timing screens, late session efforts from Laurens Vanthoor (Ligier Honda) and Jake Dennis (Gibson Nissan) were the only runs to spoil the pattern!

LMP2 at Le Mans 2016

4. Audi Factory drivers in P2
A trio of Audi factory drivers grace the LMP2 field, two are refugees from the cancelled third LMP1 Audi, this a victim of the fallout from the VWGate emissions scandal. Rene Rast is with he G-Drive Oreca effort, he was right in the thick of things at the Test Day and looks set to be front runner in the team’s #26 Oreca Nissan. Felipe Albuquerque is similarly inconvenienced by the lack of a third R18 this year but the Portuguese is already a race winner in LMP2, last year in the ELMS with Jota Sport and this season with a win in the opening WEC race of the season at Silverstone in ‘his’ #43 RGR By Morand Ligier Nissan; and Laurens Vanthoor, the coming man in the Audi camp. Almost peerless in GT3, he races convincingly well here last year in a Ligier Honda and will pilot a similar car this time around.

5. ESM triple crown
Extreme Speed Motorsport have swapped their 2015 Honda Power for Nissan in 2016 and have also moved the team into the Oak Racing Workshops here at Le mans from their previous in-house operation. They come to Le Mans with a unique feat in mind. The team’s solo (and still Honda engined) car triumphed overall earlier this year in both the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring – A Le Mans win would make a nice set, 2016 new addition to the team Pipo Derani was the undoubted star for the team in the US races an he’s joined by another quick Pro, Ryan Dalziel in the #31 car for the full WEC including Le Mans. One major visual difference for the #30 and #31 cars here – Strict French laws concerning alcohol sponsorship once again prevent the team from promoting Tequila Patron – the black and green livery therefore changes for a one-off outing for the cases in white and black Paul Mitchell hair products livery.

6. BR01 From Russia With Love
The Russian flagged SMP Racing squad have their pretty pair of BRO1 Nissans in the race. Designed by prolific sportscar designer Paulo Catone the car should be on the pace. The team will be super keen to bring home a result and have shuffled their squads to boost their chances with ex Peugeot factory man Nic Minassian sharing the #27 car with 2016 IndyCar star Mikhail Aleshin and semi-pro Maurizio Mediani. In the sister #37 F1 refugee Vitaly Petrov returns to Le Mans for the first time in 10 years to anchor the car alongside 2015 GTE Am winner Viktor Shaitar and team regular Krill Ladygin in an all-Russian line-up.

SMP Racing at Le Mans 2016

7. G-Drive Gibson record
Just five open-topped cars remain in the LMP2 class this year, and the #38 G-Drive car is the one most likely to feature at the sharp end of proceedings. This is the very same chassis that has raced for the the team for the past five seasons and has won this race, just two years ago with a stunning fightback drive. They almost repeated the feat last year with second place after a startlingly similar stumble at the very start of the race. Now they’re back for another crack, likely their last with the Gibson chassis. Simon Dolan, team co-owner is an ever present in the team, a massively committed non-Pro driver who truly measures himself against his Professional colleagues. His full season partner this year is another F1 refugee Giedo van der Garde who anchored the team to a race win in the opening ELMS round this season with a very quick stint. Rounding out the trio is young British Driver Jake Dennis, with van der Garde a Le Mans rookie, and also a very quick driver indeed, clocking the fastest non-Oreca time of the Test Day – These guys are still very much in the hunt!

8. Manor
Manor Motorsport’s arrival in the FIA WEC was one of the biggest stories of the beginning of the 2016 WEC season. John Booth and Graeme Lowden looked jaded buy the effort to break through in the notoriously harsh environment of the F1 paddock and look reborn now! They have one regret, that they did not initially enter two cases for the full WEC. By the time they pushed the button on their second (#45) Oreca 05 it was too late too get the car into the Le Mans 24 Hours. The last minute LMP2 driver merry go round though rather strangely sees five of the Manor six on the grid for the 24 Hours. Tor Graves stays aboard his full season #44 car where he is joined by Roberto Mehdi and Matt Rao from the sister #45 – Rao bid higher than regular #44 driver James Jakes for the LM24 seat whilst Mehri stepped in after Will Stevens took the offer of a seat with G-Drive for Le Mans only in the #26 car. The third #45 driver meanwhile, Richard Bradley, will race in the #47 KCMG Oreca!

9. KCMG Return
Back for a one-off race to defend their Le Mans win last year are Chinese team KCMG. They field the very same car, again an Oreca 05 Nissan, that took the win last year here, and two of the same drivers too. Richard Bradley has a near full season drive with Manor in an identical car and his confirmation here keeps him in with a shot of the WEC drivers title, double points are on offer for WEC runners at Le Mans. Matt Howson shared the car in a full WEC campaign with Bradley last season but this is currently set to be his only major race of the season. Tsugio Matsuda is the reigning, and three time, Super GT Champion from Japan. He knows the team, and the circuit, and could be a strong addition to KCMG’s race winning hopes.

KCMG at Le Mans 2016

Written by Graham Goodwin
Photography by Dailysportscar

LMGTE Am Le Mans 2016 Preview

Countdown to Le Mans: GTE Am preview

10 Things To Watch For In GTE Am At Le Mans 2016

The 2016 GTE Am class at Le Mans, consists of a healthy 13 entries, in a class which has created so many story lines for the race in recent years. Four marques are represented in the field, with the six full-season WEC entries being joined by four ELMS cars, an IMSA Ferrari and two Asian-based teams. The SMP Racing Ferrari which won the class last year isn’t present, but the teams and drivers present are unlikely to disappoint fans of the private runners in the GTE ranks.

Here’s 10 key storylines to follow in this year’s race:

1. Johnny O’Connell’s return 
Johnny O’Connell was once a mainstay at Le Mans with Corvette Racing, winning his class four times, three of them with the American factory team, but has been an absentee since 2010. It’s clear that he’s coming back to try and put one last win on his career résumé before he hangs up his helmet. Driving for Team AAI in its second trip to the race with last year’s GTE Pro class-winning C7.R alongside Oliver Bryant and Mark Patterson, a good result could well be on the cards.

Team AAI at Le Mans 2016
2. Welcoming a tyre war
We have a tyre war in both GTE classes, which is a welcome storyline in the race with Aston Martin’s pair of Vantages running Dunlop rubber and the rest on Michelins. For Aston’s headline WEC championship-leading #98 crew, a result could swing the whole year their way given the right conditions, as so far this year they’ve been extremely competitive, winning at Spa and finishing second at Silverstone.

3. Last year of the 458?
The Ferrari 458 Italia has been a fan favourite since its inception, with its screaming V8 engine and its striking looks, but this could well be its final ride at La Sarthe. With the turbo-charged 488 already in use in the Pro class, it’ll be the car of choice for the smaller teams very soon, leaving the 458 relatively redundant and potentially out of competition in ACO series’. Thankfully there’s still five on the entry at this year’s race to help you make the most of its potential swansong year.

Ferrari 458 at Le Mans 2016
4. Neilsen looking to make history
Danish female driving talent Christina Neilsen is looking to make history this weekend, as the only female driver to have won her class at both Sebring and Le Mans. After Jackie Ickx and his daughter Vanina both raced at Le Mans Neilsen is also only the second woman to take part in the race as the daughter of a former Le Mans starter. Her father Lars-Erik Nielsen took part in the race in the early 2000s and if Christina scores even a podium finish she and her father will both have achieved that honour.

5. Collard’s 22nd Le Mans
Manu Collard has become a figurehead in the Le Mans paddock over the years, competing in the race for over two decades driving for in just about every class and for fan favourite teams including Pescarolo Sport. Nowadays the Frenchman shares his driving duties in the WEC with François Perrodo and Rui Aguas in an AF Corse-run Ferrari 458, but has just as much potential to win his class at Le Mans as he did in the prime of his career.

6. Dalla Lana to looking for redemption
After crashing out of the GTE Am class lead in the final hour of last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, Canadian gentlemen driver Paul Dalla Lana is looking to bounce back in 2016 and standon the podium.
Dalla Lana has worked so hard to improve his race-craft ten fold over the past couple of years, and it’s shown with him entering round three of the season in the WEC championship lead. After the heartbreak of 2015, a podium or win for himself and teammates Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda in the #98 Aston Martin would be well deserved.

Aston Martin Racing at Le Mans 2016
7. Red hot rookies
Both Clearwater Racing and Formula Racing are racing at Le Mans this year for the first time, and as reigning champions of their respective series. Clearwater impressed last year winning the GT class in the Asian Le Mans Series with its McLaren 650S GT3, while Formula Racing claimed top honours in the ELMS GTE ranks. It’s going to be interesting to see how they both get on in their first runs at La Sarthe, and strong driver sets for both they could spring a surprise or two by Sunday morning.

8. Gulf Porsche back at Le Mans
After years of multiple cars showing up at Le Mans sporting the iconic Gulf oil colours, 2016 sees just one.  Gulf Racing UK’s Porsche 911 RSR looks splendid, and will be a fan favourite not just for being the first Gulf Porsche for ten years at the race; the last being Ice Pol Racing’s GT3 RSR in 2006, but also because the team has an all British lineup of drivers, with former A1GP champion Adam Carroll being joined by Ben Barker and Mike Wainright. After a tough start to the WEC season the team will also be highly motivated to get its year back on track, with the double points on offer for the runners.

Gulf Racing UK at Le Mans 2016

9. American invasion
2016 is turning out to be quite a landmark year for Americans at Le Mans, with the return of Ford, GTE Am features the only two all-American driver lineups in the race. Both Scudera Corsa’s Ferrari and Proton’s WeatherTech-backed Porsche combine for six of the American drivers in a year which sees 20% of the entry list made up of US-based teams. Leh Keen, Cooper MacNeil and Marc Miller will drive the Porsche, while Jeff Segal, Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler are due to share the 458.

10. Larbre’s third seat
What should have been the car which saw Paolo Ruberti continue the search for a first Le Mans class win has now become a bit of a mystery. With Ruberti out after a hefty testing shunt left him needing surgery, there’s a big pair of shoes to fill from the team’s chosen replacement. The Larbre team, in its second year with the C7, finished the Test Day running with the quickest time from call-up Nick Catsburg, but whether he’ll join Yamagishi and Ragues remains to be seen as Jean-Phillipe Belloc also joined the team for the Test Day as a potential candidate for the third seat. Catsburg has effectively ruled himself out of contention in more than one public statement since Test Day, Belloc meanwhile looks likely to fill the vacancy, he too was quick in the car during the Test.

Larbre Competition at Le Mans 2016

Preview written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography: Dailysportscar