Tag Archives: Le Mans

FIA WEC

The FIA WEC Super Season

Half-time in the FIA WEC ‘Super Season’

With the 6 Hours of Fuji behind us, and Shanghai just around the corner we are just over halfway through the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’, with just one race left this calendar year. This season has been a lot of things so far this year, but boring isn’t one of them. There has been drama aplenty, controversy, some great racing and enough story-lines to warrant the season’s label. As a result, we are left with plenty of hopes and fears heading into the home straight in 2019.

Equivalence of technology blues
The FIA WEC Prologue at Paul Ricard seems like an age ago. Pre-season testing is always tough to read into. Are teams showing their hand? What programmes are they running? Is the new machinery up to scratch yet? The 30-hour test to kick off the season did however, leave us with some clues of what was to come. Whilst the “unofficial” classification saw the top of the LMP1 privateer cabal faster than Toyota (Toyota’s official best times coming supposedly while running unrestricted), any bets on the private teams having a chance at competing for wins on track were quickly quashed at Spa, when the hybrid TS050s utterly dominated the competition. And it’s been like that ever since, leading to the big debate of Equivalence of Technology ruling the headlines ever since.
The questions we are left with, and still looking for answers for are as follows:
1. Should Toyota be penalized because the privateer prototypes aren’t yet quick enough?
2. Could the privateers compete even if all was equal on a performance level?
3. Should Toyota be handed an advantage for the sake of the FIA WEC’s public-facing image?

FIA WEC

Toyota has by far the most sophisticated, tried, tested and fastest car in the LMP1 field. Toyota has the only cars that are hybrid-powered now that Porsche is gone and the most experienced set of drivers, team personnel and resources. So, making it a contest is really hard. This is more than David v Goliath, this is David v Goliath, if Goliath had far more effective weaponry as well as a dominant stature. Surely, on that basis, you can make the argument that Toyota shouldn’t be artificially hobbled because the competition isn’t up to scratch? Well, at this point it’s a tough side of the fence to sit on. That’s because, wait for it… This is a sport, it’s entertainment, and there could be real trouble if the ACO and FIA WEC let Toyota run away with the title.

Now, so far there have been multiple Equivalence of Technology changes, in an attempt to give the field more balance, but it hasn’t been nearly enough for us to see real on-track action between the hybrid and non-hybrid machinery. That wasn’t helped by the fact that going into the season the privateers were forced to spend longer in the pits, and pit more often than the hybrids, artificially!
Le Mans was no contest, not even a tiny bit, not even for a lap. And since Silverstone, with most of the manufactured disadvantages taken away, the privateers are still not able to show off the true potential of their cars, as the fuel allowances per lap and stint are such that lifting and coasting down the straights (their only real area of advantage) is still necessary. That, coupled with the fact that the TS050s have an innate advantage through traffic thanks to the hybrid punch out of corners, means that Toyota doesn’t even have to push to its limits to win each race in formation, by multiple laps.

But, and it’s a big but, there is still time. There are rumblings in the paddock, and a real appetite for change. Rebellion Racing, SMP Racing, ByKolles and DragonSpeed have all turned up as promised, shown real loyalty, and effectively saved the class from fading away. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the second half to this season have a completely different feel.

Star Power
It’s not all doom and gloom. Not at all. While there is no known cavalry coming in LMP1 for the remainder of the FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ or indeed the 2019/20 season, there is cause for optimism, and part of it, is already within the championship. There is time for further change, and therefore some astonishing racing between the selection of drivers in LMP1, which arguably, has never been better. Should the ACO crack the EoT code, and get the privateers fighting for wins by Sebring, then we will have a real treat on our hands in 2019, with some of the world’s best drivers going toe-to-toe in a similar fashion to the golden years of the ALMS when Audi battled Penske, or when Pescarolo battled Audi at Le Mans.

FIA WEC

It is easy to forget that in LMP1 alone, we have two Formula One World Champions in Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, competing against one another (though not on the track thus far!) in the same field as a WTCC champion in Jose Maria Lopez, a Formula E champion in Sebastien Buemi as well as multiple FIA WEC and Le Mans winners like Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and now Kazuki Nakajima. If changes are made then the fabulous set of cars we have, can produce racing worth of the price of admission, and keep that level of drivers wanting to keep coming back for more. Because there is real potential here, it almost feels like the class is a sleeping giant. The cars are impressive, the driver crews are, we just need either the privateers to be allowed to breathe, or the Toyotas to be pegged back so we can have a title race that lasts until next Le Mans.

Real hope for the future
As for the future beyond 2019/20; well there’s green shoots, as the ACO and FIA prepare for the most important period in the World Endurance Championship’s short history – the months between the 2020 top class regulations being ratified in December, and the start of the 2020/2021 season. During that time, the future and fate of the championship may well be sealed. Will the factories come and adopt the new formula (hybrid-powered prototypes featuring heavy styling cues), or will the rule makers need a serious re-think once again about the shape and structure of the championship, which let’s not forget, still features a strong GTE Pro class with five manufacturers?

Let’s start with the 2020 yet-to-be-named ‘hypercar’ regulations, before diving into the zero-emissions target even further down the line. There is a big group of manufacturers known to be in the room, shaping the technical regulations and considering joining the new formula in 2020. This means that there’s plenty of scope to have a healthy grid. Of course, there’s no assurance that any of them will come, though Toyota seems certain, and Aston Martin has publicly stated that it is “very interested” in the potential. That’s without digging deeper into the other potential factories that have requested presentations and pitches at board level from the ACO and FIA. A defining factor of this whole formula will be cost, and the ACO and FIA seem confident that not only will the new formula prove cost effective for both factories and privateers, but also remain a proposition for aspirant factories or teams looking to join in after Year 1, due to the performance levels being contained and the fact that all hybrid systems have to be offered as off-the-shelf, cost-capped, systems to any competitor on the grid. The cars should look stunning, and set times not too far off the current LMP1s. And if a handful of teams commit, this could turn into a hugely successful formula. What is more, is that it won’t be long until the potential field for the 2020/21 season starts to take shape. “This is the first time ever that private teams will be able to purchase all of the elements of a hybrid prototype programme, off the shelf, and then be ultimately competitive,” Toyota’s technical director Pascal Vasselon said back at Fuji. “They will genuinely have that opportunity, with no performance gap between their cars to the factory teams. We have always pushed for the technology to be of the highest level but we have to accept that for the moment the first priority is to bring more competitors to the Championship. “And, we have said repeatedly that we are here for the long-term.”

As for the zero-emissions target, the foundations have been laid. We have seen the Project H24 Adess-based prototype turn laps at Spa-Francorchamps back in August, and a pit stop demo too. The technology for hydrogen power is coming, and it’s coming fast. That too, could breathe further life into the ACO’s top class come 2024, when there is the aim for teams running both zero emissions and hydrogen prototypes against one another. That will be sight to see!

GTE hotting up
It is safe to say that the start to the season saw a real imbalance in GTE Pro, with Porsche, Ford and Ferrari racing with a clear performance advantage over BMW and Aston Martin’s new machinery.
Now, with GTE racing, there’s always the question mark surrounding team tactics, and the impact of Balance of Performance, but Are the BMW M8s and Vantage AMRs good enough to win races and titles? The answer is yes, and we are starting to see just how competitive they can be, after strong showings from Aston Martin in certain conditions at Silverstone and Fuji, and BMW’s podium run in the last race.

FIA WEC

With Aston Martin and BMW up to speed, and the other three marques still just as competitive, we could be in for a barn-storming second half to the season. This is especially mouth-watering when you consider how much of it is left: we have Shanghai next week, then next year, Spa, and two rounds which award more than the standard haul of points at Le Mans at Sebring. “We’re just hitting our stride,” BMW driver Tom Blomqvist said after Fuji. “It has taken a while for the MTEK crew, which is new to the FIA WEC and endurance racing to get up to speed, but now we feel comfortable and know the car. Aston Martin look good now too, so the rest of the season should be really fun.”

The moments that mattered in the opening rounds
• Toyota Gazoo Racing’s No. 7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID was forced to start at the back of the field in the opening race of the season at Spa; penalized after setting pole in Qualifying for an incorrect declaration of its fuel flow meter. This was key for two reasons: One, it meant that the stars aligned and FIA WEC debutant Fernando Alonso was promoted to pole for his first race, which he would go on to win. And two, it showed just how much of an advantage Toyota had over the privateers. Despite the No. 7 starting from the pit lane, a lap behind the field in the race, it finished second, on the lead lap and two laps ahead of the privateer pack!

• G-Drive Racing’s antics at Le Mans have been a big talking point since June. The Russian-flagged team was found to have gained an unfair advantage in the pits during the 24 Hours by tampering with the fuel rig. This cost the team its Le Mans LMP2 class win the day after the race, and sparked an appeal and hearing process that would drag on until October. Alpine inherited the win as the result, but had to wait until the weekend at Fuji to celebrate. And they weren’t even awarded the original trophy, that’s supposedly still in Russia!

• Say what you will about Fernando Alonso, but he’s stayed classy, kept a smile glued to his face, and adapted quickly to life at Toyota since the start of the year. The two-time F1 champ came of age at Le Mans, embarking on a night stint in the No.8 during the Le Mans 24 Hours which ultimately turned the tide of the race and laid the foundations for the No.8 crew to win the race, scoring the Japanese marque a huge, momentous and historic result. It was certainly one of the more impressive drives we’ve seen at Le Mans in recent years. Also of note is that the Spaniard’s triple crown run is alive and healthy.

• The retro-liveried factory Porsches at Le Mans went down an absolute storm. As part of the 70th anniversary of the brand, the team put their corporate image and decision making to the side and went all out to impress the fans. That in turn translated into a lot of publicity and big win for the 911 RSR, which is easily one of the most impressive GT cars in the modern era. It looks the part, sounds incredible too, and in ‘Pink Pig’ colours, it looked fabulous, taking a controlling win after a metronomic run, which put Porsche in the driving seat of the GTE Manufacturers World Championship race, and scored the marque another famous win at the Grand Prix D’Endurance. Bravo!

FIA WEC

• Rebellion winning at Silverstone was a real landmark victory. Rebellion Racing’s No.3 R-13 officially scored the team its first overall FIA WEC victory and the first ever for a privateer in the championship, and the first non-hybrid win since 2012. It wasn’t in ideal circumstances (the team benefiting from Toyota losing its 1-2 finish for a skid plant infringement), but crucially it’s kept the title race tighter than you might imagine as the season wears on.

Voices in the paddock
“Obviously it wasn’t the ideal way to do it, but ultimately, winning a race is winning a race, no matter how it comes and we will grab this result with both hands,” Rebellion Racing’s Gustavo Menezes said after winning at Silverstone. “All the boys at Rebellion have worked so hard to get the whole LMP1 project off the ground and to develop the car to the stage where it is now, and they really deserve this 1-2 finish. I’m immensely proud of everybody involved in the programme.”

FIA WEC

“It’s a cool team,” Matt Griffin said when asked to reflect on his time spent driving with Clearwater Racing. “It’s a little bit like Reservoir Cats! Clearwater is a team where the people involved are very proud of what they can do. We have fun, we have crazy parties after the races. Weng loves his wine, and stuff like that. And that’s the thing, I’ve been with them since 2011. The only thing I would say though is that the Matt Griffin you might see at ELMS races, or in Blancpain, is different to the Matt Griffin with Clearwater. There’s a different vibe there, and it’s a team that relies more on sponsors and partners.”

“We’re not ruling anything out,” revealed Corvette Racing’s Doug Fehan when asked about his opinion on the 2020 regulations. “An overall win at Le Mans is a unique achievement, and when you look at the intent of the past efforts to create something unique, it became too expensive This move, to the credit of the sanctioning bodies, is to find something that’s more affordable and technologically representative of where you want to go, with proper brand identification, so it would stand a better chance of attracting manufacturers. But I’m sure that there will be manufacturers who continue to run both (GTE and LMP1). Porsche is a prime example, with a big customer race programme, and they’ve shown in the past that they can do both.”

“The atmosphere in the team is amazing. Everyone is really friendly,” Fernando Alonso said when asked about racing with Toyota. “We have a Whatsapp group and we are always chatting. We were taking pictures of each other today. The atmosphere is so friendly and so nice – this is one of the best things.”

“I have had a great career to this point, not only in F1 but also in the junior categories,” DragonSpeed’s Pastor Maldonado stressed when asked about his public persona. “I have won in every category I have raced in and I hope to carry that record forward into this new challenge. For me it is about the racing, about the driving I don’t care what people say, it’s part of the game. I just go out there, do my best and hope to win.”

“What a character, and what a legacy, a real innovator and a visionary,” Richard Dean said, when asked to pay tribute to the late, great, Dr Don Panoz. “He was a man who truly invested in the sport, in his series, his circuits and his cars. The American Le Mans Series showed the way, it is still my favourite race series. There are so many that owe their careers in this sport to the opportunities that Don’s investments and projects provided. At Le Mans (in 2006, with a Team LNT Esparante), it seemed coming into the race that everything was against us, engine issues at the test, we were allocated Garage 13, but his enthusiasm never wavered, he tried for 10 years to get the win and was just ecstatic when we did it. And he was given the Spirit of Le Mans award by the ACO that same weekend! I grabbed a Panoz flag from someone on my way to the podium, I see that picture every day in my gym. Without Don that wouldn’t have been possible, a simply huge part of my career.”

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Le Mans 2019

Le Mans 2019: Reserve your place now!

Le Mans 2019: On sale now

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

Le Mans 2019

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

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

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

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

Le Mans 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Le Mans Classic

Le Mans Classic 2018: Review

Dailysportscar visits the Le Mans Classic

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

Le Mans Classic

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

Le Mans Classic

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

Le Mans Classic

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

Le Mans Classic

As for the Le Mans Classic event itself – Wow!

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

Le Mans Classic

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

Le Mans Classic

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

Le Mans Classic

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

Le Mans Classic

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

Le Mans Classic

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

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

Le Mans 2018

Le Mans 2018: A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G Drive Racing

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

Le Mans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar 

Photography workshops at Le Mans 2019

Photography workshops at Le Mans 2019

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

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

Le Mans photos
Jessops Academy trainers at Le Mans

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

Le Mans photos
Capturing silhouettes at Le Mans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Le Mans photos
Expert advice trackside during Le Mans

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

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

Le Mans photos
Night time photography at Le Mans
Le Mans

Le Mans 2018: Prototypes Preview

Le Mans 24 Hours 2018: LMP preview

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

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

Le Mans

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

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

Le Mans

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

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

Le Mans

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

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

Le Mans

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

Le Mans

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

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

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Le Mans

Le Mans 2018: GTE Preview

Le Mans 2018 GTE Preview

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

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

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

Ford at Le Mans

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

Le Mans

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

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

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

Le Mans

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

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

Le Mans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

FIA WEC

Confusion & Controversy at FIA WEC Prologue

More questions than answers after the FIA WEC prologue

With the 30 hours of FIA WEC testing at the Paul Ricard circuit now in the books, it is clear that the 2018/19 “Super Season” will be an intriguing one across every class. 35 cars were present, and all of them got a good number of laps in, with no teams suffering any major dramas. We saw many new teams enjoy the experience of competing in the world endurance championship; new cars put to the test, and notable new faces turn heads in their respective machinery.

FIA WEC
In the LMP1 class, there is reason to believe that it may not be quite the Toyota whitewash that many are expecting. In fact some of the running indicated plenty of reasons for optimism that it may turn into a fierce contest. The final time sheets after the two days of running had concluded, showed that the Toyotas were far ahead of its privateer competitors on pure lap time. But that wasn’t the full story. On Saturday morning, long after its fastest times were set, Toyota revealed that it had been able to achieve such quick times, because it was running its TS050 HYBRIDs un-restricted and so outside of the current LMP1 regulations. This Toyota said was to stress test a new cooling system.

What conclusions can we draw from this?
One; the gap between Toyota and the rest of the LMP1 field come the first race at Spa-Francorchamps may not be as big as the time sheets indicated here.
Two;  it appears that real politics are already at play. Toyota were accused by some of trying to see just how fast the privateers could lap by secretly pushing its own cars beyond the enforced limits. If that wasn’t their game, then there is a legitimate question as to why they didn’t make it clear it was running un-restricted before the test began?
Three; Toyota are not beyond causing a little controversy to obtain their goals this season. Namely winning the FIA WEC championship and most importantly winning at Le Mans.

FIA WEC
Despite Toyota’s debatable actions, all five privateer teams left either encouraged, or extremely positive. SMP Racing turned in a lot of laps with its BR1 AERs, Rebellion Racing showed its (brand new, and untested) R-13 had both pace and real potential in the reliability department, ByKolles’ enjoyed a near faultless run with its new revised Nissan engine, DragonSpeed’s new BR1 Gibson was in the mix on pace and the CEFC TRSM team were pleased with the output of its very new team of drivers, three of the five, lacking any prior LMP1 experience. So all boxes ticked.

FIA WEC
Whether at Spa and Le Mans, the LMP1 privateers will prove to be as reliable and quick enough to challenge Toyota, and or whether or not Toyota has a lot in reserve, remains to be seen. But at this stage, fans of the FIA WEC should be excited, because all of the new LMP1s are clearly quicker than the LMP2s, and at the very least were able to produce very similar lap times. The fact that there are so many unknowns can only be a good thing. Even if Toyota do run away with it at times, there is sure to be a titanic battle for the third podium spot.

In LMP2, and GTE Pro too, it appears we have a real war on our hands. The secondary prototype division produced a major surprise, DragonSpeed’s ORECA 07 Gibson pacing the field with Michelin tyres; notable, considering last year the whole class ran with Dunlop. There is a tyre war breaking out, which will only add to the spectacle throughout the FIA WEC season.

FIA WEC
GTE Pro meanwhile, saw Porsche and Ford lap fast, with Ferrari, BMW and Aston Martin leaving a little concerned. With almost a two-second gap between the top two and the bottom three, many in the paddock were left wondering whether the Balance of Performance, which Le Mans aside is fixed until after Silverstone, is way off, or whether there are some games being played. It must be noted though, that the three models off the pace are still being developed at this stage. AF Corse’s 2018 evo-spec Ferrari 488s had a tough time, the No.71 catching fire and missing a day’s worth of running, and the No.51 struggled with tyre degradation (an issue nobody else suffered). Aston Martin and BMW’s cars meanwhile, are brand new, so their true pace is likely yet to be unlocked.

FIA WEC
We have seen all of this before. In a Balance of Performance formula like GTE, there is little point in showing what you’ve got until the last possible minute. The big takeaway here is therefore that Aston Martin’s new Vantage, and BMW’s new M8 GTE both seem up to the task. They proved near-bullet proof, and managed hundreds and hundreds of laps, which bodes well for the rest of the FIA WEC super season, that includes two Le Mans 24 hours races.

FIA WEC

Over all this was a good FIA WEC prologue weekend; tinged with a little controversy, confusion over the real pace of much the field, but ultimately pointing the way to the excitement yet to come.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

If you haven’t yet booked your tickets for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, from the 16th – 17th June 2018, then there is still time. Call the Travel Destinations team on 0844 873 0203 to book your place track-side now. 

FIA WEC

Le Mans 2018; An LMP1 Update

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

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

Le Mans 2018

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

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

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

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

Le Mans 2018

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

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

Le Mans 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

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

Travel Destinations at Le Mans 2018

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

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

Travel Destinations at Le Mans

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

Le Mans 2018

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

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

Le Mans 2018

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

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

Le Mans Classic 2018

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

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

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