Tag Archives: 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

Porsche at Le Mans 2016

Countdown to Le Mans: GTE Pro Preview

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

The 2016 GTE Pro class at Le Mans, consists of a 14 high-quality entries, with a wealth of manufacturer efforts including the return of Ford on the 50th anniversary of its maiden win. Five marques are represented in the field, with the seven full-season WEC entries being joined by two Ford entries from IMSA, two factory Porsches, an IMSA Ferrari from Risi Competitizione the two factory Corvettes.

Make no mistakes about it, this is going to be a dogfight, one we may well remember for a very long time to come. Here’s 10 key storylines to follow in this year’s Pro battle:

1. Ford’s return
It’s becoming ever more clear that Ford is desperate to win this race. The team – run by Chip Ganassi – already stated its intentions last year when it announced it would bring four cars to France, but since then the reception and sheer amount of of exposure of the car from the ‘Blue Oval’ has put this programme on another level. The car has won a race heading into June, after a magnificent fuel-saving run provided a surprise victory from one of its IMSA cars at Laguna Seca, which was a big moment for the programme. Prior to the big race the car has been handed a weight reduction too, which should up its pace on race week. By how much? Few people know, but it could put the Fords into contention after very quiet outings at Silverstone and Spa in the WEC.

Ford GT at Le Mans 2016
2. Balance of performance blues
It’s dull, but sometimes it has to be spoken about. The BoP changes appear to have aided Aston Martin and Ford and kept Ferrari, Corvette and Porsche at bay. The issue isn’t whether or not BoP should be enforced, it’s how it will play out. After receiving a significant weight reduction, the gap from Ferrari and Corvette to Ford was much the same at the Le Mans Test Day, which means Ford were either playing games or are extremely disappointed. It could be a very interesting final qualifying on Thursday night, as the pace of the GTE cars could be off the charts.

3. The champs return!
2015 Le Mans winners Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy, while unable to defend their title, will be in the race with Porsche, and likely eager to make an impression. Both drivers had a rough outing at the Nürburgring 24 Hours last month, with their co-driver Kevin Estre crashing in Top 30 Qualifying and Tandy also having a shunt in the race’s opening laps. The expectation of the 2016 Porsche 911 RSR is unclear because Porsche as a factory has opted to only compete at Le Mans in GTE in order to focus on LMP1 and the development of the 2017 GT challenger. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t count them out, especially with so much brand new machinery and technology in the class.

Porsche at Le Mans 2016
4. Magnussen tooking to bounce back
After his hefty shunt at the Porsche Curves during Qualifying last year, forcing the #63 Corvette to withdraw from the event before the race, Dane Jan Magnussen will be looking to move on and score a good result. A real fan favourite over the years, 2016 is Magnussen’s 18th start. Along with Spaniard Antonio Garcia and Ricky Taylor, he has a real chance to get a fifth class win too. Corvette should never be counted out, and the trio all have enough experience at the circuit and in the car to be right up there.

5. The 488’s grand debut
The Ferrari 488 GTE is the first turbo-charged Ferrari to race at Le Mans since the F40, and it has the potential to do damage in the first year of its development cycle. It’s no secret that the 458 and 430 before it evolved into race-winning machines very quickly, and the 488 GTE looks to be no different. Reliability issues aside the #71 from AF Corse has dominated in the WEC this year, controlling the race at Silverstone and inheriing the win at Spa after the #51 had mechanical issues with 10 mintues remaining. The real worry is reliability here, as the #51 has had issues all year, but the pace of it isn’t. If Davide Rigon, Sam Bird and Allessandro Pier Guidi have a faultless run to the finish, then look out! And if they win, they’ll take a very controlling lead in the WEC points standings too.

Ferrari at Le Mans 2016
6. Brits galore!
For all Brits travelling to the race looking to support the locals, look no further than the GTE class, which is packed with drivers sporting union flags on their overalls. All of them are factory drivers too.
Marino Franchitti, Richard Westbrook, Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx are driving a Ford GT, Darren Turner and Jonny Adam are in Astons, James Calado and Sam Bird are piloting Ferraris, and Nick Tandy and Oliver Gavin will be in a Porsche and Corvette respectively.

7. Risi’s return
For the first time since 2010, a red Risi Competizione Ferrari will be competing at the French classic. The American squad is looking for its fourth class win at the race, after most recently winning the with the 430 at the turn of the decade. With ex-F1 star Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari GTE stalwart Toni Vilander and Matteo Mallucelli aboard the car should be quick too. It’s good to see them back!

8. Aero makeover
Anyone standing trackside at the race who hasn’t studied the new crop of GTE machinery could well be in with a shock. The aggressiveness of the cars has been ramped up to 11, with the Ford GT and Aston Vantages in particular looking like birth childs of DTM and LMP1 cars. One glance at the rear of the new Aston will tell you one thing: downforce is key now. Nobody knows just where this class will end up in the future, but right now, if you look over at one and squint your eyes, it’s like we’re back in the GT1 days again.

Aston Martin Racing at Le Mans 2016
9. Factory stars in factory cars
As was eluded to in the British driver paragraphs, the amount of factory drivers in the race is staggering. Every car in the 14-car field is packed with top class factory talent, with only Phillip Eng and the aforementioned Pier Guidi and Malucelli being exceptions; though even they are factory nominees. The quality of teams and drivers has literally never been higher at the top end of GT racing at Le Mans, so soak it in, sit back and enjoy. This is a golden era.

10. Tyre war
It’s been a while since GTE Pro at Le Mans has seen a tyre war, but it looks like competition between rubber manufacturers is back, and here to stay. Aston Martin has signed a technical partnership with Dunlop, and 2016 is the first year. While the tyres being used this year are pretty much an unknown quantity, both Aston and Dunlop will be looking to make the most out of running in mixed conditions – if there is any. Michelin vs Dunlop could be interesting in 2016, especially if the weather becomes a real factor. And it most definitely will in the coming years after further development of bespoke compounds for Prodrive’s machines.

Corvette at Le Mans 2016

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photos 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

Le Mans 24 Hours

24 things to enjoy at Le Mans 2016

24 things to enjoy at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2016

(In no particular order)

1. See 60 cars racing on the famous Le Mans circuit. For the first time since the 1950s there will be 60 cars at the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Thanks to the four new pits built in record time 9 LMP1s, 23 LMP2s, 14 LMGTE Pros, 13 LMGTE Ams and the car in the no. 56 garage will be on the grid on the 18th June.
2. Catch a glimpse of Brad Pitt, the honorary starter of the 84th event, as he waves the French flag to unleash the 60 cars.
3. See if Porsche can repeat its 2015 victory. The German manufacturer made its comeback to the LMP1 category in 2014, and took only a year to enjoy a perfect season with a win at Le Mans, and the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in the FIA WEC.
4. Share your pleasure between endurance and football. You don’t have to choose between the 2016 Euro Football Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours as all the matches will be shown live in the Le Mans 24 Hours village.
5. See the no-holds-barred battle in LMP1 between Porsche, Audi and Toyota who will each enter two cars. After the first two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship picking the winner of the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours is like looking very difficult; especially as you will have to beware of the experienced private teams of Rebellion Racing and Bykolles Racing.
6. See Ford’s return. It is 60 years since Ford’s first victory at Le Mans and the American manufacturer is making its big comeback in the LM GTE Pro category with four cars.
7. See if the Hong Kong team (KCMG) will defend its LMP2 title against a horde of highly-motivated challengers (with Nissan engines) determined to oust them from the top spot and claim the trophy.
8. Enjoy an exceptional view of the track from the new revamp of the Indianapolis/Arnage spectator zone. The cars arrive at full speed and have to round a slightly banked corner. Don’t miss this spectacle – especially during the night.
9. See a home win. While French constructors have virtually no chance of emerging victorious in the overall classification, Alpine, Ligier and Oreca are strong contenders for first place in the LMP2 category in which they represent 18 out of the 23 entries.
10. Enjoy a full week of entertainment. Starting in the Le Mans town centre, numerous forms of entertainment will be on offer for the spectators between 12th & 19th June: scrutineering, Drivers’ Parade, pit and track walks, concerts and autograph sessions.
11. Enjoy the intense and always competitive battle between the five manufacturers in LMGTE Pro: Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette, Aston Martin and Ford.
12.  Experience the sounds of the three concert evenings on Wednesday 15th, Thursday 16th and Saturday 18th June. Included on the bill are: Shake Shake Go, Julian Perretta, The Shoes and The Avener.
13. Cheer on the British drivers at the start. British drivers lead the way in terms of numbers with 38 drivers at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours Next nearest are French drivers with 32 on the grid.
14. Ladies can come and discover the Women’s Pavilion Year that returns this year. In 2015 it was a great success, and this year the venue entirely devoted to women will reopen its doors with several innovations on its programme.
15. Follow the performance of the gentlemen drivers entered for the Le Mans 24 Hours in the LM GTE Am category. This is usually hotly-contested fight that often goes down to the wire.
16. Dive right into the core of the latest virtual reality technologies thanks to the Virtual Room, which will offer a young, connected public a more than real plunge into the thick of the race.
17. Follow the race from the ACO Club zones reserved for the ACO members, which you can join on the day if you wish.
18. See the new LMP3s and GT3s racing on the full Le Mans circuit for the first time. The Road to Le Mans race, a curtain-raiser to the Le Mans 24 Hours, will give these two categories the ideal theatre in which to go head-to-head in a new 1-hour event. There is also the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli to enjoy before the main event begins.
19. Run into the 2016 Miss 24 Heures. 105 candidates from all over France entered but there is only one who can wear the crown. The winner will be chosen on 4th June.
20. Discover the talented endurance drivers from Asia. Beside Toyota in LMP1, several teams and drivers come from Asia like Eurasia Motorsport (Philippines), Baxi DC Racing Alpine (China), KCMG (Hong Kong), Team AAI (Taiwan) and Clearwater Racing (Singapore).
21. Stroll through the Le Mans 24 Hours village and discover the many boutiques, exhibitions, restaurants with varied menus, stands, and activities throughout the race week.
22. Support the two women drivers. The two female drivers will be making their Le Mans 24 Hours debut. 26-year-old Inès Tattinger from France is entered in the Pegasus Racing Morgan in LMP2, and Christina Nielsen from Denmark is in the LMGTE Am class in a Ferrari run by Formula Racing.
23. Visit the ACO Historic exhibition which, this year, will be devoted to Americans at Le Mans, and get close to no fewer than 15 beautiful American cars that have marked the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
24. Enjoy a unique experience at the 84th running of the most mythical endurance race in the world and then begin your planning for the 85th Le Mans 24 Hours with Travel Destinations.

Audi R18

Countdown to Le Mans; Part 2

Five Talking Points post FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

The second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship took place last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. With the next round being the Le Mans 24 Hours, Stephen Kilbey continues our Le Mans 2016 previews by taking a look at 5 important things that we learned from Spa.

LMP1 reliability
What a race. Seldom do you see a race of attrition like the one at Spa last weekend in the modern era of sportscar racing. The only LMP1 factory car that had a clean run was the winning No.8 Audi – which ironically suffered a terminal mechanical failure at Silverstone. The tales of woe up front have shaken up the championship and left Audi, Porsche and Toyota with a selection of huge question marks concerning reliability ahead of Le Mans next month. Were Toyota’s engine issues a fluke? Can Porsche prevent further gearbox issues? And can Audi’s new R18 handle a 24-hour battering? Honestly, nobody knows at this point.

Porsche 919 Hybrid at Spa
What does it mean? Well, the third cars – absent at this year’s race for Audi and Porsche as part of the VW emission scandal backlash – may be missed more than ever. Importantly, Rebellion Racing could quite feasibly sneak a podium or even a win if the race turns into a real meltdown for the front runners. With Porsche pushing the envelope on a proven car, and Audi and Toyota still developing brand new ones, brace yourselves for a drama-filled Le Mans.

Toyota is back!
After a really difficult 2015, finishing behind Audi and Porsche at every race, it was extremely encouraging to see them back up the front and challenging for a win in the Ardennes. Being closer on pace, and able to double stint their tyres on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit put the No.5 TS050 in the lead for three hours before its engine expired. The incredible story from that though, was that the team got the car back out again for one final lap at the very end running on just hybrid power. It meant the No.5 crew finished classified, proved to themselves that it was possible to run the car without a working engine and score points; a real feat of engineering.

Toyota at Spa 2016
Toyota are by no means the favourites for Le Mans, (but who is now?) but the Japanese marque once again can consider itself a real contender again, which will hopefully translate into a three-way battle at Le Mans between the three hybrid-powered factory teams.

AF Corse set to dominate Pro?
The Ferrari 488 may be the newest of the new GTE cars, but it’s already filling in the WEC’s win-column, with the No.71 of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird standing atop the podium in both races so far in 2016. The sister car has had terrible luck though it must be noted, with engine failures costing it two wins and at Spa, a finish too.

AF Corse Ferrari at Spa
That aside though, the car is clearly fast enough to win at Le Mans right away, as at Spa it was untouchable over a lap. Its long-distance reliability and a BoP hit by the ACO before the race are the only things that stand in AF Corse’s way of sweeping the first leg of the season.

The new GTE safety regulations are working
Both Stefan Mücke and Nicki Thiim’s incidents at Spa really showcased the new GTE safety rules in a very positive light. We’ve seen some sizable accidents in recent years at Le Mans, including Jan Magnussen’s event-ending crash at the Porsche Curves last time out, so to see both Thiim and Mücke’s escape without serious injury should be applauded. There have been enhancements made to the driver extraction system, (which can now be done through the roof) the cockpit includes a more regulated driving position and seat, and the drivers are surrounded by NASCAR-style netting and further protection around the helmet and shoulder area too. Fingers crossed then for the Le Mans 24hrs next month.

Aston Martin at Spa
Manor has learnt the art of endurance racing very quickly
Manor’s WEC squad looked (as to be expected) like rookies at Silverstone, with multiple niggles and mistakes costing them a good result. At Spa though, they looked like any of the other experienced teams, and were on course for a win in the extremely competitive LMP2 field at one stage.

Manor WEC at Spa
It has been fascinating seeing the ex-F1 crew make the switch, not only because they clearly all seem happier where they are now, but because they’re realizing publicly, just how tough it is to win a sportscar race. Nevertheless, Le Mans may not be as much of a mountain to climb for them as many had predicted before the start of the season.

Want to be at Le Mans 2016? Tickets and travel options are still available but selling out fast. Call the Travel Destinations team now on 0844 873 0203 to book your place now!

Written by Stephen Kilbey exclusively for Travel Destinations
Photography by Dailysportscar

FIA WEC 2016

Introducing the FIA WEC 2016

The official prologue for the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship took place over Easter weekend. This was the first chance for the public to see the new teams and cars in the flesh. Although little can be concluded from lap times at this stage, Stephen Kilbey from Dailysportscar, was trackside at Paul Ricard to give Travel Destinations a briefing on what to expect in the FIA WEC and at Le Mans 2016.

LMP1
Porsche, Audi and Toyota are all back for another season which is posed to be just as enthralling as last year. Each team will be entering 2 cars each in 2016, so there is a level playing field at the front of the grid.

Porsche 919 Hybrid

Porsche has opted to tweak its 919 Hybrid for the new season and take lots of small steps in an attempt to improve on performance, and nullify the ACO’s new restrictions on fuel-flow imposed to slow all the LMP1 cars down.

Audi R18 e-tron quattro

Audi and Toyota meanwhile enter 2016 with entirely new packages. Both the new Audi R18 and the Toyota TS050 are very different to what the teams ran last year, and that’s very apparent not just aesthetically, with new liveries and noticeable aero developments, but also under the covers too. The gamble here is whether the new technology will be as reliable as the tweaked tried and tested formula adopted by Porsche. Porsche topped the time sheets at Paul Ricard, but both Audi and Toyota showed quick sector times, without needing to put them all together. Ultimately the first race at Silverstone will really show us what each car is capable of.

Toyota TS050

In the privateer subdivision, one of the two teams present – Rebellion Racing – makes a return with two R-Ones, in a very similar package to last season, but a very shiny new livery which up-close is extremely detailed and in some ways mesmerising. The ACO have promised to review this class to try and enable them to be more competitive moving forward. Perhaps Rebellion’s efforts and consistency over the last few years deserves more.

Rebellion Racing

LMP2
There are plenty of new faces in the LMP2 class this year. This is probably the most difficult grid to predict with many similarly powered cars lining up alongside each other. G-Drive Racing, after winning the LMP2 Championship last season, have partnered up with Jota Sport to run a brand new Oreca 05, sporting the team’s standard eye-catching livery.

Manor

Aside from that, both Signatech Alpine and ex-F1 outfit Manor have also purchased Orecas for the new season. Alpine’s blue and orange looks just as good on a prototype with a roof, and Manor’s fresh look – conceived by team principal Graeme Lowdon – will certainly stand out in what promises to be a very competitive field.

RGR Morand

RGR Morand’s very patriotic livery representing the re-branded team’s Mexican ties on the new Ligier is also one to look out for.
GTE Pro
Much like LMP1 class the GTE Pro grid is oozing manufacturer interest, and the addition of Ford is a testament to the class’ relevancy in global GT racing.

Ford GT

On the subject of Ford, Chip Ganassi Team UK’s pair of GTs look astonishing up close, and with some more development should be in the running for some results throughout the season having already run at Daytona and Sebring in the States this year.

Ferrari 488

Outside of the Ford’s new car on the grid, the well-established AF Corse squad are back with two brand new Ferrari 488 GTEs which promise to be in contention for the title right away. When has a Ferrari not been in the mix over the last few years?

Aston Martin Racing

Aston Martin Racing and Dempsey Proton Racing – Porsche’s only Pro representative this year – meanwhile have revised cars for the season. Aston martin’s Vantages are substantially more meaty in the rear diffuser department, and livery wise, after sporting Gulf colours since 2008, Aston Martin return to the team’s roots by running in a very smart (and British) green.

GTE Am
Although the Aston Martin’s will no longer be carrying the Gulf Oil branding, the famous colours won’t be missing from the grid, as European Le Mans Series graduates Gulf Racing UK are participating in the full FIA WEC season this year with their Porsche. It is certainly a striking car and sure to be a fan favourite.

Gulf Racing UK

Top to bottom, GTE Am’s foundations remain unchanged, although 2015 LMP2 runner-up KCMG are also set to run a Porsche in the 2016 FIA WEC championship.

As the clock ticks down to the start of the season at Silverstone from the 15th – 17th April, the work behind the scenes will be ramped up. The official prologue has certainly whetted the appetite for what is going to be another great endurance racing season.

 

The Le Mans 24 Hours remains the pinnacle in the endurance racing calendar and the jewel in the crown of the FIA World Endurance Championship. For those wishing to watch the racing live, travel, ticket and camping packages are still available from Official Agent Travel Destinations. Availability restrictions for certain areas apply, but it is still possible to reserve your place Le Mans 2016.

Travel Destinations also have exclusive offers to attend the FIA World Endurance Championship  rounds at both Spa-Francorchamps and the Nurburgring. Visit our dedicated site for more information and the best prices or call Travel Destinations direct now on 0844 873 0203.