Tag Archives: Le Mans

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.

 

Le Mand tickets

Le Mans Tickets

You can book your Le Mans tickets now through Travel Destinations. The confirmed dates for the Le Mans 24 Hours are the 18th & 19th June 2016. Prices will be published later this year but the 2015 prices will remain on this website to use as a guide. The Le Mans Classic dates are confirmed as the 8th – 10th July 2016. Prices for this event are already available on this website.

For many the search for the right Le Mans tickets can be confusing. A quick search of the web can provide many contradictory opinions on the best way to obtain Le Mans tickets and what are the best Le Mans tickets to have. With this in mind we take a simple look below at the different options available and try to answer many of the questions about Le Mans tickets that we get asked every year.

When should I book Le Mans tickets?
The Le Mans 24 Hours is attended by more than 250,000 people each year. Clearly there is a big demand for Le Mans tickets. Generally ticket prices are published in the autumn, but it is still possible to make a provisional reservation before then. Travel Destinations opens provisional reservations the day after the race. This enables those returning from this year’s race to repeat their reservation if they wish. Generally we recommend booking Le Mans tickets before Christmas if possible. This will give you the best choice of availability and you shouldn’t miss out on what you want. Of course Travel Destinations still make bookings right up until the week of the race, but availability will be restricted the closer we get to Le Mans.

What Le Mans tickets do I need?
A lot depends on what you want to do and see, but the minimum that you require is a general admission / entrance ticket (“Enceinte General”) for every person in your party. This allows you pedestrian access to all the public areas of the circuit. This includes the village area and the viewing banks and steps between Porsche Curves and the Tertre Rouge Corner. It also allows access to the viewing areas at Arnage and Mulsanne corners which can be accessed by a free bus service from the main entrance to the circuit. In addition to the general admission ticket you can choose to add a grandstand seat ticket to your booking. This will give a you a reserved seat for the Saturday and Sunday. Even if you choose to have a grandstand seat you will still need to have a general entrance ticket. All Travel Destinations offers include a general entrance ticket.

Why should I book Le Mans tickets through Travel Destinations?
There are a number of companies that advertise selling Le Mans tickets, however you should only buy Le Mans tickets from the circuit itself or from an official Le Mans tickets agency. Travel Destinations are an official Le Mans tickets agency & have been working with the circuit for more than 20 years. Travel Destinations are also an ABTA and ATOL bonded tour operator enabling us to offer the best selection of travel and accommodation options for Le Mans. By being an ABTA and ATOL bonder tour operator you can make your booking with Travel Destinations knowing that your money is safe and that you can book with confidence. All Travel Destinations employees have been to Le Mans on many occasions and can talk to you from experience about what Le Mans is like and which ticket options are best for you. Travel Destinations staff are present at the circuit and offer a support service for all our customer.

How many Le Mans camping tickets do I need?
You will need at least one Le Mans camping pass for each vehicle that you are taking in to the campsite. One camping ticket generally entitles you to a 7m x 5m camping pitch. If you require more space then you can add additional camping tickets to your booking. Most of the campsites now have marked pitches and have numbered plots, however a few remain that are not numbered. Circuit run campsites are basic and have very few facilities. If you require better facilities such as security, fully serviced showers and toilets and a hospitality marquee, then we recommend the Travel Destinations private trackside campsite at the Porsche Curves.

What is the best grandstand ticket to have at Le Mans?
There is no right or wrong answer to this as it is really down to personal preferences and what you wish to see. You may not even need to add a grandstand seat depending on what you want to see. The majority of grandstands are located on the start-finish straight either above or opposite the pit lane. Being above the pits (tribune 34) gives a good view of the start and the finish, but you cannot see in to the garages. From the grandstands opposite the pit lane you will be able to see in to the garages as well. These are normally the most expensive and in demand seats. As an alternative you may look to try seats on the Ford Chicane (Tribune 23) or by the famous Dunlop Bridge (Tribunes 4 & 5) as these offer good views of the esses, curves or chicane. However you cannot see the garages from these stands.

Do I need to be a Le Mans member?
You can become a member of the ACO (the Automobile Club de l’Ouest) but it is not necessary to be a member to purchase Le Mans tickets through Travel Destinations.

Do you only sell Le Mans tickets to people in the UK?
Travel Destinations may be based in the UK but we sell Le Mans tickets to people from all around the world. Our largest market is the UK but we have many customers from all across Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, China, Brazil and many other countries around the world. Although many of our prices include options for Channel crossings from the UK, all of these options are also available without UK travel if this is not required.

Do you sell Le Mans tickets on their own?
Travel Destinations is a tour operator and us such our offers include accommodation, tickets and usually travel. However our sister company is a ticket agency and so can sell the tickets on their own. Le Mans ticket only sales may not have the same availability as offers via Travel Destinations, but if this is the right thing for you please visit www.tickets-2-u.com for more details on individual Le Mans ticket prices.

What is the best way to book Le Mans tickets with you?
All of Travel Destinations Le Mans ticket offers are created bespoke for you. This means that we can tailor make each booking to your requirements, using our experience and understanding of Le Mans. The best way to do this is to speak with you, so we encourage everyone to contact us by telephone to discuss the best option available. We can then talk you through the process. From the UK the best number to call is 0844 873 0203 and from outside the UK you can call +44 1707 329988. If this is not possible then simple questions can also be asked via emailing info@traveldestinations.co.uk

We hope that whatever Le Mans tickets option you choose, that you can join Travel Destinations at the next Le Mans 24 Hours.

All cars pass Le Mans scrutineering

The 56 cars entered for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2015 have all passed the scrutineering checks with flying colours. The second day of administrative and technical checks was bathed in sunshine and once again drew large crowds. This Monday, thirty-four cars were called in for administrative checks and scrutineering, following 22 car inspected on Sunday. There were a number of highlights throughout the day but let’s first take a look at the how this year’s teams got here!

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the pivotal race on the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar, and all points scored by competitors here count double. The race is the third round of the year, after the 6 Hours of Silverstone and the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. This year, 34 of the entrants at Le Mans are also competing for the full FIA WEC season.

The Le Mans Series in the United States was founded in 1998. It was originally known as the ALMS (American Le Mans Series) but later became the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. In 2004, the European Le Mans Series was created, followed by the Asian Le Mans Series more recently. With these three series, the ACO has gradually built the so-called ‘endurance pyramid’, with the 24 Hours of Le Mans set firmly at the pinnacle.

In LM P1, eleven of the cars entered are also competing in the full FIA World Endurance Championship. Car manufacturers who are officially listed are entitled to enter a third car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While Audi, Porsche and Nissan have all chosen to do so, Toyota has come to Le Mans with just the two cars it fields in the world championship season.M15_1646_fine-1

 

In LM P2, there are 19 entries, ten of which are non-permanent FIA WEC competitors. Among these ten, all but one of them drive in the European Le Mans Series. Oak Racing’s Ligier JS P2 no.34 owes its entry to its title in the Asian Le Mans Series championship in 2014.

For LM GTE Pro, most teams are also entered in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Only the two Chevrolet Corvettes compete in the American championship (TUSC).

Finally, among the 14 cars entered in LM GTE Am, seven come from FIA WEC, two from the Tudor United Sportcar Championship (no. 53 and 62), two from the Asian Le Mans Series (no. 67 and 68) and three from the European Le Mans Series (no. 55, 61 and 66).

For the second day of scrutineering, the crowds got taken on something resembling a world tour. The three cars from the Asian Le Mans Series set the ball rolling this morning at 10am, with the two Taiwanese Porsches no. 67 and no. 68 for Team AAI and Oak Racing’s Ligier JS P2 no. 34.

Then we moved continent as the three Russian cars for SMP Racing were up next. The two LM GTE Pro official Porsche 911 RSR brought us back to Europe, and gave us a taster of their three LM P1 counterparts due to appear in the afternoon. We then crossed the Atlantic when the American competitors came under the scrutineering spotlight, with the Ferrari no. 62, Viper no. 53, and the Ligier JS P2 – HPD no. 30 and no. 31.

The afternoon session brought us back to Europe, and to Germany more specifically, with the presentation of the three Porsche 919 Hybrids, eagerly awaited for by the crowds. This dash back across the Atlantic mirrored the journey made by Nico Hulkenberg ( Porsche no. 19), who arrived in Le Mans this morning after finishing eighth in the F1 Canadian Grand Prix yesterday!

We then made a stopover in France with the Alpine A450B no. 36, before crossing the Channel with Aston Martin Racing and its five cars. They caused quite a stir when they revealed this year’s Le Mans art car livery, proudly sported by their no. 97. The design by German artist Tobias Rehberger is totally unique in that it conveys a real sense of motion, even when the car is standing still.

We were then off to Japan with the Toyota TS040 Hybrids, the final LM P1 cars to take to the stage. Next, it was across the Pacific with American Corvette Racing and their two Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.

To round off this 83rd scrutineering session, the five Ferraris entered by AF Corse filed through the checks, followed by the last car up today, Krohn Racing’s Ligier JS P2 with its distinctive green livery.

The anticpation for the Le Mans 24 Hours is really building now!

Porsche miss out at Spa

Porsche miss out at Spa

In the end it was same again at Spa-Francorchamps, as despite the challengers getting close, Audi managed to prevail and take the win to record their second FIA World Endurance Championship win of the season. Porsche showed that they have the quicker car. Having locked out the first 3 places on the grid, the Porsche 919s were quickly away and building a gap as the Audis fought with Toyota for position behind. This was the closest that Toyota would be to the lead as both their cars lacked the pace to challenge at the front. This must be a concern for the Japanese team going in to Le Mans next month.

porsche-start-500

Porsche lost cars early as Nick Tandy’s 919 had a collision with a Porsche 911 whilst making their way through traffic. The resultant off in to the barriers and the repairs that followed ended both cars challenge on the day. The Pole-sitting No. 17 Porsche 919 was hampered when Brendon Hartley outbraked himself at the bus-stop chicane and found a route back to the track by driving through a marshal’s post. Not only was this not the quickest route through the complex, but the subsequent stop-go penalty left them with too much ground to make up.

After these own goals for Porsche it was left to the No 18 car to continue the fight at the front. The longer the race went on the closer that Audi got to the leader. Audi had their own issues too, with the No. 8 car falling foul of electrical gremlins, but the other cars stayed in contention until the end.

Ultimately it became a battle of strategy. Whilst the Porsche was clearly fastest on the straights, the Audi would gain some time through the corners so something else had to give. Ultimately it was tyres. The No. 7 Audi somehow managed to maintain decent pace whilst running 2 and half stints on the same tyres. The Porsches really struggled when they tried to double stint their tyres and ultimately this cost them the win.

audi-no-9-500

Coming in to the last third of the race Marc Lieb’s Porsche was just in front of Benoit Treluyer’s Audi, with both constantly winding their way through traffic. Following a few laps of near passes, good defence and some amazing manoeuvres through the rest of the field, the Audi finally managed to pass the Porsche. It was a lead they were not to give up.

As the final pit-stops played out it became clear that both cars would need to stop for fuel with just minutes to go. However, if Audi had changed tyres as well, they may have let the Porsche back pass. As it was the calm head that is Leena Gade on Audi’s pit wall made the call not to change rubber and so the Audi maintained the lead. Despite staying out for about 60 laps on one set of tyres the Audi managed to maintain pace and stay in front to record another win.

jota-500

The LMP2 class was dominated by the British Jota Sport team. Participating in this race as part of their preparation for Le Mans (they are currently racing in the ELMS), they would have led from start to finish were it not for a penalty imposed for jumping the start line. Ultimately it didn’t affect the outcome as the Jota team made up time and re-took the lead before the half way point. The class winner at Silverstone was G-Drive racing, but this car succumbed to an electrical fault and didn’t feature at the end.

Another British team to leave Spa smiling were Aston Martin. They managed to record a double win by taking victory in both LM GTE classes. The No. 99 car emerged victorious in the GTE Pro class after leading from the front. Their closest challenger was the Ferrari of AF Corse who looked to challenge near the end, before a loose tyre in the pit lane incurred a stop-go penalty. In the LMGTE Am class the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 had few challengers. They were strong throughout the race and eventually crossed the line to win a full lap ahead of the 2nd place Ferrari.

amr-99-500

This was an engrossing race, with twists and turns throughout. Porsche will think of this as a missed opportunity but Toyota will be more concerned about their lack of pace. Audi however, will be more than happy that the best their challengers could offer was still not quite good enough. More than 50,000 fans at Spa over the weekend were fully entertained. We now move on to the big one, with little time for the teams to recover before Le Mans.

Countdown to Le Mans begins

Countdown to Le Mans begins

Countdown to Le Mans begins

Graham Goodwin continues his series of articles looking at the news from inside sportscar racing..

The road to Le Mans traditionally takes a detour in May via the Ardennes and the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps. 2015 was no exception and the full season FIA World Endurance Championship grid was again bolstered by a number of additional entries.

Whilst Nissan continue to test their new LMP1 machine in the USA and Rebellion complete the rebuild of their newly re-engined cars it was left to Audi and Porsche to field a third car apiece, Audi opting to present both of their full season WEC cars in full Le Mans spec (low drag, lower downforce trim).

It made for a fascinating contest, the straight line advantage of the Porsches almost entirely negated by the new look Audis and both of the German marques leaving the Toyotas trailing in their wake. This was not helped by an accident in practice left the No.1 Toyota needing a full rebuild and causing and injury for full season factory driver Kazuki Nakajima that looks likely to count him out for Le Mans too.

porsche-500

The race saw incidents galore.

First, Nick Tandy’s No.19 Porsche clashed with the sister GT car of team debutant Kevin Estre, causing damage to the LMP1, but the can’t make it back to the pit lane and later continued. There was drama too for the polesetting No.17 Porsche, a stop-go penalty for Brendon Hartley after he outbraked himself and chose to rejoin via a marshals post rather than being assisted to rejoin by those very same marshals.

The No.9 Audi meanwhile, running in high downforce specification, suffered violent high-speed porpoising with Marco Bonanomi experiencing a blown out side window at V-max on the Kemmel straight – that contributed to counting them out of the ultimate battle for the podium. The No.8 Audi was already a lap down on its sister car when, in the closing stages of the race, Oliver Jarvis lost control under braking, with the car ending its race in the gravel trap.

That left the No.7 Audi to take a relatively untroubled win after a fabulous battle once again with the Porsches. It means a total of a maximum 50 points for the Audi with a double points score at Le Mans to come next. The full season Porsches completed the overall podium.

jota-500

Also amongst the additions of this race, Jota Sport once again added spa to their pre-Le Mans routine. After an early race penalty for a jumped start, the No.38 Gibson Nissan were soon back in the hunt, with their main competitor, the No.26 Ligier Nissan, suffering an amazingly rare engine failure while still very much in contention. Jota took their second win, and their fourth consecutive podium at Spa, a first WEC win for the upgraded (and rebranded) Gibson chassis, for Jota and sportscar racing debutant, Kiwi GP2 racer Mitch Evans, Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell.

The No.28 G-Drive Ligier and debuting No.43 SARD Morand Morgan Evo completed the podium. Tincknell will be replaced in the team for Le Mans (where he will be on Nissan factory LMP1 duty) by ex team-mate and current Super GT racer and McLaren F1 test driver Oliver Turvey.

gdrive-500

The LMP2 class saw the welcome return to action from Toyota development driver Nicolas Lapierre for the first time since a fall out with the team after the 2014 race of the Circuit of the Americas. The popular Frenchman drove well, but the still all too new Oreca 05 suffered further new car niggles.

The two GTE classes both saw wins for Aston Martin Racing, though in the pro class the win for the No.99 car of Fernando Rees, Alex MacDowall and Richie Stanaway, was not without controversy. The Aston Martin had inherited the red and yellow Anergy Energy livery from the sister No.97 the Vantage GTE for this race and led for much of the six hours. The closing stages though saw the 2014 Championship winning No.51 AF Corse Ferrari close in and pass for the lead before being dealt a punitive 60 second stop and hold penalty when the team lost control of a rolling tyre during a pitstop.

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There were penalties too for several other cars, including both factory Porsches, though they recovered, again aided by the Ferrari’s penalty, to complete the podium.

GTE Am went again to the #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda with the SMP and AF Corse Ferraris completing the podium.

 

Road To Le Mans

There are two further important steps on the road to Le Mans still to come. Round two of the European Le Mans Series will see around half of the LMP2 grid in the race action at Imola this coming weekend and then the last weekend in May sees the test day on the full Le Mans 24 Hours Circuit where the new Nissans and revised Rebellions Will run in public for the very first time.

The test day will also see the first time that the new LMP3 Ginetta Nissans will be allowed to run on the fabled track. The new junior prototype class is not eligible for the race proper but at least two of the cars will run in the test with the British Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy amongst the driving squad.

 

Nurburgring 24 Hours

Before Le Mans too, another of the classic European endurance races will take place as next weekend sees the huge grid of GT and touring cars assemble again take on the ‘Green Hell’ of the Nurburgring’s fabulous Nordschleife circuit. After tragedy struck in the opening race this season, a Nissan GT3 car getting airborne and fatally injuring a trackside fan, several new safety regulations have been introduced to slow down the fastest cars and to prevent spectators from massing at the riskiest parts of the circuit.

The race proper will see the return of factory blessed efforts from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi (with their brand-new 2015 R8 LMS), Aston Martin and Nissan with the addition this year of a three car effort from Bentley. Almost 200 cars are due to take the start for twice round-the-clock around the Eifel mountains. It’s a race to watch Live if you possibly can but if you can’t then Radio Le Mans Will cover all the action live from trackside, pit lane and paddock.

 

Le Mans Tickets

Those customers already booked for Le Mans will be receieving their Travel Destinations ticket packs shortly. Not long to wait now. For those people that are still looking for tickets, Travel Destinations do have a small selection of entrance, camping and grandstand seats available. Please do call us for further details as availability changes daily.

Written by Graham Goodwin
Photos by Dailysportscar

Le Mans 2015 Entry List Revealed

Le Mans 2015 Entry List Revealed

Le Mans 2015 Entry List Revealed

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) have announced the list of the 56 cars invited to take part in Le Mans 2015 taking place from the 13th-14th June. They also unveiled the poster and the television advertisement for the 24 hours race. The field entered for the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours promises a highly competitive race, and choosing a likely winner in each of the four categories will prove difficult.

The start of the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours will take place as usual at 3pm on Saturday 13th June. Fifty-six cars will take part in the blue riband event on the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar (the third running of the championship) divided up into four categories: 14 LMP1s, 20 LMP2s, 9 LMGTE Pros and 13 LM GTE Ams.

In LMP1 the big news is the return of Nissan with three of its spectacular GTR-LM NISMOs. The car was revealed last Sunday in the United States. Thus, the Renault-Nissan tandem will take on Audi, Porsche and Toyota in the battle for outright victory. It will be a German-Japanese duel with two German manufacturers up against two from the land of the rising sun. Each team is using a different technology, proof of the validity of the regulations introduced by the ACO in 2014. Completing the LMP1 field are three privately-entered cars from Rebellion Racing (2) and TeamByKolles. A total of six manufacturers will go head to head in LMP1.

Eight different makes of chassis will compete in the LMP2 class, making up a field of 20 cars, once again the biggest category in the race. Jota Sport, which will be back with an up-dated version of the winning car in 2014 (now called the Gibson 015S-Nissan), will have a tough job to retain their title. They will be up against newcomers like the HPD ARX-O4bs and the Oreca 05s. Ligier, which made its Le Mans comeback in 2014, will be the best-represented make in the category with five cars.

More close battles will take place in LMGTE Pro and LMGTEAm classes. In LMGTE Pro Corvette, victorious at last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, is hoping to beat Ferrari at Le Mans, as the Italian make won the LMGTE Pro category in last year’s 24 Hours. Aston Martin and Porsche will harbour similar ambitions.

In LMGTE Am Aston Martin will also be out to achieve a repeat of their 2014 victory, but to do so they will have to fend off top teams like AF Corse, JMW Motorsport and SMP Racing. Back again (for the fourth time) is American actor, Patrick Dempsey, at the wheel of a Porsche entered by the Dempsey Proton Racing team.

The field for the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours breaks down into 34 prototypes and 22 GTs made up by 17 different makes from the biggest car groups in the world, ranging from the competition versions of the most beautiful GT cars on the market to the best builders of racing chassis. The 31 teams entered represent 13 different nationalities and the highest numbers of cars come from Germany (11), Great Britain and the United States (9), Japan (6) and Russia, Italy and France (5) respectively further proof of the incredible appeal of the race.

The list of reserves comprises seven teams combining LMPs and LM GTEs, which will be allowed to race in the order on the list should there be any withdrawals.

The Full Le Mans 2015 entry list is available here: Le Mans Entry 2015

Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest said “Once again the field for the Le Mans 24 Hours consists of fifty-six top-quality cars. We’re delighted to welcome a new manufacturer with the arrival of Nissan, which is proof of the immense appeal of our event for the major motor car manufacturers. Viewing things from a wider perspective, the fact that we have teams from thirteen different nationalities again shows the international appeal of our race. We’re very proud that the major countries in the motor industry and car culture in general provide the highest number of representatives, and it confirms yet again the link between our race, the car industry and the everyday motorist’s car of tomorrow.”

Vincent Beaumesnil, Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s Sport Manager commented that “Every year the selection committee for the Le Mans 24 Hours is finding it increasingly difficult to establish the list of entries. Things are really looking up in the prototype categories with more top-level teams arriving. In GTE Pro the quality of the manufacturers entered guarantees yet another incredibly closely-fought race, and in GTE Am the overall high level of preparation and involvement is very impressive. From a technical and sporting point of view we’re expecting to see a level never before achieved: it’s going to be a great race.”

Demand for tickets for Le Mans 2015 is equally high. With disruption to campsites such as Maison Blanche (with the building of the Porsche Experience Centre) and new campsites not able to run to full capacity (Epinettes) spectators have been booking early to reserve the campisites, grandstands & tickets that they want. Although the reduced Maison Blanche campsite is now sold out, along with other popular sites such as Tertre Rouge, there are still a selection of campsites available to choose from.

Premium product options such as private camping, Event Tent glamping and Flexotel Village cabins are also in high demand & availability is limited in all options. to secure your place at the Le Mans 24 Hours 2015 please call us now on 0844 983 0203 (UK) or +44 1707 329988 (International).

Nissan’s Le Mans Challenger Unveiled

Nissan’s Le Mans Challenger Unveiled

Nissan has declared itself ready to take on the world’s best sports car manufacturers after revealing a glimpse of its Le Mans challenger, the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO during the commercial break for Super Bowl XLIX.

Last year’s Super Bowl was the most watched television programme in US television history with over 110 million viewers. The 2015 game was therefore the perfect opportunity for Nissan’s “With Dad” commercial (view at www.withdad.com) to air for the first time, revealing the much-anticipated Nissan GT-R LM NISMO, the car that will take on the best in the world in the race to glory at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

In a bold move, the Japanese manufacturer has interpreted the sport’s technical regulations in an innovative way, producing a front-engined, front wheel drive car that is powered by a V6 3-litre twin turbo petrol engine and a kinetic energy recovery system.

“It gave us great pride to reveal the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO during the Super Bowl,” said Roel de Vries, Global Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Nissan. “The combination of the Super Bowl and the Le Mans 24 Hours, two of the most watched sporting events in the world, presented us with a unique opportunity to showcase our most ambitious motorsport programme in recent times.

“The GT-R is our flagship road car,” he continued. “This, the ultimate GT-R, continues a sporting bloodline that goes back three decades with NISMO, the motorsport and performance arm of Nissan. Le Mans drives innovation so success on the track will lead to greater innovation in our road car range. We are the new kids at Le Mans; our opponents are the best in the world but we are ready.”

The new car will contest the LM P1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the highest category in world sports car racing. Starting at Silverstone, UK on 12 April the series travels around the world to Spa in Belgium, onto the Le Mans 24 Hours and Germany’s Nurburgring, before going global with races in the US, Japan, China and the Middle East.

The FIA World Endurance Championship is the ultimate proving ground for automotive companies as technological gains on the track can carry through to road cars. Racing car engineers are facing the same challenges as road car engineers as the spotlight falls on energy efficiency. With more technical freedom than Formula 1, the LM P1 engineers have ample opportunity to innovate.

“This is innovation that excites,” said Shoichi Miyatani, President of NISMO. “Sustainability is at the top of our agenda and the technical regulations for Le Mans give us the freedom to pursue new ideas in this area. Our record at Le Mans is third place overall so we have unfinished business there. We want to win and we have the knowledge to do that for our customers, our employees and our fans. The competition is exceptionally strong and we are excited by the challenge.”

“Our LM P1 programme makes the connection between NISMO on the road and NISMO on the track, showcasing our brand DNA to a global audience,” explained Darren Cox, Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO. “We are taking motorsport to the masses, telling tales of technical innovation but also human stories via all of the exciting communications channels that are open to us now. We will innovate off the track as well as on it so you can be assured that this is just the beginning of the story.”

The intensive test programme for the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO that began in Arizona last year continues in the US. Nissan’s full LM P1 driver line-up will be revealed soon.

Nissan LMP1

 

New LMP1 Partnerships Revealed

Nissan also announced three multi-year partnerships that will feature prominently in its LM P1 programme.

Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer is the Official Watch Partner and Official Timekeeping Partner. The LM P1 drivers will all wear TAG Heuer watches and the partnership will be activated globally by both parties, with several exciting developments to be announced in the coming months.

Motul is the Official Lubricants Partner for the programme, working closely with NISMO’s engine department to develop high-performance products to enhance competitiveness and efficiency. Motul has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with NISMO over the past two decades and this natural expansion into the LM P1 programme comes soon after the Super GT Championship victory for the iconic #23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R.

The LM P1 programme will use tyres supplied by Michelin. The French manufacturer has developed tyres especially for the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO and been an integral part of the car’s extensive test programme.
Taking on the Best in the World

In 2015 Nissan will enter the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO into the full FIA World Endurance Championship, marking a return to the premier class at the Le Mans 24 Hours for the Japanese manufacturer. Nissan will challenge for victory with an innovative approach and with a truly exciting product that represents the next generation of the Nissan GT-R.

“We are excited to be going head-to-head with the best sports car racing manufacturers in the world,” commented Roel de Vries, Global Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Nissan. “LM P1 is a proving ground for technological innovation, especially when it comes to the power sources of the future. In 2014 three different manufacturers using three different powertrain combinations won races. If you ever needed proof that LM P1 is the sharp end, this is it.”

Nissan might have been absent from the top class at Le Mans for 16 years but the company has been very active in other categories, building an envied sports car ladder that runs from the new LM P3 category, through a world-beating engine supply programme in LM P2, and onto the top step to LM P1 via the ACO’s clever ‘Garage 56’ programme, a unique class at Le Mans reserved for innovative technology that falls outside of the normal regulations

“Our LM P3 engine supply programme is a new venture for us but if it is nearly as successful as our LM P2 programme we will be very proud of our achievements, said Shoichi Miyatani, President of NISMO. “Our LM P2 engine has powered teams to championship victories and class wins at Le Mans. Our Garage 56 projects have led us to LM P1 and the innovations that we have employed. Enormous lessons were learned from the very heavy hybridisation of the Nissan ZEOD RC and we’ve carried those lessons over into this project.”

LM P1 cars are the most extreme sports cars in racing today so, for Nissan and NISMO, the opportunity to innovate at the highest level could not be missed.

Nismo-LMP1-front

“These cars represent the pinnacle of current racing technology: huge energy recovery systems, super fuel-efficient engines and wild aerodynamics, creating extremely fast cars for their weight and endurance, said Nissan’s LM P1 Team Principal, Ben Bowlby. “These are 24-hour racing cars that cover practically a whole Formula One season in one Le Mans race. It’s a very different challenge to F1 and much more relevant to what’s going on in road cars. If you drive from say London to Edinburgh you expect the car to get through the miles and be fast, stable, comfortable and safe and provide the handling and grip you might need if you have to come off the motorway and take some back roads, that’s the sort of challenge that Le Mans represents. It’s all about having a fast, efficient and safe car.”

The FIA World Endurance Championship provides manufacturers with the opportunity to develop new technologies for its road car range. With energy-efficiency being the key, there is no greater test for technology than a 24-hour endurance race where the gap between first and second place can be a matter of seconds after 24 hours of racing.

“It is firmly our intention that technology developed on the LM P1 car will transfer to Nissan road cars,” said de Vries. “We are developing ultra-efficient V6 twin turbo of the configuration and lineage of the Nissan GT-R. This is a more efficient but equally powerful direct injection solution so it’s a potential forerunner to future GT-R engines. Also the kinetic energy recovery technology that we’re developing through racing could indeed have potential for future road car applications.”

Nissan is a global car manufacturer so it makes sense that the LM P1 programme is a truly global project.

“The car was built in the US and will complete its initial test programme there before moving to Europe for the start of the FIA World Endurance Championship season,” explained Miyatani. “Engineers and mechanics from Japan has been fully integrated into the programme and, just like any race team nowadays, we have selected our personnel from all over the world.”

Taking on the best in the world and competing to win is a daunting task for Nissan. The competition is well-established and the racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship is ultra-close but this is a challenge that Nissan has accepted and the Nissan NISMO team will fight to get onto the top step of the podium like it has never fought before.

“All I want is to be sure that the team did its best,” said Darren Cox, Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO. “What we’re aiming for is to have executed to the best of our ability and that’s what we’re focusing on. There’s a lot we can’t control, for example, we don’t know where our rivals are going to be when we get to the first race. If we’ve all done our best I’ll be delighted and good results will come if we continue to do our best. So our goals and targets are simply to do our best. I think that, as a group, our best will lead to some great results.”

Michelin has been nominated as the tyre partner for Nissan’s LM P1 endurance racing programme, the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO will race on Michelin 31/71-16 (front) and 20/71-16 (rear) tyres.

“We are very proud to have been chosen by Nissan to develop tyres for its LM P1 programme,” says Michelin Motorsport Director Pascal Couasnon “After our successful associations during Nissan’s 2012 and 2014 ‘Garage 56’ projects, as well as our success together in Japan’s Super GT championship which has seen us claim three titles in four years, Michelin stood out as the natural tyre partner for Nissan’s latest project. The Nissan GT-R LM NISMO is a fantastic car. It will serve as a valuable laboratory for the future but will also make high demands on our tyres from the word go. The development of tyres for this car will be a challenge and we at Michelin didn’t hesitate to rise to it.”

“LM P1 confronts manufacturers with a huge number of technical challenges,” said Darren Cox, Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO. “It was therefore vital that we have a tyre partner who is willing to push the boundaries with us so that we can innovate to the extreme with the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO. Michelin was a valued partner to us during our ‘Garage 56’ projects so we are delighted to be working with them on our LM P1 programme.”