So you have purchased your Le Mans package and you have received your tickets. Now is the time to pack your tent and plan your time at Le Mans. With just a couple of weeks until the pilgrimage begins here is our guide to the cars to watch at this year’s race.
The four rings of Audi have dominated the podium at Le Mans for the last 8 years and have been the pioneer of the now dominant diesel powered engines. Audi is back in 2009 with it brand new V10 powered R15 TDI car that has already been victorious at the 12 hours of Sebring earlier this year. Audi will probably start as favourites again this year but will need to find some straight line speed to stay ahead of the Peugeot cars this year. The great experience of Kristensen, Capello and McNish in the Audi cockpit could well see them home again.
It could be 3rd time lucky for Peugeot as they hope to beat Audi to the chequered flag with their diesel powered 908 HDI FAP coupes. Audi will certainly be concerned as the Peugeot’s have looked quick in their outings so far this year and have so far avoided the reliability problems that have held them up in the past. Peugeot have worked hard to recruit some big name drivers to compete at the front of the grid and David Brabham, Pedro Lamy, Sebastien Bourdais & Alexander Wurz should do that, providing they work as a team. It was the greater number of slow pit-stops that cost them last year.
Returning to the LMP1 class to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its victory in 1959, Aston Martin Racing will certainly look the part in its Gulf liveried V12 powered Lola B09/60 coupe. They are not just there to make up the numbers either having already topped the podium in the first Le Mans Series race at Barcelona. Compared to Audi & Peugeot the budget at Aston Martin is tiny, and the lack of serious testing and recent accidents could be their undoing, but they should certainly be competing to be the fastest petrol driven car. They have a talented driver line up with the experienced Darren Turner having multiple winners in the Aston Martin GT1 class, and the addition of Jos Verstappen in a third car should provide extra class.
Oreca look to be the quickest of the other the petrol engined cars this year. Their new AIM powered car was very quick at the Le Mans Series event in Spa until it crashed out. Their driver line up including Olivier Panis, Bruno Senna & Stephane Ortelli is certainly impressive and Oreca could be a dark horse this year. Pescarolo have traditionally been the fastest petrol car, but their decision to run one of Peugeot’s 2008 diesels as a second car alongside their petrol powered Judd has muddied the waters. Finally the Kolles Audi team are adding to the Audi runners by racing the works R10 cars from 2008, however the new ACO restrictions on the diesel engines will probably make the R10 uncompetitive this time around despite winning last time out.
This year the LMP2 class looks like a straight shoot out between the Porsche RS Spyders and the Lola coupes (powered by either Mazda or Judd). The Porsches start as favourites although Speedy Racing Team Sebah and Racing Box SRL will challenge hard.Team Essex have been quick in some of the warm up races and have more time in the car than Team Goh making their debut with the RS Spyder, but ultimately this could be too close to call.
It looks likely that the works Corvettes will dominate the LMGT1 class in their final Le Mans appearance, particularly since Aston Martin Racing decided to fight for LMP1 glory. Elsewhere the Lamborghini Murcielagos of IPB Spartak Racing (Russia) & JLOC Isao Noritake (Japan) could make a fight of it. Otherwise look to the to Luc Alphand Aventures Corvettes to feature.
This class looks like an exciting head to head battle between the Porsche 911 GT3-RSR cars & the Ferrari F430GTs. Although Porsche have been quick of late the sheer numbers of teams with the Ferraris mean the likely winner will be of Italian stock. Team Modena, Risi Competizione & AF Corse look likely to be at the front with their Ferraris, but Flying Lizard Motorsport, IMSA Performance Matmut & Team Felbermayer could cause an upset with their Porsches. Drayson Racing in the Aston Martin Vantage V8 will be popular with British fans, but Lord Drayson will probably be happy just to be running come hour 24.
Remember to catch up with all the latest news and insider information in the build up to the race with John & the team at Radio Le Mans. Listen live at the circuit on 91.2FM or download their podcasts now from www.radiolemans.com