Tag Archives: Le Mans 2021

Le Mans reflections

2021 Le Mans reflections

In many ways, the 2021 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend was a tough one to reflect on. The race took so many twists and turns and kept everyone guessing right until the chequered flag fell. Overall, it was a memorable edition and history will almost certainly be kind to it. It marked the start of a new era for the race, saw at least some fans able to return, and was held with a backdrop of so much future promise.

Congratulations are certainly in order to all the class winners, but the organisation deserves a special mention for delivering a logistically challenging event, in tough circumstances, without any notable hiccups. Now that the dust has had a little time to settle, here’s a look at the highlights from the 89th edition of the ‘World’s Greatest Motor Race’:

Le Mans reflections

Toyota’s tricky triumph

After a glance at the results sheet post-race, you’d be fooled into assuming this was an easy ride for Toyota Gazoo Racing. Its new GR010 HYBRIDs claimed a historic 1-2 finish in the first-ever appearance for the Le Mans Hypercar class at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and finished laps ahead of the competition.

However, this was perhaps the toughest challenge for the Japanese marque since Porsche’s LMP1 exit at the end of the 2017 WEC season. Yes, both cars made the finish and crossed the line in formation, but it didn’t feel like a stroll in the park in the same way that its recent victories at La Sarthe have. This is because both GR010s had to overcome significant issues throughout the race.

Toyota’s top brass will be relieved that neither car spent an extended period in the garage during the 24 Hours, but eager for the post-mortem to find out the root cause of the lingering fuel pickup problem that struck both cars. The No. 8 had the toughest time, having to overcome an incident at Turn 2 at the start when Sebastien Buemi was struck by an over-committed Glickenhaus in the wet conditions, as well as two power resets out on track, persistent vibrations and a broken passenger door. The No. 7 though, didn’t emerge from the race unscathed as, like its sister car, it was unable to complete full stints for much of the race, and was forced to pit multiple laps early during each stint for a top-up. It made for a tense atmosphere in the Toyota garage, especially as the other three cars in the class ran reliably and piled on the pressure.

Alpine and Glickenhaus deserve a lot of praise for their respective performances. The former, became the first French marque to finish on the overall podium at Le Mans since Peugeot in 2011, the latter managed to get both cars to the finish, in top five places, with a brand new, somewhat underdeveloped chassis. While neither team had the outright speed to challenge Toyota on this occasion, all three cars in question ran like clockwork, let down only by driver errors that cost them valuable time.

Should both return next year, then the prospect for the 2022 edition is tantalising. With Peugeot joining the fun, it has the potential to be an all-time classic.

Le Mans 2021

WRT’s Wild Ride

Belgian outfit WRT should need no introduction for Travel Destinations regulars. As one of Audi’s premier customer teams, it has achieved countless accolades over the years racing all over the world. It should come as no surprise then, that it didn’t just win LMP2 on its debut Le Mans appearance, it dominated.

The headlines following the race though, focused far more on the frantic finish to the race, than on WRT’s dominance of this stellar field. The final moments of the Le Mans 24 Hours seemingly always produce drama, and this year was no exception. WRT’s No. 41 ORECA, on its way to head a phenomenal, faultless 1-2 finish for WRT, lost all power on the last lap. In a sequence that surely gave the entire Toyota crew PTSD, Yifei Ye was left totally helpless at the Dunlop Esses, and forced to watch the team’s sister No. 31 car blast past to snatch the victory at the death. To make matters worse, the car didn’t finish classified either and was instead categorised as a retirement despite being three minutes from glory.

In what was a cruel twist of fate, Ferdinand Habsburg, Charles Milesi and Robin Frijns were victorious, but not before a thrilling race to the line with the hard-charging No. 28 JOTA ORECA driven by a committed Tom Blomqvist in the final dash to the flag. Seven tenths turned out to be the winning margin, as Frijns was forced to slalom through slower traffic cruising to the line for a photo finish behind the two Toyotas. It was all a little too dramatic, especially for the flag-waver, who had to literally step out of the way in avoidance of the winning ORECA, which was being pushed to the limit until the very end.

LMP2 may have featured just one Ligier in amongst an armada of ORECAs, but for what it lacked in variety as a class, it certainly made up for in thrills and spills.

                                                   

Le Mans reflections

AF Corse’s double

The GTE classes at Le Mans rarely disappoint, and this was perhaps most evident with the backdrop of the ACO and FIA announcement on Friday that GT3 will replace the current GT platform in the FIA WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours from 2024 onwards.

It was clearly AF Corse’s year, as the Italian marque, for the first time, scored a double class win, and (astonishingly) its maiden GTE Am victory up against stiff competition from the WEC, Asian Le Mans Series, European Le Mans Series and IMSA.

In GTE Pro it turned into a straight fight between the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Come Ledogar and the No. 63 Corvette of Jordan Taylor, Antonio Garcia and Nicky Catsburg. And it would surely have been an even more titanic tussle had a combination of incidents and reliability woes not befallen both team’s sister cars. Where was Porsche in all this? Both factory cars and the two customer cars lacked the outright speed to challenge, with the works 911s also dealt a bad hand during safety car periods early in the race to make matters worse.

The No. 63 tried to keep the pressure on all race long, and finished within a minute of the winning car, unable to overcome the Ferrari drivers who were able to answer back every time the C8.R was armed with a fresh set of tyres and optimum conditions.

Le Mans 2021

It was much the same story in GTE Am. No team was able to match the consistency and outright pace of the No. 83 trio. Francois Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen and Alessio Rovera were the class of the field and took a convincing win. Aston Martin team TF Sport came closest to preventing a double win for the ‘Prancing Horse’, but a costly puncture during the night and a misfire towards the end of the race robbed Tom Ferrier’s team of what would have been a monumental comeback drive for its No. 33 crew.

Some of the cars will continue to compete in the final rounds of this year’s World Endurance Championship, whilst some will already start to dream of a return to Le Mans in 2022.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar.com

You can book with Travel Destinations now for Le Mans 2022. The dates for the race have been confirmed as the 11th & 12th June and all our offers are on sale now. Demand is high as crowds return to racing, so be sure to book early by calling us direct on +44 1707 329988.

Le Mans 2021 Results

Le Mans 2021 results

The No. 7 Toyota in the hands of Conway, Kobayashi & López triumphed at Le Mans 2021 in a race affected by temperamental weather. Much to the pleasure of the endurance racing family, the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship took place before a crowd of 50,000; the maximum authorised in current circumstances. The Toyota GR010 HYBRID will go down in history as the first Hypercar to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Random downpours affected proceedings early on at the Circuit des 24 Heures. With crowds happily back at the track to witness the dawn of the Hypercar era, the 24 Hours of Le Mans was true to form – a gruelling test of mechanical and human resilience. Of the 61 cars at the start, 44 crossed the finish line at 16:00 on Sunday.

Hypercar Result

  1. Toyota Gazoo Racing No. 7 – CONWAY / KOBAYASHI / LÓPEZ
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing No. 8 – BUEMI / NAKAJIMA / HARTLEY
  3. Alpine Elf Matmut No. 36 – NEGRÃO / LAPIERRE / VAXIVIERE

For their first 24-hour race, the Hypercars streaked ahead of the rest of the field, displaying impressive reliability and consistency. Rapidly putting the incidents in the early stages of the race behind them, the Toyotas gradually forged a comfortable lead. Untouchable throughout the night, the Japanese cars settled in for some sibling squabbles, hustling around within seconds of each other. Lagging several laps behind, Alpine and Glickenhaus could only dispute third place. The French team won that battle when Glickenhaus fell foul of mechanical issues as the day dawned.

LMP2 Result

  1. Oreca 07 – Gibson No. 31 Team WRT – FRIJNS / HABSBURG / MILESI
  2. Oreca 07 – Gibson No. 28 Jota – ELAEL / VANDOORNE / BLOMQVIST
  3. Oreca 07 – Gibson No. 65 Panis Racing – CANAL / STEVENS / ALLEN

Competition is always tight in LMP2 but this year Team WRT went from excitement to bitter disappointment in the space of a lap. Having dominated the race in spectacular fashion the Belgian outfit was poised for a one-two finish when the No. 41 car, in the hands of Robert Kubica came to a halt. The No. 31 held off Blomqvist in the No. 28 JOTA in a memorable dash to the line. Panis Racing took third place.

LMGTE PRO Result

  1. AF Corse No. 51 – PIER GUIDI / CALADO / LEDOGAR
  2. Corvette Racing No. 63 – GARCIA / TAYLOR / CATSBURG
  3. Porsche GT Team No. 92 – ESTRE / JANI / CHRISTENSEN

The LMGTE Pro class often provides spectacular sporting entertainment and this year was no exception, with an epic head-to-head between Ferrari and Corvette. After 24 hours, there were only 42 seconds between the AF Corse No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE and the Corvette Racing No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, on its maiden Le Mans! The Pier Guidi/Calado/Ledogar crew admirably resisted the Corvette onslaught to give the Ferrari chairman and this year’s race starter John Elkann the result he hoped for. The Italian firm has announced its return to the top class of endurance with a Hypercar entry in 2023!

LMGTE Am Result

  1. AF Corse No. 83 – PERRODO / NIELSEN / ROVERA
  2. TF Sport No. 33 – KEATING / PEREIRA / FRAGA
  3. Iron Lynx No. 80 – CRESSONI / MASTRONARDI / ILOTT

AF Corse claimed two class wins at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team founded by the 2020 Spirit of Le Mans awardee Amato Ferrari drew on its wealth of experience to stay ahead of the TF Sport No. 33 Aston Martin. Rookie Callum Ilott and his teammates take third place with the Iron Lynx No. 80 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

Thanks to all those who enabled Le Mans to happen this year

The Le Mans 24 Hours will return to its normal June slot in 2022. The race dates are confirmed as the 11th – 12th June 2022. You can book your travel, tickets and camping options now by calling Travel Destinations on +44 1707 329988. Further details are available on this website.

Le Mans Hyperpole

Kobayashi claims Le Mans Hyperpole

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Kamui Kobayashi driving the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercar has taken pole position for this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It is the fourth time in five years that Kobayashi has taken pole at Le Mans. The outright track record holder sealed pole with a sensational 3m23.900s lap.

Hub Auto Porsche took a surprise pole in LMGTE Pro after the session was red flagged following accident for Kevin Estre’s Porsche 911 RSR – 19 at Indianapolis Corner.

Antonio Felix da Costa for JOTA led in LMP2, while No.88 Dempsey Proton Porsche took pole in the LMGTE Am category.

Le Mans Hyperpole Highlights:

Hypercar
• Kamui Kobayashi is in pole position for the 89th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans by setting rapid 3m23.900s lap in the No.7 Toyota GR010-Hybrid Hypercar
• The No.8 Toyota GR010-Hybrid Hypercar is in second place as Brendon Hartley posts 3m24.195s lap just 0.295s off pole
• Alpine Elf Matmut with Nicolas Lapierre will start third on grid after 3m25.574s lap effort
• No. 708 Glickenhaus Racing entry driven by Olivier Pla places fourth with a 3m25.639s lap set by Pla who gets to within 0.065s of Alpine
• No. 709 Glickenhaus of Roman Dumas will start in fifth place for Glickenhaus Racing’s first Le Mans start

LMP2
• Antonio Felix da Costa takes the No.38 JOTA car to LMP2 pole position with a lap of 3m27.950s
• The Portuguese ace laps 0.5s quicker than Louis Deletraz in No.41 Team WRT machine
• Panis Racing’s Will Stevens peaks on a 3m28.586s lap to claim third place start for Saturday afternoon
• G-Drive with No.26 car qualified by Nyck de Vries starts fourth ahead of United Autosports USA pair as No.32 car just beats No.23 machine

LMGTE Pro
• Dries Vanthoor starred for Hub Auto Porsche as he takes surprise pole position with sensational lap of 3m46.882
• Belgian young-gun beats WEC entry No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE driven by Daniel Serra who sets a lap just 0.171s off polesitter
• No.63 Corvette places third as Nick Tandy makes it three different manufacturers in top three positions
• Accident for points leading No.92 Porsche as Kevin Estre endures off at Indianapolis

LMGTE Am
• No.88 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche’s 3m47.987s set by Julien Andlauer good enough for pole as French ace continues excellent form
• GR Racing take second as Tom Gamble brings joy to British team with fine 3m48.560s lap
• Team Project 1 Porsche driven by Matteo Cairoli in third position ahead of No.47 Cetilar Racing Porsche

Don’t forget that you can join us track-side for the Le Mans 24 Hours 2022. The confirmed dates will be the 11th & 12th June 2022. Call us now on +44 1707 329988 to reserve your place!

Le Mans

Reasons to be Cheerful – Le Mans

My phone calendar has helpfully reminded me where we all should be next week. As we move into what would have been Le Mans week, many of us are filled with a longing for La Sarthe. You often don’t appreciate something until it’s gone, but we have always appreciated the spectacle that is Le Mans.

You don’t have to look far to find negativity regarding the future of Le Mans on websites, forums and social media groups. It has been there for a while, even before the pandemic. However, while it may not be fashionable right now, I would like to point out the positives and see if we can find some reasons to be cheerful. After all, the Le Mans 24 Hours will return and so will we.

2020

The virtual Le Mans event next week may be just a reminder of what could have been, but expect the ACO to be reminding everyone the real thing will return this September. Once it was apparent that the race couldn’t take place this June, the ACO was relatively quick to pencil in the 19th & 20th September for this year’s race. Initial doubts that this may still be too early to return to Le Mans, have now been replaced by belief that this will happen.

There are many political and business reasons why the race must take place, which I won’t go into here, but I can say that the noises from Le Mans, have gone from “If the race can go ahead” through “how the race can go ahead” to now “the race will go ahead”. I have no doubt now that the race will happen, but will we be able to be there?

We know that the ACO is currently liaising with the French government at various levels from local to national, to see what requirements will be required to make the race safe for everyone, including spectators. Those in charge will do their best to make that happen. Don’t get me wrong, Le Mans 2020 may not have the same crowds as previous races, but accepting that may be the best way forward. Expect further news soon, so watch this space….

2021

It is never too early to plan Le Mans. We already know that the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2021 will take place on the 12th & 13th June and you can already book your place through Travel Destinations (of course you can!). Why should we be looking forward to 2021?

This could be the start of a new era in sports car racing and you can be there at the beginning! Well nearly the beginning, as actually the new season of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is scheduled to start earlier in the year, with new machinery most likely making their debuts at Sebring in March. 2021 will see the entrance of Hypercar. The journey to get here is less important now. The cars will be here and racing.

At the time of writing we know that Toyota will be present. Their loyalty to Le Mans should be recognised by us all. We also know that they will be joined by two cars from Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus for what has been dubbed by Jim Glickenhaus himself as a ‘David vs Goliath’ battle. In 2019 Toyota manufactured more than 10 million cars. Glickenhaus produced less than 400.

Does that mean that Glickenhaus cannot take the fight to Toyota and win Le Mans? It wouldn’t be the first time that we have seen something like that happen. Glickenhaus also has form when it comes to surprising doubters; just ask Jeff Westphal who took pole position for the American team with its in-house 003C at the Nurburgring 24 Hours a few years ago when up against the factory-backed GT3 cars from Audi, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and Bentley.

We also know that ByKolles is likely to take to the grid with its new Hypercar too, so this could be the start of a new manufacturer competition at the front of the grid.

Le Mans
Toyota’s Hypercar

2022

Just when you have got over the excitement of seeing Hypercars race at Le Mans, you have something more to look forward to. The Le Mans 24 Hours in 2022 is set to be the first time you will get to see the new LMDh class go head-to-head with the Hypercar field, which is in-turn set to be bolstered by the return to Le Mans of Peugeot Sport.

The claims in recent years of tensions between the ACO and IMSA appear to be unfounded as the two bodies have come together and approved a global top class, paving the way for something truly special at Le Mans; a huge field of manufacturers fighting for the overall win, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the late 1990s.

Along with the possible addition of Peugeot to the Hypercar grid, there is a sizeable list of prospective manufacturers all currently evaluating LMDh programmes. Porsche, Mazda, Cadillac, Audi, Acura, Lamborghini and McLaren are all known to be ‘in the room’ and seriously considering their options. It is now a case of which marque makes the first move and gives a programme the green light, but it all looks promising.

2023

Back in 1923, André Lagache & Réné Léonard won the very first 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ultimately, they had two grandstands at the circuit named after them too. 2023’s centennial celebrations should be something not to be missed. A new pit-complex with future-proofed garages enabling the introduction of a Hydrogen class at Le Mans, set to be unveiled for 2023, is currently in the works.

Needless to say, a centenary of racing at Le Mans will be celebrated in a big way throughout 2023, and the Le Mans 24 Hours (and, we believe, the Le Mans Classic too) will be at the centre of it. It is certainly something to start looking forward to. The crowds will be huge and the manufacturers involved will all be more eager than ever to claim a historic victory.

We may not be able to watch racing at Le Mans next week, and of course that is disappointing, but look a bit further down the road and there are a lot of reasons to be cheerful.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

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Le Mans

The future at Le Mans

The Future at Le Mans

Upon reflection, the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours was significant. Not necessarily for the racing, which at times was spectacular, but for what the week showed us about the future of top-level sportscar racing and the forthcoming 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship season which starts in August. From the ACO Press Conference held before the race, until the flag on fell on Sunday afternoon crowning the winners, a picture was painted of what is to come in Le Mans 2020 and beyond.

Much of the talk in the paddock surrounded the 2020/21 season, which will mark the beginning of the new ‘Hypercar Prototype’ era. But, before the ACO confirmed that the new regulations have been finalised, it revealed next year’s FIA WEC entry list, which is 33 cars strong for the full season. And it is a very strong selection of cars that are set to take on, what many would assume will be a rather forgettable season. But, after the Le Mans 24 Hours we’ve just seen, the next campaign looks to have real potential.

Le Mans

The key for many, will be the competitiveness of the LMP1 class. What we saw at La Sarthe marked tremendous progress, with Rebellion and SMP challengers producing blistering lap times and battling with each other throughout the race. Were the privateers able to keep tabs with Toyota come race time? Not quite. Though there are real signs of improvement.The lap time produced by SMP Racing’s fastest BR1 AER in qualifying was quicker than any Audi or Porsche LMP1 time, and Rebellion with its developmental Gibson engine was able to get close to matching that. A year on from the cars’ Le Mans debut, the raw performance was sublime and the reliability is certainly getting there. It made for a race for third overall that kept everyone guessing throughout. It looked for much of the race, especially after the No.17 SMP Racing AER had an off during the night, that Rebellion Racing would take the final podium spot on offer, but a series of errors and mechanical issues meant its chances faded late in the race for the Swiss team, leading to its Russian rival taking third.

At Toyota, there was an inter-team battle which came down to the final hour of the race when a sensor issue diagnosed a puncture, but for the wrong tyre on the leading No.7 TS050 HYBRID. This caused the Toyota team to pit Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez’s car twice for two unscheduled tyre changes, dropping the car to second. Hearts sank in the garage, after such a commanding performance could only produce a second place finish, behind Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi who took a second win at Le Mans and the World Drivers’ Championship in the process. It was strange to see an LMP1 podium at Le Mans such little jubilation shown from the winners.

Next season, with a fresh approach to balancing the cars in the top class, the ACO hopes we will see the privateer pack (which will include a pair of Team LNT Ginetta G60-LT-P1’s, now powered by AER engines) go head-to-head with Toyota after further development to their cars. Toyota does too, as such dominance, after a while, doesn’t add any further value to its programme ahead of its 2020/21 ‘Hypercar’ Programme.

Le Mans

And Toyota has now formally committed to a ‘Hypercar Protoype’. The Japanese marque one of two makes that are set to do battle in the first year of the new regulations. Toyota continuing its programme isn’t much of a surprise, as it has made it clear for over a year now that should the regulations support development of a hybrid system, it would carry on its sportscar programme. Thus we have Toyota Gazoo Racing hybrid-powered protyotypes, which will be styled to look like the forthcoming GR Super Sport Concept to look forward to. Excited? Those behind the programme certainly are, after a long wait for the regulations to be finalised.

The other factory that will take part is Aston Martin. The British marque is set to return to the top class of sportscar racing for the first time since prior to the Hybrid era began. Its last attempt at overall Le Mans glory was forgettable, with the AMR-One prototype not worthy of the brand’s rich history. But the brand looks very different now, inside and out, and this programme will bring together multiple parties associated with its motorsport commitments, who are all capable of delivering the goods. Aston Martin will race “at least two” non-hybrid, V12-powered Valkyries, designed by Adrian Newey, the man behind Red Bull Racing’s successes in F1, with financial support from AF Racing, which runs its new DTM programme and has been competing in the GT3 ranks in recent years. The new Aston ‘Hypercar’ programme will not affect Prodrive’s current GTE effort, which continues to win races in the FIA WEC’s GTE Pro class up against other factories. And that’s huge news, as GTE has taken a hit with the confirmed departure of both BMW and Ford in the past two months.

Le Mans

But the FIA WEC’s long-term viability will hinge on the success of its top class, which looks set to be filled with both factory and privateer teams, Glickenhaus and ByKolles are currently still insistent that they will race too. Beyond Year 1, further manufacturers are expected to join too. McLaren is still on the verge of green-lighting a programme and Porsche is also deep into the evaluation process. And that is just two of the brands still ‘in the room’.

Where does all this leave the other classes? LMP2 will continue to be healthy. Eight cars are on the FIA WEC entry for next season, with another strong set of drivers expected to do battle for some of the more professional prototype teams in the world. There’s a real chance that when ‘Hypercar Prototype’ takes over, then the current LMP2 cars will need to be slowed, as the pace of the ACO’s new breed are not expected to be capable of matching the supreme pace of the current LMP1s. And that’s OK, if the racing is exciting, and the formula attracts a strong number of entries, then few will complain. This will be especially true if the rule-makers can find a way to allow IMSA DPis to come and play at Le Mans and fight the ‘Hypercar Prototypes’ for the overall win. The performance window is similar and Scott Atherton insists that IMSA and the ACO’s relationship “is as strong as its ever been”.

What about GTE? Well Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin are all still committed with factory teams. Will Corvette bring its new C8R to Le Mans, which is currently being developed to the world stage? Unlikely, but there’s certainly a chance of some guest entries here and there. Luckily the customer ranks of GTE are booming. GTE Am will be the biggest class in the FIA WEC field next season, and the level of interest is showing no signs of waning.

After months of rumours, speculations and negativity as the ACO and FIA have put together its plans for the years ahead. We have heard positivity and plenty of it. Of course this has all come later than most would have liked, and both Aston Martin and Toyota will have to work unbelievably hard in the background during the next FIA WEC season to ensure it can make the start of the 2020/21 season with its new cars. But, a grid is forming, and if Aston Martin can take the fight to Toyota when it takes this bold step, then a new era will begin, and others will likely follow their lead.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

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