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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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Le Mans 2020

Le Mans 2020: On Sale Now

Plan now for Le Mans 2020

The dust has barely settled from the Le Mans 24 Hours 2019 that also marked the end of the FIA World Endurance Championship “Super Season”. Another remarkable race and a fitting end to the season. Already our thoughts are turning to Le Mans 2020 and we would love you to join us track-side. This year 252,000 spectators watched the race in person, taking in the sights, sounds and unique atmosphere around the famous Le Mans circuit. Travel Destinations are an official ticket agency for the Le Mans 24 Hours and we provide unique options enabling you to stay track-side and enjoy the best of Le Mans 2020. Most importantly we are on sale now! So you can book your Le Mans 2020 experience with us today!

Travel Destinations at Porsche Curves
Our legendary track-side campsite provides the perfect location from which to enjoy Le Mans 2020. Travel Destinations were the first people to introduce a private campsite at Le Mans exclusive for our guests and our campsite is so popular it sells out every year. The campsite’s track-side location is legendary; it is mentioned on the race commentary every year as the cars pass by. We are fortunate to be able to offer the only private viewing bank at Le Mans. The campsite provides 24 hours security, fully serviced shower/toilet facilities and a friendly cafe and bar on-site. Read more about the Travel Destinations campsite at the Porsche Curves
Le Mans 2020
Travel Destinations Event Tents
We brought glamping to Le Mans five years ago and our Event Tents area has gone from strength to strength each year. Located on the infield close to our Porsche Curves campsite, our Event Tents provide pre-erected bell-tents, with carpet, mattresses and all bed linen. For those that want a comfortable, no-hassle way to enjoy Le Mans 2020, then our Event Tents can provide the solution. Located in their own secure area, the Event Tents have serviced shower & toilet blocks as well as their own hospitality marquee with cafe and bar. In addition all Event Tent guests will also have access to our private viewing bank overlooking the Porsche Curves. Read more about the Travel Destinations Event Tents
Le Mans 2020

Travel Destinations Flexotel Village
The Flexotel Village is our exclusive “pop-up hotel” located in the centre of the circuit. Each Flexotel cabin provides a private, lockable bedroom with two proper beds and all bed-linen. Located at Antares, the Flexotel Village is a short walk from the start/finsh line, Tertre Rouge Corner and the circuit tram terminus. The Flexotel Village is located in its own, secure, tree-lined paddock providing an area of calm inside the hectic circuit. There are fully-serviced showers and toilets as well as a hospitality marquee on-site where the barbecue is always going. For those not wanting to camp, or for those just desiring an exclusive experience the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village will be perfect for Le Mans 2020. Read more about the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village
Le Mans 2020

Circuit-run camping
Camping has long been a tradition at Le Mans and the circuit provide a number of camping areas where you can pitch your tent. Providing a festival-style vibe at Le Mans 2020, these camping areas provide basic facilities for international race fans. These areas are great for groups and experienced Le Mans attendees. They provide an economical alternative with a party-like atmosphere. Read more about the circuit-run campsites.
Le Mans 2020
Travel Destinations staff can assist you with making the right choice for Le Mans 2020. They can also advise on grandstand seats and hospitality offers.

To book your place at Le Mans 2020, please call Travel Destinations (during office hours) on +44 (0)1707 329988.

 

Le Mans 2019

Le Mans 2019: The Result

Toyota win Le Mans 2019 but not with the right car

The Le Mans 24 Hours 2019 had stories unfolding from the start to the finish. It was predictable and unpredictable at the same time, if that is possible. A crowd of 252,000 spectators were kept enthralled for the full 24 hours as the story of Le Mans 2019 unfolded. The history books will say that Toyota won Le Mans 2019 comfortably, as was predicted before a wheel turned at the famous Le Mans circuit. However, there was so much more that went in to this race than just a Toyota Win.

Late drama sees the No. 8 Toyota take the win
Toyota dominated Le Mans 2019. No one can argue that. As the sole manufacturer with a hybrid in the top class, it was going to be a big surprise if they didn’t. Even Toyota’s harshest critic would have to recognise that both their cars performed amazingly well. They continued lapping in the 3m20s throughout the 24 Hours and were reliable (almost) until the very end. That alone is impressive and should be acknowledged. It is not their fault they had little competition. From the very start, the No. 7 car of Conway, Kobayashi & Lopez were the quickets. In particular Mike Conway managed to get something extra from the No. 7 car. The No. 8 car of Buemi, Nakajima & Alonso followed behind, except where pit cycle rotation gave them the lead. As the race played out the No. 7 Toyota retook the lead after 2am and didn’t relinquish it until the final hour. Then there was drama.

Le Mans 24 Hours

With less than an hour to go in Le Mans 2019, the No. 7 car overtook a GT car and had to move off the racing line to do so. They had done this many times throughout the race, but this time they picked up a slow puncture. They were far enough ahead of the sister car, that they could afford to pit and still come out in front. For whatever reason, a decision was made to only change the punctured tyre and not replace the full set. As the No. 7 car rejoined the race, there was a problem as the car was still registering a puncture. Apparently there was a sensor problem and the wrong tyre had been changed so the No. 7 car had to return to the pit lane again. This stop, combined with the slow running with a puncture, allowed the sister Toyota to catch and pass the No. 7 car. Although the No. 7 car returned to the race, there was not enough time to catch the No. 8 car again. The No. 8 car completed 384 laps of the Le Mans circuit and took the chequered flag to win the Le Mans 24 Hours 2019.

Elsewhere in LMP1 there was a great race between SMP Racing & Rebellion Racing for the unofficial privateers crown (and 3rd place in Le Mans 2019). With two cars each it was a very fair fight which saw both ahead of each other at different stages. In the end the No. 11 SMP Racing outlasted the Rebellion pair after the No. 3 car had a major incident in to a tyre wall. That both Rebellions still finished is a statement to the professionalism of the team, but it was SMP Racing that got to stand on the podium alongside Toyota.

 Signatech-Alpine conquer Le Mans 2019 
In such a crowded class with similar technology it was always going to be difficult to predict a winner in LMP2 for Le Mans 2019. The race saw special performances from the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland team that came back from multiple punctures and broken suspension after a collision with the wall.  Dragonspeed were impressive early on and looked to be a contender until Maldonado crashed the car before sunrise. The class outfits (with much FIA WEC experience) were G-Drive Racing and Signatech-Alpine. The two teams were battling together from the very beginning. It appeared that G-Drive had got themselves ahead in the early hours of the morning only for a technical glitch on a routine pit stop, find them unable to restart the car. The following 20 minutes spent in the garage cost them at least a podium place. So it was left to Signatech-Alpine to dominate the final stages and finish ahead of Jackie-Chan DC Racing and TDS Racing who kept going until the end.

Le Mans 24 Hours

Ferrari step up to take GTE Pro at Le Mans 2019
In many ways this was the class to watch throughout the race. Particularly at the start there were often five different manufacturers all in a line, following each other down the Mulsanne Straight. The lead changed multiple times and often the pit lane was a battle ground as stops happened simultaneously. The race was a disappointment for Aston Martin Racing. having qualified on pole, they were hit by Balance of Performance adjustments, that left them unable to manage tyres and ultimately compete. After a couple of hours they were dropping fast down this competitive field and an accident eventually put paid to their challenge. BMW. in their last Le Mans for the time being, also failed to make an impact. So it was left to Corvette, Ford, Porsche and Ferrari to battle it out. And this they duly did. Corvette surprised many in the last outing of the C7.R and were ahead for long stints in the first half of the race.  However, one too many off track excursions ultimately cost them a podium. Ford were always there and challenging. Their numerical supremacy of 4 cars enabled them to extend their challenge, but this wasn’t to be their year. In the end it was the familiar sight of Porsche and Ferrari who got to decide the podiums. In the end it was the underestimated Ferrari team of AF Corse (a factory team in all but name) that came through to claim the top step. The Porsche GT team were always keeping them honest, but going in to the last hour the Ferrari had built a comfortable lead and were never really challenged as the end of the race approached.

Le Mans 24 Hours

Purple is the colour for Keating
So often overlooked, the GTE Am class, once again, provided an excellent spectacle. initially it looked like a Porsche was the car to have. Both Dempsey-Proton cars started the race well and were closely followed by the Gulf Racing Porsche.  As the race went on, the Project 1 Porsche appeared to get stronger and also came to the fore. However, as incidents thinned the challengers, it was the No. 85 Ford GT of Keating Motorsports that broke the Porsche stranglehold. The purple liveried Ford driven and managed by American Ben Keating, survived a late challenge by Team Project 1 that saw the gap reduced to 10 seconds in the last hour, after damage to the car meant a change of nose for the Ford. However, they managed to stay out in front and hold on for an emotional victory for the whole team.

Le Mans 24 Hours

The new FIA World Endurance Championship season begins again in August at Silverstone, and will end at Le Mans 2020. The Le Mans 24 Hours continues to deliver stories and on-track action that makes it the most famous race in the world.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

 

Le Mans 2019

Le Mans 2019: Qualifying Review

Toyota cruise & Aston Martin sprint to Le Mans 2019 poles

Qualifying for Le Mans 2019 came to an end at midnight on Thursday evening, although the celebrations for some went on in to the early hours of Friday morning. The headlines were grabbed by the No. 7 Toyota who took overall pole position with a fastest time of 3m15.497s. They finished ahead of their sister car, with the No. 8 car completing the front row. It can be argued that the difference between starting first and second in a 24 hours endurance race is of little significance, but Kobayashi, Lopez & Conway were happy to celebrate in front of the cameras. In reality the point they receive for pole position narrows the gap to the No. 7 crew who still lead the FIA WEC Championship by 30 points.

Le Mans 2019

Perhaps more significant for the top LMP1 class was the performance of the 3rd placed No. 17 SMP Racing car. Not only were they the first of the non-hybrid (privateer) cars, but they were impressively quick. Not only was their qualification time 3 seconds quicker than this time last year, but it was also quicker than the factory hybrid Porsche 919s and Audi R18 that preceded it. Paul Truswell, the much respected statistician at Radio Le Mans, calculated that if all cars ran without problems for 24 hours, then the Toyotas would have a 28 minutes gap to the next nearest car. However, Le Mans is rarely without problems, many of which take longer than 30 minutes to repair. So Toyota will be still be looking over their shoulders come the start of Le Mans 2019.

Le Mans 2019

There was a certain amount of controversy in the LMP2 qualification, with the No. 39 Graff Racing car initially setting the fastest lap time. However, the team were stripped of their times by the stewards after the chequered flag, after the car failed to stop and a mandatory weighbridge. So the official pole position in the LMP2 class was inherited by the No. 28 TDS Racing car in the early hours of the morning. This was a costly error by Graff Racing and the celebratory champagne had to go back on the ice as they will try to redeem themselves during the race.

Le Mans 2019

Some of the best qualifying action was witnessed in the GTE Pro class, which regularly saw 4 different manufacturers occupying each of the 4 fastest time slots.  In the end, and with the clock ticking down to midnight, it was a clear track for the No. 95 Aston Martin Racing with Nicki Thiim at the wheel that enabled them to complete a hot lap and take pole in this class. The qualifying result saw Aston Martin finish ahead of Ford and then Corvette in the top three. Perhaps surprising was the relative speeds for Porsche & Ferrari who qualified further down the order.

Le Mans 2019

By contrast Porsche completed a 1-2-3 in the GTE Am class, with No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing 911 RSR, claiming pole. The No. 77 sister car claimed second place on the grid with a remarkable turnaround seeing the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche claim 3rd. Gulf Racing looked out of the equation during the qualifying sessions, as they experienced gear-box issues. however, some sterling work by their pit team managed to get the car back on the track late in the last qualifying session and with enough time to set the 3rd fastest time. This relegated the No. 84 Ferrari 488 of JMW Motorsport to 4th on the GTE Am grid.

The weather looks set fair for the race on Saturday & Sunday and if the Le Mans 2019 qualifying sessions were anything to go by then we should be in for an exciting Le Mans 2019.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

 

Le Mans tickets

Le Mans 2019: Preview

Le Mans 2019; it is time for the ‘Super-Season’ finale

After 62 hours of racing across seven rounds, the FIA WEC 2018/19 ‘Super Season comes down to this; the finale at the 87th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. This season has had everything; close racing, drama, controversy, stars in fast cars, new machinery, dominant performances and it all ends here at Le Mans 2019.

It is easy to overlook Le Mans 2019 as the end of the current FIA World Endurance Championship season, as the Le Mans 24 Hours is an international mega-event and in many ways still stands alone. But much of the teams and drivers within the record 62-car field will be fighting not only for their places in the history of this great motor race, but for points and titles. Quite how the race will pan out with teams factoring in all important hauls of points, is a real unknown. But it can only add to the drama and intrigue that goes with Le Mans 2019.

So just how has the ‘Super Season’ panned out? and what can we expect out of the title battles? Well it all started in May of 2018, at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, which was a race that, looking back, served as a real taste of what was to come. LMP1, understandably, has been dominated from the off by the sole remaining factory team in the class, Toyota Gazoo Racing. It’s pair of thoroughbred, near bullet-proof TS050 HYBRIDs, driven by six world-class drivers, this year including Fernando Alonso, have been winning convincingly. And aside from a slip up at Silverstone where both Toyotas were excluded post-race, it has been one-way traffic.

Now, the debate surrounding Toyota’s dominance has been somewhat all consuming throughout the season, but the reality is, that whatever the ACO and FIA do to balance the cars (and it’s efforts thus far have been far from perfect), the non-hybrid privateer cars are just not ready yet to go toe-to-toe with Toyota’s tried and tested, cutting edge machines. Rebellion, SMP, DragonSpeed and ByKolles’ efforts haven’t been in vein, and at times the sheer determination from all parties has been nothing short of admirable, but they’d need a lot more development time and money to sniff wins regularly.

Le Mans 2019

That is not to say that Le Mans 2019 can’t throw up surprises, because it Le Mans often does; just ask Toyota, which until last year had a history of spectacular blunders to its name. The 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours almost went ‘too’ smoothly for the Japanese marque, which in search of its first Le Mans win was able to take a controlled approach, with no other brands throwing huge resources at the event. Le Mans 2019  may prove to be different though, as the privateer cars have had a season’s worth of work completed on them, which will help in the reliability department. And it’s been a cocktail of fragility, along with costly driver errors, that have prevented some of the races from being more competitive. If a couple of the chasing pack can keep it clean, and Toyota hits any sort of trouble, then it will be game on. If not, it will be an inter-team battle between the No.7 and The No.8 to decide which trio is crowned World Champions and Le Mans winners. The battle for third place therefore, will be the one to watch in the class. Unless of course, reliability issues hit Toyota as they did at Spa, where the No.7 spent time in the garage with an electrical issue.

The LMP2 category on the other hand has been far more entertaining on track, as Jackie Chan DC Racing and Signatech Alpine have been locked in a season-long battle for the title lead. As it stands it’s advantage Alpine. For Alpine’s trio, consistency has kept them in it. Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet won the class at Le Mans last year and have been on the podium at every other race. JCDC’s No.38 crew of Gabriel Aubry, Stephane Richelmi and Ho-Pin Tung, meanwhile, trail by just four points after wins at season opener at Spa, Silverstone and Shanghai as well as a second-place finish at Fuji. The big blow came at Sebring, where they could only muster a sixth-place finish after a troubled race on grueling Floridian circuit. At Spa too, in the weather chaos they wouldn’t finish ahead of the Alpine. Can they bounce back at Le Mans 2019, and for one last time pull a win out of the bag and win the title? It’ll be a story line well worth following.

Elsewhere in the full-season WEC LMP2 field, while there are no other contenders for the championship. There is the intrigue of DragonSpeed’s Pastor Maldonado and Anthony Davidson-led ORECA, which has finished on the podium the last three races and looks primed for a big result after a maiden win at Spa, and the new-look No.37 JCDC squad. A mid-season driver crew change for the No.37 car has eliminated it from the title race, but the addition of Briton Jordan King, American IMSA ace Ricky Taylor and super Gentlemen driver David Heinemeier Hansson to the field means further depth for the class. And it’s a class which oozes quality and now features 20 cars at Le Mans 2019 since the late surprise announcement that two extra garages will be built for the race.

For those of you track-side at Le Mans 2019 it is the GTE ranks, that will provide much of the excitement and drama, and for good reason, as both GTE Pro and Am are stacked with quality entries and are likely to play host to the closest racing. GTE Pro this year has had it ups and downs, and its fair share of drama up and down the field, but it’s been Porsche that has led the way with consistency. The German marque, against such stiff competition has taken control of the Drivers points battles and sealed the Manufacturers’ title at Spa. The foundations for its success have been laid throughout the season, thanks to its two screaming-mid-engined 911 RSRs taking wins at Le Mans, Fuji and Sebring, and scoring further podiums at every round. While the other teams have struggled to find any form, Porsche’s GT Team has been at times dominant, which is more than just impressive in a Balance of Performance-controlled formula. Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in the team’s No.92 911 RSR have been the stars here, and head to the finale with a 36-point lead over their teammates in the No.91.

Le Mans 2019

Le Mans is its own race though, and all the other factories will be gunning for glory. After a slow start to its life as the flagship model, Aston Martin will hope its Vantage AMRs can challenge for their first win at La Sarthe, as too will BMW with its M8 GTEs. The older Ford GTs and AF Corse-run Ferraris too will of course be in the mix here, and have to fight not only their full-season competition, but the annual slew of IMSA guest entries (including of course two thunderous Corvettes) that will also be throwing the kitchen sink at Le Mans 2019.

GTE Am on the other hand, is a tighter points battle after seven of the eight races this season. It has been a roller-coaster in the pro-am division of GTE, with some of the best door-to-door action we’ve seen of any class, and a sprinkling of controversy to keep it all interesting. It looked almost certain that the No.88 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche was going to march to the title, after winning Le Mans and Silverstone last year and scoring well at Spa, but at Fuji, it all changed. A huge penalty was handed to the team for a data logger infraction in Japan with the WEC opting to dock the team all its points. This hammering of the reset button for the class vaulted WEC debutant Team Project 1 into the title lead. It’s drivers Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti have been strong all year, and as a trio getting stronger. They’ve shown consistency with four podiums and a win at Fuji. And even when the team had its backs against the wall at Sebring, after a huge fire in the pre-event test forced it to freight a spare car from Europe on short notice during race week, they still finished third. Another big result here would seal it, but after a slip up at Spa closed the points gap, of the five teams mathematically still in the fight, Spirit of Race and Aston Martin Racing in particular will be keen to win big in France and bring the end of the season to a fitting crescendo. There will be drama, especially as GTE AM is 17-cars strong for Le Mans 2019, thanks to the additional guest cars from Asia and Europe.

LMP1 Standings
1st.
No. 8 Toyota TS050 HYBRID – Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima: 160 points
2nd. No. 7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID – Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopex: 129 points
3rd.  No. 3 Rebellion R-13 Gibson – Thomas Laurent, Gustavo Menezes and Mathias Beche: 99 points

LMP2 Standings
1st
  No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 – Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet & Andre Negrao: 143 points
2nd No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA – Ho Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi: 139 points

GTE Pro Drivers Standings
1st
No.92 Porsche 911 RSR – Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre: 140 points
2nd No.91 Porsche 911 RSR – Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz: 104 points
3rd No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 – James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi: 98.5 points

GTE Am Drivers Standings
1st:
No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche, Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti: 130 points
2nd No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari, Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci and Giancarlo Fisichella: 119 points
3rd No. 98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda: 87 points

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar.com

Le Mans Camping

Le Mans Camping; track-side tradition

Le Mans Camping

Camping is a tradition at Le Mans. If you want to experience all that the Le Mans 24 Hours has to offer then staying at the track is the best way to do it. No question. Often camping is a necessity as well, as more than 250,000 spectators descend on Le Mans during Le Mans week and there just aren’t enough rooms to go around. Supply and demand means that any rooms that are available are expensive and are often snapped up by corporate bookings and never go on sale to the general public. So Le Mans camping it is.

Travel Destinations have many customers that would never camp at any other time of the year, but for Le Mans it is just accepted. But then there are different types of Le Mans camping available too. It is very important to make the right choice of campsite at the circuit. The difficulty is that everyone will have a different opinion depending on their Le Mans camping experiences during their stay. At Travel Destinations, we speak to thousands of Le Mans customers every year. Sometimes we will have people in one campsite say it is the best place and rebook again, whilst others in the same campsite will choose a different one for the next year. This is one of the reasons why we speak to every customer, so that we can talk to them, find out their Le Mans Camping needs and requests and then discuss the best Le Mans camping options available.

Le Mans Camping
The majority of the Le Mans camping areas at the track are run by the circuit (the ACO). Thousands of people camp in each of these areas year after year. We describe it as a motor racing Glastonbury, although actually there are twice as many people at Le Mans than the music event. But you can get the idea. The Le Mans campsites are full of tents and cars. Although there are lots of different areas, there are some things they all have in common. Each camping plot will give a 7 metre by 5 metre area. This will need to accommodate both a vehicle and tents. Each campsite will also provide shower and toilet blocks, but as with any event like this expect them to be very busy at peak times.

Each Le Mans campsite has a name and they are different prices depending on the size and location. As a rule of thumb the closer the campsite is to the start/finish straight the more expensive it will be. There are always exceptions, but that is the general rule. Perhaps the most popular circuit-run campsites are Maison Blanche, Houx & Tertre Rouge. Maison Blanche borders the track just before the Ford Chicane. It has been much reduced in recent years with the building of the new Porsche Experience Centre but it remains popular. Houx is a larger campsite in the centre of the infield. It is also a short walk to the village and the start line. Perhaps its most notable point is that Houx is the only campsite that offers access to electricity. Tertre Rouge is located adjacent to the track at the northern end of the circuit just beyond the Dunlop Bridge. It is a smaller campsite that looks down on the track which makes it very popular. Each of these campsites will often sell out a long time in advance of the race.

Beyond these three campsites are other areas such as Houx Annexe, Blue Nord & Blue Sud. Although these campsites offer similar facilities to the first three (except electricity) they are a bit further to walk to the village or start line, so therefore they aren’t as expensive. Each of these campsites will give a numbered pitch, so these are popular with campers who may be arriving later in the week as they won’t have to search for a spot. The biggest circuit-run campsite is called Beausejour. This campsite is located on the infield, with the closest part of the track being the Porsche Curves. Pitches aren’t numbered so arriving early is recommended if you want to be near the entrance. Even then a walk from the Beausejour campsite to the start line will take about 30 minutes, so bring your walking shoes with you. The campsite is huge with thousands of pitches, so usually this is the last area to sell out.

There are two other circuit run campsites that are further away from the start line than Beausejour. Both Arnage and Mulsanne campsites are located on corners and offer great views. However they are beyond walking distance from the rest of the circuit, so new visitors will need to be careful as they can be quite isolated. These areas can be popular with regular visitors that don’t mind being away from the main areas of the circuit.

Le Mans Camping
Travel Destinations Event Tents (Glamping at Le Mans)

So far we have only mentioned the circuit-run Le Mans camping on the track. These are cheap and cheerful, but offer little in the way of facilities and security. However there are alternatives for those people who wish to stay on circuit but would like a bit more for their money. Private campsites will offer a range of extra facilities usually including 24 hours security, private showers & toilets as well as food & drinks on-site. Even then there are differences between what each company can offer. Some private campsites are located within the ACO public areas, but are fenced off to keep them private. Others are located track-side and have no neighbours at all, so it is important to understand exactly what you are buying.

Travel Destinations were actually the first company to introduce private camping more than 15 years ago. Our private campsite at the Porsche Curves has increased in area and capacity since then but still offers the extra security, serviced showers and toilets as well as our popular marquee where our bar and food outlet can be found. It is also where we have our TV screens and evening entertainment so it is a real social hub. Our Porsche Curves campsite also has the only private viewing bank at the circuit, so our guests can get a unique view of the race.

Le Mans Camping
Travel Destinations Flexotel Village

For those that don’t enjoy camping, Travel Destinations have added Glamping and Flexotels to the on-circuit choices. Glamping is still under canvas, but the large pre-erected tents come with carpet and beds, so you don’t need to have any equipment. Similarly, the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village provides pop-up hotel rooms in the centre of the circuit so that you can return to your own bedroom and a proper bed each night. The height of luxury at Le Mans. By their nature all private areas at the circuit are going to be limited in space and more expensive than the large circuit run campsites, but it is important to note that the private campsites will sell out the quickest, so it is always important to book early. It is unlikely that there is going to be much availability as the race gets closer.

Top tips for Le Mans Camping :
• There are lots of options so it is important to do your research or speak to an official agent before you make your booking.
• Consider the distance from the campsite to the track as you will be doing a lot of walking
• Think about what you want from your experience. Is cost the priority or would you prefer security or luxury?

Travel Destinations are the largest UK Tour Operator to Le Mans. Travel Destinations are an Officially appointed Le Mans tickets agency and are a fully bonded ABTA and ATOL tour operator.
For further details visit www.lemansrace.com or call the Travel Destinations team on +44 (0)1707 329988.

Written by Richard Webb

Travel to Le Mans

Travel to Le Mans – How to get there

The city of Le Mans lies approximately 125 miles to the west of Paris and about 100 miles south of the Normandy coast, which makes it a very easy destination to visit for international race fans. Around a quarter of Le Mans visitors actually come from the UK to the circuit each June and the vast majority of those will choose a car to travel to Le Mans. Travelling by car has two major benefits. The first is social & economic. If you are coming in your own vehicle you can fill it with your friends & they can contribute to the cost of travel. Everyone wins! The second is practical. If you are camping at Le Mans, then you will want to be as self-sufficient as possible, and it is amazing what you can fit in a car when you need to.

When originating from the UK there is a choice of routes for travel to Le Mans. There is no right or wrong way to do this and much will depend on your priorities, such as cost, time and driving distance. The shortest and quickest way across the Channel is to head towards Calais. You can choose either the ferry from Dover or the Eurotunnel from Folkestone. The ferry takes 80 minutes and you get the chance to wander the ship, eat & drink or go shopping. The Eurotunnel takes 35 minutes but you stay in your car the whole time. Both are priced similarly and they both get you to Calais. The route from Calais is an easy drive & can be done on dual carriageways all the way. These are tolled roads that will cost just over €30.00 in total. If your Sat Nav suggests going via Paris, ignore it and look at a map. The simplest route is going to be via driving via Rouen. Expect the driving time from Calais to be around 4½ hours plus any stops that you make.

Travel to Le Mans
You can directly compare this with the longer sea crossings out of Portsmouth. You can choose routes to Caen, Le Havre, Cherbourg and St. Malo, but all are operated by Brittany Ferries. In our experience the service is generally good on these ships, which is a good thing as you are generally looking at more than 6 hours on board. You can choose overnight sailings on some of the routes which are popular but remember that any cabins you book will increase your costs. Price is usually the deciding factor when comparing these routes to Calais as they are generally at least 4 times the price of the Calais routes. So why would you choose them? Well if you live near the south coast, then Portsmouth could be your nearest port anyway, but most people will look at the drive times on the French side as the deciding factor. From Caen to travel to Le Mans, the drive time is going to be in the region of 2½ hours to Le Mans, depending on which route you choose and the tolls will be half the price if you choose to use the tolled motorways.

For those living in the North of England or beyond a good option to look at is the route from Hull to Zeebrugge. This is an overnight ferry run by P&O Ferries. Initially this may look like an odd choice for travel to Le Mans, but under closer inspection it often saves time and money. Zeebrugge is just over the border in to Belgium but remains within an hour’s drive of Calais. So not much driving difference from the Calais routes. The big bonus is that by sailing down you have avoided some of the more notorious British roads and driving on the continent is a lot easier with less traffic than the M6, M1 and M25 or M23. As it is an overnight ferry, this may not work for everyone, and cabins will need to be booked, but if you live within a 2 hours’ drive of Hull, then I would be taking this route quite seriously.

Travel to Le Mans

Every year. Travel Destinations looks after increasing numbers of people from outside the UK that wish to travel to Le Mans. Le Mans is a truly international event, with significant numbers travelling from the USA, Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, South America and elsewhere around Europe. Although many of these people do hire a car and then drive, most will choose to travel by train. Those travelling from the UK can choose the Eurostar train service (not Eurotunnel, they are separate things) that starts at London St. Pancras and finishes in Paris. If you are heading directly to Le Mans, then consider changing at Lille as you can then catch the train straight to Le Mans from there (and it is easier than traversing Paris). If you are arriving in Paris at Charles de Gaulle airport you can also catch this train direct to Le Mans. Alternatively, if you are combining a visit to Le Mans with a visit to Paris, then the fast train (TGV) goes direct to Le Mans from Paris Montparnasse station. Once at the Le Mans station, then the tram to the circuit is right outside the station, with the end of the line at Antares in the centre of the circuit, so that couldn’t be simpler.

Top tips for travelling to Le Mans:
• Think about drive times on both sides of the Channel before booking your crossings
• Maximise the number of people in your vehicle to keep the costs down.
• Think about the economy of your vehicle. Maybe the more expensive crossings will work out cheaper in the long run. Or consider going by train.

Travel Destinations are the largest UK Tour Operator to Le Mans. Travel Destinations are an officially appointed ticket agency for Le Mans and are a fully bonded ABTA and ATOL tour operator.
Visit www.lemansrace.com for more details or call +44 (0)1707 329988.

Written by Richard Webb

Le Mans tickets

When & how to book Le Mans tickets

The Le Mans 24 Hours is seen as the pinnacle of sports car racing and it is on the bucket list of spectators and drivers from all fields of motorsport. Every June more than 250,000 race fans make the pilgrimage to Le Mans. So what makes Le Mans so popular? What Le Mans tickets do you need? and how can you get the most from your own personal Le Mans Experience?

The Le Mans 24 Hours is a unique event. The Le Mans circuit is like no other motorsport venue in the world. It really has to be experienced in person to fully appreciate the history, the challenge, the emotion and the atmosphere of the event. This is the reason that National Geographic rated the Le Mans 24 Hours the number one sporting event in the world; higher than the Olympics, the super bowl or the football world cup.

The history of the Le Mans 24 Hours is well known. A 24 hours endurance race has taken place at Le Mans annually since 1923; only interrupted by a general strike in 1936 and the Second World War. Nearly every car manufacturer that you can think of has competed at Le Mans over the years, but relatively few have been successful. It is not easy to win at Le Mans.

Le Mans tickets
For spectators, such a big event does provide a number of challenges. When to book, where to stay, what tickets are required, how long to stay, where to watch & what to do. That is where Travel Destinations as a specialist travel company can assist. Travel Destinations has been looking after people at Le Mans for more than 20 years now, so in that time we have done everything, seen everything and can help from a position of knowledge and experience. Often there is no right or wrong answer, just a different solution to the same problem, but at least Travel Destinations staff can talk customers through the pros and cons of all the available options.

The one thing that all the Travel Destinations staff agree on is that booking early for Le Mans is highly recommended. As with any large-scale event, availability is key; so the earlier you book your Le Mans tickets, the more choice that you will have. In reality it is possible to turn up on the day and purchase an entrance ticket to the circuit, but that is all that will be available. Campsites, grandstands, glamping and hospitality will always sell out. Gone are the days of turning up in your car and just pitching a tent in the nearest field.

Travel Destinations looks after a few thousand customers at the Le Mans 24 Hours each year, many of whom are repeat customers. Often these people will re-book immediately on their return or even before if they phone on their way home from the race, which some people do. However, this isn’t always necessary unless you are particularly forgetful. We would usually recommend that people reserve the travel, tickets and accommodation before Christmas for the following year. This will usually guarantee you everything that you want. Once the New Year comes around, certain things will start to sell out. Particularly popular grandstands and track-side campsites may start to fill up. There will always be something available right up until April and May; we do even make some very late bookings in the first week of June, but by then there is no choice, it is just what is left available at that time.

Le Mans tickets
So, ultimately what we are saying is that the time to book is as soon as possible. Once you have decided that you want to go to Le Mans then you need to act. These days the first thing most people do is surf the internet. You will find endless social media, forums and message boards all offering their opinions on where is the best place and what the best tickets to have are. However, there are really only two things that you should look for when purchasing tickets etc. for Le Mans: The first thing to look for is an official Le Mans tickets agent logo. This logo means that the company is officially licensed to sell tickets directly from the ACO (the Automobile Club De L’Ouest, are the race organizers). Anyone without that logo is effectively a re-seller and is probably acting without authorization from the circuit. That is called ticket touting and is effectively breaks the terms and condition of buying a Le Mans ticket. Not only that, but you run the risk of not receiving the correct tickets or any at all. So message one is to always look for that Le Mans official agency logo. The second thing to look for, & this applies for any holiday that you may choose to book, is that the company should be bonded to offer financial protection. The most well-known if these in the UK is ABTA and ATOL. These logos show that the company you are booking through have been authorized to sell travel packages and that they have all the insurances in place to do so. Sadly there are many companies that will claim to ensure your money is safe if you book with them, but ultimately you should ask more questions before you book. We recommend looking for the logos. If they aren’t there or you are not sure, don’t book.

The internet is great for many things, but for Le Mans tickets it can cause issues if you aren’t familiar with Le Mans, are visiting for the first time, or the website is in a foreign language. Sometimes it is best to speak to someone with experience and ask some questions. Travel Destinations actively encourages all our customers to call us, even if they have been to Le Mans many times before. Things are always changing at Le Mans, so you can’t just presume things will be the same as previous years. In recent years some campsites have been built on and closed or reduced in size. New campsites have opened and others have changed the facilities on offer. All Travel Destinations staff have been to Le Mans, so can speak from experience. They are also kept up to date with current events at the circuit so that they can pass on that information directly to our customers. Ticking a box on a website just can’t do that.

Top tips for booking for Le Mans tickets:
• Only purchase from an official agent (or the circuit directly).
• Check for financial bonding if booking as part of a travel package (look for the logos!)
• Pick up the telephone and speak to the company. If they can’t answer the phone or don’t know the answers to your questions, try someone else who can.

Travel Destinations is the largest UK Tour Operator to Le Mans. Travel Destinations are an officially appointed Le Mans tickets agency for the Le Mans 24 Hours as well as the Le Mans Classic and they are a fully ABTA and ATOL bonded tour operator.
Visit www.lemansrace.com for more details or call the Travel Destinations team on +44 (0)1707 329988.

Written by Richard Webb

Le Mans 2019

Le Mans 2019: Reserve your place now!

Le Mans 2019: On sale now

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

Le Mans 2019

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

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

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

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

Le Mans 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Le Mans

Le Mans 2018: Prototypes Preview

Le Mans 24 Hours 2018: LMP preview

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

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

Le Mans

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

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

Le Mans

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

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

Le Mans

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

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

Le Mans

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

Le Mans

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

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

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar