French automotive manufacturer Alpine has announced today that it will be racing in the top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship next season with a grandfathered LMP1 car. This is an incredibly welcome surprise for everyone in and around the FIA WEC, and kicks off what is set to be a big week for Le Mans news ahead of the delayed 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend.
So what do we know, what do we think we know and how significant is this announcement?
Travel Destinations understands that Alpine will race a grandfathered (Gibson-powered) Rebellion R-13 for this FIA WEC programme, leased from ORECA (which manufactures the chassis) following the end of Rebellion Racing’s LMP1 effort at the end of this season. The R-13 a proven, race-winning car, which in the hands of an aspirant manufacturer like Alpine could prove to be a force in the WEC’s new-look top class.
Just how competitive will it be? Well a lot will come down to how strong the Le Mans Hypercar offerings from Toyota, Glickenhaus and ByKolles prove to be in their debut season. The Le Mans Hypercars are expected to be slower in terms of lap time than the current crop of LMP1 cars, meaning the Alpine will need to be handicapped in order to balance the field.
This plays to Alpine’s advantage. Should the restrictions on the car not prove too harsh, then the R-13 (which will likely be re-badged an Alpine) can surely take the fight to Toyota’s challenger? The R-13, after two seasons of competition, is a package that has proven to be pretty reliable, and quick too, so a de-tuned version of the car – in theory at least – should be even more capable of surviving the bumps at Sebring and the stress-test that 24 hours of racing at Le Mans provides.
Entering the 2021 season with a proven piece of machinery in a year that will see all of its competitors getting to grips with a new formula, looks like a smart move from Alpine and its parent company Renault at this stage. Alpine has been a stalwart in LMP2 racing since it first partnered up with Signatech back in 2014 and has WEC and ELMS titles and multiple Le Mans class wins to its name. The transition should therefore be relatively seamless to LMP1, especially as the R-13 is, in effect, a heavily modified version of the re-badged ORECA 07 the team competes with currently.
Many feared that Renault’s decision to re-brand its Formula One team as Alpine for 2021 would mark the end of Alpine’s run in sportscar racing. But this is clearly not the case. Renault is showing that it has bold plans for its boutique brand, which lest we forget, has a long and storied past at La Sarthe, with an overall win in 1978 among the successes.
So where will this lead? Currently, grandfathered LMP1 cars are only eligible in the FIA WEC for the 2021 season as part of the championship’s transition to the new Le Mans Hypercar era. So beyond next year it remains to be seen what Alpine decide to do. But the rumour mill is already churning away, with many outlets confident that this move to LMP1 is part of a wider plan to join the Le Mans Hypercar/LMDh formula in the medium term, allowing them to compete for Le Mans wins outright with a brand new car. The prospect of winning the 2023 edition, on the 100th anniversary of the inaugural Le Mans 24 Hours, for instance, has to be on the minds of those behind Alpine’s sportscar programme, especially with rival brand Peugeot Sport already signed up and readying itself for the task.
That’s a ways off though. Right now it’s time to get even more excited about the 2021 FIA WEC season. Toyota vs Alpine vs Glickenhaus vs ByKolles at the front of the field at Le Mans? It’s shaping up nicely!
Want to make the trip to Le Mans next year for the 24 Hours or Classic? We’re already on sale for 2021 and demand is high! Give our office a call today to get yourself a package booked on 01707 329 988.
With the delayed 2020 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours right around the corner, Travel Destinations has taken the time to look back at last year’s race, which feels like a very long time ago now!
Le Mans wins are like buses it seems… Having waited decades for its first victory at La Sarthe, Toyota made it two overall Le Mans wins in two years in 2019, with another dominant showing against the privateer pack. Last year’s edition served as the ‘Super Finale’ to the 2018/19 WEC ‘Super Season’ and delivered, in every class, with drama right until the checkered flag fell.
In the end, it was Toyota Gazoo Racing’s No. 8 TS050 HYBRID that took the spoils. It was back to back wins for Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, though throughout the race they were not the quickest of the two crews from the Japanese marque.
The final hour served up a huge bout of confusion, as a faulty sensor for the sister No. 7 of Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway caused the lead to change between the two TS050s, leaving 252,000 fans in the stands and members of the team, scratching their heads throughout the final stint of the race.
The No. 8 eventually took the victory, after a final hour filled with confused radio messages between Kazuki Nakajima in the winning car and Jose Maria Lopez in the No. 7 and their engineers.
It was rather heart-breaking for No. 7 team, who led most of the second half of the race but came up short, all three forced to wait at least another year to score their first win. It was a cruel end after the car had the pace to win this race all the way to the flag.
The picture became clearer after the race. The No. 7’s tyre sensors indicated that there was a right-front puncture just before the end of the penultimate hour. This forced the team to pit the car. When it pitted, the team changed only the right-front tyre. The sensor was then discovered to have been wrong. So they pitted the car once again, to change the right rear.
After that, the team managed the finish. Alonso, Nakajima and Buemi claimed a second straight Le Mans win and the FIA WEC World Drivers’ Championship.
Behind Toyota, there was plenty of excitement in the privateer ranks. Four of the privateer LMP1s from SMP Racing and Rebellion Racing went toe-to-toe for third place overall.
On Sunday afternoon, though, it would be SMP that would take the ‘best of the rest’ moniker with the No. 11 BR1 of Vitaly Petrov, Mikhail Aleshin and Stoffel Vandoorne. The trio drove masterfully en route to scoring the best result for the chassis to date and AER’s first ever Le Mans overall podium.
By race end it was no longer close between the two teams, as the No. 3 Rebellion was knocked out of contention in the second half of the race after a wild sequence of events. The list of mishaps included a three-minute penalty for supplying officials with the wrong tire serial numbers, a spin into the gravel on the Porsche Curves by Gustavo Menezes and a series of brake issues. All this after the car had to be repaired hastily in the opening hours of the race after Thomas Laurent went nose-first into the barriers down the Mulsanne Straight.
Both of Rebellion’s cars finished though. The best of the two was the No. 1 of Neel Jani, Bruno Senna and Andre Lotterer which took fourth, three laps behind the No. 11 (sole-surviving) SMP machine after the car hit trouble early when the team incorrectly misidentified a puncture, and didn’t recover.
In the other classes there was plenty of drama and excitement too.
LMP2 saw Signatech Alpine won the class, like Toyota, for a second straight year. Though on this occasion its drivers could celebrate on the podium – as in 2018 it was handed the victory via a post-race investigation for the car which crossed the line third. Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet finished up an astonishing 2018/19 campaign with a pair of Le Mans wins and a world title.
It wasn’t a dominant run as such for the French outfit, but towards the end the of the race its competition from Jackie Chan DC Racing and G-Drive Racing faded.
GTE Pro, with an entry packed with factory cars from Ford, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche, BMW and Corvette, surprisingly, was the only class that was settled early in the 87th edition. It was AF Corse’s year, the Italian team scoring the first win for the Ferrari 488 GTE at this famous race on the 70th anniversary of Ferrari’s first win at Le Mans.
The No. 51 of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra was the winning car, the trio emerging as a contender in the race’s opening hours and fighting for the win all the way through the night and into Sunday afternoon. The battle, which involved multiple marques for the win, wasn’t decided on track, and instead by a safety car period splitting up the field in the final hours. After that it was an easy ride for the No. 51 crew, who finished over a minute ahead of the No. 91 and No. 93 Porsches that completed the podium.
While it was a huge result for Ferrari, its rival marque Ford had a forgettable weekend in what was the final weekend for the GT factory programme in the WEC. It had five cars in the race, with four of them entered in the Pro class run by the Ganassi team. The works entries finished in formation from fourth to seventh. In order to challenge, the drivers had to run the cars ragged, not a sustainable option over 24 hours…
Meanwhile in GTE Am, it looked as though the GT would sign off with a farewell victory via its customer car from Keating Motorsports; but post-race technical checks saw the team stripped of what would have been a memorable victory.
The US team, owned by Ben Keating, crossed the line first after Keating himself, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and Le Mans debutant Felipe Fraga survived late drama to beat the Project 1 Porsche to the flag. Seemingly out of nowhere, in a similar fashion to AF Corse’s No. 51 Ferrari in Pro, the No. 85 rose up the order and went on to control the race in Am.
In the second half, it looked almost too comfortable for the American guest-entered team. The trio had built a big lead and looked set to cruise to the finish. But a pit stop to change the car’s front end, requested by the organizers in the penultimate hour, spawned drama. Keating left tyre marks when leaving his pit box, prompting race control to hand out a stop-go penalty.
All of a sudden, with less than an hour to go, the team’s lead had vanished, and the Project 1 Porsche was just a handful of seconds behind after the final stops. It was a straight fight in the end between Bleekemolen and Jorg Bergmeister, the Dutchman soaked up the pressure and made it look easy, eventually finishing 44 seconds up the road.
But the drama didn’t end there. As the following day the team was disqualified due to the fuel tank being in excess of the total permitted for the race. It meant the aforementioned No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR of Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey, and Egidio Perfetti, who had already claimed the world title by finishing second, were handed the class win post-race too.
Want to make the trip to Le Mans next year for the 24 Hours or Classic? We’re already on sale for 2021 and demand is high! Give our office a call today to get yourself a package bookedon 01707 329 988.
While this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours will no longer be the final race for the LMP1 category – the FIA WEC’s newly scheduled trip to Bahrain later this year will be – it will represent somewhat of a last hurrah for a class which has represented the pinnacle of sportscar racing for most of the past two decades.
The list of designed and raced LMP1 cars is surprisingly long, when you consider that new models have been few and far between in recent years. It comprises of 53 chassis spanning 26 manufacturers. There have been some stinkers, but also some absolute stunners.
It begs the question: When the Le Mans Hypercar category takes over the reigns at the top of the FIA WEC next year, what will we remember when we look back on the LMP1 era? Lest we forget that it has provided some of the most memorable races in sportscar racing history and pushed the boundaries on the technology front.
So before we say goodbye, at Travel Destinations we’ve picked six of the most significant LMP1 battles at La Sarthe to remember:
2007: Audi Vs Peugeot Round 1
Cast your mind back to 2007. The Diesel-powered era was in its infancy, and the class’ visibility beyond the Le Mans 24 Hours was low. Audi wasn’t fighting Peugeot for a world title over the course of a season, in fact Audi chose to race in the American Le Mans Series in an attempt to grow its Diesel product in the US and its French rival planted its flag in the Le Mans Series. This meant the only time they came together and raced was at Le Mans, which was a non-championship race at the time.
As a spectacle, the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours may not have lived up to the hype that two automotive giants competing against one another for the ultimate prize in endurance racing creates. But the result was significant. It was a race in which Audi flexed its muscles and won its seventh Le Mans by 10 laps with its sole-surviving R10 TDI and kickstarted a rivalry that would last five years.
For Peugeot it was a baptism of fire for the 908 programme. It took two examples to the event and put them up against a trio of R10s manned by highly experienced crew members who the year prior had dominated the 2006 edition scoring the first ever diesel victory up against a cabal of petrol-powered privateer LMP1s that in reality stood little chance due to the inherent advantage in fuel efficiency the Diesels benefitted from. In 07, the disparity between the petrol and diesel cars was no different.
For much of the race it appeared that the venerable trio of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello would storm to victory. For 15 hours, they were in control, showing stunning raw pace and consistency up against their teammates and the 908s that proved to be fast but fragile.
But it all went wrong for the No. 2 Audi, when the right-rear wheel came detached at Indianapolis sending Capello into the barriers and into retirement. This left the No. 1 Audi of Frank Beila, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner to claim the lead and a second consecutive victory as a trio. A 10 lap margin looks comfortable on paper, but in reality there was a sense of unease at Audi in the closing stages; it was down to one car by the end as the No. 3 R10 had also retired following an off of its own. It meant Audi and Peugeot would head into the final hours with one car apiece following the No. 7 908’s engine expiring.
In the end though Audi would prevail.
2010: Peugeot’s meltdown
Three years on from Peugeot’s debut with the 908, it was on top of the world. It had scored a famous Le Mans victory in 2009, making the most of an uncharacteristically poor showing from Audi’s factory team and was poised to make it two wins in a row for its updated 908 HDi FAPs.
The 908 was a considerably faster car than Audi’s revised R15 Plus, and it appeared to be reliable too, having scored commanding 1-2 finishes in the Sebring 12 Hours and the 100km of Spa in the run up to the race in France.
But it simply wasn’t meant to be, as the French giant would see its hopes of winning Le Mans slowly fade away during the 24 Hours as the four 908s hit trouble and retired; three of them with identical engine failures. The scenes trackside and in the garages were remarkable, it was beyond a missed opportunity and the top brass at Peugeot knew it.
Peugeot’s woes left Audi to pick up the pieces and score a highly unlikely 1-2-3 finish, the marque’s ninth overall win which equaled Ferrari in the all-time tally. Ultimately, the French marque wouldn’t get a better chance to score a second Le Mans victory with the 908 platform, though it did come close the year after.
2011: Audi’s Last Man Standing
And it was a year later, in 2011, which saw arguably the greatest on-track battle in LMP1 history between Audi and Peugeot, in what turned out to be the French constructor’s final Le Mans before withdrawing from the sport.
It was a classic round-the-clock war between two teams. Both Audi’s brand new R18 and Peugeot’s revised 908 ran on rather equal terms, though both cars had strengths and weaknesses. The Audi? It was quicker over a single lap at La Sarthe and could quadruple stint its tyres. The Peugeot? It could go longer on fuel and proved to be faster during the night hours when the temperature dropped.
That combination made for a thrilling race in which the pendulum swung wildly throughout. Audi may have taken a clearer win had it not had two of its three cars eliminated by major accidents. The team’s No. 2 example of McNish, Capello and Kristensen crashed out early after a tangle with a Ferrari at the Dunlop Bridge which sent McNish flying into the barriers. Then overnight Mike Rockenfeller had a huge accident in the No. 3, also (coincidentally) with a Ferrari, at the Mulsanne Kink, which saw him spear into the barriers, destroying the car. Thankfully both were unhurt.
It left a sole-surviving R18 of Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer to defend Audi’s honor and score their second straight win as a crew. The trio performed impeccably under increasing pressure from the Peugeots throughout, and survived some rather ‘daring’ attempts to force mistakes. When the cars crossed the line it was Audi’s day once again in a tight finish that came down to the final round of pit stops.
It was the closest finish since ’69, just 13.8 seconds separated the leading pair.
2015: Porsche makes it 17
Held in front of a record crowd of over 260,000 people, the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours had a lot to live up to. With 11 factory cars in the LMP1 ranks on the entry list and an ensemble cast of drivers in the top class at a level higher than any race at La Sarthe post-2000, it had so much promise, and thankfully delivered.
When it came down to it, the race turned into a titanic battle between Porsche and Audi. The two Japanese marques failed to feature. Toyota on this occasion was a step behind two German makes up front, and Nissan’s radical GT-R LM NISMO was so far off the pace (and unreliable, in part because its hybrid system simply didn’t work) that the pole-setting LMP2 car reeled off a time half a second up on the slowest of the three in Qualifying.
But it was still a race filled with drama, as Audi attempted to further chip away at Porsche’s record number of overall wins. Unfortunately, the race weekend would mark the start of Porsche’s dominant run in LMP1. The 919 was hitting its stride, proving to be both fast and (mostly) reliable.
But on this occasion, Porsche’s full-season crews in the No. 17 and No. 18 examples were not the shining stars, instead its third car – in just for Spa and Le Mans – with Earl Bamber, Nick Tandy and Nico Hulkenburg had a faultless run to the victory. Audi’s leading trio of Lotterer, Fassler and Treluyer were in the fight for the first half of the race, before the pace of their car dropped off when the sun went down and the rear deck of their R18 became detached on Sunday morning, costing them valuable time in the pits. It left the door open for Porsche to score a 1-2 finish.
It was victory 17 at Le Mans for the brand, which would go on to make it 19 before walking away in 2018.
2016: Toyota’s heartbreak
You can’t write about the best LMP1 races without mentioning the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours. It was a simply staggering race, with one of the most gut-wrenching finishes in sportscar racing history.
We’ll start at the end. Toyota had this won. With two laps to go, well over 23 hours of the race completed, Kazuki Nakajima was heard on the team radio complaining that he had lost power. At that point he held a comfortable lead over Porsche’s leading 919 which was on the lead lap but had opted to back off as a showing of class.
Those trackside saw the No. 5 TS050 HYBRID slowing and immediately brushed off it off as an attempt to create a formation finish. But it quickly became clear that the panic was beginning to set in down in the Toyota camp. It wasn’t part of the plan at all, instead there was a fault with the car which caused it to slow to a crawl and eventually grind to a halt on the start/finish line directly in front of the team’s garage.
Nakajima could barely walk after being retrieved from the car and the entire squad, understandably, were experiencing collective shock on an colossal scale. After so many years of trying, Toyota, once again had run out of luck when it mattered most. It would have to wait another two years to claim its first win. Porsche meanwhile, took a surprise victory.
Want to make the trip to Le Mans next year for the 24 Hours or Classic? We’re already on sale for 2021 and demand is high! Give our office a call today to get yourself a package bookedon 01707 329 988.
Any Le Mans regular will know that it is highly unusual for the 24 Hours to be held in September. Things will be very different this year, but the action this year should still make for a fascinating watch.
Conditions for the teams and drivers will be somewhat unfamiliar, with no fans present, more night hours and a schedule condensed into four days. For the drivers that have perennially complained that race week at La Sarthe is too long and drawn out compared to a normal weekend, making it harder to stay focused, now is their time to shine.
But this year isn’t the first time that the Le Mans 24 Hours has been pushed back to September however, as civil unrest in France during the summer of 1968 prompted the ACO to postpone the event and make it the final round of the World Sportscar Championship that season.
So what was it like? Well the race itself was a memorable one, and not just because of the date change, as Stephen Kilbey writes…
Le Mans in the 1960s is always associated with the Ford vs Ferrari rivalry, but the ’68 edition wasn’t contested by factory efforts from either marque. Instead it was a race in which privateer entrants from Ford did battle for the victory up against Porsche’s factory and privateer teams as the challenges from the Alpine, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Matra outfits either faded or failed to feature.
The winning car was an iconic one, a JW Automotive Ford GT40 draped in a Gulf livery, driven by Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi. It was a case of an older car coming out of retirement to claim a famous win.
Changes to the rules which limited the engine capacity of the prototype cars prompted Ford to withdraw its works effort after the Shelby-American team won the race in the two previous years with the GT40 MK II and GT40 MK IV respectively. With the regulations changed and the factory team out of the picture it was up to privateer teams to fly the flag for the ‘Blue Oval’. Enter John Wyer’s Slough-based outfit, who bested the field with the GT40 MK I up against a mixture of prototypes and grand tourers.
The French marques looking to reclaim the Le Mans title for their homeland after an 18-year drought were the real losers here.
Alpine scaled up its effort, and entered a record nine cars in the race. Had the event been run in June, it wouldn’t have been ready to stage such an attack with its A210 and A220 prototypes, though strength in numbers didn’t help on this occasion.
In the end just three of its cars made the finish, with the best of the trio crossing the line classified eighth, 34 laps down on the winning Ford after suffering multiple mechanical issues; though it did pick up a third place finish in the Prototype subclass for 3.0-litre cars. Its other two finishers, in the Prototype category for 1.15-litre cars took a 1-2 finish while finishing 10th and 14th overall.
Matra on the other hand, only entered a single V12-powered MS630 longtail for Messrs Pescarolo and Servoz-Gavin as part of a decision to focus on its Grand Prix programme. In fact, the French outfit wouldn’t have headed to La Sarthe at all had the race been run in June. Like Alpine, the delay to the event provided it more ample time to prepare.
As it turned out Matra fared better than Alpine for much of the race with its lone challenger. Johnny Servoz-Gavin stuck the car fifth on the grid for the race, before Henri Pescarolo (who would score three straight wins in the early 70s with Matra) moved up the order during the opening hours, claiming second overall before midnight.
It was a story of heroics from there on in for the team. A fault with the windscreen wipers persuaded Matra CEO Jean-Luc Lagardere to retire the car, but Pescarolo refused to throw in the towel and drove on. He battled through the night in an attempt to keep the team’s podium hopes alive with rain coming down through the early hours of Sunday morning. In the end his efforts would come to nothing though, as a puncture damaged the car terminally just after midday. Matra would have to wait another five years to claim an overall win.
Porsche also couldn’t seal the deal, the winning Ford proving too much for the Stuttgart make, which like both Matra and Alpine was searching for its maiden Le Mans victory. Porsche had seven cars on the grid, four of them new-for-68 908s fielded by the factory, with a further trio of 907s from privateers.
On this occasion the 907 came out on top, with the Swiss team Squadra Tartaruga coming home second overall, though five laps off the JW Ford. The factory’s hopes ultimately ended in the first half of the race and Just one 908 would finish, but after losing an hour to repairs for an overheating issue. Rolf Stommelen and Jochen Neerpasch pushed hard on Sunday to make up for lost time, although a third place finish was all they could muster, finishing a lap behind the brand’s Swiss customer team that in turn took the 3.0 litre Prototype class honours. The duo did however complete more laps than the trio of works Autodelta SpA Alfa Romeos that completed the top five.
Put simply, it was John Wyer, and consequently Ford’s day, against the predictions of many who had Porsche down as the favourite. Porsche had enjoyed plenty of success that season and had collected World Sportscar Championship wins at Daytona, Sebring, Palermo, Nurburgring and Zeltweg before Le Mans, where it looked to claim another win and the championship.
The combination of Rodriguez and Bianchi was also an unknown quantity for the JW Automotive team too, as injuries to two of its star drivers – Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman – (who together claimed two wins together that year) meant a new line-up was required at the last minute for Le Mans in the No.9 Ford.
Bianchi at least was a two-time class winner ahead of what would be his final ride at La Sarthe, but Rodriguez had retired nine times in his previous 10 attempts and finished only once (seventh overall in 1965). On the day though both would drive faultlessly, and after Porsche’s factory cars hit trouble in the opening hours would take control of the race. It may have been a 1-2 finish for Gulf GT40s too had the sister No.10 entry of Paul Hawkins and David Hobbs not suffered a clutch issue and subsequent engine failure having run up front in formation with the winning GT40 during Saturday afternoon.
Wyer wouldn’t leave disappointed however, as the victory for his team was comfortable and secured the Manufacturers’ crown in the World Sports Car Championship for Ford by three points over Porsche. It was real added value for the American giant which had poured so much into its Le Mans effort during the decade.
Want to make the trip to Le Mans next year for the 24 Hours or Classic? We’re already on sale for 2021 and demand is high! Give our office a call today to get yourself a package bookedon 01707 329 988.
The 2020 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours is set to be run behind closed doors in September (19th-20th), following a decision from the event organiser, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the Sarthe Prefecture today.
Prior to today’s announcement the ACO had explored multiple solutions to allow a limited number of spectators to attend the race during the current COVID-19 situation, including a zone system which would segregate the fans trackside. However, after lengthy discussions with the public health and safety authorities the ACO and the Sarthe Prefecture decided that the best move was to run the event without fans.
“The 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans will go down in the annals of history as, sadly, the world’s greatest endurance race will be run this year with no spectators trackside,” Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest said.
“Over the last few weeks, we have looked at many ways in which we could hold our event in September with fans present, albeit in limited numbers. However, given the constraints involved in organising a festival-scale event over several days in the current situation, we have opted with the local government authorities to hold the race behind closed doors. There were still too many question marks regarding health and safety.
“We know that our fans will be as disappointed as we are by this decision but, with public health in the balance, it really wasn’t a difficult call to make. You don’t compromise where safety is concerned.
“Fans will not miss out altogether. They may not be at Le Mans, but our media teams and service providers will bring Le Mans to them! We are sure that we can count on everyone’s support and understanding at this time.”
Anyone with an existing booking with Travel Destinations to attend the Le Mans 24 Hours this September will be contacted directly by a member of the team to discuss the available options in the next few days.
Travel Destinations has announced today that it is continuing to sell travel packages for the 2020 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours in September (19-20), following yesterday’s update from the ACO which stated that the event will run with spectators track-side.
As for race tickets, while additional sales via the ACO have been postponed, as an official agent of the Le Mans 24 Hours Travel Destinations has an allocation of both general admission and grandstand tickets still available for customers.
Hospitality packages remain on offer too, with a variety of options from TD partner Michelin, as well as official ACO hospitality areas at the Porsche Curves and Start/Finish straight. These include options such as full catering, suite, paddock and grid walk access, VIP parking and shuttle bus services.
Anyone interested in attending the 2020 (and/or the 2021 running) of the race can contact Travel Destinations by calling one of our experts on 01707329988 (+44 1707 32 9988 for international callers) or emailing email@example.com.
With the Le Mans Classic returning in 2021, and Hypercars making their debuts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the same year, both events will be very appealing to all motorsport fans. But how do you choose which event is right for you? Here we look at the similarities and differences between the events to help you make the right decision for you.
Where The Circuit de la Sarthe has hosted the Le Mans 24 Hours since 1923. The circuit has seen various modifications since then, but essentially it is the same place. Located to the south of the city of Le Mans, the roughly 8½ miles (13.6km) of track is made up of a combination of public & private roads. The Mulsanne straight, Arnage corner and Dunlop Bridge are all part of the famous circuit.
The Le Mans Classic takes place on exactly the same circuit as the modern event. The racing takes place on the same tarmac, featuring the same iconic straights and corners of the full Le Mans Circuit. It may take the cars longer to complete one lap of the famous Le Mans track, but it is the same track of the same length and in the same location.
When Although the first 24 Hours of Le Mans was actually held in May, the traditional month for the race has been June (falling on the 24th week of the year). There have been exceptions, including 1956 when it took place in July and then 1968 and most recently 2020 when the race was postponed from June to September (19th & 20th). However, the Le Mans 24 Hours remains an annual event and is scheduled to take place in June every year, with 2021’s race scheduled for the 12th & 13th June.
The Le Mans Classic was introduced as an event in 2002 and takes place every two years, on the first weekend in July. The event was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, so the next event will take place from the 1st – 4th July 2021. The event organizers have already stated that they will keep the event taking place every two years, to ensure the quality of the competing cars is maintained. This raises the prospect of the Le Mans Classic also taking place in 2023, as part of the circuit’s centenary celebrations.
The Cars Around 60 cars take to the starting grid of the Le Mans 24 Hours each year. The cars are a mixture of prototypes and GT cars designed specifically with endurance racing in mind. The Le Mans 24 Hours is now a long sprint race, with cars able to complete a full lap in just over 3 minutes, even with rule changes designed to slow the cars down for safety reasons. 2021’s Le Mans 24 Hours will see the start of a new era in sportscar racing with the new Hypercar classification replacing the previous top-class of LMP1.
All cars that have previously participated in the Le Mans 24 Hours (from 1923 through to 2010) are now invited to join in the Le Mans Classic. This means that more than 500 competing cars will take to the track over the long weekend. Not all cars will race at the same time, so the 24 hours of racing is divided up in to different eras (grids or plateau) to equalize performance. Each era will then take to the track three times during the 24 hours period. Competition is fierce so scrutineering is strict, ensuring that the cars taking part are as close to the original specifications as possible, whilst those eras that included a Le Mans style start, will re-enact the event when they first take to the track.
Spectators The official attendance at the Le Mans 24 Hours is regularly more than 200,000 people, making it one of the most attended events in the world, not just in motorsport. The circuit is large and so can accommodate this large number of people; having said that expect large crowds of people particularly along the start/finish straight both at the start of the race and the end, where spectators will also traditionally invade the track. Although mostly French, the Le Mans 24 Hours does attract a multinational audience. A large percentage of spectators will have travelled from the UK, Scandinavia and the Netherlands with smaller numbers travelling from the USA, Australia, South Africa and elsewhere around the world. In general, the Le Mans 24 Hours attracts a predominantly young adult audience, with large groups and a party-style atmosphere is common.
The Le Mans Classic has grown in size with each event with the official spectator numbers now well over 100,000. Despite being around half the number of the 24 hours, this is not a small event and in addition nearly 9000 classic cars will be driven to the Le Mans Classic and parked on the infield, creating the largest car-club gathering in the world. Whilst many of the grandstands will be full for the very first race, the Le Mans Classic has more of an ebb and flow to the crowd than the 24 Hours, so it rarely feels over-crowded. The Le Mans Classic attracts a wider age range than the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but it is equally multinational. A local audience will always be present, but motorsport enthusiasts from around the world travel to witness the Le Mans Classic, so expect to hear many accents from the UK and America, as well as other European countries. The Le Mans Classic tends to attract a more mature group of spectators, often in pairs (due to the predominance of two-seater sports-cars) and therefore a calmer atmosphere often prevails.
The Paddock The paddock is the area behind the garages where the teams work during race week. Often typified by large lorries and team hospitality units at big events. At the Le Mans 24 Hours the paddock area has restricted access. Unless you are a VIP or have an invitation from one of the teams then you are unlikely to be able to enter the race paddock. There are various support race paddocks that you may be able to access with your general tickets, but the main race paddock has restricted access for health and safety reasons.
The paddock at the Le Mans Classic looks & feels a lot different to most race events. The Le Mans Classic paddocks are arranged by the different grids and include a tented garage for each participating car. With the appropriate pass (included in all Travel Destinations offers) you can have access to each paddock and get up close to all the cars. You are able to talk to drivers and mechanics as they continue to prepare or repair their cars. There is a loose dress-code for the Le Mans Classic paddock area, but this is rarely enforced. There is always something happening in the paddock area as cars are leaving or returning from the track all the time, so awareness of what is going on is important, but it is always a rewarding place to spend some of your time.
The Village This is the commercial area just to the north of paddocks and garages, which at the Le Mans 24 Hours is home retail outlets for official race merchandise, branded team gear, as well as some cafés and bars. There are often car displays & other promotions around this area throughout Le Mans week. Usefully, considering its proximity to the shops, the village is also where you will find the only ATM on the circuit.
The village area at the Le Mans Classic appears to sprawl a bit wider and further than at the Le Mans 24 hours. As well as the official branded products, expect to find a diverse selection of retailers with goods from memorabilia, refurbished petrol pumps, to leather flying hats and goggles. There tends to be a vintage & artisan theme throughout, with a selection of big-name brands thrown in for good measure. There a car displays and themed concours competitions all within this area, which will take some time to explore if you can be dragged away from the on-track action.
Entertainment If the action on the track is not enough fun for you then the Le Mans 24 Hours provides some additional activities that you may find entertaining. The funfair is located just south of the grandstands on the outside of the track. In particular that big-wheel provides an excellent vantage point for photography, especially at night. Alternatively, if you like your music with a background of engine noise, then on most evenings there are free concerts on the big stage adjacent to the Dunlop Bridge. Although many of the guest bands have a French slant, some are often International names such as Razorlight, Franz Ferdinand & Jamiroquai.
The Le Mans Classic provides its musical entertainment in the form of mobile jazz bands & vintage singers around the village area throughout the event. For something different there is also a drive-in cinema on the Bugatti circuit. The Bugatti circuit is also the home to a plethora of car clubs from all over Europe. It seems that every marque and brand is accommodated on the various twists and turns of the internal circuit. It is well worth a wander. The ultimate highlight for many attending the Le Mans Classic is the opportunity to drive their own classic or sports car around the famous circuit. Whilst some of the roads are usually open to the public, it is rare to get the chance to drive around the whole circuit (twice!). At £200 per car it isn’t cheap and helmets are compulsory, but for many the price is worth it for the hot brakes and big smile at the end.
Accommodation Camping has long been a tradition at the Le Mans 24 Hours. With such large numbers of spectators descending on the city of Le Mans, there is just not enough other accommodation available. Those hotel rooms that are available can become expensive and camping enables race fans to stay at the track. The circuit-run campsites provide good locations with basic facilities. In the last 20 years Travel Destinations has paved the way to more options with the introduction of secure track-side camping at Porsche Curves, private glamping tents and individual bedrooms within the circuit in our Flexotel Village.
Because spectators still number more than 100,000 at the Le Mans Classic camping is still looked on as the default option. Whilst there are some more hotel and B&B rooms available in the area, driving to and from the circuit can become tiresome if you are doing it every day. Travel Destinations continue to offer two private track-side campsites and our glamping site inside the circuit for those that enjoy staying under canvas. Alternatively, our Flexotel Village is also available for those that prefer a proper bed and a roof over their head.
Alternatives The Le Mans 24 Hours is unique. It is not easy to compare it to any other motor race in the world. However, for a mix of great racing and entertainment, then the Nurburgring 24 Hours could offer a good alternative. Although there is no prototype racing, the mix of up to 200 GT cars on the grid makes for quite a spectacle. Using a combination of the Nurburgring’s F1 circuit and the famous Nordschleife makes a large circuit with some spectacular viewing opportunities. The dates for the race follow a German holiday, so move around from year to year, but for 2021 the race will take place from the 3rd – 6th June, so you could even make the Nurburgring 24 an appetizer to the main course of the 24 Hours of Le Mans the following week!
Historic racing is the fastest growing class of motorsport in Europe, and there are many events on the calendar that are worth your attention. The Monaco historic, Nurburgring Oldtimer Grand Prix and the Angouleme Circuit des Remparts are all very good. However, the Spa Classic is now an annual event from the same organisers as the Le Mans Classic. The beautiful setting of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes, and some of the cars from the Le Mans Classic now racing on this historic circuit make this a favourite event. The Spa Classic feels like a little sister to the Le Mans Classic.
The 2021 calendar is already packed with some amazing events. The Le Mans 24 Hours and the Le Mans Classic will certainly be among the highlights. Can you attend both? Or which will you choose? Reserve your place now by calling Travel Destinations on +44 (0)1707 329988.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
Apologies for not posting content on here recently, but rather than doing nothing for the last couple of months, all the Travel Destinations team have been working remotely and have been very busy trying to assist all our customers with their future travel plans.
All our events up until the end of August have now been postponed; either to dates in September & October or to similar dates in 2021. All events originally scheduled for September and October retain their positions in the calendar and whilst they continue to be reviewed by the relevant authorities, if the events can go ahead, we will be there!
The Travel Destinations team would like to say a genuinely big thank you to all our customers for your patience and understanding during what has been difficult times for everybody. Quite early on we decided that we should try, where possible, to contact all our customers individually to discuss their bookings and the best options available to them. This has been quite an undertaking and has taken time, so we are grateful for everyone bearing with us.
We are so pleased that in the majority of cases, customers have chosen to transfer their bookings forward to the revised event dates. Not only does this help us, but it also gives us all something to look forward to, which is really positive looking forward. Thank you.
Thankfully, as some lock-down restrictions are lifted, from this week, we are now able to return to our office. Initially this will be limited to a few staff at a time on a rota basis, whilst others will continue to work remotely. The phone has already started ringing, so we are now trying to answer as many calls as we can. You can reach us on our usual number 0044 (0) 1707 329988, but if initially you can’t get through, you can still contact us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will call you back as soon as we can.
All the new dates for our events have been confirmed on our websites www.traveldestinations.co.uk and www.lemansrace.com and we will continue to update these as further news is announced, so please do keep checking-in for future events.
Thank you again & we look forward to seeing you on your travels soon.
Today we have received the news that the Le Mans 24 Hours has been postponed and the new dates have now been confirmed as the 19th & 20th September 2020.
In the first instance, please do not call or email our office. In order to manage the volumes of correspondence we are receiving, we respectfully ask you to refrain from contacting us at this time. Rest assured we will be contacting you in due course in a systematic manner. This may well take some weeks in the current situation so your patience would be appreciated.
Reservations will be amended to the new dates, keeping the same price and travel arrangements as previously confirmed. Your new balance due date will be on or before 1st June.
Should you be unable to attend the Le Mans 24hrs in September, you are entitled to a credit note or refund for the full amount already paid. This must be redeemed by 24th December 2021 and is valid for any events until 30th September 2022.
As ABTA members we would like to re-assure you that any monies held with us are financially protected.
Please note that at this time the Le Mans Classic will continue to go ahead in July as planned.
Thank you for your understanding in this matter and we will be in touch