Tag Archives: Le Mans

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 Classic 2020

Le Mans Classic 2020 – Dates Confirmed

Le Mans Classic 2020 – The 10th Anniversary

The Le Mans Classic will return from the 3rd – 5th July 2020. As well as celebrating the 10th running of this Le Mans retrospective event, the Le Mans Classic 2020 will also be preparing special commemorations to mark the 50th anniversary of Porsche’s first victory and the 25th anniversary of the McLaren F1 GTR’s overall win at Le Mans.

The last Le Mans Classic event, held in 2018, not only attracted nearly 200,000 spectators across the weekend, watching 550 cars compete on the track, but it also won the best Motorsport Event of the year (again!) at the 2018 International Historic Motoring Awards.

Le Mans Classic 2020

The Le Mans Classic has always focused solely on cars that previously raced at Le Mans from 1923 through to 1979. However, following the popularity of modern classics appearing at similar events such as the Spa Classic & Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or, the Le Mans Classic 2020 has added two further grids..

A real crowd pleaser are the monsters of the Group C Racing grid, that features cars that raced at le Mans between 1982 & 1993. Cars such as the Porsche 956 dominated in the early years, followed by a string of manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Jaguar and Mazda that finished with the Toyota TS010. Spectators are always excited to see and feel these legends back at Le Mans,

Le Mans Classic 2020

Bringing the Le Mans Classic in to the modern era is the Endurance Racing Legends grid. This grid features cars that graced Le Mans between 1994 and 2010. Reaching out to a younger audience that can easily remember the likes of the Audi R8 LMPs, McLaren F1 GTRs and the striking Bentley Speed 8, the Le Mans Classic is extending its audience even further.

Le Mans Classic 2020

Travel Destinations continue to be an official ticket agent for the Le Mans Classic 2020. Travel, tickets, camping, glamping and hotel accommodation for the Le Mans Classic 2020 are all on sale now!

Special Offer: All Le Mans Classic 2020 bookings confirmed with a deposit before the end of February 2019, will receive their booking at Le Mans Classic 2018 prices! Call Travel Destinations now on 01707 329988 to book your place!

Photography workshops at Le Mans 2020

Photography workshops at Le Mans 2020

Le Mans photosExclusive to Travel Destinations; make the most of your Le Mans photos by adding Jessops Academy photography workshops to your Le Mans booking.

Whether you are a novice looking to improve your photographic technique, or if you consider yourself a proficient amateur but are interested in a new perspective on your Le Mans photos, then these courses, run by our partners at Jessops Academy are perfect for you. Watch their video here.

Le Mans photos
Jessops Academy trainers at Le Mans

Following the success of the workshops from 2019, the Jessops Academy team will once again return to Le Mans to impart their knowledge to you first hand. The award winning Jessops Academy trainers will be hosting workshops at the circuit across race weekend, to offer everyone the opportunity to learn new techniques, understand how to get the best from your equipment  and generally achieve better Le Mans photos.

Le Mans photos
Capturing silhouettes at Le Mans

“The Jessops photography courses were fantastic. It was relaxed, informative and resulted in some great Le Mans photos!” – Jordan V.
“I have been taking photos at motorsport events for years, but Pete challenged me to try something different. And you know what; he was right.” – John B.
“As someone new to photography, I found the quality of instruction so clear and helpful – encouraging me to explore beyond “Auto”. Everyone in my group contributed something. It was great to learn from other people’s experiences” – Graham P.  

Le Mans photos
Trackside tuition from Jessops Academy staff at Le Mans

With a maximum ratio of 15 people to one trainer, these fun and informative workshops will enable everyone to receive first hand tuition from the professionals. Each workshop will focus on different skills, circuit locations and are specifically designed to achieve great photos at Le Mans. As well as the trackside sessions there are also opportunities to talk about camera set up, settings and equipment before heading out as well as chance to review the photos taken afterwards, all away from the noise of the track.

Le Mans 2020 Photography workshops with Jessops Academy
Workshop 1. Camera set-up and control for motorsport photography (Saturday, 11am – 12:30pm) £75.00 per person
Workshop 2. Mastering movement, panning shots trackside & editorial shooting (Saturday, 4pm – 7pm) £100.00 per person
Workshop 3. Dusk & evening light. Silhouettes & slow shutter work (Saturday, 8pm – 11pm) £100.00 per person
Workshop 4. Dawn & sunrise at Le Mans. The perfect time of day for Le Mans photos (Sunday 4:30am – 7:30am) £100.00 per person
Workshop 5. Reviewing images. Problem solving and post production editing (Sunday 11:00am – 12:30pm) £75.00 per person

Special Offer: Purchase all 5 workshops for just £250.00 per person

In addition to the above workshops all participants will also be invited to join the Jessops Academy trainers for an introduction & social evening at the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village on Friday evening.

Le Mans photos
Making the most of low light at Le Mans

All Jessops photography workshops can be added to your Travel Destinations Le Mans booking. Please just mention which workshops you wish to join at the time of booking. Payment for all workshops will be required at the time of booking.

Spaces on each workshop are strictly limited so please secure your place by calling Travel Destinations now on 01707 329988.

Le Mans photos
Expert advice trackside during Le Mans

Further information & tips:
– Jessops photography workshops are open to all Travel Destinations customers at Le Mans. They can be added to existing & new bookings.
– The workshops are designed for photographers of all standards and experience.
– Workshops will take place regardless of weather conditions. You should be prepared to protect yourself and your camera from the elements.
– Le Mans is a large circuit so walking is involved. You should wear comfortable shoes & be prepared to kneel or lie down to get the best angles.
– A digital SLR or mirror-less camera is recommended for all workshops. Workshops will still be relevant for compact and bridge cameras, however the obtainable results will be limited by the technology.
– Bringing at least two different lenses with your DSLR is recommended. Particularly a wide-angle lens and a form of telephoto (3 – 600mm).
– A tripod or monopod will be useful for low light sessions.
– It will be possible to hire different equipment prior to the your visit to Le Mans should you wish.
– You should expect to take a large number of photos during each session. Please ensure you have enough memory cards and battery life.
– Each trackside session will take place in public areas around the circuit. Media access is not necessary and is not included.
– Trackside locations are inevitably noisy. If you are sensitive to noise, ear defenders or earplugs are recommended.
– Due to advance financial commitments, all workshops are non-refundable.

Reserve your place on the Jessops Academy photography workshops at Le Mans 2020 by calling Travel Destinations now on  01707 329988.

Le Mans photos
Night time photography at Le Mans
FIA WEC

The FIA WEC Super Season

Half-time in the FIA WEC ‘Super Season’

With the 6 Hours of Fuji behind us, and Shanghai just around the corner we are just over halfway through the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’, with just one race left this calendar year. This season has been a lot of things so far this year, but boring isn’t one of them. There has been drama aplenty, controversy, some great racing and enough story-lines to warrant the season’s label. As a result, we are left with plenty of hopes and fears heading into the home straight in 2019.

Equivalence of technology blues
The FIA WEC Prologue at Paul Ricard seems like an age ago. Pre-season testing is always tough to read into. Are teams showing their hand? What programmes are they running? Is the new machinery up to scratch yet? The 30-hour test to kick off the season did however, leave us with some clues of what was to come. Whilst the “unofficial” classification saw the top of the LMP1 privateer cabal faster than Toyota (Toyota’s official best times coming supposedly while running unrestricted), any bets on the private teams having a chance at competing for wins on track were quickly quashed at Spa, when the hybrid TS050s utterly dominated the competition. And it’s been like that ever since, leading to the big debate of Equivalence of Technology ruling the headlines ever since.
The questions we are left with, and still looking for answers for are as follows:
1. Should Toyota be penalized because the privateer prototypes aren’t yet quick enough?
2. Could the privateers compete even if all was equal on a performance level?
3. Should Toyota be handed an advantage for the sake of the FIA WEC’s public-facing image?

FIA WEC

Toyota has by far the most sophisticated, tried, tested and fastest car in the LMP1 field. Toyota has the only cars that are hybrid-powered now that Porsche is gone and the most experienced set of drivers, team personnel and resources. So, making it a contest is really hard. This is more than David v Goliath, this is David v Goliath, if Goliath had far more effective weaponry as well as a dominant stature. Surely, on that basis, you can make the argument that Toyota shouldn’t be artificially hobbled because the competition isn’t up to scratch? Well, at this point it’s a tough side of the fence to sit on. That’s because, wait for it… This is a sport, it’s entertainment, and there could be real trouble if the ACO and FIA WEC let Toyota run away with the title.

Now, so far there have been multiple Equivalence of Technology changes, in an attempt to give the field more balance, but it hasn’t been nearly enough for us to see real on-track action between the hybrid and non-hybrid machinery. That wasn’t helped by the fact that going into the season the privateers were forced to spend longer in the pits, and pit more often than the hybrids, artificially!
Le Mans was no contest, not even a tiny bit, not even for a lap. And since Silverstone, with most of the manufactured disadvantages taken away, the privateers are still not able to show off the true potential of their cars, as the fuel allowances per lap and stint are such that lifting and coasting down the straights (their only real area of advantage) is still necessary. That, coupled with the fact that the TS050s have an innate advantage through traffic thanks to the hybrid punch out of corners, means that Toyota doesn’t even have to push to its limits to win each race in formation, by multiple laps.

But, and it’s a big but, there is still time. There are rumblings in the paddock, and a real appetite for change. Rebellion Racing, SMP Racing, ByKolles and DragonSpeed have all turned up as promised, shown real loyalty, and effectively saved the class from fading away. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the second half to this season have a completely different feel.

Star Power
It’s not all doom and gloom. Not at all. While there is no known cavalry coming in LMP1 for the remainder of the FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ or indeed the 2019/20 season, there is cause for optimism, and part of it, is already within the championship. There is time for further change, and therefore some astonishing racing between the selection of drivers in LMP1, which arguably, has never been better. Should the ACO crack the EoT code, and get the privateers fighting for wins by Sebring, then we will have a real treat on our hands in 2019, with some of the world’s best drivers going toe-to-toe in a similar fashion to the golden years of the ALMS when Audi battled Penske, or when Pescarolo battled Audi at Le Mans.

FIA WEC

It is easy to forget that in LMP1 alone, we have two Formula One World Champions in Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, competing against one another (though not on the track thus far!) in the same field as a WTCC champion in Jose Maria Lopez, a Formula E champion in Sebastien Buemi as well as multiple FIA WEC and Le Mans winners like Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and now Kazuki Nakajima. If changes are made then the fabulous set of cars we have, can produce racing worth of the price of admission, and keep that level of drivers wanting to keep coming back for more. Because there is real potential here, it almost feels like the class is a sleeping giant. The cars are impressive, the driver crews are, we just need either the privateers to be allowed to breathe, or the Toyotas to be pegged back so we can have a title race that lasts until next Le Mans.

Real hope for the future
As for the future beyond 2019/20; well there’s green shoots, as the ACO and FIA prepare for the most important period in the World Endurance Championship’s short history – the months between the 2020 top class regulations being ratified in December, and the start of the 2020/2021 season. During that time, the future and fate of the championship may well be sealed. Will the factories come and adopt the new formula (hybrid-powered prototypes featuring heavy styling cues), or will the rule makers need a serious re-think once again about the shape and structure of the championship, which let’s not forget, still features a strong GTE Pro class with five manufacturers?

Let’s start with the 2020 yet-to-be-named ‘hypercar’ regulations, before diving into the zero-emissions target even further down the line. There is a big group of manufacturers known to be in the room, shaping the technical regulations and considering joining the new formula in 2020. This means that there’s plenty of scope to have a healthy grid. Of course, there’s no assurance that any of them will come, though Toyota seems certain, and Aston Martin has publicly stated that it is “very interested” in the potential. That’s without digging deeper into the other potential factories that have requested presentations and pitches at board level from the ACO and FIA. A defining factor of this whole formula will be cost, and the ACO and FIA seem confident that not only will the new formula prove cost effective for both factories and privateers, but also remain a proposition for aspirant factories or teams looking to join in after Year 1, due to the performance levels being contained and the fact that all hybrid systems have to be offered as off-the-shelf, cost-capped, systems to any competitor on the grid. The cars should look stunning, and set times not too far off the current LMP1s. And if a handful of teams commit, this could turn into a hugely successful formula. What is more, is that it won’t be long until the potential field for the 2020/21 season starts to take shape. “This is the first time ever that private teams will be able to purchase all of the elements of a hybrid prototype programme, off the shelf, and then be ultimately competitive,” Toyota’s technical director Pascal Vasselon said back at Fuji. “They will genuinely have that opportunity, with no performance gap between their cars to the factory teams. We have always pushed for the technology to be of the highest level but we have to accept that for the moment the first priority is to bring more competitors to the Championship. “And, we have said repeatedly that we are here for the long-term.”

As for the zero-emissions target, the foundations have been laid. We have seen the Project H24 Adess-based prototype turn laps at Spa-Francorchamps back in August, and a pit stop demo too. The technology for hydrogen power is coming, and it’s coming fast. That too, could breathe further life into the ACO’s top class come 2024, when there is the aim for teams running both zero emissions and hydrogen prototypes against one another. That will be sight to see!

GTE hotting up
It is safe to say that the start to the season saw a real imbalance in GTE Pro, with Porsche, Ford and Ferrari racing with a clear performance advantage over BMW and Aston Martin’s new machinery.
Now, with GTE racing, there’s always the question mark surrounding team tactics, and the impact of Balance of Performance, but Are the BMW M8s and Vantage AMRs good enough to win races and titles? The answer is yes, and we are starting to see just how competitive they can be, after strong showings from Aston Martin in certain conditions at Silverstone and Fuji, and BMW’s podium run in the last race.

FIA WEC

With Aston Martin and BMW up to speed, and the other three marques still just as competitive, we could be in for a barn-storming second half to the season. This is especially mouth-watering when you consider how much of it is left: we have Shanghai next week, then next year, Spa, and two rounds which award more than the standard haul of points at Le Mans at Sebring. “We’re just hitting our stride,” BMW driver Tom Blomqvist said after Fuji. “It has taken a while for the MTEK crew, which is new to the FIA WEC and endurance racing to get up to speed, but now we feel comfortable and know the car. Aston Martin look good now too, so the rest of the season should be really fun.”

The moments that mattered in the opening rounds
• Toyota Gazoo Racing’s No. 7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID was forced to start at the back of the field in the opening race of the season at Spa; penalized after setting pole in Qualifying for an incorrect declaration of its fuel flow meter. This was key for two reasons: One, it meant that the stars aligned and FIA WEC debutant Fernando Alonso was promoted to pole for his first race, which he would go on to win. And two, it showed just how much of an advantage Toyota had over the privateers. Despite the No. 7 starting from the pit lane, a lap behind the field in the race, it finished second, on the lead lap and two laps ahead of the privateer pack!

• G-Drive Racing’s antics at Le Mans have been a big talking point since June. The Russian-flagged team was found to have gained an unfair advantage in the pits during the 24 Hours by tampering with the fuel rig. This cost the team its Le Mans LMP2 class win the day after the race, and sparked an appeal and hearing process that would drag on until October. Alpine inherited the win as the result, but had to wait until the weekend at Fuji to celebrate. And they weren’t even awarded the original trophy, that’s supposedly still in Russia!

• Say what you will about Fernando Alonso, but he’s stayed classy, kept a smile glued to his face, and adapted quickly to life at Toyota since the start of the year. The two-time F1 champ came of age at Le Mans, embarking on a night stint in the No.8 during the Le Mans 24 Hours which ultimately turned the tide of the race and laid the foundations for the No.8 crew to win the race, scoring the Japanese marque a huge, momentous and historic result. It was certainly one of the more impressive drives we’ve seen at Le Mans in recent years. Also of note is that the Spaniard’s triple crown run is alive and healthy.

• The retro-liveried factory Porsches at Le Mans went down an absolute storm. As part of the 70th anniversary of the brand, the team put their corporate image and decision making to the side and went all out to impress the fans. That in turn translated into a lot of publicity and big win for the 911 RSR, which is easily one of the most impressive GT cars in the modern era. It looks the part, sounds incredible too, and in ‘Pink Pig’ colours, it looked fabulous, taking a controlling win after a metronomic run, which put Porsche in the driving seat of the GTE Manufacturers World Championship race, and scored the marque another famous win at the Grand Prix D’Endurance. Bravo!

FIA WEC

• Rebellion winning at Silverstone was a real landmark victory. Rebellion Racing’s No.3 R-13 officially scored the team its first overall FIA WEC victory and the first ever for a privateer in the championship, and the first non-hybrid win since 2012. It wasn’t in ideal circumstances (the team benefiting from Toyota losing its 1-2 finish for a skid plant infringement), but crucially it’s kept the title race tighter than you might imagine as the season wears on.

Voices in the paddock
“Obviously it wasn’t the ideal way to do it, but ultimately, winning a race is winning a race, no matter how it comes and we will grab this result with both hands,” Rebellion Racing’s Gustavo Menezes said after winning at Silverstone. “All the boys at Rebellion have worked so hard to get the whole LMP1 project off the ground and to develop the car to the stage where it is now, and they really deserve this 1-2 finish. I’m immensely proud of everybody involved in the programme.”

FIA WEC

“It’s a cool team,” Matt Griffin said when asked to reflect on his time spent driving with Clearwater Racing. “It’s a little bit like Reservoir Cats! Clearwater is a team where the people involved are very proud of what they can do. We have fun, we have crazy parties after the races. Weng loves his wine, and stuff like that. And that’s the thing, I’ve been with them since 2011. The only thing I would say though is that the Matt Griffin you might see at ELMS races, or in Blancpain, is different to the Matt Griffin with Clearwater. There’s a different vibe there, and it’s a team that relies more on sponsors and partners.”

“We’re not ruling anything out,” revealed Corvette Racing’s Doug Fehan when asked about his opinion on the 2020 regulations. “An overall win at Le Mans is a unique achievement, and when you look at the intent of the past efforts to create something unique, it became too expensive This move, to the credit of the sanctioning bodies, is to find something that’s more affordable and technologically representative of where you want to go, with proper brand identification, so it would stand a better chance of attracting manufacturers. But I’m sure that there will be manufacturers who continue to run both (GTE and LMP1). Porsche is a prime example, with a big customer race programme, and they’ve shown in the past that they can do both.”

“The atmosphere in the team is amazing. Everyone is really friendly,” Fernando Alonso said when asked about racing with Toyota. “We have a Whatsapp group and we are always chatting. We were taking pictures of each other today. The atmosphere is so friendly and so nice – this is one of the best things.”

“I have had a great career to this point, not only in F1 but also in the junior categories,” DragonSpeed’s Pastor Maldonado stressed when asked about his public persona. “I have won in every category I have raced in and I hope to carry that record forward into this new challenge. For me it is about the racing, about the driving I don’t care what people say, it’s part of the game. I just go out there, do my best and hope to win.”

“What a character, and what a legacy, a real innovator and a visionary,” Richard Dean said, when asked to pay tribute to the late, great, Dr Don Panoz. “He was a man who truly invested in the sport, in his series, his circuits and his cars. The American Le Mans Series showed the way, it is still my favourite race series. There are so many that owe their careers in this sport to the opportunities that Don’s investments and projects provided. At Le Mans (in 2006, with a Team LNT Esparante), it seemed coming into the race that everything was against us, engine issues at the test, we were allocated Garage 13, but his enthusiasm never wavered, he tried for 10 years to get the win and was just ecstatic when we did it. And he was given the Spirit of Le Mans award by the ACO that same weekend! I grabbed a Panoz flag from someone on my way to the podium, I see that picture every day in my gym. Without Don that wouldn’t have been possible, a simply huge part of my career.”

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

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 Classic

Le Mans Classic 2018: Review

Dailysportscar visits the Le Mans Classic

A relatively recent phenomenon in motorsport are the big historic festivals. In the UK, Goodwood; with the Festival of Speed and the Revival meeting, Silverstone Classic, and a host more besides, draw big crowds with a mix of on-track action and a festival atmosphere in the paddock and around the circuit grounds. The major European events have been building in popularity too: Spa-Francorchamps has the Spa Six Hours and Spa Classic events, Nürburgring’s Old-timer Grand Prix, Angouleme’s Circuit des Remparts and many more. The biggest, and arguably one of the very, very best is the Le Mans Classic – held every two years, this is the only event, aside from the Le Mans 24 Hours itself, that is permitted to use the full 24 Hours race circuit, with local roads closed to allow round the clock action.

Le Mans Classic

I was invited with my colleague Dave Lord, to attend the Le Mans Classic 2018 event as the guests of Travel Destinations, to take a look at what, for both of us, was a very different event in very familiar surroundings! We were accommodated in the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village – and whilst the container-like accommodation is perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing, it proved to have massive advantages over the more traditional camping option. With comfortable overnight accommodation for two, plenty of storage space and a secure lock on the door it was an ideal operating base for the extended weekend.

Le Mans Classic

Very high temperatures over the full Le Mans Classic meeting might have left some sweltering – indeed our friends on the campsites reported that their tented accommodations were challenging in the conditions – but the tree-lined Flexotel Village wasn’t too bad, and our room was great when we installed a fan! Make no mistake these were extreme conditions – 30-34 degrees across the whole weekend! Our bathroom accommodation was in the central toilet and shower block – showers with perfect temperatures, kept spotlessly clean throughout the weekend- although for those after more privacy, a little more outlay saw some customers choose upgraded Flexotel rooms with their own bijou bathroom facilities!

Le Mans Classic

As the Le Mans Classic came alive on Friday, then the Flexotel Village filled up nicely, and the ambience became immediately apparent – very relaxed and very friendly – individuals, couples and groups of friends either chatting quietly outside their rooms with a glass of red wine or a beer, or clustering around the central marquee where food and drink was available late into the evening – together with a big screen TV – pretty much essential during the latter stages of a World Cup! There were,  I am very pleased to report, no rowdy groups, no fireworks – just people enjoying their, and each other’s company, and it was never, ever, crowded – a host of ordinary cars (ours!), sporty, exotic and classic cars parked alongside the rooms – Everything from an MGA, via a Jensen Interceptor and on to Lamborghinis, Ferraris and a beautiful Jaguar D-Type Replica – Just perfect!

Le Mans Classic

As for the Le Mans Classic event itself – Wow!

700 cars from 1923 to the present day, competing and displayed on track with some 1000 drivers – including some VERY big names. Competition continued through the night with the six main – age-defined groups of cars having 3 x 45 minutes races – with the addition of races for the iconic Group C cars (simply glorious!), Jaguar and Porsche period one-make encounters, plus a pair of very well attended demonstration runs for the “Global Endurance Legends”, for cars from the 90s and noughties – with a short season of races for these splendid machines coming in 2019!

Le Mans Classic

The ‘Le Mans Classic Village area’ was packed throughout with eateries, bars and exhibitions, a fine selection of stalls selling books, models, vintage bits and bobs and much more besides doing a roaring trade – I stumbled (thankfully not quite literally) across Derek Bell signing copies of his latest book at one stall.

Le Mans Classic

And then there’s the ‘set dressing’ and the other main Le Mans Classic attraction – Thousands of classic cars in the club displays on the infield and around the shorter ‘Bugatti’ circuit – all friendly and welcoming, all with a common spirit to revel in petrolhead heaven. Love Renault Alpines? There were simply dozens, Porsches? Hundreds – Something more obscure? Believe me it as likely in there somewhere! Best of all if you regularly attend the big UK, or US historic festivals, there was plenty here that you likely haven’t seen before.

Le Mans Classic

Around and between all of this the Le Mans Classic VIP shuttles were all Citroen 2CV or the Mehari derivative; the competing drivers shuttled around in a bewildering variety of VW ‘buses’ – and the public shuttle buses to take fans out to the more far flung viewing spots were ‘period’ too! Competing cars were escorted through the event either by Gendarmes in period uniforms on historic police motorbikes (with the ever-present whistle!) or by actors dressed 1940s US Military police on rumbling Indians and Harleys complete with the wailing siren – Evocative stuff.

Le Mans Classic

Better still if the scale of the event, or just the heat, got the better of us, it was a short walk back to the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village, where, even in the thick of on-track action, there was an oasis of calm – the cars could be heard – but you could hear yourself think, grab a drink or have a nap – the Flexotel’s sound insulation proving ideal for the task.

Le Mans Classic

If you love the historic scene then the Le Mans Classic is a simply unmissable event – We’ll be coming up with excuses for another invitation – You should pencil it into your 2020 calendar too- and then get on the phone to Travel Destinations to reserve your place!

Written by Graham Goodwin – Editor in chief – Dailysportscar.com
Photography by David Lord –  Photographer in chief – Dailysportscar.com

Le Mans 2018

Le Mans 2018: A Review

In a flash, the 86th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours has been and gone. And while early preparations for the 87th running are already underway, there is still plenty to reflect on from last weekend’s race.

Here is five key talking points from the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018

1. LMP1 was messy, but still interesting and historic
Overshadowed by endless Equivalence of Technology debates, the LMP1 race at Le Mans this year left a lot to be desired for many, but still wowed some of the new audience who tuned in for the first time to check out the star drivers. What did we see? Toyota’s race against the race, rather than it’s privateer competitors. With the privateers forced to pit more frequently, and spend more time re-fuelling, any sort of wheel-to-wheel action was always going to be a long shot. The fact that most of them weren’t quick enough either though, meant the closest a privateer came to leading the race was at Turn 1 at the very start, and even that was messy!

Le Mans
So did Toyota deserve their big win? Will it feel as satisfying? Well, you can argue yes to both. This is a brand that has invested countless millions into the sport, and come close to winning so many times since it started racing since at Le Mans in the early 1990s. This win has been a long-time coming, and to many involved in the programme, a trouble-free (Kobayashi missing his penultimate stop aside), clean run with no issues will serve as a breath of fresh air. After all, the fact that the competition wasn’t as hot as year’s past, isn’t their fault. Oh, and seeing Kazuki Nakajima take the flag in the No.8, putting the demons of 2016 behind him, was a sight to behold!

Behind Toyota, the battle for the final podium spot was pretty open early on, with SMP Racing’s No.17 BR1 able to challenge Rebellion’s R-13s. Into the second half of the race though, it became clear that in a race of attrition, the BR1s didn’t have the legs, both cars hitting trouble (one early in the race, and one in the final hour) and therefore had to leave Rebellion’s two cars to fight amongst themselves for the third-place prize. Ginetta, ByKolles and DragonSpeed meanwhile, didn’t feature, perhaps unsurprisingly. The ByKolles CLM crashed out in a big way, both TRSM Ginettas ran effectively a public test programme (one G60-LT-P1 remarkably making the finish) and DragonSpeed’s race ended prematurely in the wall at the Porsche Curves after an error by Ben Hanley. So Le Mans 2018 was not a perfect race, but there were flashes of what could be to come from all the private teams. With a re-think in how the EoT works, and more development work done to the cars, next year’s race could spring a surprise or two!

2. GTE Pro was astonishing
It was far from a surprise, but GTE Pro provided the fans track-side and at home with the best action in the race. It was the only class which delivered the goods, and thank goodness it did as all the other classes suffered lengthy lulls throughout. While the ‘Pink Pig’ Porsche 911 RSR eventually took a comfortable (and popular) victory, due to the car being handed an advantage due to an early safety car period falling its way, the action behind was stellar.

Le Mans
For much of the race, the battles from second place down to as low as 12th, were superb. Some of the best GT drivers in the world were able to run door-to-door, and cleanly too, with no major incidents occurring despite the nature of the pack racing on the faster parts of the circuit. BoP was of course, a big talking point, and unfortunately so. However, once the race arrived, most of the negativity in and around the paddock was put to one side. Only one factory struggled, and that was Aston Martin, its new Vantage AMRs wildly off the pace, and by such a margin that after two BoP breaks, neither car was able to run much better than just ahead of the GTE Am class leaders. While, that was a shame, seeing BMW, Porsche, Ford, Corvette and Ferrari all battling hard was a treat. Ultimately, Ford and Porsche had a slight upper hand though, Porsche’s 911 RSRs improving further as the temperature dropped, but that did little to detract from what we saw.

3. The standout performances in the Pro/Am classes
Beyond the headlines focusing on F1 megastars, there were some very bright stars involved at Le Mans this year, with several putting in truly head-turning performances. In LMP1, the entire No.3 Rebellion line-up of Thomas Laurent, Gustavo Menezes and Mathias Beche was stunning. Menezes and Laurent have of course, already taken Le Mans class wins, but up against their teammates in the No.1 (Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna) they spent most of the weekend on the front foot and now look destined to become household names.

G Drive Racing

There were also some stunning drives in LMP2, with Andrea Pizzitola in the G-Drive Racing ORECA looking bullet-proof – until the team was disqualified. And the Panis Barthez three of Will Stevens, Julien Canal and Timothe Buret proved the surprise package of the entire week, putting the French team, Michelin and Ligier in contention for a win until reliability issues cost them a podium in the closing stages of the race.

Le Mans

Down in GTE Am, there were a number of young drivers that shone in what was a class that didn’t really ever get going. The talent of Dempsey Proton’s Matteo Cairoli (his off at the Ford Chicanes aside) is no real news here – but now looks even more likely as a full factory driver for the future after showing such poise once again. Julien Andlauer in Dempsey Proton’s ranks impressed too, winning on his Le Mans debut after not putting the team on pole and running a faultless race. Porsche has a real logjam now, with so many young hot shoes and experienced GT veterans on its books, all capable of much the same in terms of performances.

4. LMP2’s final result was unfortunately decided by penalties
Nobody likes to see a race decided by a stewards enquiry, but that’s what we got with LMP2. G-Drive Racing’s ORECA 07 Gibson which dominated the class from early in the race all the way to the flag, was disqualified after the team was found to be tampering with its fuel rigs, giving it an advantage in the speed in which the team could fuel its car.  In the end, the team was so dominant, that even without the handful of seconds gained at each stop, it would almost certainly have cruised to the line for a win anyway. But rules are rules, and Signatech Alpine was eventually crowned LMP2 champion for the second time in three years.

Signatech Alpine
The team’s other car (run under the TDS Racing banner) was caught out too, and lost fourth. This promoted United Autosports’ #32 Ligier JS P217 to the podium, giving Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Owen, and Hugo de Sadeleer, as well as chassis supplier Ligier a positive result after a tough week.

5. Alonso should be celebrated
There’s plenty of ways to look at the ‘Alonso factor’. You can be cynical, you can also be incredibly supportive, there’s no right or wrong answer. Either way, everyone had to sit down, soak up all the headlines he create and watch the Spanish F1 champion take on Le Mans for the first time. Ultimately, he is, a Le Mans champion now, and will be forever referred to as a multiple F1 world champion and Le Mans winner. Did he win a race in which there may have been an element of favouritism at play between Toyotas two TS050 HYBRIDs? Maybe. Did he have only the sister car as true competition? Yes? Is it his problem? No.

Le Mans 2018
If you are going to take away one thing from Fernando Alonso’s Le Mans 24 Hours, it’s that he was pushing. Despite the race not being the toughest and most competitive for Toyota, Alonso ended up with the fastest laptime average time of anyone in the class. He was not taking it easy, and put in the car for the least time possible to nab the win with the least effort. He didn’t even drive early on Sunday morning when the temperatures track-side provided the best conditions for drivers to put in qualifying-level lap times.

Will he keep coming back? That’s not something we know yet. But should we all appreciate that he has come along, and conquered the race? Yes. At a time where the FIA WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours is at its lowest in terms of factory involvement in the prototype ranks, Alonso kept the race feeling big, historic, and relevant. And we should thank him, in part, for that.

And so Le Mans 2018 is already just a memory, but Le Mans 2019 (the final race of the FIA WEC Super Season!) is already on the horizon. You can book and reserve your place at Le Mans with Travel Destinations now. Call our experts now on 0844 873 0203 to guarantee your place!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar 

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