The next big event of the year is the pinnacle of sports car endurance racing, if by prestige as much as anything else. If you can easily argue other races are tougher – N24, Bathurst, Sebring – it is Le Mans that remains the top prize.
We may not have Audi but we have five factory LMP1 cars and no team orders. Toyota are bringing a 3rd car to avenge defeat last year – you don’t want to miss that, do you? We have new, fast LMP2 cars. And all out war in the two GTE classes.
I also recommend recording the two Road To Le Mans races, one is on Thursday at 4.30pm and the other is Saturday at 10.30am. These are races for LMP3 and GT3 cars and were good fun last year.
The ACO seem to be pushing to broaden the appeal of Le Mans, with a Free-to-air deal in France and now two FTA channels in the UK covering at least some hours of the race!
How do you follow the 24 Hours of Le Mans if you are in the UK?
There are a few different ways of following it: Radio Le Mans, Eurosport, Quest, ITV4, the App.
Radio Le Mans will be live as always at www.radiolemans.com and on Tune In Radio, as well as on 91.2 FM at the track if you do go to Le Mans, supported by Mobil 1 and Esso.
They will have every 24 Hour session live (practice, qualifying, warm-up, race). I expect they’ll cover the Road To Le Mans support races too and quite probably the Porsches too.
Commentary will be from Jonny Palmer, John Hindhaugh, channel newcomer Ben Constanduros, experts Graham Goodwin and Sam Collins, pit reporters Shea Adam, Joe Bradley, Bruce Jones and Owen Mildenhall – and of course the perpetual Paul Truswell on timing & scoring.
Sadly no Jim Roller this year though I’m looking forward to Ben Consty’s input.
And if you miss anything it’ll all be uploaded as podcasts! The podcast page is right here and includes previews for each category should you get the time before the race.
Freeview channel 37
Excellent news that Quest TV will once again air snippets LIVE through the race. Coverage includes Lou Goodman, Diana Binks and Andy Jaye.
There will be updates on the hour plus the following:
1.30pm – 3.00pm Race Start Live
8.00pm – 9.00pm Race Live
Brilliant news – ITV4 will ensure there is live free-to-air coverage of the last 4.5 hours of the race!
9.30am – 2.45pm Le Mans 24 Hour Race Live
And if you are a die-hard fan or just want to dip in and out at your leisure, the race will be live in full on Eurosport 1.
If you remember the days of swapping between Eurosport 1 and Eurosport 2 – those days are gone!
This year’s commentary team includes Martin Haven, Marc Cole, Carlton Kirby, Chris Parsons and David Addison. Addison is new to the team, you’ll know him from BTCC and Blancpain GT, he seems to be in place of Jeremy Shaw who is not listed this year. Analysts include racers Damien Faulkner, Liz Halliday and Sam Hancock.
Don’t knock their coverage – many die-hard RLM fans stick with it but I tend to have an ear on both broadcasts, particularly when Haven is on Eurosport.
They’ll show every 24 Hour session live as well as the Porsche Cup and possible the Road To Le Mans.
Eurosport time schedule in the UK:
3pm – 7pm Practice
9pm – 11pm Qualifying
3pm – 7.10pm This slot appears to be Porsche Cup practice then Road To Le Mans Race 1 at 4.30pm.
6pm – 8pm Qualifying
9pm – 11pm Qualifying
Saturday – all on Eurosport 1
8am – 8.40am Warm Up
9.15am Porsche Carrera Cup
10.30am Road To Le Mans Race 2
1.45pm to Sunday afternoon 24 Hours of Le Mans
The Eurosport Player app (on tablet and via website) will stream the race live, including a commentary & advert free option showing the race continuously. It may also have onboard feeds.
This is ideal if, for example, you wanted pictures to put up alongside Radio Le Mans!
Le Mans / FIA WEC App
On the Apple and Google stores – or via here – there is a 24h Le Mans app. This is the same as the FIA WEC app, so if you have the WEC app already you just need to update it and be sure you have the right subscription.
Health warning: for the Spa 6 Hours this app subscription wasn’t working properly. It is not the most reliable thing I’ve ever seen, which is ironic, given the setting.
They’ll have the ‘World Feed’ TV team including Toby Moody and Allan McNish plus live timing and information. It should also have a choice of onboard streams and usually there’s a French language option.
The US is now firmly into a new era of sportscar racing.
Three complete seasons have now elapsed since the ‘merger’ between the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Series and at last the unified IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship has a new top class to call its own, rather than one with cars inherited from the old era.
Three weeks ago the 2017 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona saw the debut of the brand new LMP2 cars which we will also see in the World Endurance Championship (and European & Asian Le Mans Series). In addition and more interestingly, the new ‘Daytona Prototype international’ cars were seen and it is those that are most exciting. DPi takes the LMP2 as a base and adds in manufacturer support, including engines and bespoke bodywork.
Watch The Race
You can watch the 2017 edition of the race, complete with full IMSA Radio commentary, via the official IMSA YouTube channel below. All rights belong to their respective owners. These only appear embedded because that’s what WordPress does with YouTube links, no copyright infringement is intended.
Below the video are some of my thoughts.
The Prototype class really was a combination of a traditional sportscar endurance race mixed with the excitement of recent Rolex 24 Hours! For most of the race the goal was just to get the car to the end. Few did. ‘New car blues’ hit a lot of teams, you never knew who would be next to fall. And yet, Daytona being Daytona, it still contrived to boil down to a fistfight right to the end!
The new DPi Cadillac cars held an advantage in both pace and reliability, but this was no surprise as they had tested far more than anyone else. But you never really knew how it would pan out, and when one of the seemingly indestructible cars, the Whelen Action Express entry, fell away late in the race, it felt as though any car could still win with the Riley P2 car and the Nissan DPi chasing just a lap or two behind. A multi-lap advantage is meaningless if the car breaks down.
As it turned out Cadillac took 1st and 2nd, but Nissan in particular and Mazda both look to have a lot of potential. Once everyone gets their stuff sorted out, it’ll be fantastic.
The WEC-spec LMP2s didn’t fare well. I thought they would do a lot better. Only one car had a near-flawless run, the largely unfancied Riley Multimatic entered by VisitFlorida (formerly Spirit of Daytona). It was only unfancied compared to the Liger and Oreca because the Riley carries higher downforce, it was ‘meant’ to be slower at Daytona and better at twisty tracks, yet proved itself remarkably well. The Ligier and ORECA examples really struggled but I am sure will be on-song by the time we hit the bulk of the season, both in the US and elsewhere.
Prototype Challenge is best left unmentioned, a single car running well while the others fell apart. One had mechanical problems to do with fuel feed. Others looked as though they just didn’t get on with the setups on the cars – whether these were enforced by the BoP or by the tyres or conditions I do not know, but they looked tough to drive. PC has never covered itself in glory at Daytona, or at many other places since roughly around the time they were made to change tyre supplier.. Coincidence?
GTLM, the Le Mans GTE class, was again the highlight of the race as it so often is in the IMSA series. GT in IMSA is almost always better than the WEC equivalent both in strength and depth and again it was true here – a flat out war from start to finish! It also had a fistfight with a near-identical incident in turn 1 as in the P class.
It was no surprise to see Ford and Ferrari up front, but then the rain fell and brought Porsche into the picture, with Corvette playing their trick of the GT1 era of not necessarily being the fastest but always being there at the end.
It was clear from the ability of the GTLM cars in mixed conditions, pulling away from top Prototypes under acceleration before P’s repassed them with higher top end, that Michelins are still the best things to have in the wet.
That is not to underplay the huge GTD class (for GT3 cars) which twisted and turned all race long as different cars and drivers struggled with the cold, changeable conditions. Some teams managed this better than others. Continental laid down instructions which some followed successfully, others ignored them and then complained about it.
It was great to see Mercedes GT3s on the high banks and those new Acuras look stunning. The racing in GTD was really very good and with a big field. I hope it gets the attention it deserves this season.
#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing – Cadillac DPi-V.R
Ricky Taylor / Jordan Taylor / Jeff Gordon / Max Angelelli
#66 Ford Chip Ganassi – Ford GT
Joey Hand / Dirk Mueller / Sebastien Bourdais
#28 Alegra Motorsports – Porsche 911 GT3 R
Daniel Morad / Michael Christensen / Jesse Lazarre / Carlos de Quesada / Michael de Quesada
#38 Performance Tech Motorsports – Oreca FLM09
James French / Patricio O’Ward / Kyle Masson / Nicholas Boulle
The next IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship race is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, on Saturday 18th March 2017.
The race is half as long but the bumps are bone-shaking and really test a car and driver, how will the new Prototypes hold up there?
There is a lot to look for in the 2017 motorsport season.
I felt something was missing in 2016. I don’t know what it was. Some sort of spark. Maybe it was me, maybe it was other events away from racing, or maybe motorsport just didn’t grab me as much as before – with the exception of IndyCar and MotoGP which were excellent. I didn’t invest as much time in keeping up with WEC and IMSA, something I’m doing over the winter break.
I think that should change this year.
New cars! Better looking cars. No more silly rear wings. Faster over a lap, faster through the corners. Hopefully they’ll look as fast and dramatic as the last time we had high downforce F1 cars, about a decade ago. The drivers are going to have to work hard.
With luck this will shake up the order. Some teams will get it wrong and will spend the year catching up. We’ll see them do it, much like we’ve seen McLaren-Honda get faster through the year over the last two years.
The downside? More downforce usually reduces overtaking opportunities. I wonder whether the larger rear wing will increase the effectiveness of the DRS. I would rather have no DRS – or have it and allow a driver to use it wherever he likes, no zones, no limits.
There should be good news with the tyres. Pirelli are charged with making tyres that allow a driver to push and not conserve so we might see some flat out racing again. Let’s hope they get it right.
How will Valterri Bottas fare at Mercedes alongside Lewis Hamilton? I’m excited to find out. I don’t think he’ll be a pushover. And Hamilton will want to fight after being defeated last year – I think he’ll win another title, but may again trip over himself in doing so.
How will Max Verstappen get on at his second season at the big Red Bull team and how will Dan Ricciardo react? Will Ferrari sink or swim, will Seb Vettel get fed up and move on? Will McLaren be back?
MotoGP is always fun at the front of the field. Even a dominant lead can be lost with a momentary lapse of concentration sending a rider to the floor.
Jorge Lorenzo moves to that hard-to-tame Ducati. Maverick Vinales replaces him at Yamaha alongside Valentino Rossi. Iannone across to Suzuki. I reckon the title fight will be between Marquez and Vinales. I’d love to see Pedrosa up front more often.
How will KTM get on in their first season? Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, Tech3 teammates last year, both move there.
I’m excited to see the races at New York and Montreal. I hope to see Jaguar improving through the year. Adam Carroll is vastly underrated and ought to have had a top works drive years ago.
I would like to see a greater energy allocation, more harvesting, as the cars are too energy-restricted. They did grant more allocation this season but they also lengthened the races which offset the benefit. If they’d given more energy for the same distance, everyone could’ve pushed harder in the race. It feels like the series is wasting the opportunity for good races while everyone is cruising around saving energy.
Sebastien Buemi leads after the two rounds held so far, but my tip is to keep watching Felix Rosenqvist.
Some of the best racing in the world will continue to be found in IndyCar. I fully expect the Indy 500 to be a highlight again.
Aero Kit competition is now frozen. In theory this means Honda are at a disadvantage, at least on road and street courses. A spec kit will appear in 2018.
Chip Ganassi Racing are moving back to Honda. With the might of CGR’s resources, joining Andretti’s, I suspect the Honda vs Chevy competition may become more equal.
AJ Foyt’s team go the other way to Chevy. Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly join. I’m starting to think Foyt will have a very good season! Takuma Sato goes the other way, to Andretti.
Josef Newgarden will have the most attention. His was the biggest move in the driver market, joining Team Penske to replace Juan Montoya. (JPM will still contest Indy). It took someone with the talent of Simon Pagenaud a full season to ‘bed in’ at Penske so I think we should go easy on Joe-New, at least this year.
As in 2016 I expect Pagenaud versus Power over the season, too close to call, but you must watch all of the races because really anything can happen from race to race!
World Endurance Championship
It’ll be very strange without Audi competing. Only five LMP1 cars: 2 x Porsche, 2 x Toyota, 1 x ByKolles CLM. We may see another Toyota at Le Mans and surely this is their year for the 24 Hours?
We saw great battles between two manufacturers in the past, Audi vs Peugeot, then Audi vs Toyota, so there’s every reason to think Toyota vs Porsche will be just as good.
All-new cars in LMP2. Which will be quickest? I’m sad they felt the need to restrict it to four chassis makers but I understand the budgetary reasons for it. Hopefully the cost savings will attract more entrants. Rebellion Racing step down from LMP1 with a hell of a driver line-up.
GTE Pro is a balance of performance (BoP) nightmare. Ford and Ferrari ahead last year but Porsche have a new car – and it is a mid-engined 911. Heresy! This could be the best fight in the field. And in 2018 we’ll see the brand new BMW.
GTE Am. Early yet but I’m not seeing a lot of takers. Perhaps it is time to replace it with GT3?
The story in the US is very different, IMSA is having a resurgence. The Prototype class will use the same brand new LMP2 cars as the WEC. In addition are the new Daytona Prototype international “DPi” cars, which take those LMP2 cars and add manufacturer engines and bespoke bodywork. It is a cost-effective way to bring in manufacturers and it has attracted Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan. It should be a fantastic year in the top class and it stars next week with the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
The GTLM class in IMSA, just like the ALMS before it, is top drawer. Often it is the best race among the 4 classes and it is usually better than the WEC equivalent (which runs to the same rules).
GTD will be numerically dominant with a lot of GT3 cars, no slouches themselves, including the new Acura (Honda) and Lexus. Worth checking out the entry list.
And the much-maligned PC class will finally be put out of its misery at the end of the year! It worked well when it started, but really ought to have been killed off a couple of years ago.
European Le Mans Series
The top class will have those new LMP2 cars which seem to be attracting a lot of attention in this series. LMP3 is also proving popular so there should be a lot of Prototypes in the ELMS again this year. I’d like to see a bigger GT field.
The supporting Michelin Le Mans Cup, featuring LMP3 and GT3 cars in a series of 2-hour races (1 hour at Le Mans before the big race), is also booming. This should be one of the hidden gems of 2017 so do look out for it, especially the LM24 support race.
World Rally Championship
New cars. Faster cars. Okay, some people are heralding them as the second coming of Group B – they are decidedly not that. They aren’t that extreme, with much less power than Gp.B, but with modern suspension, tyres, electronics and all the rest they will be very fast. It is good to see the WRC return to more advanced tech.
Citroen are back, Toyota are back, Hyundai continue and the M-Sport Fords look competitive.
One more reason this year will be good? I’ve upgraded from a 30″ standard definition TV to a 50″ Ultra HD TV. Wow what an upgrade! Even the size difference is remarkable, let alone the quality.
Okay there’s not much content in UHD, for motorsport basically it is only MotoGP, but I bet it’ll look damn good! (I think F1 is in UHD this year – but I don’t have Sky Sports). Certainly I will be enjoying a lot of stuff in ‘normal’ 1080 HD – and I can’t wait!
There are a few notes on my methodology followed by a table showing each racing series: F1, MotoGP, IndyCar, WEC, IMSA, NASCAR, WTCC, BTCC, DTM and many more. Just click the links on the right hand side of the table.
There are a couple of options, try each to find the one that works the way you want it.
If you subscribed to these feeds in 2015, or before, and have not removed them, you do not need to add them again. Just scroll forwards and the dates will be there. This obviously doesn’t apply if you took it as a download!
Thanks everybody for your continued support of this project. Do keep pointing out errors and omissions. And share with anybody who may be interested!
A quick note on the blog: I apologise for not posting more frequently. The last couple of years have been quite tiring. I keep meaning to return with lots of small posts and observations rather than the occasional long-read. I do miss the long posts as well.
I’m also considering a Facebook page. On Twitter I share or retweet lots of stories I think are interesting or funny and it might be useful to have a place on FB to do the same. Let me know your thoughts.
Hello. This is the last of my Class Previews and I saved the top one until last – the battle for the overall win. Last year’s race was unbelievable, this year’s promises to be just as good! The form book suggests a head-to-head between two German heavyweights.. but Le Mans has no respect for form.
Once again the usual disclaimer, this is a fan blog and these are just my impressions having seen the first few races but without having yet read or listened to any previews.
LM P1 Summary: 14 Entries (11 from WEC, 3 one-offs)
Le Mans Prototype cars with professional drivers. This top class is the Big Dog, this will decide the overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A car from another class could win outright, but LMP1 cars are so much faster it’ll take something major to rule them out.
With lap times not far off F1 cars and top speeds on the Mulsanne probably higher than them, these are serious machines. LMP1 today is the opposite of the endurance perception: now they are full attack, with little to no fuel saving, on full grip tyres. Basically a sprint race that lasts a long time! They do this with more advanced hybrid systems, of a completely different design from each manufacturer – true competition! – with more power than last year and more than F1. I am a life-long F1 fan but this is remarkable technology which makes F1’s new kit look out-dated.
Two privateer entrants carry the flag for the independents and long may they continue to do so. LMP1 must always have independents. Though neither team runs those crucial hybrid systems which make such a difference.
All cars in the class run on Michelins.
WEC note: Le Mans counts for WEC double-points but only among entrants registered for the WEC. Non-registered cars are ignored for points purposes. WEC-registered cars are marked with ( W ) after their name.
#7 Audi Sport Team Joest – Audi R18 e-tron quattro – Marcel Faessler, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer
An immensely tricky choice. This year all three Audis and all three Porsches can be considered almost equally likely to win. Should they falter, the two Toyotas will be right there.
I’ve chosen this car for two reasons: Firstly, Joest Audi just knows how to win this race. Secondly, Porsche are faster over a lap but the #7 Audi has beaten them in the opening two rounds of this year’s WEC already.
A few years ago, the likes of Kristensen, McNish and Capello were considered greats even when they were still racing. I consider Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer to be their equals. I don’t know why they aren’t seen that way by others, yet for some reason they haven’t yet reached the same level in the public conciousness. They’ve won Le Mans in 2011, 2012 and 2014 and finished 2nd in 2010! You cannot argue that success rate. They have already etched their name into Le Mans history.
#17 Porsche Team – Porsche 919 Hybrid – Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley #18 Porsche Team – Porsche 919 Hybrid – Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb #19 Porsche Team – Porsche 919 Hybrid – Nico Huelkenberg, Earl Bamber, Nick Tandy
I said Audi would have the advantage over the race.. but I think they’ll only get one car ahead of the Porsches. My podium prediction is Audi-Porsche-Porsche and I think Porsche will hold the lead for much of the race. They’ll claim pole and I think it’ll be a clear 1-2-3 in qualifying! Those 919s are fast. How reliable are they? How many stints on tyres can they do? Will any of the guys make unforced errors?
#18 is the stronger car. The trio seem to have found the sweet spot with the car and they took 2nd in the first two WEC races. #17 isn’t far off but it feels trouble attracts it, or vice versa! Yet when your weakest driver is of the calibre of Mark Webber you know you have a strong team.
#19 isn’t registered for WEC points so there’s a choice: run it as a safe backup behind the other two, or run it at the level of the opposition as a spoiler to get in the way, or run it fast as a hare and chase off into the distance to fool the other teams into chasing after it (and hope they break down in the process)?
After so many years together in so many cars in so many races, I still find it odd that Dumas and Bernhard aren’t sharing a car.
#8 Audi Sport Team Joest – Audi R18 e-tron quattro – Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis #9 Audi Sport Team Joest – Audi R18 e-tron quattro – Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi, Rene Rast
We already know the talents of Duval and di Grassi, we’re quickly learning Jarvis deserves his place among them.
The non-points #9 car is in the same position as Porsche’s #19. We already know Audi typically let their three cars fight for the win. Points be damned, Le Mans is Le Mans. The trio in the #9 are as good as those in #8. Rene Rast is very fast.
Can they go as far on fuel as the Porsches? Indeed, if they can outperform them on tyres does the fuel matter? Questions, questions! The six cars of Audi and Porsche should be fighting all race long!
#1 Toyota Racing – Toyota TS040 Hybrid – Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima #2 Toyota Racing – Toyota TS040 Hybrid – Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway
The 2014 Champions aren’t having such a good 2015, unfortunately the pace just doesn’t seem to be in the car. More accurately, the pace is definitely still there and the car is faster than last year, what’s happened is Audi and Porsche jumped ahead.
Toyota know what they are doing and so do all the drivers, every one of them top drawer, no weak link here. But they’ll have to run reliability – no mistakes, no failures – and take advantage of any problems others may have. If they do this they can score a podium – or win if the others break down, which they really might.
An slightly outside bet then, but a serious one. If the Porsches and Audis have even the tiniest problem the Toyotas will be through.
The Unknown Quantity
#21 Nissan Motorsports – Nissan GT-R LM Nismo – Tsugio Matsuda, Mark Shulzhitsky, Lucas Ordonez #22 Nissan Motorsports – Nissan GT-R LM Nismo – Harry Tinknell, Michael Krumm, Alex Buncombe #23 Nissan Motorsports – Nissan GT-R LM Nismo – Olivier Pla, Jann Mardenborough, Max Chilton
Tricky. They are confident and the fans are with them. And yet… And yet. This confidence is based on what the car WILL do once it is fully developed. In 2016. Right now though, it is only halfway there. It is in no position to win this race on pace alone. As for reliability and fuel numbers, well they haven’t raced it yet, so nobody knows!
Full credit for exploiting the rules to create such a unique car. It takes the lessons of the Delta Wing and mates them to the LMP1 regulations. At the Test Day it was clearly the fastest in a straight line, even though the lap times weren’t there at all. It was only a test though.
The team didn’t enter the opening two races, is reportedly running on only one of the two hybrid systems, and they haven’t actually raced as a unit yet. They have less of a budget than the other manufacturers. Add in the difficulty in making a novel design actually work, it wouldn’t surprise me if the thing was totally unreliable at this first attempt. No surprise to read Tincknell is focussing on getting the car to the finish, above all else.
What’s a realistic objective? Get one car to the finish in the top 12. Porsche finished 11th on their return just twelve months ago, behind 6 LMP2 cars, now look where they are. If Nissan can finish top 12 overall, or complete a similar number of laps to the top 6 in LMP2, I’d call that a successful return in Year 1. Year 2 is when the fun will happen.
No surprise that #23 (‘Ni San’ in Japanese) has the higher profile drivers. Pla is stellar, Mardenborough ridiculously quick, Chilton the steady hand on the tiller. #22 isn’t too shabby either – Tincknell is my local driver and was a hot shoe in LMP2 – and #21 is right up there in quality, especially Ordonez. The only one I don’t know is Matsuda. An aggressive line up across all three cars, despite their youth many already have Le Mans experience.
They know exactly where they are. That is why they are being so open with the fans, with social media and PR events, open about the car, all the open access. That’ll change next year if and when they become competitive. The walls will close in, expect it. Still, none of the other teams let us in on their development cycle!
#12 Rebellion Racing – Rebellion R-One – AER – Nicolas Prost, Nick Heidfeld, Mattias Beche #13 Rebellion Racing – Rebellion R-One – AER – Alexandre Imperatori, Dominik Kraihamer, Daniel Abt
Rebellion were forced to skip Silverstone and Spa while they sorted out installations issues with the new AER engines after a late choice to swap from Toyota (not the works Toyota engines, something else).
I like the way they go racing so I hope the delay won’t impact their reliability. They need a good solid run to take advantage of the reliability troubles that’ll surely hit the hybrid runners, just as they did last year which netted them 4th place! So: same again please, just slightly faster! That’s why they put in the AER which is so fast in the CLM.
The solid #12 drivers return and will surely be their lead charge. In the #13 Leimer and Belicchi are out, and Imperatori and Abt are in. Imperatori was good for KCMG in the LMP2 class.
#4 Team ByKolles – CLM P1/01 – AER – Simon Trummer, Pierre Kaffer, Tiago Monteiro
This team is doing all of their development in public. In a difference to last year they do appear to be getting faster. The car is changing appearance. Quick in a straight line just not so good in the corners (good engine, bad chassis). Over a lap the car does just about out-run the LMP2 cars but it still can’t run for very long. It was in and out of the pits at Silverstone and at Spa it only did 46 laps (the winner did 176 laps). This was the only privateer entrant at Silverstone and Spa so it was expected they’d build a big points gap over Rebellion – but failing to finish either round means they’ve failed to score. So excluding crashes from others I have every expectation this will be the first official retirement in any class. Klien and Liuzzi look to have been binned, which for their own careers is probably for the best.
Hi. This is the 3rd of 4 posts previewing each class of the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours. I’ve already written about GTE Pro and GTE Am. Now it is time for the biggest class: LMP2 has a whopping 19 entries. I will try to be brief..
Again, disclaimer, this is a fan blog and these are just my impressions having seen the first few races but without having yet read or listened to any previews.
LM P2 Summary: 19 Entries (9 from WEC, 9 from ELMS, 1 one-off)
Le Mans Prototype cars with a Pro/Am driver line-up, similar to GTE Am but with a slightly different configuration between Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze. The specifics aren’t important, what’s important is the way you choose to deploy your lower-ranked driver/s. Do you get the slower guys out of the way early? Do you have the Pro’s deal with the difficult night? And remember, without the Am’s a lot of these teams wouldn’t even be racing – some may want to take the flag themselves.
Slower than LMP1 but faster around a lap than GTE. They have about the same top speed as GTE, the P2s make up their time through the corners. This isn’t ideal when the P2s come to lap the GTEs as it can make for some dicey, late braking moves.
European Le Mans Series P2 teams are strong. Don’t be fooled by the fact they don’t enter the world championship – the rules for their class of the ELMS are the same as for the WEC. Last year the ELMS guys roundly trounced the WEC teams. This year some of them joined the WEC so the split is now 50:50.
WEC note: Le Mans counts for WEC double-points but only among entrants registered for the WEC. Non-registered cars are ignored for points purposes. WEC-registered cars are marked with after their name.
#38 Jota Sport – Gibson 015S – Nissan – Dunlop – Simon Dolan, Mitch Evans, Oliver Turvey
This is another class in which you could easily argue there are 2 or 3 equal favourites! I’m forcing myself to make a pick for each class and I can’t look away from Jota. They are likely the favourites for the ELMS title though a win in that series has eluded them this year, with 2nd and 3rd so far. In between those results they won the WEC round at Spa. Turvey is quick, Evans is hungry, Dolan has become one of the top ‘Am’ drivers in the class. They have some very stiff competition though.
#46 Thiriet by TDS Racing – Oreca 05 – Nissan – Dunlop – Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey, Tristan Gommendy
This car is equal favourite to Jota and is only in this section because I made myself pick only one favourite per class. This is a very good ELMS team with a solid line-up, despite this strong field I’d be amazed if it doesn’t make the podium. A win at Imola and 3rd at Silverstone prove they mean business with the coupe Oreca after a year struggling with the Ligier.
#26 G-Drive Racing – Ligier JS P2 – Nissan – Dunlop – Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal, Sam Bird #28 G-Drive Racing – Ligier JS P2 – Nissan – Dunlop – Gustavo Yacaman, Pipo Derani, Ricardo Gonzalez
A win apiece for this team in the WEC. #26 won at Silverstone. #28 won at Spa and took 2nd at Silverstone meaning they hold a handy points lead – no other WEC P2 car scored two podiums out of the opening rounds. Double points though at Le Mans, all to play for.
Theoretically you’d say the #26 should have the edge in driver line-ups in this team, particularly Bird, but perhaps that #28 should be watched too. Yacaman has been wild in the past in IMSA but seems to be taking to WEC P2 racing rather well.
#41 Greaves Motorsport – Gibson 015S – Nissan – Dunlop – Gary Hirsch, Bjorn Wirdheim, Jon Lancaster
Winners at Silverstone ELMS thanks to Lancaster’s, err, ‘forceful’ GP2-style moves to overtake. That sort of driving won’t last long at Le Mans and what’s more, the team and driver are both fast enough not to need it. Could get a win or podium and will likely finish ahead of many fancied WEC runners.
#36 Signatech Alpine – Alpine A450b – Nissan – Dunlop – Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin, Vincent Capillaire
PLC is one to watch. Some may say ‘miscategorised’! I like the fight they showed in the ELMS last year, now they’re in the WEC and a DNF and a 4th probably aren’t representative of what this team can do. The Alpine A450b is basically an Oreca 03R under another name: older, but proven. (I say that – it was out after 20 laps at Silverstone after a wheel came off!)
#43 Team SARD-Morand – Morgan LMP2 Evo – SARD – Dunlop – Pierre Ragues, Oliver Webb, Zoel Amberg
A troubled start to the year with sponsors walking away, the team skipping Silverstone and a planned second car not appearing. A strong rebound at Spa saw the lone car finish 2nd! Are they a contender? I’m a little unsure, but to pull off a result like that on merit following such troubles, that’s a good sign.
This is an odd one. The team has all the hallmarks of one that should be quick but they never seem to have the luck – mechanicals, crashes, you name it. Scored 2nd in the ELMS at Imola but a retirement at Silverstone. I want to say they’re a Contender and I really hope they have a good solid run but you just know something will happen..
#47 KCMG – Oreca 05 – Nissan – Dunlop – Matt Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre
Steadily building up over the last few years. You sense this team is a growing force. Took 3 wins in last year’s under-subscribed WEC and now showing well against a bigger field. Two LM24 attempts and two DNFs so far, I think they’ll do much better this year but I don’t think it’ll be a win.. yet. Unlucky not to have a second car on the entry list (it is 1st Reserve), perhaps they can focus on this one without distractions. Also has the best livery in the field!
#34 OAK Racing – Ligier JS P2 – Honda – Dunlop – Chris Cumming, Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre #35 OAK Racing – Ligier JS P2 – Nissan – Dunlop – Jacques Nicolet, Jean-Marc Merlin, Erik Maris
OAK Racing is the competition arm of Onroak who make the Ligier and Morgan chassis. As such they’re running cars here with different engines as a showcase, one with a Nissan and one with a Honda/HPD. With these line-ups the Honda car has the driver advantage, Vanthoor and Estre are great talents in GT racing. Yet so far the Nissan has proven the better engine, that’s why most of the field is using it.
There isn’t any doubt about the quality of the team. #34 could be in the ‘Contender’ category – but OAK previously said they didn’t want to race their customers this year so that makes me pull back and wonder whether they’ll slow it down and run this race as a test with both cars.
#42 Strakka Racing – Dome Strakka S103 – Nissan – Dunlop – Nick Leventis, Danny Watts, Jonny Kane
The new car isn’t as quick as it should be. It was also a year late. Finished 3rd at Silverstone only thanks to the troubles of others, because they were 7 laps down and off the pace throughout. The team hopes a change from Michelin, used in the first two races, to the class-leading Dunlop will help their fortunes. I hope so but right now I have insufficient data to realistically call them a contender. The quality of the team itself and of the driver line-up isn’t in question.
The Lower Midfield
#30 Extreme Speed Motorsports – Ligier JS P2 – Honda – Dunlop – Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, David Heinemeier-Hansson #31 Extreme Speed Motorsports – Ligier JS P2 – Honda – Dunlop – Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, Jon Fogarty
What should be a team running further up will likely just be happy to finish the race, after the six months they’ve had! From the new HPD chassis at the IMSA Daytona 24, to the venerable old HPD at Silverstone – which first got damaged and then got excluded – then to the new Ligiers at Spa. So many car changes in such a short time has left the team spinning! This is the sole reason I place my expectations so low – in any other year they’d be higher.
A very good driver line-up and the team has plenty of experience of racing in the ALMS and IMSA. I’m glad they are in the WEC now but I wish they hadn’t had such a bumpy ride so far. Let’s hope for a smooth Le Mans. Won’t be in their usual Tequila Patron bright green as alcohol sponsorship is banned in France.
#40 Krohn Racing – Ligier JS P2 – Judd – Michelin – Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson, Joao Barbosa
Team took part in IMSA’s Daytona & Sebring before joining the ELMS, finding that series a cheaper / less hectic schedule for them around Krohn’s other interests.
Barbosa is acting as ‘guest driver’ and we all know how good he is. He’s become one of the top drivers in IMSA, but before that do you remember he went like dynamite for Rollcentre Racing at Le Mans? Could take class pole. Interesting choice to use him instead of ELMS driver Ozz Negri. Jonsson is also a quick guy. The fortunes of this team will depend on Krohn, who has experience and on some days can be quick for an ‘Am’, yet on others can spin the car every 10 laps like a rookie. After 24 hours they should be clearly ahead of the cars listed below, but perhaps behind most of those listed above.
#27 SMP Racing – BR Engineering BR01 – Nissan – Michelin – Maurizio Mediani, David Markozov, Nicolas Minassian #37 SMP Racing – BR Engineering BR01 – Nissan – Michelin – Mikhail Aleshin, Kirill Ladygin, Anton Ladygin
Won the WEC last year (via double points at Le Mans) then stepped back to the ELMS to work on this new car. Suffered new-car-woes at Imola after missing round 1 entirely. We’ll know the true pace of the car when Minassian is aboard. Aleshin was a little guilty of over-driving it to make up time. I think one car will likely retire, the other will also DNF or will come home multiple laps down. They’ll keep trying though, until the thing physically won’t move any more.
#29 Pegasus Racing – Morgan LMP2 – Nissan – Michelin – Leo Roussel, Ho-Pin Tung, David Cheng
They haven’t had a good start to the ELMS. A DNF and a low placing at Imola. Ho-Pin Tung is a known quantity (for better or worse). David Cheng, name rings a bell.. I know he’s been in the PC class in IMSA but I don’t remember much more. I don’t know Roussel. The Morgan is an older open-top car.
#45 Ibanez Racing – Oreca 03R – Nissan – Dunlop – Jose Ibanez, Pierre Perret, Ivan Bellarosa
Running the older open-top Oreca. Didn’t really have the speed in the opening ELMS races, mostly through inexperience from the team and drivers. I like it when new teams appear so I hope they keep running as it’ll encourage them to improve and come back.
Hello. This is the second of my previews for the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours. See my GTE-Am preview here.
Again, disclaimer, this is a fan blog and these are just my impressions having seen the first few races but without having yet read or listened to any previews.
LM GTE Pro Summary: 9 Entries (7 from WEC and 2 from IMSA)
GT Endurance cars with an all-Pro driver line-up. This makes for a frantic 24-hour sprint race where the tiniest margin matters.
GTE Pro is the GT class where manufacturers go to prove their roadgoing cars. The big battle is between Aston Martin, Ferrari, Corvette and Porsche.
Although this class has the smallest entry in the field, it is the class with the highest average level of quality. You won’t find a car or driver here that you’d scratch your head about, and you can’t say that about the other classes. I’m not joking or exaggerating when I say any car can win. Most drivers here are employed by the car manufacturers themselves, being paid to race, and most are good enough to race in LMP1 or F1 which shows how seriously those companies take this class.
WEC note: Le Mans counts for WEC double-points but only among entrants registered for the WEC. Non-registered cars are ignored for points purposes. WEC-registered cars are marked with after their name.
#51 AF Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia – Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella
Although in GTE Am I said the Aston would hold the advantage, and that car will be strong, I just can’t shake off the feeling AF Corse will win in Pro. The Ferraris are always quick, Bruni and Vilander are nearly unbeatable, and Fisi is really on form as well.
Though I’m forcing myself to pick a favourite, in reality another 3 or 4 cars could be considered joint favourites! It may be the smallest class but it the one with highest quality entry.
#95 Aston Martin Racing – Aston Martin Vantage GTE – Marco Sorensen, Nicki Thiim, Christoffer Nygaard #97 Aston Martin Racing – Aston Martin Vantage GTE – Darren Turner, Stefan Muecke, Rob Bell #99 Aston Martin Racing – Aston Martin Vantage GTE – Fernando Rees, Alex MacDowell, Richie Stanaway
#97 and #95 (in that order) should be the big contenders for the race win yet they are both at the bottom of the WEC standings. I do think they’ll be fast at Le Mans, they just have to avoid errors.
#99 in theory is the weaker car but nobody told them that – they sit 2nd in WEC team points with a win at Spa! This crew of younger guns is hungry to prove something. Keep an eye on this car.
#71 AF Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia – Davide Rigon, James Calado, Olivier Beretta
I put this a little behind the #51 but not far. I’m not quite sure where to place it versus the Aston Martins. They are at the same level! A podium contender for certain, and possibly also the win.
#91 Porsche Team Manthey – Porsche 911 RSR – Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen, Joerg Bergmeister #92 Porsche Team Manthey – Porsche 911 RSR – Patrick Pilet, Fred Makowiecki, Wolf Henzler
As with the Porsche in the Am class, the nature of the LM circuit may count against outright speed at the 24 Hours. The Ferraris and Astons seem either to have something more or they have the better BoP. This is Manthey though so they’ll be in contention, they’ll find a way. The #91 scored 2nd at Silverstone, before the team took 2nd (#92) and 3rd (#91) at Spa.
With a field of this quality it is hard to say which car has the best driver line-up in the Pro class but I think my pick is the #92.
#63 Corvette Racing-GM – Chevrolet Corvette C7.R – Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Ryan Briscoe #64 Corvette Racing-GM – Chevrolet Corvette C7.R – Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Jordan Taylor
This IMSA team is one of the best GT teams on the planet, but nowadays they only really meet their LM opposition actually at Le Mans, which makes it hard to judge where they’ll place and how fast they’ll be. They prefer to run a conservative race, sticking to a race pace to preserve reliability, and let the others go chasing speed and will pick up the pieces when those fall by the wayside in trying. It hasn’t quite worked as well as it did in the GT1 era but it did get them 2nd place last year. But don’t think they aren’t fast, when they want to be.
And that’s it!
Every car in the field is a contender. There are no ‘midfielders’ or ‘tailenders’ in this class, every car has a legitimate shot to win. This is why you NEED to be watching GTE Pro.