In some 17 years of following the race from afar, the 2018 edition wouldn’t rank in my top ten or fifteen. On the positive side there were some prominent highlights: a worthy winning team, a true test of endurance among the new LMP1 cars, some fascinating F1 visitors with very different approaches, a much better GT race than expected. And I once again enjoyed being a tiny part of the online endurance racing family.
It’s the big one, the 24 Hours of Le Mans!
Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.
There are 60 cars with 180 drivers. 60 stories to follow. Three class races other than LMP1. Please do not belittle all of that just because the race for the win might be boring!
Some of things happening this weekend.
Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.
Endurance sports cars are back!
If it isn’t raining I’ll be watching these delayed so you may only see a small weekend recap post on Tuesday.
It is easy to write a preview for the next big race, but actual journalists already do that.
I thought instead I would write a guide for how to watch a 24 hour endurance race, such as Le Mans or Daytona or Spa, if you are watching from home. You can adapt this strategy for 12 or 10 hour races like Sebring or Petit Le Mans.
Search for the website of the championship or event to find an Entry List, see if you can spot any drivers and teams you’ve heard about. This is your ‘in’, your way in to understanding the race.
Check www.spotterguides.com to see if Andy Blackmore has drawn up the liveries for this race so you can spot the cars – and cross them off in marker pen when they retire.
Have a look at some sports car news sites such as Racer.com, DailySportscar.com and Sportscar365.com, so you can see what’s been going on.
Live timing helps a lot. TV graphics are okay, but they never show what you want when you want it.
Live timing shows last lap time for each car and the gaps to the cars – so you can see who is gaining on the cars ahead and who is losing time. It shows the number of pit stops made, so you can work out strategy. It also shows the number of laps done by each car – in this type of racing the gaps can run to multiple laps. If a car falls behind you need to be able to see if it gets a lap back.
When you learn how to read it you almost don’t even need the TV pictures, you can understand and enjoy it from the data feed alone – or data feed and radio coverage.
It is important to find a commentary team providing detail to the level needed, without making it dry. The gold standard is RadioLeMans.com and IMSA Radio. Check to see whether these guys & girls are covering the race you’re watching. They do Le Mans, WEC, IMSA and more.
Countless people watch whatever TV or streaming is provided, put it on mute, and listen to RLM instead.
The Eurosport commentary at Le Mans can be good too, depending what shift it is.
You could just flick on the TV if you like, dipping in and out, which is great if you just want to chill out watching some cool cars racing. And this is a great way to get a taste for this style of racing and just start absorbing who is who without pressure. But you won’t necessarily understand what’s going on with strategy.
A lot of people have at least two screens – which is fairly standard for most motorsport now anyway: many of us tweet during a race for example, and follow live timing. [I usually do both from one PC]
Many more dedicated endurance fans have three or four or more screens. These are showing dedicated onboard videos from their favourite cars. Some might have one tablet/laptop for timing, another for social media, another for omboard, another with a different onboard.
Many fans then have tablets or laptops dedicated to running streams of onboard cameras, which are frequently provided free of charge or as part of a paid streaming service. This is an absolute luxury, though you do see some great car control and some incidents the main broadcast could never catch.
I found this to be overwhelming so I streamlined to this:
Main TV coverage with Radio Le Mans talking (or IMSA Radio);
PC with timing & social media;
Maybe a smaller device with one onboard;
Social media is important, too. I don’t mean just sitting there tweeting from your own account. Look up the championship account, look up your favourite team and driver accounts. Find other fans. Information comes through very quickly, faster than the broadcasts.
Some say sports car racing is boring. At first it looks like cars going round and round, hour after hour. And on the face of it, it is!
Then you think about it. At Le Mans you have 60 cars, 3 per car makes 180 drivers. At Daytona some cars have 5 drivers. At Nurburgring there are 150 cars on a 14 mile track. Add in those team bosses and engineers who have become well-known. Different combinations of teams, chassis, engines and tyres. Different classes of car in each race. Each class with a different rule set, which may differ between championships.
Every one of those people has a story to tell, every team has a history. It is totally overwhelming. It takes years to learn who they are. It is not possible to follow all of it in real time. [Unless you are Paul Truswell.] The nature of this racing means information doesn’t come to light for half an hour or an hour. Or lots of things happen at once.
To manage this, break it into chunks. Just pick your favourites in each class. And pick the likely winners in each class. Or those whose stories you like. Focus on following those on the screens and on the live timing. Everything else will flow from there. You’ll pick up everything else you need to know as you go along.
Often you get close racing, often there are long periods where are you waiting for it to play out. A strategy call might be made at 6pm, you may not see the payoff until 11pm, when all of a sudden that 6pm decision to triple-stint every driver puts a car into the lead. Be patient, but also pay attention.
Your Fuel Strategy
Eat small, eat regularly.
A great tip is to eat small, eat often. Do stick to your meal times but make it a moderate or small meal. Don’t have a great big meal, it’ll just make you sleepy. It can be fun to gorge on a Chinese takeaway or a big pizza just as you would on a film night, but if you plan to follow the race all night long – or have just a small sleep to resume in the early hours- this is the worst thing to do. Over-eating means you sleep for hours.
Get a supply of snacks. Nuts, fruit, chocolate. Mix it up. First it keeps your energy up, second it gets you up and walking around to the kitchen and back, and third it gives you a break from the screen and the concentration.
And fruit is the best. No, seriously. A banana every few hours, or some grapes by your side, or even strawberries and raspberries with ice cream. You can try all the energy drinks and coffee and chocolate in the world – and I recommend having some – but nothing works better for me than the natural properties of fruit for a pick-me-up. Again don’t rely on it, it’s racing, have a bag of M&Ms too!
Okay this is a tough one. Especially if you are like me and drink several cups of tea or coffee every day in the 9-to-5 at the office. Don’t have too much caffeine. Whether it is tea or energy drinks, just have one every few hours. All of these things work best when you don’t build a resistance to them by having them all the time. If your body is used to a lower level, when you do have one, you get a bigger kick.
Instead, have plenty of bottled water nearby. It really does help. Use the caffeine drinks to give you a kick when you start to flag. But not with less than an hour to go, after all, you want to be able to sleep after the race.
- Eat small.
- Get your tools – live timing, video streams, commentary, social media.
- Pick your faves and follow them, disregard others.
I hope these tips help your experience with endurance racing and that you become a long-time fan!
2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship
The FIA’s global sports car championship featuring the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a series of 6 hour races in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Although Le Mans is a WEC round, the race attracts many non-championship cars from series such as the IMSA Weathertech Championship, the European Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series. These teams race for the win against the WEC teams but are ‘invisible’ when counting up WEC points.
This season marks the transition to a winter start with the finale being Le Mans itself. To get there they have created the one-off “Super Season”, more details below.
For more championships click here.
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!
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.