ELMS

End Of An Era With Audi Departing Departing Sportscar Racing

Nobody would have predicted when Audi first went to Le Mans in June 1999 with their two experimental R8R and R8C cars, that they would leave a legacy that would arguably be the most dominant in the sports history. This era has begrudgingly now come to an end with today’s announcement that Audi are to end their sports car effort  at the end of the season. But just how did the Audi brand become synonymous with Le Mans victory?

Expectations were low despite a huge four car entry comprising both the Audi R8R open cockpit car and the R8C coupe. Third and fourth overall in their first running showed their potential, yet very few people would have predicted what came in store next.

A new millennium came and with it was an era of complete Audi dominance in the sport. Returning with their revised R8 model,  a car that would go down in sports car racing as one of those revolutionary cars that change the sport, such as the Ford GT40 and the Porsche 956/962.

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The Porsche 962 taking its customary place at the front of the field, circa Le Mans 1987. Photo copyright Porsche.

Despite manufactures such as BMW, Mercedes and Nissan all pulling out of the end of 1999, nobody questioned the dominance of their victory. They cruised to a 1-2-3 podium lock out, with a winning margin of 24 four laps over their closest competitors.

The 2001 edition would be a lot tougher victory, with extreme weather conditions and the loss of driver Michele Alboreto only months before the race made it an emotional one for the team. From here it was on wards and upwards, with another victory for the #1 driver line up of Frank Biela, Emmanuele Pirro and Tom Kristensen cementing their place in history as the first driver line up to win the race three years in a row.

The factory team pulled out after 2002, paving the way for sister marque Bentley to win comfortably in 2003. After this small hiccup the R8 returned to the winners circle in 2004 and 2005 in the hands of the privateer Japanese Team Goh and America’s Champion Racing.

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Tom Kristensen celebrating his seventh win and the final victory for the iconic Audi R8, 2005, the end of an era. Photo copyright AudiWorld.

The R8 will not go down in history as simply a fast car, it was designed to make mechanical issues a lot quicker to fix. It was the first sports car to have this design philosophy and therefore it always had a huge advantage over the rest, because of how little time they would spend in the pit lane.

2006 would herald a new chapter in the Audi story, with the factory returning to Le Mans with an brand new diesel powered R10 TDI. It was the first of its type and would become the first ever diesel powered car to win Le Mans. This was a feat they managed to repeat in both 2007 and 2008, despite opposition from a strong Peugeot manufacture presence.

2009 woulds prove that Audi were human when their new R15 TDI proved uncompetitive at Le Mans thanks to issues with it’s radiators. 2010 and 2011 would provide epic battles with Peugeot as Audi introduced first the R15 Plus and then the R18 TDI, their first closed cockpit car since the initial R8C in 1999.

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Audi achieving yet another mile stone, becoming the first overall winner with hybrid power. Photo copyright F1fanatic.co.uk

2012-2014 would bring a further string of victories as they introduced hybrid power into their prototypes. The return of sports car legend Porsche in 2014 provided a mouth watering prospect for everyone involved, but unfortunately it would not be able to live up to high expectations.

Both Audi and Porsche would never both be truly competitive over the three years, with Porsche winning the mini-battle 2-1 in terms of Le Mans wins. Audi this season have proved to be fast but fragile, not a usual characteristic of theirs. Rumours have persisted for most of the season questioning whether they would return in 2017, and today we had the answer.

Whilst I’ve looked back at the success of Audi between 1999 and this year, just looking at their 13 Le Mans 24 Hours victories doesn’t accurately judge their dominance. They had an unbroken podium streak every year they competed at Le Mans, but it wasn’t just in La Sarthe where they ruled the roost. Both the Audi factory programme in the American Le Mans Series and with privateers in the European series, they were to prove dominant for over a decade.

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Audi’s final Le Mans challenger went out with a whimper. A fortuitous third place doesn’t represent their era in sports car racing, but for now this is the last we will see a factory Audi at the worlds greatest motor race. Photo copyright Motorsport.com 

They have won every significant prototype race on the planet multiple times, and with success as far as the notorious Sebring 12 Hours in Florida right up to their victory in the ALMS Race of Two Worlds at Adelaide in 2000. To try and put into words the level of dominance Audi have had on sports car racing since 1999 is impossible to put into words.

Looking at simply their results doesn’t do them justice. To speak to everyone past and present in the paddock during their period in the sport, would help to tell you one thing. They would all likely say, quite simply, Audi completely changed sports car racing as we know it. Their level of dominance is one that will live in history and will likely prove unmatched for a very long time.

Thank you Audi for an incredible 17 years in the sport, sports car racing owes a lot to their commitment to the category. Quite simply, Le Mans 2017 will be plain weird without them there.

Any thoughts on Audi’s dominance of sportscar racing? Feel free to share your comments below, I would hugely appreciate it. Thank you for reading.

 

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Sebring 12 Hours Prototype Preview

After the scintillating opening Rolex 24 in late January, now this week see’s the WeatherTech Sportscar championship roar back into life with another premiere event, the Mobil 1 Sebring 12 Hours from Florida. The event is one of the historic sportscar classics and this year promises to be a stunning race.

If Daytona is anything to go by the 12 hours will be filled with intense and close fought racing that should keep the fans on the edge of their seats for the entire race. In the first of my previews of the event I’ll take a look at the Prototype class entry list, which features 12 cars filled with some of the biggest sportscar drivers in the world. Let’s take a look at the contenders.

#0 Panoz DeltaWing Racing DeltaWing DWC13: Katherine Legge/Andy Meyrick/Sean Rayhall

The DeltaWing team will be looking for a return on the tremendous promise they showed in the early running of the Rolex 24 in January. The car led the race for a period on genuine pace alone and was running highly when it tripped over a Prototype Challenge car in the middle of the evening.

If the team can replicate it’s pace at Sebring this week and stay out of trouble they could very well challenge for the podium at least if not win the race. The Panoz team are highly experienced and their driver line up of Katherine Legge, Andy Meyrick and Sean Rayhall are more than quick enough to keep this car at the front of the race throughout the 12 hours.

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#2 Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsport Ligier JSP2-Honda: Scott Sharp/Johannes van Overbeek/Ed Brown/Luis ‘Pipo’ Derani

The Tequila Patron ESM team will be still on a high from their momentous victory in the Rolex 24 six weeks ago. The team drove the perfect race and the Ligier LMP2 prototype proved itself to be the fastest car on the grid for the majority of the race.

Now at Sebring they will be looking for a repeat result, but the notoriously bumpy Sebring circuit is vastly different from Daytona. Overall downforce is more important here and that should favour the LMP2 cars, such as the ESM Ligier.

On the driving front Pipo Derani announced himself as one of the best young prototype racers in the world with his performance at Daytona. He will once again be ably supported by experienced team mates Ed Brown, Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek. This car will be considered one of the favourites for victory in this weeks build up to the race.

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#5 Mustang Sampling Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Joao Barbosa/Christian Fittipaldi/Filipe Albuquerque

The Action Express team will be hoping to bounce back with their #5 entry after a disappointing Rolex 24 by their standards. The #5 Mustang Sampling car finished fourth after some late car issues in the final portion of the race.

This time around the team will be hoping they can return to winning ways, as they look to get themselves off to the best possible start in the championship. The teams driver line up of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque is one of the best line up’s in the class, something the team will look to exploit as they go in search of at least a podium place this weekend.

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#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP: Ricky Taylor/Jordan Taylor/Max Angelelli/Rubens Barrichello 

For the Wayne Taylor team, the Rolex 24 was once again a case of close, but no cigar as they took up their almost customary position now of a close second at Daytona.  The team were the fastest Daytona Prototype entry and were one of the few DP teams who looked to be able to take the fight to the ESM team.

This weekend they will be looking to go one better, although another podium place would set them up perfectly for a good championship run in 2016. On the driving front the team have retained Rubens Barrichello after his late call up in Daytona, as Jordan Taylor still looks to recover fully from a nasty illness that has plagued his off-season preparation. Anything is possible for this team, as they look to avenge their Rolex defeat here at Sebring.

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#24 Insync Alegra Motorsport Riley-BMW DP: Dominik Farnbacher/Daniel Morad/Carlos de Quesada/Cameron Lawrence

The Alegra motorsport team make their WeatherTech debut this weekend at Sebring, with their older style Riley-BMW DP. They are an ambitious team and have been testing at the circuit to build their knowledge, although the team lacks significant experience compared to their competition.

The team have employed Dominik Farnbacher, Daniel Morad, Carlos de Quesada and Cameron Lawrence to pilot the car, although the biggest knock on them is their lack of prototype racing experience.

All four have extensive GT racing experience and have showed pace at that level, but with so many unknowns surrounding the team and the drivers lack of prototype experience predicting a result for this team is impossible. Anything more than a finish in the top ten would be a bonus and if the car and team can show potential that will be surely considered a good result for this team.

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#31 Whelen Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Dane Cameron/Eric Curran/Scott Pruett

The second Action Express racing entry was, much like it’s sister #5 entry, similarly affected by reliability issues late on in the Rolex 24.  For the second round the #31 car will be looking to deliver on the pace they showed in Daytona. The team have their Corvette DP’s well sorted and will be hoping to show this in the end result.

A podium would be a good result for the car championship wise, although at any chance of a win this car will be giving it everything. The huge experienced winner Scott Pruett joins this #31 car after racing for the #5 car at the Rolex 24, and this addition will only enhance their chance of victory come Saturday evening.

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#50 Highway to Help Fifty Plus Racing Riley-BMW DP: Jim Pace/David Hinton/Byron DeFoor/Dorsey Schroeder

The popular fifty plus racing team return after good showing at the opening Rolex 24. The team are never challenging for race victories, but that isn’t the main objective for this team. Their primary initive is to raise money for the Highway to Help charity, and once again they were able to raise awareness and money.

The drivers will all be looking forward to running on the iconic Sebring circuit,as they focus more on enjoying themselves and raising money rather than focusing on going for an all out victory. If the attrition rate is high they have a chance of a good result, although they struggle to match the ultimate pace up front with the age of their Riley DP and their driver line up.

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#55 SpeedSource Mazda Motorsport Lola-Mazda: Jonathan Bomarito/Spencer Pigot/Tristan Nunez

The SpeedSource Mazda factory team struggled mightily in Daytona with engine reliability issues, attributed to their switch from Skyactiv diesel to a petrol engine. Both their two cars were retirements by the the halfway point.

After this disappointing display the team will be hoping they can really test themselves at Sebring, a renowned car breaker of a circuit. The team and driver line up showed glimpses of potential when they ran at Daytona, and if they can stay reliable this entry has the real potential for a shock result. Once the reliability issues have been sorted, this team and their drivers have the top level quality to a win a prestigious race such as the Sebring 12 Hours.

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#60 Tire Kingdom/CURB Agajanian Michael Shank Racing Ligier JSP2-Honda: John Pew/Ozz Negri Jr/Olivier Pla

For Mike Shank, the Rolex 24 was a huge disappointment as they looked to be a serious challenger for victory when the engine failed on Saturday night. This time around at Sebring they will be hoping they can retain their pace from Daytona, and iron out the reliability issue with the new 3.5 litre Honda HPD engine.

The Ligier-Honda combination will likely remain to be the fastest combination at Sebring, therefore Mike Shank racing will be looking to even up the honours after the ESM team won out at Daytona. Retaining Olivier Pla for Sebring is a huge step by the team and they have secured one of the fastest Ligier drivers on the planet to help their regular drivers John Pew and Ozz Negri Jr. This team will likely join the ESM team as being co-favourites before the start of the race.

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#70 SpeedSource Mazda Motorsport Lola-Mazda: Tom Long/Ben Devlin/Joel Miller/Keiko Ihara

Much like with the #55 car, the #70 Lola-Mazda struggled mightily with reliability issues in Daytona. With six week to further test and develop the car the team will head into this weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours feeling more confident about the overall reliability of their package.

This driver line up is high on experience and has a solid base with the majority of the drivers having a lot of experience with this Lola-Mazda. Completing the line up is the Japanese lady racer Keiko Ihara, who will bring some good sportscar experience to the SpeedSource team. She may need some time to adjust to both Sebring and the Lola-Mazda prototype, and this will ultimately be what decides if this entry can match it’s sister #55 car in terms of pace come race day.

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#81 DragonSpeed Oreca 05-Nissan:Henrik Hedman/Nicolas Minassian/Nicolas Lapierre

DragonSpeed make their debut in the WeatherTech series this weekend after missing the opening Rolex 24. The team has previous experience from racing in European GT categories such as the Blancpain Endurance Series.

The team run by former racer Elton Julian have built a formidable line up with the very quick Frenchmen Nicolas Minassian and Nicolas Lapierre joining Henrik Hedman. The also have the only Oreca-Nissan package in the class, one which has proved very competitive both in the World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series.

Although the team have tested at the circuit in the build up to the race, a lot is unknown surrounding this car as they have not run competitively in the series yet and it’s not known how the Oreca-Nissan package will compare with the benchmark Ligier-Honda teams.

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#90 VisitFlorida.com Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP: Marc Goossens/Ryan Hunter-Reay/Ryan Dalziel

The VisitFlorida.com Spirit of Daytona racing team were another of the front running Daytona Prototype teams at the Rolex 24, finishing third and on the same lap as the winning ESM Ligier. They had a trouble free run at Daytona, they just lacked the last little edge in pace compared to the winning car.

The team will be hoping they can at least get close to the leading Ligier entries this weekend, but if they can retain their reliability from the Rolex 24 they will be in with a chance of victory as they have enough quality with this driver line up and will have years of experience of how to perfectly set up their Corvette DP to absorb the bumps of Sebring. If any DP can topple the seeming Ligier dominance, this is one of the most likely teams to achieve this.

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That wraps up my Prototype class preview of this weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours, next up will be a look at the Prototype Challenge class. I would also like to say a huge thanks to IMSA.com and Motorsport.com for their invaluable help with the information and photographs that grace this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this preview and any comments would be greatly appreciated. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95

 

 

 

2015 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Preview Part 2

After part 1 previewing the GTE Pro class at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, part 2 looks at the remaining contenders in this fiercely competitive GTE Pro class. With four manufactures and their hord of professional factory drivers set to compete flat out for 24 Hours, their battle for class victory will be scintillating to watch throughout the race.

#92 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Pilet/Frederic Makowiecki/Wolf Henzler The second Porsche Team Manthey entry is much like every other GTE Pro car in that it has a great chance at a class victory, with a top line Porsche factory team and a full line up of factory drivers in this car.

This entry has been fighting with Aston Martin and Ferrari all season so far in the World Endurance Championship, and will be looking to continue this fight at Le Mans. On the driving front this entry has one of the best GT drivers in the world in Frenchman Frederic Makowiecki. Partnering him are long time Porsche factory drivers Patrick Pilet and Wolf Henzler, with all three highly professional drivers who will be delivering consistently quick stints throughout the race.

Amongst the very close GTE Pro field, separating a favourite is too hard to predict. Therefore the winner of this class will be the one who can keep out of trouble during the race, as every entry has the potential to be contending for class honours in the final hours of the race. #95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Marco Sorensen/Nicki Thiim/Christoffer Nygaard

The all-Danish “Dane train” Aston Martin which dominated the GTE Am class last year, has this year stepped up to the cut and thrust of the GTE Pro field. So far the team has shown it can handle the step up, with solid top six placings in the opening two WEC rounds.

Nicki Thiim is the only driver who remains from the Danish trio from last year, with new team mates Marco Sorensen and Christoffer Nygaard for this year. Nygaard has moved across from the sister #98 entry for this year, with the young Dane and GP2 racer Marco Sorensen completing the line up.

Thiim and Nygaard will provide good pace and experience behind the wheel, with the young charger Sorensen balancing his GP2 season with a switch to GT racing. All three will be looking to impress at Le Mans, although in this hugely competitive class, it may be difficult for this team to move up to GTE Pro and win Le Mans in their first year. A class podium would be a great result for the “Dane Train 2.0”. 

#97 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke/Rob Bell

This number 97 Aston Martin will be the one that stands out throughout the race week, as this car will have a very distinctive ‘art car’ livery by artists Tobias Rehberger. As well as standing out for it’s art car livery, it will also stand out as this car will likely be the one that leads the Aston Martin charge for class victory in the race.

The Aston Martin team are regulars now in the highest level of GT racing, and have come very close to winning the GTE Pro class the past two years. This year the team will be aiming for a class victory, and this car is the one most likely to deliver it.

Experience is the name of the game with this driver line up, with Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Rob Bell all being long term factory drivers for Aston Martin. Their speed and experience will be a potent combination in the race, and if the team can avoid misfortune this car will be fighting for victory going into the final hours of the race for sure.

#99 Aston Martin Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Fernando Rees/Alex MacDowall/Richie Stanaway

The third and final works Aston Martin racing entry at Le Mans is the Number 99 car, which goes into the 24 hours on great form after taking the class win at the most recent WEC round at Spa a month ago. This car is very much in the hunt for the WEC drivers title after two rounds, and with Le Mans being a double points round this weekend will have a big outcome on the championship.

Both Fernando Rees and Alex MacDowall will be hoping for much better luck this year, after a huge practice crash for Rees last year forced the team to withdraw from the race on the opening day of running. This year they both have a new team mate in young New Zealand hotshot Richie Stanaway. He has shown well in GP3 and especially GP2 this season, and his fresh injection of pace will only add further strength to this car’s chances of a class win.

If all three drivers have a close to perfect race, their talent and this Aston Martin Vantage will have more than enough pace to take an unexpected GTE Pro class win, although if the car suffers any misfortune in the race it will be difficult to see them being able recover enough to claim the victory. A podium will be a very good result for this team, although a class win is a definite possibility.

That wraps up my look at a very competitive GTE Pro class, hope you enjoy this article and any comments would be appreciate both good and bad. I have to add thanks to Motorsport.com for their amazing, high quality photos which you see in this article. I urge you to go and visit their website http://www.Motorsport.com for all the latest news and photos from the motorsport world. Next up will be a preview of the LMP2 class.

Iconic Racer Porsche 911-50 RSR (Type 991) IBook Review

After the success of the first book from co-authors Stefan Lewyckyj and Ian Doughty on the McLaren MP4-12C, their latest offering centres on the iconic Porsche 911, and it’s latest 991 model. The opening chapters are dedicated to the history and heritage of the Porsche 911, both on the road and the race track. The opening chapters are very informative for the reader with high quality photos being used for perfectly complement the interesting text, setting a standard of quality which carries over throughout the book.

Throughout the book there are peppering’s of interactive features which add another dimension to this book. The video’s and added text material such as press releases are well laid out and subsequently are very easy to use. The chapters centring on the new 991 model Porsche 911 are well presented and guide the reader through the entire development process from start to finished product, through the use of informative text and highly detailed photos.

Whilst the early chapters switch between the road car and race car the later chapters focus more on the race car, something which make the book interesting for anyone as the photos are captioned in expert detail on areas such as the outside bodywork, internal cockpit and the engine. Both the factory and customer teams and drivers racing the new Porsche 991 911 on both sides of the Atlantic from both 2013 and this season are detailed to a similar level, giving the reader a clear understanding of everyone racing the new Porsche 911.

The more anyone will read this book, it will become more evident how well researched this book is as the extraordinary detail to which this book goes to sets it apart from any competitor books on the new Porsche 911. The book also contains complete stats from the 2013 and 2014 season so far. The biggest plus with this interactive book is that anyone can download updates for it which will update results from future races this season and beyond. In conclusion, this is a very well researched and detailed book which will interest anyone who’s interested in cars or motorsport.

In particular, for fans of the Porsche 911 this is a must have book, with a £4.99 price tag making this a very affordable book for anyone interested in cars. Put simply, you won’t get a more informative book on the Porsche 911 with the £4.99 price tag simply even more of a reason to buy this incredible book.

Here’s a link to the book on ITunes and the Iconic racer series Twitter page, which will keep you updated with all the latest in this book series.
Link to the book with ITunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/porsche-911-rsr-type-991-50/id882287325?mt=11
Iconic Racer Twitter page – https://twitter.com/IconicRacer

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am Review Part 2

After previewing the first half of a vast 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am class, this is the second and final instalment of my Le Mans reviews from each class. Like I mentioned before, the GTE Am class was one of the closest fought battles in the race and the vast entry shows it’s popularity with the drivers and teams. Long may it continue.

Team Taisan:

#70 Ferrari F458 Italia: Shinji Nakano/Martin Rich/Pierre Ehret
The Japanese based Team Taisan returned to the Le Mans 24 Hours after a long absence, hoping for a similar result to it’s first debut where the team scored a GT class victory in 2000. Unfortunately for the team, the level of competition in GTE Am is much improved in 2014 and a repeat class victory didn’t look likely.

The team suffered a poor qualifying yet the quality in their driver line-up meant they were unlikely to stay in the lower places once the race got underway. From here the team drove a steady and reliable race as they marched up the GTE Am field to an eventual 8th place finish in class by the finish, and 28th overall. For this team that can be viewed as a success on their return after some years away, with many hoping they’ll make a return visit in 2015.

SMP Racing:

#72 Ferrari F458 Italia: Andrea Bertolini/Victor Shaitar/Aleksey Basov
For this newly formed Russian SMP Racing team their link up with experienced Ferrari GT team AF Corse must have proved invaluable on this, their first Le Mans 24 Hours. Whilst the two Oreca LMP2 cars they fielded struggled during session leading into the race, their GTE Am Ferrari qualified a superb 5th in a highly competitive class.

During the race the SMP Ferrari consolidated it’s position at the head of the midfield, just within reach of podium contention. All 3 drivers were driving well, especially the two Russian rookies considering it was their first Le Mans, until the rug was whipped out from underneath the team just as the began to dream of a top 5 position in class. They were forced out during the night after completing 196 laps, and whilst the team can be disappointed they retired, they can take a lot of heart from their performance up to that point. The team looks likely to return in 2015, and watch out for them to be contenders for GTE Am honours.

Prospeed Competition:

#75 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Francois Perrodo/Emmanuel Collard/Markus Palttala
This #75 Prospeed Porsche was a car I tipped for the GTE Am podium as they contained a driver line-up that could match anyone in the class. Unfortunately the team suffered a poor build up to the 24 Hours and qualified well down from their expected front running position.

The team and drivers were vastly experienced however and it wasn’t long before they began their rise through the GTE Am field. The team was staying out of trouble and making up positions until unfortunately the team was forced into retirement in the middle of the night, having completed 194 laps. This was galling for the team as they looked on course to challenge for a top 5 finish in class, although we remain hopeful the team will return next year and deliver on the potential they showed in this year’s 24 Hours.

IMSA Performance Matmut:

#76 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Nicolas Armindo/Raymond Narac/David Hallyday
The second IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche was another, like the #58 Sofrev ASP Ferrari, to garner plenty of French press attention, as this driver line up contained French pop star David Hallyday, who is a regular at the 24 Hours. This experienced team was given a boost with rapid young French GT driver Nicolas Armindo in the line up, although the #76 car failed to show it’s true pace in qualifying.

Come race day, the car was running well during the early hours, before a plethora of small problems hobbled the team from here on out. The drivers drove well to try make up as much time as possible yet by the finish the problems had relegated the team to a lowly 11th in class at the flag. Although this is hugely disappointing for a team that was probably hoping for a top 5 finish in class, they’ll be hoping their luck improves in time for next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

Dempsey Racing-Proton:

#77 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Dempsey/Joe Foster/Patrick Long
Undoubtedly the car with the most attention throughout the race week was the #77 Dempsey racing Porsche. Well known American actor and avid racer Patrick Dempsey returned for his third Le Mans, and second with his own team. After a heart breaking run that came so close to GTE Am honours last year, they were hoping to better that this year. After a midfield qualifying run the team looked set for a good race as Porsche factory driver Patrick Long was soon challenging for higher places in the opening few hours.

From here the steady hands of Dempsey and business partner Joe Foster kept the car in the hunt, although tragically for the team misfortune soon derailed their challenge. This mechanical problem dropped them down the order, and whilst they tried to make up the lost ground, they were able to get back to a close 5th in class. Although this team might feel slightly disappointed, to have such a strong Le Mans two years in a row suggests if this team has a relatively reliable run, they be challenging for GTE Am honours next year.

Proton Competition:

#88 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Christian Reid/Klaus Bachler/Khaled Al Qubaisi
The second of the Proton Porsche’s carried a lot less hype surrounding it than the sister #77 entry, therefore leaving the car to fly under the race during race week. A quiet qualifying was carried over into the race as the car and three drivers ran faultlessly throughout the 24 Hours, whilst the lacked the all round scintillating pace that can be overcome in the race. Their reliability soon had them creeping up the order until they found themselves 2nd in class with only a few hours to go.

Whilst the team started dreaming of a class victory when the leading #95 Aston Martin was pulled into the pits with only a couple of hours left, the team was unable to make up the lap difference before the Aston was fixed and sent back out. Therefore the team cruised from here to take a comfortable 2nd in class, and 21st overall. The team was clearly delighted with this incredible result and will be hoping their good luck continues for another crack at class victory next year.

8Star Motorsport:

#90 Ferrari F458 Italia: Frankie Montecalvo/Gianluca Roda/Paolo Ruberti
For the 8Star team things started badly for the 24 Hours as driver Frankie Montecalvo suffered a big accident in the early qualifying sessions. It was feared at one point he would be unable to race, yet the team were delighted to find out in fact he would be well enough to race after the shunt. The crash therefore blunted their qualifying effort, yet the team were confident they could make up ground with a reliable run.

The team’s race plan worked to perfection during the race as they slowly and methodically moved up the GTE Am order as the race wore on, the #90 seemed to slip under the radar until they reached 4th in class by Sunday morning. From here the team tried to catch the #61 AF Corse Ferrari in in 3rd, yet were unable to do this and settled for a 4th in GTE Am, only one lap off the podium.

Whilst the team might feel slightly unlucky with their accident and starting position it seems the team lived up to their expectations after a difficult start, and will be hungry for more next year.

Aston Martin Racing:

#95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Nicki Thiim/Kristian Poulsen/David Heinemeier Hansson
This was arguably the favourite for GTE Am honours pre-race, something the team delivered on in the ultimate manner. From the moment practice began on Wednesday this team seemed to have an edge on speed over the rest in the GTE Am class, as the Aston Martin Vantage returned to competitiveness at the Circuit de la Sarthe. The team expertly converted a 3rd in class after qualifying into an early lead, which the held for the majority of the rest of the race.

It was one of the few Aston Martin’s that didn’t suffer from power steering problems throughout the race, yet it have it share of problems late on, although by this point the car had enough of a lead to retain it’s GTE Am lead. They eventually crossed the line victorious by 2 laps, in what was hugely emotional win for this all Danish crew, after the loss of team mate and popular fellow Dane Allan Simonsen in the early laps of last year’s 24 Hours. This class win was the ultimate dedication to his memory from everyone at Aston Martin racing.

#98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Christoffer Nygaard
The second of the two factory Aston Martin GTE entries suffered a lot more difficult race as their Aston was the first to suffer power steering problems. Up to this point the team was thrilled as the factory Aston’s ran 1-2 in GTE Am, with the #98 car holding the lead for 86 consecutive laps before surrendering it to the sister #95 entry just after midnight when the power steering problem reared it’s ugly head.

The repairs were extensive and dropped the car well down in the GTE Am class, once repaired the superb driver line up tried to make up as much as possible, yet there was little they could do at this point as the car eventually made the flag 6th in class, 5 laps down on it’s team mate. Although the team will be disappointed with the problem, they can take consolation from the fact they scored points which sets them up well for the remaining rounds of the WEC now.

Garage 56 Entry:

Nissan Motorsport:

#0 Nissan ZEOD RC: Lucas Ordonez/Wolfgang Reip/Satoshi Motoyama
The final entry for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours was the greatly experimental Nissan ZEOD RC, which challenged the boundaries for hybrid technology in the world’s greatest motor race. The team set ambitious target and threw the best available talent behind this project. The vastly successful RML team ran the operation, which aimed to travel at 186mph on the Mulsanne straight and complete a full lap on only electric power stored by the hybrid system.

Unsurprisingly the car ran into a lot of problems during the week, yet the team’s targets had already been met before the 24 Hours even started as they completed their objectives in the morning warm up. From here the overall result in the 24 Hours wasn’t of major significance as the team had already completed it’s goals. Despite this, the team must have been disappointed to see the car roll to a halt halfway between Arnage and the Porsche curves early on.

Once the ACO refused the team’s plea to let the car be collected and returned to the pits, their race was sadly over after only 5 laps. On the whole, the team can take great heart from this project and it’s achievement, despite the race result. The team performed excellently during the week, and all 3 drivers have definitely put themselves in the window for the new Nissan LMP1 project next year with their performances this week.

That sadly completes my Le Mans 24 Hours coverage for this year, all keep posted as I try to write about the remaining Sportscar season, which goes relatively quiet now in Europe after Le Mans. It was a truly amazing Le Mans 24 Hours race, which has solidified my decision to go to the race next year for sure. Please feel free to comment on this, all my details are in the contact page of this site.

Finally I must say one more time a huge thank you to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing photos throughout the whole Le Mans 24 Hours week. I know I’ve said the same thing in multiple posts but their site really is worth a look for any motorsport fan. Until next time, Enjoy!

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Review

After reviewing the two prototype class at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, now it’s time to focus some attention on the two GT classes that competed in the 24 Hours. First up is the GTE Pro category, a class aimed at professional drivers and manufactures, something this class contained in abundance.

AF Corse:

#51 Ferrari F458 Italia: Gianmaria Bruni/Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella
After a difficult 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours for Ferrari, some Balance of Performance breaks and renewed commitment to re-claim their 2012 GTE Pro category win conspired to ensure both AF Corse factory assisted entries were competitive from the moment the green lights switched on to start free practice on Wednesday.The team gave a statement of intent with class pole for this #51 entry, and from the start of the race they proved difficult to move from the top spot.

All 3 drivers drove like the experienced, professional and seriously quick GT drivers that they all are, therefore based on their qualifying pace it appeared only driver error or mechanical problems were going to stop this team claiming the GTE Pro honours. The team experienced a relatively clear run throughout the race, as they sauntered to a one lap victory over the #73 factory Corvette entry. This team had a truly outstanding race and will be hoping the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours is as comfortable as this victory.

#71 Ferrari F458 Italia: Davide Rigon/Olivier Beretta/Pierre Kaffer/James Calado
For the other AF Corse entry, things didn’t quite go as smoothly for them as their sister #51 entry as they were forced to overcome a big drama before the 24 Hours had even begun on Saturday. In the Thursday evening qualifying session Le Mans rookie James Calado suffered a big accident, with the impact enough to give him concussion and force him out of the race. Therefore the team set to work with building a new car and drafted in experienced Ferrari GT racer Pierre Kaffer to replace Calado.

From here their lowly qualifying position mattered little to the team, as they hoped a clean run in the 24 Hours would bring them back into contention. Alas, this car’s bad luck continued into the race as it unfortunately became and early retirement after only completing 28 laps. This team was understandably gutted that they couldn’t show their tremendous potential in the race and will be keen to show their pace in the remaining round of the World Endurance Championship this year.

RAM Racing:

#52 Ferrari F458 Italia:Matt Griffin/Alvaro Parente/Federico Leo
This team was hoping to inflict a shock in the GTE Pro class as they hoped to score a decent result against the hordes of factory GT teams and drivers. Their privateer Ferrari had an all star cast of drivers to help with this and in qualifying they almost showed their potential as McLaren factory GT driver Alvaro Parente was on course for the 2nd fastest time in GTE Pro in Thursday evening’s qualifying session, before he spun off and struck the wall at the first Ford Chicane.

The car was extensively damaged and whilst they sat out the rest of qualifying, the car was ready for the race. The team was making good progress with the Ferrari in the opening few hours, and appeared on course for a comfortable top 6 finish in class as they emerged unscathed from the opening few hours of the race. Things were not to last for the team however as they were forced to retire after completing 140 laps. For this team they showed potential during the week, yet will need much better luck in 2015 if they are to seriously challenge the factory entries in this GTE Pro class.

Corvette Racing:

#73 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Jordan Taylor
For both factory Chevrolet Corvette entries, the Le Mans 24 Hours week got better as it went along, as the Corvette’s looked off the pace slightly on the opening day on Wednesday. Come Thursday they began to show their speed with this entry claiming 2nd in class once qualifying was completed on Thursday night. From it’s 2nd grid spot the #73 entry then proved the most consistent challenger to the leading #51 Ferrari, despite the #92 Porsche holding 2nd in class for a while.

Yet the Ferrari always seemed to have the a slight edge on speed over the rest of the class, therefore despite the Corvette cars throwing everything at Ferrari they had to eventually settle for 2nd in class and 16th overall, a lap behind the victorious AF Corse Ferrari #51 entry. Nevertheless, a close 2nd in class in the new shape Corvette C7.R’S first Le Mans 24 Hours is very promising and you can never discount the factory Corvette entries at Le Mans.

#74 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Richard Westbrook
For the #74 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, they proved very evenly matched with the #73 entry in terms of pace, yet the #74 entry seemed to suffer slightly more issues during the 24 Hours than it’s sister entry, which explains their 4th place in class and 20th overall once the chequered flag came out on Sunday afternoon.

For the all star line up of drivers for the #74 car the result must of been slightly disappointing considering the pace this car had, although the team will be hoping to fully show their pace in the remaining United Sportscar Championship rounds, and will be hoping to come back much stronger to Le Mans in 2015.

Prospeed Competition:

#79 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Jeroen Bleekemolen/Cooper MacNeil/Bret Curtis

This #79 Prospeed entry would have easily won any Ironman award at the 24 Hours if such a thing existed, as they suffered huge misfortune during the week. The team initially entered the GTE Am class, yet in Thursday evening’s qualifying session Am driver Bret Curtis hit the tyres at the Dunlop chicance, and whacked his head on the roll cage, giving himself concussion and ruling himself out of the race. The team frantically searched for an available Am driver, yet the one they lined up was refused by the governing ACO, forcing the team to complete the 24 Hours with only pro drivers Bleekemolen and MacNeil.

Considering these circumstances and their move to the GTE Pro category, the fact the team finished the race is an incredible achievement which in my opinion was highlighted enough post-race. Both drivers must have been satisfied to simply finish and will be hoping next years 24 Hours is a lot less hectic for them. A truly incredible performance.

Porsche Team Manthey:

#91 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Pilet/Jorg Bergmeister/Nick Tandy
For the two factory Porsche GT entries, they were hoping to continue the success they achieved at the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours, where they took class victory after a hard fought battle. Frustratingly for Porsche it seemed in 2014 the rest of the GTE Pro class had caught up with Porsche as both factory entries were mired in the GTE Pro midfield after qualifying.

From the start of the race the two Porsche’s were hoping to make up ground, yet for this #91 entry this proved very hard as the team was beset by a few problems during the race, which left them well behind the GTE Pro pacesetters. Despite a very impressive line-up of factory Porsche drivers the obstacles were too much to overcome and this car eventually finished 7th in class and 36th overall. The team and especially this #91 entry will be hoping for much better next year.

#92 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Frederic Makowiecki/Marco Holzer/Richard Leitz
Of the two Porsche entries in GTE Pro, it was this #92 car that had the more comfortable run in the 24 Hours as they ran largely problem free until the later stages of the race. The stellar cast of drivers in this car were therefore able to exploit the pace of the Porsche 911 as they held 2nd in class for a long period of the race. Just as the team began to think of a possible 2nd in class however, a engine problem left the team lacking power for the final few hours of the race.

Whilst the car was able to continue running, the reduced pace meant the #73 Corvette was able to pass them in the final few hours, relegating the #92 Porsche to the final GTE Pro podium spot. Whilst anything other than victory at Le Mans for Porsche is a disappointment, the team can at least be satisfied they scored decent points for the WEC and will be hoping to challenge for class honours in the remaining WEC races.

Aston Martin Racing:

#97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke/Bruno Senna
Worries from Aston Martin that their poor showings in the two previous WEC races would carry over to Le Mans, proved unfounded as they returned to their usual position in GTE Pro of fighting to class victory. This #97 car qualified 3rd in class and remained in podium and victory contention through the first half of the race. After battling the #51 Ferrari for class honours through the first half of the 24 Hours, their challenge wilted during the night as the car suffered a similar power steering failure to the team’s other entries.

From here the car soldiered on to the final chequered flag, eventually coming home 6th in class in class and 35th overall. For the very quick professional drivers in this car this result is a disappointment, yet the team can take massive positives in the fact they returned to the competitiveness and will be hoping to carry this over into the final round of the WEC.

#99 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Fernando Rees/Darryl O’Young/Alex MacDowall
For this #99 Craft-Bamboo/Aston Martin team the Le Mans 24 Hours provided the ultimate heart break, as the team’s Aston Martin looked strong in GTE Pro after Wednesday’s qualifying session. In the most cruel fashion however, for the #99 entry this is a far as their race week got after Fernando Rees suffered a big accident at the Porsche curves in Wednesday night’s qualifying session.

The car suffered substantial damage and despite the team trying everything to find a new chassis they were unable to locate one and get it to the track, forcing the team to make a late withdrawal just days before the 24 Hours. For the team and drivers it was the ultimate heart break, although they can take solace from their promising showing on the first day. The team will be hoping to carry over this promise into the final WEC rounds now.

That’s my review of the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours according to the GTE Pro class. Next up is a two part review of the highly competitive GTE Am category, so stay tuned in the next few days. Finally once again huge credit goes to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing, high quality photos, they really are worth a look for anyone interested in racing. Enjoy!

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 Review Part 2

After posting the first half of my 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours Review the other day, the time has come to review the second half of a vast 2014 LMP2 entry, after a scintillating class battle for victory across the entirety of the 24 Hours.

SMP Racing:

#37 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Maurizio Mediani/Nicolas Minassian/Kirill Ladygin

For the #37 SMP Racing Oreca-Nissan entry, things didn’t go to plan for the team as they suffered a tumultuous race week, as their car suffered from some niggly problems and accidents. This hampered the car as they were mired in the LMP2 midfield after qualifying, a place they remained until their retirement from the 24 Hours after only 9 laps. A thoroughly disappointing race for this team, although they can be confident of their LMP2 class challenging pace will be back for the rest of the World Endurance Championship this year.

Jota Sport:

#38 Zytek Z11SN-Nissan: Simon Dolan/Harry Tincknell/Oliver Turvey/Marc Gene
The Le Mans 24 Hours week seemed a fairy tale story for this close knit Jota Sport team, despite some hiccups along the way, they came through to claim a popular class victory.

The team and their #38 Zytek-Nissan entry was on the pace from the start of free practice, and claimed 2nd in class after qualifying finished on Thursday evening. The team however, had already faced major upheaval as original driver Marc Gene was commandeered by Audi after their driver Loic Duval was unable to race after a scary free practice shunt on Wednesday afternoon.The team subsequently drafted in Oliver Turvey at the very last minute, and from the start of the 24 Hours this entry was competitive in the LMP2 class.

After problems for the #35 OAK Racing Ligier and #34 Race Performance Oreca on Sunday morning, the team lay 3rd in class and Le Mans rookie Harry Tincknell set about closing the gap. From here to the finish the team never let up the pace, and eventually Oliver Turvey was able to overtake the Thiriet by TDS Ligier in the final hour to claim a fairy tale victory for the team. Expect this team to carry over it’s competitiveness to the rest of the 2014 European Le Mans Series.

Greaves Motorsport:

#41 Zytek Z11SN-Nissan: Michael Munemann/Alessandro Latif/James Winslow

For the #41 entry, the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours was ultimately a disappointing one as this team appeared to be off the leading pace in LMP2 this year, before an unlucky retirement spoilt their chances for a good result in the 24 Hours. The team struggled through qualifying as they posted the slowest time in the LMP2, leaving them plenty of work to do to recover in the 24 Hours.

Sadly for this successful team, they didn’t get the opportunity to salvage a good result come race day, as sudden rain fall a few hours into the race caught the #41 entry out at Terte Rouge as Le Mans rookie Michael Munemann spun and collected the spinning #48 Murphy Prototypes entry of Karun Chandhok.

Whilst the Murphy Prototypes entry was able to repair it’s car and re-join the race, the #41 was unfortunately eliminated after the damage cause proved too much to repair. It was a hugely disappointing way to retire yet the conditions were hugely challenging in this portion of the race. Expect the team to show their potential in 2015, hopefully with the same line-up so they can avenge this year’s disappointing result.

Caterham Racing:

#42 Zytek Z11SN-Nissan: Chris Dyson/Tom Kimber-Smith/Matt McMurry
The second of the Greaves entry, although in Caterham racing attire thanks to a link up between the two, had a rather more promising run in the 24 Hours than it’s sister #41 entry. The team’s driver line-up showed decent pace throughout the 24 Hours, yet unfortunately they were not able to capitalise on this thanks to a few problems during the race.

The team did at least finish the race, although they were hoping for slightly better than 11th in class and 25 overall. Nevertheless, the team did at least finish and showed character during the race. Special mention must go to driver Matt McMurry, who performed expertly throughout the race and broke the record for the youngest driver to compete at Le Mans at 16 years old. This team should have much more luck in the remaining round of their ELMS campaign, and hopefully the same line up will return for more in 2015.

Newblood by Morand Racing:

#43 Morgan LMP2-Judd: Christian Klien/Gary Hirsch/Romain Brandela

Throughout race week, this relatively new #43 Morand racing entry proved an unexpected higher midfield runner in LMP2, qualifying 8th and showing genuine pace in the hands of all 3 drivers, and most importantly a clean run, which left them in a good position by Sunday lunchtime.

The team then solidified it’s position as it crossed the line 6th in class and 10th overall. For this team a top 10 overall finish can only be viewed as a great result, as they successfully transferred their pace in the ELMS over to the 24 Hours. This team can only grow from here and may well prove a dark horse for a podium next year.

Thiriet by TDS Racing:

#46 Ligier JSP2-Nissan: Pierre Thiriet/Tristan Gommendy/Ludovic Badey

The #46 Thiriet by TDS racing team were competitive from the moment free practice started with their new Ligier JSP2 coupe. The feared reliability issues never materialised for this entry as they stormed to the LMP2 class pole in qualifying. The team then carried over this pace into the 24 Hours, where they were always in the top 5 and battling for the class lead.

After problems for the #35 OAK racing Ligier blunted their challenge the #46 Thiriet by TDS entry was there to pick up the class lead, hoping to hold on until the finish. Tristan Gommendy and Ludovic Badey tried their best to respond to the late charge from Harry Tincknell and Oliver Turvey at Jota.

Heartbreakingly for this team, after the final pit stops there challenge appeared not to be enough as Jota jumped them in the pits. The team threw new tyres on the car as a last gasp chance, yet Turvey was able to manage the gap and eventually finished a lap ahead as the #46 entry was held up behind the winning Audi’s final lap procession. This team can be massively proud with 2nd in class and showed genuine pace which should ensure their challenging for victories in the remaining ELMS rounds. This team is back at it’s best again and expect big things in 2015.

KCMG:

#47 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Matt Howson/Alex Imperatori/Richard Bradley

For the Asian based KCMG team showed huge potential in the 24 Hours, something which unfortunately did not lead to a good result for this team. After qualifying the team showed higher midfield pace, yet it was in the 24 Hours that this entry came alive, as opening driver Alex Imperatori showed stunning pace as he rose through the field and began trading the class lead with the #38 Jota entry.

Sadly from here things went downhill for the #47 Oreca-Nissan, as sudden rain fall in the race’s second hour caught out Imperatori, who crashed heavily at the first Mulsanne Chicane, with the extensive damage to the car being enough to force this promising entry into retirement. The team can take positives from their showing however, because if they show this kind of pace in the remaining WEC rounds, expect them to take some class wins, and hopefully they’ll return with some better luck in 2015.

Murphy Prototypes:

#48 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Karun Chandhok/Rodolfo Gonzalez/Nathanael Berthon

For the experienced Murphy Prototypes team, Le Mans 2014 proved a disappointing one as the team showed the potential for a top 6 finish, yet were one of many teams to be caught out by the changeable conditions in the opening few hours of the race. From the start they took a assured and steady approach, yet they were first caught out in a collision with the #41 Greaves entry, which cost them time.

From here the team tried to make up places yet it wasn’t long before the car was suffering again as they were forced out after only a few hours. This team had a dynamite driver line-up, who will all be hoping their dreadful luck so far will not be repeated in the remaining ELMS rounds. This entry deserves a great result next year if they retain this line-up.

Larbre Competition:

#50 Morgan LMP2-Judd: Pierre Ragues/Keiko Ihara/Ricky Taylor

For the Larbre competition team, their inaugural Le Mans 24 Hours in the LMP2 class, after years of success in the GTE Am category, proved a steady and sensible race where they emerged unscathed from the madness to claim a decent result with 14th overall. Although the team lacked the outright speed to win the class, all 3 drivers proved more than capable and all showed their potential at times throughout the race.

For Jacques Leconte’s team, a finish in their first year in LMP2 can only be viewed as a success, however the fact they finished 9th in class shows the competitiveness of the LMP2 category, which is something the team will hope to improve on the remaining ELMS rounds and hopefully the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours also.

That’s a wrap for my 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 Review, I hope you enjoyed it and please feel free to give your comments, my details are in the Contact section of my blog. Once again a massive thank you to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing photos, which are definitely worth viewing in full on their website. Next up is the GTE Pro review, so stay tuned. Enjoy!