Le Mans 24 Hours

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 Review Part 1

The 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours cemented the argument that this year’s LMP2 class was the most competitive in at least a decade if not more, although the class has struggled for numbers this year, especially in the World Endurance Championship, the 17 car entry for the 24 Hours provided a scintillating battle throughout the full 24 Hours. This class provided everything with stunning speed, intense battles for position and finally a popular class winner in the Jota Sport team. For 2015 this class has a lot to live up after this year.

Millennium Racing:

#22 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Fabien Giroix/Oliver Turvey/John Martin
Although I included this entry in my LMP2 preview post, it seemed as soon as I posted it this entry was withdrawn, as the funding issues which have prevented this car from running in the WEC so far this season reared it’s ugly head again. These funding issues must be frustrating for everyone involved with this Alan Docking Racing ran team, which if it ever makes it on track this year, will prove a formidable challenger for class honours with a very strong team and driver line-up. Let’s hope we see this car in action before the year’s out.

Sebastien Loeb Racing:

#24 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Rene Rast/Jan Charouz/Vincent Capillaire
For this relatively young team, this years Le Mans 24 Hours almost provided a fairy tale for them, as the team came an agonisingly close 4th in LMP2, only 1 lap off the podium. 4th for this new team is still a magical result for the team, of which little was expected pre-race.

The team’s driver line-up performed admirably, with the stand out of the three being amateur Vincent Capillaire, who more than held his own amongst an army of professional drivers in the class. If this team can retain it’s driver line-up and luck from 2014 going into the 2015 24 Hours, expect them to improve on a 4th in class. A truly great effort from this team this year.

G Drive Racing:

#26 Morgan LMP2-Nissan: Roman Rusinov/Olivier Pla/Julien Canal
For this team the 24 Hours proved a great disappointment as a team that was right in the mix for class honours early on was eliminated on Saturday evening. The OAK racing team and it’s driver line-up were definite contenders for victory, something we were robbed of seeing with their retirement. This team looks set to continue it’s dominance of LMP2 in the WEC this year, and hopefully we’ll see a much longer run for this team in 2015.

SMP Racing:

#27 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Sergey Zlobin/Mika Salo/Anton Ladygin
The Russian SMP Racing team came to Le Mans with high expectations and hoping for a great result in the 24 Hours. Things didn’t go to plan however during the whole week as both the team’s entries proved accident prone and slightly off the pace in this highly competitive class. Despite this the team was hoping to shed their bad luck before the start of the race.

Sadly this didn’t prove the case as the team was unfortunate to suffer a number of problems throughout the race, something which meant they finished 37th and the final LMP2 car to finish. In reflection, this AF Corse affiliated team will hopefully see that simply finishing the race, after the battle scarred week the team suffered, is enough of an achievement for this year. Expect to see more from this professional outfit in 2015.

Pegasus Racing:

#29 Morgan LMP2-Nissan: Julian Schell/Nicolas Leutwiler/Leo Roussel
This team appeared at a huge disadvantage to other entries in this highly competitive class, as to achieving a good result with many experts giving this small team little hope. The relatively unknown driver line-up and the fact this is the team’s first time back at Le Mans after several years were their reasoning behind the scepticism.
Sadly for this team a misunderstanding with the #1 Audi in Thursday’s evening qualifying session, resulted in a red flag inducing shunt for this entry.

The team subsequently performed brilliantly to re-build the car in time for the race. From here the team’s drivers stepped up to the plate to provide a steady run for this team, which managed to stay out of trouble for the rest of the race, although some mechanical reliability hampered the team as they struggled to a 10th place finish in class,18th overall. For this team they showed they were deserving of an entry and should come back stronger in 2015, hopefully for a much more rewarding race.

OAK Racing- Team Asia:

#33 Ligier JSP-HPD: David Cheng/Ho-Pin Tung/Adderly Fong
For this OAK racing-Team Asia entry, the 24 Hours proved relatively quiet for them as they soldiered on from a poor qualifying to attain an ultimately rewarding 12th overall and 7th in class finish. Not many thought these great looking new Ligier JSP2 coupe’s would complete the 24 Hours trouble free, despite extensive pre-race testing.

This team ran like a metronome and their relatively inexperienced driver line-up drove brilliantly to cope with changeable conditions, and whilst others were throwing their cars off track or suffering reliability issues, they kept going to hopefully the first of many Le Mans finishes for this young team.

Race Performance:

#34 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Michel Frey/Frank Mailleux/Jon Lancaster
The Race Performance have quietly impressed many within the European Le Mans Series showing so far in 2014, as they have proved competitive in both ELMS before the 24 Hours. Despite their impressive showings, not many tipped this car to challenge for class victory in the 24 Hours. Yet the team pulled a masterstroke in teaming rapid ex-GP2 racer Jon Lancaster with regular drivers Frank Mailleux and Michel Frey.

From the start, this car proved competitive as all 3 drivers drove impressively to keep the car in the hunt for victory. Sadly for this team, the car let them down in the final few hours as they were hobbled by a variety of mechanical issues, which left them tumbling down the order as they yo-yoed between the track and garage. The team did at least make the finish, albeit 13th overall and 8th in class. If this team continues it’s upward trend, the team will be hugely competitive next year. Expect big things in the future from this team.

OAK Racing:

#35 Ligier JSP2-Nissan: Alex Brundle/Jann Mardenborough/Mark Shulzhitskiy
Going into the race, this entry appeared one of the favourites for class honours on paper. The OAK racing team are prodigiously successful at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and their driver line-up was arguably the most competitive in the LMP2 class. Ultimately, despite showing blistering pace and leading a portion of the race, the team’s Achilles heel proved exactly it was feared it would be. The new Ligier JSP2 coupe.

Although the team made sure to do extensive testing before the race, a few small problems eliminated this car from contention on Sunday morning, something that left the drivers devastated. It seemed likely if this car stayed healthy, it would have won the LMP2 class. Something the team will be hoping they can prove in 2015.

Signatech Alpine:

#36 Alpine A450B-Nissan: Paul Loup-Chatin/Nelson Panciatici/Oliver Webb
Preparing for the Le Mans 24 Hours, this team appeared to be struggling as they were well off their 2013 ELMS title winning potential. After the first ELMS race the team changed tyre suppliers, hoping this would solve their issues. Yet this car still went into the race and under the radar contender for victory in LMP2. This was despite impressing in qualifying, especially LMPC Prototype graduate Paul Loup-Chatin. Throughout the race the drivers performed impressively and the car stayed out of the garage.

This left the team fighting for the top 3 podium positions in class with only a few hours to go. The team battled on into the final hours, eventually coming home a very competitive 3rd in class, and startling 7th overall. The team and drivers were clearly very happy with their result, and with such a young driver line-up, the team has plenty of potential to improve on their 3rd in class next year.

That’s it for the first half of my LMP2 Le Mans 24 Hours review, feel free to comment or look at any of my other Le Mans posts over the past few weeks. Finally a huge thanks to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality photos please visit their site it’s the first for up to date news and scintillating high quality photos. Enjoy!

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP1 Review

After previewing all four class competing in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, now seems an appropriate time to subsequently review all four classes how they fared in a thrilling 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours. The 24 Hours kept race fans glued to the race throughout, with changeable conditions teaming with uncharacteristic unreliability to provide a classic Le Mans. Like with the previews, I’ll go through each class individually, starting with the highest class, LMP1.

Audi Sport Team Joest:

#1 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Tom Kristensen/Loic Duval/Lucas Di Grassi/Marc Gene
For the No1 Audi, this race provided all the extremes this great race can provide. After initially looking quick, a monumental accident in first practice at the Porsche curves rendered Loic Duval unable to race. Audi quickly drafted in reserve driver Marc Gene from the Jota Sport LMP2 team, and set about rebuilding the car. The mechanics worked flat out to get the car qualified the next day, and the team’s confidence grew as the race drew closer. After running solidly early on, the team capitalized on other’s misfortunes to snatch the lead when the leading Toyota faltered in the early morning hours.

From here the team were set for a fairytale victory. However, Le Mans proved how cruel it can be as the car suffered a misfire at around 9am, which forced the car into the pits for 4 laps of repairs, subsequently ending it’s chances of victory. From here the team followed the sister No2 entry in 2nd to the flag after Porsche’s dramatic late demise. Considering the state of the car on Wednesday evening, 2nd is a terrific result for this team, yet anything other than a win for Audi drivers at Le Mans is a disappointment.

#2 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Marcel Fassler/Benoit Treluyer/Andre Lotterer
For all three Audi cars, the 24 Hours week got better the further along we got. Initially in practice and qualifying they appeared to lack the pace of Toyota and Porsche, a concern for the race. Whilst some discounted Audi based on their qualifying pace, the team did what they do best, and provided a relatively trouble free run.

Just as the team were getting comfortable in the lead, after the demise of the leading Toyota, the team were forced to pit in the early hours of the morning with a failing turbocharger, the team lost 20 minutes and dropped to 3rd. From here all 3 drivers drove flat out, and allied with problems for the cars ahead, were able to re-claim the lead for good at around mid morning. From here it was fairly comfortable, as the remaining Porsche challenge crumbled, leaving an Audi 1-2 to the finish. This is the trio’s 3rd win in 4 years, a truly remarkable achievement for this highly talented trio.

#3 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Oliver Jarvis/ Marco Bonanomi/ Filipe Albuquerque
Before the event started, the #3 Audi had already been discounted as a challenger for victory by some people, who pointed to the driver line-up and the fact this not a full season entry as justification for their viewpoint. After qualifying however, they were proved wrong as this Audi was the fastest of the 3 in qualifying going into the race. The team were hoping this car’s usual bad luck would not repeat itself this year, yet the couldn’t of been more wrong.

With only a few hours gone in the race, the rain showers began with heavy intensity, at which point the slow travelling #3 Audi was rear ended by the #81 GTE Am Ferrari, subsequently eliminating both as they were both unable to hustle their cars back into the pits for repairs. A very sad end to what promised to be a great run for this #3 Audi crew, who must surely be asking which spiritual God they offended with the amount of bad luck they have in the 24 Hours.

Toyota Racing:

#7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid: Alex Wurz/Stephane Sarrazin/Kazuki Nakajima
For Toyota and especially this #7 entry, the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours is the ultimate example of one that slipped away. In the pre-race build-up Toyota were more than comfortably justifying their pre-race favourites tag as this car claimed pole. Nobody appeared to be able to match their pace during the race, with the #7 entry leading from the start and building over a 2 minute lead on the chasing pack by the early hours of Sunday morning, despite spending longer in the pits.

This car’s dream run was brought to a sudden halt however as the car lost drive coming out of Arnage in the 9th hour. Despite frantic contact between driver Kazuki Nakajima and the team, the electrical problem could not be fixed and the car was forced to retire. For Toyota this was a heart breaking moment as no manufacture has worked so hard to win this race. Toyota will surely come back stronger in 2015 and they might just finally claim the Le Mans 24 Hours victory they so badly crave.

#8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid: Anthony Davidson/Nicolas Lapierre/Sebastien Buemi
The second Toyota also suffered a greatly unlucky run in the 24 Hours, as their car was eliminated from realistic victory contention within the first few hours of the race. The #8 car was caught out in the same conditions as the #3 Audi. Although driver Nicolas Lapierre gave the car considerable contact in the very difficult conditions, the team was able to mend the car for it to continue, unlike the #3 Audi.

From here the team simply drove flat out and hoped for the best, with the pace they were able to show in the remaining hours proving an ultimate what if statement. Their pace was remarkable as they were the only car to be able to consistently lap in 3m26 laps during daylight conditions. With others misfortunes and their startling pace the car salvaged the final podium spot, after the demise of Porsche in the final few hours. This team will surely come back in 2015 even more determined to claim victory after this year.

Porsche Team:

#14 Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb
For the Porsche outfit, 2014 was always pencilled in as a learning year for this new team, with any competitive results being a bonus for them. During the race, the car was running well above predictions as it mixed it with the Toyota’s for the lead. The team’s great run was dampened however with two separate fuel pressure problems, leaving the car well behind the leaders.

The car continued circulating at an impressive pace, before in the cruellest fashion possible, mechanical problems forced the car into the garage with only 3 hours remaining, where it would remain until the end.For this team the pace they showed will provide huge encouragement, expect this team to be seriously challengers when they return to Le Mans next year.

#20 Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley/Mark Webber
Incredibly, the #20 had an even more impressive Le Mans 24 Hours than the sister car. This entry showed they meant business by claiming provisional pole on Wednesday, thanks to a stunning lap from Brendon Hartley. Although they slipped back on Thursday, they went into 24 Hours reasonably confident of a good result. From the start the team ran under the radar, capitalising on other’s misfortune to climb the leader board.

Sensationally, after the problems for the #1 Audi on Sunday morning, this promoted the #20 Porsche into a fairy tale lead with only a few hours remaining. From here however this slipped out of their grasp as the charging #2 Audi was able to reclaim the lead an hour later. Soon after, things got even worse as the #20 was forced into the garage with a broken anti-roll bar. This halted their run and in a final twist of cruel fate, the car was not classified as a finisher after it failed to complete the final lap in the set time. Again huge positives can be taken from their run and expect them to be on the podium next year.

Rebellion Racing:

#12 Rebellion R-One-Toyota: Nicolas Prost/Nick Heidfeld/Mathias Beche
For the Rebellion team things went according to expectations mostly, with the only major surprise being the relatively faultless run they had in the 24 Hours, considering it was only the second race for a car short on testing miles too. The car’s paced compared to the other LMP1 entries may have worried them, as they finished 14 laps behind the next LMP1 entry ahead of them.

The team did however benefit massively from the misfortunes of others, as they climbed the charts to eventually finish a brilliant 4th overall. The team will be thrilled with this result, with the team’s only concern going into the 2015 24 Hours will be the overall pace of their LMP1 entries, although for now they can celebrate an excellent result for this privateer outfit.

#13 Rebellion R-One-Toyota: Dominik Kraihamer/Andrea Belicchi/Fabio Leimer
The #13 entry proved to be the slightly slower of the two Rebellion racing entries, although this is not a major surprise considering the relative driver line-up’s of the two cars. This car was hoping for a steady run in the 24 Hours, ;although unlike the sister team entry, this car was unable to achieve this. The team suffered terrible luck as an engine problem side lined the car after only several hours. The team will be hoping to come back a lot stronger in 2015 as they aim to bring more pressure to the factory entries.

There’s the first of my Le Mans 24 Hours reviews. The other class reviews will be posted in the next few days. Once again huge thanks to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing photos, please feel free to visit their site if your interested.

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am Preview Part 2

The final part of my Le Mans 24 Hours preview is dedicated to the GTE Am class. Although the class will be the slowest cars on track, it does contain some seriously quick GT drivers amongst the majority amateur drivers in the class. New rules for 2014 have both ensured that at least one amateur driver has to be in each car, alongside this GTE Am teams are limited to one pro rated driver in each car. These subtle changes will mean a much close race for class honours than 2013, with a high quality field full of factory drivers and some seriously quick amateur drivers too. Like every other class, the GTE Am field will provide plenty of action over the 24 Hours. Let’s look at the second half of the entry.

Team Taisan:

#70 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: James Rossiter/Pierre Ehret/Martin Rich
The fabled Team Taisan returns to Le Mans for the first time in a while, this time with a Ferrari instead of their usual Porsche 911. This team won on it’s debut to the 24 Hours in 2000, although this time around a class win may seem unlikely. This team is as well prepared as anyone in the highly competitive Asian GT scene,something that should be highlighted this week. The team’s driver line-up is solid with the very quick Asian based racer James Rossiter leading the line-up, ably backed up by silver rated amateur drivers Pierre Ehret and Martin Rich. Ehret is highly experienced at Le Mans and Rich should provide some solid driving. This team will have to rely on Rossiter to be bang on the pace of the leading contenders, as well as solid driving from Ehret and Rich if this entry is going to make a similar return to their debut in 2000.

SMP Racing:

#72 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Andrea Bertolini/Victor Shaitar/Aleksey Basov
Alongside their 2 car entry in LMP2, the relatively new SMP racing team has also enters it’s GTE spec Ferrari F458, after some impressive showings in the opening two European Le Mans series rounds. This start-up team out of Russia have shown immediate promise and results since it entered European GT racing last year. The team benefits from a collaboration between them and the AF Corse team, which ensures this team always has one of the best prepared Ferrari GT cars in Europe.

The biggest question mark surrounding this entry will be their relatively inexperienced driver line-up, which includes two Russian’s who are rookie’s to the Le Mans 24 Hours. Both Victor Shaitar and Aleksey Basov have shown pace so far in this car, especially Shaitar, and how they perform will mostly define how well this car performs during the race. The team can count on experienced racer Andrea Bertolini, who will put this car in the mix for class honours for sure, it’s up to the Russians to keep the team there.

Prospeed Competition:

#75 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Francois Perrodo/Emmanuel Collard/Markus Palttala
The vastly experienced Porsche GT outfit Prospeed competition returns to the Le Mans 24 Hours again this year, with their strongest 2 car entry for a long time. Although the team has chosen not to update it’s older 997 spec 911’s to the new 991 shape, the team has showed their older model can still prove effective in the ELMS so far this year. The team contains a wealth of Le Mans experience and it appears fairly likely the team will have a reliable run, bar any unforeseen drama’s for them.

The first of their 2 entries has arguably one of the strongest GTE Am line-up’s in the class, with seriously quick GT racer Emmanuel Collard leading the way for this entry. Markus Palttala has proved a excellent pickup to replaced the injured rookie Matthieu Vaxiviere, and amateur driver Francois Perrodo is far from the slowest Am in the class. If this team has had a trouble free run going into the final few hours, expect this entry to be fighting for class honours.

IMSA Performance Matmut:

#76 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Raymond Narac/Nicolas Armindo/David Hallyday
The #76 entry is the second from the long standing Porsche entrant IMSA Performance Matmut. This most French of teams always has a knack of pulling off a good result in the 24 Hours and this year should see more of the same. The team is highly experienced and the driver line-up reflects this. Renowned Porsche racer Nicolas Armindo will set a blistering pace in the older spec Porsche, something that will be hard for amateur drivers Raymond Narac and French pop star David Hallyday to get close too.

Alongside the two Prospeed entries this #76 entry should prove to be fighting for at least podium honours, of course dependent on a clean run for the team. Something this team will be guaranteed this week however, is the award for the best GTE livery, the classic IMSA Matmut French colours look magnificent on their Porsche.

Dempsey Racing-Proton:

#77 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Dempsey/Joe Foster/Patrick Long
Very much like 2013, the most high profile GTE Am entry again goes to the Dempsey racing-Proton entry, which will looking for a repeat of their strong 2013 run, although this time without the late heartache of a collision which ruined their chances of a class victory with only a few hours left to run. The high profile nature of this entry is entirely related to team owner and driver Patrick Dempsey, renowned Grey’s Anatomy star, who is also seriously passionate about his motor racing.

After several years racing in the American Sportscar scene, he finally made returned at the world’s most famous Sportscar race last year, after making his debut in 2009.. Alongside good friend and business partner Joe Foster, they surprised massively last year with their pace and awareness. With Porsche factory racer Patrick Long completing the line-up, this entry is a serious contender for victory if they can have a largely trouble free run again. The fact their one of the few teams to update their Porsche to 2013 spec also helps, expect them to challenge for the class victory from the start.

Prospeed Competition:

#79 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Cooper MacNeil/Bret Curtis/Jeroen Bleekemolen
The second of the Prospeed Porsche entries appears just as formidable a challenger for class honours as it’s sister #75 entry. Like I’ve mentioned before, the Belgian Prospeed team are highly experienced Porsche and Le Mans racer’s, and their older 997 spec Porsche 911 GT3-RSR’s should prove to be bullet proof for the 24 Hours,barring any contact or driver error. These should be kept to a minimum with the driving talent this entry has behind the wheel. Both Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil are known as serious fast Porsche drivers in their respective racing circles, meanwhile Bret Curtis is a perfectly able amateur driver. Expect fireworks from Bleekemolen and MacNeil, as this team should be fighting for a top 3 finish in class if they can stay out of trouble during the race.

Proton Competition:

#88 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Christian Reid/Klaus Bachler/Khaled Al Qubaisi
The Proton competition team field only one of their own cars this year, after teaming up with Dempsey racing for their other entry. This team is very experienced with this race and the Porsche 911 GT3-RSR,something that will stand them in good stead throughout this week. The team’s driving talent comprises long time Proton driver Christian Reid, alongside young Porsche driver Klaus Bachler, who is quickly making a name for himself in Porsche’s, and finally amateur driver Khalid Al Qubaisi.

This is a solid line-up with Bachler seemingly the most likely to challenge the frontrunner’s during the race. It seems however, that the team may struggle to keep up the leaders pace with this line-up. This leaves them reliant on a trouble free run to compete for the podium,something that is never guaranteed in a race as unique as the Le Mans 24 Hours.

8Star Motorsport:

#90 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Frankie Montecalvo/Gianluca Roda/Paolo Ruberti
Whilst the 8Star motorsport team are only in their second season of GT racing, they’ve already proved their credential both in the previous American Grand-Am championship, and the World Endurance championship. The fact they’ve proved competitive in both series shows the versatility of the team. The team were unlucky last year as they suffered a problematic Le Mans 24 Hours, which prevented them from finishing higher than 10th in class, something the team should easily improve on this year.

On the driving front the team has a solid if unspectacular line-up of pace setter and ex-F3000 racer Paolo Ruberti, backed up by solid GT racer’s in amateur Gianluca Roda and American Frankie Montecalvo. Whilst it seems this team won’t be able to fight for the podium on pace alone, if they run trouble free don’t be surprised to see them challenging for a top 5 result in the final few hours.

Aston Martin Racing:

#95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Kristian Poulsen/David Heinemeier Hansson/Nicki Thiim
The only factory entries in the GTE Am class this year are the two entries from Aston Martin racing. Whilst some may argue it’s not right for a factory team to have entries in a predominantly amateur based class such GTE Am, the competitiveness of the class means it’s the driving talent that will prove the difference between victory and defeat, and this is an area Aston Martin has not exploited with it’s works entries. This very Danish driver line-up is as competitive as any in the class, with Nicki Thiim expected to set the pace, supported by quick racer’s in Kristian Poulsen and amateur David Heinemeier Hansson. Especially Heinemeier Hansson, who for me is the quickest amateur driver in this class, something that could prove crucial in deciding the GTE Am winner after 24 Hours.

The Aston Martin Vantage GTE appears to have been severely affected by the 2014 Balance of Performance tweaks so far in the World Endurance championship, something that other racers have put down to sandbagging from Aston before Le Mans. If the team can find a way to replicate the pace this car showed here a year ago, expect both works Aston Martin’s to be right in the thick of an intense battle for GTE Am honours throughout the 24 Hours.

#98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Christoffer Nygaard
The second of the factory Aston Martin entries should be equally paced with it’s sister entry in terms of pace and overall competitiveness in this hotly contested GTE Am class. A lot of the ultimate pace for Aston Martin is dependent on whether the team can replicate the 2013 pace it showed at the circuit de la Sarthe, something that is far from guaranteed based on 2014 WEC showing’s so far. Something Aston Martin can be confident with however are it’s driver line-up’s for both cars.

This #98 teams experienced racer’s in Paul Dalla Lana and Christoffer Nygaard with the supremely fast GT driver Pedro Lamy. All three should prove quick during the race, with the collective experience they share should help keep them out of trouble throughout the race. The key to their potential victory should rest on this trouble free run, something that should give them a fighting chance of making the podium once the dust has settled at 3pm on Sunday afternoon.

Garage 56 entry

Nissan Motorsport:

#0 Nissan ZEOD RC: Lucas Ordonez/Wolfgang Reip/Satoshi Motoyama
The award for the most interesting entry of the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours most definitely goes to the innovative Nissan ZEOD RC entry.The Nissan team has set lofty ambitions for this highly unconventional hybrid car, with a target of lapping at LMP2 pace, despite have far less power than the class, and will also attempt to complete a full racing lap of Le Mans only on electric power. Whilst this new car is not expected to have a trouble free run based on the high amount of new technologies being used, yet it’s sure to cause a stir this week, and harks back to the very essence of Sportscar racing: innovation.

Completing the Nissan flavor of this entry are the three factory backed drivers for this car, with two coming from another innovative Nissan project, the GT academy. For those of you unaware of the GT academy I urge you to find out about it, as it takes wannabe Playstation racers all the way to Le Mans in the case of inaugural winner Lucas Ordonez and 2012 winner Wolfgang Reip. Completing the line-up is the highly experienced Nissan racer Satoshi Motoyama, mainstay of the company’s Japanese SuperGT team. For this team purely a finish would be seen as a success, as they push the boundaries of new technology on the racing stage. Kudos for Nissan for providing some excitement around Le Mans and for trialling innovate technology.

That’s it from me and my Le Mans 24 Hours previews. Hope you enjoyed reading them and a massive thank you to everyone who has publicized my blog, and for sending my blog’s viewer stats through the roof this weekend. Also huge thanks to Motorsport.com for their amazing photos, I urge you all to visit their website with the link here.http://www.motorsport.com

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am Preview Part 1

After previewing the three other classes racing in the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, the time has come to look at the final class racing this year, the GTE Am class. Similarly to LMP2, the GTE Am class is based on amateur drivers with a minimum of one silver rated amateur driver and a limit of only one pro rated driver. This is aimed to ensure the amateur ethos of this class. The entry this year is huge with 19 entries in the GTE Am class, ensuring a enthralling race is guaranteed for class victory next Sunday afternoon.

RAM Racing:

#53 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Johnny Mowlem/Mark Patterson/Archie Hamilton
The RAM racing GTE Am entry should have a much higher chance of class victory than their GTE Pro entry, however the team’s funding issues in 2014 have hampered their preparations as the team have been unable to update their Ferrari F458 from 2012 spec, the only team in the class with a 2012 car.

The team’s driver line-up changed late also with Archie Hamilton replacing Ben Collins not long ago. The budget problems have severely hampered the team yet Mowlem is a seriously quick GT driver and if the team has a reliable run expect him to drag the car into contention, of course a lot depends also on how Hamilton and Mark Patterson performance during the race. If those two can perform at their best the team has a good chance for at least a class podium.

Krohn Racing:

#57 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Ben Collins
The Krohn racing team received very little time to prepare for the 24 Hours after their desperately late call up to the race at the end of May. Therefore the link they have with the American Risi Competizione team has been a massive help to their preparations for this race.

The team found RAM racing refugee Ben Collins to partner long time team mates Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson. The team has a long recent history at Le Mans and have claimed 3 class podiums in the last 7 years. Therefore this team can never be discounted however the late entry and the competitive nature of the driving talent this year in GTE Am probably means a top 5 in class would be a good result for the American team.

Team Sofrev ASP:

#58 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Fabien Barthez/Anthony Pons/Soheil Ayari
The Sofrev-ASP team are relatively new to international GT racing, yet the team have performed solidly so far in the opening two European Le Mans Series rounds so far. The team is run by experienced GT racer Jerome Policand, who alongside driver Soheil Ayari will provide a wealth of experience to the other two drivers.

Both French footballing legend Fabien Barthez and Anthony Pons are relatively inexperienced, and will therefore benefit massively from Ayari and Policand. Expect this team to surprise with it’s pace with Ayari behind the wheel yet both Barthez and Pons will have to show pace far beyond their experience for this entry to challenge for a top 5 in class. To finish at all would be a result for this newly formed team and relatively inexperienced line-up.

AF Corse:

#60 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Peter Mann/Lorenzo Case/Raffaele Giammaria
The first of AF Corse’s mammoth 4 car entry in GTE Am alone is the #60 for experienced amateur drivers Peter Mann and Lorenzo Case. Pushing this entry forward will be ex-F3000 racer Raffaele Giammaria, who will set the pace for this car. Whilst AF Corse are almost certainly the best Ferrari GT racing team on the planet, the strength of the class this year suggests this entry will struggle to compete for a significant placing once Giammaria steps out the car. A finish will be a result for this team although expect Giammaria to shine.

#61 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Luis Perez Companc/Marco Cioci/Mirko Venturi
This #61 AF Corse entry is the most likely of their 4 GTE Am entries to take class honours as this line-up has already proved successful in the World Endurance Championship this year. The driver line-up of experienced racers Companc and Cioci alongside Mirko Venturi should prove enough to challenge anyone in the class. If the AF Corse team can work their magic and this car has a reliable 24 Hours, expect this #61 entry to be challenging for a podium if not class victory. Definitely one to look out for during the race.

#62 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Yannick Mallegol/Jean-Marc Bachelier/Howard Blank
As I said before relating to the #61 entry being the favourite of the AF Corse entries to claim GTE Am victory, the opposite is true of the #62 which appears to have the least opportunity to claim class honours. Although the car and team are first rate and can match anyone in the class, the driver line-up for the #62 car is well below the level of some other entries in the class.

Yannick Mallegol, Jean-March Bachelier and Howard Blank can all count experience in their favour when it comes to Le Mans, the fact their an all amateur driver line-up severely dampens their chances of a decent result. For this car a reliable run to the finish would be a good result, with any further placing’s being purely a bonus for this all amateur entry. On the plus side this entry could challenge anyone in the class for the honours of best livery.

#81 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Steve Wyatt/Michele Rugolo/Sam Bird
The final of the four entries is the #81 car, which should have the best chance of a decent result for AF Corse outside of the #61 entry. This team has proved competitive so far in the WEC and will be hoping to carry over this form into the Le Mans 24 Hours. The team will produce a first rate car and reliability should be no issue for this well proven car. Therefore a lot like most entries in this class the difference will be between the driver line-up’s of each car.

This favours the #81 car as they boast a solid amateur driver in Steve Wyatt, a fast yet experienced racer in Michele Rugolo and , if he can adapt to the Circuit de la Sarthe quickly, the fastest driver in the class in AMG Mercedes test driver Sam Bird. He’s gained some Sportscar experience in the American United Sportscar Championship so should prove a revelation during the week. If this car can stay out of trouble look for this entry to be right in the fight for victory on Sunday afternoon.

JMW Motorsport:

#66 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Abdulaziz Al-Faisal/Seth Neiman/Spencer Pumpelly
2014 has seen a fair amount of change for this plucky privateer as they have been forced to switch to Michelin tyres from Dunlop. Also the team have changed their driver line-up for a so far competitive campaign in the ELMS. Things are not so rosy for Le Mans however as a tie-up with the Flying Lizard American GT team, means the team will field a mostly new line-up for the 24 Hours.

Partnering experienced amateur racer Abdulaziz Al-Faisal are Flying Lizard partners Seth Neiman and Spencer Pumpelly. Neiman is another experienced Am driver, but it will in the hands of Spencer Pumpelly when this car flies. He’s a seriously quick driver in the American GT scene and once his steps out, this team will struggle mightily to keep pace with the rest. A top 6 would be a good result for this team but they’ll need a clean run first.

IMSA Performance Matmut:

#67 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Erik Maris/Jean Marc-Merlin/Eric Helary
The vastly experienced customer Porsche IMSA Performance Matmut team returns once again to the Le Mans 24 Hours, this year with two older spec Porsche 911 GT3-RSR’s. The first of these is the #67 entry which may well struggle to compete with the ultimate pace in the class this year. Whilst the team is a highly competitive Porsche GT outfit the two amateur driver’s in the line-up will put a wrench in any plans they may have had on a competitive showing.

1993 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Eric Helary will star as always in this entry yet it will be expecting a lot of amateur drivers Erik Maris and Jean Marc-Merlin to even get close to his pace. Therefore a more realistic target for the team will be to have a trouble free race as anything can happen in the 24 Hours. This mostly definitely appears their best chance of attaining a respectable result in class against the wealth of opposition.

That concludes Part 1 of my predictions for the GTE Am category, one that should provide exciting racing throughout the 24 Hours, like every other class racing. A huge thank you to Motorsport.com for their amazing photos again to view them all please visit this link. Enjoy! http://www.motorsport.com/#!/filter/lemans/photos/main-gallery/?sz=2&y=2014&ft=1

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Preview

After previewing the LMP1 and LMP2 prototype classes now it’s time to switch my focus onto the GT classes. First up is the GTE Pro series, which this year is mostly the domain of factory teams. This year see’s 4 manufactures take each other on in what should be a very tense battle, as they fight for the all important class victory.

AF Corse:

#51 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Gianmaria Bruni/Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella
The #51 AF Corse entry has been a winner so far in the World Endurance Championship in 2014, yet the team could struggle with the Ferrari at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Indeed, last year’s race for Ferrari may just end up repeating itself as all GTE Pro cars were frozen in 2013 spec before the start of this season. This therefore doesn’t bode well for AF Corse as they struggled to match the pace of Aston Martin and Porsche.

AF Corse can never be discounted however, especially this #51 entry which comprises the same line-up that won this class in 2012. Ex-F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella joins Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander. These 3 are very quick in GT Ferrari’s and expect them to still challenge the pacesetters in the class, despite a car that most likely will be the third best car around the Circuit de la Sarthe.

#71 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Davide Rigon/James Calado/Olivier Beretta
The second of the factory supported AF Corse entries is the #71 entry, which blends experience with youth for Le Mans with Olivier Beretta bringing his vast GT racing experience to complement young chargers Davide Rigon and in particular James Calado. Although Calado and Rigon have little GT experience expect both of them to fly during the race. As I mentioned above the Ferrari’s don’t appear to suit the Le Mans circuit, meaning the most likely route to victory for AF Corse will be a reliable and trouble free run, rather than on outright pace alone.

RAM Racing:

#52 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Matt Griffin/Alvaro Parente/Federico Leo
For the RAM Racing team, 2014 promised so much for this plucky privateer team, yet so far it has delivered little as the team have struggled through the year with financial issues. These issues have severely hampered their Le Mans 24 Hours efforts as they were forced to miss the last WEC race at Spa to be confident of making the 24 Hours. Funding has also affected their driver line-up with experienced racer Ben Collins being replaced by the ex-single seater driver Federico Leo in the run up to the event.

For the only privateer team in the GTE Pro class things were always going to be tough against the might of factory Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin entries, as they fight an uphill battle to challenge the factory outfits in GTE Pro. Luckily for RAM racing they have three very quick GT drivers to share the car, including on-loan McLaren GT factory driver Alvaro Parente. Expect this car to shine in their hands but for this team a top 5 result in GTE Pro would be good but they’ll need a reliable run to achieve this.

Corvette Racing:

#73 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Jordan Taylor
The enormously successful Corvette racing team returns to Le Mans after a bruising 2013 24 Hours where there were far behind the leading pace of Aston Martin and Porsche. This year they aim to rectify this with a brand new C7.R model Corvette, which has so far proved very competitive in the American Tudor United Sportscar Championship, with arguably the most competitive GT class in the world right now.

If the C7.R can adapt to Le Mans quickly expect this team to be right at the front all race long. Certainly they have the driving talent to be at the front with the #73 being crewed by vastly experienced racers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, perfectly complementing the outright pace of youngster Jordan Taylor. Although he’s had little running in the new C7.R, if he can adapt quickly to the car and track, expect this car to fight for the class win.

#74 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Richard Westbrook
The second of the factory Corvette entries is again piloted by an impressive line-up of Corvette racing stalwart Oliver Gavin alongside Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook. This line-up is as strong as any in this class and most importantly if the new C7.R can prove reliable over 24 Hours they will certainly be fighting for the class victory.

The reliability of this new car is very important as the team suffered reliability problems in it’s racing debut at the Rolex 24, something they’ll hope will have been rectified by this time next week. Their performances in the race will be one’s to watch out for in the hotly contested GTE Pro category.

Porsche Team Manthey:

#91 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Patrick Pilet/Jorg Bergmeister/Nick Tandy
The Manthey Porsche team will be hoping for a repeat of their 2013 class win at the Le Mans 24 Hours, with continuity being the name of the game with Porsche as they keep the same band of drivers,car and team for their 2014 campaign. Although there have been Balance of Performance tweaks since last year’s 24 Hours, the Porsche 911 appears to still be the car to beat going into the 2014 edition.

The only relative difference for this #91 entry for 2014, is the promotion of Porsche factory driver Nick Tandy to the factory team, after spending the last few years impressing on assignment with various Porsche customer teams. Alongside fellow factory drivers Patrick Pilet and Jorg Bergmeister both Porsche entries must surely go into the event as pre-race favouries in the GTE Pro category.

#92 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Marco Holzer/Frederic Makowiecki/Richard Leitz
The second of the factory Manthey Porsche’s is piloted by a stellar line-up of factory drivers in Marco Holzer, new signing Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Leitz. Both Porsche entries have proved fast and reliable so far in 2014, and whilst the headlines have been taken by their return to the LMP1 category for this year, the team is adamant the GT racing group is entirely separate from the prototype division. This should ensure the team are in the perfect position to replicate their class victory from a year ago. Anything can happen at Le Mans however.

Aston Martin Racing:

#97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke/Bruno Senna
Similarly to Porsche, Aston Martin returns to Le Mans in 2014 with mostly the same group that gave Porsche an almighty challenge for class honours last year. The factory team brings two entries this year and so far both have struggled in the WEC with Balance of Performance tweaks, which the team feel have blunted their challenge in an unfair manner. Some in the paddock question however is Aston Martin have simply been sandbagging before Le Mans, the truth will only appears once qualifying for the 24 Hours starts on Wednesday.

On the driving front the #97 entry will lead the way with GT stalwarts Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke partnering Bruno Senna for Aston. Whilst Senna may appear a slight weak link with the little running he’s done in the car this year, expect all 3 drivers to be right on the pace throughout the race. Reliability should not be a problem in this well proven car therefore it will be down to the drivers to make the difference needed for class victory.

#99 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Alex MacDowall/Darryl O’Young/Fernando Rees
The second of the works Aston Martin entries this year is a collaborative effort between the works Aston team and the Asian based team Craft-Bamboo. This link-up explains the driver line-up of Bamboo linked drivers Alex MacDowall and Darryl O’Young to partner experienced Brazilian Fernando Rees.

Whilst the driver line-up may slightly hamper this car in a class full of factory GT drivers, if the pace Aston showed last year has remained intact and the car can stay reliable, expect this team to provide glimpses of promise in the race with a top 5 result a real possibility.

That’s it for the GTE Pro class, although the entry is relatively small the 4 factory outfits will be fighting right until the end for the class victory. This is exactly why anyone watching the race should always keep an eye on the GTE Pro fight as the race develops. Once again massive thanks must go to http://www.motorsport.com/#!/lemans for their amazing photos once again all the latest Le Mans 24 Hours news can be seen on the link above. Keep posted for the GTE-Am preview in the next few days. Enjoy!

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP1 Preview

With the test day in the books and the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours just over a week away now seems the perfect time to preview this year’s stellar entry at the world’s greatest sportscar race. Let’s start off with the contenders for overall victory in the top LMP1 class. With a almost certain victory predicted for the three factory teams competing choosing a winner from Audi, Toyota and the returning Porsche is impossible. Whoever crosses the line 1st on Sunday June 15th is anyone’s guess, but what is guaranteed is an epic 24 Hours of racing.

Audi Sport Team Joest:

#1 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro: Lucas Di Grassi/Loic Duval/Tom Kristensen

The 2013 winners of the 24 Hours are looking for a 2nd consecutive victory this year. Whilst they have lost experience hard charger Allan McNish to retirement, Lucas Di Grassi has so far proved a like for like replacement for this team. Furthermore any car with “Mr Le Mans” 9 time winner Tom Kristensen at the wheel can never be discounted for victory. 2014 has so far proved difficult for Audi however and for the first time in years they don’t go into the race as consensus favourites. Their battle with Toyota and Porsche for the win this year will go down in history.

#2 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro: Marcel Fassler/Andre Lotterer/Benoit Treluyer
2014 has also been tough so far for the #2 Audi crew as the team has struggled to match the pace of Toyota across the opening two World Endurance Championship events. Audi can never be underestimated however as Peugeot found out to their cost in 2008. Of the 3 works Audi entries the #2 has the slight edge over the rest in my opinion on the driving front. This combination won back to back 24 Hours in 2011-2012 and were it not for a problem last year may well have made it a hat-trick. Therefore expect this entry to lead the Audi challenge this year.

#3 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro: Filipe Albuquerque/ Marco Bonanomi/Oliver Jarvis
This #3 entry is a Le Mans only entry from Audi, therefore leaving this car at a slight disadvantage compared to the other two full season WEC entries. Whilst they have less preparation than the others their driving talent is right up there with Jarvis and Albuquerque being highly rated by Audi. Bonanomi is the team’s test driver and is no slouch in these cars . For this team a podium would be a good result and who knows, if reliability comes into play this team could have an outside chance of victory.
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Toyota Racing:

#7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid: Alex Wurz/Stephane Sarrazin/Kazuki Nakajima
The two Toyota cars have so far proved to be the class of the field in the opening two WEC races leading up to Le Mans, however the 24 Hours is so unpredictable making prediction based on form rarely come true. This will be a blessing for the #7 entry as so far it’s been shown the way by the sister entry. This is something they will look to turn around at Le Mans, and this line-up blends speed with experience. Expect them to be challenging for victory right until the chequered flag.

#8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid: Anthony Davidson/Nicolas Lapierre/Sebastien Buemi
Based on form alone, this entry would surely be the pre-race favourite. Two wins in the WEC have shown this car has a definite edge over Audi and Porsche over 6 hours of racing. On the other hand, like I’ve mentioned earlier form going into this race is usually proven race by the unique nature of the 24 Hours. The driver line-up of the #8 entry lacks the experience of the #7 team yet they more than make up for it in speed. The only slight question mark surrounding the Toyota line-up is how the swapping of Lapierre and Sarrazin for 2014 affects both entries. Expect a strong challenge from Toyota this year.

Porsche Team:

#14 Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb
Porsche finally returns to it’s spiritual home in 2014, fighting for Le Mans 24 Hours victories, for the first time since 1998. So far the 919 Hybrid has proved competitive although inevitable reliability issues have hampered the team in the WEC so far.

If either Porsche can run more or less fault free expect to see them on the podium come next Sunday afternoon. On the driving front the team has promoted several long standing Porsche drivers like Dumas and Lieb in this entry. Dumas is a former winner whilst on loan to Audi and Lieb has impressed so far in his first taste of LMP1 machinery. Completing the trio is the rapid Neel Jani who have consistently impressed in LMP1 with the Rebellion team over the last few years.

#20 Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard/Mark Webber/Brendon Hartley
Since Porsche’s comeback, most of the attention has been focused on this #20 entry, not surprisingly because of ex-Red Bull F1 refugee Mark Webber who quit the sport to join Porsche this year. He has so far quickly adapted to LMP1 machinery and will be a long-term LMP1 driver for Porsche. Backing him up is previous winner and long time Porsche factory driver Timo Bernhard and the impressive Brendon Hartley who won the drive after impressing with his speed for the Murphy Prototypes LMP2 team in last year’s European Le Mans Series. Porsche are more than capable of throwing a surprise this year and their two driver line-up’s are a match for any other LMP1 entry.

Rebellion Racing :

#12 Rebellion R-One-Toyota: Nicolas Prost/Nick Heidfeld/Mathias Beche
The only privateer entries in LMP1 this year are two cars from the Rebellion team. After wheeling out their trusty Lola’s for the final time in the opening WEC race the team will have two new Rebellion R-One Toyota’s ready for the 24 Hours.

In conjunction with Oreca the car showed initial promise in terms of reliability at Spa the car lacked a little pace compared to the manufacture entries, something widely expected considering the gulf in budgets and knowledge of hybrid technology, something the Rebellion team doesn’t have. This lead entry has a comptetitive line-up of experienced Nicolas Prost and the rapid Nick Heidfeld and Mathias Beche. A reliable run for the team would be a dream with anything more a dream for this lowly team.

#13 Rebellion R-One Toyota: Dominik Kraihamer/Andrea Belicchi/Fabio Leimer
The second of the Rebellion entries, very much like the lead car, will be hoping for a reliable run in this so far unproven car. Although this appears to be at a slight disadvantage to the lead car in terms of driver line-up, this is simply relating to experience , as Kraihamer and 2013 GP2 champion Leimer are both rapid drivers with Belicchi providing the steady hand needed for a clean run at the 24 Hours. If reliable, both Rebellion cars will prove a thorn in the side of the works entries and expect them to challenge for at the very least a top 5 finish .

LMP1 will see a highly competitive race to the flag with all cars running flat out for 24 Hours straight. For the full entry list please visit the official Le Mans website here http://www.24h-lemans.com/en/race/entry-list_2_2_1980.html