Toyota

What F1 Can Learn From Le Mans?

This article is something that came about because of two factors. The obvious one is of course the latest edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Even 24 hours after the race finished the raw emotion the race produces in fans is still evident. The race produced drama for the entire 24 hours and once again proved very exciting for motorsport fans.

The second less obvious reason was a recent tweet from former F1 racer and commentator Martin Brundle. This is what he said. https://twitter.com/MBrundleF1/status/876548908297707520 . He has highlighted a genuine question that Formula One should take some time to answer. Formula One is increasingly struggling to maintain it’s fan base happy and excited with the racing on track, something Le Mans never struggles in this department. So just what can Formula One learn from the Le Mans 24 Hours?

Le Mans 24 Hours is one of the great motorsport races in the world, yet it has evolved into more than that. It has developed into a festival where fans treat the event in a similar manner to a music festival for example. The fans flock to the event every year with the race build up beginning the week before when scrutineering takes place. Now of course Formula One cannot make every race meeting a week long, there is some other things they can do to replicate the success of Le Mans.

Le Mans breeds this festival vibe by the things they do to keep all fans excited all week. They have various fun fair rides across the circuit and host events like music concerts which ensure that even people who don’t have an interest in motorsport could have an enjoyable experience at the race. F1 has already taken these steps as they often host concerts after grand prix’s when they can, which shows they are clearly taking steps to improve the overall experience at grand prix’s.

Recent years have seen Le Mans produce crowds of over 260 000 people, and this is much higher than the biggest grand prix crowd of last year, the British Grand Prix which had a crowd of 139 000 people for the race. Whilst a direct comparison cannot be made as Le Mans is a whole week for most fans and not simply one day, it’s easy to see that F1 can learn from Le Mans in terms of attracting a crowd.

Whilst many would think that the ticket prices are a easy route to attract more fans, this may not be the magic bullet some people would think it would be. Tickets for the British grand prix are £210 for the cheapest weekend ticket, and for Le Mans they are £209. This shows that for the same money Le Mans seems to produce something more for it’s fans that F1 doesn’t.

Sportscar racing is currently experiencing a resurgence since it’s hybrid regulations came into place early this decade. The profile has risen mightily since the creation of the World Endurance Championship in 2012, with many young drivers abandoning single seaters to switch to sportscar racing.

The racing currently in sportscars is always providing exciting racing across all four classes. Unlike F1 the cars can follow each other and battle and this area is where something can be done to attract fans. Fans are increasingly frustrated with the lack of overtaking in F1, something where sportscars have no issue. The Le Mans 24 Hours is very exciting for fans simply because in each class the battle for the lead lasts throughout the entire race.

Whereas in the past the race was a strict test of endurance, thanks to the increase in mechanical reliability the race has now become a 24 hour sprint race. This is what the fans want to see and this is where the rule makers can do to improve racing. If F1 can return to more pure racing where the cars are not affected so much by aerodynamics this will dramatically increase the overtaking in the eyes of fans and will bring them back to F1 and excitedly watching the racing as they do at Le Mans.

Thank you for reading this article and if you enjoyed it please leave a comment below. You can find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

Advertisements

Japanese racing scene gaining popularity

In the 1990s Japan was a viable career alternative for young drivers who found their options limited in Europe. The resident Japanese F3000/ Formula Nippon and Super GT series attracted well known names such as Eddie Irvine, Tom Kristensen, Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz Harald-Frentzen.

During the late 1990s and 2000s the Japanese racing scene suffered a lull in worldwide attention, although in recent years both Japan and America are seeing a resurgance in interest as young drivers from Europe increasingly look further afield to attain a professional racing career. The racing scene seems increasingly focused on money in the last few years, with several Formula One teams struggling for finance, leading to a situation where increasingly a driver’s ability to bring a budget with him determines who is promoted from the junior formula’s.

In response to this Japan is seeing an upturn in popularity as the best young Japanese drivers are now being joined by accomplished and high profile drivers from Europe in their Super GT and Super Formula single seater series. In recent years the quality of the Japanese racing scene has been proven in Europe as long time Super GT and Super Formula drivers Andre Lotterer and Loic Duval led the Audi attack on the World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours.


Andre Lotterer racing in the Super Formula single seater series last year. Photo sourced from http://www.racingblog.de

Other notable drivers to have turned their careers East to Japan include James Rossiter, Vitantonio Luizzi, Narain Karthikeyan and Andrea Caldarelli. The number of European drivers joining the Japanese scene only looks set to swell in 2015, with rumors that young drivers such as Macau GP winner Felix Rosenqvist, 2009 Formula Renault 3.5 series champion Bertrand Baguette, GP3 race winner Jann Mardenborough and 2013 GP2 champion Fabio Leimer all rumored to be looking for drives in Japan this year. Heikki Kovalainen is the latest driver to defect to Japan as he announced a deal this week to join Team SARD Lexus for the Super GT series this year.

Complementing the increasing European talent is the very best of Japanese driving talent, with the likes of Kamui Kobayashi, Kazuki Nakajima and Takuma Sato returning to race in the Super Formula and Super GT series. Alongside them are the likes of GP2 racer Takuya Izawa and former Indycar racer Hideki Mutoh show that the talent on the Super Formula grid is up there with any grid outside of F1 at the moment.


The Super Formula grid races away from the line at Twin Ring Motegi in 2013. Photo sourced from http://www.supergtbrasil.blogspot.co.uk

Japan is so attractive right now for young drivers as it promises the opportunity to become a professional racing driver rather than struggle to attract finance to continue on the young driver ladder in Europe. Alongside the chance to earn a professional driver there are also copious chances to link up with a manufacture, with Toyota running a LMP1 programme in the WEC, with Nissan joining them in LMP1 this year also. Honda is also returning to F1 and has links with Indycar also, with all of these manufactures assisting or running teams in the Super GT series. Japan is therefore the perfect shop window for young drivers to put themselves in should they wish to put aside their dreams of F1 and become a factory driver for a distinguished manufacture. The future seems increasingly bright for the Japanese racing scene, as it becomes increasingly prominent in international motor sport, returning it to it’s glory days of the past.

What are your thoughts on this article? Please feel free to leave any comments below good or bad.

What now for Jean Eric Vergne?

First of all, Jean Eric Vergne deserves to be on the grid at the next years Australian Grand Prix. Vergne has shown more than enough potential and results over the past three seasons to warrant a place on the grid in 2015. Vergne has simply become a casualty of the ruthless Red Bull young driver scheme.

Whilst Red Bull have backed him from a young age and gave him a shot in F1 for three seasons, if you don’t show the necessary progress you will quickly be replaced with the next young hot shoe product from the Red Bull line up. With the news last Friday that Red Bull junior F1 team Scuderia Toro Rosso would replace Vergne with their latest prospect Carlos Sainz Jr. For now it seems Vergne has few options to remain in F1 next year, so what options does he have to remain racing next year?

The most likely option it seems for Vergne to remain within Formula One next year appears to be with the Williams team. Rumors began during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend as Vergne was spotted spending a fair amount of time in the Williams hospitality area. Whilst both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa are confirmed to 2015 their reserve driver role is vacant as Felipe Nasr joins Sauber for next year. If this move comes to fruition it’s likely Vergne will get some Free Practice runs next year, and would be well placed to impress as Williams will be looking to replace Felipe Massa in several years time.

It seems the Williams role seems the most likely option to stay in F1 next year, with the only other likely reserve driver role would be with the Red Bull team, although this is unlikely to interest Vergne as there will be very little chance of being promoted to a race drive.

Vergne can be heartened by the thought that he will likely find plenty of offers from other disciplines of motorsport, and can take heart from the example of fellow Red Bull refugee Sebastien Buemi. Vergne was one of the drivers who replaced Buemi at Toro Rosso for the 2012 season, and Buemi became the Red Bull reserve driver before rebuilding his career with Toyota in the World Endurance Championship, where he has shown his tremendous speed to claim the drivers title in the WEC alongside Anthony Davidson.

The World Endurance Championship is growing in significance every year with Nissan joining Audi, Porsche and Toyota in competing for wins next year. Vergne would be able to retain a reserve driver role in F1 with a WEC campaign with a manufacture or privateer team.

Another option for Vergne could be the new Formula E championship. The series has a prestigious line up of drivers and teams and is growing with every race in it’s debut season and would be an attractive option for next year. Formula E would be another series which could inter link with his reserve driver commitments should he find a drive within F1.

Other much less likely options would be for Vergne to swap F1 for Indycar, with his single seater skills would be clearly evident as he would likely become a household name in the series. Vergne once adjusted to the Dallara DW12 Indycar could become a multiple series champion such is his skill. Another option could be a top line career in GT racing with prominent series such as the Blancpain Endurance Series or GT classes within the WEC would be a great chance to rebuild his career after F1.

From here it’s not known where Jean Eric Vergne will be racing in 2015, with several options for him it’s up to him and his agent to decide which is his best option for next year. For me the best option would be a reserve driver role in F1 to keep his face known within the F1 community, with a sportscar campaign the perfect chance to show his considerable talent such as Sebastien Buemi has done this year. It would be a shame if Vergne isn’t racing at all next year, as he’s shown in his 3 years at Toro Rosso he deserves to remain at the top line of motorsport, where his talents belong.

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 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.
http://www.dailysportscar.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Spa_01.jpg?055a37

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