Le Mans

  • The No.9 Audi headed the times in the 45-minute morning warm up for the Le Mans 24 Hours later today. The session was held in dry and sunny conditions and the forecast for the majority of the race is for much the same.

    Filipe Albuquerque, on his 30th birthday, set the time of 3m19.423s to sound a warning to Porsche that they can produce a mighty race pace from the defending Le Mans champions.

    Audi finished 1-2-3 with the No.8 Audi driven by Oliver Jarvis and the No.7 with Marcel Fassler setting the second and third fastest time.

    Timo Bernhard’s No.17 Porsche had headed the times before Albuquerque set his lap, and the Porsche 919 Hybrid was eventually bumped down to fifth place just behind the No.18 which had Romain Dumas in the cockpit for the majority of the session.

    Nico Hulkenberg was on schedule to possibly top the Audi time in the final minutes but elected to pit, perhaps keeping Porsches true pace hidden for tactical purposes.

    The race is thus set up to be a fascinating battle between the two German manufacturers.

    Toyota Gazoo Racing bettered its qualifying pace in the session with Sebastien Buemi maxing out on a 3m23.361s in the No.1 Toyota TS 040 HYBRID.

    Close battle in LMP2, LMGTE Pro, LMGTE Am class

    Mitch Evans claimed the top time for JOTA Sport in LMP2 with a 3m39.559. It was a Gibson 1-2 as Jon Lancaster stopped the clocks at 3m39.960 in the Greaves Motorsport example.

    Remarkably, Matt Howson equalled Lancaster’s time to the thousandth of a second in the pole sitting KCMG ORECA 05-Nissan.

    Stefan Mucke was fastest in the LMGTE Pro class in the No.97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The German set a 3m57.311s lap in the final moments of the session to deny the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari.

    LMGTE Am finally saw something other than an Aston atop the timing screens. The No.88 Proton Porsche driven by Klaus Bachler was quickest on a 3m59.456s.

    This car was earlier penalised for a track limit violation and received a stop/go penalty.

    Incidents ahead of the race

    Incredibly for a warm-up session there was plenty of incidents. The most serious of which befell the Larbre Competition Corvette which crashed heavily at the Porsche Curves, ironically at the very same spot as Jan Magnussen’s Le Mans ending shunt on Thursday.

    Gianluca Roda smote the wall, damaging the front right of the car, ensuring the team will have a race against time to ready the car for the 15.00 CET start time.

    Other less serious excursions included Jeff Segal spinning the Scuderia Corse Ferrari 458 Italia, a trip down the escape road for Alex Wurz in the No.2 Toyota TS 040 HYBRID and the Ibanez ORECA-Nissan stopping on the track with a mechanical problem.

  • Four Ford GT cars are set to race in next year's Le Mans 24 Hours after the blue oval today announced a return to global sportscar competition.

    The move comes in order to coincide with the golden anniversary of Ford's first Le Mans victory in 1966.

    Ford is set to race with a two-car entry in the 2016 World Endurance Championship and Tudor United Sportscar Championship.

    "When the GT40 competed at Le Mans in the 1960s, Henry Ford II sought to prove Ford could beat endurance racing's most legendary manufacturers," said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company.

    "We are still extremely proud of having won this iconic race four times in a row, and that same spirit that drove the innovation behind the first Ford GT still drives us today."

    Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates will run the TUSC operation but will also bring its cars to make a Le Mans debut for the team at La Sarthe next June.

    The first race for the new design will be the 2016 Daytona 24 Hours in January.

    "We've won races and championships, but we've never run Le Mans," said team owner Chip Ganassi.

    "When presented the opportunity to compete with the all-new Ford GT on the world's biggest sports car stage, and on the 50th anniversary of one of the most storied victories in racing history, how could any race team not want to be part of that? Will it be a challenge? Absolutely, but we couldn't be with a better partner than Ford."

    The full WEC program for Ford will be run under the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates banner but the day to day running of the squad is believed to be being put together by former Aston Martin Team Principal - George Howard-Chappell, who now heads up Multimatic's race operations as Motorsport Business Director.

    The team will be based in the UK.

    The Ford GT, which is a competition version of the carbon Ford GT streetcar, will be powered by the Roush Yates engineered 3.5-litre EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 unit which has already proven itself in the USC Prototype class.

    Motorsport.com broke the news of the first Ford GT tests last month and has since learned that several key personnel are already in place at the team which will campaign the full WEC season next term.

    Further development testing is planned for the Ford GT throughout the summer, before the car goes through its FIA/ACO performance measurement tests at the Ladoux test facility in late summer/early autumn.

  • 263 500 spectators! Le Mans again attracted a bumper crowd this year, which set a new record. Porsche scored a magnificent 17th victory thanks to Hülkenburg, Bamber and Tandy in no. 19 while no. 17 in the hands of Bernhard, Webber and Harley finished second giving the German make a double.

    LM P1
    Four major manufacturers were entered in the blue riband category, LM P1, for the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours. Audi and Porsche defended German colours with almost equally-powered cars against a Japanese duo Toyota, the reigning world champion, and Nissan, making its comeback to top-level racing, with a greater performance disparity.

    In the German-Japanese battle the German camp came out on top in terms of speed and endurance thanks mainly to Porsche. The two German manufacturers were locked in a no-holds-barred fight throughout the race. The Audi R18 e-tron quattro and Porsche 919 Hybrid drivers rivalled each other in terms of daring at over 240 km/h when allowed to do so by track conditions.

    Logically speaking, the only car that didn’t run into trouble won the race. The no. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid scored the German make’s 17th victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours. It got the better of Audi, but not without a few difficulties, as the latter’s cars were delayed by a succession of glitches. The first Audi to drop back was no. 8 on late Saturday afternoon after hitting the guardrail between Mulsanne and Arnage. After taking the fight to the no. 19 Porsche all night no. 7 lost its engine cover at 06h55 on Sunday morning. As a result of a slight contact with a Ferrari during the night and problems with its left-hand front hybrid system, no. 9 was the last of the Audi Team Joest cars to run into trouble, which prevented the Ingolstadt manufacturer from scoring its 14th victory.

    In the meantime, the two rookies German Nico Hülkenberg, the only current F1 driver in the race, New Zealander Earl Bamber and Englishman Nick Tandy (2 Sarthe outings), continued racking up the stints without faltering, and took a lead they were never to lose on lap 252 on Sunday morning when the no. 7 Audi fell back.

    The No. 17 Porsche driven by Webber, Bernhard and Hartley finished on the second step of the podium. The car held the lead in the early stages of the race, but it too lost ground in the evening after being hit by a 1-minute penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. At the chequered flag it was only 1 lap behind its sister car that had covered 395 laps, only two fewer than the overall distance record for the race!

    In the Japanese camp Toyota put on a good show although the TS040 Hybrid was outpaced by the German cars. No. 2 in the hands of Sarrazin-Wurz-Conway was the highest placed (6th) eight laps behind the winner. Only one of the three Nissans on the grid finished after nos 21 and 23 had retired early on in the night and two hours before the finish respectively. No. 22 took the flag, but was an unclassified finisher as it hadn’t done at least 70%, of the distance covered by the winner.

    LM P2
    Clean sweep for the Hong Kong-based team KCMG that won the race after setting the fastest time in qualifying. Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre and his British team-mates Matthew Hewson and Richard Bradley in the no. 47 Nissan-engined Oreca 05 had to fight hard to beat their rivals, especially the armada of Ligiers, which were hit with a string of race incidents (fire on no. 26 and penalties on no. 28). KCMG then had to cope with the threat from another Oreca 05 entered by Thiriet by TDS Racing. It gave the blue and silver car a run for its money in the opening stages of the race before a collision in the middle of the night in the Forza Motorsport chicane. The no. 99 Aston Martin leading its category rear-ended the no 46 Oreca driven by Tristan Gommendy. While no.99 was able to restart the French car suffered terminal damage in the incident. The no. 38 Gibson O15S run by English team Jota Motorsport, victorious in 2014, finished second less than a minute behind the winners followed by the no. 26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2.

    LM GTE Pro
    The race got off to a flying start in the LM GTE Pro category, which had lost one of its potential victory contenders in qualifying when the no. 63 Corvette crashed heavily, and the car couldn’t be repaired in time for the race. The title defender, the no. 51 Ferrari, led first time round, but it was soon overtaken by the Aston Martins. Porsche lost a car early on when no. 92’s engine caught fire on Les Hunaudières at 15h18 with Patrick Pilet at the wheel. Thus, all the hopes of Team Porsche Manthey reposed on no. 91 that was in third place on Sunday morning before having to pit with a leak in the gearbox. The no. 51 Ferrari let the no. 64 Corvette fight it out with the nos 99, 95, and 97 Aston Martins, and then retook the lead at 05h00 on Sunday morning after which it became involved in a ding-dong battle with the Corvette. But the Italian car ran into problems, and at 11h00 it was pushed into its garage for repairs to the gearbox. It rejoined in third place behind its sister car no. 71 under threat from the no. 95 Aston Martin.

    With a five-lap lead with two hours to go to the finish Gavin-Taylor-Milner in no. 64 were able to ease off as 15h00 approached. They took the flag to give General Motors its eighth victory at Le Mans, the first for the Chevrolet Corvette C7 that covered 337 laps and finishing 17th overall. The nos 71 and 51 Ferraris completed the top 3.

    LM GTE Am
    The no. 98 Aston Martin, which dominated qualifying in the hands of Dalla Lana, Lamy and Lauda, led the category in the race although the no 72 SMP Racing Ferrari and the no. 83 458 Italia entered by AF Corse posed a threat to the English car. Throughout the night the no. 72 Ferrari was never far behind and went into the lead whenever no. 98 refuelled.

    On Sunday morning no. 72 driven by Viktor Shaiter went straight on at Indianapolis. This incident looked like it had handed victory to the Aston Martin until 46 minutes from the finish Canadian driver Paul Dalla Lana lost control of his car and hit the guardrail in the Ford corners. Although he got out of the Vantage V8 unhurt he was unable to restart. It proved to be a very cruel race for Aston Martin that had already lost a car, no. 96, at 07h39 on Sunday morning. Roald Goethe had a big shunt in the Karting corner and was taken to the Le Mans hospital centre to undergo examinations. Behind the leaders there was a superb scrap between the no. 77 Porsche entered by Dempsey Proton Racing and the no. 62 Ferrari run by American squad, Scuderia Corsa. They finished in this order behind the no. 72 Ferrari of Basov, Shaytar and Bertolini who had taken the lead in LM GTE Am. So Patrick Dempsey fulfilled a dream by appearing on the podium of the Le Mans 24 Hours with his fellow-countryman, Patrick Long, and German Marco Sieefried after a great race.

  • The now 55-car Le Mans grid has seen seven cars, including four LMP1s moved to the rear today.

    The 2015 Le Mans grid has been shuffled following a steward's decision on Friday. The Nissan LMP1 trio, the No. 4 ByKolles CLM P1/01 AER, and No. 45 Ibanez Racing Oreca 03R Nissan have all been moved to the rear of the LMP2 field.
    LMP1/LMP2 penalties

    All four aforementioned LMP1 cars listed were more than 110% off the pace of the polesitting time at 3:16.887. The time they needed to reach was 3:36.575 and the closest Nissan was still four tenths off that.

    The ByKolles entry had qualified 11th, but will now start 29th. Nissan's new LMP1 fleet timed in 12th, 13th and 15th but will now be sent back to 30th, 31st and 32nd.

    The Ibanez LMP2 ORECA (penalized for same reason) has been placed in 33rd.
    GTE penalties

    Going to the back of the GTE field will be the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia and No. 68 Team AAI Porsche 911 RSR, which was damaged by a fire on Thursday. The Ferrari failed to get within 120% of the LMP1 pole-sitting Porsche. They will start 54th and the AAI Porsche 55th.

    The No. 63 Corvette has withdrawn from the race after a qualifying crash, leaving the field down one entry.

  • It was like a scene out of a movie at the 24 Hours of Le Mans: at seven minutes from the finish, the #5 Toyota was going into its next-to-last lap with a comfortable lead of 1:14 on the #2 Porsche. And then, the impossible happened when the lead car stopped on the finish line going into its final lap.

    "We've dreamed about winning this race," described at the finish Hugues de Chaunac, team manager of the French team Oreca associated with Toyota since 2012 and who experienced the joy of Mazda's win in 1991. "We also had a nightmare, breaking down an hour from the finish. But not in the last lap. It's completely cruel. It hasn't sunk in yet. We were right there. This race is so hard to win. Even Porsche's boss came to see us and admitted he didn't deserve this victory."

    So there it is. Le Mans always denies Toyota, despite its 44 unsucessful entries punctuated by five second place finishes (1992, 1994, 1999, 2013, 2016) with several victories lost in sight of the finish, like in 1994 when the win got away less than two hours from the end due to a gearbox linkage problem. Or in 1999 when victory evaded the favourite GT-One after a flat tyre in the last hour of the race. History repeated itself this year, but worse.

    This win so hoped for, Toyota went after it right from the start by perfectly negotiating the early race despite a remarkable rain shower. Taking advantage of the problems overwhelming the #7 and #8 Audis and those of the #1 Porsche, the Toyota camp quickly found itself in a position of strength with two contenders for victory against just one Porsche and no Audis. A first alert delayed the driver line-up of the #6 which remained in its box a few minutes following an incident for Kamui Kobayashi at the karting corner. The #5 then took the lead and benefitted from less fuel consumption to make two fewer stops than the #2 Porsche and carve out a gap of more than a minute. Enough to head to a relatively easy win...you'd think. As the signal was given to Kazuki Nakajima to relax the pace for the finish, he noticed a subtle loss of power in his V6 turbo, ending in a full stop heading into the final lap. Though the car managed to cross the finish line finally, the time it took to do so exceeded the limit authorized and tossed the car outside the standings.

    At the finish, even winner Romain Dumas found it difficult to rejoice. "Obviously, we aren't giving up the win, but we're sad for Toyota," admitted the Porsche driver. Same humble triumph in the Audi pit where they were enjoying an 18th consecutive podium finish. Delayed by various problems (turbo, door, hybrid system) the two R18s were never able to play even the smallest role in the race. A few minutes from the finish, Dr. Ullrich said his troops would come back stronger next year.

    To learn from our failures is generally the right attitude to have when one loses. But how can one ask better from Toyota with such a perfect showing from a team for 23 hours and 56 minutes?


    Watch the closing laps by clicking here