Round 4 of the FIA World Endurance Championship takes us to the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, as Last Lap previews the French classic.
One of the greatest motorsport spectacles of the year has come after almost a year since last September.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, like prior, will not run in its usual spot in June where it is proximate to the two other parts of the motorsport triple crown, the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.
There are exciting talking points for the race, so many of which we couldn’t say them all.
First up though, our chosen selection on Hypercars and LMP2s.
|Event (excluding four FP sessions)||Day||Time (BST)|
|Qualifying Practice||Wednesday 18 August||6pm to 7pm|
|Hyperpole||Thursday 19 August||8pm to 8.30pm|
|Race – 24 Hours of Le Mans||Sat. 21 to Sun. 22 August||3pm START to FINISH|
Unfinished business for #7 as Hypercars make first Le Mans appearance
The new top-tier category will make its Le Mans debut this weekend with three marques, and two new Le Mans Hypercars.
Even if the upcoming years at Le Mans are expected to host two at least 10 OEMs, this Hypercar beginning has a flavour of excitement we can expect to enjoy.
Defending winners (since 2018) Toyota GAZOO Racing have been tested so far this season with their first new car in five years, since the TS050 Hybrid was updated for the 2017 LMP1 regulations.
And for the first time in three years, the Japanese marque face some real competition over who will pursue the first overall Le Mans victory in a Hypercar.
The Balance of Performance (BoP) measures have worked seemingly well in the 2021 WEC campaign so far, having not been adjusted majorly since Portimao. Only the Alpine squad have faced tweaks on their A480 Gibson – a grandfathered LMP1 that has been tuned down.
The GR010 Hybrid has its fair share of success in three rounds so far, but the 6 Hours of Monza last time out had various electronic and mechanical dramas, particularly on the #8.
The #8 car/crews have won since 2018, whilst their #7 sibling has lost out with luck twice not falling on their way.
Last year they led past the 12-hour mark until the turbocharger gave up to force its own replacement.
The #7 are tired of finishing anywhere outside first and WEC reigning champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are keen to take another win after Monza – arguably this being the ultimate win during this year.
Alpine will be the underdogs as they will have to tackle the outgoing issue of a comparatively smaller fuel tank thus lesser time per stint, but their driver crews are yet to put a foot wrong in all of 20 racing hours so this season.
It may have already raced at Le Mans under Rebellion Racing, but different performance characteristics put the French squad under pressure to utilise its established reliability.
Glickenhaus make their Le Mans debut
As for Glickenhaus Racing, it will be a momentous debut for them to participate in what will be the first WEC rookie’s at the top since Nissan in 2015. And they are the first American manufacturer to race at Le Mans’s top class since Cadillac in 2002.
An impressive line-up of partners, sponsors, and most impressively their roster of drivers, are all working to make Jim Glickenhaus’ dream come true since he was just 11 years old.
Monza showed that the SCG 007 LMH is a competitive machine showing tremendous pace and top speed capabilities – especially when it dueled thrillingly with the Alpine A480 Gibson.
Read more on Glickenhaus:
- ‘We’re learning and improving quickly’ says Dumas after 6H Monza efforts
- Why Glickenhaus’ latest LMH programme suppliers are a major score
- Glickenhaus and the seven drivers: What do they bring to the team
It will be exciting to see how they do against Toyota with their two 007 LMHs with the most talented of driver line-ups in the 62-car field.
If the #709 wins, Romain Dumas in his 21st consecutive Le Mans race would join Tom Kristensen’s achievement of winning overall with three manufacturers.
Without getting ahead of ourselves, reliability will be crucial to nail on factors like the brake cooling management/reliability matters from Monza as well as the engine wear if Le Mans history tells us anything.
United Autosports with a trio of LMP2 Orecas
LMP2 last year was full of drama and action, as the latter has been during every WEC round so far this year.
This year, they are the only team to bring three entries as they look to defend their triumphant #22 win from last year.
Reigning winners Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque are joined by Season 9 rookie Fabio Scherer making his Le Mans race debut this weekend.
The #22 may have only raced as a trio since Spa in May, but they have won two races since with them operating the way a series of connected cogs operate a machine. The machine in question has been the Oreca 07-Gibson in which United have been able to extract the most with their forefront performances thus far.
Paul Di Resta, the reigning winner last year who joined Hanson and Albuquerque, is in the #23 with Alex Lynn and recent WEC debutee Wayne Boyd.
The team have undoubtedly the best driver line-ups, but the reliability and racecraft will be one again the focal tale of this category – especially with such an array of other impressive names.
G-Drive Racing encountered a suspension failure late in 2020’s race which diminished their own fighting chances at a victory, and have never won in their eight starts thus far.
At least 10 cars of 25 are more than capable to win. But who will it be…?
A father-son partnership at High Class Racing
Former F1 driver Kevin Magnussen has truly embraced sportscars impressively over in IMSA since the beginning of this year, plus his upcoming Hypercar pursuits with Peugeot.
Given this, debuting at Le Mans in an LMP2 will provide the ideal experience for him before he fights at the top of the WEC in 2022.
Meanwhile, his father Jan drove an LMP2 during his debut into a full WEC season since his departure from the Corvette Racing team since 1999.
The older Dane has won four class victories at Le Mans, but has shown no signs of slowing down in recent years.
The #49 car will have both himself and his son racing together in perhaps the only time possible in their racing careers, as Anders Fjordbach complete the trio.
It is the first High Class Racing LMP2 entry to feature no Bronze-rated drivers, so their chances are high at challenging for the win against the likes of debutants Team WRT and United.
The inspiring motive for Association SRT41
Competing in Le Mans’ Garage 56, the two amputees competing in the Frederic Sausset’s academy-run Oreca 07 Gibson puts a unique motive for their race.
From the Test Day so far, their pace has looked impressive to run in the LMP2 field using the modified Oreca.
They run a noble tale to inspire disabled racing drivers out there, demonstrating the Le Mans 24 Hours as an equally achievable accolade to complete for them as it is for any other driver.
They say it takes around 2m and 20s to complete a driver change, but it has been practiced during the European Le Mans Series rounds at Barcelona and Paul Ricard.
Oreca and Graff have supported them on the car as the paraplegic duo of Nigel Bailly, Takuma Aoki will be joined by Matthieu Lahaye who fills in for François Heriau after an untimely fall.
The Frenchman has not driven at Le Mans since 2012, but the crew as a whole feel comfortable with the challenge ahead.
Ultimately, Frederic Sausset and the team will be looking to reach the checkered flag as one of the utmost yet untalked-of goals at Le Mans.