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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Le Mans Preview

Hi everyone.

This is about two weeks late, but I've been a bit busy with some stuff the past couple of weeks.  But anyways, at Spa Toyota took a 1-2 over a Porsche 3-4, while Toyota's third car struggled home in 5th.

Aside from the Le Mans test weekend, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the next stop.  The test weekend in the first weekend of June will be the only chance for teams to test on the full Le Mans circuit prior to the race week a couple of weeks later.  

For a description of the track and links to more info, see this link:

This year at Le Mans, 60 cars across four classes will participate.  Over half the field will be comprised of teams from the ACO and FIA sanctioned and endorsed World Endurance Championship, with Le Mans being the most important round in the WEC.  The rest of the field will be comprised of teams from the European Le Mans Series and the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Series.

There's two classes for Prototypes (LMP1 and LMP2) and two GT classes (GTE-Pro and GTE-Am) for production based sports cars.  LMP1 features the hybrid racing prototypes from Toyota and Porsche, LMP2 is a pro-am focused, semi-spec cost controlled class for teams made up or professional and pro-am drivers.  GTE-Pro has the newest road going sports cars and biased towards all pro driver line ups, where as GTE-Am insists on the use of at least one year old cars, and is biased towards pro-am driver line ups.

The drivers are rated based on experience and skill level on a medal scale from bronze to platinum.   Bronze drivers are pure gentleman drivers, Silver drivers are either rookies to the sport or the more skilled gentleman drivers, Gold are pro drivers, while Platinum are veteran professionals, often employed by factory teams.  

Each class also has their own restrictions on drivers.  LMP2 and GTE-Am require at least one bronze or silver rated driver per team, while no bronze drivers are allowed in LMP1, while GTE-Pro has no defined restrictions on driver ratings, though it's focused more on all-pro driver lineups.

Le Mans is also unique because of the speeds that the cars can routinely reach and the average speed over the course of the lap.  LMP1 cars can easily reach average speeds over the entire course of the 8.47 mile lap of nearly 150mph, with 4 or 5 places where these cars can easily reach top speeds of over 200mph.  This is tempered by areas of the track such as Mulsanne and Arnage Corners where speeds go as low as 45-50mph, the Mulsanne Straight chicanes that brake up the formerly 3.6 mile Mulsanne Straight into three smaller straights.  This is all in contrast to the Porsche Curves, a nearly three quarters of a mile stretch of high speed corners that LMP1 cars can average well over 160mph, with Audi Sport setting the all time sector record in 2013 of over 170mph.  The Porsche Curves is also a very narrow and daunting section of track, being revered and feared in equal measure.

Also of note this weekend is that at Spa, the location of the last WEC round, Prototype and GT cars of yesteryear, namely from the mid 1990s to 2011 or so will be running at the Spa Classic vintage racing weekend.  This class, called Global Endurance Legends, is basically a preview of the Le Mans Masters racing series that's due for a formal launch next year.  Included in this class is one Audi R8, one of the most successful racing cars ever made that Audi re-used its name for a road going sports car that they've made in several different versions since 2006.  Also included is a Dallara LMP 900, a car built by the company that Audi Sport licensed the design of most of the Le Mans cars from 1999-2013.  As well as various GT cars, such as a Porsche 911 GT1, a Dodge Viper GT1, a Maserati MC12, and various Porsche and Ferrari GT cars from years gone by.

I'll conclude by showing two onboards of what the current circuit looks like:

From 2012:


And from 2016:


 And a more detailed map of the Circuit:

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