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I am not sure if people on here are that interested but i just love this race

Courtesey of Daily Sportscar

LMP1 Preview

There’s a disappointingly small eight car entry in the premier class, with just three privateer cars stacking up against the Audi and Toyota factory squads.
The rapid octet though will be more than capable of providing the level of race long entertainment we’ve come to expect from what perhaps should now be renamed the Le Mans 24 Hour Sprint.

1 AUDI SPORT TEAM JOEST AUDI R18 E-TRON QUATTRO – André LOTTERER/ Marcel FÄSSLER/ Benoit TRÉLUYER
2 AUDI SPORT TEAM JOEST AUDI R18 E-TRON QUATTRO – Tom KRISTENSEN/ Loïc DUVAL/ Allan McNISH
3 AUDI SPORT TEAM JOEST AUDI R18 E-TRON QUATTRO – Marc GENÉ/ Lucas DI GRASSI/ Oliver JARVIS
7 TOYOTA RACING TOYOTA TS 030 – HYBRID – Alexander WURZ/ Nicolas LAPIERRE/ Kazuki NAKAJIMA
8 TOYOTA RACING TOYOTA TS 030 – HYBRID – Anthony DAVIDSON/ Sébastien BUEMI/ Stéphane SARRAZIN
12 REBELLION RACING LOLA B12/60 COUPE – TOYOTA – Nicolas PROST / Neel JANI/ Nick HEIDFELD
13 REBELLION RACING LOLA B12/60 COUPE – TOYOTA – Andrea BELICCHI/ Mathias BECHE/ Cong Fu CHENG
21 STRAKKA RACING HPD ARX 03C- HONDA – Nick LEVENTIS/ Danny WATTS/ Jonny KANE


Audi are defending Champions (again) and have turned the form books upside down with their start to 2013. Toyota’s fighting finish to the WEC in 2012 saw them hotly tipped for honours this season but the Ingolstadt army busied themselves in the close season, and, despite having an even more radical power boosting system barred for use this year, have so far dominated on both pace and reliability grounds.



They’ll field a trio of diesel hybrid long tail R18 E-tron Quattros with their usual stellar line-ups and with strategic genius in depth on the pit wall to boot!
The #1 crew are defending Le Mans and World Champions Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler with the #2 car featuring the huge experience of Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish joined by (very) fast Frenchman Loic Duval. These full season WEC crews have both already had a win apiece in the 2013 World Championship so far.

The third Audi looks very strong too with Ferrari F1 test driver Marc Gene, a man who has won sportscar races for both Audi and Peugeot, including Le Mans overall in 2009 in the late lamented 908, joined by Le Mans rookie and recent F1 refugee Lucas di Grassi and long term Audi factory man Oliver Jarvis.

All three Audis will doubtless be fast, the Test Day saw Duval beat last year’s pole position time in slightly less than ideal conditions, but just how much faster in reality are they than the Toyotas?
That question comes about in the wake of what has looked like a very much less than ideal start to the season for the petrol powered hybrids.
Silverstone saw the 2012 spec cars that the team fielded comprehensively outpaced by the new (short tail) Audis with round two again seeing one year old car fielded alongside the debuting new spec TS030.

The new car though suffered a hybrid system failure of the terminal variety leaving the older car to do distant battle with the Audis ahead of a very public airing of discontent over the current balance or performance between diesel and petrol post Spa, TMG feeling that the Audis have something over a 50 bhp advantage over their petrol engine.

An adjustment in fuel capacity in the Toyotas favour came in the lead up to the Test Day but the Toyotas were still nowhere close on pace. Trouble? Or tactics? Either way Paul Truswell’s pre race analysis presents a range of mouth watering possibilities.



Our guess is a little bit of both.

We’ll see soon enough but for now let’s revel in the prospect of an automotive industry giant, hugely hungry for a first Le Mans win, taking on the best endurance racing team in the world.

The LMP1 privateer entry numbers just three, but all three are capable of running with real pace throughout.

Strakka’s Honda engined HPD is the only all British crewed car in the race and arrives as the outsider after a poor start to their WEC campaign. Le Mans though is the scene of the team’s greatest triumph, their LMP2 class win was a real statement of intent and launched the team’s LMP1 ambitions into reality.

The car is quick, but perhaps not quite as quick as the opposition, Drivers Jonny Kane and Danny Watts are simply world class, and Nick Leventis is as hungry as ever for success, for this effort to have a realistic chance though he’ll have to have as consistent and faultless a run as he has ever managed to pull out of the locker.



There’s more than a buzz around Rebellion Racing these days, the Lola Toyotas have taken another step forward in 2013, they’re reliable, as fast as some of the factory cars in some conditions and have a driver line up that is able to exploit any opportunity to profit from the misfortunes of others.

That might be enough to see off the Strakka threat but, unless we see a major meltdown amongst the factory teams and/ or very changeable weather, we’re unlikely to see either of the Swiss entered cars troubling the overall podium.

And that’s a shame because there is real grit and ambition here, and real quality in the driver line- up too.



The #13 car has a good driver squad but the #12 trio would grace any factory entry, Nico Prost fast and consistent alongside the mercurial Neel Jani, the ex A1 GP Champ has caught the eye of the factories and with good reason. He’s special, and so too, undoubtedly is Nick Heidfeld, he’s yet to find his endurance racing smile but he did bring his ‘A’ game and would relish either a wet qualifying session, or a weather affected race.
 

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LMP2 Preview Part 1

A 22 car LMP2 entry provides depth and variety of stunning proportions with a hefty proportion of the field well able to hope for a potential podium run or better.

We could split this preview in a number of ways, by engine supplier with Nissan, Judd BMW and HPD all featuring, team prospects, tyre suppliers (with Dunlop dominating the numbers game) and the season so far.

We’re going to do it by chassis though, and there are plenty to review.

24 OAK RACING MORGAN – NISSAN – Olivier PLA/ David HEINEMEIER HANSSON/ Alex BRUNDLE
25 DELTA-ADR ORECA 03-NISSAN – Tor GRAVES/ Shinji NAKANO/ Archie HAMILTON
26 G-DRIVE RACING ORECA 03-NISSAN – Roman RUSINOV/ John MARTIN/ Mike CONWAY
28 GULF RACING MIDDLE EAST LOLA B12/80 COUPE – NISSAN – Fabien GIROIX/ Philippe HAEZEBROUCK/ Keiko IHARA
30 HVM STATUS GP LOLA B12/80 COUPE – JUDD – Johnny MOWLEM/ Anthony BURGESS/ Jonathan HIRSCHI
31 LOTUS LOTUS T128 Judd – Kevin WEEDA/ James ROSSITER/ Christophe BOUCHUT
32 LOTUS LOTUS T128 Judd – Thomas HOLZER/ Dominik KRAIHAMER/ Jan CHAROUZ
33 LEVEL 5 MOTORSPORTS HPD ARX 03B – HONDA – Scott TUCKER/ Marino FRANCHITTI/ RYAN BRISCOE (AUS)
34 RACE PERFORMANCE ORECA 03 – JUDD – Michel FREY/ Patric NIEDERHAUSER/ Jeroen BLEEKEMOLEN (NLD)
35 OAK RACING MORGAN – NISSAN – Bertrand BAGUETTE/ RICARDO GONZALEZ/ Martin PLOWMAN
36 SIGNATECH ALPINE ALPINE NISSAN – Nelson PANCIATICI/ Pierre RAGUES/ Tristan GOMMENDY
38 JOTA SPORT ZYTEK Z11SN – NISSAN – Simon DOLAN/ Oliver TURVEY/ Lucas LUHR
39 DKR ENGINEERING LOLA B11/40 – JUDD – Olivier PORTA/ Stéphane RAFFIN/ Romain BRANDELA
40 BOUTSEN GINION RACING ORECA 03-NISSAN – Matt DOWNS/ Thomas DAGONEAU/ Rodin YOUNESSI
41 GREAVES MOTORSPORT ZYTEK Z11SN – NISSAN – Thomas KIMBER-SMITH/ Eric LUX/ Alexander ROSSI
42 GREAVES MOTORSPORT ZYTEK Z11SN – NISSAN – Jann MARDENBOROUGH/ Lucas ORDOÑEZ/ Michael KRUMM
43 MORAND RACING MORGAN JUDD – Natacha GACHNANG/ Franck MAILLEUX/ Olivier LOMBARD
45 OAK RACING MORGAN – NISSAN – Jacques NICOLET/ Jean-Marc MERLIN/ Philippe MONDOLOT
46 THIRIET BY TDS RACING ORECA 03-NISSAN – Pierre THIRIET/ Ludovic BADEY/ Maxime MARTIN
47 KCMG MORGAN – NISSAN – Alexandre IMPERATORI/ Ho-Pin TUNG/ Matthew HOWSON
48 MURPHY PROTOTYPES ORECA 03-NISSAN – Brendon HARTLEY/ Mark PATTERSON/ Karun CHANDHOK (IND)
49 PECOM RACING ORECA 03-NISSAN – Luis PEREZ COMPANC/ Pierre KAFFER/ Nicolas MINASSIAN (FRA)

The HPD has had much success at Le Mans, and an example took another win last year in the hands of Starworks Motorsport. It’s perhaps a surprise to many that there is only a single car on this grid.

It’s fielded by the successful Level 5 team from the USA and features a very convincing driver line-up with the two pros; sportscar star Marino Franchitti and Indycar refugee Ryan Briscoe, bolstering the efforts of team owner and driven man Scott Tucker.



With the car managed by ex Strakka man Piers Phillips all the pieces are in place for this car to go very well indeed – Head says place the #33 car on the short list for a podium, particularly if the conditions fall well for the team’s Michelin rubber.

The Lotus LMP2 effort arrives in 2013 with a brand new car, the first car on this or any other grid to boast a fully 2014 compliant chassis.

The package though is still very new, and though there have been performance improvements from the Judd engined car it seems unlikely that either the raw speed or the required 24 hour reliability will be there quite yet.



A hefty and car damaging shunt for the #32 car in the hands of a no doubt now rather bruised Dominik Kraihamer, at last weekend’s Test Day won’t have helped much either!

That said there are plenty of reasons to keep an eye on the two black coupes. they are good looking cars with some very capable drivers amongst the line-up. No Vitantonio Liuzzi sadly, but ex F1 tester and Lotus factory man James Rossiter, Ex LMS Champion Jan Charouz and one-time overall Le Mans winner, the mercurial but often melancholy Christophe Bouchut might all add some real pace at times to the effort.

The now defunct Lola factory is still represented by a trio of cars, two more recent coupes and a slightly older open car.

DKR Engineering field the ex Pecom Racing #39 Lola Judd, the open car is unlikely to feature in the leading pack though and the very new effort will see a finish as a real triumph.



The other Judd engined Lola is an altogether more convincing package, HVM Status returning to the track after a delayed start to their year, the now Canadian flagged outfit opting to pull out of the FIAWEC after finding the financial going rather tough.

The car has real potential but has yet to show the pace we saw last year in the ELMS.



Johnny Mowlem anchors the driver line-up and will be a steady hand in the tiller. He knows full well that the winner on Sunday is unlikely to be the outright fastest car, but more likely the most consistent and the least delayed, Tony Burgess and Jonathan Hirschi will be charged with delivering on that wish list.

The final Lola is the only Nissan engined example of Huntingdon’s latter day output, but again it is unlikely to feature on anyone’s list of realistic potential winners.

Gulf Racing Middle East struggled last year to unlock their Lola Coupe’s potential but were getting somewhere by the end of the season. They have though struggled to find the right package for 2013, missed Silverstone and are now a Gulf team without a Gulf livery



Team co-owner Fabien Giroix still has fire in his belly but there looks to be precious little pace elsewhere – Japanese lady racer Keiko Ihara is back for another go and we expect endurance racing veteran Philippe Haezebrook to replace Frederic Fatien for the great race.

Zytek’s trio of chassis on the grid are an altogether more pacey bunch.

Jota Sport have assembled a very capable crew around quick gentleman driver Simon Dolan



Oliver Turvey and Lucas Luhr bring an exciting blend of youth and experience to the team.

McLaren blessed Turvey is likely to be one of the quickest men out there and has already impressed in his ELMS and WEC running thus far. Luhr is simply top drawer sportscar talent, hugely knowledgable, capable of entirely error free but class leading speed. If this car stays out of trouble it could win, and win well.

Greaves Motorsport meanwhile bring a pair of Nissan engined Zytek’s once again but this year there are very different missions in hand for the two cars.

A late deal with Caterham Motorsport sees the #41 car liveried in green and yellow and crewed, not only by Greaves mainstay and now three times Le Mans class winner Tom Kimber Smith, but also Caterham F1 tester Alex Rossi, the Le Mans rookie struggled at the test day but should be more up to speed by race week. Fast gentleman Eric Lux completes the line-up where we’d expect TKS to shine, and to help bring Rossi up to speed in short order too



Caterham meanwhile are taking a good long hard look at the LMP1 racing scene. We expect them to see the potential and to hear in due course that a customer chassis programme will be on the cards, and, who knows, perhaps LMP1 might be in the future for them too?

The #42 car meanwhile reaffirms a close link between the UK based team and Nissan.

Senior factory driver Michael Krumm anchors the effort and will be amongst the fastest men in the class. Alongside the German will be a pair of the GT Academy hatched, NISMO Athletes. the dynamic duo though have dramatically different backgrounds at this level.



Lucas Ordonez was the first ever winner of the GT Academy and proved to be a worthy trailblazer for those that followed. And to show what could be achieved.

He has raced at Le Mans twice before, last year in the Greaves Zytek Nissan alongside Martin and Alex Brundle. It was his first appearance though that set the scene for what is now a full professional career as he stood, alongside his Signatech team mates on the second step of the podium – an amazing result for the young Spaniard.

In the garage that weekend was his 2013 team-mate, then simply a contestant in the GT Academy and now, having won the contest in 2011, he arrives at Le Mans as a rookie with real expectation that he might just be part of another glittering chapter in the amazing GT Academy story.

Jann Mardenborough’s demeanour after his 10 ‘rookie’ laps were safely reeled off in tricky conditions was one of someone at peace with his place in the world, the sport and his team. Not a hint of arrogance, but all business – One to watch next week for sure.

No fewer than five Oak Racing/ Onroak built Morgan chassis are on the entry, a trio for the factory team and a pair of customer cars.

 

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Tragic start to the race; Denmark's Allan Simonsen died in hospital after a crash in his Aston Martin 10 minutes into the race.
RIP.
 
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