In recent times, Le Mans has become more of a 24 hour sprint race rather than just a 24 hour endurance race with teams becoming more and more competitive. Every single aspect of the race, from each lap to each pit stop can mean minutes lost or gained at the end of the 24 hours. Celebrating it’s 90th anniversary (81st running) this year, Le Mans has become a sight to behold and for us at least, remains the absolute best motorsport event in the world. We’ve been fortunate to attend the race in person in past years, but even watching it on TV gives us chills. The sounds of the cars doing 200+ on the Mulsanne straight, the lights of the ferris wheel, and the feeling as day turns to night turns to day again. We live for this weekend.
A total of 56 cars will start the race this year with 8 LMP1 entries, 22 LMP2 entries, 12 GTE Pro entries, and 14 GTE Am entries. The Le Mans juggernaut Audi Sport Team Joest is back to attempt their 12th win in 14 races at Circuit de la Sarthe, this time entering three R18 e-tron quattro long-tail. The no.2 R18 e-tron quattro starts on pole position with a fast lap time of 3:22.349, which was set by Loïc Duval during qualifying session #1 on Wednesday. The time remained unbeaten on Thursday partially due to damp track conditions which kept the cars running slower through the laps. This marks the first pole position at Le Mans for Duval’s teammates, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish. The #1 R18 e-tron quattro of 2012 Le Mans winners, Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer starts in the second grid spot with a qualifying time of 3:23.696. The third spot on the grid is held by Le Mans rookie, Lucas di Grassi who is joined by Marc Gené and Oliver Jarvis in the #3 Audi R18 e-tron quattro with a lap time of 3:24.341.
The LMP1 Toyota TS030 Hybrid teams haven’t kept pace with the Audi teams throughout the three qualifying sessions, and start in positions 4 and 5. Stephane Sarrazin set the fast lap in the #7 Toyota TS030 with a laptime of 3:26.654, while Kazuki Nakajima put the #8 TS030 in the 5th position with a 3:26.676. Sarrazin in the #7 TS030 will be joined by teammates Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi. Nakajima in the #8 TS030 will be joined by teammates Alexander Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre. Both Toyota teams ran the full race setup during qualifying sessions.
Privateer team, Rebellion Racing, start in positions 6 and 7 with their gasoline powered Lola B12/60 Toyota cars with Neel Jani having the fastest time in the #12 car of 3:28.935. Strakka Racing rounds out the LMP1 grid with a lap time of 3:36.547.
While the Audi teams were faster overall in qualifying, the Toyota teams shouldn’t be ruled out based on lap times alone. Remember, this is a 24 hour long race and strategy is just as important as outright speed. Both hybrid and non-hybrid gasoline cars in LMP1 will be allowed an additional 3-liters of fuel. Non-hybrid gasoline cars were already given an extra 5-liter capacity before the start of the 2013 WEC season. This means that the Toyota TS030 Hybrids will be carrying 76-liters of fuel compared to the 58-liters of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars. Estimates are that Toyota will be getting around 12 laps per tank of fuel versus 10 laps per tank on the Audis. Over 24 hours, that means an additional 7 stops for the Audi teams. This will definitely be an interesting race if both teams can keep the cars mechanically reliable.
In LMP2, OAK Racing’s Olivier Pla set the fast lap for the class in the closing minutes of the third and final qualifying session in the #24 Morgan LMP2-Nissan with a lap time of 3:38.621. The #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 03 Nissan will start second in LMP2 with a lap time of 3:40.459. Rounding out the top three in LMP2 is the #38 Jota Sport Zytek Z11nSN-Nissan which was driven to a 3:40.459 lap time by Oliver Turvey.
The top spots in GTE Pro belong to Aston Martin Racing with a 1-2 starting grid position. Frederick Makowiecki set the fast lap on Thursday of 3:54.635 in the #99 Aston Martin Vantage V8. Makowiecki is joined by teammates Rob Bell and Bruno Senna. Position #2 went to Stefan Mucke who managed a 3:55.445 in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage V8. Mucke is joined by Brits, Darren Turner and Peter Dumbreck. Position #3 in GTE Pro went to Marc Lieb in the #92 Porsche AG Team Manthey 911 RSR with a lap time of 3:55.491.
The American factory teams of Corvette Racing and SRT Motorsports seemed to have trouble putting down fast laps in qualifying with Oliver Gavin putting the #74 Corvette Racing C6.R in 8th position well off the lead pace with a lap time of 3:58.644. The SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R teams (which make their return to Le Mans after a 10-year absence) start in 10th and 11th positions.
Aston Martin Racing also dominated the top spots in GTE-Am with Allan Simonsen clocking a fast lap of 3:57.77 in the 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE. Krohn Racing rounds out the grid in the 56th spot after suffering a massive accident on Wednesday with Tracy Krohn behind the wheel. The team spent Thursday almost entirely rebuilding a car from a loaner Ferrari 458 chassis.
The green flag drops at the 90th anniversary of the 24 Hour Le Mans at 3pm local Le Mans time (10am central time) on Saturday.
Social Media Grid – Twitter/Facebook Pages for each team & driver – http://mikefrison.com/2140
U.S. TELEVISION: SPEED: Saturday 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. ET; 4-7 p.m. ET; 7:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m. ET
STREAMING: SPEED.com: Saturday 2-4 p.m. ET; 7-7:30 p.m. ET;
1. Kristensen/Duval/McNish Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro 3mins 22.349secs LMP1 *
2. Lotterer/Fassler/Treluyer Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro 3mins 23.696secs LMP1 *
3. Gene/Di Grassi/Jarvis Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro 3mins 24.241secs LMP1
4. Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin Toyota Racing Toyota TS030 hybrid 3mins 26.654secs LMP1 *
5. Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima Toyota Racing Toyota TS030 hybrid 3mins 26.676secs LMP1 *
6. Prost/Jani/Heidfeld Rebellion Racing Lola B12/60-Toyota 3mins 28.935secs LMP1 *
7. Belicchi/Beche/Cheng Rebellion Racing Lola B12/60-Toyota 3mins 32.167secs LMP1
8. Leventis/Watts/Kane Strakka Racing HPD ARX-03c 3mins 36.547secs LMP1 *
9. Pla/Heinemeier Hansson/Brundle OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan 3mins 38.621secs LMP2 *
10. Rusinov/Martin/Conway G-Drive Racing Oreca 03-Nissan 3mins 39.535secs LMP2 *
11. Dolan/Turvey/Luhr Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan 3mins 40.459secs LMP2
12. Gachnang/Mailleux/Lombard Morand Racing Morgan-Judd 3mins 40.741secs LMP2
13. Graves/Nakano/Hamilton Delta-ADR Oreca 03-Nissan 3mins 40.925secs LMP2 *
14. Imperatori/Tung/Howson KCMG Morgan-Nissan 3mins 41.042secs LMP2
15. Hartley/Patterson/Chandhock Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03-Nissan 3mins 41.569secs LMP2
16. Paniatici/Ragues/Gommendy Signatech Alpine Alpine-Nissan 3mins 41.654secs LMP2
17. Baguette/Gonzalez/Plowman OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan 3mins 41.854secs LMP2 *
18. Companc/Kaffer/Minassian Pecom Racing Oreca 03-Nissan 3mins 43.420secs LMP2 *
19. Thiriet/Badey/Martin Thiriet by TDS Oreca 03-Nissan 3mins 43.494secs LMP2
20. Mardenborough/Ordonez/Krumm Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan 3mins 44.421secs LMP2
21. Kimber-Smith/Lux/Rossi Greaves Motorsport Zytek Nissan 3mins 44.621secs LMP2 *
22. Frey/Niederhauser/Bleekemolen Race Performance Oreca 03-Judd 3mins 45.244secs LMP2
23. Holzer/Kraihamer/Charouz Lotus Lotus T128 3mins 45.274secs LMP2 *
24. Weeda/Rossiter/Bouchut Lotus Lotus T128 3mins 47.920secs LMP2 *
25. Nicolet/Merlin/Mondolot OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan 3mins 48.196secs LMP2
26. Tucker/Franchitti/Briscoe Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b 3mins 48.597secs LMP2
27. Giroix/ Haezebrouck/Ihara Gulf Racing Middle East Lola B12/80 Coupe-Nissan 3mins 49.096secs LMP2 *
28. Mowlem/Hirschi/Burgess HVM Status GP Lola B12/80 Coupe-Judd 3mins 49.805secs LMP2
29. Bell/Makowiecki/Senna Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 3mins 54.635secs GTE-Pro *
30. Turner/Mucke/Dumbreck Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 3mins 55.445secs GTE-Pro *
31. Lieb/Lietz/Dumas Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR 3mins 55.491secs GTE-Pro *
32. Bruni/Fisichella/Malucelli AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia 3mins 55.909secs GTE-Pro *
33. Auberlen/Dalla Lana/Lamy Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 3mins 56.336secs GTE-Pro
34. Beretta/Kobayashi/Vilander AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia 3mins 56.471secs GTE-Pro *
35. Bernhard/Pilet/Bergmeister Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR 3mins 56.573secs GTE-Pro *
36. Porta/Raffin/Brandela DKR Engineering Lola B11/40-Judd 3mins 56.905secs LMP2
37. Downs/Dagonneau/Younessi Boutsen Ginion Racing Oreca 03-Nissan 3mins 57.139secs LMP2
38. Simonsen/Poulsen/Nygaard Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 3mins 57.776secs GTE-Am *
39. Gavin/Milner/Westbrook Corvette Racing Corvette C6 ZR-1 3mins 58.664secs GTE-Pro
40. Ried/Roda/Ruberti Proton Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 3mins 58.889secs GTE-Am *
41. Garcia/Taylor/Magnussen Corvette Racing Corvette C6 ZR-1 3mins 59.526secs GTE-Pro
42. Goethe/Hall/Campbell-Walter Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 4mins 59.805secs GTE-Am *
43. Gerber/Griffin/Cioci AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia 4mins 59.997secs GTE-Am *
44. GibonMilesi/Henzler IMSA Performance MATMUT Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 4mins 00.503secs GTE-Am
45. Collard/Crubile/Perrodo Prospeed Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 4mins 00.682secs GTE-Am *
46. Farnbacher/Dalziel/Goossens SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R 4mins 00.802secs GTE-Pro
47. Dempsey/Foster/Long Dempsey Del Piero-Proton Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 4mins 00.916secs GTE-Am
48. Narac/Bourret/Vernay IMSA Performance MATMUT Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 4mins 01.713secs GTE-Am *
49. Pottolicchio/Aguas/Bright 8 Star Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia 4mins 01.934secs GTE-Am *
50. Bomarito/Kendall/Wittmer SRT Motorsport Viper GTS-R 4mins 03.461secs GTE-Pro
51. Perazzini/Case/O’Young AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia 4mins 03.966secs GTE-Am
52. MacNeil/Rodrigues/Dumas Larbre Competition Corvette C6 ZR-1 4mins 04.512secs GTE-Am
53. Bornhauser/Canal/Taylor Larbre Competition Corvette C6 ZR-1 4mins 04.873secs GTE-Am *
54. Bertolini/Alfaisal/Qubaisi JMW Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia 4mins 05.417secs GTE-Pro
55. Mallegol/Bachelier/Blank AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia 4mins 09.064secs GTE-Am
56. Krohn/Jonsson/Mediani Krohn Racing Ferrari 458 Italia 4mins 16.233secs GTE-Am *