Le Mans in recent times has been somewhat of a one horse race, Audi winning in some cases at a canter. Last year the Toyota’s showed good pace all the way up to the race and then were unlucky (as they have always been in LMP1) allowing Audi to win again. 2014 showed all the signs of being much harder work for Audi, Toyota were back with the TS040 with all of 1000bhp using full electric power and Porsche returned to a race where their record is legendary with the 919 Hybrid.
Night time qualifying Porsche 919
Audi continued with the latest evolution of the very successful and proven R18, there was plenty of doubt surrounding Audi’s chances of retaining the Le Mans crown after the 2 previous rounds of the World Endurance Championship (WEC), both won by Toyota and the R18 was not showing good pace.
One thing that did strike me was that Audi were fielding 3 cars, Porsche and Toyota fielding only 2, in a 24 hour race this is a massive advantage as Porsche know form the days for the 956/962. In first practice Loic Duval appeared to have destroyed the No1 Audi in the Porsche Curves, hospital for Loic (who was ok) and a very hasty repair for the heavily damaged R18, unbelievably it made the race!
What was left of the No1 Audi R18 after Duvals accident
Qualifying was a close affair, 1.Toyota 2.Porsche 3.Toyota 4.Porsche 5.Audi 6.Audi 7.Audi is how the top 7 looked going in to the race. The last 20mins of qualifying looked like it was going to be an F1 Q3 style shoot out but unfortunately it was ruined by a slow zone forcing all the drivers to abandon the final fast laps. I do like the introduction of the slow zones as opposed to numerous safety car sessions, in F1 safety car sessions are a plus as it puts the field back together making the racing tighter however that is not really want endurance racing is all about.
Pole sitting Toyota TS040
I watched the race on Eurosport with twitter open and surveying #LM24. It was the first major race I have used twitter for and it added to the experience, Porsche Motorsport posting very frequently with all the developments in their teams, both LMP1 and GTE Pro.
The race was very eventful to say the least, Toyota No7 giving a master class in building a lead only to stop and retire with electrical issue in the early morning, Toyota No8 was involved in a accident in the rain (I love rain in motorsport) that caused a huge delay to its progress, once again classic Toyota luck at Le Mans. Porsche had issue a major electrical issue with the No14 car that cause a long delay and put it out of the running for the overall win, No20 battled for the lead and finally succeed with about 4 hours to go, it then lead up until with just over 2 hours to go the gearbox let go and the car was force to retire, No14 also suffered from the same problem at about the same time but was able to limp back out to complete the race.
Porsche 919 Hybrid on the Mulsanne
Audi, No3 was terminally crashed in the same accident that claimed the No8 Toyota, they actually were involved in separate accidents just at the same time and place. The No1 car and Tom Kristensen (Mr Le Mans and 9 overall wins!) led for a substantial amount of time in the latter part of the race until it was forced to have its turbo changed with about 5 hours to go. The No2 Audi was dogged only by minor problems for the majority of the race, in the last few hours with the No20 Porsche leading (and while the No1 Audi was leading too) Andre Lotterer started an offensive to catch and win the race, after some staggering driving resulting in Lotterer slashing the gap to the Porsche and leading in between pit stops the Porsches gearbox bowed out, No2 Audi wins.
1st No2 Audi R18
2nd No1 Audi R18
3rd No8 Toyota TS040
Brilliant race, despite Audi’s 5, 6 and 7th grid positions they always looked in good shape, like they were poised waiting for any of the leading cars to hit an issue. You could see it in Wolfgang Ullrichs face, he was at no point thinking that they were out of the race. The Audi machine is well oiled and versed in endurance racing like no other me thinks.
Winning No2 Audi R18
2015 should be interesting, Toyota will run 3 cars, Porsche will have another year of development and Nissan will have a full factory LMP1 Hybrid entry.
In future if you have the change and have not done it before use twitter for the updates from the drivers and the teams, it added a whole other dimension to the race coverage, cool as…