Friday, June 13, 2008

Le Mans - 2008 Edition

This weekend will see the venerable country roads of Le Mans, France once again closed to public traffic in order to host the annual running of the 24 Heurs du Mans, which will feature several ex-Formula 1 pilots, along with a few current F1 drivers, as well as many respected Sports Car drivers…

Just to name a few, Olivier Panis will make up part of a three car contingent of Courage-Oreca LC70 Judd’s, partnering cast-off Champ Car driver Simon Pagenaud and although the rules have been tweaked to encourage the continuance of these normally aspirated gasoline powered racecars, they’re still at a disadvantage against the turbo diesels, As this years battle for overall victory will be centered upon the two mighty Turbo Diesel LMP1 behemoths; Audi vs. Peugeot, while the LMP2 Prototype category will be a Porsche RS Spyder shootout most likely.

The Peugeot three car 908 HDi FAP armada looks very formable this year with its stellar cast of Formula 1 talent, with the likes of ex-world Champion Jacques Villeneuve along with Christian Klien, Pedro Lamy, Franck Montagny, Alexander Wurz and Ricardo Zonta.

The three car squad of Audi R10TDI’s will be anchored by ex-F1 men Alan McNish and Emanuele Piro, plus the luminescent Lord of Le Mans, seven time winner Tom Kristensen.

In the LMP2 category, Jos “The BOSS” Versappen will co-pilot a Porsche RS Spyder for Van Merksteijn Motorsport alongside A1 GP standout Jeroen.Bleekemolen

In the GT1 ranks, look for some interesting battles, as the main competition will be the Aston Martins squaring off against the Corvettes, although I’d find it wonderful if either the Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT or Saleen S7R could upset the apple cart.

The Works Auston Martin’s will be sporting Gulf Oil colours in deference to this being the 40th Anniversary of their first overall victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe, with Heinz-Harald (“Heinz 57”) Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger in the #007 “James Bond” DBR9, while David Brabham will co-drive the #009. Christian Fittipaldi will drive a privateer Aston, while Jan Magnessen. Oliver Beretta and Max Papis will compete in the powerful gm Factory Corvette C6.R’s.

The GT2 category looks set to once again be a fiercely contested scrum between the Porsche 997 GT3 RSR’s and Ferrari F430’s, with Mika Salo and Gianmaria Bruni behind the wheel of one of Risi Competizione’s F430’s, while interestingly there are two Spyker C8’s entered… Y’all remember who Spyker is, eh?

For a complete rundown of the starting grid, see; 2008 Provisional Entry List

And to watch the race, SPEED’s massive coverage begins on Saturday morning at 7:30AM, with race coverage beginning at 8:30AM. (Eastern Times)