Friday, June 13, 2014

LE MANS: 2014 Epic Race sees a New Direction - Will it be Toyota's year...




Audi hopes its R18 E-Tron Quattro will once again be victorious at this year's Le Mans classic. (Image source: carwitter.com)
Once again it's time for the "Mack Daddy" of all endurance races to commence, which although traditionally marks the start of summer to Mwah, it also typically signals that Daylight is to begin getting shorter here in North America which is a pity for me, but I digress...

This year's honorary members taking part in the French classic include "Fredrico Suave" (Fernando Alonso) who will waive the Green flag and thee "Scottish Terrier," three-time 24 Heurs du Mans winner and reigning WEC champion Allan McNish as the Grand Marshal.


Although there's nine LMP1 entries this year, I don't expect Rebellion Racing to be victorious, as I've listed the three main contenders for victory this year, albeit I don't expect Porsche to win either, since after all its their debutant race since returning to the top class in the new Hybrid era.


Thus, while I'm hoping for one of the Toyota's to be triumphant, as surely they'd prefer seeing Nakajima on the podium's top step, I'm still undecided between the two entries, while I suppose Y'all should never  bet against Audi.

TOYOTA
Although Toyota ultimately lost the WEC crown and Le Mans to its German rival Audi last year, nevertheless it finished runner-up at Circuit de la Sarthe and has impressively blitzed the field in this year's opening rounds of the World Endurance Championship with its latest Sports Car challenger the TSO40-Hybrid, as the Japanese team retains all six of its drivers from 2013, many being past Formula 1 pilots, as could this be Toyota's year to join the ranks of Mazda as overall winners?

Toyota Racing
Chassis: TS040-Hybrid
(7) Alexander Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Nicolas Lapierre
(8) Anthony Davidson, Stephane Sarrazin and Sebastien Buemi

AUDI
Suppose Y'all can never count out Audi at Le Mans, especially since they're not only the defending winners but have won the last four-races, as the German marque will once again enter three R18 E-Tron Quattro's, the numbers 1, 2 and 3, with "Mr. Le Mans," aka Tom Kristensen spearheading the effort - with Audi seeking its 13th win in 16-attempts, as they're only three wins shy of equaling Porsche's all-time record of 16 overall victories...

 As they've only lost twice to rival competitors since entering prototype competition in 1999, when BMW was victorious and Peugeot defeated them in 2009 - while technically Bentley won in 2003, albeit their parent company Audi supplied them much of its winning technology that year.

Audi Sport Team Joest
Chassis: R-18 E-Tron Quattro
(1) Tom Kristensen, Loic Duval and Lucas di Grassi
(2) Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fasller and Andre Lotterer
(3) Oliver Jarvis, Marco Bonanomi and Felipe Albuquerque

PORSCHE
As the New Kids on the Block, not really sure what to expect for Porsche's first time out in the new Hybrid era, although Porsche is synonymous with winning at Le Mans and has very wisely split the accomplished pair of former winners Romain Dumas and Timo Bernard, who won in 2010 for Audi as the lead drivers of  its two car effort respectively.

Obviously the highest profile star upon the team is ex-Formula 1 Ace Mark Webber who drove alongside Quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull Racing, while Neil Jani has past F1 experience and the 'Kiwi Brendon Hartley was an aspiring F1 driver who's turned his attention towards Sports Cars after failing to find a Grand Prix seat, whilst I'm completely unaware of Marc Lieb, who apparently has an engineering background along with being Bloody Quick! Having won three class victories at Le Mans, the Porsche Carrera Cup along with other accolades...

Porsche Team
Chassis: 919-Hybrid
(14) Romain Dumas, Neil Jani and Marc Lieb
(20) Timo Bernard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley

NISSAN
Meanwhile, it's just been revealed that Nissan will return to LMP1 competition with a two-car entry in 2015, as this apparently was part of the ACO granting its approval for its controversial "Garage-56" ZEOD RC entry this year...


MEDIA
While I won't attempt running down the entire entry list for this year's race, as there's a pretty good summary provided by the fine folks at motorsport.com which also includes a complete entry list.


And as typical, I cannot find any definitive press releases regarding this year's television coverage Stateside other than the race will be shown live on the Fox family 'O networks, whatever the HELL that means, as we don't get FS2 here in Seattle, although I'd expect portions to be shown on FS1, nee Fox Sports-1, to which I'm not sure if I'll be watching or not? So as always: Check your local listings!


Joest team for building a new chassis, which Lucas di Grassi then went and promptly crashed exiting the Indianapolis corner - once again during qualifying - which the team has since repaired the minor cosmetic damage to the car's front end, with the No. 1 rolling off from an unaccustomed P7 Saturday...


shed exiting the Indianapolis corner - once again during qualifying - which the team has since repaired the minor cosmetic damage to the car's front end, with the No. 1 rolling off from an unaccustomed P7 Saturday...


UPDATE

Due to Loic Duval's 'Meaga shunt at the Porsche Curves, which has claimed a number of victims Pre-race this year, Doctors have not given Duval permission to race this weekend and thus, 2009 winner Marc Gené, an ex-Williams and Ferrari F1 test driver amongst things has been called up from his LMP2 team to join the Audi squad as Duval's replacement.

 

As Kudos to the Audi Sport Joest team for building a new chassis, which Lucas di Grassi then went and promptly crashed exiting the Indianapolis corner - once again during qualifying - which the team has since repaired the minor cosmetic damage to the car's front end, with the No. 1 rolling off from an unaccustomed P7 Saturday...


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