Saturday, June 17, 2017

LE MANS: Will this be Toyota's year, finally?

2016 Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 racecar. (Source: Images)

As Y'all recall Toyota's crushing defeat last year on the race's final lap after leading forever, handing Porsche a totally unexpected victory...

Holy Spinning World Batman! another year's done Blasted past us as it's time again for another epic running of le 24 Heurs du Mans; ZOINKS!

By my very unofficial reckoning, there's 19 Former F1 Drivers competing in this year's 85th running of this epic event, with the four classes as follows. LMP1: seven, LMP2: seven, GTE Pro: three and GTE Am two. Whilst the field is almost split evenly 50-50 between Prototypes (31) and Grand Touring Endurance (GTE) Tintops'. (29)

It has subsequently been announced that Lucas di Grassi, who was slated to co-drive the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE in the Tintops' Pro category has broken his ankle while playing soccer and won't be able to race. Therefore there's now only two ex-F1 drivers contesting the GTE Pro category and a total of 18 ex-Formula 1 Gunslingers taking part this year.

Unfortunately, Audi who's still licking Thar wounds over Diesel Gate used this Debauchery to conveniently Exit Stage Left, especially since their Seester' brand Porsche was beating them at the Circuit de la Sarthe regularly. Hence the Uber' exotica Space Age LMP1 Hybrid field has contracted to a measly six entries, albeit one is a Privateer which most definitely won't win.

As I'd enjoy seeing some of this technology make its way into Showroom vehicles instead of the Hysteria over Rorge-Retson' Autono-Bots'

Interestingly, the lone Privateer run by ex-Formula 1 team manager Dr. Colin Kolles of Midland F1 and Hispania fame, is running the ex-Works Nissan LMP1 3.0-litre turbocharged hybrid V-6 in the back of his byKolles Racing CLM P1/01 Prototype entry.

As it'll be Toyota's three strong entry vs. Porsche's two for the overall victory this year Me Thinks. Like AIN'T exactly going out on a limb Thar, Eh!

Especially with the byKolles entry being 10 seconds adrift of the factory LMP1 Hybrid Toy-Yoterz! And barely ahead of the top Oreca LMP2 runners...

Most notable of the largest class contesting this year's event, with a mammoth 25 entries in the heavily restricted LMP2 category is a 45 year old Brazilian rookie driver fondly known here in Nofendersville as Rubino', aka Rubens Barrichello.

As the Brazilian who currently holds the record for most Grands Prix starts with 322, will be making his Le Mans debut aboard the No. 29 Racing Team Netherland Dallara P2/17 (Gibson V-8 Spec engine) chassis, with 1988 winner Jan Lammers and the totally unheard of Niederlander' Amateur Super Market Magnate Fritz van Eerd as his co-drivers.

Stateside Runners...
Once again, the Weathertech SportsCar Championship, denoted as WSCC for Le Mans entrants is represented by a small contingent 'O drivers and teams, most notably making up nearly  half of the 13 strong LMGTE Pro category, with the factory Corvette tandem hoping to wrest class honours back from last year's FoMoCo winner's, who once again field a quartet of Ford GT's.

Interestingly, the Brother's Taylor, nee Ricky and Jordan, currently having decimated the Sports Car landscape aboard their ultra dominant Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac VR DPi, having gone undefeated in five IMSA events! (to date( Will run their own separate races, with Ricky co-driving the Keating Motorsports Riley Mk 30 LMP2 with Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen, appropriately sporting the legendous #43.

Meanwhile Jordan will once again return to Corvette Racing to co-drive the No. 63 C7R Vette in the "Slower" LMGTE Pro class with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.

Bolstering the Prancing Horse's chances, once again Risi Competizione will run it's No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE with Toni Vilander, Fishyfella', aka Giancarlo Fisichella, and Pierre Kaffer at its controls.

In the LMGTE Am (Amateur) ranks, Scuderia Corsa will run a tandem of Ferrari 488 GTE's, with Indy 500 Specialist (Townsend) T-Bell' returning to Le Mans with his longtime cohort Bill Sweedler to pilot their familiar #62 - with Cooper MacNeil sharing driving duties with this championship winning pair.

Reigning IMSA GTD (Daytona) class champions Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan will run the team's #65 with Bret Curtis sharing driving duties.

IndyCar Drivers
It appears that just three current IndyCar drivers will contest this year's race, with naturally two of the Cheepster's' regulars sharing seat time in the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT's.

With TK Follow-your-Schnoz! Kanaan deputizing for the injured le Hamburgular', nee SeaBass', aka Sebastain Bourdais in the No. 68 with defending class champions Joey Hand and Dirk Muller. Whilst Scott Dixon will co-drive the No. 69 with its regular tandem of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook.

Meanwhile, the "Mad Russian," aka Mikhail Aleshin, thee "Mayor 'O Hinchtown," nee James Hinchcliffe's Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team-mate is slated to co-drive the #27 LMP2 SMP Racing Dallara P2/17 with an all Rooskie' line-up which also features F1 hopeful Sergey Sirotkin and the unknown Victor Shaider.

As hopefully Kanaan won't be enticed into telling his good buddy Rubino he's No. 1 when being passed by the faster LMP2 Prototype; Hya!

Radio Le Mans...
Once again, I'm looking forward to listening to copious amounts of the race via Zed Internetz on the Radio Le Mans broadcast, with lead announcer Der Heindenmeier', aka John Hindhaugh's typical hyperbole!

As the only notes I scribbled down during last year's radio broadcast was when Hindhaugh mentioned around 10PM in Le Mans, in his typical sardonic wit. Noting upon Marino Franchitti's unexpected foray into the gravel trap aboard the No. 67 Ford GT; where unbeknownst to Mwah, they lift the cars out via crane vs. dragging thru the gravel traps...

Hindhaugh wryly commented 'bout how Marino was awaiting the "Snatch Mobile;" Hya!

As the race is also available Stateside on Fox Sports channels, which I'm once again ignoring since my BOMBASTICALLY OVERPRICED Cable TV Provider comca$t refuses to make Fox Sports Two (FS2) available in Seattle; BASTARDOS!