Eight-hour practice session will help handicap the race between Audi, Toyota and newcomer Porsche
With two weeks to go to the start of the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours the teams will be able to get to grips with the track tomorrow -- June 1 -- during an eight-hour practice session on the 13,629-km long circuit. Participation in the test day is not obligatory except for drivers who have never raced in the event, or who have not done so for five years, as well as new cars and teams having their maiden outing in the Sarthe. It also provides an excellent opportunity to see how the teams stack up before the blue-ribbon event of the endurance season.
In the LM P1 category all eyes will be focused on the three-cornered battle between Audi, the reigning champion; Toyota, which has won the first two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship held this season, and Porsche (in photo), the outright record holder in terms of victories with 16, making its comeback. These three major manufacturers have all entered brand-new cars complying with the new LM P1 category technical regulations brought in this year, which impose a 30-percent fuel reduction compared to 2013 with the same performances. They will be in the hands of some of the best drivers in the world including an eagerly-awaited comeback, that of Mark Webber who was in Formula 1 last year. Still in LM P1, it will be very interesting to see how the two new Rebellion R-Ones entered by private team Rebellion Racing compare to the best in the category.
The LM P2 category has attracted 17 entries most of which are entered in the European Le Mans Series. Attention will be focused on the new Ligiers as the French make is back at Le Mans with three of its new JS P2s. They will be having their first run on the Le Mans circuit against the front-runners in the category: Alpine, Morgan, the Oreca 03s and the Zyteks. Among the drivers it is worth noting the debut of 16-year-old Matt McMurray (Zytek-Nissan) who, if he meets all the criteria imposed by the ACO between now and the Le Mans 24 Hours, will become the youngest driver ever to take part in the event! The only women driver in the 2014 race, Keiko Ihara from Japan, is also racing in the LM P2 Category.
In LM GTE Pro the three main contenders two works Porsche 911 RSRs, two works Aston Martins Vantage V8s and three Ferrari 458 Italias (including two works entries) will be up against a formidable rival, Corvette Racing. The American manufacturer has brought along two of its new C-7s: these should enable the make, which has already won seven times in the Sarthe since 2000, to rack up its eighth victory.
LM GTE Am has the largest number of entries at the test day with 18 cars. There too a no-holds-barred battle will take place between Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche with well-known drivers like Eric Hélary, Emmanuel Collard and Pedro Lamy, and gentlemen aces like Fabien Barthez, Patrick Dempsey and David Hallyday.
Finally, there is the hybrid-powered Nissan ZEOD, which has created a huge buzz. This futuristic-looking machine was invited by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to take part in the Le Mans 24 Hours outside the general classification thanks to a wildcard allocated in the context of the 56th garage for vehicles with innovative technologies. Once its batteries have been recharged thanks to its energy recovery system, the ZEOD should become the first car ever to cover a lap of the Le Mans circuit on electric power alone!
Three of the 56 entries will be absent from the test day: the no. 57 Ferrari 458 Italia entered by Krohn Racing, the no. 22 Millenium Racing Oreca 03-Nissan and the no. 79 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR entered by ProSpeed Competition. However, neither the cars, the drivers nor the teams are obliged to take part.
After going through scrutineering and administrative checks yesterday and today, the teams lined up for the photo of all the cars. Tomorrow the drivers will take to the track from 09h00 to 18h00 with a break between 13h00 and 14h00.