The 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours Quite simply the best cars in the world The perspective of a grid made up of Peugeot, Audi, Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Ford and Jaguar was a dream. And in June the dream will become ...
The 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours
Quite simply the best cars in the world
The perspective of a grid made up of Peugeot, Audi, Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Ford and Jaguar was a dream. And in June the dream will become reality! The quality and in-depth strength of the 78th Le Mans 24 Hours field will give spectators the opportunity to see the best cars in the world, and will make the race one of the outstanding sporting events of 2010.
The first thing that will bring joy to the hearts of the fans is that nowhere else in the world, except at the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours, will there be a field that provides such exceptional quality and variety. Whether the entries come from works teams or privateers, the opportunity to see so many different makes on the same entry list is quite simply unique and should be appreciated as such.
Jean-Claude Plassart, the President of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, wanted to make this comment after analyzing all the entries sent in: "It's awesome. Really awesome! In all, the Sports Management Organisation received eighty-four entries for the fifty-five places on the grid. In an economic context that's still very fragile, and whose impact on the motor industry is plain for all to see, these requests are a real sign of confidence in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Out of the first list of twenty-nine automatically selected cars, twenty-one confirmed their entry. After that, it was up the Committee to make its choice." And President Plassart admits that like every year, "it wasn't an easy job but everybody knows our selection criteria. In the name of the Selection Committee members I'd like to express our gratitude to all the entrants. Now, it's time to get on with preparing for the race with the certainty that the list of cars presented will meet the expectations of the general public. The very fact of being able to mention names like Ford, Jaguar and BMW making their comeback to Le Mans is already a source of great satisfaction. In the coming weeks, the announcements of the people selected for the driver line-ups will bring us many others. The race will be fantastic!"
2010: the main tendencies
Since its birth, the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours has been marked by homeric duels between the major manufacturers. The 2010 race will confirm that general tendency, and what's even better is that it's necessary to insist on the plural aspect. On the Le Mans circuit in June there will not be just one duel but several! With plenty of outsiders waiting to pounce!
This battle of the Titans will top the bill for the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours. In both camps, the preparatory programme was launched several weeks ago: it's further proof of the single-minded determination with which these two great makes are approaching the event. The stakes can be summed up as follows: for Peugeot it is a question of confirming its 2009 victory after putting an end to Audi's domination marked by 8 victories between 1999 and 2008. In addition to this driving ambition to win, the two manufacturers have a couple of points in common. They are each entering 3-car teams with diesel engines, and can count on back-up squads to defend their interests -- Oreca for Peugeot with a 908 HDi FAP, and Team Kolles for Audi with a pair of R10 TDI prototypes.
Aston Martin in three categories
Aston Martin is the only manufacturer entered in three categories, LM P1, LM GT1 and LM GT2. In LM P1, the top category, the tweaks made to the event's technical regulations should enable the petrol-engined Lola-Aston Martins, which were already very competitive in 2009, to take the fight to the diesel prototypes. French team Signature-Plus will have the same opportunity, as after a learning year it has moved up another step by entering a Lola-Aston Martin similar to the works cars.
In LM GT1, the British make's colours will be flown by a DBR9 entered under the Junior Team banner for Aston Martin Racing. In LM GT2, JMW Motorsport has set itself a new challenge by entering an Aston Martin Vantage replacing the Ferrari with which the English outfit came second in the 2009 Le Mans Series teams 'classification.
Japan: the start of a comeback?
Is Japan, which was present in force at Le Mans in the 80s and 90s, starting a comeback? Not for at least 10 years have the representatives of the land of the rising sun been so numerous in the Sarthe. A quick look at the entry list confirms this:
- A works Dome with Judd power in LM P1.
- HDP, Honda Performance Development, with the HPD LM V8 designed on the base of the Acura seen in the American Le Mans Series. The HPD engine will also power the Ray Mallock Ltd Lola Coupe.
- JLOC, the Japan Lamborghini Owners Club, with a Lamborghini Murcielago. At the end of 2009, the Japanese club gained an automatic selection by winning the LM GT1 category in the Asian Le Mans Series races, more than making up for its poor showing in the 24 Hours.
- Mazda France Automobiles is again the OAK Racing team's partner in LM P2. In the history of Le Mans Mazda is the only Japanese manufacturer to have won the race outright: this was back in 1991.
This is the other major duel between manufacturers both at the start of their Le Mans programmes. They know how difficult it is to get onto the topmost step of the podium, something which a prototype BMW achieved with outright victory in 1999. Corvette has done the same by winning the LM GTS/GT1 category on 6 occasions between 2001 and 2009. The battle between the two looks like being a no-holds-barred one, especially as they are making their LM GT2 debut in the Sarthe. This category has been the exclusive hunting ground of the Ferrari and Porsche teams, which are more or less works outfits by proxy. Spyker should not be forgotten either. Although it is a small manufacturer racing is in its DNA!
GT1, a pleasant surprise!
Doubts hung over the GT1 category field which detracted from its credibility. The 8 entries chosen by the Selection Committee provide a pleasant surprise with Corvette, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Saleen and Ford: rarely has such a varied GT1 field been seen in the Sarthe. The Luc Alphand Adventures team, on the podium in 2009, has a real opportunity to make its mark as it will be defending the interests of Corvette whose efforts are now concentrated in GT2.
The great comebacks
Whether the entry is a works or a private one, three manufacturers on the list of entries for the 78th Le Mans 24 Hours are making their Le Mans comeback.
- BMW is the only one with a works entry - in the LM GT2 category. The Bavarian make won the race outright in 1999 and has not been back since, apart from the private entry of a V12 BMW by German Thomas Bscher in 2000.
- Jaguar returns in the LM GT2 category thanks to American Paul Gentilozzi with the Jaguar RSR. In the legend of the Le Mans 24 Hours Jaguar made its mark on the 50s with the famous C and D-Types, which scored 5 victories between 1951 and 1958. In 1984, Jaguar was back at Le Mans via American Bob Tullius's Group 44 Team. The factory then took up the challenge and added 2 more outright victories to its results in 1988 and 1990. Jaguar is back at Le Mans via an American entrant - is history repeating itself?
- In the last few years Ford has brought out a modernized version of the GT40 christened the Ford GT, directly inspired by the emblematic Le Mans winner in 1968 and 1969. It's yet further proof that the impact of a victory at Le Mans does not change with time. Ford and Le Mans are a reminder of one of the greatest motor manufacturers' duels in the history of racing between the American giant and Ferrari. After Jacky Ickx's win by a whisker in 1969, Ford's returns to Le Mans were marked by the entry of the M10 prototype in 1979 and the C100 in 1982, but without the same involvement of the mother company as in the 60s. In fact, there have been no Fords on the Le Mans entry list since 1983 when the English team Peer Racing entered a private C100. This comeback has all the right ingredients to charm the spectators, not only because of what a Ford GT evokes, but also because it will be driven by a mixed male/female team put together by Matech Racing.
A great family story
Entrants have until 12th May to announce their driver line-ups. One trio is already known. It is not only a great family story but also a first in the race's history!
The driver line-up in question consists of a father and his two sons. The dad? 56-year-old Nigel Mansell, the 1992 Formula 1 World Champion: the sons? 22-year-old Greg and 25-year-old Leo. Only Leo has raced at Le Mans before, in 2009 in the Team Modena Ferrari (27th overall).
This 100% family team made up of a father and his two sons is a first in the long history of the Le Mans 24 Hours. In the era, when 2-driver teams were the norm, there were father and son duos, the most famous being the Rosier family in 1950, with Louis and his son Jean-Louis, who won the race outright in a Talbot. In 1982, Mario and his son Michael could have repeated the same feat but their car was disqualified with a few minutes to go to the start because of non-compliance with the regs. In 1988, there was a 100% Andretti trio at the start when Mario and Michael teamed up with Mario's nephew John. Among other family references are: 3rd place for Derek Bell and his son Justin in 1995 in a McLaren (Wallace was the 3rd driver), Felbermayr father and son in 2007 in a Porsche, Jean-Louis Ricci and his son Romano in 2000 in a Porsche, John Paul Jr and John Paul Sr in a Porsche in 1980. And in 1979, American brothers, Bill and Don Wittington with Klaus Ludwig achieved a fabulous outright victory, without forgetting the Mexican brothers, Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez, in the 60s.