Motorsport.com predicts the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours

Ahead of the 86th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, Motorsport.com's team of on-site experts share their thoughts on who is in with the best chance of winning the French classic's four classes.

The panel

 Gary Watkins - Autosport WEC correspondent

 Jamie Klein - Motorsport.com UK Editor

 Filip Cleeren - Motorsport.com Netherlands News Editor

 Basile Davoine - Motorsport.com France Editor

 Roman Wittemeier - Motorsport.com Germany Editor

 James Newbold - Autosport Performance Editor

LMP1

GW:  It's a Toyota one-two after 24 Hours. The odds are staked in favour of the TS050 Hybrids and the law of averages says that one time the Japanese manufacturer is going to get through Le Mans without major problems. This is that time, so for my money one TS050 Hybrid wins after a perfect run and one finishes two laps down after a couple of niggles. 

I give victory to #8 because Nakajima has twice lost a clear shot at victory over the past four years so his luck has to change. That means Alonso wins Le Mans at his first attempt and Buemi gets the victory he deserved in 2016.

One of the Rebellions takes third, but it's a good few laps down. It doesn't have the reliable run that it needs to put the Toyotas under any kind of pressure. None of the other privateer LMP1s have anything approaching a clean race, so a LMP2 car finishes fourth...

JK: It’s all very well saying Toyota’s not guaranteed Le Mans victory, but the reality is none of the privateer LMP1 teams have a better chance of putting together a clean run.

That said, reliability could easily decide the race between the two TS050 Hybrids, and I fancy the ‘other’ car of Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez to deny Alonso’s dream of a debut win.

The Rebellion squad is probably well-oiled enough to get at least one of its R-13s home clear of the often-bulletproof LMP2s. I’ll go for the #3 machine of Laurent, Menezes and Beche to bring it home in third place behind the Toyotas.

FC: As technical director Pascal Vasselon said, it’s Toyota versus Le Mans this year. I think they and the WEC as a whole will get their fairytale ending with main attraction Alonso bringing the victorious #8 car across the finish line.

Statistically you could argue one of the hybrids may well hit trouble, so I fancy the star-studded #1 Rebellion to get second overall with the #7 Toyota in third.

RW: It seems everybody wants Alonso to win Le Mans in his first attempt. We all know that it worked out for Hulkenberg in 2015, but normally it's not the way Le Mans welcomes new stars.

Toyota's #8 car will be in front for hours only to run into technical issues on Sunday morning, so Kobayashi, Conway and Lopez will celebrate Toyota's first victory at Le Mans with the #1 Rebellion in second and ByKolles in third.

BD: How can the 2018 race elude Toyota? Everything is set for the Japanese manufacturer to finally take the win. As Toyota puts it, their main rival is themselves – and Le Mans. The outcome seems obvious, yet I feel like the curse could yet endure. I can see a Rebellion prevailing at the chequered flag!

JN: Although practice and first qualifying times proved closer than expected, I can't see Toyota missing out on that long-awaited first victory. It's cars are faster, more proven and should be reliable after its 'NASA-like' test preparations.

Everybody is tipping the Rebellions to be the closest to the Toyotas, but it was encouraging to see Stephane Sarrazin get under the 3m20s bracket in the SMP BR1, which suggests the Russian cars could be more competitive than was previously thought. 

#17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: Stéphane Sarrazin, Egor Orudzhev, Matevos Isaakyan
#17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: Stéphane Sarrazin, Egor Orudzhev, Matevos Isaakyan

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

LMP2

GW: G-Drive Racing finally wins LMP2. The Oreca retains a slight edge over the Ligier, G-Drive has a strong team in the background with TDS Racing, it has an ultra-strong driver line-up in Vergne, Pizzitola and Rusinov and it's due a change of luck at Le Mans. Enough said.

JK:  There are a dozen or so LMP2s that could feasibly end up on the class podium, but the G-Drive and Signatech Orecas are the ones that really stand out from the crowd. My pick is the #26 to win ahead of the #36 car, with Jackie Chan DC Racing’s #38 car third. 

FC: While I expect to see a more competitive race between the different chassis, I still think there’s too many bullets in Oreca’s gun to miss the target. I’m going for the #36 Signatech car with Lapierre, Thiriet and Negrao, ahead of the #22 United Autosports Ligier and the #26 G-Drive Oreca.

RW: I expect a very intense fight within the huge group of Oreca cars. I'd put my money on the #31 DragonSpeed car with former F1 'crash kid' Pastor Maldonado, Roberto Gonzalez and Nathanael Berthon to win, Rusinov's G-Drive car #26 to come second and the #36 Signatech car to come third.

BD: LMP2 looks like it will be fascinating again, especially with a tyre war between Michelin and Dunlop. With four cars entered, Jackie Chan DC Racing is in a good position to fight. I don't think any chassis but Oreca can win, and I expect a duel between G-Drive and Signatech Alpine.

JN: G-Drive patron Rusinov has put his nightmare 2017 outing behind him, and won two out of the first three races across the WEC and ELMS with the #26 TDS-run Oreca. Joined by Formula E title-chaser Jean-Eric Vergne and the underrated Andrea Pizzitola, this should be the year TDS gets the job done.

#26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson: Roman Rusinov, Andrea Pizzitola, Jean-Eric Vergne, Alexandre Imperatori
#26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson: Roman Rusinov, Andrea Pizzitola, Jean-Eric Vergne, Alexandre Imperatori

Photo by: Marc Fleury

GTE Pro

GW: Another BoP change on Friday afternoon closes up the battle between the six manufacturers, but it's still a Porsche v Ford battle out front. I'm a hopeless romantic who first started following Le Mans in the early 1980s, so I have to go for the Rothmans lookalike car of Bruni, Lietz and Makowiecki. 

JK: This will be Porsche’s year – all those diverted resources from the end of the LMP1 project won’t end up wasted. The ‘Pink Pig’ #92 car is my choice to take the win from the best of the Fords, the #68 car, and the #93 IMSA Porsche.

FC: With Porsche celebrating its 70th anniversary with a world-class four-car armada, I think they will be the team to beat. Any of its four cars could win it, but I’ll go for the Rothmans-liveried #91 car for historic reasons. The #92 car will hand the Weissach brand a 1-2 with the #68 Ford GT taking third.

RW: Ford or Porsche? I think is time for a decent present for the Germans, who are celebrating their 70th birthday with a fabulous vintage look. As I'm big fan of the legendary Rothmans design, I'll go for the #91 to win the class ahead of Ford's #68 car and the #63 Corvette.

BD: The BoP is a major topic again and was adjusted, but it wasn't be enough to make Aston Martin fully competitive. Porsche and Ford came with a real arsenal, four cars each, and I easily figure a huge fight between these two giants - with Porsche taking the win.

JN: It has to be Porsche, doesn't it? In the year the Weissach marque celebrates its 70th anniversary, four of its mid-engined 911 RSRs are. Choosing between them will be tough, but I'll go for the #91 with ex-Ferrari man Gianmaria Bruni leading its attack.

#91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni, Frédéric Makowiecki
#91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni, Frédéric Makowiecki

Photo by: Porsche Motorsport

GTE Am

GW: Porsche wins because it has three or possibly more ultra-strong cars in the class. My money goes on the Dempsey-Proton entry for Andlauer, Campbell and Reid, but I still reckon the Lamy-Lauda-Dalla Lana can still do something on sheer consistency.

JK: Ferrari will bag a fourth straight GTE Am victory this year, courtesy of the #85 Keating/Risi car that has a great blend of youth and experience in its line-up. The ever-dependable #98 Aston Martin and the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche will complete the podium.

FC: You wouldn’t begrudge Dalla Lana’s ageing #98 Aston to finally get that elusive Le Mans win, but if he, Lauda and Lamy come up short again, watch out for the #88 Dempsey Porsche and Fisichella's #54 AF Corse-run Spirit of Race Ferrari to fight for the win.

RW: Long-time Aston Martin trio Dalla Lana, Lamy and Lauda might be favourite on paper. But I think the BoP doesn't play into their hands this time. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche will win ahead of Fisichella's #54 Ferrari and the #61 Clearwater crew.

BD: With three cars, Proton Competition seems to be in a very good position, especially as the Porsche 911 RSR is in such good shape. But don't underestimate Spirit of Race's Ferrari with an experienced team leader in Giancarlo Fisichella, who could shine again.

JN: On strength of the driver line-up allied with a highly-efficient team, you would have to look at the Risi-Keating Ferrari with serial IMSA GTD contenders Bleekemolen, Keating and Stolz. But with a cluster of 2017-spec Porsches in customer hands for the first time, don't be surprised to see the #77 Proton Porsche with quick young guns Campbell and Andlauer up the sharp end.

#85 Keating Motorsports Ferrari 488 GTE: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz
#85 Keating Motorsports Ferrari 488 GTE: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

 

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Event 24 Hours of Le Mans
Track Circuit de la Sarthe
Article type Special feature