I just got back from getting some pre-race breakfast and it’s almost time for my favorite race of the year – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year is shaping up to be a very interesting race. The previous two rounds of the WEC have seen the Audi and Porsche LMP1s go at it tooth and nail and I don’t see any reason why the 24 Hours should be any different. The Toyota LMP1s have been unexpectedly slower this season, but efficiency and reliability along with some luck could still put them in contention. Nissan has arrived with their new LM GT-Rs, but they aren’t running a hybrid system and this is their first race, so while they won’t be an LMP1 contender, it will still be interesting to see what they can do with a front wheel drive/front engined full size prototype. I still think Porsche could suffer battery issues toward the end of the 24 Hours, but we’ll see – there are so many factors at play in this race. LMP2 is sure to be a hard fight, there are plenty of cars and good drivers (which makes me wonder why the FIA and ACO want to change the regulations so much for 2017). In GTE Pro and Am, the Aston Martins look faster than the rest, but it’s still a 24 hour race and a lot can happen.
Here are the teams I’ll be following closely through the race:
- Audi Sport/Team Joest (LMP1) – I’m an Audi fan through and through because of their emphasis on engineeering and because of former drivers like Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen, and Alan McNish. I hope that one of their cars will be on top tomorrow afternoon but I think it’s going to be a hard fight.
- Tequila Patron ESM/Rolling Stone (LMP2) – This team has hard a tough time of it this year; they’re on their third chassis of the season with the Ligiers so let’s hope they can bring a good finish out of the race. Along with Krohn Racing, they’re flying the flag for the United States in LMP2.
- Corvette Racing (GTE-Pro) – I’m a long time Chevrolet and Corvette fan, so it’s no surprise that’s who I’m backing in GTE-Pro. One of the cars is out after a terrible crash in qualifying but thankfully Jan Magnussen came away unscathed. Unfortunately, it was the 63 car (3 car in TUSCC), which is the one that has had all of the luck for the last season and a half. Let’s hope that the 64 car’s luck can turn around and they factor for the class win.
- Dempsey Racing/Proton (GTE-Am) – Actor Patrick Dempsey has become my generation’s Paul Newman. Dempsey’s racing skills have improved every season and he’s serious about his racing. He’s not just there because of his fame and money – he’s led the race on pace before. He’s got two excellent pro drivers rounding out the driver lineup so they’ve got a chance. It’s another car flying the US flag in international motor sport, so I’m wishing them luck!
- Viper Exchange (GTE-Am) – Ben Keating’s organization has brought over one last year’s TUSCC GTLM Dodge Vipers. It’s great to see a Viper back at Le Mans! Keating’s a very good Am driver in Vipers and he’s got a good team around him so this car could do very well. It’s another US team, so I’ll be following them closely as well.
I’ll try to make a few blog posts throughout the race and write something after the race summing up my thoughts and observations. In the meantime, catch what you can on Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, and streaming of Fox and the WEC website. Let me give you a suggestion: turn down the TV commentary and use Radio Le Mans instead – you won’t regret it!