overview of the forces involved
There is a cliché that we often emerge before the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but which is nevertheless very true: anything can happen! In the recent history of the event, Toyota already discovered it at its expense, in 2016, when a turbo problem deprived it of victory just a stone’s throw from the finish. The # 7 crew also had some woes in 2019 with faulty wiring when no such trouble had arisen before.
The risk inherent in the limits with which machines and men flirt is certainly one of the greatest attractions of Endurance. Above all, before each race, certainties are inevitably undermined and it is sometimes very difficult to identify the future winner. Even if, of course, there is one that carries a serious and obvious favorite label.
The new Hypercar category will be in the limelight next week despite a relatively small contingent. There will be four real LMHs, the two Toyota and the two Glickenhaus, as well as the ex-LMP1 of Oreca now entered by Alpine. Unbeaten since the start of the season, the Japanese mount looks like a scarecrow and, on a regular basis, has all the arguments to win.
Nevertheless, the Toyota clan is not taking anything for granted. First of all because, as mentioned above, history has already taught him several painful lessons in this direction. Then, above all, because the last round of WEC at Monza demonstrated that the reliability of the new GR010 Hybrid still needs to be improved.
It is this same reliability that is likely to pose a problem for Glickenhaus with its 007 LMH. At Monza, the beautiful red was clearly in an interesting rhythm but one gave up almost immediately while the second got into trouble after three hours of racing. The prospect of holding out for 24 hours is therefore delicate, although by no means impossible. Thus, in this context, Alpine will try to achieve a faultless to pull the chestnuts out of the fire if the opportunity arises. The three-color prototype suffers from BoP and lower fuel consumption, but its reliability has been widely proven in the past when it was brilliantly operated by Rebellion.
The « suspense » guarantee of LMP2
In the ranks of LMP2, there is a virtual certainty: the winner will be equipped with an Oreca chassis. It must be said that no less than 24 of the 25 entered have recourse to the car which is considered to be the best available since the introduction of the new regulations in 2017. Among the competitors in the running, fifteen can be considered as claiming to the Victoire. It should also be noted that ten crews will join the new Pro-Am sub-category, which brings together the trios where there is a Bronze classified driver, while the others rely on a Silver driver.
Title-holder in the Sarthe, the United Autosports team is clearly one of the favorites to its own succession, especially as the structure has won two of the three WEC rounds contested this season. Only Jota Sport managed to intervene, while there are also three victorious teams in ELMS which will be at the rendezvous of this Le Mans edition. For the LMP2 pilots, the task will be complicated this year by the reduction in performance of the prototypes due to the arrival of the Hypercars, which will undoubtedly pay off in traffic management. To recall how homogeneous the level is, we will remember that in September 2020, the victory at Le Mans was played at the last pit stop between… United and Jota!
The big party of GTE Am?
If the 24 Hours of Le Mans gives pride of place to prototype sports, the GT is also historically king. Obviously, the LMGTE Pro category has lost its way due to the successive withdrawals of Ford and BMW. To this must be added the lack of factory engagement at Aston Martin this year. From 17 cars in 2019, here is the range reduced to eight units. The numbers will therefore be reduced, but the fight will still rage between Porsche and Ferrari, mediated by the return of Corvette, who was largely absent last year due to the health crisis.
This same context creates a situation undoubtedly never seen in LMGTE Am, with the presence of 23 competitors to cross swords in this category which, although being the least publicized, often offers very good stories. Remember that each team entered in this category must have at least one Bronze amateur driver, which is just as charming as it is unique to Le Mans. It is also in GTE Am that we will find the only Aston Martin Vantage at the start, facing Ferraris and Porsches. On the other hand, in front of such a crowd of candidates, impossible to designate a favorite!
Make no mistake, the 24 Hours of Le Mans promises to be exciting. Even fought over in August, and even in a world still stricken with COVID-19. Because, unlike last year, a few tens of thousands of spectators will be able to attend the show. A return which, even partial, does good to the most optimistic minds!