24 Hours of Le Mans: June 22-23, 2013

May 9, 2013 Comments (0)

Test Day: June 9, 2013
Qualifying: June 13 & 14, 2013

The second round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) took place on the extremely fast Spa-Francorchamp circuit in Belgium on May 4th. This six hour race was a warm-up for Le Mans and although Audi won Prototype and Ferrari won GT Pro, the races were hotly contested by the Toyota Prototype and the Aston Martins in GT. Aston Martin had actually beaten Ferrari in the first race of the season at Silverstone. At Spa, Ferrari won in both the Pro and the Am (see below) race groupings.

Le Mans is arguably the single most important race in the world. Indy 500 may have a bigger gate and possibly even a larger viewing audience but winning or losing Le Mans impacts the sales of more car, tire, oil, and all the other accessory manufacturers than any other race. Ford knew how important it was in the sixties and it hasn’t changed. For the teams, Le Mans pays twice as many points as any other race in their WEC series. Winning is huge.

This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans promises to be fascinatingly competitive in all classes. Half the field will be made up of LMP (Le Mans Prototype) cars in two classes. In LMP1, Audi and Toyota will contest for overall. One Swiss developed Green GT using a hydrogen fuel cell to run electric motors in Prototype body styles is the designated “experimental” car. Audi have won six of the last seven races but Toyota are touted to make them earn it this year. In LMP2, the battle will be equally fierce with the Oreca-Nissans currently leading the Oak Racing Morgan-Nissans.

The cars that capture our interest are contesting the Le Mans GTE Pro class. There the factory teams of Corvette Racing, Aston Martin Racing and SRT (Viper) Motorsports will compete against semi-factory teams from Porsche and Ferrari. All with drivers rated as professionals. An equally large group classified as “Amateurs” will compete in similar cars.

Within the Pro group of GT Cars, based on past performance and the amount of time they have had to develop their teams and their cars, the Ferraris and Corvettes are battling the returned and refreshed Aston Martin Vantage GTEs. And the AMs appear to have the measure of the Ferraris. But Le Mans is always different. This year the Chrysler SRT Vipers are contesting the American Le Mans Series and they have been invited to play with the big boys at the Sarthe.

Because of their development time, they are unquestionably the underdogs but the Viper name is not new to the Le Mans podium and many people will be watching to see how they do.

Tommy Kendall

One of the major reasons we want to see them do well is because they have invited Tommy Kendall to drive for them. Long one of my favorite motorsports personalities and drivers I was pleased when they asked him to test and was somehow not that surprised that he was the quickest of his group.

Tommy Kendall is 46 years old. That alone should make him our hero.

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