Glamour, excitement drama. This past weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans had it all. With Brad Pitt the guest of honor, the rain hammered pelted down one minute and the sun burned brightly the next. In one of the most thrilling races in recent history, the leading No. 5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid came to a grinding halt on the final lap allowing Porsche’s Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas to take their second consecutive victory.
The Toyota, which led for most of the 24 hours before a cruel breakdown with the finish on the horizon, enabled Porsche to take the win. Porsche driver Nakajima lost power with just moments remaining, initially stopped just past the start/finish line but eventually rejoined to complete the final lap, crossing the line second.
Despite the No. 5 Toyota of Nakajima and co-drivers Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Bueumi not relinquishing the lead for around four hours towards the end, the trio enjoyed a race-long fight with the No. 2 Porsche, as well as the No. 6 Toyota.
Le Mans; The GP of Efficiency
Le Mans is a small town 130 miles southwest of Paris. Descended upon by a quarter of a million racing fans, the race was first staged here in 1923. With perhaps only the Monaco Grand Prix being in with a shout of out-glitzing Le Mans, one of the jewels of the motor racing year, public roads are closed off to transform the small, permanent racetrack into the vast 24-hour circuit. A constant buzz of to-ing and fro-ing from private jets and helicopters bringing guests to the small airstrip nearby, this race is not just for the VIP’s. There are thousands of people pitching tents in fields all around the circuit, this is a race that caters to all.
Le Mans is the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency. If nothing else, the name itself gives you an insight into the thinking and philosophies that go into the technology. The fastest cars in the race are all hybrids, with small petrol or diesel engines having their power boosted by electrical systems. The amount of fuel used is carefully pinpointed, similar to tire changes. The racing is fast and enduring, but behind the scenes the teams are doing everything they can to make their cars do more with less.
Learning the Benefit of the Car
Pascal Couasnon, director of Michelin Motorsport, says that the ultimate aim of the 24-Hour, and the other eight races that make up the World Endurance Championship, is to improve technology for all cars, not just racing cars.
“My CEO doesn’t give me money just for winning races,” he suggested. “I need to learn something that will benefit your car. That is one of the reasons that we don’t work in F1, because it is too far removed from road cars, with those huge, exposed wheels; you do not see that in the street, so it is not useful for us.”
While the Le Mans weekend was one big champagne-soaked party, engineers will be getting back to the drawing board, working out how they can do things ever so slightly better, for the next race, and for the next generation of road cars.
Get Your 2016 Lone Star Le Mans Package!
Witness the heart-pounding action of endurance racing coupled with milder weather – reserve your ticket package now for Lone Star Le Mans! The cooker pressure that is Austin, Texas starts cooling off in September, but if you’re really looking to beat the heat, be sure to check out our ticket packages with premium covered seating. You’ll enjoy unparalleled access to the Lone Star Le Mans, as well as a dual ticket to access the Paddock building for your exclusive on-site party! Race Day views are open to the reserved areas in the Main Grandstand, turn 1 and turn 15 Thursday through Saturday, and extend to the Paddock Building on Friday and Saturday. It’s an opportunity you will not want to miss!