Previewing the 2015 24 Hours of Le MansIf you're planning to watch the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans but haven't followed the action up to now, consider this your most basic cheat-sheet. In the top-dog LMP1 class, Porsche's speed could challenge Audi's supremacy, while 2014 World Endurance Chamption Toyota is ready to pounce if the Germans experience any setbacks. Nissan's unconventional front-engined GTR-LM is well aware of the pace of the other factory teams, but learning fast. And there's plenty of action in the LMP2 and LMGTE categories. Read on for more.
LMP1: The basicsThis is the pinnacle of modern motorsports. While Formula 1 tightens its regulations towards a spec series, LMP1 has the most open rules, and thus the most innovation, of any racing class. Most of these cars are hybrids, using either battery or flywheel systems to store energy recaptured during braking for extra power during acceleration. There are four levels of onboard energy storage from two to eight megajoules. With that comes a seesaw balance with fuel: more energy storage means a smaller fuel capacity.
LMP1: Race previewAudi has dominated Le Mans since 2007, winning the overall victory in all but one race. But Porsche, now in its second year, could topple the Audi dynasty with the 919 Hybrid. In qualifying Porsche locked out the first three spots on the grid and driver Neel Jani set a new lap record of 3:16.887 in the number 18 car. Positions four through six are all Audi, covering a span of three to five seconds behind pole. Behind that are the two Toyotas, followed by Swiss team Rebellion Racing. The fastest of Nissan's GTR-LM cars is 22 seconds behind Porsche, but that's not surprising. Consider this a learning year for Nissan, and Le Mans is a race that rewards long-term effort.
LMP2: The basicsThe second class of cars are a mix of open and closed cockpit racers, with the fastest overlapping slower LMP1 machines in speed. Costs are strictly regulated to invite more competitors, with a mix of available engines and chassis to choose from. LMP2 cars also must have at least one amateur on the team.
LMP2: race previewLast year, Nissan-powered cars dominated the LMP2 field. That looks to be the case again this year, with the number 47 KCMG Oreca car leading the charge, qualifying more that 0.4 seconds ahead of the Nissan GT-R LM. The Gibson chassis has the next two spots with Greaves Motorsports and JOTA Sport, respectively. The remaining Oreca cars – plus other notables like Ligier, Alpine, and Morgan – round out the field.
LM GTE: The basics
These cars use production-based bodywork and engines. And it's easy to tell the difference between Aston Martin, Chevrolet, Ferrari, and Porsche because they each sound like their road-going brethren. At night, GTE cars use yellow headlights to help differentiate them from slower traffic.
There are two divisions to LMGTE: pro and amateur. Pro is the factory-backed teams, like the perrenial favorite Corvette. Amateur cars, as you might guess, have amateur drivers (including Patrick Dempsey), and the cars must be at least one year old.