It’s probably the toughest endurance race on the calendar; Carhoots takes a look at the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hour race results.
They’re generally hybrid machines with silly amounts of horsepower and aero, so they stick to the road like centipedes, plus they’re a sort of test-bed for new technologies that may eventually trickle down into more humble road-going machinery. It’s all about maximizing efficiency, reliability and performance. For example, Toyota and Audi, which made up the podium spots for the LMP1 class, both ran hybrids, but Audi went with a turbo-diesel combustion engine while Toyota stuck with turbo petrol power.
Then there are the GTE classes which are racecars based on normal-ish road going cars, things like Porsche 911 GT3’s, Ferrari 458’s, Aston Martin Vantage’s and Corvettes fitted with ginormous rear diffusers and massively flared wheel arches – you know the drill.
These racecars and their pilots are really put to the test during the twenty-four hour race. Obviously one person doesn’t drive the entire race because that’d be perilous so each car had three drivers who raced through soggy conditions, many, many safety cars and the darkness of night to complete (or not) the race.
Y’see I’m conflicted, I cannot decide whether I respect the drivers or the engineers who ensure that these cars will operate at the limit for twenty four hours non-stop. The amount of research and development that must go into ensuring the gearbox or the differential doesn’t explode into a million pieces half way down the Mulsanne straight would be massive. And how have Audi got the recipe spot on for the past twelve years now? It’s astonishing.
But what about the guys who are sitting in these cars at night doing over 200mph (in LMP1 class) down the straight then suddenly jamming on the brakes and throwing the cars around the chicanes. I don’t know how many times I watched the on-board camera’s shouting “WHAT, how did he see that corner!?”, but it was probably close to a million – probably. It’s just mind-blowing stuff.
I have huge respect for the guys who race Le Mans, perhaps more than I have for F1 drivers. Sure Formula One drivers are faster, but they race around a circuit for an hour and a half at a stretch, at speeds much lower than what they could actually do because they’re saving fuel or tyres. Then they complain about their teams’ strategy or about the fact that they were passed by their teammate. There’s none of that politics during the twenty-four hours of Le Mans, and it’s so much better because of it.
It must be said though, Le Mans is a hugely dangerous event, as was demonstrated in the early minutes of the race when tragically Danish racing driver, Allan Simonsen, lost his life. May he rest in peace.
Despite the efforts of those engineers to make every gear change work perfectly, the suspension components perform at the limit and the engine under maximum load for twenty-four hours, on race day it’s the drivers who a
re out there putting it all on the line, hence I must conclude that it is the drivers competing in this unforgiving race that have my utmost respect.
Obviously you’d like to know who won the race, yes?
Audi took out the top spot in LMP1 class for the twelfth time with Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval at the helm of the number two Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro, followed by Toyota’s number eight TS030-Hybrid, and another Audi R18 in third place. Toyota had third place sewn up until the Toyota racing in second place (with a chance of snatching P1) hit a barrier in the final couple of hours, it shows how easy it is to lose this race.
In LMP2 class (the one just below LMP1) the number thirty-five Morgan-Nissan car driven by Bertrand Bagguatte, Ricardo Gonzalez and Martin Plowman took out the top spot, followed by the number twenty-four Morgan-Nissan in second and the G-Drive Racing number twenty-six Oreca 03-Nissan in third.
GTE-Pro is made up of racecars based on road-cars, as I mentioned earlier (scroll up a bit). Porsche seemed to dominate this class with the number ninety-two Porsche AG Team Manthey car taking pole after a grueling battle with the number ninety-seven Aston Martin V8 Vantage which ended up in third place behind the number ninety-one Porsche after Aston took a gamble on a set of slick tyres which didn’t pay off.
GTE-Am is for amateurs, basically, but these guys aren’t the sort of amateurs that can’t reach the pedals or learner drivers who can’t change gear without the gearbox letting out a metallic wince, no they’re proper racing drivers, and very good ones, too. A Porsche 911 piloted by Raymond Narac, Christopher Bourret and Marco Cioci won the race followed by a pair of Ferrari 458’s in second and third.
As ever the weather was completely unpredictable with some sections of the track becoming drenched during downpours while others stayed completely dry. As you’d imagine, this caused a few incidents, retirees and lots of safety cars. But the racing, while the track wasn’t under a caution flag, was spectacular, as was the stunning imagery of machinery racing through French forestation in the small hours of the morning. It’s a beautiful sport, and undoubtedly the greatest motor race currently on the calendar. Bring on Le Mans 2014 with added Porsche LMP1 racer! Look out Audi.
By Aiden Taylor (@AidenT_RD)