The highly-awaited 2013 edition and 90th running of the fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans kicks off this weekend. Audi will be looking to seal their 12th victory while arch-rival Toyota seek their very first triumph at the grueling French endurance race.
It won’t be an easy task for either side though, but the heavy pressure is on Toyota to deliver, especially after showing signs of promise during last year’s race and during the second round of the 2013 World Endurance Championship which took place in Spa-Francorchamps last month.
Toyota are keeping their expectations in check, and Pascal Vasselon, Toyota Motorsport’s technical director, believes the Japanese brand’s chances of winning the race are very slim. His comments came after a disappointing weekend in Spa where the updated Toyota TS030 Hybrid retired from the race due to the failure of its KERS system, which stopped harvesting and caused the rear brakes to overheat; the TS030 was forced to surrender the lead halfway through the fourth hour of the race.
Audi on the other hand think that Toyota has what it takes to challenge them for the win. Indeed, Toyota’s TS030 is more fuel efficient than Audi’s updated R18 e-tron – this was quite evident during the first two rounds of the WEC in Silverstone and Spa where the Toyota managed to go further on a tank of fuel than the Audi.
Audi’s long-tail R18 e-tron does seem like the faster and the more reliable car, which in endurance racing, is extremely crucial. If Toyota can’t get their cars to run smoothly for 24 hours, then a victory will simply be out of reach for them, unless of course, force majeure steps in.
All in all, it’s looking more like Audi’s race to lose; and the grim faces at Toyota surely emphasize the situation. The 24 hours of Le Mans remains one of the most unpredictable races in Motorsport and it’ll be extremely hard to predict the outcome; one thing’s for sure though: this will be Toyota’s best shot at winning the event before Porsche crashes the LMP1 party next year.