The 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours was a highly unpredictable race, marred by the death of Aston Martin Racing driver Allan Simonsen. Audi secured their 12th victory at the event and inched closer to Porsche’s record of 16 outright victories; but, things are about to change next year when Porsche returns to fight for LMP1 top honors. The 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours has all the right ingredients for success, and I’ll be sharing those ingredients below.
After 15 years of absence, Porsche is returning to the top category in Le Mans and in the sports car World Endurance Championship. Porsche’s last overall victory at Le Mans came in 1998 before completely withdrawing from the championship, and it looks like the German sports car brand is in it to win it next year, with world class drivers like Formula 1 driver Mark Webber and Le Mans-winning drivers Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard. Porsche will surely spice things up, and based on previous results, it is safe to assume that it will give its rivals a run for their money.
The rise of Toyota
Toyota’s been at Le Mans for two years only – although they’ve had previous success in the late 1990s; their first attempt in 2012 was a complete disappointment as both cars retired from the race, but there were lots of positives to be drawn; the #8 TS030 lead the race briefly before crashing out, and both cars were just as fast as the Audis, sometimes even faster. Toyota fared a lot better in 2013; its two cars finished second and fourth, so there’s no reason to believe that the #1 automaker in the world won’t be able to challenge for the win next year.
A number of rule changes have been introduced for 2014; most important of all is removing all engine design restraints. This means no limitations on the number of cylinders, turbo pressures and restrictors. However, all of the above will be replaced by a fuel meter, which restricts the allocation of gasoline or diesel to a certain level (e.g: 4.95 liters of gasoline per lap). Other rule changes include: new driver positioning inside the cockpit for better visibility and reduced weight (830 kg / 850 kg for non-hybrids). Closed cockpits remain a must on LMP1 cars.
The 56th and last garage will be occupied by Nissan’s ZEOD RC – an electric race car inspired by the DeltaWing; it will boast the same lithium battery technology featured on the Nissan Leaf road car. The ZEOD is not fully electric and will be used as a test bed for electric technologies that might possibly make it into an all-electric LMP1 race car in the future. It’ll be interesting to see how the ZEOD RC is going to stack up against rivaling LMP1 and LMP2 cars.
So there you have it, the four main ingredients that should help make next year’s French endurance race a must-watch. I might’ve skipped Audi, but do they really need mentioning? They’ve won 12 out of the last 14 races, and are the likeliest to win again, nevertheless, the new rule changes will add to the unpredictability, and I can’t see the German brand getting away with it easily.