This weekend, France will host the world’s premier endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The daily marathon celebrates its 100th anniversary this year: these competitions were first held here in 1923, and expectations for the next race are higher than ever.
The main intrigues of the anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans are in the Championship material.
Ferrari win hyperpole at 24 Hours of Le Mans, Daniil Kvyat’s team starts fifth in LMP2
16 hypercars at launch
It is no secret that in recent years, the top class of endurance racing has gradually stagnated, in fact, it has been reduced to a single Toyota Gazoo Racing and has not collected more than five cars at the start. It was to solve this problem that a new technical regulation was conceived – hypercars, and the idea fully justified itself: in 2023, 16 teams will fight in the main classification of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There has not been such a number of entrants in the main qualifying on the Sarte ring since 2011.
The top favorite for the marathon remains Toyota, which took a fifth consecutive victory last year, and this season has taken the lead in each of the last three stages of the WEC World Championship. Sebastien Buemi and Brandon Hartley will share a crew with Ryo Hirakawa, whom they beat last year, while the trio of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López have remained unchanged for six years.
Toyota, Ferrari and Porsche crews at the 6 Hours of Spa
Photo: Harry Parvin/FIA WEC
Toyota’s main rival is Ferrari, which has already scored three WEC podium finishes in the 2023 season, clings to second in the hypercar manufacturers’ standings and won the front row of the starting field on Sunday. Antonio Giovinazzi returned to Le Mans as part of the Scuderia: the former F-1 driver performed here in 2018 and became fifth in GTE Pro qualifying in the Ferrari 488 GTE Evo. Jovi will race with James Calado and Alessandro Pierre Guidi, who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GT class in 2019 and 2021. Miguel Molina, Nicholas Nielsen and Antonio Fuoco will drive the second prototype; it was the latter who showed the best time in Hyperpole.
Porsche puts four crews at a time at Le Mans; Potentially, these cars can challenge the favorites from a distance, but even team leader Urs Kuratle believes the rivals are one step ahead. As part of the German team, a whole galaxy of experienced runners gathered, the most striking of which, perhaps, is Andre Lotterer. They will be joined by former F-1 driver Felipe Nasr, who has competed in American endurance races in recent years and won the GTD Pro 24 Hours of Daytona last year.
: Cadillac crews training at Le Mans
Photo: Harry Parvin/FIA WEC
In a slightly smaller composition, three crews, Cadillac will perform at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In one of them, IndyCar legend Scott Dixon, former F-1 driver Sebastien Bourdet and Dutchman Renger van der Zande will perform together; in 2018-2019 he raced Russian prototypes from BR Engineering here, but never made it to the finish line. . Keep in mind that if Cadillac cars have yet to take the podium in the WEC, things are different in the IMSA championship: the drivers sit second in the overall standings, slightly behind Porsche’s rivals.
Two Peugeot 9X8 cars will also take part in the race, distinguished by the absence of a rear wing. Alas, the unusual concept has not yet brought success to Paul di Resta and Jean-Eric Verne – the car is still too wet to fight for victory. The chances of the outsiders of the hypercar standings, Glickenhaus and Wanwall, are also slim, but anything can happen in 24 hours in the race and, by the will of fate, even they can have a chance.
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Kvyat has a chance to win
Daniil Kvyat, having tried his hand at NASCAR last year, has decided on his career direction for the near future and now competes in endurance racing. In the 2024 season, the Russian will transfer to the latest Lamborghini hypercar, which the Italians are currently developing together with Ligier. In order to be ready for the debut of the novelty in January 2024, Daniil is gaining experience and plays for Prema in LMP2.
At the first stage of the season in Sebring, Kvyat, together with the French Dorian Pen and the Italian Mirko Bortolotti, took second place, and in the Algarve he was one of the main contenders for victory, but was only fourth due to the car Security who didn’t show up on time. At Spa, due to a fine for violating the safety car procedure, the 63rd crew dropped back to 10th place and are now only fifth in the overall standings. However, in all the races he was among the leaders in pure speed.
The Kvyat crew in training at Le Mans
Photo: Gabi Tomescu/FIA WEC
Daniil’s main rivals include United Autosports, who won the first two WEC stages this year. Also, as always, the WRT cars will be strong, one of which is Robert Kubica. Two years ago, the Pole lost a category victory on the last lap – the electrician couldn’t hold it – and now he will be more motivated than ever.
Due to the fact that in LMP2 everyone will be driving the same Oreca 07 cars with the same Gibson engines, everyone has a chance to win. Thus, pole position in the final qualifying has been achieved by IDEC Sport, whose front row with the crew will be shared by the Jota drivers. Daniil Kvyat’s crew qualified fifth.
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Vladislav Lomko debut
Two Russians will start the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year: Kvyat will be joined by Vladislav Lomko. Until the end of last season, Lomko competed in youth formulas, winning the German F-4 and the UAE F-4, and in 2022 he excelled at the prestigious Pau Grand Prix and became runner-up in the EuroFormula Open. Lomko now represents CD Sport at ELMS and will go to Le Mans as part of Cool Racing, alongside Reshad De Gerus and experienced former IndyCar champion Simon Pajno.
The Lomko crew training at Le Mans
Photo: Harry Parvin/FIA WEC
During the winter, in preparation for the transition to endurance racing, Lomko participated in the ALMS Asian season, but his team did not get higher than fifth. However, already in the first stage of the European ELMS -in the 4 Hours of Barcelona- Vladislav and his teammates occupied fourth place. From there – from fourth position – the Lomko crew will also start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
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Entrants include a NASCAR stock car
As part of the Garage 56 innovation program, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 stock car will launch this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is certainly not a standard stock car, but an impressively redesigned car for road racing under the direction of Chad Knaus. Hendrick’s no-nonsense attitude towards the project is also highlighted by the composition of the drivers: former F-1 champion Jenson Button, two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner and DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller, as well as seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will take the wheel of this miracle.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 stock car at Le Mans
Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
In the paddock, they openly laughed at the car, believing that the stock car had no place in drag racing and also pointing out that there were no innovations in the car as such. They had a laugh for a short time, though: In first qualifying, Rockenfeller “brought” Alessio Rovere, the fastest LMGTE Am driver, for almost four seconds. The No. 24 Camaro ZL1 will start the daily race at the back of the pack, but starting position in such competitions doesn’t play a role.
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Four brands in the GT class
No matter how fast Hendrick’s car is, it is declared in a separate category, and therefore does not participate in the official fight for victory in the GT classification (now it is unique, without division into Pro and Am). A total of 21 crews have been entered for LMGTE Am: eight Porsche 911 RSR-19s, seven Ferrari 488 GTE Evos, five Aston Martin Vantage AMRs and a single factory-prepared Chevrolet Corvette C8.R.
: Single Corvette starts from pole position
Photo: Gabi Tomescu/FIA WEC
Interestingly, the fastest Hyperpole lap in LMGTE Am was shown by veteran Ben Keating, 51, in a Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. The front row with the Corvette Racing drivers will be shared by ORT with the TF racers at Aston Martin, and after them, four Ferrari crews will go into battle at once. The best of the Porsche crews only occupies ninth position.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans marathon starts on Saturday, June 10 at 5:00 p.m. Moscow time and ends a day later at the same time on Sunday, June 11.
From the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans: