Le Mans 2013: time to get excited

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Toyota Hybrid
Toyota Hybrid

The list of the 56 cars granted entry to the 2013 Le Mans 24 hours was published recently – and there were some interesting entries and omissions among the runners and riders for the 81st showcase of the twice round the clock French classic.

I’m a Le Mans junkie. I’ve been for more than 50% of the years that I’ve been alive. As I’m only 25, I reckon that could make me something of a veteran already.

So it was with great anticipation I was refreshing my phone last Friday to get a glimpse of the teams that’d made it and those that hadn’t.

Audi R18 e-tron Quattro
Audi R18 e-tron Quattro

The usual assault from Ingolstadt all got entries, with Audi fielding three R18 e-Tron Quattro. Nothing new there except for a few driver changes, swapping strong pedalers for strong pedalers.

Toyota followed up on an impressive showing last year, committing to a two-car team for 2013. The Japanese manufacturer surprised in 2012 on its return to La Sarthe with the debut of its TS030 hybrid.

The petrol-electric prototype showed good pace and kept the Audis honest during the first phase of the race – let’s hope they can build on that this year and we’ll have a proper dogfight on our hands.

 

Toyota Hybrid
Toyota Hybrid

After the factory teams, there were only a further three entries in LMP1 however – a bit disappointing. Still, the Rebellion Racing team knows what it’s doing after winning the 2012 Petit Le Mans and its Toyota-engined Lolas look and sound the business.

Even more so than last year, LMP2 looks to be the pilot project for Nissan’s world domination.

Oak Racing has switched from its BMW-derived Judd motors to the Japanese firm’s VK LMP2 V8 engine. Shame.

It’s not that I don’t like them, but Le Mans is a cauldron of variety, not a race for spec competition vehicles.

Zytek Nissan LMP2
Zytek Nissan LMP2

 

Thankfully there’ll still be a duo of V6 turbo Hondas stealthily cruising around the 8.5-mile circuit. As the reigning LMP2 champion constructor, it’s got a lot to live up to – but even if it doesn’t, I’ll still relish the massive bangs initiated by an upshift as the cars steam away from Arnage at 3am. Yes, I’m sad.

Lotus is apparently on the LMP2 grid for 2013 too, with its new T128. I really hope it makes it, but I won’t be wagering a certain Mr. William Hill any time soon.

GTE Pro is arguably going to be the most interesting class to watch. With two new factory Porsche ‘991’ 911 RSRs run by the highly experienced Manthey team going up against the established Ferrari 458 (campaigned by the likes of AF Corse) and the capable Corvette C6 ZR1s, there’ll be plenty of competition.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE
Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE

 

Add in that in its centenary year Aston Martin has two V8 Vantage cars in GTE – both with strong driver line-ups – and that there’ll be two 8.0-litre V10 Vipers returning to Le Mans, the array of machinery on display will be mouthwatering.

Then there’s this year’s experimental ‘Garage 56’ project – a hydrogen-powered racer called the GreenGT H2. Last year the Deltawing stole the show somewhat, let’s see what the new concept can do this year and if it can keep pace with any of the LMP2s.

GreenGT
GreenGT

 

I hot-footed it across the Channel for the test day in 2012. I was erring on the side of giving it a miss in 2013, but seeing the entry list has brought on a recurring bout of Le Mans fever that I think has only one known cure…

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