2011 LeMans entries Le Mans is famous for its duels. In the history of the event starting from 1923, direct confrontations between two teams battling for outright victory have always led to races of mind-boggling intensity. It will be the same – and maybe even more so in 2011!
More than a duel!
Since 2007 Peugeot has taken up the gauntlet thrown down by Audi. The Ingolstadt manufacturer, six-time winner between 2000 and 2006, beaten only in 2003 by its sister company, Bentley (both are part of the VAG Car Group), found itself up against a major rival as both teams opted for LM P1 cars powered by diesel engines. After two races that served as an apprenticeship, Peugeot achieved its first objective in 2009 with outright victory. In 2010 the Sochaux make was determined to impose itself on a long-term basis, but tripped up and Audi scored its ninth victory allied to a triple. This year with the two rivals entering three new cars, the competition between them will be all the more exciting as a third team is determined to take the fight to the French and German cars in the battle for victory. Aston Martin has entered two cars designed and built in-house, and has given itself the necessary resources to score an overall win for the first time since 1959 - with a petrol engine what’s more! The quality of the British engineers’ work allied to the adjustments to the regulations designed to balance performances between the different types of engines, should allow these open prototypes – unlike Peugeot and Audi, which have opted for coupes – to battle with the diesel-powered cars.
Finally, the highly-experienced Oreca team, which has retained Peugeot’s confidence, could well split these three, as it has entered one of the 2010908 HDi FAPs.
Examples are not lacking in the history of motor sport. When the favorites enter new cars, which falter due to the lack of reliability inherent in any new design, outsiders win. The ones entered this year have sound arguments to pull off a surprise. In this respect the semi-official return of Japanese manufacturers as engine suppliers, or through direct backing of a team, will up the overall ante. Rebellion has entered two Lolas powered by Toyota engines, and the American squad Highcroft Racing has strengthened its collaboration with Honda Performance Development. Two years ago, an Acura (a make belonging to Honda) beat Audi and Peugeot to pole position in the Sebring 12 Hours. With the very experienced David Brabham (former outright Le Mans winner) in the driver line-up, a great deal of endurance know-how and a very competitive engine, this team looks like being a redoubtable challenger. In addition, the involvement of Nissan in LM P2 with Signatech Nissan shows the revival of the Japanese giants’ interest in endurance racing.
It is difficult to imagine Le Mans without Pescarolo, and Pescarolo could not live without Le Mans. The official return of the 4-time winner on the entry list is one of the best pieces of news. Pescarolo Team, the new name of Henri Pescarolo’s squad, will enter a prototype powered by a Judd petrol engine in the top LM P1 category. Since 1996, with the exception of 2009, this team has always been among the front-runners whether with Courage chassis, its own or with a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP diesel (2009). While this is a transition year, the team’s renaissance will thrill all 24-Hours fans. Its driver line-up is spearheaded by Emmanuel Collard and Christophe Tinseau who combine talent and experience - so who knows what could happen?
Eight manufacturers represented!
Thanks to their LM P1 and GTE Pro categories the 24-Hours regulations enable the major manufacturers to find exactly the right niche to dovetail with their sporting and commercial imperatives. Audi and Peugeot have opted for the prototype category while BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Lotus and Porsche have all chosen GT. Aston Martin has gone even further with two petrol-engined prototypes baptized AMR-O1s, and two Vantages in GTE, all entered under the works banner! In total, eight manufacturers have shown their confidence in the ACO.
A raft of new cars
Fifty-six cars will start the 79th Le Mans 24 Hours at 15h00 on 11th June. If there are no withdrawals between now and that date (teams that are forced to cry off will be replaced by reserves), there will 25 totally new cars on the grid (almost 50% of the field), eighteen heavily modified ones (with the addition of a new engine, or the adaptation of a chassis to the new regulations) and only thirteen (two LM P1s and the 11 GTE Ams) complying with the previous rules, but still allowed to race this year.
Lotus is back
The emblematic British sports car constructor, which had its heyday at Le Mans in the 50s and 60s with cars designed by its great engineer/boss Colin Chapman, is making its official comeback with works machines. The company has entered two brand-new Evoras in the GTE Pro category to mix it in the no-holds-barred battle between BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin and Doran Ford.
Hybrid technology in LM P1
Hope Racing has entered a revolutionary prototype in the LM P1 category. It consists of an Oreca-developed chassis powered by a hybrid system. This innovation is a new form of hybrid technology that is completely mechanical (not electric), which restitutes the energy recovered under braking. Note that there will be no 56th pit entry this year (entry accepted of a car with an innovative technological project while meeting the required standards of safety, reliability and performance). Contacts were made with several manufacturers working on such vehicles, but as these projects were not sufficiently sorted out nobody asked for an entry. Thus, the 56th pit will be occupied by a car entered under normal conditions.
LM P2: A renewed field
The LM P2 field consists of eleven teams, and it looks all the better as it includes seven cars, six of which comply fully with the 2011 regulations in terms of budget caps.* In addition, the quality of the teams entered (Oak, Strakka, Oreca, Signatech, Nissan and Level 5) augurs well for a battle royal as the engines are as varied as the drivers are talented. The already-known Judd BMW will be up against engines developed by Japanese giants Nissan and Honda. With drivers like Tiago Monteiro, Scott Tucker and Soheil Ayari behind the wheel the scrap will be all the more intense.
GTE as in Grand Touring Endurance
The GT revival that has been growing in strength in previous years has been totally confirmed for the 2011 race, which now has only a single category for these cars, GTE, whose regulations are inspired by the former GT2 category. Manufacturers like BMW, Ferrari, Corvette, Porsche, Aston Martin and Lotus obviously like them as they have all entered works cars. In GTE Pro (no restrictions on the models or drivers), there are seventeen GTs, either eagerly-awaited new cars like the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Lotus Evora, or others that are heavily-reworked evolutions of models seen in 2010, the BMW M3, the Chevrolet Corvette C6-ZR1 and the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The level of the battle for victory should reach an intensity never seen before in the Sarthe. In GTE Am (only one professional driver in each team, and the car entered must be at least one year old), seven cars have been accepted including several that have also entered for the ILMC, further proof of the commitment of the candidates.