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WEC News: Crews prepare for big challenge: 24 Hours of Le Mans

The FIA World Endurance Championship is preparing for the biggest event on the 2024 endurance racing calendar: the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans (15-16 June).

Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Kevin Estre (F), Andre Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B)
Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Kevin Estre (F), Andre Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B)

Round four of this year’s FIA WEC season marks the 92nd running of the enduro classic which was first staged in 1923. Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the race but the 2024 edition is expected to be no less spectacular with more than 300,000 fans expected onsite.

Le Mans is a pivotal race in the WEC calendar, not just because it’s the biggest challenge of the year for the teams but it’s a double points-scoring round with a total of 50 points available for the winning crews in both Hypercar and LMGT3. For that reason, Le Mans often proves crucial in the World Championship title chase.

A total of 62 cars and 186 drivers (including 37 full-time FIA WEC entries) will compete in this year’s race. They will tackle the 13.6-kilometer circuit, where Hypercars reach speeds in the region of 340kph and 70% of the lap is travelled with fully-opened throttle. During each tour of the circuit, Hypercar drivers will shift gears an estimated 78 times.

The Hypercar line-up for Le Mans is set to be the biggest yet with a total of 23 entries in the headline category.  This is a 43% increase from last year’s Hypercar grid which saw 16 cars, and highlights the continued growth in the WEC’s premier class due to an influx of manufacturers who have joined the series over the last 24 months.

A total of nine manufacturers will compete in Hypercar including Alpine, BMW, Cadillac, Ferrari, Isotta Fraschini, Lamborghini, Peugeot, Porsche and Toyota. There will be a further 16 entries in LMP2 and 23 in LMGT3.

Nineteen of the Hypercars listed will be eligible to score WEC points which includes current championship leaders Porsche Penske Motorsport and the increasingly-competitive Porsche 963. The manufacturer is yet to finish off the podium this season but faces stiff competition from the likes of reigning World Champions Toyota Gazoo Racing and last year’s Le Mans champions, Ferrari AF Corse.

Porsche is also the most represented marque on the Hypercar grid with a total of five 963 Hypercar challengers (Porsche Penske will run three; Hertz Team JOTA with two and Proton Competition will operate one privately-run 963).

For the first time this season, Lamborghini Iron Lynx and Cadillac Racing will both field two Hypercars and join other two-car entries Alpine Endurance Team, BMW M Team WRT, Ferrari AF Corse, Peugeot TotalEnergies and Toyota Gazoo Racing. Finally, Isotta Fraschini and AF Corse will operate one Hypercar entry each.  Completing the entry list in Hypercar will be the American-flagged Whelen Cadillac Racing entry, making it three Cadillac V.Series R cars in the premier category.

One major change to the entry list recently was the announcement that Mike Conway will be replaced by former team-mate Jose-Maria Lopez in the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing entry due to a rib and collarbone injury Conway sustained in a cycling incident last week.  Replacing Lopez in the Akkodis ASP run Lexus RC F LMGT3 will be Britain’s Jack Hawksworth.

The overall entry list sees strong local representation across all three classes with a total of 24 French drivers on the entry list with one driver from Le Mans itself: Sebastien Bourdais [No. 3 Cadillac Racing].

Out of the 37 WEC Le Mans entries, it’s Porsche that lead the overall standings. Reigning World Champions Toyota are currently 23 points behind, with Ferrari 11 points adrift of Toyota. However, with 50 points available for Le Mans, this is the race where everything could change!

Among drivers, it is the crew of the No. 6 Porsche 963 (Andre Lotterer, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor) that lead Spa-Francorchamps winners – the No. 38 Hertz Team JOTA crew driven by Will Stevens, Callum Ilott and Norman Nato.

Meanwhile, in Le mans LMGT3, it’s Manthey PureRXcing that top the leaderboard with a total of 72 points after three rounds (thanks to one victory and a runner-up spot at the previous round in Spa).  The fight for second and third is much tighter, however, with both Team WRT and Heart of Racing tied on 37 points.

The all-female Iron Dames crew will be hoping their luck will change after demonstrating excellent pace already this season in the Lamborghini Huracan LMGT3 Evo2 but have been unable to convert this to a win.  The team announced recently that Doriane Pin had injured his ribs and would be replaced by experienced driver Rahel Frey for Le Mans.

The on-track action kicked off with the official Le Mans Test Day last Sunday [9 June] where Porsche Penske was fastest, the Porsche 963 clocking a time of 3:26.907.  It bettered last year’s best Test Day time which was set by the AF Corse No. 51 Ferrari 499P Hypercar by over three seconds.  Second fastest was the No. 4 Porsche Penske entry, 0.473s quicker than the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrid Hypercar.

Sunday also marked the first running for the new-for-2024 LMGT3 class at Le Mans comprising of manufacturers Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford, Lamborghini, Lexus, McLaren and Porsche.

The No. 82 TF Sport entry was fastest overall – the Corvette Z06 LMGT3.R setting a time of 3:59.883. The top three LMGT3 cars were incredibly close, the second and third fastest crews – Heart of Racing and Team WRT – posting the same lap time [3:59.520].

Race week action commences tomorrow [Wednesday 12 June], with Qualifying taking place on Thursday. The flag for the 24-hour race will be waved at 16:00 on Saturday.

The latest entry list for the 24 Hours of Le Mans can be found HERE.

Follow all the action via the FIA WEC official app.

Le Mans Race Timetable

Sunday 9 June Official Test Day

Test day session 1: 10h00 – 13h00

Test day session 2: 15h30 – 18h30

Wednesday 12 June

FP1: 14h00 – 17h00

Qualifying practice sessions: 19h00 – 20h00

FP2: 22h00 – midnight

Thursday 13 June

FP3: 15h00 – 18h00

Hyperpole: 20h00 – 20h30

FP4: 22h00 – 23h00

Saturday 15 June

Warm-up: 12h00 – 12h15

Race start: 16h00

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