Le Mans used to be about variety, combinations of cars and engines some of which were quite literally thrown together in a stable or garage as a project car and brought to La Sarthe once a year to be challenged with holding together and coaxed through 24-hours as quickly as the drivers could manage without hurting themselves or the equipment between visits to the garage for running repairs.
Factories came with innovations, Jaguar tried clamping a rotating metal disc and produced the brake discs. Mercedes chose a more practical spectacle of opening the boot lid backwards to slow their charges but came round to brake discs in due course. Why is this relevant… well, we are on a hiatus, a pause between generations and troublingly so much can now be done digitally that you wonder… What is the point?
Well LMP2 is here to prove the point, because whilst the proof point of Le Mans as a test site for manufacturers has faded, it is still all about a team against others and the clock attempting to prove who can go the farthest.
Yes, most of the cars are the same apart from livery, the sharpest tool in the box is the Oreca 07, it will be extraordinary if one of its number does not win out, but still we see teams with Dallara and Ligier chassis amongst the entry willing to give it a go, because on any given day, Le Mans can surprise you and it may just be your day.
So the real race at Le Mans… Unlikely to be at the front, sure they will go further, as they are designed/intended to, yes they are faster, but the racing the driver v driver / team v team will be played out subtly and entirely in LMP2. Oh and it is not beyond possibility that come 1430cet in La Sarthe that 5 lead LMP1s could all have befallen the weather, a backmarker or mechanical woe and the under-class will rise up to take the top step of the overall classification. These are the tales that draw us back each year and entertain us in anticipation of next year, what will the great race throw us to feast on this time? Only time will tell.
Enough prose, the LMP2 field in both World Endurance Championship (WEC) and European Le Mans Series (ELMS) has been dominated of late by United Autosports #22 & #32 who having switched from the Ligier to Oreca chassis are making the podium their preoccupation. In their four participations at Le Mans they repeatedly come very close but only once have stepped on a step of its podium… Current form would suggest that is about to change. Read more about their preparations from both a team (Richard Dean) and driver (Phil Hanson) perspective elsewhere on the SportscarGlobal.com website.
Then we turn to teams with previous, the deepest of which is Signatech Alpine #36 who have plenty to prove given their recent announcement of the both a F1 future (as the racing brand of Renault) and the intent to acquire the Oreca (re-brand Alpine) chassis of the Rebellion Racing R13 and step into the top category for WEC and Le Mans 2021, a place and year where a strong and venerable car could prove dominant against some new untried hyper-metal. But Alpine are also the most recent winners, indeed have won three of the last five Le Mans in LMP2… So does anyone else know better what it takes, well… perhaps..
JOTA (mighty) #38 and we will include the JOTA-run Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 in this context. JOTA are one of the interlopers that interfered with Alpine’s dominant run of victories at Le Mans and with some style, proving an LMP2 could lead when multiple LMP1 manufacturers run into trouble and have to fight back through the field late in the race in 2017.
Of course we also have the previous all-conquering G-Drive #26 who sprung a surprise with a late entry (run by Algarve-Pro Racing) the #16 Oreca 07 and its star-studded line-up of Cullen, Jarvis and Tandy! There is a Le Mans fan-favourite story to be written here surely!
We could go on, but time is pressing and it is a hugely long list (twenty-four in total) that on their day could come out on top… so what to do..
Well in this 2020 year of R-numbers SportscarGlobal has chosen to collaborate with our partners of some time The B-Pillar on a Ranking or League Table of Teams by Category.
Now let us be clear this is science, analytics meets subjective optimism but with some rationale behind it all.. Please treat it as a bit of fun and insight but remember in this casino, Le Mans is the banker and pay-master, Le Mans chooses the winner!
So the starting position is a combination of form, experience and driver rankings… As the sessions are played out The B-Pillar are preparing some (secret algorithm-based) weighted average times that are supported by knowledge of the regulations and our view as to the likely actions of the teams. The derived time is an indication of race pace performance and we will re-rank based upon the output from the sessions. Hence on Friday before the race we expect to have grid positions and a rank race pace order (by category) that should give us a clearer picture (perhaps) of who is well set and who is still in need of divine intervention… Are we making sense?!
Hopefully for this uniquely distanced year we will be forgiven for trying something a little different ourselves, and who knows if you all like it we will take it forward and if you don’t we will bin it as quickly (and ethically) as a soiled 2020 disposable facemask!
Trust in Le Mans, the race will deliver, and just like being there it is up to you to work out your way of enjoying it. We are off to source a supply of dodgy Merguez and Frites to cram into a stale baguette saturday evening, and charge ourselves an extortionate amount of money for the pleasure!
Let’s do a Distanced Le Mans together/apart to tell our children about!