The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Porsche return to Le Mans makes 24-hour race this weekend more competitive

  • Print

Porsche's return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a 16-year absence in the top category has made the race less predictable.

Only Toyota could realistically challenge Audi's dominance in the past two years. But Porsche's performances this year suggest Le Mans will be even more competitive.

Toyota will start from first and third on the grid on Saturday after Kazuki Nakajima became the first Japanese driver to take pole position. Toyota will be under pressure from Porsche, whose cars will start from second and fourth. Audi showed a lack of pace in qualifying and its three cars will start from fifth, sixth and seventh.

However, speed is no guarantee of victory. Reliability matters just as much in a competition won by the team that completes the most laps in 24 hours, with up to three drivers alternating. The 82nd race starts on Saturday at 1300 GMT.

Here are five things to know about the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend:

NO DUVAL: A year after Danish driver Allan Simonsen crashed into a barrier 10 minutes into the race and died in hospital, 2013 champion Loic Duval of France was fortunate to escape with just grazes when he crashed in practice on Wednesday. Duval spent one night in hospital as a precaution, but a doctor's report prompted Le Mans officials to disallow him from competing this weekend. He was replaced by Spanish driver Marc Gene, who won Le Mans with Peugeot in 2009.

PORSCHE'S EXPECTATIONS: Porsche is the most successful manufacturer at Le Mans with 16 titles, followed by Audi with 12. It showed its potential by finishing third at Silverstone, Britain, and fourth at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, in the world endurance championship this year. Reliability will be the main concern for Porsche, which is relying on the experience of Australian driver Mark Webber. "For the return of Porsche at Le Mans, finishing the race would be OK," Webber said. "For me, Audi remains the team to beat." Webber participated in Le Mans in 1998 and 1999 before winning nine Formula One races.

TOYOTA'S STRONG CHALLENGE: Toyota has four runner-up finishes at Le Mans. The Japanese manufacturer has significantly improved this year, taking the top two spots at Silverstone in April and clinching the victory at Spa-Francorchamps last month. "It is promising for the race because we feel so confident in the car," Stephane Sarrazin said. "We can push on every corner, every lap. The race will be very long, we know that we have to be very calm and not attack it like a short sprint." Sarrazin shares Toyota No. 7 with Kazuki Nakajima and Alexander Wurz. The only Japanese manufacturer to win at Le Mans was Mazda in 1991.

AUDI'S DOUBTS: Audi has won nine of the last 10 races at Le Mans, including the last four. But much has changed in a year. Audi's two cars did not finish at Silverstone, it was runner-up at Spa-Francorchamps, and Duval's enforced absence adds to the doubts. Despite that, Tom Kristensen, the most successful driver at Le Mans with nine titles, said, "It wasn't about the grid position but about preparing the car for the race. I'm looking towards the race with a positive feeling."

TECHNOLOGICAL EDGE: The Audi R18, the Toyota TS040, and the Porsche 919 all use hybrid drive systems. But while the Audis and Toyotas convert only kinetic energy generated under braking into electricity, the Porsches also use a second hybrid system, which recovers thermal energy from exhaust gases. Hybrid technology aims to make racing more environment-friendly but it also makes a difference on the track. Toyota and Porsche have been able to generate more power from their hybrid systems than Audi as qualifying showed.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Maurice Leggett on his three interceptions vs. Alouettes

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Standup- Morning Fog. Horse prances in field by McPhillips Road, north of Winnipeg. 060605.
  • RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS June 23, 2011 Local - A Monarch butterfly is perched on a flower  in the newly opened Butterfly Garden in Assiniboine Park Thursday morning.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How many wins do you think the Bombers will finish with this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google