Le Mans

Motorsport | Can a Porsche 911 really be mid-engined?

With a new Porsche 911 RSR announced, EngageSportMode ponders if anything is truly sacred in 2016.

2017 Porsche 911 RSR

It’s fair to say that 2016 has been something of a rollercoaster ride. From Brexit, to Donald Trump, and even Boaty McBoatface this has certainly not been a ‘normal’ year. However, amongst the madness, there’s always certain automotive things you can count on, right? A Mercedes driver will win the Formula 1 World Championship, more SUV models will be announced at every motor show, and a Porsche 911 has a rear-mounted engine.

After the LA Auto Show, only two of the above statements can be counted on to be true. Yes, 2016 has got to the most hallowed of sports cars – the Porsche 911. Admittedly it’s not a 911 road car, but the RSR racer instead. Yet there’s still something slightly unsettling about a 911 not featuring an engine behind the rear axle.

Porsche claims to have taken advantage of Le Mans GT regulations by moving the engine to “be positioned in front of the rear axle” along with various other technical developments. It’s still powered by a naturally aspirated flat-six – none of the that flat-four turbo nonsense here – but surely a rear-engine position is what makes a 911, well… a 911? It’s probably the key defining feature of the 911 model, as a mid-engined Porsche coupé is actually just a Cayman. (more…)

Motorsport | Audi ditches Le Mans for Formula E

After almost two whole decades of dominance, one of the biggest names in endurance racing has called time on participation. 

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro #7

Audi Sport officially announced yesterday that, at the end of 2016, the Audi brand will no longer compete in the World Endurance Championship. That means 18 years of Le Mans competition will also come to an end, as Audi Sport elects to pursue Formula E instead.

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro #7

This decision is hardly surprising, and had been rumoured in the previous weeks as a very real possibility. Since the introduction of the R10 TDI, Audi’s LMP strategy for the past decade has been built around the use of diesel engines. Following last year’s dieselgate furore, diesel power has become immediately unfashionable across the Volkswagen Group.

Whilst the motoring world was already pushing towards the greater use and integration of electric power, dieselgate has made this even more important for brands like Audi and Volkswagen. Audi Sport already has a partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Motorsport in Formula E, meaning the barriers to entry are low. Throw in the fact that Formula E now allows for the development of bespoke powertrain elements, and it becomes a fairly easy decision. (more…)

2015 Le Mans Gallery – Porsche takes historic 17th win with 1-2 finish

Ok, we’ll hold our hands up. We didn’t predict this in our Friday Photo Gallery. Nope, we overlooked the pace of the Porsches in qualifying and, instead, went for another Audi victory. We were wrong, even if we had predicted it a year ago. But congratulations to Porsche for surprising us with a rather impressive 1-2 win!

2015 Le Mans Porsche 919 Race 001In what has been billed as the closest Le Mans LMP1 battle for a generation, Porsche and Audi duked it out for most of the entire 24 hours. After coming so close last year, the Stuttgart outfit were obviously determined to take a record 17th outright Le Mans victory. Oh, and they also seemed to have luck on their side, with Audi beset with multiple bizarre incidents and uncharacteristic reliability problems.

2015 Le Mans Porsche 919 Race 002

Still, that takes nothing away from the efforts of Nico Hülkenberg, Earl Bamber, and Nick Tandy and their error-free drive to the finish. For both Hülkenberg and New Zealander Bamber, this was their first ever Le Mans experience, whilst Brit Tandy had only previously raced in GT classes at La Sarthe. Despite their limited history at the 24 hour race, they drove the #19 car superbly to victory.

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Friday Photo – Le Mans 2015 Qualifying Gallery

If you remember back to last year, EngageSportMode got quite excited about Le Mans. Less so about the racing, as good as it was, and more so about the awesome imagery coming out of the manufacturers’ press offices. 2015 is proving to be no different, so we bring you some of the best shots from qualifying. r

Porsche – 919 Hybrid 2015 Le Mans Quali Porsche 919 Hybrid

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Friday Photo – Retro Livery for Nissan GT-R LM P1 NISMO

Ask any bearded hipster and they’ll happily tell you that retro is obviously cool. This fact is seemingly not lost on motorsport teams, with Nissan choosing to clad one of the Le Mans GT-R racers in a colour scheme from 25 years ago.

2015-nissan-gt-r-lm-nismo-le-mans-21-001

Anyone who has played Gran Turismo series will recognise the blue, red and white colours as having adorned a number of previous Nissan Le Mans entrants. In particular, Nissan wants to remember the R90CK from 1990 – the car that took pole position at La Sarthe that year.

 

However, things didn’t go to plan for the #24 car driven by Mark Blundell, Julian Bailey and Gianfranco Brancatelli, and it retired after 142 laps. In fact, despite numerous efforts, Nissan has never managed to win at the French 24 hour race, with the best result being 3rd place in 1998 for the R390 GT1.

The GT-R LM NISMO is rather different to those historic racers using a (whisper it) front-wheel drive setup to transfer power from the 500hp twin-turbocharged V6 engine. So, is it more Juke NISMO than GT-R? Not really, when you consider the additional 750hp generated by a KERS twin-flywheel system is sent to the back wheels. So, in an unconventional way, it is actually AWD – like a Nissan GT-R.

As you can see, the #21 car has been festooned with the retro livery. Whether it’ll prove to be effective on track remains to be seen, but at least it’ll be looking cool. The old-skool R90CK will also make an appearance in a track parade to celebrate the passing of 25 years since that pole position. Expect more Le Mans news as we build up towards the big day in two weeks time.

Friday Photo – McLaren P1 GTR and McLaren F1 GTR

Compared to Ferrari, Lamborghini, or even Porsche, it’s easy to accuse McLaren of lacking a little bit of soul and passion at times. Their technical, logical, approach to road – and race – cars often leaves us a little cold. But, with the latest addition to the P1 stable, McLaren is trying to inject some passion with reference to a famous Le Mans racer.

2015 McLaren P1 GTR + 1995 McLaren F1 GTR 001This summer will mark the 20th anniversary of the McLaren F1’s racing debut in the 1995 BPR Global GT Series. This was after the F1’s creator, Gordon Murray, had finally given in to the pressure to allow the car to become a racer, despite his insistence it should be a road car only. Despite his apprehensions, the F1 GTR dominated the two short years for which the BPR Series existed; winning the championship both times. 1995 was more special, however, as the F1 also took an impressive win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with McLarens filling four of the top five positions.

2015 McLaren P1 GTR + 1995 McLaren F1 GTR 002At this point, we should note that the colour scheme being used on the new P1 GTR obviously does mimic one of the F1s from that Le Mans success in ’95. Just not the winning one – that was predominantly black/grey, featuring sponsorship from a Japanese plastic surgery clinic. Seriously, we’re not kidding! Instead, the yellow and green Harrods sponsored car took third place, piloted by legendary drivers Andy Wallace, Derek Bell, and his son Justin. The choice of the last podium placing car makes a bit more sense now.

But, less Japanese cosmetics, and more new crazy powered hyper car. The standard P1 is already insanely fast, but McLaren has decided the world needs a track only version. To get one, you’ll need to join McLaren’s P1 Driver Programme – an exclusive club, which can only be likened to the Ferrari Client Test Driver idea. Essentially, lots and lots of money, plus many previous purchases might get you in.

2015 McLaren P1 GTR 01At only 50 kgs lighter than the regular P1, the GTR has hardly been on a crash diet. However, the roof panels and engine cover are now carbon fibre instead of glass, and there’s the addition of a perspex side windows and a titanium exhaust system. More obvious is the giant fixed rear wing in place of the usual adjustable version on the normal P1. Various extra aerodynamic additions help the P1 GTR cut through the air more effectively, and generate 10% more downforce than the road car. (more…)

Friday Photo – 2014 Le Mans Aston Martin GTE Am

Although Le Mans is almost a week in the past, and we’d promised no more pictures, we wanted to include just one more as part of our Friday Photo.

2014 Le Mans #95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE AM 01

Le Mans 2013 was overshadowed by the tragic death of Dane Allan Simonsen, following a crash at Tertre Rouge early on in the race. The crash was so violent that it buckled the roof and roll cage of the number 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE and, despite the best efforts of the medical teams, Simonsen died at the on-site medical centre.

Fast forward to Le Mans 2014, and the #95 Aston Martin Vantage of fellow Danes Nicki Thiim, Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson took the GTE Am class win. A fitting tribute to their countryman, and a reminder to never give up trying. For that we salute the spirit of the Aston Martin Racing Young Driver Team, and the memory of Allan Simonsen.

Le Mans 2014 Gallery – Audi wins for 13th time with 1-2 podium

After qualifying, when Audi only managed the 5th quickest time behind Toyota and Porsche, we cautioned against writing off the German giant too soon. Turns out we were right not to. 24 hours is a long time, and Audi proved to have the most luck and reliability in what became a day-long war of attrition. The result was the marque’s 13th top category Le Mans victory in 16 years – quite a record.

Le Mans 2014

There must come a point where Audi starts to wonder just how many times it wants to win at Le Mans. Having all but dominated the event since the turn of the millennium, there surely has to be a moment where the Volkswagen Group board decides the brand should do something else. But, until that day, it almost seems inevitable that Audi Sport will take the top honours year in, year out.

That isn’t to do a disservice to Audi; their professionalism, experience and sheer determination to win means you can never rule them out of contention. The race wasn’t without its difficulties for the German team. The #3 R18 e-tron quattro was ruled out early on in chaotic scenes, as torrential rain lashed down the Mulsanne straight. In addition, both #2 and #1 cars required replacement turbochargers to be fitted – no small task in itself. Oh, and there was the need for the #1 car to be rebuilt from scratch after Loïc Duval’s huge crash on Wednesday!

But, despite all that, Audi Sport brought home a 1-2 finish, with the #2 car of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer taking first, with Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gené and Tom Kristensen taking second in the rebuilt #1 car. 2014 was perhaps the most open race for sometime; it certainly wasn’t clear-cut Audi would win Until Porsche hit problems with only a couple of hours to go, did it became apparent they just might. But, as ever, there was always that feeling Audi would come through; and they did. Well done Ingolstadt.

Le Mans 24 Hours

#8 Toyota repaired after dramatic early Mulsanne crash to take third.

Early on it had looked like Toyota had the 2014 event already sewn up. The pace of the #7 TS040 HYBRID looked unstoppable for the vast majority of the race, showing the speed which has netted the team two wins in the World Endurance Championship already in 2014. (more…)

2014 Le Mans Gallery – Toyota, Porsche and Audi Qualifying

Thursday’s qualifying sessions at Le Mans produced more incidents and red flags. However, when the cars were running, it also produced some stunning images. Here, in the second of our galleries, we’ve highlighted the battle between the top three LMP1-H teams; Audi, Porsche and Toyota to claim pole position.

 Toyota Racing – TS040 HYBRID

Le Mans 24 Hours

Whilst pole position ahead of a 24 hour long race is largely academic it does, at least, allow that team to score big marketing points if not actual World Endurance Championship ones. For 2014 it was the #7 Toyota TS040 HYBRID of Kazuki Nakajima, Alex Wurz and Stéphane Sarrazin who claimed the symbolic top grid spot. Current World Endurance Championship leaders of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi managed to secure third place in the #8 car. A strong showing from Toyota, but Le Mans is a much different beast to the 6 Hour races the team has done so well in this year.

Porsche Team – 919 Hybrid

Porsche 919 Hybrid, Porsche Team: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb

Porsche surpassed Audi as dominant Volkswagen Group competitor in qualifying, after displaying promise in practice.  The #14 car of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb securing second on the grid, with the #20 car of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley lining up proving to be 4th fastest. Does the 919 Hybrid have the reliability to last the full 24 hours in its first year of competition?

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Friday Photo – Nissan ZEOD RC

This weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours race is already building up quite nicely into a three-way battle between Toyota, Porsche and Audi for top honours. But, at the same time, Nissan is hoping for success with its innovative electric racer.

2014 Nissan ZEOD RC Le Mans 01

In fact the ZEOD (zero emissions on demand) RC prototype hit an impressive benchmark in last night’s qualifying session – reaching over 300 km/h (186 mph) purely on electric power alone. Running down the Mulsanne Straight, Japanese driver Satoshi Motoyama reached the impressive figure with the car’s petrol internal combustion engine making no revs at all. Impressive enough for the crazy concept vehicle to qualify 27th overall.

Rear view radar camera visible atop the ZEOD RC.

Rear view radar camera visible atop the ZEOD RC.

The ZEOD RC’s 1.5 litre three-cylinder 400 hp turbocharged engine and twin 110 kw electric motors aren’t the only technologic development the car is demonstrating at Le Mans. Nissan is also making use of the systems found in its road cars such as the Qashqai, with a development of the Nissan Safety Shield and Nissan Smart Mirror. The result is the first completely mirrorless race car. Instead of normal mirrors, the ZEOD RC uses a rear-facing camera that displays video images to the driver, but also incorporates a radar to warn of fast approaching cars. More impressive is the way the system changes dependent on the closing speed and position of nearby cars, taking some of the stress out of the Le Mans traffic.

Here’s hoping the camera system helps the ZEOD stay out of trouble throughout the race and make it to the finish.