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!
In 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
The 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours is already turning into a dramatic event; and that was only on the first day of practice!
Loïc Duval’s terrifying crash in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro caused substantial delays, and a lot of worried faces. Luckily he walked away from the 170 mph crash with just minor grazes. The evening qualifying session was also filled with a number of incidents, but in the end it was first blood to the Porsche team. The 919 Hybrids claimed the top two positions in qualifying, with the Number 20 car of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernard and Mark Webber (yes, of not being as quick as Seb Vettel fame) on provisional pole. Volkswagen Group rivals Audi could only manage fifth and sixth on the provisional grid.
What the first night also produced was some stunning photography. Here we’ve highlighted our favourites of the two German giants battling it out on track:
Number 14 Porsche in free practice
Number 1 Audi running before Duval’s big shunt.
Daylight starts to turn to night for the #14 Porsche 919
Provisional pole at the end of the first night – #20 Porsche
Lap times tumble as cooler night air increases performance
#3 Audi passes under iconic Dunlop bridge
#20 Porsche races past the ferris wheel
#2 Audi in darkness
There’s still lots more running to come, if everyone can avoid triggering more red flags. EngageSportMode will bring you more news and photos from Le Mans as the weekend unfolds.