Tuesday, June 11, 2024

2024 24 Hours of Le Mans Hypercar Preview

For the 92nd time, the town of Le Mans will host a 24-hour race through its streets to determine who has built the best machine for endurance. This year's race will have 62 entries, but we are seeing another year of regulation changes, as this will be the first year with GT3 regulations and this is the first time since 2010 the LMP2 class is competing in a non-championship form. 

Hypercar is back with 23 entries, matched for the most with LMGT3. In Hypercar, nine manufacturers are represented with four cars making their Le Mans debut this year. Out of the 69 drivers in the top class, 13 of them are past Le Mans overall winners while ten drivers entered in Hypercar this year will be making their Le Mans debut. 

Ferrari enters as the defending race winners and it will have three entries looking for the Italian manufacturers' 11th Le Mans triumph. Porsche has a half-dozen cars as it shoots for it 20th Le Mans victory. Toyota is looking to get back on top after its five-year winning streak ended last year. Peugeot is going for its fourth Le Mans victory while BMW is looking to add its second Le Mans victory, its first since 1999. 

Cadillac has three cars entered in hopes of being the first American manufacturer to win the race since 1969. Along with Cadillac, Alpine, Lamborghini and Isotta Fraschini are all competing for their first Le Mans victory.

This year's race marks the fourth of eight rounds in the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship.

#2 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R
Drivers: Earl Bamber (8th), Alex Lynn (8th), Álex Palou (1st)
Test Day: 16th
About This Team: The #2 Cadillac will have a five-spot grid penalty after Bamber caused an accident at Spa-Francorchamps. Bamber and Lynn were on the podium last year and Cadillac showed good reliability but didn't have the pace to compete with Ferrari and Toyota. Bamber has been on the overall podium in all three years he has competed in the top class. This will be Palou's second race in the Cadillac, but he is an otherworldly talent. 

#3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R
Drivers: Sébastien Bourdais (17th), Scott Dixon (6th), Renger van der Zande (7th)
Test Day: 19th
About This Team: Bourdais is the most experienced driver in the Hypercar class and an overall victory would give him the record for most starts before a first overall Le Mans victory. This lineup was fourth last year and it was second at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. Cadillac will be carrying more weight at Le Mans after a six-kilogram increase in the Balance of Performance ahead of the test day. 

#4 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963
Drivers: Mathieu Jaminet (3rd), Felipe Nasr (5th), Nick Tandy (12th)
Test Day: 2nd
About This Team: Porsche looks to be the manufacturer to beat entering Le Mans. It has won two of three WEC and it has won two of five IMSA races, including the 24 Hours of Daytona. Nasr was a member of the Daytona winning team. Jaminet and Tandy won at Laguna Seca. This lineup only completed 84 laps last year at Le Mans due to a fuel pressure issue. This car was 0.235 seconds off the best time on the test day, which was set by one of its sister cars, the #6 Porsche.

#5 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963
Drivers: Matt Campbell (6th), Michael Christensen (10th), Frédéric Makowiecki (14th)
Test Day: 4th
About This Team: Campbell had a stellar race at Daytona in January as the endurance driver. The #5 Porsche has started on pole position in two of the first three WEC races with a pair of third-place finishes. Last year, Christensen and Makowiecki did not get on the podium once. All three factory Porsches were within a second of one another on the test day.

#6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963
Drivers: Kévin Estre (10th), André Lotterer (13th), Laurens Vanthoor (9th)
Test Day: 1st
About This Team: The #6 Porsche leads the World Endurance Drivers' Championship through three races with 74 points, and it was fastest on the test day with its best lap at 3:26.907. This team has finished first, second and second in the first three races. Lotterer has three overall Le Mans victory, but the most recent was a decade ago. Estre and Vanthoor were co-drivers in the 2018 Le Mans GTE Pro winning entry with Christensen.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 Hybrid
Drivers: Kamui Kobayashi (10th), José María López (8th), Nyck de Vries (5th)
Test Day: 9th
About This Team: Mike Conway suffered an injury in a cycling accident and has been removed. López has been drafted in from the Lexus LMGT3 program to fill this vacancy. The #7 Toyota won at Imola and is currently third in the championship. Prior to last year's retirement, the #7 Toyota had been on the overall podium in five consecutive years and in six of the previous seven. This is de Vries first year at Le Mans in the premier class.

#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 Hybrid
Drivers: Sébastien Buemi (13th), Brendon Hartley (11th), Ryō Hirakawa (5th)
Test Day: 3rd
About This Team: The #8 Toyota has not finished better than fifth this year in WEC. This is the longest podium drought for this entry since a 14-race stretch that started in May 2015 and went through October 2016. This car has been first or second in six consecutive years at Le Mans. The #8 Toyota was within 0.708 seconds of the top time on the test day. Buemi could become the sixth driver with at least five Le Mans victories. Hartley could become the tenth driver with at least four Le Mans victories.

#11 Isotta Fraschini Isotta Fraschini Tipo 6-C
Drivers: Carl Bennett (1st), Antonio Serravalle (1st), Jean-Karl Vernay (2nd)
Test Day: 23rd
About This Team: Isotta Fraschini was 2.583 seconds off the next slowest car on the test day. It is three seconds away from being three seconds away. Its best finish in class through three races is 15th. Vernay's only other Le Mans appearance was in 2013, where he won in the GTE Am class.

#12 Hertz Team Jota Porsche 963
Drivers: Callum Ilott (2nd), Norman Nato (7th), Will Stevens (9th)
Test Day: 10th
About This Team: Hertz Team Jota ride a high into Le Mans after its victory in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps last month. Combined with a finish of second in Qatar, Ilott and Stevens are second in the championship, 22 points off the #6 Porsche. Jota has three class victories at Le Mans, all in LMP2, including two years ago with Stevens as one of its drivers.

#15 BMW M Team WRT BMW M Hybrid V8
Drivers: Raffaele Marciello (1st), Dries Vanthoor (5th), Marco Wittmann (1st)
Test Day: 15th
About This Team: The #15 BMW has failed to score a point through three races. Marciello and Wittmann are still brand new to prototype racing let alone Le Mans debutants. Vanthoor won on his Le Mans debut in the GTE Am class seven years ago. He competed the previous two years in the LMP2 class.

#19 Lamborghini Iron Lynx Lamborghini SC63
Drivers: Matteo Cairoli (8th), Andrea Caldarelli (1st), Romain Grosjean (2nd)
Test Day: 18th
About This Team: This is the IMSA Endurance Cup team, which has only competed at the 12 Hours of Sebring, where they finished seventh and on the lead lap, but was not much of a contender. Grosjean make this first Le Mans appearance since 2010 when he drove a Ford GT1 for Match Competition. Caldarelli dabbled in some LMP2 action last year ahead of this move into a prototype. Cairoli has only ever competed in the GTE Am class at Le Mans prior to this year.

#20 BMW M Team WRT BMW M Hybrid V8
Drivers: Robin Frijns (4th), René Rast (6th), Sheldon van der Linde (1st)
Test Day: 6th
About This Team: Sixth on the test day and only 1.165 seconds from the top time was a little bit of a surprise for the #20 BMW. The Art Car does have a past Le Mans class winner in Frijns at the wheel, as well as a driver who has five starts, all in prototype classes including a run in an Audi R18 e-tron quattro, in this race in Rast. This could be the sleeper for the 2024 race.

#35 Alpine Endurance Team Alpine A424
Drivers: Paul-Loup Chatin (10th), Ferdinand Habsburg (5th), Charles Milesi (5th)
Test Day: 20th
About This Team: Alpine has not shown the pace to be a race contender. The team has scored 11 points through the first three races. Habsburg is back after missing the last two races due to injuries suffered in a test at Aragón. Habsburg and Milesi won the LMP2 class at Le Mans three years ago. Chatin's first nine Le Mans appearances came in the LMP2 class. 

#36 Alpine Endurance Team  Alpine A424
Drivers: Nicolas Lapierre (16th), Mick Schumacher (1st), Matthieu Vaxivière (8th)
Test Day: 17th
About This Team: The #36 Alpine has not scored a point this season. Lapierre has four class victories at Le Mans. He and Vaxivière were third overall in a grandfathered LMP1 car. Schumacher makes his Le Mans debut 33 years after his father Michael's only Le Mans start. Michael Schumacher ran the fastest lap in the 1991 race as he was fifth overall in a Team Sauber Mercedes.

#38 Hertz Team Jota Porsche 963
Drivers: Jenson Button (3rd), Phil Hanson (8th), Oliver Rasmussen (3rd)
Test Day: 11th
About This Team: The second Hertz Team Jota entry has not had the same pace as the #12 Porsche through the first three races, but the #38 Porsche was right in line with its teammate on the test day. Though this is an experienced lineup, it is quite green in comparison to the other Hypercar lineups. Hanson did win in the LMP2 class in 2020, but he finished tenth or worse the last three years in LMP2 at Le Mans.

#50 Ferrari - AF Corse Ferrari 499P
Drivers: Antonio Fuoco (4th), Miguel Molina (8th), Nicklas Nielsen (5th)
Test Day: 5th
About This Team: Though this was not the winning team at Le Mans last year, the #50 Ferrari was the more celebrated entry for the entire 2023 season. It is currently the best Ferrari in the championship, tied for fourth on 40 points, and it was third at Spa-Francorchamps. This group is still looking for its first WEC victory. It was on pole position last year at Le Mans. It will be a factor in this race.

#51 Ferrari - AF Corse Ferrari 499P
Drivers: James Calado (10th), Antonio Giovinazzi (3rd), Alessandro Pier Guidi (9th)
Test Day: 12th
About This Team: Since winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, the #51 Ferrari has not finished on the podium in its last six starts. It was fourth at Spa-Francorchamps last month. This was the slowest of the three Ferraris on the test day. 

#63 Lamborghini Iron Lynx Lamborghini SC63
Drivers: Mirko Bortolotti (3rd), Daniil Kyvat (2nd), Edoardo Mortara (1st)
Test Day: 7th
About This Team: The full-time WEC Lamborghini has not scored a point this season. Bortolotti and Kyvat were co-drivers last year in LMP2, but retired after completing 113 laps. Bortolotti is a two-time class winner in the 24 Hours of Daytona, both in the GTD class. Mortara has spent the last seven seasons competing in Formula E.

#83 AF Corse Ferrari 499P
Drivers: Robert Kubica (4th), Robert Shwartzman (1st), Ye Yifei (4th)
Test Day: 8th
About This Team: The privateer Ferrari is ahead of the #51 Ferrari in the championship, but the #83 Ferrari has finished eighth in the last two races. Kubica won the LMP2 championship last year in WEC and he was runner-up in LMP2 the last two years at Le Mans. Shwartzman was the 2019 Formula Three championship and runner-up in the 2021 Formula Two championship to Oscar Piastri. Ye and Kubica were leading the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the LMP2 class three years ago before the car broke down on the final lap and the car was not classified. Ye made his Hypercar class debut last year driving for Hertz Team Jota.

#93 Peugeot TotalEnergies Peugeot 9X8 2024
Drivers: Nico Müller (3rd), Mikkel Jensen (5th), Jean-Éric Vergne (6th)
Test Day: 21st
About This Team: Peugeot is bringing an updated 9X8 with a rear spoiler. Results have not been much better with the new car. The #93 Peugeot has finished ninth and tenth in the last two races. None of these three drivers have ever finished better than fifth in class at Le Mans.

#94 Peugeot TotalEnergies Peugeot 9X8 2024
Drivers: Loïc Duval (12th), Paul di Resta (6th), Stoffel Vandoorne (3rd)
Test Day: 13th
About This Team: The #94 Peugeot has yet to finish better than 14th this season in WEC competition. Duval won overall 11 years ago with Audi. Di Resta won in the LMP2 class four years ago. This is Vandoorne's first Le Mans appearance since 2021. He was third overall in 2019 and second in LMP2 in 2021.

#99 Proton Competition Porsche 963
Drivers: Julian Andlauer (7th), Neel Jani (14th), Harry Tincknell (11th)
Test Day: 22nd
About This Team: Andlauer and Jani were fifth in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps as Tincknell was unable to compete due to IMSA commitments. All three drivers have won at Le Mans before. Jani won overall in 2016 with Porsche. Tincknell has two class victories, on debut in 2014 with Jota in LMP2 and in 2020 with Aston Martin in GTE Pro. Andlauer won on debut in 2018 in GTE Am.

#311 Action Express Racing Cadillac V-Series.R
Drivers: Jack Aitken (3rd), Pipo Derani (9th), Felipe Drugovich (1st)
Test Day: 14th
About This Team: Action Express was runner-up in the 24 Hours of Daytona in January from pole position, and a promising Sebring was ended after an untimely accident. Aitken has settled in as a full-time driver of the Cadillac in IMSA. Derani is a great leader, but Drugovich has two sports car races to his name. 

Practice for the 24 Hours of Le Mans will begin at 8:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday June 12 and last for three hours. Qualifying practice will be for one-hour at 1:00 p.m. ET with night practice lasting two hours and beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET. 

Thursday begins with a three-hour practice at 9:00 a.m. ET. Hyperpole qualifying will take place at 2:00 p.m. ET before a one-hour night practice at 4:00 p.m. ET. 

There will be a 15-minute warm-up at 6:00 a.m. ET on Saturday June 15 with the 92nd 24 Hours of Le Mans beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET.