Le Mans, the world’s oldest sports car race in endurance racing is taking place this weekend over 13 and 14 June. Named after the French town where the race starts, the 24 hour endurance race is famous for testing endurance and speed levels of sports cars. Over the course of 24 hours each car races non stop with only pit stops to fill up on consumables and for drivers to take over. Three relief drivers are allowed for each car and the circuit includes closed public roads and a specialist racing circuit.
There are two levels in the competition. One is to race in groups known as ‘classes’ where cars of similar specs race each other. The other level is where everyone races each other to be the top dog over everyone. There are four categories, two for prototypes (LMP1 and LMP2) and two GT classes (LM GTE Pro and GTE Am). This year there are 56 teams competing in the race and are made up a mixture of road car manufacturers and professional motor racing teams.
This year Toyota Racing, the Audi Sport Team, Porsche Team and Nissan Motorsports are taking part in the LMP1 category with the Toyota TS 040, Audi R18 and Nissan GTR LM NISM respectively. Oak Racing, Extreme Speed Motorsports and G Drive racing are taking part in the LMP2 category and you can expect to see the Morgan, Ligier JS P2 and the Oreca 05 and 03R on the track. Aston Martin are using the Aston Martin Vantage in both the LM GTE categories. Several different teams are racing the Ferrari 458 in both GTE categories. Likewise, Porsche and Corvette Racing have the Chevrolet competing in the LM GTE Pro class.
The make up of drivers is really complex as even the drivers are categorised. ‘Platinum’ drivers need to satisfy two criteria listed by the FIA, ‘gold’ drivers need to meet one element of criteria. ‘Silver’ and ‘bronze’ drivers are regarded as amateur drivers who need to meet one criterion. Age is also a factor and any driver under 30 can only be ‘silver’. Drivers over 50 start to go down in grades. There are also limitations concerning the composition of crews as each class has its own rules. For instance, in LM P1 no ‘bronze’ drivers are allowed and the LM GTE Pro class can have any class of driver. The other classes must have a mixture of the trio of driver classes. Famous faces who have driven in the race include Paul Newman in a Porsche in 1979, Eddie Jordan in 1981 in a BMW and Fabien Barthez took to the wheel of a Ferrari in 2014. This year, actor Patrick Dempsey of Grey’s Anatomy fame is driving in a Porsche 911 in the LM GTE Am class for his own racing company Dempsey-Proton Racing.
What’s quite exciting about the race this year is that Aston Martin Racing have just unveiled their Aston Martin Vantage for the race and the livery has been designed by German artist Tobias Rehberger. He is an international award winning artist who is famous for abstract art that includes optical effects and distorted perceptions. Rehberger has used colours and lines that give the Gulf#97 Vantage GTE an illusion of speed and movement even when the car isn’t moving. Vibrant colours like orange, yellow, blue and black are used to create vertical bars that are alternated to help create the optical illusion. It is pretty lurid it must be said and you might think that you are looking at a television test card through goggles. Certainly achieves Rehberger’s intention to create “optical confusion” as he calls it!
If you want to check out Rehberger's art and see how the race goes then Eurosport 1 and 2 will be showing some of the race on TV and you can follow the race live here.