Le Mans 24 Hours 2012 Preview
Michelin aiming for 15th straight Le Mans 24 Hours win this Sunday
Motorsport’s greatest event, the Le Mans 24 Hours, takes place at the world-famous Circuit de la Sarthe in France this weekend (16/17 June) where Michelin is bidding for its 15th consecutive victory during the 80th staging of the endurance classic.
Michelin, of course, has been linked to the Le Mans 24 Hours since the very first race in 1923 when Chenard & Walcker’s Andre Lagache and Rene Leonard claimed the history-making victory to mark the start of one of the most successful chapters in the Michelin story.
Twelve of the 13 cars entered in the headline LMP1 Class for this year’s race will be running on Michelin rubber with reigning champions Audi heading the list with four cars – two turbo-diesel Audi R18 Ultras and two of the brand new hybrid R18 e-tron Quattro cars.
André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler, the 2011 winners, will pilot the first e-tron Quattro while the sister car is to be raced by Britain’s Allan McNish and his team-mates Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen. Of the two R18 Ultra entries, the number four car entered by Audi Sport North America will feature talented British youngster Oliver Jarvis.
Japanese manufacturer Toyota will also be competing with hybrid power and brings two of the most exciting line-ups. In the first of its TS030 cars, former Formula One racers Alexander Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima will be joined by Nicolas Lapierre. In car eight, ex-Peugeot Le Mans racer and F1 star Anthony Davidson will team with fellow F1 refugee Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin.
Of the privateer teams, Silverstone-based Strakka Racing – which features Michelin columnist Danny Watts and fellow Brits Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis – is expected to deliver a strong performance and after finishing seventh in the official test, hopes are high for their Honda-powered HPD ARX 03a.
Further British interest in the top class comes from Peter Dumbreck and David Brabham in the JRM HPD ARX 03a, which they will share with Karun Chandhok, while Stuart Hall will partner Emmanuel Collard and Jean-Christophe Boullion in the Pescarolo Judd. Le Mans isn’t just about LMP1 one though, there are three further classes for sports prototypes and GT cars.
In addition, specially developed Michelin tyres will be used on the invitational Highcroft Racing-run Delta Wing Nissan which is exploring new technologies, using a radical design, to cut fuel use by half. Britain’s Marino Franchitti, brother of IndyCar star Dario, heads the driver line-up.
As ever, around 250,000 spectators are expected to make the annual pilgrimage to Le Mans but if you’re not among the lucky ones, you can keep up to speed with all of the action at Michelin’s own www.lemanslive.com website or at www.lemans.org
The race will commence at 15.00 local time, 14.00 in the UK, on Saturday, 16 June, and can be seen live on the Eurosport network – check listings for more details.