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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Le Mans 24 Hours: What's changed for WEC's main event in 2024?

The 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours will feature many changes from 2023 - so what are they?

#31 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Darren Leung, Sean Gelael, Augusto Farfus

#31 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Darren Leung, Sean Gelael, Augusto Farfus

Photo by: Marc Fleury

The world’s most prestigious endurance race is back as this weekend drivers will tackle Circuit de la Sarthe for the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Ferrari is the defending champion having won the race’s centenary edition in 2023, which was its first overall victory at Le Mans since 1965.  
But the Italian manufacturer has bigger competition this year as the Hypercar class, introduced in 2021, now consists of 23 cars rather than 16 and Le Mans has not had a top category so large this century.
So who are those teams and what else is new at Le Mans this year?

An expanded Hypercar grid for the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours

The World Endurance Championship had 13 cars in its Hypercar class for the 2023 season, which increased to 16 at Le Mans.
It was Ferrari who took a front-row lockout with its two 499P Hypercars, before the car of James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi and Alessandro Pier Guidi claimed victory after overcoming an epic, late fight with defending winners Toyota.
That was the only round not won by Toyota though, as it stormed towards a fifth consecutive world championship. But 2024 has proven much harder for the Japanese manufacturer, whose cars sit third and eighth in the standings after three rounds, as part of a record-breaking 19-car grid. 
This came after BMW, Lamborghini and Isotta Fraschini entered WEC’s top category for 2024, while Alpine made the step up from LMP2. The grid has increased for Le Mans though, as Cadillac, Porsche Penske and Lamborghini are fielding an extra car while IMSA’s Action Express Racing is competing as a one-off.
#15 BMW M Team WRT BMW M Hybrid V8: Dries Vanthoor, Raffaele Marciello, Marco Wittmann

#15 BMW M Team WRT BMW M Hybrid V8: Dries Vanthoor, Raffaele Marciello, Marco Wittmann

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Cadillac’s entry consists of the reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou, who is making his Le Mans debut alongside two-time winner Earl Bamber and victor of the GTE Pro class in 2020 Alex Lynn. Cadillac’s #2 car will start the race in second, after the #6 Porsche denied it an astonishing pole position on Thursday.
In the extra Porsche car is former Formula 1 driver Felipe Nasr, who is sharing this ride with 2015 winner Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet and the trio will start the 24 Hours in 19th.
Romain Grosjean is making his first Le Mans appearance since 2010, where his Matech team failed to finish the race in a Ford GT1, as the F1-turned-IndyCar driver is part of Lamborghini’s extra entrant alongside Andrea Caldarelli and Matteo Cairoli, who will all start from 21st. 
Finally, in Action Express’ Cadillac V-Series.R is the 2022 F2 champion Felipe Drugovich who, despite not yet having driven the Le Mans 24 Hours in real life, is a two-time winner of the virtual edition.
He is sharing his Cadillac with DTM’s Jack Aitken and Pipo Derani, who has won two of the last three IMSA championships. The #311 Cadillac is starting the race from 18th. 

LMGT3 replacing LMGTE Am

LMGTE Am was a long-running category of the Le Mans 24 Hours dating back to 2011, where Larbre’s Patrick Bornhauser, Julien Canal and Gabriele Gardel won for the French outfit in a Corvette C6.R. 
The LMGTE Am class was designed for the gentleman driver, a term given to non-professionals, as teams had to field at least one FIA Bronze-graded competitor which is the lowest ranking and given to somebody who, for example, obtained their first racing licence after the age of 30 and has little or no single-seater experience. 
But, 2023 was the final appearance of LMGTE Am as it has now been replaced by LMGT3 for 2024.
#70 INCEPTION RACING McLaren 720S LMGT3 Evo of Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy and Frederik Schandorff

#70 INCEPTION RACING McLaren 720S LMGT3 Evo of Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy and Frederik Schandorff

Photo by: JEP

The purpose of the category remains the same though, as line-ups must still consist of at least one bronze-graded driver. The only difference is that the new cars are equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), which makes handling easier for amateurs so the quality of racing should be better. 
This class made its debut at the beginning of the 2024 season and the switch attracted new manufacturers such as Lamborghini, McLaren, Ford and Lexus, who all already had a strong pedigree in GT3 racing. 
There is also a McLaren on pole this weekend, as the Optimum-run Inception outfit of Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy and Frederik Schandorff toppled second-placed Manthey Pure Rxcing Porsche by a whopping 0.808 seconds.
But the #70 McLaren will have it hard in the race, as the #92 Porsche of Klaus Bachler, Alex Malykhin and Joel Sturm leads the championship and has almost double the points tally of Team WRT’s #31 BMW in second, which will start the 24 Hours from 15th.

No points awarded in LMP2

The long-standing LMP2 category was dropped for the 2024 WEC campaign due to growing demand in the Hypercar class. This meant WEC resorted to a two-class structure for the first time with LMP2 instead remaining part of the IMSA and European Le Mans Series championships, however, it is at Le Mans this year as a one-off.
But, because it’s not in WEC full-time, in 2024 LMP2 drivers will not be fighting for championship points as they were last year. That still does not take away from the spectacle though, as apart from the #45 Algarve Pro Racing entry the LMP2 grid was split by just over 2.5s in qualifying with AO by TF’s Pro-Am entry of PJ Hyett, Louis Deletraz and Alex Quinn on pole position.
This led to Le Mans’s LMP2 winner from 2017 Oliver Jarvis claiming “it’s as competitive as it’s ever been” after his United Autosports car, which is shared with Bijoy Garg and Nolan Siegel, qualified fifth. 

The absence of Garage 56 

Garage 56 is the entry that the Le Mans organiser Automobile Club de l’Ouest sets aside to offer innovative technology at Circuit de la Sarthe - which was perfectly represented on its debut in 2012. 
#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller, Jenson Button

#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller, Jenson Button

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

The entry went to the Nissan DeltaWing, which qualified a solid 29th overall and faster than five LMP2 cars, with Marino Franchitti, Michael Krumm and Satoshi Motoyama behind the wheel. The race did not go so well though, as the car retired on lap 75 after colliding with Kazuki Nakajima’s Toyota LMP1 car at the Porsche curves.
But its impact was still significant, as the DeltaWing ultimately led to Garage 56’s next entry in 2014 which was the hybrid Nissan ZEOD RC. Garage 56 then made history in 2016, as the first ever quadruple amputee attempted Le Mans with businessman Frederic Sausset, who lost his limbs to an infection four years prior, using an adapted Morgan LMP2 car.
Sausset operated throttle and braking with his thighs, while the steering column was attached to his right arm limb. He shared the entry with Christophe Tinseau and Jean-Bernard Bouvet, both of whom used the standard version, as Garage 56 finished a respectable 38th overall. 
Its next appearance was a 32nd-placed finish in 2021, where Garage 56’s entry included two disabled drivers - Nigel Bailly and Takuma Aoki - who both used an LMP2 car with adapted hand controls, while Matthieu Lahaye drove the standard apparatus to complete the team.
Garage 56 returned in 2023 to commemorate 75 years of NASCAR by entering the championship’s new-for-2022 Next Gen car at Le Mans. This was driven by F1 world champion Jenson Button, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller who came second-to-last of the overall finishers, but project leader Chad Knaus was still proud of completing the 24-hour affair.
That, for now, will remain Garage 56’s last appearance as it will not feature in 2024 and it is currently unknown when the entry will return.

BoP changes 

The 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours is featuring another way in which Balance of Performance is regulated, as it will debut ‘power gain’.
This will adjust the power below and above 155mph so that the acceleration and straightline speeds of the Hypercars are more closely matched.
#6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer, Laurens Vanthoor

#6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer, Laurens Vanthoor

Photo by: Emanuele Clivati | AG Photo

It was supposed to debut in Imola, WEC’s second round, after some manufacturers trialled it during pre-season testing, but no reason was given for a delay that extended through round three at Spa-Francorchamps.
There are three manufacturers to have been hit by power gain for this year’s Le Mans, as Ferrari’s maximum power has been reduced by 1.7%, approximately 11bhp, above 155mph, while Lamborghini (1.6%) and Peugeot (0.7%) have also lost out under the component.

No tyre warmers 

WEC introduced a ban on tyre warmers at the beginning of the 2023 season, citing environmental factors as the reason behind it. However, said ban was lifted as a one-off for that year’s Le Mans after a spate of accidents involving cars leaving the pits on cold tyres at WEC’s prior round in Spa.
The ACO also released a statement saying that lifting the ban on a one-off basis would give “tyre manufacturers, teams and drivers valuable time to develop better understanding of how to bring cold tyres up to temperature ahead of the remainder of the 2023 WEC season”.
But there was still a possibility that the ban would once again be lifted for Le Mans this year due to the uniqueness of Circuit de la Sarthe, where the temperature is significantly different between night and day.
Yet that will not be happening, so drivers are now tackling Le Mans without tyre warmers. This decision was met with support from teams, as many had expressed a desire for rules to remain consistent throughout the season.
Earlier this week though, Ferrari called for stricter policing on the temperatures of tyres before they are fitted to Hypercars. Antonello Coletta, Ferrari’s sportscar racing boss, appeared to suggest that one manufacturer was gaining an advantage by circumventing the ban.
#83 AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Robert Kubica, Robert Shwartzman, Yifei Ye

#83 AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Robert Kubica, Robert Shwartzman, Yifei Ye

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

“In past races, we have already seen that someone has been very good at warming their tyres and on a track like this, we lose over 15s [a lap] when we go out on cold tyres,” said Coletta.
“It is important for the organisers to control the temperatures [of the tyres] when they go on the cars - the rules must be respected.
“The authorities need to check the temperatures; they must be sure that all manufacturers stick to the rules. I don’t want the Le Mans 24 Hours to be decided on the warm-up of the tyres in the night or other difficult conditions.”
It’s believed that he was referring to championship leaders Porsche, who has had an advantage on tyre warm-up at different points of the season so far - but the FIA confirmed that checks are being conducted at Le Mans.
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