Le Mans safety changes dilute challenge, warn drivers

Praise of the latest wave of circuit safety upgrades at Le Mans has been tempered with concerns that the famous circuit is losing its character.

Le Mans safety changes dilute challenge, warn drivers

Increased run-off where the final right-hander of the Porsche Curves leads into the left flick at Corvette Corner (pictured above) met with a mixed response from drivers during Sunday's official pre-race test, though few questioned that safety had been improved. 

Three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Andre Lotterer told Motorsport.com: "It is safer, I guess, but if the trend is continued it will be like driving through a parking lot with nothing around you.

"The Porsche Curves have always been one of the most iconic places at Le Mans and this is going to make it a little bit less thrilling. I think we have to be careful what we do this track."

Corvette Racing driver Jan Magnussen, who missed the Le Mans race in 2015 after crashing in the Porsche Curves during qualifying, offered similar sentiments. 

"I'm not necessary a fan of moving the walls and the barriers further away," he said. "If you move them miles away, this track becomes like any Formula 1 circuit and anyone can be fast."

ACO defends changes

Vincent Beaumesnil, sporting director of Le Mans organiser the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, explained that increasing the run-off was a necessary evil and preferable to changing the layout of the circuit. 

"The Porsche Curves are one of the most famous sections of track where we have cars going at 250km/h between two walls," he told Motorsport.com.

"One way to manage that situation would be to install a chicane, but that is a no-go for us. We want to keep the speed because it is part of the character of Le Mans, and this is a good compromise."

Beaumesnil explained that the changes at the end of the Porsche Curves were about trying to make sure a car hit the wall at a shallower angle in the event of an accident. 

The wall has been move back significantly and a large area of asphalt run-off added, which has created the potential for cars to cut the corner at Corvette. 

Beaumesnil insisted that track limits would be strictly enforced as a result of the changes, while the drivers explained that corner cutting was unlikely given the off-camber nature of Corvette. 

The angle of the wall at Maison Blanche, the left kink that leads onto the short straight before the Ford Chicane, has also been changed (pictured below).

This follows the accident in which Aston Martin driver Roald Goethe sustained back injuries in the 2015 race after being tagged by the winning Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by Nico Hulkenberg.

View Porsche corner

A new system of corner markers, known as 'floppies' (pictured below), was also trialled during the test at the weekend in the latest attempt to cut back on track-limit violations.

The spring-mounted devices failed to survive being hit, but Beaumesnil insisted that this was because of last-minute alterations. 

"We decided late to increase them in height to 40cm, which meant they did not go deep enough into their holes and that will change for the race," he explained.

Le Mans' Bugatti circuit has been resurfaced for this year, which means new asphalt for the main track used for the 24 Hours from Raccordement Chicane through to the start of the Esses.

Floppy at Prorsche corner
shares
comments
Porsche "could not match" Toyota Le Mans test pace
Previous article

Porsche "could not match" Toyota Le Mans test pace

Next article

Gavin: LMP2 speed increase “like having 30 LMP1s”

Gavin: LMP2 speed increase “like having 30 LMP1s”
Load comments
The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster Prime

The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster

The 1-2 finish achieved by Toyota at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours was a result that will have surprised few, given its status as pre-event favourite. But the result was anything but straightforward, as worsening fuel pressure concerns required the team's drivers and engineers to pursue "creative fixes" on the fly. Here is the full story of how it reached the end without a lengthy pit visit

Le Mans
Nov 3, 2021
Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood Prime

Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood

Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights.

Le Mans
Oct 16, 2021
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Prime

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far Prime

What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far

The new dawn for the FIA World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide Prime

Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide

After a two-month delay due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to get underway with the start of the Hypercar era at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in LMP2 at Le Mans Prime

The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in LMP2 at Le Mans

Kevin Magnussen will make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut this weekend alongside father Jan in LMP2. But the Danes won't be the only ex-F1 drivers to appear in the hotly contested category this year.

Le Mans
Aug 20, 2021
Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse? Prime

Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse?

One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
How to prepare an amateur for Le Mans sensory overload Prime

How to prepare an amateur for Le Mans sensory overload

The 23-car GTE Am field promises to be one of the most open in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, with the added jeopardy of managing the enthusiasm of amateur drivers to boot, as Absolute Racing Porsche driver Marco Seefried explains

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021