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Looking ahead to Le Mans 2014

For all that was good about it, and there was more about what I love about Le Mans in 2013 than any I can recall – constantly changing weather, unbelievable driving, thrilling battles and victory to the best team – it’s a race from which I expect we will all want to move on quickly. Any death casts an impregnable shadow and I am sure there’s not an outright or class winner for whom the champagne didn’t feel somewhat flat this year, nor who wouldn’t given it all up in a heartbeat if it would have kept Allan Simonsen out of the Armco.

le mans  Looking ahead to Le Mans 2014

I hear too muttering about the future of Le Mans, based on the assumption that Simonsen’s death was caused by said Armco being positioned too close a tree and the assertion that a great deal of the barriers around the track are buried in sand rather than concrete and are therefore unable to do their job properly. I am in no position to confirm or deny any of this, nor will anyone be until the official investigation is concluded and its findings published. But what I do know is the ACO is a wealthy club and the race a massive boost to the local economy. One way or another there will be a 24 race there in 2014, and so there should be. As I said after the equally tragic death of Christian Devereux at Donington earlier in the year, people who choose to race cars do so with their eyes open. Of course circuits should be made as safe as their environment allows but the only attendees at a motor race with the right to expect a negligible risk level are members of the public.

So Le Mans 2014 will take place and, so far as I am aware, with the works Audi and Toyota squads taking on a full factory Porsche prototype team. Astonishingly, given this was Audi’s 15th consecutive year in the event, the two most successful teams in the history of Le Mans have never met, Porsche’s last (and victorious) participation being in 1998, the year before the first Audi R8Rs and R8Cs came to Le Mans.

And forget all the old wisdom about a newly formed team needing three years to win Le Mans. Porsche announced its return to Le Mans almost exactly two years ago, and Lord knows how long it had been working on the car before then. So when the teams comes to France next year, whatever its advance press releases say about the race being no more than a real world test session, if you believe nothing else believe they will have their focus not merely on the podium, but its top step. Remember 1982? Porsche turned up to Le Mans with three 956s and came first, second and third despite having never hitherto built a car with a monocoque chassis or ground effect aerodynamics. And they did it with a car that had run for the first time not three years, but just three months earlier. Now factor in a Toyota that has now come second at Le Mans four times since 1992 and has undoubtedly has the money, facilities and talent to go one better and the promise this race holds is clear for all to see.

le mans  Looking ahead to Le Mans 2014

Most of all however, I want the Aston Martins to come back in force and win everything to which they are entitled. It’s not just because it would be a fitting tribute to Allan Simonsen: I was profoundly impressed by the way the Astons were able to meet and often beat the pace of the brand new, factory run Porsche 911 RSRs, bad luck alone denying them the class victory they deserved and for which the team would have been more than usually desperate.

It will be the most hotly anticipated race at Le Mans, possibly since works Jaguars took on works Porsches in the halcyon Group C days of the 1980s. I hope the race itself delivers on that promise and, above all, does so safely.

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le mans  Looking ahead to Le Mans 2014

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13 comments on Looking ahead to Le Mans 2014

  1. Carlos Sanchez, 25 June 2013 12:09

    Yes, but that picture of the Porsche prototype, where was it taken? at the Weissach test track? I know it’s rather difficult to get access in there…

  2. Alex Harmer, 25 June 2013 13:00

    Carlos,

    That picture was indeed taken at Weissach.

    ACH

  3. Mario Carneiro Neto, 25 June 2013 13:40

    Carlos, Porsche released the picture officially a few weeks ago.

  4. Bill, 25 June 2013 14:18

    ” I want the Aston Martins to come back in force and win everything to which they are entitled.”

    …with Ford engines. Not so entitled in my book.

  5. The Original Ray T, 25 June 2013 16:56

    I remember 1982, when Porsche came in with a big sponsor, massive effort, and no real competition.
    The RS spyder LMP2 was another good example of how they like to target the lowest level of competition possible.
    Honestly, I’m thinking much of the 2013 Lemans prototype class was staged for appearance. Audi let Toyota get the pole, but when the time came in the race, those Audis dropped the sandbags and took off.
    Porsche vs. Audi will be interesting, but I’ll note that Toyota was pretty strong this year.

    What about the disappointments of 2013? Those Vipers were slooow.

  6. Andrew Muggeridge, 25 June 2013 19:23

    Err The Original Ray T, I think you’ll find that Audi took pole this year not Toyota…

  7. Rich Ambroson, 27 June 2013 05:42

    I’m looking forward to a multi-manufacturer battle. I really do hope to see Audi battling Porsche as well as Toyota. Very Good!

  8. dwhayes80, 27 June 2013 14:06

    Plus Webber will be there in 2014!

  9. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 27 June 2013 16:32

    Umm, doesn’t VW own both Audi and Porsche?

    How will that work?

    It seems like the victory will be a staged affair. Unless, of course, Toyota can up it’s game hugely.

    I mean, what incentive is there for a German company to have it’s two brands beat eachother into a pulp …only to have the Japanese win by default?

    Answer: None.

    Unless some one can convince me otherwise, the 2014 ‘race’ will be a staged event.

    I hope for Mark’s sake that he’s signed up to be at the juicier end of a decision that’s already been made in the Volkswagen boardroom.

  10. Mikey, 27 June 2013 19:39

    Webber’s move is finally official. McLaren have a lousy ’13 car. A ’14 car on a one year engine deal then its start again with Honda in ’15. That sounds like years of potentially treading water. At this stage in his career, Button could do worse than jump ship and join Webber at Porsche. A Le Mans win looks so much more impressive on a CV than “Winner of the Long Haul Desert Grand Prix” and lets face it, he’s won most of the one’s that matter.

  11. DreadUK, 27 June 2013 20:44

    @ The Original Ray T

    I could almost agree with your first two points but all it would have taken was a puncture (and I know the No. 2 car had a slow one) to shred some bodywork…….or an alternator failure for Toyota to finish the job they had started.

    As for Porsche Vs. Audi, and the doubters. Le Mans is Porsche territory, their history and success there is legendary, they don’t go there to make F1 type team order deals, they go to win. It may be a first, but I’ll put money on an epic battle between Audi and Porsche, and I’ll bet Toyota turn up as well. About to book tickets for next year, this should be a memorable race, all we need is Jaguar back with an LMP1.

  12. Ray In Toronto Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 28 June 2013 07:25

    Once again, don’t Volkswagen own both Audi and Porsche?

    And, once again, why would one company pit two of it’s brands against each-other and risk getting beaten by a Japanese firm if it raced harder than needed to?

    It makes no sense at all…Unless, it’s already been decided who’ll win.

  13. Matthew Short, 5 July 2013 09:32

    I have heard a rumour that Bentley are going to have a car for next year! Has anyone else heard this?

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