Le Mans: Grid, pre-race thoughts and story lines to watch

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Here are some quick final thoughts heading into Saturday’s 24 Hours of Le Mans:

STARTING GRID AFTER CHANGES

At least seven cars have been moved to the rear of the field for Saturday’s race – five LMP2 cars plus the No. 4 ByKolles CLM P1/o1 AER and the No. 63 Corvette C7.R.

No reason was listed on the provisional starting grid for the move, although in the past, it’s been a case where if one or more drivers didn’t complete their requisite night laps, that would trigger a penalty.

Here’s the provisional starting grid, which differs a bit from the qualifying times:

HOW MUCH IS IT GONNA RAIN? 

Rain has interrupted much of the week’s activity and it’d be a shock if it didn’t interrupt at least a portion of the race itself. Rain is forecast… quite for how long it does remains to be seen.

WHAT’S THE BOP NET EFFECT?

The unprecedented changes that saw the ACO peg back the Fords and Ferraris by adding weight to both cars in GTE-Pro, as well as make air restrictor changes to the Corvettes and Aston Martins, were the talk of the day.

A statement from Corvette Racing about the changes is below:

“We respect the additional review of data and performance by the FIA and ACO for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “The GTE Pro race has, from the beginning, promised to be one of the highlights of the event. We will continue to prepare ourselves for this immense challenge and compete with the same never-give-up attitude we have displayed each of our 17 years here.”

Meanwhile, this Sportscar365 report has good takes from all five manufacturers represented in GTE-Pro.

The changes come after qualifying produced a skewed and wide gap between the new built for 2016 GTE regulations car to the older but updated cars. Arguably, BoP has overshadowed what was meant to be a classic duel in the class – but the hope is that these changes will at least make it a competitive race.

There’s still a lot to be decided here.

ADDITIONAL STORY LINES TO MONITOR

We’ll just put these in simple one-line bullet points here, by class:

LMP1

  • What’s the reliability situation going to be in LMP1?
  • Will Porsche repeat, will Audi go a second consecutive year without winning Le Mans for the first time since its entry into the top class in 1999 (Audi’s only defeats since 2000 were 2003, Bentley, 2009, Peugeot and 2015, Porsche), or will Toyota finally break through and become the first Japanese manufacturer other than Mazda (which did so 25 years ago this year) to win this race?
  • Will Rebellion Racing score an overall podium?

LMP2

  • Can Pipo Derani complete his Daytona/Sebring/Le Mans Triple Crown attempt?
  • Can the Oreca 05/Alpine A460 package – the class pacesetters – be toppled?
  • Does Nissan score a likely victory with one of its 20 entered cars or could Judd or Honda shock with an upset?
  • Can KCMG repeat in its one-off appearance?
  • What is the fate of the open-top cars (the Gibson 015S, Morgan, Oreca 03R) in their likely final Le Mans bow?
  • How does British cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy fare in his race debut?
  • What surprise stars emerge?
  • Who ends ahead after the “musical chairs” round robin at G-Drive, Manor and Greaves?
  • American teams Tequila Patron ESM and Michael Shank Racing – how will they do? Shank enters with a five-minute in-race penalty looming following an engine change.
  • Does Mikhail Aleshin do something typically exciting, crazy or mind-blowing in his No. 27 SMP Racing BR01 Nissan?

GTE-Pro

  • How does Ford respond to the BoP changes? Does Ford have the reliability to last? What’s the reaction if Ford does pull off the win 50 years after 1966?
  • Can Corvette complete its second consecutive Triple Crown sweep, and secure its 100th win for its program?
  • Is there any Ford on Corvette violence? Ford on Ferrari? Any contact of note?
  • Does the new Ferrari 488 GTE win its third FIA WEC race in as many races?
  • Can Porsche or Aston Martin spring a surprise of sorts?
  • How do Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber fare as they race in GTE-Pro after scoring the overall win last year?
  • Verizon IndyCar Series stars Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais drive separate Fords. How does Dixon fare in his race debut and Bourdais in his return?

GTE-Am

  • Does Aston Martin Racing atone for its near miss last year?
  • Can Scuderia Corsa break through with the trio of Jeff Segal, Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell in their Ferrari F458 Italia?
  • How does the second all-American trio (Marc Miller, Leh Keen, Cooper MacNeil) do in the WeatherTech Proton Porsche 911 RSR?
  • How does Johnny O’Connell do in his return to Le Mans?
  • Same with Christina Nielsen in her Le Mans debut?

WHEN TO WATCH/HOW TO LISTEN

Best way to do so is via Radio Le Mans, live for all 24 hours with pre- and post-race coverage, live and online at radiolemans.com.  There’s also the FIA WEC app, which can be purchased and provides comprehensive video, stats and additional up-to-date information.

Meanwhile here is the U.S. TV breakdown across FOX Sports: