Le Mans: Pre-race post roundup, notes and quick race preview

Photo: Toyota
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Here’s a quick roundup of posts from the week leading into the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a few key things to look forward to in this weekend’s 85th 24 Hours of Le Mans:

Here’s the provisional starting grid.

PREVIEW

The race from an overall standpoint has a rather simple story line: Either Toyota finally breaks through after years of heartbreak, that culminated with its final 10 minute failure last year, or it doesn’t. The Toyota TS050 Hybrid has the clear one-lap pace and Kamui Kobayashi threw down an absolutely amazing pole lap; Toyota will look to translate that over 24 hours. It’s never that simple, of course, and Porsche will play the long game to hope its Porsche 919 Hybrids can overcome the pace deficit.

In LMP2, higher than expected top speeds have the ability to wreak havoc on the rest of the field. How well will the LMP2s and LMP1s interact together in traffic? Will the performance capabilities of the new LMP2 cars outperform the abilities of some of the drivers in them? Which Oreca wins? OK, we’re hoping it’s not a complete Oreca whitewash but all indications are it will be one of the 14 combined Oreca 07/Alpine A470 chassis that will win in this class.

GTE-Pro, fortunately, seems a bit less settled with Aston Martin and Ferrari locking out the first two rows and Ford and Corvette just behind. Porsche is slightly further back but not out of it either. After last year’s two-horse race between Ford and Ferrari, it looks set to be a proper fight here.

The same is true in GTE-Am, with a surprise pole coming for the sole Corvette in that class, but its one-lap pace may be limited as the race goes on with two gentlemen drivers alongside. There’s still a good potential seven or eight winners here in the 16-car class.

The four IndyCar drivers of note we’re following look to shine in their stints – Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin add Le Mans to their busy schedules while Townsend Bell looks to defend his class victory in GTE-Am.

Add in Rubens Barrichello making his debut, a host of IMSA stars including both Taylor brothers in the field, the number of Formula E drivers back in sports cars and some other Mazda Road to Indy graduates in their first race and there’s plenty of drivers with story lines to watch.

The race kicks off at 3 p.m. local time and 9 a.m. ET.