Guide to the classes | Le Mans 2010 | 24-hour race

Published: 09 June 2010

This year, teams are split into two categories: Prototype and Grand Touring. The former are cars created specifically for endurance racing, the latter are homologated from road cars.

Each category is then split into two further disciplines – one a higher performance grade, the other slightly lower. This means four overall ‘classes’ of cars racing at once at Le Mans, with each class having its own winners and prizes. For 2010, rule changes have been made to aspects such as aerodynamic performance, air restrictor size and weight allowances in an effort to try and equalise the field. Organisers hope this will make for closer, more exciting racing. There is also a strong focus on making motorsport ‘greener’, with the inclusion of biofuel-equipped cars in recent years.

Below is a short run-down of the classes, and the teams to watch out for at 2010’s Le Mans race.


LMP1: Prototype racing at the highest level

The crème-de-la-crème at Le Mans. The technological sophistication at this level of racing means these 24 cars – and their drivers – are at the very top of the endurance racing game. Since 2008, regulations have been adapted to include petrol cars using a 10% ethanol mix, and the inclusion of diesel BTL-powered cars (BTL stands for biomass-to-liquid, a type of diesel extracted from non-edible parts of plants).

The LMP1 cars are identifiable by the car’s racing number. Cars in this category will sport a red sticker and a number between 1 and 24. They must weigh over 900kg (930kg for diesel cars). The weight penalty for diesel cars is designed to prevent unfair advantage – since inclusion in 2006 the diesel cars of Audi and Peugeot have dominated the podium due to their uncompromising efficiency.

Ones to watch in 2010 include:

Audi Team Joest
Fielding the R15 TDI, Audi’s team includes some of the best-known names in contemporary Le Mans racing. Scotland’s Allan McNish and Denmark’s Tom Kristensen are particularly well known, having won several events – including Le Mans – over their impressive careers. The Audi cars have undergone a huge revamp for 2010 following regulations changes last November. Perhaps the biggest change is to the front end of the car, which now sports a two-part nose design.

Peugeot Total
The poetically-named 908 HDi FAP remains largely unchanged since 2009, and for good reason. It won last year’s event. Drivers include former F1 racers Sebastian Bourdais and Olivier Panis, and British endurance star Anthony Davidson. The Peugeot stable can also boast a one-two result at the 1000km de Spa-Francorchamps endurance event in May 2010, indicating a strong chance of success at Le Mans in 2010. Ones to watch.

 Aston Martin Racing
Fielding two cars in LMP1 for the first time in 2010, the Aston Martin-Lola machines will be sporting the iconic blue and orange Gulf oil colours – the very same livery as Steve McQueen’s Gulf Porsche in Le Mans. The cars use the same basic V12 petrol engine found in the One-77 supercar and other V12 Astons. Watch out for cars 007 and 009, the latter being driven by British duo Darren Turner and Sam Hancock, with Denmark’s Juan Barazi as the third driver. CAR has scored a pass deep inside the Aston team, so expect plenty of live blogs giving the news direct from Aston.

• Beechdean Mansell
Formula 1 legend Nigel Mansell is fielding his own all-British team for 2010. He’ll be driving, with his sons Leo and Greg as his team-mates. The car is a Ginetta Zytek prototype with a petrol engine, wearing red number five.

• Drayson Racing
Worthy of a mention simply because one of the drivers is our very own Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation in the UK. The car is a Lola Judd Coupé, powered by a petrol and bioethanol-sipping V10 engine.

LMP2: Open and closed cockpit, privateer-run prototypes

These cars are lighter and less powerful than their LMP1 relatives, and are also allowed either open or closed cockpit configurations. Essentially the reserve of private racing teams, this is the class where we see Lolas with Mazda engines, Radicals and all manner of other high-tech machinery. Look out for blue stickers and numbers between 25 and 49.

Ones to watch in 2010 include:

Northamptonshire’s RML Racing will field its Lola HPD Coupé at this year’s Le Mans, piloted by British trio Mike Newton, Thomas Erdos and Andy Wallace. Having won its class at Spa in May 2010, big things are expected from the UK-based team.

• Strakka Racing
Silverstone-based Strakka Racing will field an all-British team of drivers for its 2010 Honda Performance Development ARX-01c. The Spa-Francorchamps 1000km saw an early exit for the Strakka car following a crash around three quarters of the way through the race, so the team hopes for better luck at Le Mans.

• Team Bruichladdich
Set to field a Radical Ginetta Zytek 09S with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, this UK-based team expects a total distance of 3000 miles to be covered over the course of the race. Enjoying a podium in Valencia last month means the team has high hopes for Le Mans in 2010.

LMGT1: The pick of the crop of grand tourers

Cars in this category are actually born as road cars, although they must be extremely highly modified to race at Le Mans. There are only eight cars competing for the top sports car prize this year. Maximum power is 600bhp, while the minimum weight allowed is 1250kg (or a maximum of 560bhp with a minimum weight of 1200kg). It’s here you’ll find the Lamborghini Murcielago of the Japanese Lamborghini Owner’s Club, the Corvettes, the Ford GTs and the Saleen S7Rs. Sporting numbers 50 to 74, look out for green stickers to pick out the GT1 cars.

Ones to watch in 2010 include:

 Matech Competition
A car with years of history at Le Mans, albeit in a previous incarnation. The Ford GT is back, and if a pair of podiums at the Spa-Francorchamps 1000km is anything to go by, we’re expecting big things from Swiss-based Matech.

Last year’s JLOC (Japanese Lamborghini Owner’s Club) campaign was disastrous. After a mechanical failure stopped them after a couple of practice laps, the car was fixed only to break down again after one lap in the main race. Winning the Asian Le Mans Series meant automatic entry to this year’s event, but it’s not clear yet what the three Japanese drivers are capable of achieving in 2010.

• Labre Competition
Saleen returns to Le Mans after bowing out in 2009 because of regulation changes. French team Labre will field an S7.R, which finished a respectable third at Spa in May behind the three Ford GTs.

LMGT2: Fierce competition and a diverse grid

The lower class of sports cars competing at Le Mans, these cars muster between 450-500bhp and must weigh at least 1145kg. The regulations haven’t changed for 2010 in this class, perhaps because the GT2 class is by far the most diverse of the disciplines. Expect to see Porsche 911s, Ferrari 430s, Corvette C6 Rs, BMW M3s (including the ‘Art Car’), Spyker C8s and Aston Martin Vantages all fighting for position. Keep an eye on GT2 cars by picking out orange stickers displaying numbers 75-99.

Ones to watch in 2010 include:

• BMW Motorsport
Unusually, the two BMW M3 GT2s will sport different liveries for the 2010 race. This is thanks to the return of the BMW Art Car – number 79 will be wearing a design penned by artist Jeff Koons, rekindling a tradition first established in 1975. This year’s car is numbered 79 as a hat-tip to the 1979 Art Car, penned by Andy Warhol.

• Jaguar RSR
To celebrate 75 years of building and racing Jaguars, an XKR GT2 will take to the grid for this year’s race. British driver Ryan Dalziel will join American Paul Gentilozzi and Belgian Marc Goossens behind the wheel. Being the most successful British car manufacturer in the history of Le Mans, Jaguar is hoping its return to the race will result in a place on the podium.

• Porsche
The 911 GT3 RSR has six entries in this year’s race, and we tip German outfit Felbermayr-Proton with drivers Marc Lieb (Germany), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Wolf Henzler (Germany)  for the top spot. The other team to watch out for is BMS Scuderia, with British driver and FIA GT champion Richard Westbrook behind the wheel.

• JMW Motorsport
Set to race an Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT2, this UK-based team will field British drivers Rob Bell and Tim Sugden alongside USA racer Bryce Miller.

• AF Corse SRL
This Italian team will race a pair of Ferrari F430GTs, but the real headline is their driver line-up. Former F1 drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, Jean Alesi and Mika Salo all feature in the AF Corse SRL roster, meaning this team really is one to watch out for.

By Gareth Evans

Contributor, historic racer and now running sister title Motor Cycle News's website