Le Mans 2016: who's who, CAR+ June 2016

Published: 23 May 2016

► Runners and riders of Le Mans 2016
► CAR profiles the top LMP1 contenders
► And the cars Ford's GT must beat

LMP1: It's VW Group Civil War! (And a Toyota)

For overall honours, look no further than these three:

Porsche 919

What makes it tick?  
Porsche’s powertrain is built around a 2.0-litre turbocharged V4 petrol engine and two energy recovery systems: one reclaiming power from the front axle under braking and a second scavenging energy from the exhaust. When the whole lot chimes in the 919’s a 900bhp+ all-wheel-drive tool. The 919 runs in the 8-megajoule class, its efficient and powerful hybrid powertrain meaning the car must run on less fuel than the Audi over a lap.

Pedigree?

Porsche sits at the top of the all-time Le Mans winners pile, won Le Mans last year with the 919 and took both the drivers’ and constructors’ WEC titles in 2015.

They say: ‘The 900hp strong Le Mans prototype is ready for the title defence’

We say: It’s costing a fortune but with Audi and Porsche the VW board has at least ensured it’ll win Le Mans 2016

Audi R18

What makes it tick? A mid-mounted 4.0-litre turbodiesel V6 driving through a six-speed sequential ’box and backed up by a new hybrid system that does away with last year’s flywheel in favour of a lithium ion-battery, necessitated by Audi’s move up to the 6-megajoule class. The front axle motor/generator feeds the battery under braking and delivers drive at strategic points on the circuit, making the R18 a part-time quattro with more than a 1000bhp to play with.

Pedigree? A thoroughbred, winning on its debut in 2011 and winning every year until 2015, when Porsche ruined the party, primarily with its stronger corner-exit punch. Audi’s new hybrid drive and aero packaged should have redressed the balance.

They say: ‘The Audi R18 that has been redesigned from scratch has almost nothing in common with its predecessor’

We say: Audi had grown complacent but the new R18 has the speed. Wealth of experience in the Benoît Tréluyer/Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer driver line-up. Team as a whole is formidable.

Toyota TSO50

What makes it tick? Last year Toyota stuck out like a sore thumb by virtue of its turbo-less motor, a 3.7-litre V8. Not entirely without coincidence, Toyota also failed to win a race last year… So the V8’s gone and in comes a twin-turbo V6, working with a motor/generator unit on each axle and a lithium-ion battery. Now in the top 8-megajoule class; same as Porsche, one above Audi. 

Pedigree? Le Mans success has eluded Toyota thus far – to date Mazda remains the only Japanese manufacturer to win at La Sarthe. But at least not winning here is cheaper than not winning in F1.

They say: ‘The development potential of a turbo is a bit higher. We understood after Spa last year we should have switched…’

We say: On the pace at the WEC season-opener. Will be there should Audi and Porsche push each other into oblivion…

 

GTE Pro: Ford's fairytale?

It's battle royale in the top GT class

Ford GT

The plotline: Blue oval bookends half a century with Le Mans wins.
How likely? Textbook prep, a four-car team, serious Michelin support, some top-drawer drivers and the GT just recorded its first win. Game on.

Aston Martin Vantage

The plotline: Old-as-the-hills Vantage shows the upstarts who’s boss.
How likely? The curveball – a proven and fast car uniquely running Dunlop rubber. Nicki Thiim/Darren Turner/Marco Sorensen will threaten.

Ferrari 488 GTB 

The plotline: Ferrari ruins Ford’s party 50 years after the GT gave Enzo Ferrari the bird.
How likely? Quite. Came home second and third at Le Mans last year; won the WEC season-opener this year. 488 is quick, reliable, kind on its tyres.

Porsche 911 RSR

The plotline: Stuttgart lockout Le Mans 2016 with victory in LMP1 and GTE PRO…
How likely? Possible. The RSR is knocking on but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 2015 LMP1 winner Nick Tandy will be out to prove a point.

Chevrolet Corvette C7R 

The plotline: Corvette successfully defends its Le Mans GTE PRO crown.
How likely? Very. The Corvette is a distance-race tool, winning Le Mans last year and scoring a 1-2 at Daytona in January this year. Loud, fast, tough.

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three

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