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Old 1st July 2015, 13:57   #1
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Default Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France

When you think of France, the things that come to mind are the Eiffel Tower, perhaps the Louvre if you're artistically inclined, gourmet food, high fashion, beautiful women, and cheese to die for. Of course, we're Team BHPians, so we also think of Renault, Peugeot, Citroen, the French Moto GP, Paris-Dakar rally, and Le Mans.

Stop press. Le Mans? The place where cars run night and day, 24-hours at a stretch, 3 drivers in rotation, putting machine reliability, and human endurance to the ultimate test? Where a quarter of a million people descend on a little town that has a population barely half that, for one glorious weekend of motorsport in the early summer..that Le Mans?

Oui, oui! The very same:
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans46.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans180.jpg
Photos credit: Toyota Motor Europe | James Moy Photography

Last edited by GTO : 1st July 2015 at 14:31.
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Old 1st July 2015, 13:57   #2
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Le Mans 24 hours (official French name: 24 Heures du Mans) is one of motorsport's oldest and most endearing events. The race started as early as 1923 - just 4 years after Citroën, the oldest French carmaker, came into existence. To put it into perspective - the race has a rich history, and is counted by drivers in the Triple Crown of Motorsport, in the august company of the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix. Since 2013, it has also featured as the highlight of the World Endurance Championship (WEC), and is unique in its 24-hour length even there, as the championship features 7 other races of "just" 6 hours duration each.

Toyota are the defending World Endurance Manufacturer champions, having pipped Audi and Porsche to the post in 2014. The top 2 drivers last year, Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi, drove in Toyota Racing's 2015 Team#1 along with Kazuki Nakajima. With my motorsport interest largely limited to Formula 1, I was surprised at how many familiar names there were in all the top teams! However, last year's Le Mans race was actually won by Audi Sport, who came in as favourites for this year's event as well.

Le Mans is actually 4 races in one, though interestingly, all the cars run together. The main categories are the Le Mans Prototype and the Grand Touring Endurance. You have 2 categories within each, resulting in the final four:

LM P1: The main attraction of Le Mans, featuring the big spenders among the production car manufacturers. This year 14 cars participated. The rules governing this category were tweaked from the 2014 event, by imposing a total energy limit on the top contenders. Quoting from the official Le Mans 24 website:

Quote:
"The solutions used by the four manufacturers racing in 2015 are completely different. Audi, winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2014, has chosen diesel fuel unlike its three rivals and it harvests the energy generated under braking by means of an inertia flywheel. Toyota, the reigning World Endurance Manufacturers’ champion uses super-capacitors to store the energy recovered, while Porsche, back in the blue riband endurance category in 2014 after a 16-year absence, has opted for batteries which harvest energy from braking and from the heat generated by the turbocharger. And finally Nissan, which is making its comeback to the Sarthe in 2015, has explored a totally different path to its rivals with a front-engined, front-wheel drive car!"
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-nissagtrnismo_3340989k.jpg

LM P2: The main difference from P1 is capped costs, which attracts constructors with limited budgets. It was also the biggest category this year, accounting for 20 teams.

GTE Pro: The iconic names in sports car racing make their appearance here: Aston Martin, Corvette, Ferrari, and Porsche. Only 9 cars, but as per the organizers, "one of the most hotly-contested categories given the tiny gaps between the four manufacturers."

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-aston98ledgtamti_3340988k.jpg

Photos Source: 1 and 2 (The Telegraph UK copyright respective owners)

GTE Am (for amateurs): This category is subject to the same conditions that govern GTE Pro, with the added clause that the cars must be at least a year old, so that they cannot take advantage of the latest tweaks. This is the "celebrity magnet" at Le Mans: Hollywood's own, Patrick Dempsey was driving for Porsche this year, and past competitors have included Pink Floyd's Nick Mason, goalkeeping legend Fabien Barthez, and yesteryear heartthrob Paul Newman.

Last edited by GTO : 1st July 2015 at 14:31.
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Old 1st July 2015, 13:57   #3
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About the Toyota TS040 Hybrid Racer:

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans150.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans03.jpg

- Dimensions: Length x width x height = 4,650 mm x 1,900 mm x 1,050 mm

- Engine: 90°, naturally aspirated, 3.7L, V8 (petrol). Maximum power output comes in at nearly 1000 BHP (engine + hybrid system)

- Gearbox: Transversal with 7 gears (sequential)

- Clutch: ZF-supplied multi-disc

- Steering: Hydraulically assisted

- Suspension: Independent front and rear double wishbone, push-rod system

- Springs: Torsion bars

- Brakes: Dual circuit hydraulic brakes, mono-block light-alloy brake calipers with ventilated carbon discs

- Wheels: Magnesium forged 13 x 18 inch wheels by RAYS

- Tyres: 31/71-18 (Michelin radial)

- Driveshafts: Constant velocity tripod plunge-joint driveshafts

- Differential: Viscous mechanical locking differential

- Capacitor: Nisshinbo

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans96.jpg

Interesting information on the Toyota TS040:
  • The TS040 Hybrid comes under the Le Mans Prototype (LMP1) category.
  • The race car uses carbon fiber composite bodywork.
  • The gearbox casing is made of aluminium.
  • The front hybrid motor has been sourced from Aisin AW, while the inverter and rear hybrid motor have been developed by Denso.
  • Toyota says the 2015 TS040 had logged in 15,000 miles (24,140 kilometers) of testing in Europe.
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans290.jpg

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Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans94.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans89.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans112.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans311.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 1st July 2015 at 14:30.
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Old 1st July 2015, 13:57   #4
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Day One: Friday - 12th June, 2015

We landed there on Friday afternoon, just as the driver's parade was beginning. At first glance, Le Mans is a typical European small town. Located on the banks of the Sarthe river, after which the racetrack is named, it has a history far predating its admittedly long racing heritage. It was annexed by the Romans as early as 47 BC, and its contemporary name is the Francization of Cenomanus - which is what it was called back then.

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-006.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-019.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-011.jpg

Le Mans is a street circuit, 13.629 km long, and the driver's parade is traditionally held in the town's central square. Since regular traffic was diverted, we were dropped a little distance away from where the action was. As we walked through the quiet town wondering what the fuss was about, we suddenly started hearing the roar of engines and people alike! I don't think I had ever seen these many people in a single place outside of India! It wasn't too difficult to quickly get into the spirit of things.

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-014.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-018.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-050.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-052.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-073.jpg

It's a neat idea to have all the teams greet the spectators, riding in open-top, classic and vintage cars; all nearly in mint condition. The drivers seemed to relish the moment as much as the crowds!

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-077.jpg

Look familiar? Our very own Karun Chandhok, representing Dublin-based Murphy Prototypes (he eventually placed a respectable 5th in LM P2 category), seemed as excited to see us as we were to see him. Link to tweet.

Last edited by GTO : 1st July 2015 at 14:29.
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Old 1st July 2015, 13:57   #5
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Day 2 (Raceday): Saturday - 13th June, 2015

The day began rather anti-climatically, with a monster traffic jam on the A11 motorway that connects Le Mans with Paris - from where a lot of the traffic for the event flows in. A lot of Gallic shrugging and hand-wringing later, we found ourselves in the grandstands well past noon, having missed all of the support races, but thankfully well in time for the main event, which kicks off just before 3 pm local time.

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-119.jpg

And what an atmosphere it was!
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-123.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-imageuploadedbyteambhp1435376473.415167.jpg

The moments just before the race begins are electric. The sight of the cars on the track, mechanics running around, cars getting the final touches for the ordeal ahead, and the emotions of the drivers and their teams, have to be seen to be believed. Pictures do it scant justice.

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-122.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-152.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-150.jpg

I shot these handheld videos at the start to capture the atmosphere better. Here, the cars take off from their track-side pit stations to do a reconnaissance lap minutes before the official start:


Le Mans features an Indy 500-style rolling start, but the first time those car thunder down the start-finish straight is memorable. To add to the atmosphere is a helicopter convoy with some theme music:


A 24-hour race involves, for the most part, cars going round and around at 3 minute intervals. If you're in a fixed position on the track, that can get a bit tedious. The solution is moving your position around various designated viewing points along the track. My favourite was the one set up close to Arnage, at the slowest corner of the track, where the cars touch 76 km/h. We couldn't have timed it better - the safety car was deployed right about then, which meant the cars were yellow-flagged into slowing down even more than usual.

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-imageuploadedbyteambhp1435376581.454238.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-imageuploadedbyteambhp1435376642.995511.jpg

I shot these videos to give an idea of the speed difference of these high-powered machines under normal conditions, and when slowed down by the safety car. No words necessary!




It was the thrill of a lifetime, watching those monstrous cars up close. We even saw one of the drivers spin-off and nearly cause an accident - at least that's what it looked like. The way the driver following close behind skilfully avoided a collision was a treat to watch! Sadly no video or photographs, because it all happened in the blink of an eye.

The other memorable spectator moment came a few hours later, as the sun set over the track. Le Mans is at its best during the night, since the cars perform better at lower temperatures. From a spectator standpoint, this is when you really enjoy the sights. It's by no means a brilliantly illuminated circuit like Singapore, and the cars are expected to light up their own paths with their headlights. I found a hillside patch and parked myself for a couple of hours to drink in some of the nightly views.

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-188.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-178.jpg

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-169.jpg

A professionally taken photograph to do more justice - the legendary Dunlop bridge at dusk:
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans45.jpg

Photo Credit: Toyota Motor Europe | James Moy Photography


Another memorable part of the Le Mans experience is the racing village. Did I already mention that a quarter of a million people make their way to this town on the race weekend? Well, obviously not all of them get into the grandstand, and this is where you find most of them strolling about! Every car-maker had set up a showcase area, and the scale model freaks were in seventh heaven!

I did a random walkabout, and shot pics of whatever caught my fancy.

This Ferrari is unlikely to win any speed awards, but is an imposing sight nonetheless!
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-103.jpg

Porsche, easily the most successful car-maker in Le Mans history, returned as a factory team here only in 2013, after a 15-year absence; with this 919 Hybrid prototype, based on the production 917 and 918 sports cars:
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-097.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 1st July 2015 at 14:27.
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Old 1st July 2015, 13:57   #6
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Day 3 (Race Finale): Sunday - 15th, June 2015

From a racing standpoint, Saturday had been all about the safety car. During the first 2 times it was deployed (thanks to a Porsche catching fire on track), the no. 7 diesel Audi overtook the Porsches, who'd taken an early lead, and the no. 19 Porsche in turn - overtook the remaining 2 Audis to settle into 4th.

As dusk settled, the safety car was deployed for a third time. As soon as racing resumed, Nico Hulkenberg in the no. 19 Porsche, overtook Mark Webber's no. 17 Porsche to gain the lead. The Le Mans rookie took full advantage of this, and ended up becoming the first currently active Formula 1 driver to win here. Webber himself had to serve a 1-minute penalty for overtaking under the yellow flag; that pushed him down even further. The course of the race was decided on day 1, with the 3 Porsches and 3 Audis dominating. The Toyota racing teams followed closely in 7th and 8th. This remained virtually unchanged on day 2, only one of Toyota's teams pipping the slowest of the Audis into 6th place, something to cheer about for my hosts . Porsche finished 1-2; their first championship win in 17 years, with Audi occupying the final podium place.

We got to the track early. No traffic snarls thankfully, but it's not like we missed any action while we were away. Le Mans 24h dominates the local media, with 24-hour commentary on the radio, live coverage on TV, and pretty much everyone you ask is ready with the latest updates! In any case, I decided to stay in the track-side hospitality suite that morning, catching up on the TV coverage and the gossip.

Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-tmelemans55.jpg

The day was overcast and blustery, a big change from the previous day's bright and sunny:
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-210.jpg

I quite enjoyed the view of the cars entering the pit lane:
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-220.jpg

The hours just fly past at Le Mans and before I knew it, it was past 2 pm, and nearly time for the race to end. Hurriedly, I made my way to the grandstand again, put my camera firmly away, and decided to enjoy the finale. Tandy, Bamber and Hulkenberg took the trophy.

Here's a leaderboard you never see in Formula 1
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-le-mans-227.jpg

Suffice it to say, watching a race will never be the same again!
Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France-img_3011.jpg

Disclaimer: Toyota invited Team-BHP to the Le Mans. They covered all the travel expenses for this event.

Last edited by GTO : 1st July 2015 at 14:26.
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Old 1st July 2015, 14:36   #7
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Default Re: Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Motorsport Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 1st July 2015, 16:06   #8
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Simply fantastic coverage and you've captured the spirit of the event so well! Images paint a detailed picture, but I can only imagine what it must have been like to be there in person. The job these drivers do is simply unbelievable and this race is without a doubt, the ultimate test of team work, focus, perseverance, and engineering, while pushing the man-machine relationship to its very limit.

I've always known about the relevance of Le Mans to the world of motorsport, but your report has helped me learn so much more about it.
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Old 1st July 2015, 16:23   #9
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Default Re: Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France

So no qualy then? Hows the grid order determined?
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Old 1st July 2015, 16:31   #10
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Default Re: Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France

Quote:
Originally Posted by fash_1 View Post
So no qualy then? Hows the grid order determined?
Qualification happens on the Wednesday and Thursday before the race weekend.

http://www.24h-lemans.com/en/race/results_2_2_2046.html
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Old 1st July 2015, 16:32   #11
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Default Re: Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France

Quote:
Originally Posted by fash_1 View Post
So no qualy then? Hows the grid order determined?
Was there any mention about "no qualy" ?

The link below gives this year's Grid with Qualifying times

http://www.crash.net/le-mans/results...lts-final.html

Best Regards & Drive Safe

Ram
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Old 1st July 2015, 16:46   #12
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Default Re: Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France

Quote:
Originally Posted by noopster View Post
[b]
Suffice it to say, watching a race will never be the same again!
Attachment 1386679
Looks like you enjoyed your maiden trip to the races. Great report, thanks for sharing how you kept us abreast about the race status!

Last edited by GTO : 2nd July 2015 at 13:00. Reason: Typo
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Old 1st July 2015, 16:51   #13
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The videos of the cars braking at the corner are so real, never really get to feel the deceleration so evidently when watching races on TV. Thanks for the awsome narration & videos!
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Old 2nd July 2015, 01:11   #14
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Excellent report noopster!

You took us all the way to Le Mans with your engrossing narration of the event.

Glad to see Karun Chandhok & Mark Webber have careers in the Le Mans Series now.
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Old 2nd July 2015, 02:07   #15
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Default Re: Report: 2015 Le Mans 24 hour Race. Circuit de la Sarthe @ France

Excellent report. Fantastic pictures.
Hope Nissan invites you next year so that we can enjoy the journey of their whacky LMP1 challenger.
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