This is the fourth and final chapter in looking at the history of the Le Mans ahead of the legendary motor race that takes place this weekend. We will also give our predictions for the race.
The race has had so many amazing moments over years however since becoming part of the World Endurance Championship, it has become more than just a standalone race.
The last two years in particularly have been extremely exciting. In 2016 everything looked perfect for Toyota, they had lead most of the race however just six minutes before the checkered flag was due to fly, we suddenly heard the team radio from Kazuki Nakajima while he was driving the leading #5 car.
“It’s stopped accelerating! I’ve lost power!” yelled the Japanese driver.
What didn’t help for Toyota, was that this was one of the most closely fought 24 hours of Le Mans ever, and that there was another car on the lead lap – and it wasn’t a Toyota.
The Toyota eventually came to a halt just over the start finish line as the #2 Porsche swept past an into the lead. Even the Porsche drivers we’re so shocked at this, they couldn’t believe it, a win had just been handed to them on a plate!
What hurt even more for Toyota it that because Nakajima made it over teh finish line, he wasn’t able to complete the final lap, the #5 car wasn’t classified and therefore wasn’t ven able to make the podium, or score points.
Fast forward 12 months and Toyota were looking for redemption. Audi had departed the series and now it was a straight fight between Toyota and Porsche. Toyota even entered a third car to ensure that the victory would be theirs.
The #7 Toyota had broken the lap record en route to pole, with the 8 alongside, and #9 car would start fifth.
Four and a hlf hours in, the first problem arose for Toyota. The #8 Toyota, the same car that broke down oh so close to the finish the year before, was stuck in the garage trying to be repaired for over two hours. The car eventually recovered to ninth.
However even more heart break for Toyota. The #7 had pitted but not long aftre had suffered a clutch failure. It couldn’t make it back to the pits and therefore was forced to retire. Less than 20 minutes later, the #9 suffered a puncture after colliding with an LMP2 car, the puncture caused damage to the gearbox and it too couldn’t make it back to the pits.
However things weren’t exactly plain sailing for Toyota. The #1 car was leading with less than 4 hours to go, when the car lost power. The issue was terminal, and it too was forced to retire.
This didn’t mean that the #2 car was all out in front dominating the race, in fact, it joined the #8 Toyota in the pit lane for an excruciating three and a half hours.
This meant that, amazingly, and LMP2 car was leading the race! Former Audi works driver Oliver Jarvis was piloting the Jackie Chan DC Racing car which was leading and would have won the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans had it not been for the #2 Porsche, who had climbed its way back through the field and overtook the LMP2 car to take it’s 19th and last victory in the legendary endurance race.
What a crazy last two years, surely 2018 can’t live up to the last two!
Predictions for 2018:
It’s not Toyota’s yet!
It is extremely likely that one of the two Toyota’s will (finally) win the Le Mans this year, however we’ve seen what’s happened before, and if it does end up that way, it will be an LMP1 privateer that wins.
I’d put money on one of the SMP Racing cars, if I had to pick one of them it would be the #11. Could Jenson Button actually beat Fernando Alonso in step two en route to the triple crown?!
However if Toyota do win the Le Mans this year, i think it’ll be the #7. Why? Kobayashi did an amazing lap in that car last year and I’m surely he’ll be able to do something like that again. I also think that Fernando Alonso’s bad luck will continue over from Formula 1. Also he is driving the car that was the first to break last year, and broke minutes from the flag in 2016.
For LMP2, i’d expect Jackie Chan DC Racing to be up there after their 2-3 finish 12 months ago, another team to look out for is DragonSpeed. They were very quick in Spa especially when in the hands on Pastor Maldonado. However, LMP2 is a very tough class to call.
GTE Pro is Manufacturer haven with Ferrari, Corvette, Ford, BMW, Porsche and Aston Martin going head to head. The battle last year went right down to the wire between Aston Martin and Corvette, however I can’t see the same happening this year.
This year I’m gonna say Porsche will win it. Now they’ve stopped their LMP1 programme they have a couple big name in their line up in the GT cars. Most notably Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber, who won with Nico Hulkenberg in 2015, and Timo Bernhard who has won the last two years in the #2 Porsche.
For GTE Am, I’m predicting that Dempsey Proton Racing will win the class. The team’s done rather well over the past few years at Le Mans, finishing 2nd in 2015 and 6th the previous two years.
However, anything can happen at this race as we’ve seen over the last four days. All there is now for the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans to begin at 13:00UTC on Saturday.