Preview: 90th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race
Celebrity guest drivers, Aussie Supercars, its youngest woman competitor and two ace drivers from Cape Town feature
When the lights go off at this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans it will mark 90 years that the race has been held at the 13.6km Circuit de la Sarthe, a semipermanent racetrack that anyone can drive on for the rest of the year.
This famous race is the third round of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship, and is also open to competitors from the European and Asian Le Mans Series, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar runners and stand-alone Le Mans entries, which increase the number of entries.
This means 62 cars will line up for the Saturday start at 4pm, an hour later than usual. Only five cars make up the new Hypercar class this year, with more expected to join in 2023. The premier category will feature two Toyota GR010 Hybrids, a pair of Glickenhaus 007 LMHs and a sole Alpine A480 Gibson.
Toyota Gazoo Racing will be looking to record their fifth successive overall victory, which would see the Japanese manufacturer overtake Ford and Alfa Romeo to become the sixth most successful marque at the famous endurance race.
The Alpine Elf Endurance Team is running the Alpine for the last time and plans to field a new car in 2023, joining the likes of Audi, Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Lamborghini and Porsche in the new LMDh segment of the Hypercar category.
A record field of 27 prototypes makes the LMP2 category this year’s biggest class. Eight-time world rally champion Sébastien Ogier makes his Le Mans debut in the LMP2 class with the Richard Mille Racing team. He will share the Swiss luxury watchmaker’s entrant with last year’s LMP2 winner, Charles Milesi, and 20-year-old Lilou Wadoux, the youngest woman to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Grand Touring Endurance (GTE) Pro class fires will be stoked with an entry of seven cars comprising Aston Martin Vantages, Porsche 911 RSRs, Ferrari 488 GTE Evos and Corvette C8s.
Not only does this class promise fireworks but there are celebrity guest drivers. Hollywood actor and Porsche Design eyewear ambassador Patrick Dempsey’s 911 RSR racing team are in the mix, while two-time Supercar champion (Australian touring cars) Shane van Gisbergen will be making his Le Mans debut alongside Felipe Fraga and Nick Tandy in a Ferrari 488 GTE EVO.
In the 23-strong GTE Am class, an entry to keep an eye on is the #93 Proton Racing Porsche RSR driven by Irish actor Michael Fassbender in his Le Mans debut. Fassbender starred as a cheeky Spartan in the 2007 epic 300. He will share the car with Matt Campbell and Zacharie Robinson.
South African David Perel, a veteran of the World Endurance Championship, will be racing in the GTE AM class for the Spirit of Race team in a Ferrari 488 GTE Evo. Fellow South African Jonathan Aberdein is with the Jota team in LMP2 class.
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