2015 24 Hours of Le Mans preview

The time for blisteringly fast one-lap flyers is over. Tomorrow, the greatest race on earth – the 24 Hours of Le Mans – gets underway (at 3pm local time) and, in the 83rd running of this famous French classic, Porsche has a very real chance of taking victory number 17.

At both the test day last month and during the three qualifying sessions, the trio of Porsche 919 Hybrids have proved blisteringly fast. Despite the addition of chicanes to the track in 1990, Weissach’s LMP1 challengers have been lapping in times that would have rivalled the 917s and 956s that raced on the previous, unadulterated layout.

That is quite amazing. However, with 24 hours of racing now ahead of them, there are still question marks about the 919’s reliability. At both Silverstone and Spa, at least one of Porsche’s top class entries hit mechanical difficulties.

Nick Tandy (right) is undoubtedly fast but the no. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid's chances rest with how well Le Mans rookie, Nico Hülkenberg acclimatises.
Nick Tandy (right) is undoubtedly fast but the no. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid’s chances rest with how well Le Mans rookie, Nico Hülkenberg acclimatises.

Therefore, lasting four times the distance of a standard FIA WEC race could prove problematic, especially as the Audi R18 e-tron quattros have looked especially strong when it comes to reliability.

While every LMP1 entry ran into difficulty at Le Mans last year, the in-house challengers from Ingolstadt could very realistically run through to Sunday afternoon without suffering any major setbacks. In order to take victory number 17, Porsche has to do the same.

With three cars on the grids, it has increased its chances by 50 per cent compared to 2014, and it certainly has the pace to stretch away from the Audis, potentially giving the red, black and white cars from Weissach a buffer should something go wrong.

Qualifying showed the Porsche 911 RSRs but the Manthey-led works team is one of the best at race management.
Qualifying showed the Porsche 911 RSRs but the Manthey-led works team is one of the best at race management.

The red no. 17 car of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard is many people’s favourite for victory, though the black no. 18 machine of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb has proved it certainly has the pace to match (if not beat) its full-season teammate. Of course, the no. 19 919 of Nick Tandy, Nico Hülkenberg and Earl Bamber could prove a dark horse too.

In the GTE Pro class, things look a little more difficult for the two factory Porsche 911 RSRs. After the latest round of Balance of Perfomance (BoP) adjustments, the rival Aston Martin squad appears to have come out on top, with the no. 91 and no. 92 Porsches noticeably lagging behind on pure pace.

However, the Aston Martins have encountered problems of their own in recent years (allowing Ferrari to win in 2014). If the Porsche 911 RSRs can run reliably, the Manthey-led squad is one of the best at race strategy in the business, so the white works cars could very well take the 911’s 101st class victory at La Sarthe.

The Total 911 team will be watching all the action from this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans from the track. For regular updates throughout the race, make sure you follow us on Twitter at @Total911.

Many eyes will be on the no. 77 GTE Am-class 911 RSR, driven by movie star, Patrick Dempsey.
Many eyes will be on the no. 77 GTE Am-class 911 RSR, driven by movie star, Patrick Dempsey.

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