The Big One: A preview of The 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours

The Le Mans 24 Hours is one of the biggest racing events in the world, and this year’s edition is almost upon us. Mobil 1 The Grid caught up with some of the teams and drivers to preview this historic race.

Last year saw a dramatic finish between Toyota and Porsche, with the latter taking victory after Toyota’s final lap heartbreak. This year Toyota returns with three LMP1 prototypes for the first time, as it attempts to break Porsche’s win streak at the circuit. Jose Maria Lopez joins the team for this year and is looking forward to the race, as are all the drivers. With three cars and wins in the first two round of the WEC, it shows just how badly the manufacturer wants to overcome last year’s agonising defeat.

#9 TOYOTA GAZOO RACING / JPN / Toyota TS050 – Hybrid – Hybrid – Le Mans 24 Hour – Circuit des 24H du Mans – Le Mans – France

“When I think about Le Mans it is just a dream come true for me. It’s just amazing and I can’t wait to be there. Also for my teammates as well. I really hope that this year we can give Toyota this win in Le Mans which they have been looking for for many years.”

Jose Maria Lopez – Toyota LMP1 Driver

Le Mans is one of the most gruelling races of any category in motorsport. 24 hours of non stop, frenetic wheel to wheel action means the driver’s fitness is tested to the absolute limit. It separates the men from the boys. Coupled with testing, it is more than 30 hours of action for every team in every category, be it LMP1, LMP2 or GT.

The night running also offers a unique challenge, something the drivers only experience briefly at the Austin, Texas round of the WEC.

“A very long race, very long night! You go to the limits of your mental and physical capacity. That’s what it is and to try to be at the top level just on the spot on that one day on that 24 hours.”

  • Timo Bernhard – Porsche LMP1 Driver and 2015 WEC Champion
#67 FORD CHIP GANASSI TEAM UK / USA / Ford GT – Le Mans 24 Hour – Circuit des 24H du Mans – Le Mans – France

The action is not limited to just the prototype categories though. The GT class sees perhaps the closest racing of the entire grid, with regulars–Aston Martin, Ferrari and Ford–now having an additional opponent. Corvette make their way over from the IMSA series in America and are out for blood.

“Everyone wants to win this thing in a battle. Nobody wants to have it handed to them. Racers have a high degree of pride. I think this year we are going to see a higher level of competition, consequently a lot better racing. I like it when we go in and anyone can win. That’s what makes it fun!.”

Doug Fehan – Program Manager, Corvette Racing

#1 PORSCHE TEAM / DEU / Porsche 919 Hybrid – Hybrid – Le Mans 24 Hour – Circuit des 24H du Mans – Le Mans – France

There is so much to look forward to this year. The battle between Porsche and Toyota is bound to be a thriller, the new and faster LMP2 cars will also thrill. Manor WEC, SMP Racing, G-Drive to name a few, will all battle it out for top spot come Sunday afternoon. LMP2 is always hotly contested so make sure to keep one eye on that class! And of course, GT Am and Pro will wow us all. But the biggest question on everyone’s lips is this: can Toyota overcome last year’s defeat to win their first Le Mans 24 Hours? We haven’t got too long to find out…