Qualifying at the 24 Hours at Le Mans is a “Joke”

Race control for the 24 hours at Le Mans? It sounds like a logistical nightmare. Which is exactly what it has turned out to be in 2017.

Poor race control and track stewards. They, like every oversight and safety body of any major sporting event, has to bare the brunt-wave assault of public derision simply for doing their jobs. Time after time, refs and stewards are nearly burned at the stake due to calls that just don’t jive right with the sport’s viewership. Sometimes, however, a call is made which provokes even the ire of the sport’s very participants–such as the case of what happened during the 24 Hours at Le Mans qualifying.

Anyone that has ever even thrown so much as a gaze at the 24 Hours at Le Mans should know that it is a race unlike any other. A tormenting gauntlet which subjects both car and driver to absolutely ludicrous levels of stress throughout the duration. As such, one can imagine how important the qualifying period is for such a sport. Which, would explain why a prominent Le Mans driver has erupted over a call made by tack stewards recently.

Sebastien Buemi, a driver for Toyota, recently shared his grievances quite vocally over a call that saw track stewards permit far, far too much traffic to build up on the circuit – and preventing nearly everyone from putting a single lap worth anything. Everyone except Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi, who coasted to a cool 3:13:791 whilst aided by a track devoid of traffic.

“I hate the qualifying sessions because I feel like it’s becoming more and more a joke because of the traffic and because of the luck you need to have to achieve something decent.
No one in LMP1 had a clean lap [on Wednesday]. All of them at least lost a second in traffic.”

– Sebastien Buemi

Buemi’s ire should be particularly notable as I he will be starting the race from second place – right behind Kobayashi. Typcially, such sentiment is only expressed by drivers when they feel as if they’ve been cheated – but it’s clear that Buemi wants what’s best for the sport. Buemi went on to say that he believes the problem could be avoided if GT and LMP cars would qualify separately, thus reducing the amount of fielded cars.

“I feel like they should update this regulation and do more something like the WEC, where they have half an hour for the GT and half an hour for the LMP. Everyone wants to be on pole in Le Mans because it’s such a big thing but it’s such a mess to try and achieve it.” – Sebastien Buemi

Le Mans track officials have issued no statement in response to Buemi, and there’s nothing saying that they are obligated to – but they would be wise to heed such words