All systems go for 2024 FIA WEC 24 Hours of Le Mans

All systems go for 2024 FIA WEC 24 Hours of Le Mans

The FIA WEC is gearing up for the biggest event on the 2024 endurance racing calendar, this weekend’s 92nd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The most prestigious and highly anticipated event of the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) has arrived. The 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place on 15/16 June, with an astonishing line up of 62 cars and 186 drivers spread between three classes ready to tackle the ultimate test in endurance racing.

Le Mans is a pivotal race on the WEC calendar, not just because of its challenging nature, but also because of the double points it offers, with a total of 50 points available for the winning crews in both Hypercar and LMGT3. Round four of this year’s FIA WEC season is also expected to welcome no less than 300,000 fans.

Circuit de la Sarthe will host the French endurance classic. The 13.6 kilometre circuit is driven with fully open throttle for 70% of the lap and features no fewer than 38 corners, including some of the most iconic in all of motorsport.

Hypercar

The Hypercar line-up for Le Mans is the biggest yet with a total of 23 entries. This is a 43% increase from last year’s Hypercar grid which saw 16 cars and highlights the continued growth in the WEC’s premier class due to an influx of manufacturers who have joined the series over the last 24 months.

A total of nine automakers will compete in Hypercar, including Alpine, BMW, Cadillac, Ferrari, Isotta Fraschini, Lamborghini, Peugeot, Porsche and Toyota. There will be a further 16 entries in LMP2 and 23 in LMGT3.

19 of the Hypercars listed will be eligible to score WEC points which includes current championship leader Porsche. The manufacturer is yet to finish off the podium this season but faces tough competition from the likes of reigning World Champions Toyota Gazoo Racing and last year’s Le Mans winners, Ferrari AF Corse. Porsche is also the most represented marque on the Hypercar grid with a total of five 963s (Porsche Penske will run three car; Hertz Team JOTA two and Proton Competition will operate a single entry).

For the first time this season, Lamborghini Iron Lynx and Cadillac Racing will both field two Hypercars to join other two-car entries Alpine Endurance Team, BMW M Team WRT, Ferrari AF Corse, Peugeot TotalEnergies and Toyota Gazoo Racing. Finally, Isotta Fraschini and AF Corse will operate one Hypercar entry each. Completing the entry list in Hypercar is the American-flagged Whelen Cadillac Racing entry, making it three Cadillac V.Series R cars in the premier category.

One major change to the entry list recently was the announcement that Mike Conway will be replaced by former team-mate José María López in the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing entry due to a rib and collarbone injury Conway sustained in a cycling incident last week. Replacing López in the Akkodis ASP run Lexus RC F LMGT3 will be Britain’s Jack Hawksworth.

The overall entry list sees strong local representation across all three classes with a total of 24 French drivers on the entry list with one driver from Le Mans itself: Sébastien Bourdais [#3 Cadillac Racing].

Out of the 37 WEC entries, it is Porsche that leads in the standings. The German manufacturer so far has accumulated 83 points in the Hypercar World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship. Reigning World Champions Toyota are currently 23 points behind, with Ferrari 11 points adrift of Toyota. However, with 50 points available for Le Mans, this is the race where everything could change!

Among drivers, it is the crew of the #6 Porsche 963 (André Lotterer, Kévin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor) that lead Spa-Francorchamps winners – the #38 Hertz Team JOTA crew driven by Will Stevens, Callum Ilott and Norman Nato.

LMGT3

Meanwhile, in LMGT3, it’s Manthey PureRXcing that tops the leaderboard with a total of 72 points after three rounds (thanks to one victory and a runner-up spot at the previous round in Spa). The fight for second and third is much tighter, however, with both Team WRT and Heart of Racing tied on 37 points.

The all-female Iron Dames crew will be hoping their luck will change after demonstrating excellent pace already this season in the Lamborghini Huracan LMGT3 Evo2 but have been unable to convert this to a win. The team announced recently that Doriane Pin had injured her ribs and would be replaced by experienced driver Rahel Frey for Le Mans.

The on-track action kicked off with the official Test Day last Sunday (9 June) where Porsche Penske was fastest, the Porsche 963 clocking a time of 3:26.907. It bettered last year’s best Test Day time which was set by the AF Corse #51 Ferrari 499P Hypercar by over three seconds. Second-fastest was the #4 Porsche Penske entry, 0.473s quicker than the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrid Hypercar.

Sunday also marked the first running for the new-for-2024 LMGT3 class at Le Mans comprising of the following manufacturers Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford, Lamborghini, Lexus, McLaren and Porsche.

The #82 TF Sport entry was the fastest overall, with the Corvette Z06 LMGT3.R setting a time of 3:59.883. The top three LMGT3 cars were incredibly close, the second and third-fastest crews – Heart of Racing and Team WRT – posting the same lap time (3:59.520).

LMP2

The LMP2 class has shrunk quite dramatically to make space for the swell of hypercar entrants this year.

16 entries on the 62-car-strong entry list are identical Gibson-powered Oreca 07s belonging to the LMP2 class. For 2024 the class was suspended from WEC due to the high volume of entries in the Hypercar class, however, continues to have presence in the European Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Last year’s victorious Inter Europol Competition team is back to defend its crown. Jakub Smiechowski is the only one of the three winning drivers back in the #34 car this year, and will partner Clement Novalak and Vladislav Lomko.

Race week action commences tomorrow (Wednesday 12 June), with Qualifying taking place on Thursday. The flag for the 24-hour race will be waved at 16:00 on Saturday.

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