APRIL 30, 2015
The world’s greatest motorsport endurance race 24 Hours of Le Mans is set for another enthralling contest of human determination and technical prowess. Event organizers and founders the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) have invited 56 cars from 13 countries to contest the 2015 edition, which takes place from 13-14 June.
Rolex has been associated with the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the official timepiece since 2001 and it enjoys a close association with the ACO, which shares the Swiss watchmaker’s values of sportsmanship, dedication, performance, and innovation. The race was first held in 1923, and at a recent press conference Pierre Fillon, the ACO President, reminded those present of the many innovations tested and proven in the long history of the race such as detachable wheels, disc brakes, windscreen wipers and quartz halogen headlights.
Innovation and efficiency
The current regulations, particularly those governing the blue riband LM P1 category, have the stated aim to make motorsport more relevant to series production cars by putting innovation at the heart of the challenge and the emphasis on fuel efficiency rather than pure power. Following on from last year’s progressive response, the four major manufacturers racing in LM P1 in 2015 – Audi, the 2014 race winner; Toyota, the reigning World Endurance Manufacturers’ Champion; Porsche, the contest’s most successful manufacturer; and, Nissan, making its return to front-line competition - have embraced the opportunity once again. Each will be relying upon its own interpretation of the optimum energy recovery solution to improve efficiency.
The enthusiasm of manufacturers to compete in the LM P1 category suggests the race is in sync with the challenges facing motoring. Yet while the competing vehicles will be state of the art, bred for wholly endurance, the enormity of the question posed by the 24 Hours of Le Mans remains just as arduous. Competition and the test will be no less demanding in the three other categories of competing car – LM P2, LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am.
Being fast on Le Mans’s famous 13.629km Circuit de la Sarthe is crucial, being consistent far more decisive. A car can lead the race with hours, minutes to spare but the slightest tactical misjudgement or even the most benign mechanical issue can cost crucial time and see hopes of victory evaporate. Efficiency in the pits is vital, both the number of stops and how long they take. On the course, it takes nerve and race-craft to know when to push. Teams need to manage resources and function like clockwork. Over the years, Le Mans has witnessed many great battles; split second finishes; dramatic mechanical failures; race-changing weather. Preparation for all eventualities is fundamental, experience to make the correct split second decision invaluable.
The sporting rivalries have created a compelling narrative. Porsche, which made its long awaited return to Le Mans last year still holds a record number of 16 outright victories. Fellow German manufacturer Audi though is closing in. Its 13 victories have all arrived since 2000 and it is currently the race’s dominant marque. A resurgent Porsche expect to mount an even stronger challenge this year. Toyota’s ambition to become only the second Japanese manufacturer to win at Le Mans is unbridled.
The driver line up is typically impressive. Defending champions Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer, are all seeking a fourth victory – a feat only achieved by eight drivers in the race’s 92-year history. Toyota’s Alex Wurz could become only the fifth driver to win at Le Mans in three different decades. Porsche will put their faith in Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas who in 2010 set the distance record for the race: over 5,400 kilometres (3,355 miles). Marc Gené, the first ever Spaniard to win Le Mans in 2009, brings guile and experience to the new Nissan team.
One major difference this year will be the absence from the driver line-up of 9-time winner and Rolex Testimonee, Tom Kristensen. At the close of the 2014 season, Kristensen decided to retire from endurance motor sport. The Danish driver has long asserted that no driver can ever conquer the 24 Hours of Le Mans. To succeed personally a driver needs to give everything during every minute of the race. “Le Mans”, he says, is “the jewel in the crown of any racing season; it’s where the most energy goes. The challenge is unique and you have to perform at your best if you want to win.”
Kristensen will be present in June gracing the circuit that has made him legend. He has been invited by the ACO to serve as Grand Marshal.
For the drivers who do live up to the challenge in each of the four categories the rewards are impressive: a specially engraved Rolex Cosmograph Daytona and a place in sporting history. Winning a Cosmograph Daytona at the 24 Hours of Le Mans constitutes the ultimate award. Created by Rolex in 1963, this iconic model has established an extraordinary track record in the world of motor sport thanks to its reliability and performance.
The 83rd 24 Heures du Mans starts on Saturday 13 June at 15:00 CEST.