JUNE 14, 2014
Sunshine, a clear blue sky, and hundreds of thousands of spectators welcomed this afternoon’s start of the 82nd edition of the 24 Heures du Mans (24 Hours of Le Mans). For the 54 teams and 162 drivers taking part in the 2014 race, this immense endurance challenge is now fully underway: concentration, precision, good decision making are key requirements from now until tomorrow afternoon’s finish. The 24 Heures du Mans, held on the 13.629km Circuit de la Sarthe, was first run in 1923 and is organised by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). Rolex has been the Official Timepiece since 2001.
Following the traditional Saturday pre-race routine: the warm up laps, grid walk and ceremonies, the iconic Rolex clock ticked down for the 15:00 CEST start. Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso had the honour of unfurling the famous tricolour start flag as the 54 competing cars (9 in LM P1, 17 in LM P2, 8 in GTE Pro and 19 in GTE Am in addition to the innovative technology entry from Nissan) commenced motorsport’s most famous and revered endurance race.
In LM P1, the three-way battle for the overall title, already provided compelling viewing during qualifying. #7 Toyota Racing began today’s race in pole with Austrian Alexander Wurz, two-time winner of the race, handed the responsibility of driving the first shift. Toyota, four-time 24 Heures du Mans runner-up, is pursuing its first LM P1 victory. The Japanese manufacturer’s second car, #8, with Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre at the wheel, commenced third on the grid. Toyota are the form team going into the competition but face a stern examination of their ambitions from defending champion Audi and 16-time winner Porsche, returning to LM P1 for the first time since 1998. All three teams are aware that in 24-hour racing, there formbook counts for very little.
#14 Porsche Team, second in qualification, began with Swiss Neel Jani taking the first shift while German Timo Bernhard got #20 Porsche Team, fourth on the grid, in motion. Defending champions Audi’s three-car R18 e-tron quattro line-up started fifth, sixth and seventh. The team has lived up to its slogan #welcomechallenges this week, having completely rebuild its car #1 following a violent crash in Wednesday’s practice. Rolex Testimonee and record nine-time race winner Tom Kristensen got Audi Sport Team Joest #1 started. “It was a great challenge (getting the car ready) and a lot to take in during the last two days here. The car feels really good and after optimising it some more, it will be really good for the race start. Le Mans is always the biggest challenge of the year for everyone here. The start is something special,” said Kristensen.
A race update and fresh images from the event will be available at approximately 20:00 CEST.