MARCH 13, 2014
After celebrating its 90th anniversary last year, the world’s greatest motorsport endurance race – the 24 Heures du Mans (24 Hours of Le Mans) – is propelling itself in a forward-thinking direction in 2014.
56 cars, representing 13 countries, have been invited by event organizers and founders the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to contest the 2014 edition, taking place from 14-15 June. “The fascination exerted by the 24 Heures du Mans is greater than ever before. It’s the guarantee of an event in which this year, more than ever before, technological innovations, respect for sustainable development, top level sport and immense popularity combine,” explains Pierre Fillon, President of the ACO.
This classic of its sport has made legends of drivers, marques and even landmarks on the 13.629km combination of racetrack and public road that forms the Circuit de la Sarthe. “I love racing at Le Mans,” says record nine-time winner Tom Kristensen. “It’s the jewel in the crown of any racing season; it’s where the most energy goes. Wherever I go in the world, people know about the 24 Hours of Le Mans; I can always start a conversation about it.” Kristensen, a Testimonee for Rolex the Official Timepiece of the event, made a race-winning debut in 1997. He is not just the most successful driver in the history of the race, he is one of the most experienced. In the accompanying infographic Kristensen explains the ingredients that have driven his achievements at the event.
One of the key features of this year’s 82nd edition of the race sees new regulations governing fuel efficiency. Reducing carbon footprint is a fundamental part of the organisers’ pursuit of sustainable development. At the 2014 race, LM P1 teams will have to drive according to a fuel consumption limit per lap, a measure embraced by those taking part even if it adds an extra layer of complexity for engineers and drivers alike.
The line-up of manufacturers and drivers is impressive. Defending champions Audi will have three R18 e-tron quattros on the start line and face stiff competition from 2013 rivals Toyota (whose two car driver line-up includes two-time race winner Alexander Wurz and Anthony Davidson) and from Porsche (featuring Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard and former Formula 1® star Mark Webber in its two car team), returning to LM P1 after a 14-year hiatus. Despite Audi’s recent domination of the race, Porsche still holds the record number of overall wins for any manufacturer: 16.
Kristensen will line up for Audi with Brazilian Lucas di Grassi and Frenchman Loïc Duval (holder of the fastest 24 Heures du Mans lap, recorded in 2010). The Audi team roster also includes two-time 24 Heures du Mans champion Marcel Fässler of Switzerland.
As is tradition, the event’s amateur drivers comprise an eclectic list of characters who have carved their mark in other walks of life but whose passion for motor sport is undiminished. American television star Patrick Dempsey again competes in the LM GTE Amateur class where he will share the start grid with one of France’s most famous footballers. Fabien Barthez was goalkeeper when Les Bleus won the FIFA World Cup in 1998. With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil commencing shortly before the 2014 24 Heures du Mans, it represents poignant sporting symmetry.
The 82nd 24 Heures du Mans starts on Saturday 14 June at 15:00 CEST.