At its core racing is a contest of speed over a fixed distance or for a period of time. The context I’m referring to here is circuit racing, where multiple cars are on a track at once. They’re not only competing for position by trying to go faster than one another, they’re also jockeying for the same physical space with each driver trying to pass the one ahead. This brings so much more than pure speed into the equation.
Test of Driver Skill
Driver control is a central tenet of the sport. On-track competition pushes drivers to each call on a full array of skills to maximize speed, including accelerating, changing gears, turning (in both directions I might add), and braking, while outmaneuvering opponents. While strategy is important, it should be secondary. The primary excitement is in the action on track. That is the purpose of racing and that is what gets the attention of the audience.
Before a race can begin the starting order must be determined. Each driver’s starting position for the race should be determined by his fastest lap in a qualifying session preceding the race. The fastest driver in qualifying starts the race in first place on pole position, followed by the second fastest qualifier, and so forth such that the driver that posts the slowest qualifying time starts the race in the last position, unless that driver does not qualify for the race at all, or another driver is penalized and is then moved to the back of the grid before the start.
The 2014 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is now in the books. One of the three top contenders won the race as expected… but a whole lot of other things happened too. Here’s the short, short version of events:
Audi took the overall and LMP-1 win with a 1-2 finish, an amazing 13th victory in 16 attempts, though it was not without drama. The third Audi (#3) and #8 Toyota were involved in a crash in wet conditions about 90 minutes into the race. The Audi was unable to continue while the Toyota limped back to the pits and was in the garage for about 50 minutes to repair the damage.
The winning team consisted of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer in their R18 etron quattro. Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen was part of the team that finished second in the sister Audi after the car experienced turbo problems. His teammates were Lucas Di Grassi and Marc Gene, both ex-F1 drivers.
The 82nd running of the French classic takes place this weekend, June 14th and 15th, at the Circuit de la Sarthe, a high speed track nearly 8.5 miles in length. Fifty-six cars are entered across four classes of prototype race cars and production-based GT cars.
One surprising fact: Fully half of the entries are powered by Ferrari and Nissan (14 cars each). However, it is unlikely either will take the overall win since the top LMP-1 class is composed primarily of seven manufacturer-backed hybrid-electric prototypes from Audi, Porsche and Toyota.
The LMP-2 class has largely privateer teams running prototypes (17 cars), while the GTE Pro class has nine cars entered and the GTE Amateur class has 19 entries. However, some of those entries are really stretching the definition of “amateur” with several ex-F1 drivers and Ben Collins (formerly The Stig on BBC’s Top Gear) in their line ups. Continue reading “24 Hours of Le Mans Preview: Porsche, Audi or Toyota?” »