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Le Mans 1000 Km – Preview
Wide Open In At Least Two Classes

This is a very interesting event: we’re expecting the unexpected this weekend, certainly in 675 and GT. It’s a one-off race, and there is much to look forward to.

Yes, we sense your surprise – after all the entry is not really what we’d expected. The ACO has made positive noises that they are very pleased with the entry numbers, but we know that teams received ‘the phone call’ just before the list closed. What a shame that the closing date is always a fixed affair – that teams don’t have any kind of period of grace to put last minute details together.

dailysportscar.comBut 38 or 39 it is, with only GTS really suffering lack of entries. So this is the straightforward one. Two Veloqx Care Racing Ferraris, a Konrad Saleen, a Larbre Viper – and the Lamborghini Murcielago? Four is surely more realistic (and accurate: the Lamborghini has been withdrawn), and the two 550s are ‘fresh’ from Petit Le Mans. They’re in France all this week, they’re covering the miles, they’ve beaten the Corvettes regularly recently, and they took the 24 Hours title this year. This should be a formality.

The 900 class: we only need to look back to the Spa 1000 Km to assess the form of the favourite. Kristensen and Ara won that one with ease, once the DBA suffered minor brake issues as the track dried. Can anyone keep up with an R8 around the pointy, squirty short track? It’s going to be a crowded track of course, and anything could happen in the traffic – especially if it’s cold and / or wet. But this is Kristensen's track, isn't it? Five out of seven...six out of eight?

The RfH Dome has the driving talent and experience to match / beat the Audi pair, but the recent Domes have been developed for the full circuit, and will lack something in the downforce stakes. You need downforce on the Bugatti. Pole for the Audi then, and disappearing at a canter? European prototype racing has suffered in recent years, which is why this race exists at all. Hence it’s hard to see another 900 car putting together a race long challenge to the first named pair.

Delete the Bentley and switch Goh with Champion...

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That’s not to say that none will mount a challenge. Expect the unexpected. Henri’s Courage, the Lister LMP, the Intersport R&S, the rugged Goddard Reynard, the Taurus Lola and the Panoz GTP will surprise us, in ways we just can’t predict. That’s the appeal of this race: four of these six are unknown quantities. The Courage and the Lola could have perfect 1000 Km runs to glory – as could any of the other four.

dailysportscar.comGlory, of course, is a top three in class, and an invitation to race next June. Ian Dawson would particularly like one of those.

But prototypes can be fragile beasts. What about the Nasamax Reynard, revelling in the cool air? Can you see it making it home, outlasting others? We can.

The Panoz deserves a special mention: we don’t quite understand why it’s here but was static at PLM, but it will be warm – and LOUD! And fast, with its updates and Beretta and Saelens.

At the end of this race, at least one team is going to be celebrating a surprise 900 / LMP1 invitation to next summer’s event. Look for bigger smiles on the podium than those displayed by the winners.

dailysportscar.comAh, the even greater unpredictability of the 675 class - just seven of them, so only two invitations on offer. This is the hardest of the lot to predict – although GT is tough too. Jon Field and his Judd powered Lola, is that the one to go for? Smooth normally aspirated might be a good form of motive power in November, although Erdos and Goodwin look potentially very strong, with support from Mike Newton, in the RML MG-Lola AER.

The two WRs may be dark horses, Bonnet and Bruneau are trying to step up a league, while the Courage C65 just needs a steady, reliable run, with its JPX power – to restore faith in this chassis-engine combination. Perhaps just two 675s running at the end? Why didn’t someone enter a Reynard Lehmann? Why? The old stager is still a very good 1000 Km / 24 hour race car, isn’t it? As tough as old boots.

Three GTs will earn a guaranteed return next year – from 18 entries. This is an ALMS-type GT proportion, and should see the closest racing of all. No AJRs to waltz off into P1 and P2 – but rather an unusual mix of the known and the unknown.

We wouldn’t like to assess the chances of these Porsches: the ones from Bernard Jubin (Noel / Orgeval), T2M (TBA / TBA) and Olivier Baron (Corbel / Cohignac / Bernard). David Legangneux might have a better feel for their prospects.

That leaves seven other Porsches, two TVRs, one Morgan, one Spyker, one Corvette, two 360 Ferraris and the big XL 550.

Morgan, Spyker and Corvette: isn’t it a joy to see these three at Le Mans? Neil Cunningham and Adam Sharpe haven’t had their third driver named yet, but the Morgan will be loud and different. What a shame Peter Morgan couldn’t see one of his Morgan’s race at Le Mans once again. The Spyker has been developed with traction control and other hidden improvements, and Norman Simon is quick. It’s time for the Dutch creation to fulfil its potential. The Xero Competition Corvette has had a riotous British GT year under Dave Beecroft’s guidance. It will be a largely new experience for this squad, and Peter Le Bas in France doesn’t bear thinking about. Paula Cook is the experienced hand, but Spa 1000 Km success bodes well.

The Ferraris: that’s the Scuderia Ecosse 360, the new Cirtek-run 360 and the XL Racing 550. Two are making their race debuts, while the big one has one 24 hours to its credit. Rob Schirle has found an interesting customer in Klaus Engelhorn, and this Ferrari is a top-spec. version, with good prospects (and Andrea Montermini). Marino Franchitti leads the driver line-up in the interesting Scuderia Ecosse car, and he’s got a point to prove after a difficult year. The big one is likely to be too heavy around the tight track.

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dailysportscar.comThe seven Porsches: who’d bet against Ortelli and Dumas in Manfred Freisinger’s car? Just think back to Spa in July. Well, we would - because with Dumas in the Nasamax and Ortelli not driving either, we believe, this changes the complexion completely. Oh for an up to date entry list...Freisinger has (had?) a point to prove to the ACO.

Rosa, Caffi and Mowlem is a great trio, with masses of endurance experience and success too – and the level-headed Peter Seikel at the helm. PK Sport returns from the ALMS with the strong Liddell-Belloc pairing. Jean-Philippe had never sat in a Porsche until he raced one at Atlanta in July, while the Scot is race-hardened and ready to take on anyone. Tony Burgess and Philip Collin have seen most things in endurance racing, and could be a good top three bet in the second Seikel 911 - but this one is now a no-show. Noel del Bello has a mixed pairing listed to drive, while a very interesting entry is the Pompidou / Rymer / Hayden trio, in Sebah’s 911 with excellent QM Engineering support. Pompidou and Rymer = explosive. The System Force Porsche is likely to be steady, and there at the end.

dailysportscar.comThe DeWalt TVRs: a second chance at Le Mans this year for the (now) Bob Berridge-Richard Stanton outfit, with interesting line-ups in each. Amanda Stretton and Liz Halliday are the grace in #45, with Stanton himself joining them. “Les Femmes Pour Le Mans” gets going properly next year. Berridge, Michael Caine and Paul Whight is an interesting mix in the #46.

Expect the unexpected – we will.

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