This year sees many changes at Le Mans. This will be the 75th running of the “24 Heures du Le Mans” and there have been some changes. For a start there are now nine new pit garages which means that the total grid capacity is now 55 cars. The last time this many cars started the race was back in 1989. The next tradition that has changed is that the start time has been moved forward an hour to 15:00 hrs. This is because the second round of local elections is taking place at the same time and the ACO want to make sure that the many thousands of fans who flock to Le Mans every year will be able to vote and watch the race.
Photo : Bruno FOUQUE - ACO/Nikon
The most important ‘on track’ story is that Peugeot have arrived here with a diesel powered LMP1 car that will be challenging the Audis. After the success of the diesel powered cars last year the ACO have reduced the fuel capacity of the diesels by nine litres and given them smaller restrictors. This is intended to ensure the petrol and diesel cars should run closer together.
2007 sees some famous drivers from other branches of motorsport competing here for the first time. Sebastian Bourdais is a local driver, born in Le Mans and he also lives here. Currently Sebastian is racing Champ Cars in the USA, he last raced at Le Mans in 2004. Jacques Villeneuve is here at Le Mans trying to emulate the record set by Graham Hill by winning the Formula One World Championship, The Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans. He will be driving the Peugeot 908 HDi.
Tom Kristensen hopes to be back at Le Mansto win it for an amazing eighth time. He is recovering from a serious accident in the German Touring Car Championship earlier in the year. Replacing Tom for test day by Mattias Ekström.
The multi-talented Luc Alphand is back at Le Mans again having won Dakar Rally last year… he is also a former downhill skiing champion. He will be racing the No.72 Corvette C6-R. This year there will be another great battle between the works Corvettes C6-R and the Aston Martin DBR9s. Last year and the year before honours went to Corvette, Aston Martin plan to change this!
In LM P1 the spotlight will definitely be on the Peugeot verses Audi battle but it would be wrong to ignore the two Pescarolo Judds and the Racing For Holland Dome Judd driven by Jan Lammers. Lammers has always been a front runner at Le Mans but to date has only won once back in 1988 driving a Jaguar XJR9. Ex Formula One star and Le mans regular Stephan Johansson will start his 13th appearance at the 24 hours driving No.10 Zytek 07S.
In LM P2 the No.25 RML Lola AER B05-40 has won the race for the last two years and is looking very competitive again this year. The driver line up this year is very strong with Andy Wallace, Thomas Erdos and Mike Newton in the car. Their team manager , Phil Barker, is determined to win for a third year. LM GT1, as we have already mentioned, will see five Corvettes verses six Aston Martins battling for class honours. Italian hopes lie with just one 550 Maranello and a single Lamborghini Murcielago. Alain Prost’s son, Nicolas, is driving car No.54 team Oreca Saleen S7R.
Last year Panoz surprised everybody by winning LM GT2. This year there are two Panoz Esperantes ,four Porsches 911 GT3 RSR and five Ferrari F 430 GT. Spyker are here with two cars.