Toyota Gazoo Racing look like the favourites to win the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans. It can be assured that after their crushing last-lap defeat last year they are determined to get the win that they felt was stolen from them. However, Porsche is a strong team too and have been on the heels of Toyota in races this season where their set up should have been a deficit. This year, Le Mans could be a very close fight to the chequered flag.
Porsche chose to run the low-downforce package on their 919 Hybrid from the start of the season, in opposition to Toyota who has only fitted the low-aero package to their car for this event. The low-downforce package is the more beneficial around the eight-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, giving the teams the best performance out of their cars.
It seemed to be a tactical decision from Porsche to put on the low downforce kit for the first few rounds of the season as once an aero package is fitted to the car it can not be homologated again, due to the LMP1 class rules. This means that where Toyota will not be able to do much development on their aero kit in the latter part of the season, Porsche has been able to make changes to their high-downforce package until after the summer break.
For the season overall, this could be a benefit to Porsche. However, Toyota is looking that they may have the advantage at Le Mans as they will have had the beginning of the season to continue development on their low downforce aero package, unlike Porsche who’s body kit will have been fixed from Silverstone.
Toyota has had a shuffle around with their driver line-ups ahead of the 24-hour endurance race. After the incident that caused Jose Maria Lopez to have to miss the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, Toyota has moved Lopez out of the #7 car and into the third entry. Stephane Sarrazin will be taking the seat and co-piloting with Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi.
No extra cars join the LMP1 field, in the Hybrid or Privateer portion. Only Toyota is bringing an extra car, bringing the usual five entries in class up to six. ByKolles Racing will be the only Privateer car as they take part in their penultimate race this weekend.
In the pre-season test, Toyota was fastest and Porsche seemed to have no answer. The teams have had two weeks since the test to make improvements on their cars. It looks like Toyota may be the favourite to win the 24-hour endurance, but Porsche will definitely give it all they can.