The 1000km of Silverstone will be two races in one, with points for two separate championships being awarded on the results of the six hour race.
Not only does the race once more fill its traditional place as the finale of the Le Mans Series (LMS), but it also acts as the first of the three rounds of the new Intercontinental Le Mans Challenge (ILMC) which has helped attract some big names to the event, with a total of 47 cars, spread over four classes, expected for the race.
The ILMC, which also visits the US and China, has awarded fans with the promise of another Peugeot versus Audi diesel battle at the head of the LMP1. Both manufacturers have scaled back their racing programs since the both last contested a full LMS season in 2008 and Silverstone will be only the third time so far this season that works efforts from the two teams will face each other, promising another chapter in battle that has shaped recent sportscar racing.
Audi will run two of their R15 TDI cars under the Audi Sport Team Joest banner – the lead car for record Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish, with a second car for Dindo Capello and Timo Bernhard, the German part of the line-up that won at Le Mans this year.
The two works Audi will face a single works Peugeot 908 HDI FAP entrusted to Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Minassian, the car's engine including steel con-rods as the team hope to avoid a repeat of the serial engine failures they experienced at La Sarthe. However, whilst only one works Peugeot will be present a second 908 will be run by LMS regulars Team ORECA, as they attempt not only to help Peugeot in the manufacturers' standing of the ILMC, but also wrap up the LMS title.
In the teams' title the ORECA Peugeot has a two point lead over Signature Plus and the Joest Audi squad only a three points further behind can easily claim the title at Silverstone – their points from earlier rounds at Paul Ricard and Spa excusing their missing the two more recent rounds. In the LMS manufacturers' title Peugeot have are two points behind the Lolas of Rebellion Racing, but with the works 908 added to the effort it seems likely they will turn deficit into advantage by the end of the race. Stephane Sarrazin, who will share the ORECA entry with Nicolas Lapierre is all by assured of the LMP1 drivers' title.
Further interest in the enlarged LMP1 class will be encouraged by the return of the works Lola-Aston Martins, two running alongside the privateer Signature Plus car. Another works effort will be the Team LNT Ginetta-Zytek, due to be shared between Johnny Mowlem, Tony Burgess and Chris McMurray – the latter two teammates at Autocon in America. British interest may be taken by the return of Nigel Mansell to the cockpit of the Beechdean-Mansell Ginetta for the first time since his Le Mans crash and one race on from Mansell sons Leo and Greg scoring the team's first class win. Plus there is an unfortunately rare UK visit by Drayson Racing with the Lola-Judd they have campaigned in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).
That, if anything, is one of the disappointments of the race. With the ILMC tying together the splintered Le Mans Series on either side of the Atlantic Drayson Racing are the only US regular team to have made the trip to Silverstone.
Nowhere is this more glaring than in LMGT2 where the ALMS hosts some of the best teams and drivers in the sportscar world – none of which have been able to make the trip to Europe. That leaves the Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche of Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz all but assured of the class titles, holding 15 point lead in both the teams' and drivers' title.
Nothing but a force of nature could stop the team from retaining the title, not that the combined Ferrari might of AF Corse and CRS Racing are likely to let the champions elect win easily, with other Porsche entries, plus single teams representing BMW, Spyker, Aston Martin also continuing their regular presence in the LMS.
Silverstone, however, will also see an extra marque in the class compared to normal, with a lone Lamborghini LP560 entered by UAE team Gulf Team First carrying the number 99 for the race with drivers Fabien Giroix and Roald Goethe.
The LMP1 class – in probably its final European appearance in an ACO organised event – consists of just one car – the Larbre Competition Saleen S7. The Le Mans 24 Hours winners were meant to be joined by a second Saleen of Austrian team Atlas eFX-Team FS, but the team have been unable to rebuild the car in time following a heavy accident at the previous round in Hungary. They are still hopeful of racing at both Petit Le Mans and Zhuhai – the other ILMC events.
In LMP2 RML have a firm hold on the title, with a 13 point lead over Hungaroring overall winners Strakka Racing. Realistically the RML driving trio of regulars Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton plus recent newsmaker Ben Collins simply have to run trouble free to leave Silverstone with the teams' title.
ILMC intrigue in the class will be courtesy of OAK Racing, who have also lodged an entry for Petit Le Mans, looking to leave Silverstone with as many points as possible.
Qualifying for the race starts at 1:10pm on Saturday 11 September, the race starting at noon on Sunday. Full live commentary will be available online and at the track by the Radio Le Mans team.
You can view a full entry list on the Le Mans Series website here.