With the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans just around the corner, The Checkered Flag will look at all of the entries in the four different classes, and where better to start than the 14 LMP1 competitors?
#1 – Toyota TS 040 Hybrid
Anthony Davidson (GBR), Sébastien Buemi (CHE), Kazuki Nakajima (JPN)
#2 – Toyota TS 040 Hybrid
Alexander Wurz (AUT), Stéphane Sarrazin (FRA), Mike Conway (GBR)
Last year, the Toyota of Davidson and Buemi was shared with Nicolas Lapierre, and finished the race in 3rd position. Toyota returns this year to Le Mans with a two-car effort unlike the other factory teams that will all enter three cars. This could be a risky decision by Toyota, but being able to focus on fewer cars might pay off instead.
Toyota has yet to win Le Mans since their return in 2012, but they did win both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships last year, putting them in a strong position to challenge this year. So far in 2015, they have only scored one podium, and sit behind both Audi and Porsche in the manufacturers’ standings.
#4 – CLM P1/01 – AER
Simon Trummer (CHE), Pierre Kaffer (DEU), Tiago Montiero (PRT)
ByKolles, under the Lotus name, entered the second half of the 2014 WEC season, but missed Le Mans. For 2015, they have a full-season entry but Montiero and Kaffer will replace Vitantonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien for Le Mans.
So far, they haven’t had a particularly successful 2015 season, having failed to finish at both Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps. The one-car Austrian team will be hoping to turn their bad luck around at the most important event on the calendar. Like their rivals at Rebellion Racing, the CLM P1/01 is not a hybrid car.
Audi Sport Team Joest
#7 – Audi R18 e-tron quattro
Marcel Fässler (CHE), André Lotterer (DEU), Benoît Tréluyer (FRA)
#8 – Audi R18 e-tron quattro
Lucas di Grassi (BRA), Loïc Duval (FRA), Oliver Jarvis (GBR)
#9 – Audi R18 e-tron quattro
Filipe Albuquerque (PRT), Marco Bonanomi (ITA), René Rast (DEU)
Few teams have enjoyed more success in sportscar racing over the last few years than Audi. In the last 15 years, an Audi has been on the top step of the podium at Le Mans all but two times, with only Bentley and Peugeot managing to beat them. 2015 will be the first year in a long time that Audi will enter Le Mans without Tom Kristensen, but instead they have perhaps the strongest line-up of any LMP1 manufacturer.
Last year, Audi came 1-2, but their #3 car retired after just 25 laps, proving just how important a three-car effort can be at this most difficult of races. This year, they are in just as strong of a position as expected, with the #7 winning both races so far in 2015. The #8 hasn’t been as strong, and is yet to score a podium.
#12 – Rebellion R-One – AER
Nicolas Prost (FRA), Nick Heidfeld (DEU), Mathias Beche (CHE)
#13 – Rebellion R-One – AER
Alexandre Imperatori (CHE), Dominik Kraihamer (AUT), Daniel Abt (DEU)
Although listed as a full-season entry, Rebellion haven’t raced yet this year, and will make their 2015 debut at Le Mans. Last year, they finished an impressive 4th, with the same line-up as will race their #12 car this year. The other Rebellion failed to finish last year’s race, though.
Earlier this year, Rebellion announced that they would be switching engines from Toyota in favour of the AER powerplant that they will share with ByKolles. Time will tell whether this was a good move for the team.
#17 – Porsche 919 Hybrid (red)
Timo Bernhard (DEU), Mark Webber (AUS), Brendon Hartley (NZL)
#18 – Porsche 919 Hybrid (black)
Romain Dumas (FRA), Neel Jani (CHE), Marc Lieb (DEU)
#19 – Porsche 919 Hybrid (white)
Nico Hülkenberg (DEU), Earl Bamber (NZL), Nick Tandy (GBR)
Porsche holds more Le Mans wins than any other manufacturer, with a total of 16 that date back to 1970. When they made their triumphant comeback in 2014, their Le Mans was a frustrating one, after missing out on a great finish by just a few laps when the #20 car retired. This left the #14 the only 919 on the track at the end of the race, and it could only manage an 11th place finish.
This year, they have three cars to contend for the win, with the #19 entering only Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, the former as a practice for this weekend. After two 2nd place finishes, the #18 is 2nd in the drivers’ standings, with the #17 5th. When Porsche entered all three cars at Spa, they came 2nd, 3rd and 6th, a promising result, even if they did miss out on the win to Audi.
#21 – Nissan GT-R LM NISMO (blue, red)
Tsugio Matsuda (JPN), Mark Shulzhitskiy (RUS), Lucas Ordóñez (ESP)
#22 – Nissan GT-R LM NISMO (red)
Harry Tincknell (GBR), Michael Krumm (DEU), Alex Buncombe (GBR)
#23 – Nissan GT-R LM NISMO (red)
Olivier Pla (FRA), Jann Mardenborough (GBR), Max Chilton (GBR)
Possibly the most talked-about entrant at this year’s race, Nissan have taken a completely radical approach to the design of their brand-new GT-R LM NISMO. It features a front-engine, front wheel drive layout which the Japanese manufacturer believes will give them an advantage over their competitors.
Nissan were unable to make it to Silverstone or Spa, and instead have been spending their time over in the USA testing. Their line-up is certainly a strong one, which ranges from F1 drivers to GT Academy winners. A three-car program for a debut race is also risky, but if they can pull it off, the rewards will be great.
And that’s the 14 competitors for this year’s race. What makes LMP1 so special is that massive factory efforts from some of the world’s biggest car manufacturers go up against small teams like ByKolles and Rebellion, all competing for the ultimate win.