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Live Event Coverage

2011 Le Mans 24 Hours - Qualifying // Deciding the grid for the epic endurance adventure

Published by Pat W

Tonight and tomorrow night see the qualifying sessions for the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours. I've taken the liberty of writing a live thread for anyone who wants to comment during these sessions.

Coverage

In Europe there is extensive coverage of qualifying, drivers parade, warm-up, support races and the main race on Eurosport and Eurosport 2. They tend to switch between the two very often so keep an eye out for that, hopefully for qualifying they'll manage to last for two hours without changing, but this is Eurosport!

If you are in Europe but do not have access to these channels you can use the Eurosport Player if you pay them £3.49 for a one-month subscription, there is also an iPad app version which is £2.99 for one month. I've tried both and they are far better than relying on an illicit stream.

Through Eurosport Player (but not the iPad version) you can gain access to a special dedicated live feed with no commentary, which will run for the duration of the race (and qualifying) regardless of whether the main channels are live or not. Frankly that's worth three quid by itself, let alone the other options.

They've hired Johnny Herbert as a pit reporter, which could be fun or it could backfire. In the practice session earlier he seemed clueless about how to interview other drivers!

In the US (and presumably Canada), SpeedTV will have extensive coverage of qualifying and the race as well as a live feed on their website. I don't know who they've brought along but their coverage I'm told is usually excellent.

No Le Mans coverage post is complete without mentioning Radio Le Mans. Whilst they do have a bit of a problem with F1 and throw out the odd disparaging remark now and then, they are the absolute best in the field of sportscar racing. If you are looking for a commentary aimed more at the knowledgeable fans, listen to RLM. The difference in approach between Eurosport and RLM is similar to that between BBC1 and Radio 5Live. If Eurosport isn't detailed enough listen to RLM, and vice versa.

Useful links

Classes

We've covered a few endurance races by now so I hope you are getting to grips with the class system, but here is a short refresher and a guide for anybody joining us for the first time.

I personally tend to focus on two classes, LMP1 and GTE Pro so if you're looking to distill things down to make them easier to follow I recommend focussing in on those two classes.

There are 56 cars in the race and this PDF shows the entry list. They are divided broadly into two categories: Le Mans Prototypes (LMP) and Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance (LM GTE).

Those categories are split again, LMP1 is the top class and LMP2 is a budget class for smaller teams. GTE Pro is for professional drivers and GTE Am is for amateurs (semi- or non-professionals).

(This marks a change from previous years: there is no GT1/GT2 split as GT1 cars are no longer allowed at Le Mans).

LMP1

This is the Formula 1 of sportscar racing, where all the top drivers and engineers are often found. This is where technical design is the most free and where a lot of development is done. Audi and Peugeot have been battling it out here for some years now with their diesel cars and that is the main focal point of the race.

'LMP1 Bis' is the French term for petrol-powered cars in LMP1. There are rules to equalise these to the diesels but they never work, but nor should they because Audi and Peugeot have huge factory budgets of car companies and the rest don't. This by default is an unofficial sub-class fought over by Aston Martin, the fan-favourite Pescarolo Team, Oak and Rebellion.

LMP2

A category for smaller, cheaper prototypes for independents. Rules changes have hampered the class and reverted it back to the bad days of 10 years ago, expect a lot of unreliability. That's one of the reasons I pay less attention to this class now, if the field can't make it to 80% distance why should I put the effort in? There are some good teams and drivers though and the trouble they encounter isn't their fault. Keep an eye out for Strakka and RML with their HPD (Honda), as well as the pair of ORECAs. Oak have entered 2 more cars here.

GTE Pro

This is the other class I pay a lot of attention to and the reason for that is the factory involvement from Ferrari, Corvette, Porsche and BMW. Some entrants are official works teams run by independents, others have behind-the-scenes help. Most have drivers provided for them by the manufacturer, and being drivers paid by a manufacturer you know they are good quality drivers many of whom are good enough for LMP1. Some have chosen to make a living from a manufacturer in GT even if they are good enough to run well in LMP where they would have to find a budget to bring to the team. I can't say I blame them and it makes GTEP a great class to watch.

Ferrari and Corvette have been on top with BMW improving all the way, and Porsche won't be on the ropes for long. This class is too close to call, all I'll say is, don't underestimate how close and how much fun this race will be. Now the gentlemen drivers are out of the way and moved to their own class, the pro's could make this the closest GT race at Le Mans in years.

GTE Am

If you want to pick a class to ignore this is it. I do like the fact the 'gentlemen drivers' have been split away leaving the main GT fight to the professionals. That's not to say they are all bad drivers, far from it in fact. There are some very good drivers here, just that their team-mates aren't always the fastest in the world and that lets things down. The other thing is these cars have to be at least a year old whereas the Pro class can have up-to-the-minute machinery.

Let battle commence

There is a lot of F1 interest spread across the field, including Ant Davidson, Alex Wurz, Anthony Davidson, Tom Kristensen, Sebastien Bourdais, Pedro Lamy, Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni, Nicolas Prost, Tiago Monteiro, Christian Klien, Franck Montagny, Nic Minassian, Jan Magnussen and Shinji Nakano. All those and Ben Collins who was The Stig.

Remember every driver has to complete 3 laps at night in these sessions or the car won't qualify - it isn't just about speed it is about safety.

I hope this acts as a good guide and apologies for waffling on but with this teams and drivers doing this many hours of qualfiying and racing it was hard to make it any less!




Tonight and tomorrow night see the qualifying sessions for the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours. I've taken the liberty of writing a live thread for anyone who wants to comment during these sessions.

Event start

15:00GMT +01:00

8 June 2011