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Le Mans 24 Hours - Practice & qualifying // Setting up the grid for the super duper endurance race

Published by Pat W

Wednesday and Thursday sees qualifying for this weekend's annual endurance classic, the 24 Heures du Mans.

There are many 24-hour races around the world but none have the history or prestige of the French event and none draw such a quality entry or feature cars almost as fast as F1 cars - in fact the LMP1s are known to lap just as quickly as IndyCars at tracks like Mid-Ohio and Long Beach. Despite the geographic split in sportscar racing, this is the one all the top teams enter, the one everyone in endurance/sportscar racing wants to win.

We'll be following our favourites and discovering new ones, including Franck Montagny, Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Wurz for Peugeot, Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen for Audi all of whom are racing for the win. And we'll no doubt be picking our underdog teams and favourites through the classes too. The story of Le Mans is about winning but it's also the spirit of Le Mans, making the distance no matter what the odds, no matter what happens between now and Sunday afternoon. It is tales like these that create the legend as much as the winners' journey, and we'll learn these stories too.

There are plenty of other F1 names in the field - Nigel Mansell and his sons are sharing the Beechdean car, complete with Red 5. In the GT2 class, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jean Alesi are sharing a Ferrari for one of the frontrunning teams. Marco Andretti of IndyCar is in one of the cars leading the petrol LMP1 charge, in the battle to be first behind Peugeot and Audi.

168 drivers in 56 cars, each with their own individual tales of how they got here (and that's before we count the colourful team personnel!). They came from F1 and they came from the national GT series, and everything in between.

Practice: Just a straight 4-hour session to check the cars are running and sort out the base setup. There was no traditional pre-event Test Day as there usually is in April or May - the Spa 1000km acted in that capacity instead, for some.

Qualifying: There are three qualifying sessions of 2 hours each, 1 on Wednesday and 2 on Thursday. The car's fastest time from any session will count for the grid.

Each driver in each car has to have a run at night for safety reasons to check they are safe at night in very fast traffic. They really do mean "qualifying"! This is why the sessions are so late in the day. In the 'lesser' entries, if someone isn't competent enough they'll be refused but that's unlikely these days.

It so happens the track is at its fastest in the evening as the grip builds up and the temperatures drop. Many will qualify with a race setup, whilst they are allowed to use a qualifying setup some drivers prefer to keep the car as it will feel in the race - others will trim it out and go for a time. Traffic management is key. With so many teams across the classes doing race and qualifying runs there is a lot to follow.

Follow the race

Radio Le Mans should be your first port of call. They have all the interviews with drivers and team personnel throughout the week, and are adept at getting to the real story behind the lap times (and they'll tell you those times if you can't see them).

There is plenty of live TV coverage for those with the right packages or a web connection.

  • In Europe you should turn to Eurosport or Eurosport 2, Eurosport HD, or you can use the Eurosport Player but you'll have to pay £4. I believe this may be region-locked or credit-card locked to Europe.
  • In the US and Canada you should go to SPEED, or Speedtv.com which will live-stream the race throughout, good for when the main channel is showing something else. This may be region-locked to North America, but we'll have to see on the day.
  • Hopefully there is also coverage elsewhere around the world.

Other links:

There also will be a Guide To Le Mans following along here, on Wednesday evening.

There's a lot to learn but take it easy and above all, enjoy!




There are  many 24-hour races around the world but none have the history or  prestige of the French event and none draw such a quality entry or feature cars almost fast as F1 cars - in fact the LMP1s are known to lap just as quickly as IndyCars at tracks like Mid-Ohio and Long Beach. Despite the geographic split in sportscar racing, this is the one all the top teams enter,  the one everyone in endurance/sportscar racing wants to win.

Event start

15:00GMT +01:00

9 June 2010