OK guys, I'm almost leaving for Le Mans so here's a short update.
Yesterday and the day before were the qualifying days for the 24 Hours of Le Mans (which is also the 3rd round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
As expected, Audi was fastest (first pole ever at Le Mans for a hybrid vehicle), but Toyota was pretty close, so that's encouraging. Toyota had a really rocky preparation, they originally wanted to make 2012 only an exploration year but when Peugeot pulled out, the ACO and FIA convinced them to have a proper go at the WEC. Due to a big crash, which cost them the only car they had built untill then, they couldn't test nearly as much as they wanted to (even now they haven't completed a real endurance test). So while it's a relief to see a petrol-engined car get among the Audi's, there're still big question marks over their reliability. Also, they have just 2 cars (both battery hybrid), while Audi has 4 cars (2 diesels with flywheel hybrids, called Audi R18 e-tron and 2 non-hybrid diesels called Audi R18 Ultra).
Both hybrid systems deliver about 200hp of boost for some 5 seconds after each heavy braking zone (7 at Le Mans), so that's a LOT more than what the F1 KERS systems produce.
Fastest non-factory car was the Strakka Racing's Honda LMP1, with Rebellion Racing's Lola Toyota's following, and then the Pescarolo-run Dome. Unfortunately the Dome crashed out heavily, I don't know yet if they'll be able to repair it in time for the race. I'd looooooooove to see this beautiful car in real life for once, so I really hope they'll manage to fix it!
In LMP2 it's mostly Oreca Nissan's, because the Nissan engine has so far been the best (LMP2 requires production-car derived engines but it seems an NA V8 is inherently more suited to these regulations than the V6 turbo used by Honda). Judd also rebuilt a BMW M3's V8 but they're not as popular as the Nissan engine either.
GTE-Pro sees a really nice mix at the front: Ferrari - Aston Martin - Corvette. I'm especially pleased to see Aston Martin do so well, after their disastrous LMP1 effort last year.
GTE-Am is dominated by Porsches, with the fastest (Flying Lizard) being up amongst the GTE-Pro's.
The "garage 56" car is a project by the ACO to have a car with new technology among the field. It's not classified, it doesn't directly compete against anyone, it's just a showcase. This year, that car is the Deltawing. It was originally proposed as the new standard for Indycar, but it was rejected, and now it has been modified into an LMP1 car. It's super low drag because it's shaped more or less like an arrow, and it has no wings or anything, just some ground effect. It's also very low weight (475kg), which makes it able to compete with the LMP2's despite its 1.6 litre turbo, 300hp Nissan engine. It's supposed to show how we can be very fast with vastly less resources, and although I was sceptical at first, I do think it's a nice project. It looks like no other racecar out there, so be sure to check it out!
All in all, I'm pretty sure Audi's gonna win, but still it's gonna be an exciting race. I hope the Toyota's will make it through the race and challenge Audi a bit. It's gonna be really interesting to see how the hybrids hold up and if their performance/frugalty advantage makes up for their smaller fuel tanks. Also, if it rains, the Audi e-trons should have an advantage because their flywheel releases its power to the front wheels, making it a temporary 4-wheel drive car out of the corners! Audi Quattro at Le Mans
there should be a page where you can see where the race is aired in your country, and otherwise I'm sure you can watch it online somewhere (maybe even on FIAWEC website itself!). Be sure to open the live player at www.radiolemans.com
for commentary if the tv feed's native commentary is crap (which does happen sometimes). I'll be back in a few days with photos and stories!
Oh, and the full qualifying list:
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time 1. P1 Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer Audi e-tron 3m23.787s 2. P1 Dumas/Duval/Gene Audi Ultra 3m24.078s 3. P1 Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin Toyota 3m24.842s 4. P1 Capello/Kristensen/McNish Audi e-tron 3m25.433s 5. P1 Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima Toyota 3m25.488s 6. P1 Bonanomi/Jarvis/Rockenfeller Audi Ultra 3m26.420s 7. P1 Leventis/Watts/Kane Strakka HPD 3m29.622s 8. P1 Prost/Jani/Heidfeld Rebellion Lola-Toyota 3m29.837s 9. P1 Belicchi/Primat/Bleekemolen Rebellion Lola-Toyota 3m31.866s 10. P1 Ara/Minassian/Bourdais Pescarolo Dome-Judd 3m33.066s 11. P1 Brabham/Chandhok/Dumbreck JRM HPD 3m35.421s 12. P1 Montagny/Baguette/Kraihamer OAK Pescarolo-Judd 3m35.584s 13. P1 Collard/Boullion/Hall Pescarolo-Judd 3m37.485s 14. P2 Martin/Charouz/Graves ADR ORECA-Nissan 3m38.181s 15. P2 Nicolet/Lahaye/Pla OAK Morgan-Judd 3m38.598s 16. P2 Panciatici/Ragues/Rusinov Signatech ORECA-Nissan 3m39.152s 17. P2 Beche/Thiriet/Tinseau TDS ORECA-Nissan 3m39.252s 18. P2 Perez-Companc/Ayari/Kaffer Pecom ORECA-Nissan 3m39.711s 19. P2 Firth/Hughes/Hartley Murphy ORECA-Nissan 3m39.877s 20. P2 Heinemeier Hansson/Leinders/Martin OAK Morgan-Nissan 3m39.899s 21. P2 Sims/Buurman/Iannetta Status Lola-Judd 3m40.280s 22. P2 Potolicchio/Dalziel/Kimber-Smith Starworks HPD-Honda 3m40.471s 23. P2 Briere/Petersen/Nakano Boutsen ORECA-Nissan 3m40.727s 24. P2 Ordonez/Brundle/Brundle Greaves Zytek-Nissan 3m40.738s 25. P2 Dolan/Hancock/Kurosawa Jota Zytek-Nissan 3m41.287s 26. P2 Mailleux/Lombard/Tresson Signatech ORECA-Nissan 3m41.982s 27. P2 Tucker/Bouchut/Diaz Level 5 HPD-Honda 3m42.224s 28. P2 Zugel/Gonzalez/Julian Greaves Zytek-Nissan 3m42.292s 29. CDNT Franchitti/Krumm/Motoyama Highcroft Delta Wing Nissan 3m42.612s 30. P2 Frey/Hirschi/Meichtry Race Performance ORECA-Judd 3m43.619s 31. P2 Holzer/Schultis/Moro Kodewa Lola-Lotus 3m45.664s 32. P2 Giroix/Johansson/Badey Gulf Lola-Nissan 3m47.244s 33. P2 Haezebrouck/Thirion/Rosier Extreme Limite Norma-Judd 3m48.025s 34. GTE P Makowiecki/Melo/Farnbacher Luxury Ferrari 3m55.393s 35. GTE P Fernandez/Mucke/Turner Aston Martin 3m55.870s 36. GTE P Gavin/Milner/Westbrook Corvette 3m55.910s 37. GTE P Bertolini/Beretta/Cioci AF Corse Ferrari 3m56.484s 38. GTE P Taylor/Garcia/Magnussen Corvette 3m57.181s 39. GTE A Neiman/Pilet/Pumpelly Flying Lizard Porsche 3m57.594s 40. GTE P Lieb/Lietz/Henzler Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 3m57.606s 41. GTE P Alfaisal/Curtis/Edwards IMSA Porsche 3m58.035s 42. GTE P Bergmeister/Long/Holzer Flying Lizard Porsche 3m58.717s 43. GTE A Simonsen/Nygaard/Poulsen Aston Martin 3m58.725s 44. GTE A Ehret/Montecalvo/Jeannette Luxury Ferrari 3m58.800s 45. P2 Rostan/Ihara/Deletraz Gulf Lola-Nissan 3m58.895s 46. GTE A Ried/Roda/Ruberti Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 3m59.181s 47. GTE A Bornhauser/Canal/Lamy Larbre Corvette 3m59.192s 48. GTE P Walker/Cocker/Wills JMW Ferrari 3m59.638s 49. GTE P Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander AF Corse Ferrari 4m00.025s 50. GTE A Perazzini/Cadei/Griffin AF Corse Ferrari 4m00.288s 51. GTE A Armindo/Narac/Pons IMSA Porsche 4m00.332s 52. GTE A Kauffman/Aguas/Vickers AF-Waltrip Ferrari 4m00.691s 53. GTE A Krohn/Jonsson/Rugolo Krohn Ferrari 4m02.323s 54. GTE A Rodrigues/Ferte/Illiano JMB Ferrari 4m02.461s 55. GTE A Bourret/Gibon/Belloc Larbre Corvette 4m02.969s 56. GTE A Camathias/Daniels/Palttala JWA Porsche 4m03.661s