Manufacturers race to prove themselves at Le Mans
More and more manufacturers are trying to prove themselves at the 24 Hour Le Mans – and there’s a good reason for that...
Even if you’ve never watched the Le Mans 24 Hours race before you may have noticed there’s a little more buzz around the event this year than usual. That’s because this year’s race could be the closest and most exciting Le Mans that we’ve had for quite some time.
Audi has dominated the race for the last 15 years, taking 13 victories. Only Bentley and Peugeot have managed to interrupt their winning streak, with the last time they were beaten being Peugeot’s victory in 2009.
But that hasn’t stopped recent competition from Toyota, Porsche and Nissan – so what’s the appeal for these manufacturers of endurance racing compared with Formula One?
Winning Le Mans doesn’t just prove that you’re the fastest
For one, winning Le Mans doesn’t just prove that you’re the fastest. It proves that you’re the most fuel-efficient, the most reliable – and the fastest. That has a massively positive effect on the brand’s road car reputation, especially considering the racing cars often use names seen on their roadgoing counterparts. For instance, Audi uses e-tron and quattro – just like their road cars – while the Nissan racer is badged GT-R.
Add in the fact that diesel engines and front-wheel drive are all on show at Le Mans and there’s clearly more of a race-to-road link than there is in F1. If you needed more evidence, then Ford’s announcement that it would bring its new GT to Le Mans in 2016 just shows that every manufacturer is keen to get involved.
As Nissan will testify, though, Le Mans is no cakewalk – their GT-R LM NISMO cars set qualifying times slower than the one of the cars from the class below them. And the fact they weren’t within 110% of the pole-sitter’s time meant they got pushed back on the grid even further.
It takes time and it takes money to make a Le Mans-winner but in terms of showcasing how innovative, reliable and efficient your cars are, there’s no better international stage than Le Mans.