The iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans is set to return in just two weeks, and the excitement is mounting for the world’s greatest endurance race.
And there are plenty of reasons to get pumped. New cars at the front of the field, legendary drivers pushing for victory, and the prospect French team victory for the first time since 2009.
All this, plus fans are finally permitted to return to the grandstands. As tickets are now on sale with Motorsport Tickets, which is offering all ticket purchasers the chance to win a hospitality upgrade worth €1950 each, we look at ten talking points ahead of the race at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
10 talking points at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans
See the new LMH cars in action
Following their introduction to WEC this season, the top class of Le Mans machinery this year will be Le Mans Hypercar. Replacing the LMP-1, there will be five LMH cars on track for their first-ever full-day racing event. Toyota Gazoo and Glickenhaus will enter two machines alongside Alpine’s entry. In the three rounds that have preceded the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Toyota cars clearly have the pace winning at Spa, Portimao and Monza. But Le Mans is a different beast, with the race lasting three-times longer than anything these cars have raced so far.
Magnussen… and his son
It will be a family affair for former Haas F1 driver Kevin Magnussen and his father Jan this year. They will be taking to the track together as part of High Class Racing’s LMP2 entry. Jan, who scored one point in 25 Formula 1 entries, has entered the endurance race on 20 previous occasions, with four class wins and two 4th place overall finishes. Kevin, who made his Indycar debut earlier this year after being dropped by Haas, is making his endurance racing debut.
Possible French victory for Alpine?
After Esteban Ocon’s stunning victory was the first in F1 by a Frenchman in a French car with a French engine in 38 years, could there be more French glory coming on home soil? Alpine’s form in World Endurance Championship has been strong. Frenchmen Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxivière, along with Brazilian teammate André Negrão, have two 2nd place finishes and one 3rd place so far this season.
Also keep an eye on the IDEC Sport car number 48 in the LMP-2 class, which also has an all-French line-up of Paul-Loup Chatin, Paul Lafargue and Patrick Pilet. They will also be hoping to continue the French success in front of a home crowd.
A roster of accomplished racing legends
The field is full of familiar names from the world of motorsport in 2021. Former Formula 1 drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Stoffel Vandoorne, Paul di Resta, Robert Kubica and Giancarlo Fisichella are a few of the names on the entry list. There is a long list of current Formula E drivers entering the event too, including Nyck de Vries, Alex Lyn, Robin Frijns, António Félix da Costa and Sebastian Buemi. As is the case every year, the grid will be overflowing with top-class driving talent.
Fans finally return to the grandstands
While spectators were not able to attend last year’s race which was held behind closed doors, there will be 50,000 motorsport fanatics in the grandstands this year. The event was moved from its traditional date in June to maximise the chance of spectators being safely permitted, and 20% of the normal capacity will be full as a result. Check out our guide to what fans can expect.
Grand marshal Derek Bell leading the cars
One of the best to ever race at Le Mans, British driver Derek Bell will lead the cars on the formation lap as this year’s Grand Marshal. Bell entered the prestigious race 26 times in 27 years, with 5 overall wins from 1975 to 1987. However, Bell said his greatest memory was leading the race as part of a team with his son in 1995. They stormed to 3rd position, and he took to the podium with son Justin on Father’s Day. He joins a list of elite drivers to have led the formation lap at Le Mans that includes Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen, Mark Webber and Jacky Ickx.
Will Toyota overcome reliability concerns?
Toyota has been the dominant force in this season’s World Endurance Championship. Either of their two entries has won each of the season’s first three races. But the last round at Monza caused real concern for the team. While the car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez won the race, they were forced to lose a minute when the Japanese driver pulled over on track to reboot the car’s systems. Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley’s machine lost an hour with a fuel-system issue, and came last in the LMH class. The team has won the last three races at Le Mans, but that record could be under threat if they don’t address these issues.
The two all-female line-ups vying for victory
Last season, the Richard Mille Racing team entered the first-ever all-female line-up ever in LMP2 with Tatiana Calderón, Beitske Visser and Sophia Flörsch. Along with the Iron Lynx team in the LMGTE Am category, it was the first time since 1977 that two all-woman crews were racing on track. This year, Calderón, Visser and Flörsch have a year’s experience together under their belt, having entered the championship together. Following last year’s respectable 9th place finish in the class, they’ll be hoping to build a stronger challenge at the front of the pack.
Stars of the future out on track
As ever, Le Mans offers the chance for seasoned professionals, up-and-coming stars and amateur drivers to race side-by-side. Of the young drivers looking to make a name on the endurance racing scene include Callum Illot, the F2 runner-up making his Le Mans debut in Le Mans, and Nyck de Vries, the 2019 F2 champion who has been rumoured to be taking George Russell’s seat at Williams next season.
GTE Pro champion Sorensen to step up
Danish driver Marco Sørensen has been a real force in the LMGTE Pro category of WEC for a while now. He took a class 3rd place at Le Mans in 2020 and was crowned champion last season and in 2016. So naturally, Sørensen is making the step up to LMP-2 this season. His debut in the class will be at Circuit de la Sarthe, with Ricky Taylor and Dennis Andersen in the other High Class Racing entry. Let’s see how success in the highly competitive GT class translates with the Prototype machines.