2018 24 Hours of Le Mans
I'll be honest. I just wasn't very absorbed in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. A major part of it was my disappointment in Aston's performance, and part of it was the general lack of competition in GTE Pro and LMP1.
Aston Martin Racing's new Vantage GTE race cars didn't fare well against the rest of their class but according to Aston Martin they still did well, stating that the car "did not register a single reliability issue and went on to record the highest finish by a new GTE car."
It's hard to field a new car to great initial success. The usual formula for street car manufacturing is more power and lower 0-60 mph times, better fuel efficiency. For trucks, it's about more towing and hauling capacity. But race cars are different. A race car can't just be made with more power and less weight. There are restrictions placed on nearly every aspect of a race car.
The basic problem is that the New Vantage in its current form has a big aerodynamic disadvantage compared to its competitors. During pre-race testing, the 2018 Vantage GTE was around 10 mph slower on the straights than its Porsche rivals, a major contributing factor in its 4-second per lap deficit compared to Porsche's pace.
Lagging in the aero department wasn't a surprise going into Le Mans, as it was an issue Aston Martin was hoping to have sorted beforehand. Ferrari was hoping to get the BoP changed to help their cars as well, as the previously-competitive 488 also lagged behind race leaders.
Aerodynamics play a huge role in performance. Downforce is needed for the car to be able to go through corners quickly, but it also slows a car down in high-speed stretches. Drag is another very important factor and, as it's name suggests, slows a car down. Managing the balance between downforce and drag can be a tricky thing, but once it's done right, it can be a huge gamechanger. It took six years for Aston Martin to win Le Mans with the previous GTE, and changes to aerodynamic regulations were a major factor in that.
While Aston's showing this year may have been a massive disappointment compared to last year's victory, it's the first year the new Vantage GTE has been in use. The car still has a lot of development in store as the program continues chasing checked flags over the next several years.
As for the actual GTE Pro competition, it didn't seem to exciting except for a few laps of intense fighting for 2nd place between the Rothsman Porsche and Chip Ganassi Ford GT. Meanwhile, the eventual class winner pink pig Porsche ran mostly uncontested. Some of the teams criticised the call for a safety car to go on track, which split the field and let the Porsche run away with a lead that was never closed.
There wasn't much competition after that.
Speaking of lack of competition, the LMP1 class was a race of two teams against themselves. Toyota was racing its cars against the demons that haunted them in the past. Without having Audi and Porsche to worry about, the team just needed to be consistent, reliable, and avoid incidents. They did that and had a 1-2 finish, winning Le Mans outright as well as the LMP1 class.
The runner up in third and fourth was Rebellion Racing and their TVRs, the only other LMP1 team to complete the race. The rest of the LMP1 field dropped out for various reaons - crashes, electrical issues, fires - usual fare for the world's most grueling race.
TVR vs the Rulebook
"Equivalence of Technology rules for Le Mans stipulate that the Toyotas will have a 0.5-second per lap advantage in pace over the non-hybrids, as well as going one additional lap on fuel per stint and having quicker refueling times."
Remember those aforementioned restrictions on building race cars? Restrictions are placed on other equipment used by the teams, too.
G-Drive Racing won LMP2... then were stripped of that victory for having an additional part inserted in the deadman valve of their refueling rig. Technical inspectors and race sterwards disqualified the team on the basis that the additional part had an effect on the the flow restrictor and gave the team the ability to refuel quicker than the other teams, allowing them to finish the pit quicker.
For a full list of results from the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, check out this website.
Future of Le Mans ------
With competition within LMP1 floundering, at least we can look forward to [hopefully] seeing a return to the glory days of wild homologated "production" cars of 20-some years ago, when cars like the Porsche GT1 and Mercedes CLK GTR were made in painfully low numbers for the sake of meeting minimum build requirements. Just imagine seeing the Aston Martin Vulcan or Valkyrie, McLaren Senna or P1, Ferrari the Ferrari, Mercedes One, and Porsche 918 fighting it out on track.
Drivers from other series are looking more at Le Mans, which is sure to bring in more fans.
Fernando Alonso, Toyota Gazoo, won LMP1
Jenson Button, SMP Racing, tech issue cost 2 hours
Juan Pablo Montoya