Le Mans 24 Hours 2024 – Pre-Race Handicapper (2)

In the spirit of your favourite TV presenter ranting and raving about what is to transpire in the main event, here are my post test / practice / qualifying views about the 24 Hours. (minus the rant).

The lap times and thus the qualifying grid positions are inherently meaningless in a 24 hour race without the context of how they were developed. Certainly there are a great deal of bragging rights to being fastest and conversely, concern about being slow. But that is only part of the story.


In reviewing the top class, Hypercar, it is worth noting the travails of Toyota. The perennial champions did well in the opening salvo, last Sunday’s Test Sessions, but have struggled since, including a session ending spin. They managed to miss the top eight cut which determined the cars in each class that matriculated to the Hyperpole session. They remain a force as when they were out on track their speeds and their physical bearing on the course was smooth. They are also known for good rain work and that is what we have in store. Sadly, the team has taken to the “this election is rigged against us” tack by complaining, without evidence, that Porsche has been warming their tyres—Tyre warming is strictly verboten at Le Mans.

Porsche has the numbers with three works (Penske) entries and the two customer cars (Hertz Jota). No. 12’s shunt and replaced chassis has dented the ascendancy that Team Jota has enjoyed since their win at the previous WEC round at Spa. They proved to have the speed and have otherwise had a good pre-race week. Perhaps the slightest edge goes to them.

Defending Le Mans champions Ferrari has been fast, but mostly when the coast is clear. The 499’s great strength is straight line speed as shown in every WEC round in which they have participated. Le Mans is the fastest course used all season and that should work to their advantage, but rain is not likely to be the Prancing Horse’s friend as it requires far more agility than they have demonstrated.

Cadillac and BMW have both surprised the international scene. The American team nearly took pole and has been consistently strong all week. Anyone who follows the team’s home series, IMSA, would not be as surprised. They have been dominant stateside. I am predicting a hard Cadillac-Porsche fight and this could be the Cadillac of Cadillac victories for the luxury marque. While BMW has done very well (fastest in the opening practice session) they have been reliability challenged.

Alpine certainly deserves the most improved award. They are using two brand new chassis specifically built for this race and the development shows. Alpine has been hounding the bigger names all week. They have not only been getting better on a seasonal basis but also noticeably during each session. Alpine can be a breakout star—perhaps a podium finish. By contrast, the other French brand, Peugeot, seems stuck in a cycle of trying new tweaks to their aero setup and seemingly going backwards each step.

Lamborghini is being realistic. Their goal is a strong finish leading to bigger and better in 2025. Being competitive at Le Mans takes more than one year and Lamborghini is taking the correct approach. No Le Mans grid is complete without some oddball colour and this year’s character entry is the Isotta Fraschini. The revival of this truly ancient automotive name is commendable but it is hard to keep from nominating them as the first retirement.

In summary, the Hypercar field is excellent. After several years where the winning marque is a foregone conclusion we are again in a “golden period” where the outcome is truly wide open. At least five and possibly six marques have a reasonable shot at the overall win.


After Hypercar, most attention will be focused on the new for Le Mans Grand Touring class, GT3. An almost magical total of eight manufacturers are represented. I would argue that apart from Lexus and Corvette, all have a reasonable chance at victory. I discount Lexus only because it is the marque’s first run at Le Mans and while Corvette has a long history here, TF Racing entries are customers (albeit with some works engineers seen in the paddock) and the GT3 class effort is still young.

Porsche is at the sharp end of the class with two 992 GT3 Rs run by close friends of the works, Manthey Racing. The only weakness for Porsche is that these are the only two in the field. The talk of the field have been the three Ford Mustangs. While new to Le Mans the Proton Competition run team has been very fast but reliability being a big question mark.

There are two very, very strong Aston Martin teams, both of which have done very well all week—look for the No. 777 D’Station entry to be particularly good. McLaren won overall in 1995 and have been absent since, but GT3 gives their 720S GT3 Evo a chance to make good again. All three present have been fast, especially the No. 70 Inception Racing entry, but there is a bit of flattering to deceive, as each have had either a minor off or some mechanical maladies—not a good omen. The BMW M4 GT3s have been steady but not stellar but should not be discounted. Much attention will be on No. 46 with ex-Moto GP World Champion Valentino Rossi on the roster. Similarly there will be much attention on the all-women No. 85 Iron Dames Lamborghini, one of two Huracan GT3 Evo2s at the start. By sheer numbers the class may swing to Ferrari. While AF Corse has the most experience, their three cars are more the domain of pro-am drivers than true threats. In a like vein the No. 86 GR Racing 296 has been among the most troubled of all in the field. However, rising above all is the No. 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari, which is not only a past winner but has transitioned very well from the quite different 488 model of old and the current 296.


The all Oreca-Gibson class is a finely balanced group of true enthusiasts. It includes a sub-class for Pro-Am teams. Indeed, choosing among them often involves close looks at the driver lineups. Driving rosters are of course critical in all classes but in P2 where the margins are tight, a good stint by an emerging star or a mistake by a less experienced driver can make all the difference.

The pole sitting No. 14 of AO TF Sport has one of the most consistent drivers, Louis Deletraz. This is promising for seeing through the team to a good result at the other end. Next up, the No. 28 IDEC Sport Racing team is happy on home ground and has good balance with no standouts in their leineup. By contrast, the always strong United Autosports team has long-time WEC “ringer” Filipe Albuquerque leading the charge. Similarly, Panis Racing has Mathias Beche. Indeed, United has perhaps the best overall driving lineup in the class but the team seems to often hit bad luck at Le Mans. If they avoid that, they will win. Especially watch Ben Keating in No. 23, quite possibly the best true Am driver in the field.

Among the mid-field starters in P2 it will be worth watching ex-Porsche works driver Patrick Pilet in the No. 10 Vector Racing Oreca. There are four teams that had quiet but steady runs during practice and qualifying, a facet which bodes very well for being in good shape come Sunday afternoon. They are No. 24 (Nielsen), No. 47 (Cool), No. 33 (DKR) and No. 34, Poland’s Inter Europol Competition.

Somewhat surprisingly, the two cars managed by Stewart & Samantha Cox’s Algarve Pro Racing Team have languished at the back. However with North America stars Roman DeAngelis (No. 25) and Colin Braun (No. 45) they should not be discounted.

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