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Le Mans 2024 preview: hypercar teams gun for glory at La Sarthe

Here are 5 reasons to get excited about the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours

On Saturday, 15 June at 3pm BST, the French Tricolore will drop to start the 92nd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. If you’re watching on TV, you’ll enjoy one of the most enthralling spectacles in motorsport: a race that’s emotionally draining to watch – let alone compete in. 

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If you’re one of the estimated 325,000 fans that will be watching trackside over the weekend, then you’ll have a chance to drink in the incredible atmosphere of the World Endurance Championship race that runs non-stop for a full day. 

Our guide will show you five reasons why 2024 could be one of the most thrilling Le Mans events ever. We’ll tell you where the on-track action is most likely to happen, and where to get the best views if you’re trackside.  

Serious driving talent

The WEC has some incredible driving talent. No fewer than 18 former Formula One drivers will be on the list, the most notable of which will be 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button. Following his very popular Garage 56 entry aboard the Chevrolet Camaro Nascar last year, this time the Briton will be aiming for overall victory driving the Hertz team’s Jota Porsche 963. 

Former Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi will be looking to repeat last year’s win aboard the Ferrari, while Toyota has four names from F1’s recent past: Kamui Kobayashi, Brendon Hartley, Sébastien Buemi and Nyck de Vries. The latter two, along with two more ex-F1 drivers, Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne, are all Formula E champions, too. Mick Schumacher will also be driving for Alpine, following on from his dad Michael’s 1991 entry at Le Mans for Sauber Mercedes

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It’s not just F1 drivers that will be competing either. MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi will have LMGTE glory in his sights in the WRT BMW M4 Coupe, while Indy 500 winner and multiple Indycar champ Scott Dixon plus double title-winner Alex Palou both race for Cadillac.

Hypercar class

The top class of endurance racing is in a healthier state than it has been in perhaps the sport’s entire history. A total of 19 cars from nine manufacturers will be waved into action by the French flag at 3pm BST on Saturday. And thanks to the fascinating, but often controversial, Balance of Performance that aims to keep every car on a level playing field, it’s very difficult to predict who will come away with the overall prize. 

Having taken overall victory in 2023, Ferrari will be among the favourites with its pair of 499Ps, but a couple of second-place finishes in the first two rounds of 2024 sees the Porsche 963 of Andre Lotterer, Kévin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor arrive in France with the championship lead. There will be six Porsches on the grid at Le Sarthe. 

Toyota, who dominated the race for so long, can never be discounted, but Peugeot with its heavily revised 9X8, will aim to add reliability to promising speed in 2023 in this year’s armoury. Alpine, BMW, Cadillac, Isotta Fraschini and Lamborghini complete the manufacturer roster for the 2024 edition.

Fiercely fought LMP2

The LMP2 class has shrunk quite dramatically to make space for the swell of hypercar entrants this year. But with all 16 cars running the Oreca 07 Gibson chassis, it’ll be down to the skill of the drivers and the execution of the teams to make the difference – so it could be the most tightly contested of the three classes on show. 

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Last year’s victorious Inter Europol Competition team is back to defend its crown. Jakub Smiechowski is the only one of the three winning drivers back in the #34 car this year, and will partner Clement Novalak and Vladislav Lomko. 

One of Smiechowski’s winning 2023 team- mates, Fabio Scherer, will be looking for his second class win in a row in the Nielsen Racing car. Watch out for the #47 Cool Racing entry. Among its driver line-up is Frederik Vesti, who was second in the 2023 Formula 2 championship and is a reserve driver for the Mercedes-AMG F1 team.

LMGTE is now LMGT3

The GTE class has undergone its own transformation in recent years, with the regulation changes for the cars now working to GT3 regulations with 10 manufacturers entering a combined total of 23 cars. This has simplified the regulations, attracting more manufacturers to the class.

Along with Rossi’s BMW entry – which sees the nine-time two-wheeled world champion pair up with the world-class GT3 racer Maxime Martin and Am driver Ahmad Al Harthy – M4 GT3s will be driven by the hugely quick and experienced Brazilian Augusto Farfus, plus Sean Galael, who will be looking to improve on his best Le Mans result so far, second in class at the 2021 event.

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Another car to look out for will be the Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan. Twenty-year-old F1 Academy frontrunner Doriane Pin has had to withdraw from Le Mans 24 Hours due to breaking her ribs in an accident at Spa in Belgium. But her replacement, Rahel Frey, will join Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting, reuniting three of the four drivers (the fourth being Pin herself) who won their class at the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps in 2022.

Stunning liveries

If you’re coming to the World Endurance Championship as a relative newcomer, then it’d be understandable if you decide to base your support on drivers you know or brands you love, but what about going for the best-looking cars?

One of the easiest to spot out on track will be the BMW Art Car. BMW has a history of creating art cars, and following in the footsteps of the Andy Warhol-liveried BMW M1 that raced at Le Mans in 1979 and the stripey 2010 BMW M3 GT2 created by Jeff Koons, the brand has let Julie Mehretu apply her touch to the #20 M Hybrid V8. Inspired by her 2020 piece Everywhen, she wanted to transform her work into a “living painting” that’s “created for the circuit rather than the museum”. 

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Other regular stand-out liveries include the iconic red and yellow Ferrari squad, plus the glorious gold worn by the pair of Hertz Team Jota Porsche 963s.

Le Mans 2024 track guide

Dunlop chicane: The first corners to be taken in anger, this will be a fantastic (if very crowded) place from which to watch the opening laps. If the Sunday morning is clear, watching from the outside of the Dunlop Curve gives a fabulous view as the sun rises from within the arch of the Dunlop bridge. 

Tertre Rouge: The S bend was the scene of a spectacular accident for Allan McNish in 2011, but the undulating nature of this part of the circuit gives a great view of the cars approaching. Head to the outside of Tertre Rouge corner itself to see the cars loaded up with downforce through the right-hander as they run onto the famous Mulsanne straight.

Mulsanne Straight: For most of the year, the D338 is a public road that runs through the town of Le Mans and all the way down to Tours. But during the race weekend it becomes the Mulsanne Straight, where top-class cars will hit well over 200mph. You can’t view the race from here for safety reasons, so keep your eyes on the big screens to see the action. 

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Mulsanne Corner: A crucial turn on the circuit, this slow right-hander requires late braking from the end of the high-speed Mulsanne straight, but a solid launch is needed to ensure you can get a great exit onto another extended period on full throttle heading towards the challenging Indianapolis corner.

Indianapolis/Arnage: This right-angled bend is a fairly secluded spot from which to watch the race. A small amount of banking lets fans watch the cars scream in from Indianapolis carrying huge speed, but the slow speed nature of the first left and the even tighter right at Arnage gives a great opportunity to see the cars up close.

Porsche Curves: Often one of the busiest places to watch due to its proximity to two of the largest weekend campsites, banking on the inside of the first right-hander gives a great view of the entry into the Porsche Curves. It can be a treacherous part of the circuit in changeable weather, with a large gravel trap claiming the over-ambitious.

Ford Chicane: The final part of the track lets fans see the drivers really hustle their cars over the kerbs. A huge amount of time can be made here by showing some aggression, but with 24 hours of driving to consider, putting too much strain on a car can cause lasting damage. If you want a higher vantage point, then take a ride on the nearby Ferris wheel.

How to watch Le Mans 2024

For those who will be settling in for a triple stint on their sofa to watch the race, you can tune in to Eurosport, the Eurosport App, or subscribe to the Discovery+ streaming service. Live audio commentary will be available throughout the race on Radio Le Mans at radiolemans.com.

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Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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