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Preview of the Le Mans 2015 24h race: Audi, Porsche or Toyota?

Preview of the Le Mans 2015 24h race
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2 . 419 kilometers of racing distance are within the LMP1- 2015 season behind us, two Audi victories are in the results lists. Is it possible to derive a statistical forecast for the 24h race in Le Mans from two races? It should be noted that the previous races were won with ridiculous lead - with 4 and 13 seconds. And anyway: isn't the Le Mans track profile with its five bolt-long straights completely different? The distance is not four times as long as in normal World Cup runs? And don't the LMP1 projectiles in France drive with a very special aero specification?

Sprint races with long-distance cars

'Everything I have learned so far indicates that it will be tight as hell' - Joest technical director Ralf Jüttner does not want to lean out of the window either. After the first two World Championship races at Silverstone and Spa, there are certainly no certainties. However, trends: Audi ended the 2014 season as a pitied underdog - and turned the tables during the four-month winter break.

Before the season started, Porsche was the clear top favorite in the LMP1 class - but the trees do not grow into the sky, no matter how well you water them. Toyota dominated the LMP1 dumpling in 2014 for long stretches, now the Japanese from Cologne are suddenly hanging in the shaft and don't seem to really know how to get out of there. That can only please the fans: like the previous World Championship races, the 2015 Le Mans 24h Race will be a thriller - come what may.

The fierce competition now leads to duels, the sprint races all honor would do. Take Spa as an example: the strategies of the two contenders for victory, Porsche and Audi, intersected twice on the track. On lap 114, Porsche driver Marc Lieb wanted to pass Audi driver André Lotterer with fresher tires, who had just completed the second stint on the same set of tires. Lotterer defended the lead hard and hard, Lieb couldn't get past.

17 laps later, Lieb didn't manage what Lotterer did before: On old tires, he couldn't keep Audi driver Benoît Tréluyer in check, changed the lead several times, Tréluyer even kissed the rear of Lieb's Porsche and was able to later Passing around the outside of the Fagnes curve - the preliminary decision in favor of Audi in a race that was about seconds, not minutes - as usual in oneEndurance World Championship. The fantastic duels from rounds 114 and 131 show how tough the competition is and what a big role tire wear plays. Because Lieb's double stint was not nearly as good as Lotterer's earlier in the Audi - the tire management decided the race, just like at Silverstone. Will it be the same at Le Mans?

Tire wear as the key at the Le Mans 2015 24h race

Audi hopes yes, Porsche and Toyota hope not. The tires alone won't be decisive at Le Mans - but they will play a big role. We remember: Last year, Toyota dominated the World Championship because they had the least tire wear, and that made the difference for a long time. What many forget: With the introduction of the new LMP1 regulations in 2014, the tire widths shrank to LMP2 format, and the drivers ridiculed the tires as 'Formula 3 tires'.

At the same time, however, performance increased, especially thanks to the hybrid systems - and with it the stress for the tires. Audi apparently drew the right conclusions for 2015. As in the previous year, the Bavarians rely on a lot of downforce on the R18 e-tron - significantly more than Toyota and Porsche - because high contact pressure reduces the slip phases and thus tire wear. Second, they meticulously tested all Michelin tire options in terms of construction and compound for every conceivable temperature window - and obviously made the right choice.

And thirdly, Audi drives a so-called FRIC chassis, with the rear and rear The front axle are in operative connection via hydraulics in such a way that the aero platform of the entire vehicle always remains in the optimal window. This offers several advantages: more stable downforce even with pitching and rolling movements, a deeper and therefore more efficient coordination of the front axle and a generally softer chassis set-up - all of this naturally also helps with tire wear.

Porsche has am 919 Hybrid tried a comparable system, but put it back as they already use a complex chassis (hub-roll) in which only the wheels of one axle are in operative connection and which is purely trimmed for driving dynamics - not for aerodynamics. Toyota, like Audi, uses a FRIC system, but did not benefit to the same extent at Spa as the opponent - probably a set-up problem that did not previously arise at Silverstone.

Does Audi have the golden ball in the run?

The fact is that Audi won both World Championship races with good tactics and even better tire wear. 'But the surface in Le Mans is less rough and aggressive than on the modern GP tracks', objected Toyota Technical Director Pascal Vasselon. Triple stints are mandatory for the LMP1 teams at Le Mans, but those who manage four or even five stints have an additional golden ball in the barrel, as a joker, so to speak.

If you lookback to Spa, then the priorities and strengths of Audi become clear. Although the two top Audi cars competed with the Le Mans package for little aerodynamic drag, in the twisty second sector, which requires a lot of downforce, they were faster than Toyota and Porsche with their World Championship specification for a lot of downforce - and hardly slower than the third Audi in World Cup specification! At the same time, the top speed gap to the superior Porsche in terms of performance shrank to 8 km /h. That means: The Le Mans kit from Audi combines a good shovel of downforce with little aerodynamic drag.

In the ranking, 20 percent of the fastest race laps under green, which gives a feeling for the basic speed of the LMP1 cars, The victorious Audi R18 e-tron was only marginally above the second-placed Porsche. So it can be expected that Audi will be strong over the distance at Le Mans: a fast car, slightly inferior in terms of power, but currently setting the tone when it comes to tire wear, plus a team with a lot of experience.

In terms of reliability, all three manufacturers failed in Spa, which should be cause for concern so shortly before the Le Mans 2015 24h race. For example, a control unit had to be replaced in an Audi based on Electronics Gremlins. And the consumption? At Silverstone, Porsche drove longer than Audi, at Spa all three manufacturers were on the same level, each with 24 laps per tank. Nevertheless, it could happen that Porsche drives one lap longer than Audi at Le Mans. In extreme cases, this can save three stops or 180 seconds. Over the projected race distance of around 360 laps, Audi would have to drive half a second per lap faster than Porsche to compensate for this disadvantage.

Porsche 919 Hybrid is very fast, but ...

<'We want to win in Spa,' said Porsche works driver Neel Jani in advance. The victory was only missed by 13 seconds, but the layout of the track in Belgium would actually have suited the Porsche 919 Hybrid. It shines with a lot of power from the combustion engine and the most powerful hybrid system. Porsche is hard to beat over one lap: In Spa, the Swabians increased the pole time to 1:54.7 minutes - 6.4 seconds faster than last year!

Conceptually, 2015 should be Porsche's year: highly efficient Engine, small and light, which allows a lot of scope for a lot of hybrid - the Porsche 919 Hybrid is most radically refined to the current LMP1 regulations. Porsche has to take advantage of the nice weather this year. Performance alone does not win races, the topic of tire use smoldered last year, and it was not for nothing that they only won once in 2014 - on a newly paved track that offered a lot of grip and generated little wear.

Porsche has signed up to The topic of tire use has improved, but Audi is the benchmark, as Spa has shown. Lotterer lost an average of only 0.3 seconds each in his double stint in the second partLap compared to the first part, both stints were 24 laps long. Marc Lieb lost 1.2 seconds - and had to end the double stint prematurely after 16 laps, otherwise Porsche would have forfeited all chances of keeping the race open until the end.

Audi driver Benoît Tréluyer gave Porsche the rest when he even put his tires to two and a half stints at the end of the race. While Neel Jani in the Porsche with starting number 18 had to cope with a lap time drop of net two seconds per lap on his parallel double stint in the second part, the drop curve at Tréluyer was much slower.

Operationally, Porsche has that First test run with the use of three cars in Spa mastered quite confidently. This means that the third car at Le Mans should be an additional trump card - provided that the durability is right. At Silverstone a 919 was stopped by a gearbox failure, at Spa a damper had to be changed on a car, and the third car around F1 star Nico Hülkenberg also had damper problems. The extreme speed and the maximum competitive pressure pop up question marks about reliability for all manufacturers.

Toyota's dominance is gone

Project manager John Litjens believes that they are behind when it comes to engine performance, and Head of Technology Pascal Vasselon did not want to deny that the Japanese factory team will switch to turbo drive next year. In addition, Porsche has more juice from the hybrid system, Toyota also slipped a few tenths away in terms of aerodynamics - and last but not least, the vote in Spa was pretty much out of hand. The biggest dilemma is that last year's strength - the good tire wear - could not be saved into the 2015 season.

When Sébastien Buemi was the first LMP1 driver to attempt a double stint in Spa, it was a thorough one Pants: Within 24 laps, the Swiss lost well over a minute to the opponents - between 20 and 30 seconds would have been acceptable. There was also a problem with reliability at the Toyota camp: first a steering wheel had to be changed, later an electronics module. In addition, Toyota only uses two cars at Le Mans for budget reasons - a strategic disadvantage.

'Our low-downforce kit works well, so I hope that we will be closer to the competition than at Le Mans in Spa, 'says Vasselon. The Frenchman sees the race in Belgium as a slip-up: 'Due to the altitude of Spa, we lose power with the naturally aspirated engine, which doesn't helpwe didn't get the set-up, and with our championship specifications we had a disadvantage aerodynamically at Spa. 'Hopefully Spa was a slip-up for Toyota and that Silverstone correctly mapped the true performance potential. On the other hand, the Japanese always failed in Le Mans, when they competed with a halfway superior car - like in 2014. Maybe it's the other way around this time?

Duel? ? Certainly not a four-way battle!

Toyota will not have a chance of pole position with the TS040 Hybrid at Le Mans, although their simulation allegedly predicts a (theoretical) lap time of 3.15 minutes. The blatant speed is the main topic of discussion in the LMP1 paddock, especially with regard to the season highlight in Le Mans. Originally the organizer ACO once issued the slogan that the LMP1 cars should not drive faster than 3.30 minutes there. Today, qualifying times in the Rumor has it that the age-old course record was 3.13 minutes (from 1971!), And racing laps were well below 3.20 minutes. ACO President Pierre Fillon raised his forefinger to warn him in Spa: 'It's too fast, we will have to slow down the LMP1 racing cars for 2016.'

Stay without turning the regulations upside down there are only two options: even less energy for the combustion engine and possibly a reduction in hybrid power - or at least a limitation of the incentives for high hybrid classes, for example above 6 MJ.

Should that come, it would underline the thesis already expressed that Porsche will hold all the trumps in 2015. 8 MJ in combination with 870 kilos, plus a radical hybrid concept with exhaust gas energy recovery, which also recuperates in the acceleration phases - that actually catapults Porsche into the favorite role for the season. However, Porsche first has to prove at Le Mans that their package is durable - and not only eats up the tires. Audi will mercilessly punish any mistake or faux pas at Le Mans. But maybe the speed buffs Porsche and Audi will also send each other to death in the 5,500-kilometer-plus marathon? Toyota is still there too. Only the Nissan will be home again by then.


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