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by Adam Lynton
Exclusive mega-gallery of the cars that battled it out over 24 hours in the world’s greatest motor race.
National Geographic recently listed their Ten Greatest Sporting Events in the world. Le Mans 24 Hours was ranked number one. Each year car enthusiasts make their way to the industrial-heavy city in northern France, flying in by helicopter, and driving from all corners of Europe to witness a race like no other. Most split their time between watching the action from the cheap seats and getting snippets of shut-eye from local hotels.
Others, like CarBuzz reporter JD Lynton, spent the 24 hours with LMP2 race team Status, getting the inside track on systems and strategies as well as an access-all-areas pass. These exclusive pictures showcase the best of the cars, from the triumphant Audis racing in LMP1 through the Nissans and Judds in LMP2 to the Ferrari 458 Italias, Corvette ZR1s, Porsche 911 RSRs and Aston Martin Vantage V8 that made up the GTE Pro and Amateur Classes. From windscreen wipers through disc brakes to the turbocharger, various innovations have proven themselves in the world's greatest endurance race.
And with the emergence of hybrid powertrains, the 24-hour event once again acted as a racing laboratory. The media center was the ideal place to watch the beginning of the race. The LMP1 cars pulled out early leads with the eeriness of the silent Audi engines and Toyota Hybrids belying their speed as they tested out future technologies that will soon be on everyday cars. Due to mistakes and unreliability some of the LMP1 cars began to fall away but the biggest disappointment was the brilliant Nissan Deltawing concept, which ultimately showed it was all style over substance.
The Ferrari's were the surprise of the day giving comfortable performances and pushing Porsche's and the hapless Corvette challengers to the back of the group by the end of the race. But the real winners were Toyota who with their innovative Hybrid cars and some superb race strategy pushed Audi to the limit. The thing about LeMans that makes it so special is not the winners or even the losers it is the event which lives and breathes. Over the night the Toyota stalls in the pits and is unrecoverable after a collision with the Nissan Deltawing. A practically non-existent view at night forces drivers to recite the track from memory.
Throw in having to deal with camera flashes from the crowd, and the constant flashing from Audis as they fly pass blinding them momentarily, which at such high speeds can be the difference in successfully manipulating the next corner and ending the 24-hour race early. The toughest sportscar endurance race is like nothing else. The fathers and sons that come here will come again and continue a ritual that has been ongoing since La Sarthe first held this event in 1923.