A pivotal year before the centenary

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Paris (AFP) – Freed from the health metrics, the 2022 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Wednesday through Sunday, features everything in a pivotal race a year ahead of the competition’s centenary and the return of the historic manufacturers.

The legendary endurance car race returns to its full audience this year, after the closed door in 2020 and last year’s health bar, and the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Endurance enthusiasts and people of Le Mans (…) will once again be able to celebrate the +24 Hours of Le Mans, Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de Lust (ACO), the organizer of The Return of Weight in the city center, welcomes the drivers review and all activities Designed for an audience is an event in itself.”

Hence the return of the spectators, but not from the big names in motorsport: Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, BMW, Cadillac… Everyone will start the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in 2023 and meet at Sarthe a hundred years after the first race.

The French manufacturer Peugeot, which wanted to ensure that it had a reliable, first-class supercar, would not take the championship until 24 hours after Le Mans.

Favorite Toyota

In their absence, Toyota dominated the race, finally got rid of its legendary misfortune, and won the last four editions at Le Mans.

This year again, the Japanese team is the favorite to succeed itself with its N.7 supercar led by Britain’s Mike Conway, Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi and Argentina’s Jose Maria Lopez, and was finally victorious last year after several misfortunes.

Team Toyota, with its TS050 Hybrid Hypercar of Kamui Kobayashi (g) and TS050 Hybrid of Kazuki Nakajima, crowned in the 89th Edition, on August 22, 2021 remains the favorite to succeed it at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Jean-Francois Mounir, Agence France-Presse / Archives

The main competitor to the Toyota N.7 should be the … Toyota N.8 led by Swiss Sebastien Buemi, New Zealander Brendon Hartley and Japan’s Ryo Hirakawa.

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However, after two races, the manufacturer has yet to top the WEC Championship, led by the French Alpine team, thanks in particular to the victory of the supercar led by Brazilian Andre Nagrao, France’s Nicolas Lapierre and Mathieu Växvière in the 1000-mile race. From Sebring (USA).

“After two races, the title struggle in the hypercar class is still very open and the Le Mans event can determine the direction the championship will take,” notes Richard Mille, chair of the FIA ​​Endurance Committee.

In addition to Toyota and Alpine, the American team Glickenhaus, which takes its name from its founder, director and producer in New York James Glickenhouse, will once again enter two hypercars, which will attempt to defy the odds during this historically unpredictable race.

Sebastien Ogier premiere

In all, 62 cars will ply the Sarthe circuit, like last year. In addition to the five supercars, there will be 27 LMP2 (more standardized and slower), seven LMGTE Pro (derived from production sports cars) and 23 LMGTE Am (which can be driven by amateurs for special teams).

Sebastien Ogier competing here at WRC during the Monte Carlo rally on January 23, 2022, will discover the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Sebastien Ogier competing here at WRC during the Monte Carlo rally on January 23, 2022, will discover the 24 Hours of Le Mans Valerie Hach AFP/Archives

Among the interesting things about this edition, the presence of eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier will be especially scrutinized. In his first endurance race, the Frenchman made it clear to AFP last January that he was approaching a “relaxation” race, with the desire “to see how (he) progress and how close (he can) get to the best”.

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Together with fellow countrymen Charles Melici and Lilo Wadox, 21, he will form one of the three mixed teams in the competition, on the LMP2 wheel for Team Richard Mille.

A female crew will also compete in the LGMTE Am: Iron Dames class, with Switzerland’s Rachel Frey, Denmark’s Michael Gatting and Belgium’s Sarah Bovey at the wheel.

Among the amateur pilots in attendance this year is German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender who will be the eye-catcher at the Proton Competition N.93 (LGMTE Am).

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