5 brands that would be awesome to see back at Le Mans
This year, the grid wasn’t very varied, but what if some brands made a comeback?
The 24 hours of Le Mans is one of, if not, the most famous race in motorsport. There is such an atmosphere around the mythic track of La Sarthe, and it has quite an history too that goes back to the early 20s.
The track has some particularities. First, it’s racetrack but it also has some road parts. Then, it’s characterised by a series of fast turns followed by slow turns which is difficult both for the drivers and the machines.
And, of course, it’s 24h long. During that time the cars can lap the 8.5 mi track almost 400 times at an average speed of more than 150 mph. In the Mulsanne straight, some cars reach 250 mph. It’s like crossing Europe, twice, flat out, with more than 50 other cars racing each other.
This year was special. Hopefully, the race still happened but three months later than usual, without any spectator and with a far less varied grid. In both GT categories, there will only be three brands: Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche.
But what if some other manufacturers made a comeback during the next editions? Here are 5 brands that would be awesome to see back on the French track fighting for victory. And, if you think of another one, feel free to write it in the comment section below.
For a very long time, Chevrolet and Dodge had engaged cars at Le Mans to compete in the GT category, but if there is an American brand that has marked the history of the race, especially in the 60s, it’s definitely Ford and its GT40.
Back then, the cars were already very fast and the safety measures were ridiculously poor. The movie “Ford v. Ferrari” maybe isn’t perfect historically speaking but it’s very close to the reality. You can feel the atmosphere and already see the shearing speed of those machines.
More recently, Ford has competed again at the French event and even won in 2016 with the most recent GT for the 50th birthday of the famous win of 1966. Although it was a very good race and a well-deserved win, it was in the GT category and not in the top LMP1 class.
Imagine if Ford made a comeback with an hypercar for the following editions. It is unlikely to happen but still, wouldn’t it be great for the race?
The history between Peugeot and Le Mans isn’t as flamboyant as the one between Ford and the French endurance race but it’s still important. The French manufacturer won 3 times in the past 30 years. And there is always something special about a manufacturer competing in its own country.
After a very long absence, Peugeot came back at Le Mans in 1991 with the 905. For its first participation, the car didn’t behave brilliantly, which is often the case. After only a few hours into the race, both cars encountered technical issues and weren’t able to finish.
The next year, Peugeot came back with an improved car and won the race. For its third and last participation with the 905, Peugeot not only won but putt all its cars on the podium securing first, second and third place. Sounds like Ford in 1966, well done Peugeot.
But the history of the French manufacturer at Le Mans doesn’t stop there. In 2007, almost 15 years after its last victory, Peugeot entered the race with the 908 powered by a diesel biturbo V12. Once again, it didn’t win the race for its first participation, but it still came second.
The next year wasn’t very successful either but in 2009, the Peugeot 908 came first and second after the 24h battle on the French racetrack. In 2010, the 908 did its final Le Mans but without any success.
More than 10 years after its last victory, the French manufacturer will be back to compete in the new hypercar category. New rules mean new cars and, hopefully a great show.
Nissan has a strong but weird history at Le Mans. It started back in the 80’s but never ended with a victory in the top category. And so, in 1999, Nissan decided not to come back at Le Mans the following year.
They still deliver some great car such as the R390 which came third in 1998 and the 300 zx which won its class in 1994 and came 5th overall, a great result.
In 2012, Nissan finally decides to come back but with a very strange car: the DeltaWing. It has no real intention of winning but more setting up no rules for the future. Thanks to its very small 1.6 4-cylinder engine, its special shape and its light weight, it consumed less full and less tire than other prototype but was still capable of putting some good lap times. There was only one DeltaWing in 2012. Sadly, it didn’t finish the race. Same result 2 years later, one car entered the race but wasn’t able to finish.
In 2015 came the GT-R LM Nismo with, once again, some very quirky features. The engine was in the front and powered only the front wheels. The car was 4wd but only thanks to the KERS system. Because of its construction, the front wheels were wider than the rear ones, weird. Maybe too weird because none of the three LMP1 finished the race.
The Japanese brand came at 24h of Le Mans with some good and some weird cars but wasn’t really ever able to fight for the first position. But with the upcoming hypercar category, the manufacturer may finally have the chance to fight for the lead, if it decides to show up.
Once again, a very special brand with a very special relationship with the 24h of Le Mans. The past manufacturers that we talk about came many times in France, but McLaren only came 4 years, from 1995 to 1998 and managed to win twice.
In 1995, the British manufacturer came at the track of La Sarthe with 7 F1 GTR. For the first ever participation of the car, the F1 not only won the race but also came 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th overall.
The following year, McLaren came back and so did Porsche with the 911 GT1. The German manufacturer won that year but 5 of the 7 McLaren that entered the race finished in top 10.
In 1997, it was a new consecration in the GT1 category for McLaren. The F1 was improved by gaining some aero and some centimetres thanks to its LT version. It was almost capable of hitting 200 mph in the Mulsanne straight. They came 2nd and 3rd overall but won the GT1 category.
In 1998, two private teams entered the competition with McLaren F1 and only one of them was able to finish 4th overall.
McLaren was in the center of the hypercar trend a few years back with the P1. Maybe the British brand could come back with a successor to fight at Le Mans, or Gordon Murray will give it a shoot with his new T.50, who knows. Either way, it would be great for the sport.
The British manufacturer once said that it won’t enter a competition if winning wasn’t the goal. Apparently, it isn’t taking part that counts, and they have proved it in the past.
Bentley was one the first brand to race at Le Mans in 1923. For the Bentley brothers, it was simply impossible to race a car for that long without breaking it. But they still decided to show up in France and have a go.
Apparently, they liked it, a lot. They came back the following year and won the race. They continued to come until 1933 and won 4 other times.
After the war, the brand gave it an other try from 1949 to 1951 but wasn’t able to win and so quit the race for a long time.
Bentley only came back in 2001. But what a comeback it was. During their first year at the 24h of Le Mans, one of the two Bentley had a failure and the other one only came 3rd. The following year only one Bentley entered the race and wasn’t able to properly fight with the Audi in front. It finished 4th.
With those two mediocre performances, Bentley got back to the drawing board ant completely reworked the aerodynamic of the car. For the 2003 edition, two cars entered the competition and completely dominated the race finishing first and second. The British manufacturer had done its job of winning the 24h of Le Mans and retired.
It’s been long enough now. So, please Bentley, come back to fight for the win as you’ve always done.