Welcome to the GTspirit Live Blog of the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans. We will provide you with a detailed live report live from Le Mans, giving you updates on and off the track till the clock stops on Sunday.

Here is what you need to know first…

After the official test day on June 5, Audi emerged fastest thanks to Lucas di Grassi’ time of 3:21.375. Free practice took place yesterday where Porsche turned the tables around by setting the fastest time, with a 1-2 stint. They repeated the same in Q1 with a 1-2 finish, while Ford showed their true pace by dominating the GT class.

This is the 84th 24 Hours of Le Mans, it will also mark the third round of the FIA WEC 2016 season. A total of 60 cars make up the entry list of this year’s race, they are distributed across the four major race categories described below.

The LMP1 class serves as the top tier division comprising of prototype challengers, the likes of the Porsche 919 Hybrid, Audi R18 e-tron quattro as well as the Toyota TS050 Hybrid. Rebellion Racing are the sole participants in the LMP1 privateer category. A total of 9 entries have been confirmed for this class.

Below the LMP1 class comes the LMP2 challengers comprising of 23 entries this year, Nissan powers most of these cars including the Oreca, Alpine and Ligier entries.

LMGTE-Pro and LMGTE-Am classes make up the competitive GT class which is represented by five manufacturers namely Ferrari, Ford, Aston Martin, Corvette and Porsche. Ford is celebrating 50 years of its iconic 1-2-3 victory at the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours, Ford Chip Ganassi have four new Ford GTs, two from the USA team and two from the UK-based team. There are 14 entries in the Pro class and 13 entries in the Am class.

Photo by Rajan Jangda
Photo by Rajan Jangda

24 Hours of Le Mans Schedule

Here is how the schedule looks like for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2016.

Free Practice – Wednesday, June 15 – 16:00H
Qualifying 1 – Wednesday, June 15 – 22:00H
Qualifying 2 – Thursday, June 16 – 19:00H
Qualifying 3 – Thursday, June 16 – 22:00H
Warm Up – Saturday, June 18 – 09:00H
Race – Saturday, June 18 – 15:00H

24 Hours of Le Mans Dates 2016

The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans will kick off on Saturday, June 18 at 15:00 hours local time.

24 Hours of Le Mans TV Coverage 2016

EuropeAmericas, MENA and AfricaAsia-Pacific
ORF - AustriaFox Latin America - Central and South AmericaEurosport, Fox Sports - Pan Asia
RTBF - BelgiumFox Sports - North America, Canada, CaribbeanFox Sports, SBS - Australia
TV2 - DenmarkOSN - Israel, Afghanistan, MENACCTV 5 - China
Servus TV & RTL - DACHSuperSport - AfricaJ Sport, BS Fuji - Japan
France Television - FranceTV3 - New Zealand
Sky Deutschland & DMAX - Germany
RTL 7 & Ziggo Sports - Netherlands
SRG/SSR - Switzerland
BT Sport, Quest, Sky Sports News, Channel 4 - UK
Eurosport - Pan Europe

The Live Blog starts here…

Live Blog

Final Update: 24 Hours of Le Mans

Just when you thought you have seen it all, Le Mans gives you the most unexpected surprise – as said before, Toyota had this race in control…and in control we mean they lead from Hour 1 through to the near end. The pitlanes and garages were getting ready for the final six minutes of the race when the lead Toyota reported loss of power.

Hell broke loose as the #5 Toyota team were experiencing the shock of their lives, this was a nail-biting moment where one could only hope for the possibility of the limping Toyota to make it to the chequered flag in time.

That did not happen, some three minutes to the finish line, the #5 Toyota stopped on the field! At this point it was clear that Porsche had claimed the win… emotions engulfed the Porsche garage as the #2 Porsche 919 passed the maimed Toyota on the way to the finish line. Moments later, Neel Jani flashed across the chequered flag first, acquiring the 18th overall victory for Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – more than any other team in history!

24 Hours of Le Mans 2016 Results

LMP1
P1: #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid
P2: #6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid
P3: #8 Audi R18
LMP2:
P1: #36 Signatech Alpine
P2: #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-05
P3: #37 SMP-Racing
LMGTE-Pro
P1: #68 Ford GT – Chip Ganassi
P2: #82 Ferrari 488 GTB – Risi Competizione
P3: #69 Ford GT – Chip Ganassi
LMGTE-Am
P1: #62 Scuderia Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia
P2: #83 AF Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia
P3: #88 Abu Dhabi Racing Porsche 911 RSR

Update 19th June 12:10
As we type, the number 98 Aston Martin piloted by Mathius Lauda is stopped on track near the Dunlop bridge causing a slow zone section. In the LMP1 grid, the gap between the lead number 5 Toyota and the number 2 Porsche grows. Anthony Davidson and Neil Jani are at the respective wheels. Kobayashi at the wheel of the number 6 Toyota had a major spin on track about an hour ago which caused the Toyota to drop off the pace, it is now being wheeled into the garage for some work, probably necessitated by the trip into the gravel box. In LMP2 Singatech Alpine are in the lead while Ford have now retaken the lead in GTE PRO. The Fords are a full second quicker per lap than the Ferrari’s, both are about 2 seconds per lap quicker than the Corvette and Porsche rivals. There have been 11 retirements so far…

Update 19th June 09:00

We are back up and well rested, the cars are still out on track and we finally have some progress to report on. The biggest news concerns the number 1 Porsche which was in a very competitive position until it was recalled to the pits for work on the hybrid system. This took just over an hour, putting the all-star Porsche 19 laps off the pace. It currently sits 29th overall with Timo Bernhard at the wheel. Up front the racing is very close with the two Toyota’s leading the Porsche driven by Marc Lieb.

During the night, the Porsche appeared to have the edge before a puncture caused it to lose valuable time. The Toyota’s have been flawless in comparison and 1:15 minute separates all three. The Toyota’s appear more economical on fuel which means that the number 6 car has managed 2 less stops than the Porsche; the number 5 car has 1 less. In GTE, the pace has been frantic. The Ferrari 488 GTE currently leads the class, 30 seconds further round the track than the number 68 Ford GT which has had issues with penalties for exceeding track limits and for refuelling with the engine running. We lost a Corvette C7.R early morning when it collided with a barrier.

One thing is clear in this category; if your car is turbocharged then you have an advantage. The Proton-Dempsey Porsche soldiers on in position 38. Update 19th June 06:13 Toyota is still the team to beat at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, 16 hours gone and the team leads with a 1-2. The #6 Toyota TS050 leads the race with Stephen Sarrazin at the wheel, the #5 sister car is second with Kazuki Nakajima at the wheel. Porsche is third with the #2 car of Neel Jani while Audi sits at fourth and fifth. The second Porsche (#1 car) encountered overheating problems at night and was forced to stay in the garage for 38 laps, the team rejoined the race and is currently running in 38th place, next to the lone #12 Rebellion Racing LMP1 car.

The #7 Audi also hit more troubles, and trails the leader by 12 laps despite being in fifth place. Risi Competizione managed to snatch the lead from Ford with the #82 Ferrari 488 GTE, Ford is currently second and third with the #68 and #69 cars within the LMGTE-Pro class. Scuderia Corsa leads the AM class with the #62 Ferrari 458 Italia, tailed by the #88 Porsche 911 RSR from Abu Dhabi Proton Racing and the #83 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia.

[Photos by Rajan Jangda]

Update 18th June 22:45

Since our last update, things have been plodding along. The number 6 Toyota currently leads the field taking full advantage of the fast it doesn’t need to pit quite so much as the Audi and Porsche. So far the Porsche and Toyota entrants have been trouble free, the Audi’s less so. The number 7 car has just come in for some work and the number 8 car has been told it will also need to come in.

The number 8 car will be a lap down by the time it comes out.

Le Mans Track 2016 Ford GT

The Porsche’s are running 2nd and 3rd with the number 2 car slightly ahead of the number 1 car. The number 1 Porsche relinquished its spot to the number 2 car following a big moment at the Porsche curves which created flat spots necessitating an early pit stop. In LMP2, the Oreca 05 – Nissan remains ahead over a minute further down the track than the nearest rival. GTE PRO is much the same too…

Update 18th June 20:45

Not much change to report. The top three spaces have are still shared by Porsche and Toyota. The number 1 car has just changed driver with Timo Bernhard taking the wheel into the evening. Marc Leib pilots the number 2 car in third position, 32.6 seconds behind Bernhard although Neil Jani is due to replace him shortly. Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi continues at the wheel of the number 6 Toyota although the positions are set to be tipped upside down with the latest round of pitting.

Le Mans 2016 Ford GT

Audi’s Lucas DiGrassi is running in 5th with the number 8 Audi R18. Luck hasn’t yet struck the Audi team yet they are only a single lap off the pace. Time that could quite easily be made up should any of the others make a mistake. In LMP2, Tds Racing are in front with the Oreca 05 – Nissan. GTE PRO is headed by the number 68 Ford GT which leads the number Ferrari 488 GTE, the balance of performance adjustments appear to have made no difference here with the Dempsey-Proton Porsche 991 RSR running considerably slower.

Porsche are having more success in GTE AM with the Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 991 RSR running a good pace from the KCMG car. We’re coming up to the 6 hour point, what would normally be a WEC race distance! Update 18th June 19:20 We have been out taking a look at the cars trackside! There are some great vantage points around the circuit, particularly past the Dunlop bridge. For photographers though, the options are limited, our gallery was pieced together through one or two locations. The whole circuit is massively busy.

On track, the Porsche has just been in to the pits. The number 1 car is currently out with Mark Webber at the wheel lapping in second place behind the Toyota piloted by Kamui Kobayashi. 33 seconds separates the cars although the Toyota has yet to pit. Approximately 50 seconds separates the Porsche from the next nearest car, another Toyota. Audi have had issues which means their cars are now sitting 4th and 19th respectively. 19 hours 40 minutes remain though so anything could happen!

Update 18th June 16:30

The race has opened up considerably since our last update. The Audi of Loic Duval has taken the lead while the second Audi sits in the garage with engineers getting the work done. As I write, Brandon Hartley has retaken the lead. Spots of rain have been reported on the Mulsanne Straight and the Dunlop Curves. Porsche’s weather reporters are saying it won’t last, although it is anyones guess at the moment. With the way things are at the moment, the Porsche is fastest in some sections and the Audi in others. In the GTE AM category, Porsche are running away with the top four places!

Update 18th June 15:55

Lap 7 and the safety car is in! The track is getting towards being completely dry. Rather strangely, the Ford GTE and LPM2 have set the fastest laps behind the safety cars. The LMP2 class is likely from the restart and the Toyota’s are nibbling at the rear of the Porsche. In GTE, the Ford’s are battling between themselves. At the moment, the GTE standings are Ford, Ferrari, Ford, Ford and Ferrari. The Porsches lead from the Toyota’s and Audi’s. The pressure is with Porsche at the moment. Andre Lotterer gets past Toyota but the Toyota retakes the place a corner later. Mike Conway holds on to third!

Update 18th June 15:30

The rain has dropped to level 1 so it seems that the race might soon get underway. Toyota and Audi are complaining of standing water into the corners. In these conditions, standing water and spray become problematic. The number 12 Rebellion car in on the third lap too with an issue. The number 60 Ferrari has also come in to the pits for a new set of tyres with a set of “not so wet wets”. Perhaps an indication that the track is starting to dry very quickly!

Update 18th June 15:10
For the first time in history, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has started under a safety car. The first lap took a staggering 8:27 seconds under heavy rain. No sooner had the grid walk happened, the heavens opened and we were subjected to sheets of rain. It seems likely that the safety car will be in on the first few laps. The race started at rain level 4 but has since decreased to rain level 2. Audi are not keen to have the LMP1 cars released in current conditions.

The issue is that the LMP1 cars struggle to cope with the slow pace and cooler conditions, meaning the GTE cars could potentially perform at a higher level. Unfortunately, one of the four Ford GTE race cars didn’t make it to the grid together with the ByKolles LMP2 car. The 67 car lost 2 laps while the ByKolles car lost 1. Interestingly, three safety cars are on the grid at the moment.

Update 18th June 14:40 CET

Le Mans in the Rain

It just started raining, as I ran to get an umbrella the cars are on their warmup lap! One thing is for sure the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours edition 2016 will be very wet! Especially the open top LMP2 cars will suffer from the weather conditions as their visibility is very limited in the rain. We should enjoy their presence as long as it lasts though as it is uncertain how long open top racers will still be allowed in Le Mans.

Follow the live streams and Radio Le Mans for live video and commentary of the start at 15:00!

Update 18th June 14:20

The grid walk was a frantic experience! Although access is extremely limited, it was as though the entire grandstand had been given access. We pushed our way through the crowds though, managing to get you a gallery of photos. On the grid Brad Pitt, Jackie Chan, Jason Statham and Keane Reaves were all attracting plenty of attention.

Update 18th June 13:00 CET

We were lucky enough to get a glimpse inside the Straka Garage earlier on. Straka are an LMP2 team running an open top car set to compete with the G-Drive for a win. In start contrast to the Porsche and Audi garages, just 20 or so engineers and technicians keep the Straka car on the gird.

Straka LMP2 Le Mans

We were able to get a look at the Nissan engine which powers this beast and their preparation for the race. It is the last year for the open-top LMP2 cars so Straka plan to make the most of it.

Update 18th June 12:34 CET

Update 18th June 2016 11:00
A dramatic Ferrari Challenge comes to a close with the number 9 car securing the win for Marcello Puglisi after 8 laps. He was followed home by the number 92 car and the number 1 car; the lead a slender 0:3 seconds! There was plenty of drama with some huge spins, several accidents and at least two safety car periods. If this is any indicator for conditions ahead of today’s race then it could be said that things will get lively!

Update 18th June 10:34 CET

The Ferrari Challenge just had two laps at speed but the safety car is out again! They are spinning off the track left and right and even on a dry circuit. Car #91 currently went to the pits from the lead as the first cars catch up behind the Audi RS7 safety car.

The Number 48 Kessel Racing Ferrari is out of the race and crews are cleaning oil and dirt of the track just after the Dunlop chicane.

Update 18th June 10:25 CET:

Ferrari Challenge at Le Mans 24 Hours 2016

The Ferrari Challenge race has just begun and on the first lap we already have a crash. It happened near the second chicane on the Mulsanne straight and caused the whole grid to slow right down. In the meantime I am enjoying breakfast on the Audi terrace.

The weather conditions are a talk of the town and like two years ago the chances of rain are close to 100% so we will have a very exciting Le Mans 24 Hours ahead of us. At 13:15 the driver parade starts and at 15:00 the 60 teams from the various different classes start the most famous 24 hour race in the world! #gtspiritdes

Update 18th June 09:45 CET:

It’s race day and we’re up and about. I got to the track at around 8 this morning and after a light breakfast headed out to the Porsche Curves for a look at the LMP1 cars in action. A combination of being in the right place at the right time and a pinch of luck meant that I was able to get a coveted grid walk pass. We will bring you some coverage from the grid walk later today!

On track, the cars completed 45 mins of warm up laps. The session was red flagged by two incidents though, the first happening 10 minutes into the running when an LMP2 car lost control coming into a corner, belching itself on the gravel. The second, 10 minutes from the end, saw the rest of the session abandoned.

Porsche managed to get a few laps in, Audi more, the session ended with Audi setting the fastest lap followed by Toyota and Porsche. The mood in the GTE Pro camp is noticeably lifted this morning by the last minute rule changes announced yesterday. Our guess is that Ford and Ferrari are less jubilant, especially given that they had just a handful of laps to test the balance of their cars with the extra ballast applied.

It is clear that today’s race is going to be fascinating across all classes. The race from an LMP1 perspective is anybody’s guess, in GTE Pro, the feeling is much the same, although ultimately nobody knows what will happen. #gtspiritlawrence

Update 17th June 23:47 CET:

After a very relaxed but at the same time exciting first day at Le Mans I just returned to the Audi Racing Hotel. Today the Head of Audi Motorsport introduced this year’s drivers for the two brand new Audi R18 Le Mans racers. Porsche and Toyota hold the better starting positions but Audi is hopeful to show a good result this year. I clearly remember the race from 2 years ago where Porsche and Toyota were also slightly quicker but Audi still came out on top due to difficult weather and technical issues for Porsche. Porsche no doubt matured since their return to Le Mans LMP1 two years ago so an exciting race awaits us tomorrow.

Following the press conference we went to the pitlane cafe directly above the Audi box. Here three time Le Mans winner and genuinely nice guy Alan McNish told us more about the importance of the pitstops and how they go down with the Audi LMP1 team. The perfect pitstop takes about 47 seconds and includes a driver change, a full tank of fuel and four fresh tires.

Audi R8

After this informative and entertaining tutorial from McNish it was our turn to experience what it is like to do a Le Mans pitstop. Our group divided in two teams I headed up team 1 as we descended down to the pitlane in our fireproof racing suits. At the Audi box the real Audi crew showed us how its done before it was our turn. As team head my job was to raise the car with the high pressure compressor gun before two other team members take the wheels off and four others put the new wheels on and this all should be done in under 20 seconds.

As you can imagine our first attempt failed miserably but our second attempt was not that bad – if you accept a few minutes for a pitstop. Dr Wolfgang Ullrich and Alan McNish seemed to really enjoy it as we watched team 2 battle their way to a record time too. Not the kind if record that scores headline at Le Mans though but a funny experience nonetheless.

After this we had a walk around the paddock and returned to the Audi Arena for some refreshments. This will be my base for live coverage of the race tomorrow so I made myself familiar with the various facilities including the on-site foot massage and excellent food selection!

On arrival back at the hotel I was greeted by a group of Audi R8s that will do a parade lap prior to the race tomorrow. Before the start of the 24 Hours race tomorrow there is more happening at Le Mans with Challenge Ferrari race at 10:05 and the Road to Le Mans race at 11:10. Make sure to bookmark our Le Mans 2016 Live Blog and follow us on Facebook (for live video) and Instagram for more updates! #gtspiritdes

Update 17 May 2016 at 19:02

Busy times here… bee hive scene.

Update 17 May 2016 at 18:36 – Playing Tricks on us…

The ACO has stepped in moments before the big race to issue some Balance of Performance changes to the LMGTE-Pro field, of which eleven cars will be affected. As it happened, Ferrari and Ford were slower in free practice but magically quicker during qualifying, lapping the field within the 3:55s in FP but 3:51s in Q1. All this while Porsche and Corvette were doing the same stint albeit a few seconds slower, which eventually led ACO to noticing the unusual lap times.

It meant that Ford and Ferrari were sandbagging during FP, and were thus quicker when they dropped the extra weight during qualifying. The new BoP changes, will see Ferrari and Ford gain extra weight for the main race. This is the first time in history that BoP changes have been issued between qualifying and the main race, drivers only have 45 minutes tomorrow during the warm up session to master the following changes – as reported by Sportscar365

– Ford will gain 10 kgs, and a reduction in turbo boost
– Ferrari will gain 15 kgs and an extra 2 liters of fuel capacity.
– Corvette and Aston Martin will receive a 0.2 mm increase in air restrictor, the Corvettes will also get 2 extra liters of fuel capacity.
– Porsche will remain unaffected by the BoP changes.

Update 17 May 2016 at 15:56

A few key quotes from the Porsche press conference this afternoon:

Vice President of LMP1 Fritz Enzinger:

– What is your forecast for the race?

“The team did a really good job last week, we have demonstrated our competitive prowess and I think tomorrow will be a very good race!”

Head of Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser on the RSR:

– At the moment Dr Walliser, you are developing the 2017 RSR, on the other hand you are here in the GT Pro class with 3 cars, how do you manage all this?

“Well, number 1 is we have the perfect team, a good team established over the years with the support of Manthey Racing and at the same time having developed a good team here it is very beneficial to us to bring all of the racing experience also in the new car. Progress is very good. We will tell you more about this new car later in the year.”

– Balance of Performance was the key word within the last two days?

“Yeah, balance of performance and looking at expectations especially in qualifying results, we had a perfect car, the feedback from the drivers was tremendously good, the best car they ever received for the Le Mans. Balance, tyres, aerodynamics, everything is good and if you find yourself in the next position 3.8 seconds behind the cars it makes it really difficult. You have to come to a point where you have to say that it is not our team where we are losing performance. There is something on balance of performance which, we all know we need balance of performance its important its relevant to our sport it enables GT3 racing but we do not need this kind of balance of performance. This is definitely not what is expect and we trust as we do always that the officials will take the right measures within the next hours to rebalance again and that there is a chance we have the best GT race ever. For the sake of the sport and for the fans… We will fight!”

Porsche Head of Archives Dr. Dieter Altenburger:

“For the Porsche brand, Le Mans is like a living room since 1951 more than 800 Porsche cars started here in the past, more than 1.7 million kilometres, 103 class victories and 17 overall victories; no other brand has been more successful…”

“This downsizing concept is nothing new for Porsche it was already part of the Porsche philosophy in the 50’s, if you look at these early cars 356, 550, 718 little four-cylinder engines, displacements 1.1, 1.5 and 1.6 litres they are highly efficient engines and between the end of 1951 and 1964, these cars made 15 class victories; i think this shows how successful this concept was so I would call it right sizing, not downsizing.”

“There is a very long tradition that new innovations were tested on the racetrack first before they came into series production and in the 50’s that started for example with the four-cylinder engine with four camshafts, we have the duplex brake, we have the rear synchromesh gearbox; in the 80’s when electronics became important we tested the engine electronics here and only 1 year later it was available in our 3.2 Carrera on the street and i’m sure in the future some of the ideas of the 919 Hybrid will also be seen on the street in a Porsche street car.”

Mark Webber:

Approaching the corners is it right that the LMP2 cars really attack?

“The rebellions are the fastest on the end of the straight and they are lighter, and thats because they have no fuel number to chase so whats good about this category [LMP1] is that we don’t go crazy about it, nobody is overly consumed by it, nobody is overly concerned about saving fuel its just in there, its the efficiency. The fuel we use per lap is so little it is impressive but we don’t need to go mental about it. But as I say, LMP2 can brake later but we still have the overall speed advantage.”

Update 17th June 13:01 CET: Audi Racing Hotel Mulsanne

Arrived at the famous Audi Racing Hotel Mulsanne directly outside the main entrance of the circuit. It has been two years since I was last here and it feels good to be back! The parking lot is filled with Audis and a large number of camper vans are parked on the other side of the fence. Hostesses in red Audi poloshirts dot the lobby of the temporary hotel. From here we go to the race track for the sounds and smells of racing!

Le Mans

Update 17th June 12:23 CET

@MrDes just landed in Angiers with Audi and is now on his way to the race track. It is ten years ago since Audi took part in the Le Mans 24 Hours with a diesel engine for the first time. I’m honored to report live from the Audi paddock and hospitality this weekend!

Update 1: Arrival at Le Mans

We have arrived at 24 Hours of Le Mans having flown direct from to the track via private jet! The race does not start until tomorrow, however the paddocks are very busy already. We’re currently seated at the Porsche hospitality suite, a few tables over from Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley who are eating dinner. Porsche are due to hold a press conference in the next half hour so we will hopefully be able to update you with a few quotes from the drivers.

Porsche have a provisional 1-2 on the grid with the number 2 car on pole for tomorrow’s race. It’s often said that pole position means nothing in a 24 hour race. We tend to disagree normally but anything could happen during these 24 hours!

Stay tuned for more from the WEC! In the meantime, read our qualifying report here.

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