Le Mans

“When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.”

That line from the classic Steve McQueen film “Le Mans” pretty much sums it all up for endurance racing drivers and fans from around the world, because the waiting is almost over. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is this weekend.

Top racers from around the world are converging on the French town of Le Mans for the 81st running of the most famous endurance race in the world.

In the McQueen film, which was set in 1970, it was a classic Porsche/Ferrari battle. In 2013 in real life, this year’s race is shaping up as an Audi/Toyota battle for overall honors. It will be a battle between the diesel hybrid from the German manufacturer and the gasoline hybrid from the Japanese automotive giant.

On paper and based on history, you have to favor Audi in this battle at Le Mans, as Audi has won the French classic endurance race 11 times. Toyota has never won. In this year’s race, 3 of the all-conquering Audi R18 e-tron Quattro race cars will be pitted against the 2 Toyota entries.

In addition, the Audi squad features 8 time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, who will no doubt being going all out to win his 9th Le Mans. Tom is teamed with long time co-driver Allan McNish and new Audi pilot Loic Duval – a formidable combination of experience, speed and youth, which should serve their chances well.

Of course, not to be forgotten are the winners of the past two Le Mans races – Audi pilots Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler – teamed together again this year and going for the hat trick.

There are those who have said that Toyota was not showing all of their cards at the recent Le Mans test session, where Audi came out on top of the speed charts. Perhaps that is the case, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Toyotas on the front row of the grid. Word from inside the Audi camp is that there are some unresolved technical issues on the new Audi R18 as well. Also, in an attempt to perhaps slow up the German juggernaut, the Toyotas have been granted an extra 3 liters of onboard fuel from the ACO, which over the course of 24 hours could make a difference.

However, when one takes a look at the balance sheet we think that you can only come to one conclusion. It seems likely that Audi will be taking the Le Mans trophy for the 12th time. It will be a fast race, a close race, with drama and unexpected events as usual. Toyota will be fast, but falter. Audi will be fast as well and win. That’s our opinion. We will know the final result this Sunday.

After the podium celebrations in France on Sunday afternoon we will once again be in the position of “just waiting” for the 82nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014, when we may be saying “Will it be Porsche or Audi in the lead?”

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