2023 24 Hours of Le Mans: What to Watch for at This Weekend’s Race
It’s the 100th anniversary of Le Mans, a Ferrari is on pole, Cadillac is back, and there’s also a NASCAR.
Motorsport is enjoying a legitimate renaissance right now. New technologies are unlocking new levels of performance, younger drivers raised in ridiculously advanced simulators are replacing old-school racers, and more importantly, people are hungrier than ever for all things racing. All of this is evident at the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours, where fans are turning up in record numbers to experience the world's greatest endurance race. Rightly so, given that this year is very special.
When the green flag drops on Saturday, June 10, these are the storylines you'll want to follow:
Le Man's 100th Anniversary
The twice-around-the-clock classic celebrates one century of existence this year, with the maiden race taking place back in 1923. Of course, this may not directly affect the on-track action in any measurable way, but you can bet that drivers will be pushing extra hard to win this year—much as they did during the 100th running of the Indy 500. However, it's worth noting that this is not the 100th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, as it's been canceled several years due to wars, civil unrest, and most recently because of the COVID pandemic.
It's the first year of the long-awaited Hypercar class, and it looks like it's going to be an outright battle for glory amongst some of the world's greatest manufacturers. The likes of Porsche, Ferrari, Peugeot, Cadillac, and more are duking it out for the overall win. Sixteen cars total (some factory, some privateers) will see the green flag, though it'll be interesting to see how many reach the black-and-white checkers. As the WEC's premier class, this is what most people will be focused on throughout an entire day of racing. Will the pole-sitting Ferrari dethrone Toyota? Will the Porsches be able to overcome their recent performance issues and push their way to the front? And what about Cadillac?
America in Action at Circuit de la Sarthe
Ford versus Ferrari was the biggest headline of the 1966 race, but this year, it's most certainly Cadillac versus Ferrari. America's back, baby, and with a serious contender for an outright win. General Motors is doing it big time this year with three Cadillacs in the Hypercar class, one (pole-sitting) Corvette C8 in LMGTE AM—and perhaps the biggest star of the show, the NASCAR Chevy Camaro ZL1. The Hendrick-prepped Camaro isn't racing for points or position, but Jenson Button, Jimmy Johnson, and Mike Rockenfeller will still be pushing it flat out.
BOP, or Balance of Performance, is always a hot topic at Le Mans, and this year is no exception. WEC is constantly tweaking BOP to make sure cars are competitive despite their many differences. In the Hypercar class, for example, several changes have been made over the last couple of days, mostly targeting Toyota. The winning squad has been ordered to raise its minimum weight in order to close the performance gap to the Cadillacs and Ferraris—who have also seen mandated changes, but not as drastic.
Rain, Rain, and More Rain
As of Friday night, heavy rain is forecasted for both Saturday and Sunday. This will surely make racing more exciting, but it will create many headaches for pit crews who will be trying to figure out the best strategies for their drivers. And keep in mind that when the track is eight miles long, it can rain at one end and be bone dry at the other, making everyone's job that much more difficult.
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