This Friday 16 June in the Welcome building at the circuit, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest held a press conference ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2017, which starts at 3 p.m. tomorrow. The name of the starter of the 85th running of the iconic endurance marathon was revealed, along with details on the future of the LM P1 H class.
As he opened the press conference, ACO president Pierre Fillon spoke of the fantastic line-up on the grid at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and the fierce battle that will begin in all four classes at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Glorious sunshine is forecast so spectators can look forward to what promises to be another history-making race.
Next came a tribute to the Grand Marshal of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Mark Webber. Alex Wurz, Grand Marshal in 2016, was there to hand over responsibility and the fire suit that goes with the job, which involves driving the lead car in front of the competitors during the warm-up lap then exiting the track as the French flag is waved to start the race and release the pack.
As announced in September 2016, Tao Ni, winner of the Michelin Challenge Design on the theme Le Mans 2030: Design for the Win, was present alongside Pascal Couasnon, Director of Michelin Motorsport and Pierre Fillon to reveal the mockup of his project. Both men were keen to emphasise that the 24 Hours of Le Mans has always been a testing ground where manufacturers can try out trail-blazing automotive technologies that will ultimately find their way into production cars, and that the Michelin Challenge Design is fully aligned with the innovation process applied by Michelin, a long-standing partner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Then a major announcement: the creation of a World League for LM P3 racing, the entry-level prototype class set up by ACO. The LM P3 World League will bring together all the current LM P3 championships culminating in a Super Final for the top-ranking teams from across the world.
With a constant concern for stimulating competitors and boosting performance, the second major announcement was the presentation of the technical regulations that will govern the LM P1 Hybrid class from 2020 onwards, enabling the use of Hybrid Plug-in technology to run short distances on battery power before switching to the combustion engine. ACO and FIA have been working hard, with input from the manufacturers, to integrate these latest technological advances in LM P1 H, the premier class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in the FIA World Endurance Championship. These forward-looking regulations will come into force in 2020 and open up new avenues for development to ensure that endurance racing retains its technological leadership.
Then came the long-awaited announcement by Pierre Fillon of the name of the official starter for the 2017 [CL1] 24 Hours of Le Mans: Chase Carey, the new Formula One Chairman, will wave the French flag to start the 85th running of the French endurance classic. This is a strong symbol for all fans of endurance and Grand Prix racing, because the two flagship motorsport disciplines are both driven by the values of passion and excellence.
Finally, to bring the press conference to a close, Pierre Fillon presented the celebrated Spirit of Le Mans trophy to Aston Martin boss David Richards. The trophy is awarded by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest each year to personalities having ‘contributed to the spirit of Le Mans’. Richards has been involved in motorsport for more than 40 years, in an array of disciplines from rally and Formula One to touring cars and endurance. He is now one of the most respected figures in motor racing.
We can now look forward to the race, which starts at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday 17 June, with a ceremony and starting procedure that is sure to surprise and stir emotion among the huge crowd in attendance.