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The Royal Wedding, Official PhotoIt’s All a Matter of Class

The British are often accused of being obsessed with Class. Over the last few weeks that has been evident in the subtle undercurrent to the patriotic fervour that accompanied the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Never far away was some comment along the lines of Kate being a “Commoner”. She was “one of the people”, the daughter of two former British Airways flight attendants who was being elevated to the lofty status of becoming a member of the Royal Family. By marrying William she joined the crème de la crème of British aristocracy, and Class doesn’t come any better defined than that.

The French abolished their class system just over two hundred years ago, when they chopped off the top layer with the help of Madame Guillotine. Out of that came the French national motto of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, or Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood.

Applying those same principles to motorsport has never been an easy process, and understanding how it works in the complex world of endurance racing this season is especially difficult.

There are nominally five classes in the Le Mans Series; LMP1, LMP2, Formula Le Mans, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am. To the initiated, the cars running within each category are fairly readily identifiable, but to help the spectators in the grandstands the ACO has introduced a coloured numbering system – red panels for LMP1, blue for LMP2, purple for FLM, green for GTE-Pro and orange for GTE-Am.

LMP1 LMP2 Formula Le Mans GT Pro GT-Am

Those are the visual markers. In terms of performance, there should be a narrow overlap between classes – the fastest of the class below just able to compete with the slowest of the one above, and in general terms, a clear series of demarcations should exist from one end of the grid to the other. This season, however, there has been a broad change in the regulations governing the classes, and the result has been a blurring of the class structure that makes this performance balance a little harder to follow.

Audi R18 LMP1. Photo: Marcus PottsLMP1 remains broadly the fastest class, and that’s as it should be, of course. However, under some interpretations there are seen to be two sub-classes within LMP1; cars with diesel engines, and those powered by petrol. At the recent official pre-24 Hours test at Le Mans, all seven diesel-powered prototypes out-performed the best of the petrol-engined cars and, put simply, unless the diesels hit problems, a car fitted with a petrol engine is unlikely to emerge victorious.

Nevertheless, the overall race winner is almost certain to come from the ranks of LMP1.

The situation in LMP2 is less clearly defined, and cars running in the second prototype class range from some of the quickest – and these may be as fast as several of the petrol-powered LMP1 cars – right through to some of the slowest, struggling to overtake even the tail-enders in GTE-Am. Visually very similar to many of the LMP2 cars, the Formula Le Mans group (all stock-specification Oreca 09 chassis) sit somewhere in the middle, and are likely to be quicker than several competitors in the LMP2 field. It’s all very confusing.

Lola CoupéWhat is even more confusing, and something that no spectator can be expected to appreciate, is that there are effectively several sub-categories in LMP2. As was intended by the new regulations, which we covered here in December last year, the plan was that LMP2 was going to become a more affordable category, aimed tactically at the privateer teams and with a gentleman driver at the heart of every line-up. To this end a cost cap was introduced, and the regulations stated that all new cars had to meet stringent financial limits. The chassis should cost no more than £300,000 and the engine, based on a production unit from a road-legal car, was capped at £65,000. However, to save some teams the expense of having to invest in a completely new car, older chassis would be eligible to race under the quaintly-named "grandfather” rules, although the same cost-capped engine options would have to be employed.

Pecom Lola LMP2, 2011. Photo: Marcus PottsIn principle the ACO’s aspirations are highly laudable, but in practice the regulations have been open to wider interpretation than perhaps was originally envisaged. The result is four or five indistinct sub-classes in LMP2.

At one end we have cars which fulfil all the expectations of the new regulations, not only meeting the cost-capping price limit, but doing so at the end of an exhaustive development process that includes wind-tunnel testing, the imposition of the dorsal fin, and the incorporation of one of the production-based engines. The Pecom Lola (left) is such a car.

Team RLR MG Lola EX265. Photo: Marcus PottsAt the other end of the scale are the grandfathered cars, such as the RLR Motorsport MG Lola EX265 (shown right at Paul Ricard). This is a 2006 chassis fitted with the latest BMW derived Judd V8. As a grandfathered car, the RLR MG Lola not only carries an extra 20 kilos of ballast (total 920 kilos) but, unlike other cost-capped cars using the same V8, is also fitted with a 5% smaller restrictor to further limit the car’s performance.

In the middle there are cars which, to varying degrees, fulfil the cost-capping regulations or the “grandfathered” rules, but don’t quite meet either of them perfectly. The Zytek Z11SN, for example, is actually the same chassis that ran in 2010, and in previous years as the Zytek 09S (pictured right). However, by offering similar cars for sale at below the cost-capped price, the manufacturer has enabled any team using the Zytek in 2010 to run under the latest cost-capped regulations. That means benefiting from a lighter all-up weight of 900 kilos, and fitting the larger restrictors (by approximately 5%) to the latest Nissan V8 naturally aspirated V8 engine.

Team Oreca, Oreca 03 LMP2. Photo: Marcus PottsSimilarly, the Oreca 03 chassis (left) is based on Oreca’s LMP1 chassis from 2009 (right). The company carried out redevelopment work in order to make it suitable for use in LMP2, but stopped short of fitting the dorsal fin when the ACO tweaked the regulations slightly in late 2010, stating that the fin would not become mandatory until January 2013 (see here). Able to supply the updated chassis within the cost-capped limit, and fitted with the Nissan or Judd engine, the car became eligible for the more favourable interpretation of the regulations, despite being based on an old design.

The fourth category is probably where RML AD Group’s HPD ARX-01d fits in. The chassis is grandfathered, since it is based on the original 2006 Acura chassis that ran in the American Le Mans Series. However, unlike the RLR MG Lola, the ARX is fitted with a twin-turbo V6, rather than a naturally-aspirated unit, and so is subject to a completely different set of uniquely smaller restrictors.

These sub-classes can be simplified as:

1) Cost-capped, new chassis, dorsal fin, new engine. (Pecom Lola B11/40)
2) Cost-capped, old chassis, (no fin) new engine. (Zytek Z11SN, Norma M200P, Oreca 03)
3) Grandfathered, old chassis (no fin), new engine, non-turbo (RLR MG Lola)
4) Grandfathered, old chassis (no fin), new engine, turbocharged (RML AD Group HPD)

Then, just to add further mud to the waters, we will see a fifth sub-class in the Le Mans 24 Hours and in ILMC races, including Spa, with the presence of the Level 5 Lola HPD Coupé:

5) Non cost-capped, new chassis, dorsal fin, new engine. (Level 5 Lola HPD Coupé)

Although the Lola is brand new, and therefore has to sport a dorsal fin (*see here for clarification) and is complete with all the latest engine, transmission, aero and braking technology, the final price of the package meant that it couldn't meet the cost-capped criteria - so it has the appearance of a cost-capped 2011 competitor, but isn't, and so carries the extra weight and restrictor disadvantages.

RML AD Group HPD ARX-01d. Photo: Marcus PottsThe ACO’s challenge has been to achieve equivalence across a very uneven landscape. With the various combinations of weight, ballast, engine type and restrictor size it was never going to be an easy process, and the initial results (seen at Paul Ricard and Sebring) suggested that the playing field in LMP2 remained far from level. Power output from the various engines ranged from an excess of 500 bhp, down to a more modest 420 bhp. Top speeds were spread across a spectrum that extended from 268 kph through to 283 kph – a variance of 15 kph - and around the 5 kilometre Paul Ricard circuit, best lap times between the fastest and slowest in the class displayed a disparity of over 3 seconds.

By the time the cars arrived at Le Mans for the official test, those fitted with turbocharged engines, including RML’s HPD, had been issued with a slightly bigger restrictor. In conjunction with the fitting of the lower downforce aero package, exclusively homologated by the ACO for use at Le Mans, the gap between the HPD and the quickest Nissan-powered cars was narrowed, but it won’t be until the teams arrive at Spa this weekend that the true impact of the restrictor “break” will be apparent. Preliminary tests indicate that the performance gap may have been halved, leaving the cost-capped cars with a power advantage of around 35 bhp and a weight break of 20 kilos. It must be hoped that this, in conjunction with the recognised aerodynamic efficiency of the HPD chassis, the RML and Strakka "grandfathered" cars will be more competitive this weekend.  

Courage Oreca LMP1, 2008.

Interestingly, both the HPD-ARX, developed by Wirth Research in Banbury, and the Oreca 03 can trace their lineage back to the same central tub – the Courage LC70/75 (above). Oreca purchased Courage in 2007, and developed the Oreca 01 (LMP1) and Oreca 03 (LMP2) from the ancestral stock. They also used the same basic package to create the Oreca 09, the Formula Le Mans chassis.

RML AD Group at the Le Mans test. Photo: marcus Potts

By comparison, GT is a far simpler kettle of fish. With the phasing out of GT1, we now have two GTE classes – one aimed at professional teams and drivers (GTE-Pro) and the second at amateur “gentlemen” drivers. Cars racing in the former can have an all-pro line-up, whereas eligibility for GTE-Am demands a maximum of one professional driver, and a car that’s at least a year old. Simples. What a relief.

LMP2 Entry List

The full entry list for LMP2 and Formula Le Mans for Round 2 of the Le Mans Series and ILMC 2011 is reproduced below. If one is available, clicking on the thumbnail will reveal an enlargement.

26 RML AD Group Signatech Nissan
Oreca 03-Nissan Franck Mailleux (FRA)
Soheil Ayari (FRA)
Lucas Ordonez (FRA)
33 RML AD Group Level 5 Motorsport
Lola Coupé-HPD Scott Tucker USA
Christophe Bouchut (FRA)
João Barbosa (PRT)
35 RML AD Group Oak Racing
Pescarolo - Judd BMW Frédéric da Rocha (FRA)
Patrice Lafargue (FRA)
Andrea Barlesi (BEL)
36 RML AD Group RML AD Group
United Kingdom
HPD V6 turbo
Tommy Erdos (BRA)
Mike Newton (GBR)
Ben Collins (GBR)
39 Pecon Racing Pecon Racing
Argentina ARG
Lola B11/40
Judd V8
Luis Perez Companc (ARG)
Matias Russo (ARG)
Pierre Kaffer (GER)
40 Race Performance Race Performance
Switzerland SUI
Oreca 03
Judd V8
Michel Frey (CHE)
Ralph Meichtry (CHE)
Marc Rostan (FRA)
41 Greaves Motorsport Greaves Motorsport
United Kingdom
Zytek Z11SN
Karim Ojjeh (SAU)
Gary Chalandon (GBR)
Tom Kimber-Smith (GBR)
42 Strakka Racing Strakka Racing
United Kingdom
HPD ARX -01d
HPD V6 Turbo
Nick Leventis (GBR)
Danny Watts (GBR)
Jonny Kane (GBR)
43 RLR Motorsport RLR Motorsport
United Kingdom
MG Lola EX265
Judd V8
Barry Gates (GBR)
Rob Garofall (GBR)
Simon Phillips (GBR)
44 Extreme Limute AM Paris Extreme Limite
AM Paris

Norma M200P
Judd V8
Fabien Rosier (FRA)
Jean-Marc Luco (CHE)
Maurice Basso (CHE)
45 Boutsen Energy Racing Boutsen Energy Racing
Oreca 03
Dominik Kraihamer (AUT)
Nicolas de Crem (BEL)
46 TDS Racing TDS Racing

Oreca 03
Mathias Beche (CHE)
Pierre Thiriet (FRA)
Jody Firth (GBR)
   Formula Le Mans  
91 Hope Racing Hope Racing

Formula Le Mans
Oreca 09
Luca Moro (ITA)L)
Zhang Shanqi (CHN)
92 Neil Garner Motorsport Neil Garner Motorsport
United Kingdom
Formula Le Mans
Oreca 09
John Hartshorne (GBR)
Steve Keating (GBR)
Phil Keen (GBR)
93 Genoa Racing Genoa Racing

Formula Le Mans
Oreca 09
Jens Petersen (GER)
Elton Julian (ECU)
Christian Zugel (GER)
95 Pegasus Racing Pegasus Racing
Formula Le Mans
Oreca 09
Mirco Schultis (GER)
Patrick Simon (GER)
Julien Schell (FRA)
99 JMB Racing JMB Racing
Formula Le Mans
Oreca 09
Manuel Rodrigues (PRT)
Jean-Marc Menahem (FRA)

M = Michelin Tyres, D = Dunlop Tyres

Signatech Oreca 03. Photo: Marcus PottsOnly three entrants within LMP2 are competing for points in the ILMC, and the remainder are all regular Le Mans Series competitors. The Le Mans Test on April 24th suggests that the Oreca Nissans are likely to set the class pace once again, but the Greaves Zytek will be in amongst them and fighting for pole.

Oak Racing didn't have an easy run in the Le Mans test, but the team has established a name for gritty determination and reliability, if not outright pace, and it would be hard not to pick them for a strong finish. The Pecom Lola has also done well, both in testing, and in the first round at Paul Ricard, so can be expected to challenge during the race.

RML AD Group HPD ARX-01d. Photo: Marcus PottsBoth RML AD Group and Strakka Racing will be looking to ascertain what performance benefits they can draw from the larger restrictors fitted to the twin-turbo HPD V6 following the ACO's specification change after Paul Ricard. However, both teams will also have to deploy the medium downforce aero package, homologated by the ACO for use in the Le Mans Series and last seen in Round 1. That should be fairly well suited to Spa's twists and turns, although top speed along the Kemmel Straight may be compromised. Nevertheless, it will be the first opportunity either team has had to make a direct comparison with their rivals.

The full entry list in PDF format, including a comprehensive LMP1 and GT listing, can be viewed here:
Spa Entry List.

From this it can be seen that eight of the fifteen cars listed for LMP1 are ILMC entries, six are Le Mans Series, and one (the #12 Rebellion Lola Toyota) is scoring for both. Since the list was published the Hope Racing Swiss Hytech Hybrid has been withdrawn, and just a week ago it was announced that Aston Martin would also be missing the Spa round to concentrate on development work with its two AMR-One LMP1 prototypes.

Audi R18. Le Mans testing. Photo: Marcus PottsWith three of Audi's new R18 diesel coupés and four Peugeot 908s there is sure to be a very competitive battle for the overall lead. The R18 looked extremely impressive in Le Mans testing at the end of April - very composed through the corners, whisper-quiet along the straights, and fastest overall on the lap, but the factory Peugeots kept on posting fastest sectors, even if they never quite strung a blistering lap together. When hustled, the 908 is evidently very quick, but can it maintain that kind of pace for a race distance? Spa will reveal much more than the official Le Mans test did, and may offer a tantalising glimpse of what we can expect when the gladiators arrive at Le Mans in June.

Support Races

There are three support series to this weekend's LMS/ILMC race. The ATS Formula 3 Cup is a German-based single seater, open-wheel championship with a variety of chassis and engine types, and is fairly typical of Formula 3 style competition. They will share the billing with two sportscar-based support championships: .

Speed Euroseries 2011. Photo: Peter May, DailysportscarThe Speed EuroSeries made an impressive debut as support to the Le Mans Series at Paul Ricard, and will be a regular feature of the LMS package in 2011. The cars are like mini-prototypes, and almost as fast. Many top names will be seen on the entry list, including former Grand Prix drivers, Le Mans racers and sportscar champions. It's also very entertaining!

Also on the bill, and returning as support to the Le Mans Series after a brief gap, is the Radical Masters series. The Radicals have offered support to the LMS on many occasions in the past, and like the Speed EuroSeries, represent a feeder for would-be endurance racing drivers, as well as an excuse for experienced veterans to let their hair down and enjoy some close-fought wheel-to-wheel racing. Theirs is a non-championship round, but the draw of Spa, and the chance to race on the same schedule as the big names in sportscar racing should be enough to guarantee a good turnout.

A History of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit

We ran a brief history of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit as part of our preview to the 1000 Kilometres in 2008, and not a great deal has changed since then. If you're interested in how this fabulous circuit came to be created, please follow this link to the archived coverage on our companion website at

Weekend Schedule

The following schedule is subject to change and the circumstances and events of the day

Thursday 5th May

09:00 09:40      Radical Masters Free Practice 1 40'
10:00 11:00      ATS Formula-3-Cup Free Practice 1 60'
11:20 12:00      Radical Masters Free Practice 2 40'
12:20 13:20      ILMC & LMS Free Practice 1 60'
13:40 14:10      ATS Formula-3-Cup Qualifying 1 30'
14:30 15:30      Speed Series Free Practice 60'
15:50 16:35      Radical Masters Qualifying  45'
16:55 17:55      ILMC & LMS Free Practice 2 60'
19:00               Michelin Green X Challenge, Cocktail Party

Friday 6th May

09:00 09:30      ATS Formula-3-Cup Qualifying 2 30'
09:45 10:30      Speed Series Qualifying 45'
10:50 11:35      Radical Masters Race 1 45'
11:50 12:50      ILMC & LMS Free Practice 3 60'
13:10 13:40      ATS Formula-3-Cup Race 1 30'
14:00 15:30      Speed Series Race 1 90'
15:50 16:10      ILMC & LMS Qualifying - LM GTE Pro & LM GTE Am 20'
16:20 16:40      ILMC & LMS Qualifying - LM P1 & LM P2 & FLM 20'
17:00 17:45      Radical Masters Race 2 45'

Saturday 7th May

09:10 09:40      ATS Formula-3-Cup Race 2 30'
09:55 10:15      ILMC & LMS Warm-up 20'
10:35 11:35      Speed Series Race 2 60'
11:00 11:30      Autograph Session
11:50 12:40      Car Manufacturer track laps 50'
12:00 12:45      Pit Walk (gate closed 10' before end) 45'
12:55               ILMC & LMS Pits open
13:10               ILMC & LMS Pits closed
13:15               Grid Walk begins (forbidden -16 years old) 35'
13:40               Grid Walk ends
13:50               Grid Walk, evacuation of track complete
14:00               ILMC & LMS Green Flag
14:05 20:05      ILMC & LMS Race 6h + FL

Media Coverage

Although TV coverage for the Le Mans Series returns to Motors TV this season, the Spa-Francorchamps 1000 Kilometres is also a round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. As a result, this particular race will be carried by Eurosport instead, and the current schedule is:

Saturday May 7th (UK times)

14:45, Eurosport 2. 165 minutes live coverage of the first two-and-half hours of the race.
17:30, Eurosport 1. 90 minutes live coverage of the final period of the race.

In case there are any changes to the schedule, please check the latest TV listing with Eurosport.
You can also check the Le Mans Series website for a roundup of coverage here.

Radio & On-line: Full coverage of all the weekend's events and happening's will be provided live by Radio Le Mans, beginning with Free Practice on Thursday. Articles and features about the Le Mans Series, including season previews and interviews, are also available as podcasts from the RLM website. Click the button below for access.

Click here to open the Radio Le Mans home page

Please also note that we will be providing "live" coverage of the race here on To review an example of how detailed this is, please check out our coverage from the Le Castellet 8 Hours in 2010.

* Clarification of the regulations with regard to the dorsal fin. Under section 3.6.4 of the ACO's technical regulations, the dorsal fin must be fitted to all cars built after 1st July 2010 (new chassis) and is recommended for the other cars. The fin will be mandatory for all cars as from 01/01/2013. The fin should be longitudinal and parallel to the car centreline,perfectly located on the longitudinal axis of the car and with equal thickness either side of the centre line. You can view the full Technical Regulations here..

Le Mans Series 2011

Round 2 - Spa Francorchamps
May 5th-7th 2011

Weekend Preview

Main Items


Entry List

Support Races

A History of

Weekend Schedule

Media Coverage - TV/Radio



LMP1 at Le Mans. Photo: Marcus Potts


Rebellion Racing LMP1. Photo: Marcus Potts


Greaves Motorsport Zytek, 2011. Photo: Marcus Potts

Above: the Greaves Motorsport Zytek
Below: Team Oreca LMP1, 2009

Reca LMP1, 2009

Below: design sketches for the Oreca 03,
as it was originally envisaged,
complete with dorsal fin

Oreca 03 2010. Image: Oreca
Oreca 03 2010. Image: Oreca
Oreca 03 2010. Image: Oreca








A Team Oreca Courage at Le Mans in 2008

Team Oreca Courage, 2008. Photo: Marcus Potts








Oreca 03 LMP2. Photo: Marcus Potts















Ben Collins. RML AD Group 2011. Photo: Marcus Potts

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Race Performance. Le Mans Series 2011. Photo: Marcus Potts


Extreme Limite. Le Mans Series 2011. Photo: Marcus Potts



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