This weekend the third of the summer’s great races will be taking place in a quiet corner of northern France – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And, as ever, it should be a cracker.
So far this year we’ve seen Mark Webber pull off a stylish victory in the Monaco Grand Prix and thus secure a coveted place on that most special of winners’ lists.
And Dario Franchitti has added a second victory at the Indianapolis 500 to his list of achievements.
So, what to look out for this year in the third of the classic trio of contests?
Well, we’re hoping for nothing less than a British overall winner with Anthony Davidson lining up alongside Alexander Wurz and Marc Gené at the wheel of one of the top-rated Peugeot entries.
Of course, he would have to get past Audi’s Allan McNish to do it – a two-time winner beaten back into third by the Peugeots in 2009, he will be looking to add to his tally of wins this year.
Another great story will be the leap made by Drayson Racing from the GT2 class last year to LMP1 this year in its Lola-Judd coupé.
And who could resist the prospect of Mansell & Sons taking to the track – Our Nige plus his boys Leo and Greg, who will be driving in the LMP1 category in partnership with Beechdean Racing.
It would be asking a lot of them to make an impression in this crowded category. That means the chances of Mansell père adding a Le Mans victory to his Formula One and CART titles, and thus becoming a Triple Crown of Motorsport contender, is probably a bit too much to hope for.
But, regardless of the practicalities, wouldn’t you love to see it happen?
In LMP2 there’s a clutch of Brits who should give solid performances including the Strakka team of Danny Watts, Nick Leventis and Jonny Kane.
Marino Franchitti will race alongside last year’s overall winner David Brabham for Highcroft Racing while former F3 and Superleague racer Jonathan Kennard makes his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut in this category for German outfit KSM.
And in GT2 multiple WTCC champion Andy Priaulx will be driving BMW’s 17th Art Car, with a paint job by American artist Jeff Koons, while Porsche Supercup and touring car star Richard Westbrook makes his race debut.
Here’s our guide to all the British drivers in this year’s competition. We hope you enjoy learning a little more about them:
|Anthony Davidson||Team Peugeot Total||LMP1||Davidson cements his move from single-seaters to prototypes by entering this year’s event at the wheel of a potentially race-winning Peugeot, partnering two of last year’s winners, following his successful outing with Aston Martin last year.|
|Nigel, Leo and Greg Mansell||Beechdean Mansell Racing||LMP1||British racing legend Nigel Mansell returns to the track at the age of 56 alongside his sons Leo, a sportscar racer, and Greg, who appears in Formula Renault 3.5.|
|Andy Meyrick||AIM Team Oreca||LMP1||A young racer who switched from single-seaters to sportscars last year, tackling the Le Mans Series with Kolles, then switching to ALMS with Dyson this year in the LMP1 category. Hails from Cheshire but with Welsh heritage that he believes may make him the first driver from the Principality to compete in LMP1 at Le Mans.|
|Allan McNish||Audi Sport Team Joest||LMP1||Another potential race-winner in one of the strongest cars in the field, the Scots former F1 pilot is partnered by Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello. Has a long history of Le Mans success with wins in 1998 and 2008, two ALMS titles and conspicuous Sebring success.|
|Paul Drayson||Drayson Racing||LMP1||A British businessman, amateur racing driver, member of the House of Lords and the UK’s former Minister for Science. Born partially-sighted, he convinced the FIA to grant him a racing licence in his long haul to drive at Le Mans, a passion for which was the founding object of his team. GT2 competitor last year; this year he’s racing in LMP1.|
|Jonny Cocker||Drayson Racing||LMP1||Raced in the FIA GT3 European and British GT Championship before joining Drayson in 2007 when he was instrumental in taking its bio-ethanol powered car to second in British GT. In 2008 he joined Drayson-Barwell Racing in ALMS and in 2009 he made his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut in the GT2 class. The third Drayson driver will be sportscar legend Emanuele Pirro.|
|Guy Smith||Rebellion Racing||LMP1||Smith is a former Le Mans 24 Hours winner, having taken the flag in 2003 alongside Kristensen and Capello. He has a long and distinguished sportscar pedigree and this year races for Swiss-based Rebellion alongside Andrea Belicchi and Jean-Christophe Boullion.|
|Oliver Jarvis||Kolles||LMP1||The A1GP and DTM driver makes his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut following a 2009 appearance in the Asian Le Mans Series.|
|Darren Turner||Aston Martin Racing||LMP1||A team-mate last year of Davidson and Verstappen, this former BRDC Young Driver of the year and McLaren tester will be on track again for Aston this year.|
|Sam Hancock||Aston Martin Racing||LMP1||Aston works driver with a weighty CV in sportscar racing who lines up alongside Turner and Danish veteran Juan Barazi in the team’s 009 car.|
|Mike Newton||Ray Mallock Ltd||LMP2||Newton is a businessman with a racing CV including several Le Mans appearances. RML Group, based in Northants, competes in the Le Mans Series under its own name, and the in the BTCC and WTCC as the works Chevrolet team. It is running a Lola B08/80-HPD.|
|Andy Wallace||Ray Mallock Ltd||LMP2||A veteran sportscar racer of vast experience with wins in all the major endurance races to his name. Partners Mike Newton in the RML car.|
|Marino Franchitti||Highcroft Racing||LMP2||Dario’s sportscar-racing brother will be lining up alongside 2009 overall winner David Brabham at the US-based Highcroft outfit.|
|Jonathan Kennard||KSM||LMP2||Making the switch this year from single-seater to sportscar racing, this Formula 3 and Superleague graduate is racing in the Le Mans Series and making his debut at the 24 Hours. He appears for the German outfit Kruse Schiller Motorsport.|
|Warren Hughes||Quifel ASM Racing||LMP2||Experienced single-seater, touring car and sportscar pilot from Newcastle who has tested for Williams F1, worked as an MG factory driver and competed several times previously at Le Mans, capturing a in LMP2 class victory and lap record in 2005.|
|Tim Greaves||Team Bruichladdich||LMP2||Lancastrian Greaves is the Team Bruichladdich principal and is making his third 24 Hours of Le Mans appearance. He has also competed extensively in the Le Mans Series for the team.|
|Nick Leventis||Strakka Racing||LMP2||Leventis is the 30-year-old protege of Strakka’s founder Peter Hardman with a career spent in historic and endurance events.|
|Danny Watts||Strakka Racing||LMP2||Former open-wheel specialist and A1GP Team GBR pilot who made a splash after signing to Strakka and going on to qualify the on top spot in Barcelona in his first outing for the team.|
|Jonny Kane||Strakka Racing||LMP2||A Northern Irish F3 and Indy Lights veteran who test-drove for the Arrows F1 team and moved into sportscars in 2002, competing in LMS and ALMS and driving for big names like TVR and Spyker in the FIA GT.|
|Oliver Gavin||Corvette Racing||GT2||Michigan-based Pratt & Miller Racing has been a General Motors official race team since 1999, helping develop the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R. It runs Corvette Racing and has two cars in this year’s race. Gavin was the British Formula 3 Champion in 1995 and also won his class in Le Mans racing several times. He was a test driver for the Pacific Grand Prix team and drove the F1 safety car. He reprises his last year’s drive for the team with a class switch from GT1 to GT2.|
|Andy Priaulx||BMW Motorsport||GT2||The three-time WTCC champion is teaming up with Germany’s Dirk Müller and Dirk Werner to represent the manufacturer at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, having also signed up to race in the Le Mans Series.|
|Ryan Dalziel||Jaguar RSR||GT2||The former Champ Car and Superleague open-wheeler has been carving a successful niche for himself in US sports car racing in recent years. This will be his debut at Le Mans – and he says doing so as a British driver racing for Jaguar is the highlight of his career to date.|
|Peter Drumbeck||Spyker Squadron||GT2||The Scots Le Mans and DTM veteran has been driving the Sumo Power 600BHP Nissan GTR in the FIA GT1 World Championship during 2010 as well as piloting Spyker Squadron’s C8 Laviolette GT2R in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.|
|Rob Bell||JMW Motorsport||GT2||Bell, a regular driver in the LMS, won the GT2 title in 2007 and 2008. The team is running a Aston Martin V8 Vantage this year having competed in a Ferrari F430 GT2 last time around.|
|Tim Sugden||JMW Motorsport||GT2||Le Mans veteran Sugden has a long racing CV taking in BTCC, the British GT Championship, the FIA GT Championship and ALMS. This year he and Bell are joined by the American sportscar racer Bryce Miller.|
|Richard Westbrook||BMS Scuderia Italia SpA||GT2||The Porsche Supercup and touring car star is tackling the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time despite racing in ALMS and Le Mans Series since 2007. He will be driving a Porsche 997 GT3-RSR alongside Marco Holzer and DTM driver Timo Scheider.|