The 2015 Le Mans 24-Hour Race takes place this weekend and Vale racers Mark Webber and Alex Kapadia are both in optimistic mood as they prepare for the world’s most famous endurance race.
Both will drive Porsche cars in the race with Webber leading the factory Porsche squad in the number 17 Porsche 919-Hybrid, while Kapadia will make his Le Mans debut in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for the Team AAI squad.
Webber’s state-of-the-art car will contest the P1 class and Kapadia competes in the LM GTE-Am category - and both are confident of scoring a strong result in a race that first took place back in 1923.
Webber said this week: “The FIA World Endurance Championship certainly steps up a gear when it is time for the Le Mans 24-Hours.
“This race has a very special atmosphere and the build-up seems to last for many days. The scrutineering and technical checks for the cars took place on Sunday and Monday, and by the middle of the week all we want to do is get on with the job of driving the car.
“This year looks set to be a thriller. A huge crowd is expected to attend, nearly 300,000 people will visit the track for the race, and I think my Porsche team has a very good chance of winning this year.
“Obviously there are two other manufacturers who have strong cars that could win, and they will certainly push very hard. It is going to be very competitive at the front of the field that is for sure.”
Webber will share the number 17 Porsche with his regular World Endurance Championship team-mates, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard.
Two other Porsche 919-Hybrid cars will line-up; the number 18 car driven by Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb and the number 19 entry of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Force India F1 star Nico Hulkenberg.
Kapadia’s dream of competing in the Le Mans 24-Hour Race will finally be realised this weekend when he leads the number 67 Team AAI Porsche into battle.
Reserve driver for Murphy Prototypes last year, Kapadia has this year been drafted into the Team AAI squad and is set to drive with Jun-San Chen and Xavier Maassen.
The team have been regular competitors in the Asian Le Mans Series, and the Pre-Test was the first time Kapadia had met-up with the crew.
The 35-year-old said: “The team are great to work with and I quickly found the level of the Porsche GT car. I hadn’t driven a Porsche for a while, and I was pleased that I managed to find the pace quickly.
“This will not be an easy race for us as we are in the smallest GT category in the event. The traffic will be quite severe throughout and with such desire to win at the front by the major manufacturers, the pace will be very fast. I think a good strategy and keeping out of trouble will be the key to success this weekend.”
Kapadia’s team also field a second Porsche entry, with Mike Parisy, Han-Chen-Chen and Gilles Vannelet at the wheel.
The Aylesbury racer added: “We have two good strong driver combinations in the team across the two cars, and we are all looking forward to action starting and the race on Saturday.
“The race has the incredible build-up to it. The tension really mounts before the race starts and I am really looking forward to being part of this excitement.
“There are so many British spectators and fans travel to France every year to watch, and I know I will enjoy seeing the Union Flags being waved by the side of the track as I drive past. This should be a great experience!”
Free Practice and Qualifying for the big race starts today (Wednesday), with Final Practice concluding tomorrow evening at midnight. The Le Mans 24-Hour Race then starts at 3pm on Saturday afternoon.