The governing body of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) will shake up next year’s race yet with a new two-stage qualifying format. It replaces the three-session qualifying we’ve seen in recent years, as the top-class LMP1 cars make their final appearance.
Starting on Wednesday June 10, there will be a 45-minute night qualifying session where all entries will take to the track. At the end of this session the top six entries in each class — LMP1, LMP2, LMGTE Pro, and LMGTE Am — will advance to the new Hyperpole session.
That takes place the following day, in the late evening. The 24 cars will head to the track in an all-out 30-minute session, with the results determining how the front six of each class will line up. Cars will not be allowed to return to their garages during the Hyperpole, but will have free rein on tire choice within the limits of tire allocation for the race.
Pierre Fillon, president of the ACO, had this to say about next year’s changes:
“With this new qualifying format and the Hyperpole showdown for the fastest 24 competitors – six from each of the four classes – we are guaranteeing two exciting sessions for both drivers and spectators, where all the focus will be on sheer speed in a quest for the perfect lap.
“Adrenalin, suspense and concentration will be at a max for every team out there. It will be a thrilling prelude to the ensuing 24-hour battle on our iconic 13km track. Le Mans will once again be a celebration of racing that goes on for several days, and not just a weekend.”
The schedule for next year’s race is as follows:
Wednesday 10 June 2020
- 1530–2000: Free Practice
- 2200–2300: Free Practice
- 2315–2400: Qualifying
Thursday 11 June 2020
- 1700–1900: Free Practice
- 2100–2130: Hyperpole
- 2200–2400: Free Practice
Saturday 13 June 2020
- 0900-0945: Warm Up
- 1600: Race Start
Toyota will be looking to end the LMP1 era with a third successive overall victory. It’s likely to be a strong favorite and currently leads the World Endurance Championship standings with both cars. That said, Rebellion Racing won the Shanghai round, so Toyota has not had it all its own way.
For the following season and the 2021 Le Mans race, LMP1 will pass the baton on to the Hypercar class. Thus far Toyota, Aston Martin, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, and Peugeot have confirmed early entries.
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