A new era dawns for the Le Mans 24 Hours for Karts!
The 2013 Le Mans 24 hours for Karts will be the first event on the new international track built by the ACO beside the famous Alain Prost circuit. The greatest endurance race in the world for karts has all the makings of a thriller!
The Group 1 KF karts are the favourites with their 2-stroke 125 cc engines without gearboxes putting out 34 bhp. The Sodi, Tony, Kosmic and Energy chassis and the Parilla and Vortex engines will battle for victory. The Group 2 regulations are identical for the chassis and Le Cont tyres the difference being that their engines must come from a makes’ cup. At Le Mans the Rotax Max power unit is a must. The biggest-selling kart engine in the world develops 30 bhp, and thanks to its reliability it has powered some of the karts which have finished in the top 3 in the last three runnings of the event. Nine chassis manufacturers are represented in this class.
A favourite stands out in each of the two categories. Sarthe RTKF1 has won the first three 6-hour races of the season counting for the French Endurance Championship and the Euro Endurance Series. The local team has again put its trust in the Sodi chassis powered by the Parilla engine tuned by the Boulineau brothers. Its line-up consists of four drivers who won the 2012 24 Hours in its colours: Charles Fiault, Antoine Lepesqueux, Antoine Poulain and Sodikart works driver, Anthony Abbasse.
The Eure Technikart team is in a similar situation as it has also racked up three victories in Group 2 in 2013. It will enter the same Kosmic-Rotax and the same winning drivers in their category (second overall last year). To get onto the topmost step of the podium Maxime Lemonnier, Andrew Deberne, Jean Letard and Arnaud Kankelj will have to beat the KFs and win outright, a feat which no Rotax Max has achieved so far!
Mr Le Mans in karts
Like Tom Kristensen in the Le Mans 24 Hours for Cars, the 24 Hours for Karts have their own Mr Le Mans. Since June Wilfrid Lecarpentier has one victory less than his Danish counterpart. He will be gunning for his ninth win with the La Manche Kart mag Tony-Vortex squad. The team set up by Jacky Foulatier, the event’s promoter, won in 2006 and covered 2004 km, a record that stills stands!
International participation: The British enthusiasm for the event hasn’t waned. With Martin Pierce and Sean Babington, Brands Hatch Screenvyn (Kosmic-Rotax) has two international kart stars in its line-up. London Kookelj and the Belgian contingent will also be out to leave their mark on the 24 Hours. Guillaume de Ridder, former Belgian champion, French runner-up, 3rd in the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours is back with a single aim – victory! Beside Arnaud Kankelj, already mentioned above, Christophe Adams, king of the Rotax Master and DD2 in Belgium and in France - wherever he races in fact! - will be one to watch.
Handisport: For the first time a Handisport team, sponsored by former F1 driver Philippe Streiff, will start the race.
Records to beat? Swiss drivers Marcel Stoll and Peter Schwab are the best-placed foreigners in the results with two victories. Jacky Foulatier, director of the magazine Kart mag and François Hurel, the editor of Le Mans Racing, hold the joint-record for the number of participations: they will both be starting the race for the twenty-fifth time this year! Hurel will be the only driver to have competed in the first event on the Alain Prost circuit and in the first on the new track. Italian make Birel, over 50 years old, has scored the most victories with nine. The engine with the longest win record is the Tm with seven successes all on Birel chassis. It would be better if the record for the closest finish (6.943s in 1995) were beaten rather than the one for the biggest gap (23 laps in 1988!).
The highlights of a great race: A total of 884 crews have taken part in the 27 events. The organisers of the Brignoles 24-Hours race had thrown in the towel when the ACO decided to relaunch the idea of a 24-hour event for racing karts. A Mach 1 fitted with a KZH 100 cc engine with gear-driven transmission won the first event. The first foreign squad to triumph in the race was the one entered by legendary Swiss driver/tuner Rolf Carigiet in 1989. The only fatal accident took place in 1994 when Patrick Bouazis’s brakes failed and he went off: the event was stopped three hours before the finish. Two years later future F1 driver, 17-year-old Sébastien Bourdais won the eleventh Le Mans 24 Hours for Karts far ahead of future Le Mans 24-Hours winners Romain Dumas and Benoît Tréluyer who saw the flag in sixteenth and twenty-eighth places respectively. The water-cooled 100 cc engines won for the first time in 2001, front brakes in 2005 and the new KF motors in 2009.
Kart Légende: as a curtain-raiser to the 24 hours the history of karts will unfold before your eyes with the Kart Légende exhibition, which includes models built between 1956 and the end of the 80s.
So who will be the first winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours for Karts run in anti clockwise direction on the new circuit? Answer on 1st September at 15h00!