Following Toyota's heartbreaking defeat to Porsche on the final lap of last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, the LMP1 field returns to the Circuit de la Sarthe with plenty to play for and some scores to settle.

The exit of Audi from the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of last year means that the LMP1 field is down to just six cars for 2017, with the privateer ByKolles team's single car entry joining three Toyotas and two Porsches for the race.

2017 has come to be something of a 'make do' year for LMP1 ahead of the boosted privateer presence in 2018, but that does not mean either Toyota or Porsche is taking Le Mans any less seriously. Both know the significance of the race - and, even if the result suggest otherwise for Toyota, both know what it takes to win at Le Mans. Luck is certainly a big part of it...


1. Jani/Tandy/Lotterer GER Porsche 919 Hybrid
2. Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley GER Porsche 919 Hybrid
4. Kraihamer/Webb/Rossiter AUT ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01 Nismo
7. Conway/Kobayashi JPN Toyota Gazoo TS050 Hybrid
8. Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima JPN Toyota Gazoo TS050 Hybrid
9. Sarrazin/Kunimoto/Lapierre JPN Toyota Gazoo TS050 Hybrid

Key Talking Points - LMP1

Toyota favourite to avenge 2016 defeat

Toyota may not have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, but it certainly won the hearts of the entire WEC paddock and, for that matter, the wider motorsport community. The team's galling defeat was met with a grace that defines great sporting teams. If you can meet triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same...

Meeting triumph is the only thing on Toyota's mind heading into this year's race. Fuelled by last year's heartbreak, the Japanese manufacturer will field three TS050 Hybrids for the very first time, giving it a numbers advantage on Porsche, which is only running two cars.

Numbers aside though, Toyota has had the march on Porsche for much of the season so far. Victories at Silverstone and Spa - the latter being particularly impressive - has given Toyota all the boost it needs heading into Le Mans, with its solid pace at the test day on June 4 also causing a few concerns in the rival Porsche garage. The TS050 Hybrid has been revamped for this year, and currently appears to be the car to beat. The battle this time will be getting it over the line.

Le Mans experience, success Porsche's greatest asset

Porsche heads into this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans chasing a third straight victory with the 919 Hybrid, and while the team has undergone a lot of change since the last time it hit the Circuit de la Sarthe, it boasts one of the strongest driver line-ups out there.

The relocation of 2016 Le Mans winners Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb within Porsche's racing setup may have appeared to weaken its chances, yet the influx of drivers to the LMP1 team has done the exact opposite.

To join Neel Jani in the #1 919 Hybrid that won both Le Mans and the WEC title last year, Porsche has drafted in three-time Le Mans winner and Audi refugee Andre Lotterer, plus 2015 winner and factory ace Nick Tandy. Add in Tandy's fellow victor Earl Bamber into the #2 car alongside Brendon Hartley and Timo Berhard, and you've got a line-up that is stacked with experience and success in this famous race.

Toyota may have the numbers advantage and some very quick drivers to boot, but it is Porsche who has the stronger line-up. Five Le Mans winners and a WEC champion in Hartley isn't bad going at all, and could prove particularly crucial in negating Toyota's third car advantage, which features two Le Mans rookies in Yuji Kunimoto and Jose Maria Lopez.

Life after Audi begins at Le Mans

It will be strange to have a 24 Hours of Le Mans take place without any kind of Audi presence this year, such has been the German marque's association with the famous race since the turn of the century.

But for all of the doom and gloom surrounding the future of the WEC's LMP1 class at the end of last year in the wake of Audi's announcement, life - and, indeed, Le Mans - goes on. There was a Le Mans before Audi, and there will be a Le Mans after Audi.

The naysayers who take issue with the low number of cars racing in the LMP1 class may be forgetting a time when there were just five manufacturer entries - as recent as 2013, prior to Porsche's return. We are still going to be treated to a titanic battle between Toyota and Porsche at the head of the pack; there will be life after Audi.

How will ByKolles fare?

The team with the most punnable name in the WEC paddock (HiKolles, ByeKolles, WhyKolles, FryKolles among the acceptable answers), ByKolles may appear to be on a hiding to nothing this year as the only LMP1-L team at Le Mans, yet it also senses an opportunity to impress.

After a bumpy pre-season Prologue at Monza and opening race at Silverstone, ByKolles enjoyed one of its strongest WEC outings to date at Spa as it finished an impressive sixth overall, encountering no issues and staying ahead of the LMP2 runners in the process.

The result has given the team hope that, should it be able to stay out of trouble for 24 hours and its manufacturer rivals fail to do so, an overall podium may not be out of the question. Realistically though, ByKolles should be aiming to get itself to the finish and enjoy its best Le Mans to date.

The future of LMP1

With a number of privateers looking at either entering LMP1 or stepping up from LMP2 for 2018, the future of the WEC's premier class will certainly be a hot topic throughout the Le Mans week.

Porsche and Toyota are currently working with the ACO and the WEC promoters to try and define the regulations of the class beyond 2020, with the hope of bringing Peugeot back into the fray, the French marque having last raced at Le Mans back in 2011.

The ACO has its traditional press conference scheduled for Friday, with more details about the future of the LMP1 class set to become clear then.


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