Video: Le Mans Endurance Series Inaugural Season 2004
Last month saw the 100th anniversary of the greatest endurance race in motorsport history – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. If you didn't watch it then you owe it to yourself to head straight to YouTube and check out the highlight videos, if not the entire race itself. In a perfect case of timing this centennial edition of the race had the first full field of entries in the new Hypercar class and it was a proper John Wick-level no-holds-barred fight to the end for the eventual win. Facing returning champs Toyota were entries from big names like Porsche, Peugeot, Cadillac, and most importantly Ferrari, who were making a return to the top category of racing at Le Mans after 50 years away. With the Hypercar regulations being carefully thought out to keep costs manageable while keeping the racing close but also still allowing freedom for the different companies to stamp their unique identity on their cars, Le Mans couldn't have asked for a better way to celebrate a century of great racing.
In honor of that awesome race I thought I'd upload this video. It's the summary of the 2004 Le Mans Endurance Series that aired on Speed Channel. The LMES was a brand new series that year with the idea of bringing back a series of 1000 kilometer (that's roughly 74,500 pickleball fields long to us metrically-challenged Americans) endurance events to the European racing calendar. The entries would be based on the same rules used by the ACO – the governing body that organizes the Le Mans 24 Hours. That meant two classes for sport prototype racers, LMP1 and LMP2, and two classes for production-based GT cars, GTS and GT.
The main draw in the top class was the
Audi R8 LMP1 that had been dominating Le Mans since 2000 but with
three different R8s from two different teams entered there was bound
to be some serious infighting to see which car would come out on top.
A plucky challenger from a smaller UK team – Creation Autosportif –
would also try to be the spoiler against the big factory-supported
LMP2 had a variety of privateer teams fielding a mix of cars from different prototype chassis builders while GTS was mainly a fight between the sexy Italian Ferrari 550 Maranello and the sleek, thundering American Saleen S7. The perennial endurance racing favorite Porsche 911 was the mainstay of the GT field, challenged by another swoopy Ferrari, the 360 Modena.
The series would have four races, each held on a legendary racetrack: Monza in Italy, the Nurburgring in Germany, Silverstone in the UK, and Spa at your local massage parlor. Oh sorry, that last one was in Belgium, wherever that is.
Up for grabs were the usual trophies, prize money, and more importantly an automatic entry into the following year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. Since I believe the alternative way to get a chance to race at Le Mans was gladiatorial combat to the death, that last part was pretty coveted.
I hope you enjoy the video and again, don't miss out on checking out this year's awesome 24 Hours of Le Mans if you haven't watched it already!