The race is another tussle between the LMP1 cars of Audi, its VW Group partner Porsche and Toyota. All use hybrid power units to boost performance and grip. By the time you read this, the pattern of the race will be clearer after the drama of racing through the night.
Porsche won last year, adding to 16 victories between 1970 and 1998. Its road-going 911 type cars contest the “slower” GTE classes, along with Ferraris, Corvettes, Fords and Aston Martins. These track-racing cars are thunderous, stripped-out coupés, sounding raw and harsh compared with the glorious tuneful sounds of the road cars.
Porsche has revised the 911 range this year. All engines are now turbocharged, with updates for the chassis and increasingly important cabin connectivity links such as a touch screen. Engine capacities are smaller, with the base engine now a 3-litre flat six giving 365bhp or 414bhp in the S.
Tested here is the 4S, with all-wheel-drive and a PDK automatic gearbox. Some old-timer stuff endures. The ignition is not keyless, and the key, sharing the silhouette and body colour of the car, has to be inserted into the panel. Then you push a button. The engine bursts into life, with over-revving which howls through the tailpipes and suggests the driver is showing off. In fact, it’s unavoidable – and it sounds wonderful and gets louder as you head up the road. Which you do time and time again.
Even the entry model can reach 183mph, with a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds. It is rated at 34mpg and 190g CO2. The 4S figures are 189mph (untested), 4.2 seconds (exhilarating), 31.7mpg and 204g. My consumption, said the trip computer, was 26mpg on a typical mixed journey. The computer also indicated that over the last 5,200 miles this car had averaged 24mpg. Given that it will have been unleashed many times in that mileage, it’s not half bad.
What else can I tell you, given that I drove it on public roads, not a track, so have no experience of its behaviour at very high speed? The ride is hard. There is masses of tyre noise from the Pirellis which are 305/30 aspect at the rear. The expensive ceramic brakes make a few creaks when setting off, as if you have run over a drinks can.
Verdict: Loved it but as a buyer I’d take the rear-drive entry model which is more than enough fun.