France’s iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans celebrates its 100th anniversary next weekend, and Delage, a storied French marque, makes a remarkable comeback after a 73-year absence. Delage’s car, donning its signature blue livery, will grace the starting grid. Laurent Tapie, the business mogul who revived Delage in 2019, emphasizes their historic connection to Le Mans. Delage participated in six competitions, with notable wins in 1937 and a second-place finish in 1947. Despite its successes, the manufacturer closed its doors in 1953. Now, Delage’s return to Le Mans promises an extraordinary chapter in its storied legacy.
Tapie, along with the enthusiasts club Les Amis de Delage, collaborated to revive the automotive enterprise and create the powerful D12 hypercar, inspired by Formula 1. Production of the $2.3 million D12 has begun. However, all eyes will be on the Delage Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) racer during the upcoming race at Circuit de la Sarthe. Delage has partnered with the experienced Idec Sport team, ensuring a strong presence in the standardized LMP2 category.
In the competitive LMP2 category, all entries must meet specific requirements to ensure a level playing field. Each LMP2 car must weigh at least 930 kilograms (2,050.3 pounds) and is equipped with a 560 bhp, 4.2-liter V-8 engine. Notably, direct fuel injection is not permitted. Additionally, there are limitations on the vehicle’s size, with a maximum length of 15.58 feet (including the rear wing) and a maximum width of 6.23 feet. In essence, these regulations ensure an equal playing field in terms of form and function for all competitors in the LMP2 category.
Tapie emphasizes that the drivers, strategy, and car setup are the key factors that make a difference in the race. According to him, Delage’s role is to collaborate closely with Idec Sport, merging their expertise and making joint decisions on the setup and choices during the race. In essence, they operate as one cohesive team, pooling their resources and knowledge to maximize their performance on the track.
The team’s success rests on three exceptional drivers: Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin, and Laurents Hörr. Lafargue and Chatin triumphed in the LMP2 standings during the 2019 European Le Mans Series, while Hörr joined the team this season, further strengthening their lineup.
Tapie acknowledges the upcoming challenges, including mechanical issues, driver errors, and unpredictable weather conditions in Le Mans. The complex aerodynamics pose a significant hurdle. With the track’s combination of 38 turns, the iconic Mulsanne Straight, and a blend of track and closed public roads, finding the ideal aerodynamic balance between downforce for the curves and minimizing drag for straight-line speed is crucial.
With Lafargue, Chatin, and Hörr forming a formidable driving force and a dedicated focus on optimizing aerodynamics, the team is prepared to conquer the demanding Le Mans circuit. They aim to showcase their skill, adaptability, and strategic prowess in their pursuit of victory.
While fully aware of the challenging mission ahead, Tapie approaches it with pragmatism. “We have a chance to win our category, but we’ll see,” he acknowledges. However, when discussing Delage’s ongoing collaboration with Idec Sport and their involvement in endurance racing, Tapie exudes confidence. “Yeah, we’re considering it, because everybody wins… it’s good for both teams, it’s synergy—one plus one equals three,” Tapie explains. He further emphasises the positive dynamics within the teams, stating, “Plus, the teams are getting along very well. When you put engineers together, you never know what’s going to happen. Here, it works… and that gives us the will to carry the partnership beyond Le Mans.”
Tapie’s realistic yet optimistic mindset sets the stage for an exciting journey ahead. With a potential victory in sight and a strong bond between the teams, the Delage-Idec Sport collaboration has the potential to forge a successful future beyond the Le Mans race.