The eyes of the motorsport world will be focused on Northern France this weekend for the most famous endurance race of the year, the Le Mans 24 hours.
Part of the 'triple crown' of motorsport races alongside the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, 2015 could be the biggest Le Mans yet with the World Endurance Championship building an ever bigger following as fans continue to be disenchanted by the current state of Formula 1.
This year's race is set to see a continuation of the battle between Porsche and Audi with the latter taking victory in the opening two rounds of the season at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps.
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Power vs. strategy
However, with the infamous Mulsanne Straight perhaps the most important part of the 13km long Circuit de la Sarthe, the power of the Porsche 918 hybrid, which saw it blow its rivals away along the shorter Kemmel straight at Spa during the previous race, will give them a distinct advantage this weekend.
But despite Porsche's top speed advantage it has been Audi taking the chequered flag first as they use clever strategy and better speed through the corners to negate the power deficit and as they go in search of a sixth straight win and 14th at Le Mans since the turn of the Millennium.
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The forgotten manufacturer in many ways are current WEC champions Toyota who have struggled to keep up with the developments made by their LMP1 rivals since last year.
Third at Silverstone for defending champions Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in the No. 1 car is their best result so far but to get close to the podium this year will likely require a little luck in the form of unreliability for some of the three Audi's or Porsche's ahead and/ or the weather.
Hulkenberg set for Le Mans debut
One man most people will likely be watching out for is current Force India F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg who competes in his second WEC race this year after making his debut in the No. 19 Porsche at Spa early last month.
The German has failed to reach the heights expected in Formula 1 and many feel the move could spur a full-time switch to the series next year, though that remains pure speculation at this point.
Porsche hold early advantage
Already in the two-hour evening qualifying session on Wednesday, the incredible pace of the 2015 machines, capable of producing over 1000 brake horsepower as they harvest much higher levels of electricity compared to the hybrids used in F1, have seen lap times not seen around Le Mans in 25 years.
Indeed Neel Jani, who currently holds pole ahead of a second and third session later on Thursday, posted an incredible 3:16.887 in the Porsche on Wednesday, a time not achieved at Le Mans since 1989.
Audi's best time was some three seconds slower than the Swiss with Loic Duval in fourth as the Porsche's completed a clean sweep of the top three places with the No. 2 Toyota leading the Japanese charge ahead of their world champion team-mates thanks to Stephane Sarrazin's late effort.
Other LMP1 entries include the Rebellion team who comfortably beat their 2014 times in the opening qualifying session and only found themselves three seconds off the pace set by the Toyota's in front.
The battle behind
Behind the fastest cars in the LMP2 class, Richard Bradley in the KCMG Orega Nissan set the quickest time on his first flying lap of the day, a time which would be a full second clear of the next best with GP2 driver Jon Lancaster only closing the substantial gap late in the session.
Finally in the GTE class it was Aston Martin leading the way claiming four of the top five places with Richie Stanaway posting the best time of a 3:54.928 highlighting the huge gap between the front and back of the 56-car grid.
The ultimate test of endurance around one of the fastest racetracks in the world is sure to produce many thrills and spills over the 24 hours and I'll be here to keep you updated as much as possible on GiveMeSport.
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