Le Mans 2021 start time plus guide to pole winner and weather forecast

Jake Nichol August 20, 2021
Le Mans 2021 start time plus guide to pole winner and weather forecast
Photo by James Moy Photography/Getty Images

Le Mans 24 Hours enters a new era with the 89th running of the historic French race this weekend – the new Hyperclass replaces the once mighty LMP1 formula. Our guide give you all the important bits, including Le Mans 2021 start time and which ex-Formula One drivers are taking part.

Kobayashi on pole once again

Four years on from his mammoth pole lap in 2017, Kamui Kobayashi was the star once again in qualifying for Toyota.

The former F1 driver posted a time of 3m:23.900s on his first flying lap around the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe.

The final 30-minute session was held in twilight conditions on Thursday evening, with the other Hyperclass entries unable to match Kobayashi.

It is the fourth time in the past five years the #7 crew of Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez have snared pole.

However, they have yet to take victory in the race, which was won last year by the #8 Toyota line-up of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley.

Hartley was on qualifying duties for the #8 and secured second place in a Toyota front-row lockout.

Kobayashi’s lap (below) was almost eight seconds slower than his effort in 2020.

The slower time was due to new Hypercar regulations, which has moved the event away from the prototype machinery that was LMP1.

After the exits of Audi and Porsche from LMP1 in recent years, the hope for the FIA is the Hypercar rules will attract new manufacturers.

The nearest car to the Toyotas was Nicolas Lapierre in the Alpine entry, some 1.6s slower.

Da Costa heads the LMP2 charge

Antonio Felix da Costa, the 2019-20 Formula E champion, steered his Oreca machine to LMP2 class pole.

The Portuguese was four seconds down on the Hypercar Toyota.

The two GTE class poles were split between Dries Vanthoor (GTE Pro) and Julien Andlauer (GTE Am).

Which former F1 drivers are involved?

The entry list has a total of 16 former F1 drivers taking part, split across the Hypercar, LMP2 and GTE classes.

Pole-sitter Kobayashi raced for Toyota, Sauber and Caterham before leaving at the end of 2014 for sportscars.

The entire #8 Toyota crew is made up of ex-F1 drivers, with Hartley the most recent.

He raced a full season for Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) in 2018.

Multiple grand prix and double Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya goes in the DragonSpeed-Oreca #21 machine.

Sky Sports F1 pundits Paul di Resta and Anthony Davidson take part for United Autosports and Jota respectively.

Kevin Magnussen, who was released from Haas at the end of 2020, races alongside his father Jan at High Class Racing.

Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images

Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi were teammates at Manor in the 2015 season and compete for Panis Racing and G-Drive respectively.

Former Sauber driver Felipe Nasr will be alongside Oliver Jarvis and Ryan Cullen in a Risi Competizione-run Oreca.

Stoffel Vandoorne, who fell out of F1 at the end of 2018, is racing for the Jota squad also running Davidson.

The Belgian will be in the #28, while Davidson will race the #38.

Dutchman Giedo van der Garde and 2008 Canadian GP winner Robert Kubica will compete in LMP2 machinery.

The contingent is completed by Gianmaria Bruni in a GTE-Pro Porsche entry and two-time GP winner Giancarlo Fisichella in a GTE-AM Ferrari.

Le Mans 2021 start time

At the time of writing, there are scheduled to be 61 starters for the race.

This was after one LMP2 car had to withdraw following a hefty practice shunt on Thursday.

After being moved slightly forward in 2020, the race returns to its traditional 4pm local start time.

That is 3pm on Saturday afternoon in the UK, and 10am ET in the US.

As is traditional, the cars will be set off by the waving of the French tricolor in a rolling start.

What is the weather forecast?

Current forecasts predict a chance of drizzle in the opening hours of the race, which will fall away into the evening.

Through the night it is predicted to be cloudy, with the temperature hovering around the 20C mark throughout the 24 hours.

Where can I watch the race?

The best place to watch the race is on Eurosport, which will carry full coverage live from the circuit.

A subscription is required to watch in this way, as it is through the official World Endurance Championship app.

Alternatively, Radio Le Mans will once again broadcast throughout the event, as it has done for more than 30 years.

Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.