Yesterday, the ACO announced the final list of 60 invited teams and the 10 reserve cars for the 87th running if the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There are a few surprises on this list, and even more disappointments, as is always the case when 75 cars apply for 60 available spots.
In previous years, the ACO strived to have a 50/50 balance between prototypes and GTE cars, this time we’ll see 25 cars in the prototype classes and 35 in GTE. Especially the GTE Am class is booming this season with no less than 17 entries.
There’s no more sign of the Ginetta’s in the top class nor the reserve list – it seems we can now consign the unsuccessful British LMP1 effort to the history book. The LMP2 class shows possibly the greatest variety with 17 cars from 16 different teams; never has this class been so varied with that many teams. GTE Pro also has 17 cars on the grid, with four cars for Porsche and Ford and the surprising addition of the Risi Ferrari. The Am class is the biggest on the grid hosting 18 cars (of which 50% are Ferraris) and the first-ever Ford GT in a private team.
As expected there are no additional entries in the LMP1 class, the Ginetta’s now seemingly completely off the ACO’s radar. A fair decision in our point-of-view following all the problems the team has gone through, failing to enter any race except for Le Mans last year. This leaves eight cars in the top class with all crews already announced excepting the #4 ByKolles which has only Tom Dillman on the entry list so far.
In LMP2 five additional cars have passed the ACO’s selection committee, making it a 17 strong field consisting of 10 Oreca 07, 5 Ligier JSP217 and 2 Dallara P217’s. So far there’s only one team which will have two cars on the grid for the 24 hours: Jackie Chan DC Racing with both Oreca’s from the FIA WEC gaining an automatic entry. All five of the selected entries are teams with a history in the European Le Mans Series of which 2 secured their entry by winning titles in this season’s Asian Le Mans Series.
Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 champions United Autosports received one invitation for their #22 Ligier, driven by Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque. A second entry was widely expected to be approved, not least by the team themselves, but didn’t get through the selection committee leading so significant consternation from the Leeds based Anglo-American team who have entered 11 cars across all of the ACO series during 2018 – not the response they expected for such a significant investment .
Inter Europol Competition will make its debut in the French classic after clinching the LMP3 title in Sepang last week. Kuba Smiechowski & co have already been testing in their green/yellow Ligier JSP217 which will debut in the European Le Mans Series next month. Smiechowski is a certainty for Le Mans with Martin Hippe expected to join him in the #34, the name of the third driver remains to be confirmed.
The third car securing its entry through the Asian Le Mans Series are LMP2 Am champions ARC Bratislava. A welcome return to Le Mans for Miro Konopka after only making it to the back of the reserve list last year, much to his consternation.
Panis Barthez Competition’s #23 Ligier also received an invite with Rene Binder appointed as their designated driver, he should be joined by his ELMS co-drivers Will Stevens and Julien Canal. Algarve Pro Racing also secured a spot in pitlane with the #15 Oreca for Mark Patterson, Andrea Pizzitola and John Falb.
The fifth and final team is Cetilar Racing who are back for their third go at Le Mans. Although not racing in the ELMS this season, the Italian team have announced they will enter the 2019/2020 FIA WEC season with their Dallara P217. Giorgio Sernagiotto and Roberto Lacorte will be re-joined by Andrea Belicchi who missed the final part of last season due to back problems.
After the announcement yesterday, there has been a lot of commotion about the (non) selection of a number of teams. Richard Dean from United Autosports and Jackie Heinricher of Meyer Shank Racing have already expressed their disappointment. While there is certainly something to say for their disappointment, it’s a fine line on which the ACO has to balance when selecting all invited teams for Le Mans. With 75 applications for 60 available slots (plus 10 reserves), it was obvious some would be (heavily) disappointed.
At the presentation of the final list, Pierre Fillon – president of the ACO – explained how they went about drawing up the list of 60 competitors: “It was tricky in that all applicants were top class and we had to find criteria on which to separate them.
“We examined the applications with a fine-tooth comb. Our choice was based on the appeal of the team in terms of sport and technology and in terms of spectator and media attention. Loyalty was also a factor.” [Ed: We’re not sure Richard Dean agrees with this statement]
“Of course, there were several heartbreaking moments.” Fillion continued. “Several reserve teams would have made the grid in previous years. Year after year, it gets more and more difficult to choose between so many top-flight teams, across the board. Which goes to show that the endurance racing ladder that we introduced is fulfilling its promises. It produces experienced teams, drivers who have risen through the ranks, series after series, class by class and come to us with an already glittering record. A place on the Le Mans 24 Hours grid is the culmination of a carefully constructed project, built up step by step, based on solid foundations.”
The LMGTE Pro class also has 17 entrants in total, equal to the LMP2 class this year. 7 additional cars join the full-season World Endurance Championship entrants.
Both Corvettes return to Le Mans for the 20th consecutive year; the longest run a team has ever had with the same car. The #63 will be driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller while the #64 will be in the hands of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler.
Porsche already announced their 4 car entry earlier with the addition of both IMSA 911 RSR’s. A strong line-up in the #93 with Patrick Pilet, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy, while the #94 will be driven by youngsters Sven Müller, Mathieu Jaminet and Dennis Olsen.
Ford also returns to La Sarthe with a 4 car armada, in what is likely to be the final year of the GT programme as a factory effort. The #68 will be driven by Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais; the #69 is reserved for Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon.
Surprising for some is the inclusion of the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 for Stephane Ortelli and Pierre Kaffer with the third driver still to be announced. Risi isn’t racing a full season progrmme in any ACO or ACO related championship but has always performed strongly at Le Mans, and finished second in the GTLM class at Daytona in January.
LM GTE Am
With an additional three cars, the LMGTE Am class is now the largest on the grid with a total of no less than 18 entries.
Japanese team Car Guy Racing earned their entry after a clean sweep in the Asian Le Mans Series; winning all four races sealed the championship and their auto entry. The team already confirmed their intention to take up the entry with a car that will be run, unsurprisingly, by AF Corse. Two drivers have been confirmed so far: team regulars Takeshi Kimura and Kei Cozzolino with a third likely to come from AF Corse’s factory-backed driver stable.
Spirit of Race received a second entry for the #55 Ferrari of Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott, a regular entrant and race winner in the European Le Mans Series. A more surprising additional entry is the second Kessel Racing Ferrari with the all-female line-up of Manueal Gostner, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting. Backed by the FIA’s “Woman in Motorsport” programme, all three ladies will make their debut in the European Le Mans Series this season and at Le Mans in June.
10 cars are listed on the reserve list, including some highly experienced teams. The first 6 spots are reserved for LMP2 teams, there is an outside chance we may still see an increase in the prototype field, however, looking tat the overall entry list it’s unlikely any will drop out.
1. Duquiene Engineering – LMP2 – Oreca 07
2. High Class Racing – LMP2 – Oreca 07
3. United Autosports – LMP2 – Ligier JSP217
4. Eurasia Motorsport – LMP2 – Ligier JSP217
5. Panis-Barthez Competition – LMP2 – Ligier JSP217
6. IDEC Sport – LMP2 – Ligier JSP217
7. Ebimotors – LMGTE Am – Porsche 911 RSR
8. Team Project 1 – LMGTE Am – Porsche 911 RSR
9. Meyer Shank Racing – LMP2 – Oreca 07
10.TF Sport Red River Sport – LM GTE Am – Aston Martin Vantage
Thanks go to Kristof Vermeulen of Club Arnage for this article.