The disappointing news of the departure of the factory programmes of BMW and Ford from the WEC, has now been lost in the enormity of the battle that we are likely to see in GTE-Pro at Le Mans this year. A field of 17-cars, 2xAston Martin, 4xPorsche, 3xFerrari, 2xCorvette, 4xFord and 2xBMW are set to put on a display unparalleled in recent times. The BOP calculations being automated throughout the season (and tweaked following qualifying) look set to deliver a wonderful spectacle and it will come down to strategy, driver performance/consistency and of course the mishaps that befall each team as the great deciding factors.
For once there are too many anniversaries to keep everyone happy, and we look forward to the best of the best coming out on top.
The first four cars (from four manufacturers) were separated by just 9-tenths of a second around the 8.5 mile Circuit de la Sarthe. The #95 “Dane Train” Aston Martin of Thiim/Sorensen/Turnersen came out as top dog in the category , but have paid with a boost reduction and 5kg weight loss in BOP, but it will be irrelevant when the flag falls and the fight begins. What a difference a year has made for the New Mellow Yellow Vantages! The #97 is 42nd on the grid, but expect some solid tortoise work from it, whilst the #95 takes the role of the hare and beats up the opposition. Lets see where they are come Sunday morning and the real race begins!
At Porsche it was Nick Tandy setting fastest RSR #93 time in the US entered Brumos coloured machine. But whilst Pilet/Tandy/Bamber have their sights set on a race win, Porsche having won the FIAWEC GT Manufacturers title at the last round in Spa-Francorchamp the battle for the drivers title is open between #92 Estre/Christensen (140pts) and the must win (to win) squad #91 Lietz/Bruni (104pts).
Ferrari have the two AF Corse WEC entries #51 & #71 plus the blue prancing horses livery of Risi Competizione to take into battle. Things have been strangely quiet at Ferrari the AF cars qualify 36th and 40th on the grid and Risi 46th! No words on particular issues with 488 GTE Evo, other than the usual quibbles over BOP its may just be we have three dark prancing horses keeping their powder dry until the race..
Corvette have been looking racey all week, and attracted a revised BOP. With a 20th Anniversary in progress it would good to see them rewarded, but surely full season WEC entrants will come to the fore.
Ford are here for the final time 50 years on from the end of their first bout of Le Mans intoxication. The Ford GT still looks unbelievable as a if from another planet and far from retirement. It is hoped that Multimatic will make progress with privateer entries, though there was no evidence on the published 2019-20 WEC Season entry list revealed on Friday 14th June.
BMW are here, and the M8 tanks will surely last in their last appearance from their very brief and unproductive return to La Sarthe. Having said all that, they will probably go and win it… which will be a huge disappointment given the quality of the rest of the field in our opinion.
Data analysis shows an interesting switch in the qualifying pace with RSRs coming through pursued by the American army of Corvettes and Fords.
The 17-car field that constitutes GTE-Am entry is made up of 4-marques including the first time a private Ford GT the hands of Keating Motorsport joining 8x Ferrari488, 6x 911RSR and the final run for the last gen normally aspirated classic face Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The RSRs #88, #77 and Gulf Racing #86 looked dominant in qualifying will it persist in the race?
2019 FIA WEC 24h Le Mans 2019, Le Mans, France. Photo © John D Stevens.Our heart obviously is taken by the #98 Aston but from our heads it looks like a Porsche RSR fest, possibly joined by the Ferrari488s. Following a late adjustment in BOP for the Ford GT it may also join in the fun!
Of Course GTE-Am is the category where the differential in drivers is the greatest so again it may be useful to take a close look at the analysis from our partners and friends @theBPillar for not only the individual performances but how that blends together for a team performance. Note the blend lifts our hearts as it the gorgeous old lady #98 that comes to fore and with the spirit of Niki onboard we hope and look forward to seeing it on the podium one last time.
If you are at the track, tune in to @RadioLeMans digitally or via 91.2FM. If you could not be here, other than making better plans for next year check your local listings across Europe Eurosport is your likely best bet, whilst in the US we understand MotorTrend has flag-to-flag coverage too. Their are also Apps to download and subscribe to and our very own @SportscarGlobal Twitter feed.
Now to the race, sit back and enjoy, its going to be a riot!