Looking beyond the current hysteria, and hopefully towards June and Le Mans the ACO released the select entry list for the Grand Dame and as ever there are a wealth of entries. With the annexe and the tented garages we are now up to 62 garages to be filled, and 2020 still maintains a cross-category reserve list of 10 further candidates. With any redevelopment ongoing it is clear the great long circuit of La Sarthe could accommodate and fill a grid of 80 top teams.
LMP1 – Just six entries for the top-category in its #SuperFinale before a year of Hyper-cars to be joined by the Daytona-Hybrids in 2022. It will be a swansong for the surviving LMP1 hybrid manufacturer Toyota Gazoo Racing and one that looks clearly winnable. In the WEC they have been tempered by weight-gain but that all goes away for Le Mans, and gains made in durability of components will likely see them set a reliable pace above and beyond their on-track opponents one more time. But of course Le Mans has her ways of challenging all runners, changes in surfaces, improvements and the weather will little doubt flex their collective muscle to make the mundane more challenging.
For the opposition, Rebellion Racing stand at the vanguard of defence of the plucky privateer teams one last time. Yes this stallwart of the past decade has called time on its endurance motorsport participation and will conclude its racing programme at Le Mans. Going out no doubt in a flash of colour as we have known them, they field a two-car entry of the rock solid Rebellion R13 powered by the development of the hone from granite like Gibson Technology power unit. If the Le Mans scriptwriter for 2020 has a heart it will be to reward this team for their dedication and loyalty with the ultimate accolade…
The remaining two-car entry are the late to category entrants from up-tut there Yorkshire, Team LNT. The universally applauded Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER missed the latest round of the WEC at Circuit of the Americas due to the switch from Brazil, and the need after the 8-hours of Bahrain for substantial maintenance work. These cars were built for Le Mans and the AER Twin Turbo power unit formally found in the hugely rapid SMP Racing BR01s will sing once more on the Mulsanne. Renowned for its straight-line pace a year of practice will hopefully have sharpened the team’s skills and talents, as at Le Mans its staying out on that pace that often wins the race, and time in the pit is frequently where the race is lost.
LMP2 – If there is not a race at the front, you never have to look too far at Le Mans to find a battle further back, and LMP2 promises to lay on the best yet. Firstly we find plenty of the sharpest tools in the catgory, the dominant Oreca 07 in fact 18 of the 24 entries are that reliable combo of Oreca and mandated Gibson Technology power unit (or sub-variant brand, Alpine, Aurus). What is currently added in the remaining six-runners in a first at the top-level, is all four sanctioned manufacturers at Le Mans, Oreca, Ligier, Dallara & Riley-Multimatic. That is a surprisingly important revelation this year, as we approach both renewal of the 2017 LMP2 regulations ahead, and developments of these tubs being utilised for the convergent new LMDh category to run in WEC in late 2021 and at Daytona from early 2022. We expect to see plenty of information gathering, and their very presence will hopefully bring both their producers and the forecast tidal wave of manufacturers to the trackside for negotiations…
The selection for the category is quite well-defined as bring the WEC runners together with the very best of both the ELMS, ASLMS and the American scene hence there are few surprises, save those for the reserve list. There is the ongoing mild competition now between Goodyear and ever-present Michelin, with Michelin having the high proportion of runners, 7:16 respectively with one Duqueine still to declare (they run Michelin in ELMS)..
Garage-56 – Although placed at the foot of the entry list, its a great pleasure to see the return of a Garage-56 Innovation Car entry to Le Mans, and in Fred Sausset’s Association SRT41 Oreca-Gibson #84 a quite competitive one. The team is destined to win much more than their category disability has been addressed before at Le Mans (indeed by Fred) but a full squad running modified controls on a conventional chassis and PU should be great to see. And that is probably the biggest challenge, let hope they choose a highly distinctive colour scheme that stands out trackside so we can clearly note their progress and performance.
LM GTE-Pro – Entering its second year in a refined state following the Ford era (and BMW attendance) brings the WEC regulars of Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin Racing together with their US siblings as well as the now muted and mid-engined Chevrolet Corvettes C8.Rs. The category BoP for Le Mans is a closely guarded and managed affair but faith in it has delivered some outstanding close racing throughout the years. We would expect some late amendments this year, as the new format qualifying may throw out some sudden improvements as the red mist absorbs the drivers who’s desire to be first is beyond question. Also Corvette Racing being a new car will no doubt take some time to reveal its hand.. Already the tone from its guest run at CotA and in the coming weeks at Sebring is one of Woe is BoP… but that is standard fare for the cut and thrust of the Manufacturer communications strategy game.
LM GTE-Am – The preference in GTE-Am for Olive Oil, Nutella and Ferrero Rocher over Weiner Schnitzel and Bratwurst is reaching epidemic proportions (if you forgive us both the stereotypes and poor punnery)! Gone are the days when the gentleman racer looking for a Le Mans finish accolade for the mantelpiece just popped over to Weissach for a 911 Gen xyz and took it for a spin, the chosen weapon of choice is the Ferrari 488 GTE Evo which sold with its conversion pack to GT3 specification obviously commands better residuals in the nearly new race car column..
Setting that soapbox to one side, a 20-car entry for GTE-Am is a pleasure to behold, these are the cars that beyond their own race, oft closely fought and eventful also bring that challenge to the front runners in other categories as they slice through the field one more time. A clip, a moments hesitation and the race can be ended or amended, its just another challenge that Le Mans is renowned for and delivers time and time again.
GTE-Am will once again be hard fought between the twelve Ferrari and six Porsches but we hope to see the distinctive team from TF Sport #90 and Aston Martin Racing #98 really stick it to their competitors.
Reserve List – When assessing an entry list, its quality can often be best summed up by those unfortunate enough to not make the cut, and 2020 is one of the strongest entry’s in that regard. Below is the list of those unfortunate enough to be close, but currently out, crushed dreams and some stalwarts it is an unhappy place. There is hope though, Luzich Racing #61 is understood to be in doubt and that would promote Spirit of Race into the field. Next up is a seventh entry into LMP1 for another stalwart of recent years (and alleged future Hypercar entrant) ByKolles with the venerable (if a tad flamable) ENSO CLM which if it does not make the entry will likely be eligible for the Le Mans Classic before too long! We leave you to muse the others listed, some great entrants and competitors for now left to wait in the wings…
Of course Le Mans is not exempt from the travails of the outside world and being an event that brings that world together and a continent to La Sarthe the challenges of the current World medical crisis – Covid-19 cannot be ignored. Most recently (in 1968) Le Mans was delayed to a late-September event, due to militant student riots, we wait upon the organisers decision and know that with a medic, Pierre Fillon (local ophthalmic surgeon) at the helm the event could not be in better hands.
In this piece we have chosen not to highlight the genders of the competitors. Our sport is open to all, people compete on merit with equal equipment and it is their performance that we look to report.