2019 World Endurance Championship (WEC) 8h Bahrain 2019, Sakhir, Bahrain. Photo © John D Stevens.

Le Mans has only ever paused  for war and civil unrest and 2020 appears to be included on both counts as society is at war with a virus but also itself in its response to the aforementioned. Hence the 24-hour classic moves from its traditional date in Mid-June to September 18-19th and given the questionable safety of mass gathering will proceed behind closed doors, potentially robbing the Grand Dame of a large proportion of her distinguishing features. 

No 51; AF CORSE; ITA; Ferrari 488 GTE EVO; James Calado (GBR); Alessandro Pier Guidi (ITA); 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Season 8 #6hSpa, Francorchamps, Belgium. Photo © John D Stevens..

LM GTE-Pro 
As per LMP1 the LM GTE-Pro reached its zenith a couple of years ago. With Ford and BMW now a distant memory and the impact of Covid limiting budgets and travel from the United States of America, there is also no Corvette Racing or US Porsche factory team participants. Hence numbers in the -Pro category are down to two AF Corse Ferrari, two Porsche RSR-19s and two Aston Martin Racing Vantage as outright factory entries, supplement by two further Ferrari 488 GTE Evos from Weathertech Racing and Risi Competizione respectively that have chosen the -Pro category over the less exclusive -Am one. 

Season-to-date for the participants in the WEC Aston Martin Racing have been delivering in the longer events, pursued by Porsche with Ferrari a little adrift. Significantly at the most recent round 6-hours of Spa-Francorchamp (which includes two sectors of Low D/F running) Porsche took pole and came out on top… All that goes to demonstrate how close this small but perfectly formed category could be over the 24-hours. 

No 92; PORSCHE GT TEAM; DEU; Porsche 911 RSR – 19; Michael Christensen (DNK); Kevin Estre (FRA); ; No 91; PORSCHE GT TEAM; DEU; Porsche 911 RSR – 19; Gianmaria Bruni (ITA); Richard Lietz (AUT); 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Season 8 #6hSpa, Francorchamps, Belgium. Photo © John D Stevens..

The #71 Ferrari is owed some luck at Le Mans, the #92 Porsche of WEC Champions Christensen & Estre is joined by the highly performant Laurens Vanthoor must be a threat, and then there is Aston Martin Racing.  We always look for the #95 “Dane Train” (+Westie) to go well in La Sarthe and the #97 driver line-up has the multi-brand collector Harry Tincknell onboard and he has category winning form at Le Mans.

The above would be the regular season picks, but our SCG heart goes with the beautifully presented #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE Evo in a deep red, but also pedalled by a fully French driver line-up… that has to be worth a five-tenths or more per lap in these parts! 

Image Credit: Risi Competizione

The great news though is that the BoP system has been refined and in recent WEC races has delivered some very close racing with strategies being played out over the duration of their races, changing conditions over a 24-hour period will only add to that tension/variable.  The following factors have been addressed for 2020 in GTE-Pro – 

  • Weight
    • No change for the Ferrari and Aston Martins from last year, so the 488 GTE Evos weigh in at 1279kg whilst the Vantages are 33kg lighter at 1246kg. 
    • The revised and Le Mans debut for the Porsche 911 RSR-19 has been allocated an additional 20kg over its 2019 predecessor weighing in at 1286 kg.
  • Power/ Turbo Boost
    • The GTE Pro Porsche gets a 30.0 mm air restrictor, almost identical to the spec the car has been running in the FIA WEC this season.
    • The Aston Martin gets a minor turbo boost break compared to its 2019 race values.
  • Further Details of the Balance of Performance are included in the table below – 

Revised method for calculating Fuel Stop Times 

To be honest, this makes our collective head hurt(!), so here is the summary, assume the brace position!  To mitigate against post-race fuel-related penalties a GTE-Pro fuel stop is expected to take 2.5 seconds per lap in a stint, which under normal running is 14 full laps, hence 35 seconds for a fuel stop.

The below equations take into account events that would interrupt a full “natural” stint, such as Full Course Yellows etc… And include the specifications for penalties to be applied if not complied with.  

 

Image Credit: Weathertech Racing