Friday 5 February 2016

60 cars on the grid at Le Mans in June

At a press conference in Paris this afternoon, the ACO announced the list of competitors invited for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Probably the biggest surprise was that not 58 - as expected -  but no less than 60 cars will be able to take the start of the legendary 24 hour race at La Sarthe. Given the high amount and the quality of entry requests, the selection committee decided to invite 2 extra cars on the startgrid. Together with the 10 cars on the reserve list, this means no less than 70 cars have passed the selection committee in 2016.

The startgrid will be divided in 4 categories : 9 LMP1, 22 LMP2, 14 LM GTE-Pro and 14 GTE-Am. Garage 56 has been allocated to SRT by OAK Racing with the Morgan/Nissan LMP2 of Frédéric Sausset, full of technologies devoted into helping disabled people.

In the LMP1 class, Porsche will defend its 2015 title with an evolution of last years 919 Hybrid. Audi and Toyota are the two main challengers, both fielding a completely new car in 2016. Rebellion Racing returns with 2 cars and the ByKolles team completes the LMP1 grid with 1 car. So there will be 9 LMP1 cars on the grid of which 3 privates. 

LMP2 takes the biggest portion of the grid, with 22 entries in 2016. KCMG will be back to defend their title against a a big bunch of challengers, eager to take victory at La Sarthe. The class will see 6 different manufacturers battling it out for the podium spots. Ligier heads the field with 8 JSP2 cars, ahead of Oreca with 7 cars (five Oreca05 and two Oreca03), 3 BR01's, 2 Gibsons, 2 Alpines and 1 Morgan. Several new teams are invited in LMP2 as Panis-Barthez Competition, SO24! and Manor (Ligier), RGR Sport (Oreca) and Baxi DC Racing (Alpine)   

In GTE-Pro, after 50 years, Ford returns to Le Mans and they do it in style with no less than 4 cars on the grid. They will face fierce competition from Daytona winners Corvette (2 cars), Ferrari (3 new 488's), 3 Porsches (of which 2 are being entered by Porsche Motorsport) and 2 official Aston Martin Vantage V8's. The Dempsey-Proton racing is the only car which isn't an "official" entry, but with factory support from Porsche. 

Ferrari gets the upper hand in GTE-Am with with five 458 Italia's ahead of 4 Porsches, 3 Aston Martins (TDS racing a new team with Aston) and 2 Corvettes C6R. 

10 cars are on the reserve list, with the Greaves Gibson in pole position to take up a spot if someone drops out, ahead of Algarve Pro Racing and JMW Motorsport.  6 LMP2 cars and 4 GTE AM's complete the list. 

Alexander Wurz has been named Grand Marshall of the 24 Hours and felt very honoured to be asked. "I love Le Mans, and especially because over the years it's a race that never really changed and stayed true to itself. Le Mans is an iconic event, with probably the most authentic form of motor racing". 

Quotes : 
Vincent Beaumesnil, Automobile Club de l’Ouest Sport Manager: “Each year the selection committee is finding it increasingly difficult to establish the list of entries for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Thirty-two prototypes and twenty-eight GTs will be on the grid on 18th June for what already looks like being a first-class race. There will be a closely-fought battle in LM P1 and there is even more diversity in LM P2. The appeal of the LM GTE Pro category is greater than ever and more sporting with the introduction of the new regulations and Ford’s return. As always, LM GTE Am will be the theatre of fantastic battles. From both a technical and sporting point of view all the ingredients are in place for a unique 84th Le Mans 24 Hours.”

4 extra cars on the grid compared to last year, Audi and Toyota fielding a new car to get into battle with Porsche, 22 LMP2's, a fierce competition in GTE-Pro and 4 great marques battling it out in GTE-AM ... We're in for a real treat in June ! 

The list of competitors invited for the Le Mans 24 Hours can be found here.

Kristof Vermeulen