Thursday 2 February 2017

24 Hours of Le Mans 2017: A first look into the entry list

60 cars will be at the start of the 85th 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 17th. 31 prototypes and 29 Gt's will fight for victory in what's probably the most beautiful race on earth on one of the most demanding race tracks around. 

39 teams representing 16 different countries from all over the world will be racing at La Sarthe. They will be split up in four categories: 6 LM P1s (Le Mans Prototype 1), 25 LM P2s (Le Mans Prototype 2), 13 LM GTE Pros and 16 LM GTE Am.  Mark Webber has been appointed as Grand Marshal for this years race. 

Here's a first look into the invited teams, cars and leading drivers. 


After last years heartbraking end for Toyota Gazoo Racing, the Japanese team returns to Le Mans in full force to finally claim that victory they have been chasing for many years. Toyota will field three revised TS050 Hybrids to counter attack Porsche who will be eager to score their third win in a row. The #7 and #8 cars will feature the same driver line-up as in the World Endurance championship with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and newcomer José María López in the #7. The second car (#8) will be driven by Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima.

Stéphane Sarrazin won't race the full WEC championship, but will take the leading drive in the third car at Le Mans (#9), with the two other drivers still to be confirmed. 

2 Porsche 919 Hybrid's will be on the grid next June. Almost immediately after last season's finale in Bahrain, Porsche started testing their upgraded 2017 spec car. The #1 car will be driven by Neel Jani, André Lotterer and Nick Tandy. Timo Bernhard has control over the #2 Porsche and will be joined by two "Kiwi's": Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber. 

The only remaining car in the LMP1-L class is the ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01. Now powered with the Nismo engine of the GTR-LM and with substantial upgrades, the Austrian team is working onto a far more reliable and competitive package. With Robert Kubica as their lead driver, there will be no shortage of attention for the team at Le Mans and in the WEC. 


A record field of 25 brand new prototypes will make a record field of 25 cars. All 4 LMP2 manufacturers will be pesent on the grid in June. 

Oreca has an numerical advantage with 15 cars. Signatech Alpine Matmut will lead the LMP2 field, defending their 2016 win in the class. 2 rebadged Alpine A470 will be fielded for Stéphane Richelmi and Nicolas Lapierre. G-Drive Racing also returns with two cars to La Sarthe, Memo Rojas and Roman Rusinov the appointed as lead drivers. Last year's debutants Manor are also back in the WEC and Le Mans with a 2 car effort as CEFC Manor TRS Racing. Tor Graves and Roberto Gonzalez have been selected as drivers. 

Coming over from LMP1-L is Rebellion Racing with 2 Oreca's under the Vaillante-Rebellion flag, the return of Michel Vaillant to Le Mans. A stellar driver line-up already has been confirmed by the team, led by Nelson Piquet Jr and Nicolas Prost.  Dragonspeed 10-Star who made an impressive debut in the European Le Mans Series last year will debut at Le Mans, Hendrik Hedman is the first confirmed driver for the team. 

Jackie Chan DC Racing will be at the WEC and Le Mans with two cars this season. After a collaboration with Signatech last year, the Chinese team will now be supported by Jota Sport. 2 Oreca's will be on the grid, David Cheng and Ho-Pin Tung have been appointed as lead drivers. French team Graff Racing which has a rich history at Le Mans with 11 starts between 1980 and 1993 returns to the 24 hours with 2 cars. Both cars entered in the ELMS will race at La Sarthe, with James Allen and Enzo Guibbert as their first confirmed drivers. 

ARC Bratislava is a new team in LMP2 and has been racing a pair of Ginetta LMP3's in the Asian Le Mans Series. For their debut at Le Mans, they will also run an Oreca07, with Miroslav Konopka as lead driver. 

Six Ligiers JSP217 are invited for this years Le Mans 24.  Panis-Barthez Competition returns to Le Mans with a new Ligier and Fabien Barthez at the wheel. Another team returning is Algarve Pro Racing who also acquiered a JSP217 and have Mark Patterson on board for Le Mans. 

Debutants at Le Mans are IDEC Sport Racing with Patrice Lafargue, Tockwith Motorsports with Nigel Moore and last year's European Le Mans LMP3 champions United Autosports (William Owen).  All three teams are combining a full season ELMS campaign with Le Mans. 

Eurasia Motorsports returns to Le Mans, but have traded in their Oreca05 for a Ligier JSP217. Their leading driver will be Sir Chris Hoy, who will make his second appearance in the 24 hour race. 

3 teams running the Dallara P217 have been invited. SMP Racing will run the #27 Dallara P217 ahead of their scheduled entry in the LMP1 class in 2018. Racing Team Nederland is a new team which makes its debut in the European Le Mans Series and Le Mans with Jan Lammers (ready for his 23th start at Le Mans) and Rubens Barichello behind the wheel. The third Dallara will be run by Cetilar Villorba Corse who will also race in the ELMS. 

A single Riley MK30 has been invited for Keating Motorsports. Ben Keating raced for the first time at Le Mans last year with Murphy Prototypes and now returns with his own car to the French classic. The team of Visit Florida Racing who is racing a Riley in the WeatherTech Championship will support the Texan in his new adventure. 

13 cars will race in the LMGTE-Pro class, where the return of Porsche GT is the headline this year. The new 911 made his 24 hour-debut at Daytona last week and immediately got onto the podium. 

Porsche returns with his all new, mid engined, 911 RSR. A two car effort led by Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen. Last year's Le Mans winners Ford are back at La Sarthe with 4 cars. Two cars competing in the FIA World Endurance championship (Stefan Mücke and Andy Priaulx) and their 2 Ford GT's which are racing in the IMSA WeatherTech championship (Joey Hand & Ryan Briscoe). 

Corvette Racing makes his yearly pilgrimage to France with two C7.R's. Jan Magnussen and Oliver Gavin again appointed as lead drivers. Also two cars for Aston Martin Racing, with Nicki Thiim and Darren Turner up for driving duties. 

The final manufacturer in the Pro class is Ferrari. Both AF Corse's Ferrari F488 GTE's will be back in June, driven by James Calado and Davide Rigon. The third invited car is the Risi Competizione of Toni Vilander. 

Cars who are over one year old are eligible in the LMGTE-AM category, meaning the Ferrari 488 will make its debut in the class, competing against Porsche, Aston Martin and Corvette.

8 out of the 16 cars are Ferrari's. JMW Motorsport (Robert Smith) which returns to Le Mans after not being invited last year are the only team with an "older" Ferrari F458 Italia on the list. American team Scuderia Corsa returns to Le Mans with 2 Ferrari 488's, the first for Christina Nielsen - who made her debut last year with Formula Racing - the second for Cooper Mac Neil. WEC debutants Clearwater Racing, who raced at Le Mans for the first time last year, now have been granted an invite for 2 cars. Matt Griffin and Wen Sun Mok have already been appointed as drivers. Another team coming over from Asia is Hong Kong based DH Racing, with a single Ferrari 488 for Riccardo Ragazzi. The final 2 Ferrari's will be fielded by Swiss team Spirit of Race; a new team in the ELMS with support from AF Corse. Leading drivers will be Thomas Flohr and Duncan Cameron. 

4 Porsches have been invited this year. Proton Competition is leading the Porsche field with two 911 RSR's for Patrick Long and Wolf Henzler. Joining the German team is Dempsey Proton Racing with Christian Ried and Gulf Racing UK for Michael Wainwright. 

Aston Martin will have three cars on the Am grid. Paul Dalla Lana returns to the WEC and Le Mans with his Vantage V8. He will be joined by ELMS GTE-Am champions Beachdean AMR of Andrew Howard and last year's Michelin Le Mans Cup champions TF Sport and Salih Yoluc. 

Larbre Competition will field the only Corvette C7-Z06 in the Am class, with Ricky Taylor as first confirmed driver. 

Reserve cars
Only 2 cars have been listed as reserves this year. 
RLR M Sport in LMP2 with a Ligier JSP217 and Mentos-Proton Racing in LM GTE-AM with a Porsche 911 RSR. 

Kristof Vermeulen.