Saturday 1 April 2017

FIA WEC 2017: GTE Pro driver line-ups confirmed for Le Mans

At the first day of the FIA WEC prologue in Monza, Porsche announced its GT driver pairings for the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. With this announcement, all driver pairings for the GTE Pro class in Le Mans are now confirmed, except for Corvette.

Patrick Pilet will join Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR. The third driver for the #92 car will be Dirk Werner, who will be joining Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre. 

“Choosing the drivers for the most important race of the year was actually easy,” said Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser. “Our driver squad is so strong we basically couldn’t make a mistake. Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner are the perfect complement to our regular team members. It is definitely an advantage that they all know each other very well from the races in the USA. We’re in an excellent position for Le Mans with these drivers.”

Earlier this week, on Thursday, Aston Martin Racing also confirmed its driver line-ups for the round the clock race at Le Mans. 

Brazilian driver Daniel Serra will join Aston Martin Racing for Le Mans this year, making his debut in the FIA WEC. Serra has already completed countless laps in the team’s V8 Vantage GTE throughout an intensive testing and development programme with tyre supplier Dunlop. He will race alongside Darren Turner and Jonny Adam in the #97 Vantage V8. Joining the "Dane Train" Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen in the #95 is New Zealander Richie Stanaway who returns to the FIA WEC.  In preparation for Le Mans, Serra and Stanaway will join the team in the 6 hours of Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps. 

Aston Martin Racing Team Principal Paul Howarth is very excited to have both drivers on board this season. Both of them bring with them the speed and consistency that we look for in any driver here at Aston Martin Racing. While Richie has of course raced with us for many seasons, Daniel is also well known within our operation. We are a team with big ambitions following our championship successes last year and while the competition will undoubtedly be tough, it is our objective to be on the top step of the podium at Le Mans in June”.

AF Corse has secured Lucas di Grassi as their third driver in the #51 Ferrari 488 GTE. The Brazilian driver was confirmed yesterday ahead of the FIA WEC prologue. Di Grassi is still active as an Audi factory driver in the Formula E championship, but has always expressed his desire to return to Le Mans after the withdrawal of Audi out of the FIA WEC. He will join Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado in the #51 Ferrari. 

Spanish driver Miguel Molina  has been appointed as the third driver for the #71 Ferrari 488 GTE at Le Mans. He will join Davide Rigon and Sam Bird. Molina has been active in the DTM in the past 7 years and now races with the Spirit of Race team in the GTE Am class, as in the Blancpain Endurance Series with SMP Racing. Molina and Di Grassi both tested the Ferrari at Vallelunga last month together with Alessandro Pier Guidi and Nyck De Vries to replace Gianmaria Bruni who left Ferrari for Porsche. Pier Guidi got the seat as a factory driver back then.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing already confirmed its driver line-ups in February. There's one new name into the team, Brazilian Luis Felipe "Pipo" Derani who will join Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT. Derani impressed last year with Extreme Speeds Motorsports in the LMP2 class, winning Daytona and Sebring back to back and with some impressive driving in the FIA WEC. 

Last years GTE-Pro winners at Le Mans, Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais will defend their title in the #68. The driver trio already won the 24 hours of Daytona this year, and could be the team to beat again at La Sarthe. In the #66 Ford GT, Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla will be joined again by American Billy Johnson for the races at Silverstone, Spa and Le Mans. Third place finishers at last years Le Mans, Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon will also return with and unchanged line-up in the #69 Ford. 

Kristof Vermeulen.