Friday 27 April 2018

24h Le Mans: news update with 50 days to go

With exactly 50 days to go to the "Big one", we've made a small round-up of some of the latest news about driver line-ups, collaborations and new liveries for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

Corvette Drivers confirmed for Le Mans

Corvette Racing has announced its driver line-up for their 19th consecutive Le Mans next month. Mike Rockenfeller and Marcel Fässler will join the crew of the #63 and #64 Corvettes, as they do in the IMSA North American Endurance Cup. 

Rockenfeller joins Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen in the #63 Corvette C7.R, a return to La Sarthe since his last race with Audi in 2012.  The German driver won Le Mans in 2005 and 2010.  Fässler, another ex-Audi factory driver, has three Le Mans wins on his name (2011, 2012 and 2014) and will join Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner in the #63 Corvette.  

With eight victories and eight additional runner-up finishes at Le Mans, Corvette has been the most succesfull GT brand in the past 2 decades. They'll be out to score that 9th victory this year ! 

Alonso passes simulator test

As every rookie driver at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Fernando Alonso had to take on the obligated "test day" in the ACO simulator in Paris two weeks ago.


During this test, the driver gets to learn the track and its traps, location of the marshal posts and gets an initiation about safety procedures with slow zones and safety car deployment, both during day and night.  Simulations with (slower) traffic and suddenly changing track conditions are also on the "menu" during the test.  As expected, Alonso passed the test faultlessly and is now allowed to take part in the testday and raceweek. 
At least five other (ex-)Formula 1 drivers who will also make their debut at Le Mans in June, also have to complete the simulator test prior to the testday: Jenson Button (SMP Racing), Paul Di Resta & Juan Pablo Montoya (United Autosports) and Pastor Maldonado. 

Exit Fernando Rees at Larbre Competition 

Fernando Rees won't compete with Larbre Competition in the FIA WEC Super season and Le Mans this year.  Due to the loss of a main sponsor, the French team are in need of a pay driver to complete their budget. 

Edit: Thomas Dagoneau has been announced as the third driver for Le Mans.  The Frenchman will join Romano Ricci and Erwin Creed in the #50 Ligier JSP217. It will be his second outing at Le Mans after his debut in 2013 with Boutsen Ginion Racing.  Surprisingly - according to - Dagoneau signed his contract with Larbre one week ahead of the prologue.

Julien Canal, the reigning LMP2 champion will race with the team at Spa next week. 

Risi Competizione presents livery for Le Mans

Texas based Risi Competizione teams up with Ben Keating for this years' Le Mans, and revealed their livery for the 24 Hour race.  

The #85 Ferrari F488 GTE will be driven by Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen who are joined by Luca Stolz.  The young German raced with Keating & Bleekemolen during the Rolex24 in Januari, finishing fourth in the GTD class, and scored a podium finish at the 12 Hours of Bathurst with Bleekemolen. This will be his Le Mans 24 Hours.  

JMW teams up with Weathertech Racing 

JMW Motorsport will run its 10th Le Mans with support from Weathertech and two American drivers. Cooper MacNeil and Jeff Segal will join Liam Griffin behind the wheel of the #84 Ferrari F488 GTE in the GTE-Am class.

The British team won its class at Le Mans last year and is now joined by 2 experenced drivers. Cooper MacNeil is off for his fifth start and finished third in the AM class last year in the Scuderia Corse Ferrari.  Jeff Segal will start for the third time in Le Mans, after claiming a podium finish in his first one and a win in the GTE-Am class in 2016.

Felipe Nasr replaces Andrea Belicchi at Cetilar Villorba Corse

Cetilar Villorba Corse announced Felipe Nasr as replacement driver for Andrea Belicchi, as from the ELMS race in Monza, at Le Mans and the remainder of the 2018 ELMS season. Nasr joins Roberto Lacorte and Giorgio Sernagiotto behind the wheel of the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara P217/Gibson. The Brazilian driver has been hired by the Italian team since Belicchi who suffered from back problems during the 4 Hours of Le Castellet that forced him to stop racing on the LMP2 prototype. 

Nasr is no stranger to the Italian team as he already tested the Dallara earlier this year at the Paul Ricard track, covering about 500 kilometers. He is also active in the IMSA Weathertech Championship in the Whelen Cadillac Dpi.  “There are so many reasons that makes this moment special that is difficult to talk about only one of them: 1) I am really happy to be driving for Cetilar Villorba Corse with whom I tested in Paul Ricard last year, it is great to be back to an Italian team for me that started my racing career in single seaters driving for an Italian team; 2) I am really thrilled to drive this LMP2 Dallara, the same chassis that I am driving in the US, in tracks that I know and like so much: Monza, Spa, Silverstone and Red Bull Ring; and 3) I am excited to have the opportunity to be in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it is a dream that I have! Let’s go racing!” said the Brazilian driver.

Team Principal Amadio added: “It's with great pleasure that we welcome Felipe back in our team. Not only testing, but for an entire season and a 24-hour race which is really important for us all. We really appreciate his talent and will do everything to make him feel part of the team immediately. Such a talented and experienced driver will be great new energy to keep on improving. I am sure that with him we are going to face all the challenges at our best”.

Kristof Vermeulen
Pictures: JellyBaby.Media &