Tuesday 16 April 2019

Record breaking 62 car grid for Le Mans: High Class Racing and United Autosports receive extra invite

The 87th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the finale of the FIA World Endurance Championship will have a record breaking grid of 62 cars on June 15th.  The Automobile Club de l’guest announced the expansion of the grid today, and confirmed High Class Racing and United Autosports as the 2 extra invitees for the 24 hour race. 

To accommodate the extra cars, the pitlane will be extended with 2 temporary garages. They will be set up next to the first ones, towards the entrance of pit lane, inbetween the module sportif (tower) and the first 2 pitboxes (which were used by Toyota in the past years). Work on extending the pitlane began several weeks ago, in time for the test day on June 2nd. 
The 13.626-kilometre track will therefore welcome a record 62 competitors on 15 June. Since 2016, a maximum of 60 garages accommodated the teams. 

Pierre Fillion, President of the ACO said: “In February, the selection committee faced a harder task than it has in many years. There were 75 applications – all of a high standard – and it was particularly difficult to choose 60, only 60 of them should I say. We quickly came to the conclusion that we had to find a way of accepting additional competitors, and our crews confirmed the feasibility of adding two garages to pit lane. We knuckled down and are overjoyed to be able to accept 62 entrants for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s a record number and a sign that this race is as popular as ever.”

For High Class Racing, this will be their first appearance at Le Mans, after missing out an invite in the past 2 years. The Danish team is now in its third year in the European Le Mans Series, and switched from the Dallara P217 to the Oreca 07 this session.  Anders Fjordbach and Dennis Andersen will drive the car with the third driver still to be announced. 

“It’s a huge surprise to be granted an entry to the 2019 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours,” said Anders Fjordbach, who was a reserve driver for SMP Racing the past two years at Le Mans. While it was originally disappointing to be turned down for a second year running when the first list came out, we understood the ACO’s decision and remained patient, expecting to have a greater chance in 2020."

“However, this new plan by the ACO has given us the chance to make our debut in the race this year, and race as part of a record-breaking 62-car entry at the event with our new ORECA 07 Gibson. Although there isn’t much time to plan our trip to France in June, we will be working extremely hard over the coming weeks to ensure we are ready and have the best chance of scoring a strong result in our first attempt. It’s been a dream for us, long-term, to race as a Danish team at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and add to our country’s ever-growing heritage at the race. We thank the ACO for its support in this process and can’t wait to hit the track at Le Mans in two months time.”

United Autosports wasn’t too happy after the release of the initial entry list for this year’s Le Mans.  Despite the teams’ wlarge involvement in the ELMS, Michelin Le Mans Cup and Asian Le Mans Series, only the auto invite they received by winning the Asian Le Mans Series was granted to the American team.  With the addition of two extra entries, United Autosports now gained a second invite in the LMP2 class.

ELMS regulars Ryan Cullen and Alex Brundle will be joined by a third driver who is still to be confirmed. They will join Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta as part of the team’s two driver line ups. Alex Brundle has raced at Le Mans five times, finishing on the podium in both 2013 and 2017, while this year marks Ryan Cullen’s Le Mans 24 Hours debut. 

Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports said: “I’m really pleased United have been given a second entry into the Le Mans 24 Hours. It’s the greatest race in the world and to have a two-car entry for the second year running is fantastic.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports: “The ACO have worked hard to make this happen and we are very pleased for United to have both our Ligier JS P217s in the race. Hopefully we can get another great result like we did last year – or even go two spots better.”

5 teams remain on the reserve list for the 24 Hours: 
- Eurasia Motorsport - Ligier JSP217 (LMP2)
- Panis Barthez Competition - Ligier JSP217 (LMP2)
- IDEC Sport - Ligier JSP217 (LMP2)
- Team Project 1 - Porsche 911 RSR (LMGTE AM)
- TF Sport - Aston Martin Vantage (LMGTE Am)

Kristof Vermeulen.