Wednesday, June 13, 2018

2018 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Preview

The second half of the 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans preview will breakdown the two GTE classes. The GTE-Pro class has 17 entries with six manufactures represented. Thirteen entries make up the GTE-Am class.

This preview goes entry-by-entry and gives you each driver with their number of Le Mans appearances, including this year in parentheses, followed by that entry's result on the Le Mans Test Day and a little additional information on each entry.

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Alessandro Pier Guidi (3rd), James Calado (3rd), Daniel Serra (2nd)
Test Day Result: 13th
About This Team: Calado and Pier Guidi are the defending World Endurance GT Drivers' champions but they finished 11th last year at Le Mans and opened this FIA World Endurance Championship season finishing ninth in class, nine laps down from the class winner. Serra won the GTE-Pro class last year with Aston Martin.  

#52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Toni Vilander (10th), Pipo Derani (4th), Antonio Giovinazzi (1st)
Test Day Result: 12th
About This Team: Vilander suffered his first retirement in nine years last year after having five class podiums in six years. Derani is making his fourth Le Mans appearance with his fourth different team. He finished second in GTE-Pro last year driving for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK. Giovinazzi is making his Le Mans debut. Last year, he started the first two races of the Formula One season with Sauber. Giovinazzi ran the WEC races at Fuji and Shanghai in 2016 in LMP2 with Extreme Speed Motorsports and finished second at class in Shanghai. This is the only 24 Hours of Le Mans-only entry in this year's race. All 59 other entries are tied to a series.

#63 Corvette Racing - GM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
Drivers: Jan Magnussen (20th), Antonio Garcià (13th), Mike Rockenfeller (9th)
Test Day Result: 11th
About This Team: Magnussen has not won at Le Mans since 2009 and Garcià has not won since 2011. They finished third in class last year after Jordan Taylor suffered a tire puncture while leading the class on the final lap. Mike Rockenfeller replaces Taylor. The German has not raced at Le Mans since 2012. His last six Le Mans starts were with the Audi LMP1 program.

#64 Corvette Racing - GM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
Drivers: Oliver Gavin (18th), Tommy Milner (10th), Marcel Fässler (13th)
Test Day Result: 10th
About This Team: Gavin and Milner won at Long Beach in April and it is the only victory for Corvette so far this IMSA season. Gavin and Milner are tied with Magnussen and Garcià in the IMSA championship on 111 points. Fässler is back with this Gavin and Milner after finishing eighth in class last year.   

#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT
Drivers: Stefan Mücke (12th), Olivier Pla (11th), Billy Johnson (3rd)
Test Day Result: 4th
About This Team: This car won the season opener at Spa-Francorchamps. It was the trio's first outright class victory. They finished fourth in class in 2016 but was the top WEC championship-eligible team that year and finished tenth in class last year. Mücke has two class podium finishes at Le Mans, both coming with Aston Martin in 2012 and 2013. Pla finished second in the LMP2 class in 2013 when he drove for OAK Racing.

#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT
Drivers: Andy Priaulx (5th), Harry Tincknell (5th), Tony Kanaan (2nd)
Test Day Result: 3rd
About This Team: Priaulx and Tincknell finished second in class last year and the duo finished third in the World Endurance GT Drivers' Championship after picking up victories at Silverstone and Shanghai. Kanaan returns for his second Le Mans appearance despite departing for Ganassi's IndyCar program for A.J. Foyt Racing. Kanaan finished sixth in class last year as an injury substitute for Sébastien Bourdais.

#68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT
Drivers: Joey Hand (4th), Dirk Müller (7th), Sébastien Bourdais (12th)
Test Day Result: 5th
About This Team: Bourdais is back after missing last year's race because of injuries suffered in Indianapolis 500 qualifying. This trio finished second in class this year at the 24 Hours of Daytona. Hand and Müller have not won since last August at Road America. Hand has finished on a class podium in two of his three Le Mans starts.  

#69 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT
Drivers: Ryan Briscoe (5th), Scott Dixon (3rd), Richard Westbrook (8th)
Test Day Result: 6th
About This Team: This team won the GT Le Mans class at this year's 24 Hours of Daytona, leading a Ford 1-2 finish. Briscoe and Westbrook lead the GTLM championship entering Le Mans. This trio finished third in GTE-Pro in 2016. Dixon enters Le Mans as the IndyCar championship leader and he has won a race the last two consecutive weekends.

#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Davide Rigon (5th), Sam Bird (5th), Miguel Molina (2nd)
Test Day Result: 9th
About This Team: Rigon and Bird will co-drivers for a third consecutive year. Molina joined the team last year and they finished 5th in class. Rigon and Bird finished second in class in the WEC season opener from Spa-Francorchamps while Miguel Molina has won in the European Le Mans Series and Pirelli World Challenge SprintX season this year. Rigon and Molina won the Gulf 12 Hours last December.

Drivers: Martin Tomczyk (1st), Nicky Catsburg (1st), Philipp Eng (2nd)
Test Day Result: 8th
About This Team: Tomczyk won the 2011 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters championship and he won last year in IMSA at Laguna Seca. Catsburg spent the last two seasons racing in the World Touring Car Championship and he finished fifth in the championship with his lone victory being at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Eng returns to Le Mans for the first time since 2016 when he raced for Dempsey-Proton Racing. Eng has two podium finishes this season in the DTM.

Drivers: Augusto Farfus (3rd), António Félix da Costa (1st), Alexander Sims (2nd)
Test Day Result: 15th
About This Team: Farfus is back at Le Mans for the first time since 2011 when BMW last fielded factory entries. Farfus still competes in the DTM but since finishing runner-up in the championship in 2013 he has not won in his last 70 starts and he has not finished on the podium in his last 39 starts. Da Costa has spent the last four years racing in Formula E and the last two years for the Andretti Autosport operation. Sims won three races last year in IMSA at Watkins Glen, Mosport and Road Atlanta and he finished second in the GTLM championship. He has finished second at Sebring and Mid-Ohio this year.  

#91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Richard Lietz (12th), Frédéric Makowiecki (8th), Gianmaria Bruni (10th)
Test Day Result: 2nd
About This Team: Bruni is back after having to sit out last year's race as he transitioned from Ferrari to Porsche. This is Bruni's first time racing at Le Mans for a manufacture other than Ferrari. His last WEC victory was 2016 at the Nürburgring. Lietz has not won in WEC since Shanghai 2015 despite having six podium finishes last season. Makowiecki is the only driver in this lineup yet to win at Le Mans with Bruni and Lietz each having three class victories.  

#92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Michael Christensen (4th), Kévin Estre (4th), Laurens Vanthoor (3rd)
Test Day Result: 7th
About This Team: Christensen's best class finish at Le Mans was fifth in 2015 and he and Estre finished second in the WEC season opener at Spa-Francorchamps. Estre has retired from all three of his prior Le Mans starts. Vanthoor was one of Estre's co-driver in 2015 with OAK Racing in LMP2. The Belgian's only other Le Mans appearance was 2016 with Michael Shank Racing. Vanthoor won at Mid-Ohio last month in IMSA.

#93 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Patrick Pilet (10th), Nick Tandy (6th), Earl Bamber (4th)
Test Day Result: 1st
About This Team: Bamber won Le Mans overall two of the last three years with Tandy being his co-driver with Nico Hülkenberg in 2015. Bamber was Vanthoor's co-driver in that Mid-Ohio victory last month. Tandy and Pilet won in class in the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. Pilet's only class podium at Le Mans came in 2013 when he finished second in GTE-Pro with Timo Bernhard and Jörg Bergmeister.

#94 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Romain Dumas (18th), Timo Bernhard (12th), Sven Müller (1st)
Test Day Result: 14th
About This Team: Dumas and Bernhard are paired together for the first time at Le Mans since 2011. Dumas won the last time he competed in GTE-Pro at Le Mans in 2013. Bernhard picked up his second overall Le Mans victory last year. His only GT class victory at Le Mans came on debut with The Racer's Group in 2002 with Kevin Buckler and Lucas Luhr. Müller makes his Le Mans debut. He was the 2016 Porsche Supercup champion. His only WEC start was at Spa-Francorchamps in 2015 and he finished third in class.

#95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR
Drivers: Marco Sørensen (4th), Nicki Thiim (5th), Darren Turner (16th)
Test Day Result: 17th
About This Team: Sørensen and Thiim will be co-drivers at Le Mans for the fourth consecutive year and Turner is their third driver for the second time. Turner picked up his third Le Mans class victory and first in nine years last year. Turner is also competing in the British GT Championship this year and he is currently third in that championship with Andrew Howard as his co-driver.

#97 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR
Drivers: Alex Lynn (2nd), Maxime Martin (4th), Jonathan Adam (3rd)
Test Day Result: 16th
About This Team: Adam was apart of last year's GTE-Pro winning lineup. He won the opening race of the British GT Championship with Flick Haigh. Lynn made his Le Mans debut last year with G-Drive Racing but that car retired after only 20 laps. Lynn is competing full-time in Formula E this year with DS Virgin Racing. After spending four years racing for BMW in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, Martin makes his first Le Mans appearance since 2013. He made one start in LMP1 and two starts in LMP2 in this race.

#54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE
Drivers: Thomas Flöhr (2nd), Francesco Castellacci (3rd), Giancarlo Fisichella (9th)
Test Day Result: 2nd
About This Team: Flöhr and Castellacci finished 12th in class last year and they won at Fuji last year. These two drivers won the Pro-Am class in the 2016 Gulf 12 Hours. Fisichella is making his first start in the GTE-Am class. He has five class podium finishes in eight starts. Last year was the first time Fisichella retired in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

#56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Jörg Bergmeiseter (16th), Patrick Lindsey (1st), Egidio Perfetti (1st)
Test Day Result: 10th
About This Team: Bergmeister is back after not racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time since 2001. This will be his first time competing in the GTE-Am class. His lone class victory came in 2004. This team finished ninth in class at Spa-Francorchamps, dead last in class. Lindsey won the GT Daytona class in the 2015 Petit Le Mans. Perfetti raced at Circuit de la Sarthe in 2016 in the Michelin GT3 Cup race and he finished third in the GT3 class.

#61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE
Drivers: Weng Sun Mok (3rd), Matt Griffin (7th), Keita Sawa (3rd)
Test Day Result: 3rd
About This Team:  This trio finished fifth in class last year and they finished third in the WEC season opener last month. Griffin finished on the GTE-Am podium in 2013. The team has seven podium finishes in the last ten WEC races.

#70 MR Racing Ferrari 488 GTE
Drivers: Olivier Beretta (22nd), Eddie Cheever III (1st), Motoaki Ishikawa (1st)
Test Day Result: 9th
About This Team: Beretta is back and he is looking for this seventh class victory. Cheever III ran the first two races of the IMSA season with Spirit of Daytona Racing in the Prototype class. His father Eddie Cheever made three Le Mans starts with his final one coming in 1987 driving for Silk Cut Jaguar with Jan Lammers and Raul Boesel. This team finished fifth in GTE-Am at Spa-Francorchamps last month.

#77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Christian Ried (9th), Matt Campbell (1st), Julien Andlauer (1st)
Test Day Result: 1st
About This Team: Ried's only Le Mans class podium was in 2014 when he finished second in class. Campbell finished third in the Porsche Supercup championship last year and he won the final three races of that season. This team finished fourth at Spa-Francorchamps.

#80 Ebimotors Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Fabio Babini (8th), Christina Nielsen (3rd), Erik Maris (5th)
Test Day Result: 12th
About This Team: Babini returns to Le Mans for the first time since 2009. He had two consecutive runner-up finishes in GT2 in his final two Le Mans appearances but he won the GT class in 2001. Nielsen has won the GT Daytona championship the last two years in IMSA and this will be her first Le Mans start not in a Ferrari. Maris ran in the LMP2 class the last three years.

#84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE
Drivers: Liam Griffin (2nd), Cooper MacNiel (4th), Jeff Segal (3rd)
Test Day Result: 7th
About This Team: Griffin won the ELMS season opener but he has two different co-drivers than his ELMS lineup. MacNeil finished third in GTE-Am last year in his first Le Mans appearance since 2014. Segal won the GTE-Am class in 2016 with Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell.

#85 Keating Motorsports Ferrari 488 GTE
Drivers: Jeroen Bleekemolen (13th), Ben Keating (4th), Luca Stolz (1st)
Test Day Result: 6th
About This Team: For the fourth consecutive year Bleekemolen and Keating are co-drivers and this is their fourth different third driver in four years. The last two years they had competed in LMP2. Bleekemolen won the LMP2 class at Le Mans in 2008 with Peter van Merksteijn, Sr. and Jos Verstappen. This lineup finished third in GT Daytona at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March and Bleekemolen and Stolz finished third overall at the Bathurst 12 Hour driving for Black Swan Racing.

#86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Michael Wainwright (4th), Ben Barker (3rd), Alex Davison (2nd)
Test Day Result: 8th
About This Team: Wainwright and Barker finished third in class last year at Mexico City and Barker finished second at Shanghai. This is Davison's first Le Mans appearance since 2008 when he was co-drivers were Wolf Henzler and Horst Felbermayr, Sr. in GT2.

#88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Matteo Cairoli (2nd), Khaled Al Qubaisi (6th), Giorgio Roda (1st)
Test Day Result: 4th
About This Team: Cairoli finished sixth last year on his Le Mans debut but he won twice last year in GTE-Am at Nürburgring and Mexico City. Roda is competing full-time in ELMS. He finished second at Circuit Paul Ricard and he won last year in ELMS at Spa-Francorchamps. Al Qubaisi finished second in GTE-Am in 2014 and third in GTE-Am in 2016.

#90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE
Drivers: Euan Hankey (2nd), Charlie Eastwood (1st), Salih Yoluç (2nd)
Test Day Result: 11th
About This Team: Hankey and Yoluç made their Le Mans debuts last year and finished seventh in class and they finished second in the ELMS GT Championship. Eastwood won the Porsche Carrera Cup GB championship last year. This team finished second at Spa-Francorchamps last month.

#98 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE
Drivers: Paul Dalla Lana (6th), Pedro Lamy (19th), Mathias Lauda (4th)
Test Day Result: 13th
About This Team: This team won the Spa-Francorchamps season opener and they got that elusive FIA Endurance Trophy for LMGTE Am Drivers championship last year. This is the trio's fourth consecutive Le Mans together and their best finish is eighth in class. They were slowest on the Le Mans test day but they were the slowest in the Prologue test and went on to win the season opener.

#99 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Patrick Long (15th), Tim Pappas (1st), Spencer Pumpelly (5th)
Test Day Result: 5th
About This Team: Long has not won a class at Le Mans since 2007 but finished second and third in GTE-Am in 2015 and 2016. Pumpelly returns to Le Mans for the first time since 2014. He finished fourth in GTE-Am in 2012 driving in an all-American lineup for Flying Lizard Motorsports. Pappas has twice finished runner-up in the GT Daytona class in the 24 Hours of Daytona and he finished third at the Bathurst 12 Hour this year. He won the GTC class in the 2011 12 Hours of Sebring.

Practice begins today at 10:00 a.m. ET with a four-hour session. The first qualifying session is set for 4:00 p.m. ET and will be two hours long. Thursday will see a two-hour qualifying session at 1:00 p.m. ET with the final qualifying session that night at 4:00 p.m. ET. The morning warm-up will be held at 3:00 a.m. ET on Saturday. The race starts at 9:00 a.m. ET.