Tuesday, June 11, 2019

2019 24 Hours of Le Mans Prototypes Preview

The 87th 24 Hours of Le Mans will double as the final round of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship season. This year's race sees a record number 62 entries set to contest the twice-around-the-clock French classic.

This preview will look at the two prototype classes, both of which have championships still up for grabs. The LMP1 class will have eight entries while LMP2 is the largest class in the year's race will 20 cars slated to compete. 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.

#1 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R13-Gibson
Drivers: André Lotterer (11th), Neel Jani (11th), Bruno Senna (7th)
Test Day Result: 3rd
About This Team: Lotterer and Jani were runner-up finishes at Silverstone and finished third at Fuji. Lotterer could become the ninth driver to have four overall Le Mans victories. This will be Jani's final start in sports cars as he will focus on Porsche's Formula E program. Senna could become the first Brazilian to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall. Senna has yet to even stand on a class podium in this race. Rebellion Racing could become the first Swiss team to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

#3 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R13-Gibson
Drivers: Gustavos Menezes (4th), Thomas Laurent (3rd), Nathanaël Berthon (6th)
Test Day Result: 5th
About This Team: The #3 Rebellion is the only non-Toyota to take an overall victory in the 2018-19 season. It was elevated to the top spot after both Toyotas were disqualified. Last year, Menezes became the second American driver in as many years to finish on the overall podium. Laurent has finished on the overall podium in both his Le Mans starts. Laurent will become Toyota's reserve driver for next season. This is Berthon's first time competing at Le Mans in the LMP1 class. The last time the overall Le Mans winner featured multiple French drivers was in 1998 with Laurent Aïello, Stéphane Ortelli and Allan McNish for Porsche. This is the final year Laurent could become the youngest overall winner. Laurent will be 21 years, two months and 11 days old when race ends and that would break Alexander Wurz's record at 22 years, four months and one day old.

#4 ByKolles Racing Team ENSO CLM P1/01-Gibson
Drivers: Oliver Webb (6th), Tom Dillmann (2nd), Paolo Ruberti (7th)
Test Day Result: 8th
About This Team: ByKolles switched from a Nissan engine to a Gibson engine mid-season. The team has not had a classified finisher since the team made its debut in 2009 with two Audi R10 TDIs. The team's best finish this season was fourth at the Spa-Francorchamps season opener. This is Webb's four consecutive Le Mans start with ByKolles. Ruberti returns to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time since 2015. This is his first time competing in a prototype class.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid
Drivers: Mike Conway (6th), Kamui Kobayashi (5th), José María López (3rd)
Test Day Result: 2nd
About This Team: Conway, Kobayashi and López are second in the World Endurance Drivers' Championship, 31 points behind their teammates. The #7 Toyota has to win this race to have any shot at the title. The #7 Toyota has won twice this season, Fuji and Shanghai and it had runner-up finishes at the first Spa-Francorchamps round, Le Mans and Sebring. Conway could become the 33rd British driver to win the 24 Hours Le Mans, extending the country's record. López could join José Froilán González as the only Argentine drivers to win the race. González won in 1954 with Maurice Trintignant for Ferrari.

#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid
Drivers: Sébastien Buemi (8th), Kazuki Nakajima (8th), Fernando Alonso (2nd)
Test Day Result: 1st
About This Team: This is the defending Le Mans overall winners and these three lead the FIA World Endurance Drivers' Championship heading into the final round. If the #8 Toyota finishes in the top six overall it will clinch the championship regardless of where the #7 Toyota finishes. The #8 Toyota has won four of seven races with two runner-up finishes and a disqualification. Buemi is going for this second World Endurance Drivers' Championship while Nakajima and Alonso are going for their first. They could become the first trio to successfully defend a Le Mans overall victory since André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler in 2011 and 2012.

#10 DragonSpeed BR Engineering BR1-Gibson
Drivers: Henrik Hedman (3rd), Ben Hanley (3rd), Renger van der Zande (2nd)
Test Day Result: 7th
About This Team: This will be DragonSpeed's final LMP1 race as the team will shift its attention to its IndyCar program and focus on its European Le Mans Series LMP2 entry. This entry has finished only three of five starts and DragonSpeed's WEC LMP2 entry has outscored the LMP1 entry by 28 points in the World Endurance Drivers' Championship standings. DragonSpeed's best LMP1 result was sixth at Shanghai. The team did not contest the Spa-Francorchamps round last month. Van der Zande enters off a victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona, a runner-up finish at the 12 Hours of Sebring and he won Petit Le Mans last year. Hedman could become the oldest overall winner at 51 years, four months and 11 days. Luigi Chinetti holds the record at 47 years, 11 months and nine days old.

#11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1-AER
Drivers: Mikhail Aleshin (5th), Vitaly Petrov (5th), Stoffel Vandoorne (1st)
Test Day Result: 4th
About This Team: The #11 BR Engineering BR1 has finished third overall in the last three races and each race has had a different third driver alongside Aleshin and Petrov. Jenson Button was with the team for Shanghai but stepped down prior to the 2019 races to focus on his Super GT commitment and to focus on his family with he and his fiancée awaiting their first child. Brendon Hartley ran the Sebring round and Spa-Francorchamps was Vandoorne's first race with the team. Vandoorne could become the sixth different Belgian to win Le Mans overall and first since Bertrand Gachot in 1991.

#17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1-AER
Drivers: Sergey Sirotkin (2nd), Egor Orudzhev (2nd), Stéphane Sarrazin (18th)
Test Day Result: 6th
About This Team: This entry finished third at Silverstone and fourth last month at Spa-Francorchamps but it has retired from four races and was not classified for the other. Sarrazin has finished runner-up four times in this race and he finished third overall another year but he has yet to stand on the top step of the podium.

#20 High Class Racing Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Mathias Beche (7th), Dennis Andersen (1st), Anders Fjordbach (1st)
Test Day Result: 17th
About This Team: Beche ran last year at Le Mans with the #3 Rebellion Racing entry that finished third overall. This is the third time Beche has competed in the LMP2 class at Le Mans. This is a full-time European Le Mans Series entry with Andersen and Fjordbach and they finished ninth in the season opener and last season their best finish was ninth.

#22 United Autosport Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Phil Hanson (2nd), Filipe Albuquerque (6th), Paul di Resta (2nd)
Test Day Result: 15th
About This Team: This trio ran last year at Le Mans but did not finish the race. In the first two races in the 2019 European Le Mans Series season this entry has finished sixth and fourth. Albuquerque has not finished on a class podium in his Le Mans career. Albuquerque won the IMSA Long Beach round in April. Di Resta has been competing for Aston Martin in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters and his best finishes have been seventh and eighth through the first six races.

#23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: René Binder (1st), Julian Canal (11th), Will Stevens (4th)
Test Day Result: 13th
About This Team: The #23 Ligier has finished tenth and ninth in the first two ELMS races this season.  This is Canal's eighth consecutive Le Mans in the LMP2 class. Binder moved over to sports car racing this year and running a handful of IndyCar races in 2018. Stevens won the GTE-Am class at Le Mans in 2017. Stevens won in the LMP2 class at the 1000 Miles of Sebring earlier this year driving for Jackie Chan DC Racing.

#25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Andrea Pizzitola (3rd), David Zollinger (3rd), John Falb (1st)
Test Day Result: 10th
About This Team: Pizzitola was apart of the G-Drive Racing entry with Romain Rusinov and Jean-Éric Vergne that finished first on the road in LMP2 last year at Le Mans but was disqualified for an illegal modification to the refueling equipment. Zollinger was not at Le Mans last year and his prior two starts came in 2010 and 2017. Falb has spent the last few years in the LMP3 class in the European Le Mans Series. In 2017, Falb won the LMP3 class title with Sean Rayhall. Last year, Falb won at Spa-Francorchamps with Scott Andrews.

#26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Romain Rusinov (9th), Jean-Éric Vergne (3rd), Job van Uitert (1st)
Test Day Result: 6th
About This Team: As stated above, last year G-Drive Racing crossed the line first only to be disqualified. Rusinov is still looking for his first class victory at Le Mans. Vergne enters this race as the Formula E championship leader, as he looks to successfully defend that title. Rusinov and van Uitert won the most recent ELMS race at Monza. Van Uitert won the LMP3 championship in ELMS last year with RLR Sport after winning two races.

#28 TDS Racing Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: François Perrodo (6th), Matthieu Vaxivière (3rd), Loïc Duval (9th)
Test Day Result: 5th
About This Team: This entry has finished fourth in class in three race this season. This is Perrodo's third consecutive Le Mans in LMP2 and in all three Vaxivière has been one of his co-drivers. This entry was disqualified from last year's race for an illegal modification to its refueling equipment and the entry was originally handed a one-lap penalty for Perrodo exceeding maximum drive time of running more than four hours within a six-hour period.

#29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217-Gibson
Drivers: Frits van Eerd (3rd), Nyck de Vries (1st), Giedo van der Garde (3rd)
Test Day Result: 7th
About This Team: This entry has finished fifth in class in five races and seventh in the other two. De Vries has been splitting LMP2 competition with Formula Two and he is second in the Formula Two championship on 94 points, one behind Nicholas Latifi. De Vries has won twice this season and he has scored points in all eight Formula Two races.

#30 Duqueine Engineering Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Romain Dumas (19th), Nico Jamin (1st), Pierre Ragues (12th)
Test Day Result: 8th
About This Team: This is Dumas' fourth different team at Le Mans in the last four years. Dumas just set the lap record around the Nürburgring Nordschleife for an electric vehicle in the Volkswagen I.D. R. Ragues scored a fourth overall finish in his most recent Le Mans start in 2017 and it was his second class podium in this race. After racing in the Road to Indy from 2014 to 2017, where Jamin won the 2015 U.S. F2000 title, won two Pro Mazda and three Indy Lights races, Jamin joined ELMS last year and finished third on debut at Circuit Paul Ricard. Jamin, Ragues and Richard Bradley were third place finishers at this year's ELMS season opener at Circuit Paul Ricard and they finished sixth at Monza.

#31 DragonSpeed Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Roberto González (3rd), Pastor Maldonado (2nd), Anthony Davidson (11th)
Test Day Result: 2nd
About This Team: After three consecutive podium finishes, González and Maldonado have an outside chance at the Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers. This team won at Spa-Francorchamps last month.  González could join his brother Ricardo as Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers championship. Ricardo won the title in 2013 the same year he won the LMP2 class at Le Mans. Davidson was not in last year's race as he was Toyota's reserve driver.

#32 United Autosport Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Will Owen (3rd), Alex Brundle (6th), Ryan Cullen (1st)
Test Day Result: 9th
About This Team: Owen shifted to IMSA competition with Juncos Racing in the Prototype class after spending two years in ELMS where he finished second in the championship in 2017. Brundle ran a Ginetta G60-LT-P1 last year with CEFC TRSM Racing in the LMP1 class and completed 137 laps before retiring. Cullen scored victory in the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January driving for DragonSpeed.

#34 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Nigel Moore (3rd), Jakub Smiechowski (1st), James Winslow (4th)
Test Day Result: 19th
About This Team: Smiechowski won the Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 class championship in February with Inter Europol Competition. Smiechowski won two of four ALMS races He also won the LMP3 class in the ELMS season finale last year at Portimão. Moore is running in the LMP3 class this year with Inter Europol and he has finished on the class podium in the first two races this season. Winslow has not finished better than 17th in class in his prior three Le Mans starts.

#36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470-Gibson
Drivers: Nicolas Lapierre (12th), André Negrão (3rd), Pierre Thiriet (9th)
Test Day Result: 3rd
About This Team: Lapierre, Negrão and Thiriet leads the Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers championship with 143 points. The #36 Alpine has finished on the podium in all seven races this season but this team's only victory was at Le Mans last year. Lapierre has won the LMP2 class at Le mans three of the last four years. Lapierre won the 2016 Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers championship.

#37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Ricky Taylor (6th), Jordan King (1st), David Heinemeier Hansson (7th)
Test Day Result: 12th
About This Team: King and Heinemeier Hansson won the LMP2 class at the 1000 Miles of Sebring in March. King is focused on Formula Two but he made his Indianapolis 500 debut last month. Taylor and Heinemeier Hansson drove together last year at Le Mans with Côme Ledogar but retired after completing 195 laps. Taylor sits third in the IMSA Prototype championship after three podium finishes from the first five races.

#38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Ho-Pin Tung (7th), Gabriel Aubry (2nd), Stéphane Richelmi (3rd)
Test Day Result: 1st
About This Team: Tung, Aubry and Richelmi trails the #36 Alpine by four points in the Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers championship. While this team has won three races its worst two finishes were fourth at Le Mans and sixth at Sebring. Richelmi was apart of that 2016 Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers championship team with Lapierre and Menezes.

#39 Graff Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Vincent Capillaire (6th), Jonathan Hirschi (7th), Tristan Gommendy (10th)
Test Day Result: 4th
About This Team: This trio was the LMP2 runner-ups last year at Le Mans. Gommendy has finished runner-up in LMP2 the last two years and in three of the last five. Hirschi and Gommendy have finished fifth in the first two races of the ELMS season.

#43 RLR Msport/Tower Events Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Norman Nato (2nd), John Farano (1st), Arjun Maini (1st)
Test Day Result: 14th
About This Team: Farano was apart of the LMP3 class champions last year in ELMS with RLR Msport. Farano and RLR Msport moved up to LMP2 this season and paired with Maini and Bruno Senna. Maini raced in Formula Two last year and scored 16 points with his best finish being fifth. Nato is competing in ELMS with G-Drive Racing but moves to RLR Msport for Le Mans due to the entrance of Vergne at G-Drive and Senna's Rebellion Racing commitment. Nato and G-Drive Racing won the most recent ELMS round at Monza.

#47 Cetilar Racing Villorba Corsa Dallara P217-Gibson
Drivers: Roberto Lacorte (3rd), Giorgio Sernagiotto (3rd), Andrea Belicchi (10th)
Test Day Result: 16th
About This Team: These three raced together in 2017 and finished seventh in class, ninth overall. They ran the Monza ELMS race but retired. Last year, Lacorte and Sernagiotto ran with Felipe Nasr and finished 11th in class, 19th overall.

#48 IDEC Sport Racing Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Paul Lafargue (3rd), Paul-Loup Chatin (5th), Memo Rojas (4th)
Test Day Result: 11th
About This Team: These three drivers has finished runner-up in the first two ELMS races this season. These three retired from last year's race after completing 312 laps. Chatin finished third in LMP2 in 2014, his Le Mans debut and he won the ELMS LMP2 championship that year.

#49 ARC Bratislava Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Henning Enqvist (1st), Miroslav Konôpka (4th), Konstantin Tereshchenko (1st)
Test Day Result: 18th
About This Team: Konôpka returns to the Le Mans for the first time since 2017. Tereshchenko has spent the last two years in ELMS and he drives for Panis Barthez Competition full-time. He picked up his best finish in the most recent round at Monza when he finished seventh. Enqvist drives for Algarve Pro Racing in ELMS. Enqvist ran all six races last year in ELMS but he ran for four different teams in the LMP3 class and ran the final two races in a G-Drive Racing Oreca with James Allen and Julien Falchero.

#50 Larbre Compétition Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Erwin Creed (2nd), Romano Ricci (3rd), Nicholas Boulle (2nd)
Test Day Result: 20th
About This Team: Boulle made his Le Mans debut last year with Jackie Chan DC Racing and he finished eighth in class with David Cheng and Pierre Nicolet. Ricci made his second Le Mans start last year, 18 years after his debut. He and Creed were the final LMP2 finishers with Thomas Dagoneau as their third driver.

A four-hour practice session is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday June 12th with the first qualifying session taking place at 4:00 p.m. ET later that day. There will be two qualifying sessions on Thursday June 13th with the first two-hour session scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET with the final qualifying session at 4:00 p.m. ET.

The 45-minute warm-up session takes place at 3:00 a.m. ET on Saturday June 15th with the race starting at 9:00 a.m. ET.