Wednesday, September 16, 2020

2020 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Preview

After previewing the 29 prototypes for the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans, we will look over the 30 GT entries for this year's race. The field is split between eight GTE-Pro entries and 22 GTE-Am entries. 

This year's Le Mans was already planned to be without the Ford GT, but due to the covid-19 pandemic, this year's race will not feature Corvette Racing for the first time since 1999. The factory Porsche effort has been cut in half, with the two IMSA based teams not entered. 

Ferrari has the most entries in each class with four of the eight GTE-Pro cars hailing from Maranello and 12 Ferrari 488 GTE Evos populate the GTE-Am grid. There will be ten Porsches between the two classes. Aston Martin will field four cars. Five different manufactures have won the last five years in the GTE-Pro class. 

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: James Calado (5th), Alessandro Pier Guidi (5th), Daniel Serra (4th)
About This Team: Calado and Pier Guidi are currently third in the World Endurance GT Drivers' championship on 95 points. The #51 Ferrari's only victory was at Shanghai and this car has finished no worse than fourth this season. Its only other podium finish was third at Austin. This is the defending GTE-Pro Le Mans class winners. Calado ran nine of 11 Formula E races in the 2019-20 season with his best finish being seventh. Serra won his third consecutive Stock Car Brasil championship last year.

#63 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Cooper MacNeil (6th), Jeff Segal (5th), Toni Vilander (12th)
About This Team: This was going to be a GTE-Am entry, but the team moved up to GTE-Pro with the inclusion of Segal and Vilander. MacNeil and Vilander are co-drivers in the IMSA GT Daytona class and their best finish this season was second in the Sebring sprint race. MacNeil has finished third in GTE-Am two of the last three years. Vilander has two Le Mans class victories, most recently in 2014, and the Finn has stood on the podium six times. Segal has finished on the podium in three of his four Le Mans starts, including a GTE-Am victory in 2016. This is the first time Segal is not in the GTE-Am class.

#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Sam Bird (6th), Miguel Molina (4th), Davide Rigon (7th)
About This Team: Molina and Rigon have only stood on the podium after one race this season, a runner-up finish in Bahrain. Their next best finish is fifth. This is the fourth consecutive year Bird, Molina and Rigon have raced together. Their best finish was fifth in 2017. Rigon was runner-up in GTE-Pro in 2015. Bird was third in LMP2 that same year.

#82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Sébastien Bourdais (14th), Jules Gounon (2nd), Olivier Pla (13th)
About This Team: The all-French lineup looks to get Risi Competizione its fourth Le Mans victory and first since 2009. Bourdais won in GTE-Pro in 2016 with Ford and he has five podium finishes at Le Mans. Pla was also with the Ford program, like Bourdais, for the last four years. Pla's only podium finish was runner-up in LMP2 in 2013. Gounon ran with Risi last year and was 11th in class. Gounon won the Bathurst 12 Hour earlier this year with Bentley.

#91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19
Drivers: Gianmaria Bruni (12th), Richard Lietz (14th), Frédéric Makowiecki (10th)
About This Team: Bruni and Lietz won the 2019-20 season opener at Silverstone over a year ago. Their only other podium finish was third at Shanghai. Bruni, Lietz and Makowiecki have been GTE-Pro runners-up at Le Mans the last two years. Lietz has three Le Mans class victories, last coming in 2013. Bruni has three Le Mans class victories, last coming in 2014. Makowiecki has zero Le Mans class victories.

#92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19
Drivers: Michael Christensen (6th), Kévin Estre (6th), Laurens Vanthoor (5th)
About This Team: The defending world champions Christensen and Estre are 19 points back in second. The #92 Porsche won the last race at Spa-Francorchamps and it has five runner-up finishes with a seventh in Bahrain. Vanthoor is currently second in the IMSA GT Le Mans championship. These three drivers won the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans two years ago. It is the only time each of these three drivers have stood on the Le Mans podium.

#95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR
Drivers: Marco Sørensen (6th), Nicki Thiim (7th), Richard Westbrook (10th)
About This Team: The #95 Aston Martin leads the World Endurance GT Drivers' championship on 127 points. Sørensen and Thiim have won three of six races and finished second at Spa-Francorchamps. Sørensen has not been on the podium at Le Mans, while Thiim's only trip was on debut in 2014 with victory in the GTE-Am class. This is the sixth consecutive year the Danes have paired. Westbrook had run the last four years with the Ford GT progam. He has two podium finishes at Le Mans, both thirds, one on debut in GT2 in 2010 and in GTE-Pro in 2016.

#97 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR
Drivers: Alex Lynn (4th), Maxime Martin (6th), Harry Tincknell (7th)
About This Team: Lynn and Martin have not finished worse than fourth this year. The problem is they have not finished better than third either with four trips to the podium this season. Lynn has never finished better than 12th in class at Le Mans. Martin's best Le Mans finish was seventh in class in his first two Le Mans starts, first in LMP1 and then in LMP2. Tincknell won on debut at Le Mans in 2014 with Jota Sport in LMP2. He ran the last four years with Ford and was runner-up in GTE-Pro in 2017.

#52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Steffan Görlig (1st), Christoph Ulrich (1st), Alexander West (1st)
About This Team: This lineup is competing full-time in European Le Mans Series this year and it has finishes of fifth, seventh and sixth through the first three races.

#54 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Francesco Castellacci (5th), Giancarlo Fisichella (11th), Thomas Flöhr (4th)
About This Team: The best finish for the #54 Ferrari this season was fifth at Bahrain. In ten Le Mans starts, Fisichella has two class victories, three runner-up finishes in class and a third in class. One of those runner-up finishes was with Castellacci and Flöhr in 2018.

#55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Duncan Cameron (4th), Matt Griffin (9th), Aaron Scott (3rd)
About This Team: The #55 Ferrari is currently third in the GTE class in the European Le Mans Series and this car won the most recent race, the Le Castellet 240. This is the first time Cameron, Griffin and Scott have driven together at Le Mans since 2016.

#56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Matteo Cairoli (4th), Egidio Perfetti (3rd), Larry Ten Voorde (1st)
About This Team: Perfetti was promoted to GTE-Am victory last year with Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey after the #85 Keating Motorsports Ford GT was disqualified. Ten Vorde ran two races in the sister Team Project 1 Porsche and won at Bahrain. Cairoli and Perfetti's best finish was third at Austin from pole position. Ten Voorde won the Porsche Supercup championship with three victories, six poidum finishes and finishing in the top five of all eight races. 

#57 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Jeroen Bleekemolen (15th), Felipe Fraga (2nd), Ben Keating (6th)
About This Team: Last year, these three were disqualified after winning the GTE-Am class for exceeding the permitted fuel capacity. Bleekemolen and Keating did win at Bahrain with Larry Ten Voorde. Fraga missed two races due to Stock Car Brasil commitments. This is Bleekemolen and Keating's sixth consecutive Le Mans together. 

#60 Irox Lynx Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Sergio Pianezzola (2nd), Paolo Ruberti (8th), Claudio Schiavoni (2nd)
About This Team: Pianezzola and Schiavoni are competing full-time in ELMS this year, but they are currently last in that class championship. Ruberti was runner-up in the GT2 class in his first two Le Mans starts in 2008 and 2009. Last year, he drove with ByKolles Racing in LMP1. 

#61 Luzich Racing 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Côme Ledogar (3rd), Oswaldo Negri, Jr. (2nd), Francesco Piovanetti (1st)
About This Team: Ledogar was fifth last year in class with Car Guy Racing. Negri, Jr.'s only Le Mans start was in 2016 with Michael Shank Racing in the LMP2 class. Negri, Jr. was ninth in class with Laurens Vanthoor and John Pew that year. Piovanetti and Negri, Jr. ran together in the Asian Le Mans Series and where fourth in the championship with three third-place finishes. 

#62 Red River Sport Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Bonamy Grimes (1st), Charles Hollings (1st), Johnny Mowlem (10th)
About This Team: Red River Sport has finished in eighth position four times this season and twice in tenth position. This is Mowlem's first Le Mans start since 2014. His only podium finish was on debut 20 years ago with David Murry and Sascha Maassen in the GT class.
#66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Richard Heistand (1st), Max Root (1st), Jan Magnussen (22nd)
About This Team: Heistand ran with AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus in the GT Daytona class last year and picked up two victories with co-driver Jack Hawksworth at Mid-Ohio and Belle Isle before finishing sixth in the championship. Root is currently leading the GT World Challenge America Am class championship driving for Wright Motorsports. Magnussen will make his first Le Mans appearance without Corvette Racing since he was second in the LMP900 class driving for Audi Sport Japan Team Goh in 2003. The only other manufacture Magnussen has driven for at Le Mans was Panoz from 1999 to 2002. 

#70 MR Racing Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Kei Cozzolino (2nd), Takeshi Kimura (2nd), Vincent Abril (2nd)
About This Team: MR Racing missed the most recent WEC race at Spa-Francorchamps and Abril will replace Olivier Beretta, who contested the first five races with Cozzolino and Kimura. Super Formula and Super GT driver Yuhi Sekiguchi was unable to drive this year due to quarantine restrictions. This team was third in the 2019-20 WEC season opener at Silverstone. 

#72 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Morris Chen (1st), Marco Gomes (1st), Tom Blomqvist (1st)
About This Team: Gomes won the Asian Le Mans Series GT championship with two runner-up finishes and victory in the finale at Buriram. Blomqvist spent 2019 with BMW Team RLL in IMSA, where his best finish was third at Petit Le Mans. He ran the final two Formula E races this season in Berlin. Chen has not competed since the 2019-20 ALMS season opener at Shanghai in November. 

#75 Irox Lynx Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Matteo Cressoni (3rd), Rino Mastronardi (1st), Andrea Piccini (5th)
About This Team: Piccini is running full-time with Pianezzola and Schiavoni in ELMS. Cressoni was in ELMS last year with JMW Motorsport and was third in the championship. He ran with Clearwater Racing at Le Mans last year, where he finished seventh in the GTE-Am class.

#77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Matt Campbell (3rd), Riccardo Pera (1st), Christien Ried (11th)
About This Team: The #77 Porsche's best finish this season was second at Spa-Francorchamps. Last year, Campbell and Reid had five victories in class and were fourth in class at Le Mans. Pera made two starts last season, finishing third Shanghai and winning at Spa-Francorchamps with Campbell and Ried. Ried is currently tied for the championship lead in the ELMS GTE class with Michele Beretta and Alessio Picariello with a victory in the season opener at Circuit Paul Ricard and second in the Le Castellet 240.

#78 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Michele Beretta (1st), Horst Felbermayr, Jr. (5th), Max van Splunteren (1st)
About This Team: Beretta is currently tied at the top of the ELMS GT championship with Christian Ried with a victory and a second in the two Circuit Paul Ricard races. Felbermayr, Jr. returns to Le Mans for the first time since 2011. He has only one finish in his first four Le Mans starts. Van Splunteren competed in Porsche Supercup and was sixth in the championship, top rookie, with a runner-up finish at Silverstone. He won the 2019 Porsche Carrera Cup Benelux championship. 

#83 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Emmanuel Collard (24th), François Perrodo (7th), Nicklas Nielsen (1st)
About This Team: After spending the last three years competing in the LMP2 class, Perrodo returns to GTE-Am and Collard returns to Le Mans for the first time since 2017. This car leads the Endurance Trophy fo GTE-Am Drivers' championship with 110 points after victories at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps. The #83 Ferrari has not finished worse than fourth this season. Nielsen won the ELMS GTE championship last year with Luzich Racing. Collard has two class victories at Le Mans, in 2003 with Alex Job Racing/Petersen Motorsports in GT and in 2009 with Team Essex and a Porsche RS Spyder in LMP2. Perrodo and Collard were second in this class with Rui Águas in 2016. Perrodo was third in LMP2 last year.

#85 Irox Lynx Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: Rahel Frey (3rd), Manuela Gostner (2nd), Michelle Gatting (2nd)
About This Team: These three are full-time in ELMS and they have a pair of third place finishes this season and are currently fourth in the championship. Last year, Frey, Gostner and Gatting were ninth in class at Le Mans. 

#86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Ben Barker (5th), Michael Wainwright (6th), Andrew Watson (1st)
About This Team: Gulf Racing was third in class at Bahrain, but the team's only other top five finish was fourth at Silverstone over a year ago. The best finish Barker and Wainwright have finished together at Le Mans was fifth in 2016.

#88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Dom Bastien (1st), Adrien de Leener (1st), Thomas Preining (2nd)
About This Team: Bastien could be set to take the record for oldest Le Mans competitor at 74 years and 295 days old. Jack Gerber is the current record-holder at 68 years and 110 days old. He has class victories in 24H Series races at Brno, Imola, Monza, Silverstone, Austin and the 24 Hours of Barcelona. Preining made five starts in WEC last year with Gulf Racing. De Leener has made three starts this year in the #88 Porsche with his best finish being ninth in class. He is also running in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup in the Silver Cup class with Dinamic Racing. Preining and de Leener raced together at Fuji, Bahrain and Austin.
#89 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: "Steve Brooks" (1st), Andreas Laskaratos (1st), Julien Piguet (1st)
About This Team: Laskaratos has competed primarily in LMP3 machinery across multiple series. Last year, he was 13th in the ELMS LMP3 championship with 360 Racing. His best finish was sixth. Piguet has competed regularly in the FFSA GT Championship. "Steve Brooks" has competed almost exclusively in historic racing.

#90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR
Drivers: Jonny Adam (5th), Charlie Eastwood (3rd), Salih Yoluç (4th)
About This Team: With three victories this season, TF Sport is second in the championship on 98 points, 12 points behind the #83 Ferrari. TF Sport was third at Spa-Francorchamps last month. Adam won at Le Mans in the GTE-Pro class in 2017. Eastwood and Yoluç have retired and finished 11th the last two years. 

#98 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR
Drivers: Paul Dalla Lana (8th), Ross Gunn (2nd), Augusto Farfus (4th)
About This Team: Dalla Lana and Gunn have three runner-up finishes this season along with a third. Dalla Lana has yet to stand on the podium at Le Mans. This is his first 24 Hours of Le Mans without Mathias Lauda as one of his co-drivers since 2014 and this will be his first time without Pedro Lamy as one of his co-drivers in his Le Mans career. Farfus' four Le Mans starts all came with the factory BMW effort in GT2/GTE-Pro. Farfus has won the 24 Hours of Daytona in the GT Le Mans class the last two years.

#99 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak (1st), Lucas Légeret (1st), Julien Andlauer (3rd)
About This Team: Porsche junior driver Andlauer was third in Porsche Supercup last year and won the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany championship. He won in GTE-Am two years ago with Matt Campbell and Christian Ried. Inhraphuvasak won the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia Pro-Am championship last year, where he picked up five class victories in 12 races. Légeret made his WEC debut at Spa-Francorchamps last month, where he finished fifth in class. Légeret has run in the European Le Mans Series LMP3 class the last three years. Last year, Légeret's team won three pole positions, but his best finish was fifth. He has one podium finish in three years.

Practice begins at 4:00 a.m. ET on Thursday September 17th with a three-hour session. After an hour break, another three-hour session will run from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. The first qualifying session will be at 11:15 a.m. At 4:00 p.m. ET, Thursday practice will conclude with a two-hour session. 

Friday will begin with a one-hour practice at 4:00 a.m. ET before the HyperPole session at 5:30 a.m. ET. 

Saturday warm-up will be at 4:15 a.m. ET and run for 45 minutes. 

The 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans will begin at 8:30 a.m. ET, a 90-minute earlier start than normal Le Mans years.