Wednesday, June 7, 2023

2023 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 Preview

While Hypercar is rightfully garnering attention, the largest class on the grid for the 91st 24 Hours of Le Mans will be LMP2. Twenty-four cars are entered in the pro-am prototype category with many notable drivers, from IMSA and DTM champions, past overall Le Mans winners, an Indianapolis 500 winner champion, a grand prix winner and plenty of other top tier drivers combined with some hopeful amateurs filling out the field. 

A dozen debutants are in the 72-driver LMP2 pool while nine drivers will be in double figures for Le Mans appearances in this class. 

#9 Prema Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Juan Manuel Correa (1st), Filip Ugran (1st), Bent Viscaal (2nd)
About This Team: Correa is splitting 2023 between Formula Two and LMP2 in WEC. He won the 2022 European Le Mans Series season finale at Portimão with Prema. Ugran is in his first year in sports cars. Viscaal spent last year in ELMS with Algarve Pro Racing and drove at Le Mans in LMP2 with ARC Bratislava. 
Test Day: 7th

#10 Vector Sport Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Gabriel Aubry (6th), Ryan Cullen (5th), Matthias Kaiser (1st)
About This Team: Bottom in WEC's LMP2 championship, Vector Sport's best result was ninth at Sebring. Aubry has not finished the last two years at Le Mans. Cullen's best class finish is 14th. Kaiser spent the previous two years competing in ELMS where his best finish was third on two occasions. 
Test Day: 9th

#13 Tower Motorsports Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: René Rast (5th), Ricky Taylor (9th), Steven Thomas (2nd)
About This Team: Tower Motorsports earned this spot after John Farano won IMSA's LMP2 championship. Unfortunately, Farano is missing this race after suffering an accident at Laguna Seca last month. Replace Farano is Thomas, who was in the top LMP2 pro-am entry last year. Taylor's best Le Mans result was fifth in class on debut in 2013 driving in GTE Am. Rast was second in LMP2 in 2016 with G-Drive Racing. Rast won two races last year in WEC driving for Team WRT.  
Test Day: 11th

#14 Nielsen Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Mathias Beche (9th), Ben Hanley (7th), Rodrigo Sales (2nd)
About This Team: Beche was third overall in 2018 and lost a third overall finish in 2017 after his Rebellion Racing entry was disqualified for illegally modified bodywork. Hanley and Sales drove together at Le Mans last year and were 16th in class. This trio is full-time in ELMS. 
Test Day: 20th

#22 United Autosports Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Filipe Albuquerque (10th), Philip Hanson (7th)), Frederick Lubin (1st)
About This Team: The LMP2 championship leaders, the #22 United Autosport entry won at Sebring and was second at Portimão. Albuquerque and Hanson won at Le Mans in LMP2 in 2020. Lubin is in his first sports car season. 
Test Day: 18th

#23 United Autosports Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Tom Blomqvist (3rd), Oliver Jarvis (12th), Josh Pierson (2nd)
About This Team: Portimão winners, Jarvis and Pierson are fourth in the championship and they were second at Spa-Francorchamps and started on pole position in two of the three races. They were sixth in class last year. Blomqvist won the 24 Hours of Daytona for the second consecutive year this January, though his Meyer Shank Racing was guilty of manipulating tire pressure sensors.
Test Day: 6th

#28 Jota Sport Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Pietro Fittipaldi (2nd), David Heinemeier Hansson (10th), Oliver Rasmussen (2nd)
About This Team: Fittipaldi made his Le Mans debut last year with Heinemeier Hansson as one of his co-drivers. Rasmussen was third in class last year on debut. Jota Sport has three Le Mans class victory, including last year. 
Test Day: 1st

#30 Duqueine Team Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: René Binder (5th), Neel Jani (13th), Nico Pino (1st)
About This Team: Duqueine leads the ELMS LMP2 championship. Jani won Le Mans overall in 2016 with Porsche. Binder's best class finish was eighth in 2019. Pino was runner-up in the ELMS LMP3 championship last year. He won three of six races. 
Test Day: 14th

#31 Team WRT Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Robin Frijns (3rd), Sean Gelael (3rd), Ferdinand Habsburg (4th)
About This Team: This team has finished sixth in all three races this WEC season after having won three times in WEC last season. Frijns and Habsburg won at Le Mans in LMP2 in 2021 on their way to the class championship. Habsburg was ELMS champion last year. Gelael was second in LMP2 at Le Mans in 2021 to Frijns and Habsburg. 
Test Day: 2nd

#32 Inter Europol Competition Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Anders Fjordbach (4th), Mark Kvamme (2nd), Jan Magnussen (25th)
About This Team: Fjordbach spent last year competing in IMSA full-time and had one podium finish. Kvamme made his Le Mans debut last year in a GTE Am entry. Magnussen returns after missing the 2022 race. He and Fjordbach were co-drivers in 2021 in LMP2 and were 17th in class. Magnussen has four class victories at Le Mans, the most recent in 2009.
Test Day: 24th

#34 Inter Europol Competition Oreca-Gibson    
Drivers: Albert Costa (1st), Fabio Scherer (4th), Jakub Śmiechowski (5th)
About This Team: With two third-place finishes this season, the #34 Oreca is sixth in the championship. This is Costa's first year in prototypes after success in GT racing. Scherer has not won since 2021. Šmiechowski has not won in LMP2 competition, a class he has regularly competed in since 2019. 
Test Day: 17th

#35 Alpine Elf Team Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Olli Caldwell (1st), André Negrão (7th), Memos Rojas (8th)
About This Team: Negrão has four class podium finishes in six Le Mans appearances, including third overall in 2021. His worst class finish is fifth. Rojas' best class finish is fifth. This team's best finish in WEC competition this season was eighth at Spa-Francorchamps. 
Test Day: 4th

#36 Alpine Elf Team Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Julien Canal (14th), Charles Milesi (4th), Matthieu Vaxivière (7th)
About This Team: Canal won in class his first three years at Le Mans. He hasn't won since but he has three more class podium finishes, including third in 2020 with Vaxivière in LMP2. Milesi won in LMP2 in 2021 with Team WRT. 
Test Day: 5th

#37 Cool Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Alexandre Coigny (2nd), Malthe Jakobsen (1st), Nicolas Lapierre (16th)
About This Team: Jakobsen won the ELMS LMP3 championship last year with Cool Racing. Lapierre has four class victories at Le Mans, all in LMP2. Lapierre drove for Cool Racing in 2020 with Coigny as one of his co-drivers. They were eighth in class. 
Test Day: 13th

#39 Graff Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Giedo van der Garde (6th), Roberto Lacorte (6th), Patrick Pilet (15th)
About This Team: Van der Garde won at Portimão with United Autosports filling in for Blomqvist who had IMSA responsibilities. Van der Garde has never finished better than seventh in class at Le Mans. This is Lacorte's first Le Mans appearance without Giorgio Sernagiotto as one of his co-drivers, and Lacorte has also never finished better than seventh in class at Le Mans. This is Pilet's fourth Le Mans start in LMP2. Pilet has two class podiums at Le Mans but he has yet to win on Circuit de la Sarthe.
Test Day: 23rd

#41 Team WRT Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Rui Andrade (3rd), Louis Delétraz (4th), Robert Kubica (3rd)
About This Team: The most recent WEC winners in LMP2, Team WRT is second in the championship. Delétraz has won the ELMS championship the previous two years and won this year's ELMS season opener overall at Barcelona. He and Kubica were runner-up in this class last year at Le Mans with Prema Racing. 
Test Day: 16th

#43 DKR Engineering Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Maxime Martin (8th), Tom van Rompuy (1st), Ugo de Wilde (1st)
About This Team: Martin is making his first LMP2 appearance since 2013. He won in 2020 in GTE Pro with Aston Martin. That is his only top five class finish at Le Mans. De Wilde spent 2022 racing in LMP2 in ELMS. Van Rompuy spent much of the last two seasons competing in ELMS' LMP3 class.
Test Day: 22nd

#45 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: James Allen (6th), Colin Braun (2nd), George Kurtz (1st)
About This Team: Sixteen years after making his Le Mans debut, Braun is back for his sophomore appearance. Braun was second in GT2 that year driving with Tracy Krohn and Niclas Jönsson. He was only 18 years old. Braun and Kurtz have been co-drivers in IMSA LMP3 competition and in GT World Challenge America. Allen won the 24 Hours of Daytona in LMP2 this past January with Proton Competition, defeating Kurtz's team in a photo finish. 
Test Day: 19th

#47 Cool Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Reshad de Gerus (2nd), Vladislav Lomko (1st), Simon Pagenaud (5th)
About This Team: De Gerus and Lomko compete with Toyota's José María López in ELMS competition. They were fourth in the Barcelona season opener. Pagenaud is making his first Le Mans appearance since he was second overall in 2011 driving for Peugeot with Sébastien Bourdais and Pedro Lamy as his co-drivers. 
Test Day: 3rd

#48 IDEC Sport Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Paul-Loup Chatin (9th), Laurents Hörr (2nd), Paul Lafargue (7th)
About This Team: This is the sixth consecutive year Chatin and Lafargue are co-drivers at Le Mans. They have finished fifth, sixth, sixth and eighth in class the last four years. They won at Monza last year in ELMS. Hörr made his Le Mans debut last year but he raced primarily in LMP3 competition until the start of this season.
Test Day: 12th

#63 Prema Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Mirko Bortolotti (2nd), Daniil Kvyat (1st), Doriane Pin (1st)
About This Team: Runner-up at Sebring, the #63 Oreca is fifth in the championship. After making his Le Mans debut last year, Bortolotti is full-time in LMP2 this year in companionship with his Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters role. Kvyat is full-time in sports cars after sampling NASCAR last year. Pin ended 2022 as a GTE class winner in ELMS and has quickly adapted to LMP2 racing. 
Test Day: 21st

#65 Panis Racing Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Tijmen van der Helm (2nd), Manuel Maldonado (2nd), Job van Uitert (5th)
About This Team: The Panis Racing entry was runner-up in LMP2 at the ELMS season opener at Barcelona. Van der Helm made his IMSA GTP debut at Laguna Seca last month with the JDC-Miller Motorsports Porsche. Maldonado returns to prototypes after racing in LMP2 in 2021. he spent last year in GT3 competition. Van Uitert was sixth in class on his Le Mans debut in 2019, still his best finish in the race. 
Test Day: 15th

#80 AF Corse Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Ben Barnicoat (3rd), Norman Nato (6th), François Perrodo (11th)
About This Team: Barnicoat spent the previous two years racing in GTE Am at Le Mans. Prior to 2023, his only LMP2 experience was the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series season driving for Carlin. Nato was second overall in 2020. His best finish in LMP2 is tenth. Perrodo won the GTE Am class in 2021. Last year, he was 19th in class in his third LMP2 start in the race. 
Test Day: 10th

#923 Racing Team Turkey Oreca-Gibson
Drivers: Tom Gamble (2nd), Dries Vanthoor (4th), Salih Yoluç (5th)
About This Team: The winners of the 2023 ELMS season opener at Barcelona, Yoluç is the only carry over from that entry. Yoluç's most recent Le Mans appearance was 2020 when he won in GTE Am. He also won the Asian Le Mans Series championship earlier this year. Gamble's only time at Le Mans was 2021 in GTE Am with GR Racing. Vanthoor won on debut in 2017 in GTE Am, and he is a three-time defending GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup champion.
Test Day: 8th

Practice for the 24 Hours of Le Mans opens today at 8:00 a.m. ET and will last for three hours. Qualifying practice will be for one-hour at 1:00 p.m. ET with night practice lasting two hours and beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET. 

Thursday begins with a three-hour practice at 9:00 a.m. ET. Hyperpole qualifying will take place at 2:00 p.m. ET before a one-hour night practice at 4:00 p.m. ET. 

There will be a 15-minute warm-up at 6:00 a.m. ET on Saturday June 10 with the 91st 24 Hours of Le Mans beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET.