The final review of mine for this year’s scintillating Le Mans 24 Hours comes from the GTE Am class. Although considered by many to the slowest of the four classes competing, this class provided some very entertaining battles throughout the 24 Hours. The cars this year were the same spec as the GTE Pro field, therefore with the professional drivers in the cars this class was troubling the more established GTE Pro runners.
#53 Ferrari F458 Italia: Johnny Mowlem/Mark Patterson/Archie Hamilton
For the RAM Racing team, the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours proved to be a solid if unspectacular week for them. The team’s driver line up was a contender for the best in class, yet some funding issues prevented the team from updating their Ferrari F458 to 2013 spec like many others in the class. The funding issues hurt more as they prevented the teaming entering the Spa 6 hours World Endurance Championship, a traditional warm-up for Le Mans.
In terms of results the team qualified in the midfield and the #53 entry was running solidly before some small problems hampered the team slightly as the race wore on. From here the drivers ran strong until the flag to come home 12th in a very competitive class, and 32nd overall. For most teams the minimum target is to finish the race, therefore this RAM entry can be proud of that, although they will be hoping to eliminate some of their problems for next year’s 24 Hours. A decent effort all round from the RAM Racing team.
#57 Ferrari F458 Italia: Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Ben Collins
The Krohn racing team came into Le Mans as the most under-prepared team, through no fault of their own, as they received a very late call up to the race only a few weeks before the 24 Hours. From this perspective the team performed admirably therefore to finish the race, finally coming home a remarkable 10th in class. The team suffered very few problems and the driving talent drove brilliantly to secure the finish for this American privateer team. Krohn have become a mainstay of the Le Mans GT classes, and many hope they will return once again in 2015.
Team Sofrev ASP:
#58 Ferrari F458 Italia: Fabien Barthez/Anthony Pons/Soheil Ayari
A lot of French media attention was centred on this new team and in particular it’s driver line-up pre-race, although the presence of a French World Cup winning Goalkeeper amongst the driving talent may have had something to do with that. This relatively new start up French GT team made a good first impression on the 24 Hours, as they performed a solid race and solidified a eventual 9th place finish in GTE Am by the finish, and 29th overall.
For this team, like many, a finish was probably the minimum expectation therefore to complete your first Le Mans 24 Hours is no mean feat. The driver line-up all had a stellar race too as they avoided all the action to secure the finish they so wanted. Many French fans will be hoping this team returns with the same line-up in 2015, as they all proved a hit this time around.
#60 Ferrari F458 Italia: Peter Mann/Lorenzo Case/Raffaele Giammaria
The #60 AF Corse entry was the first of four Ferrari F458 Italia’s that they were running in the GTE Am class alone. The team is the best European Ferrari GT team in the business, therefore it came down to the driver line-up to ensure a clean and fast run in the 24 Hours. The car qualified in the midfield and appeared to be holding a steady upper midfield spot in the race over the first few hours.
Unfortunately for the team, as the evening and night time drew in this car faltered, and was forced to retire after completing 115 laps. This was a disappointing end to what had been a good run so far for the #60 car. The team looked more than likely to have been fighting for a top 6 in class had it carried on going into the final hours. The AF Corse team will surely be back in GTE Am at Le Mans next year, hopefully they’ll retain this driver line-up for the #60 car too, so they can deliver on the promise they showed last weekend.
#61 Ferrari F458 Italia: Luis Perez Companc/Marco Cioci/Mirko Venturi
I predicted that of the four AF Corse GTE Am entries, this was the most likely to challenge for class honours, and that’s how it played out as the team had a reliable race, complimented by some very fast driving from all 3 drivers. The end result of this was a superb 3rd in class and 22nd overall, only 3 laps down on the winning #95 Aston Martin.
The team delivered on the results it’s shown in the WEC so far this year and will now be hoping they can continue their title winning credentials into the final few races of the WEC season. A definite challenger for GTE Am honours at Le Mans if this team returns unchanged in 2015.
#62 Ferrari F458 Italia: Howard Blank/Yannick Mallegol/Jean-Marc Bachelier
For this #62 AF Corse entry it seemed a reliable run to the finish would be the main target for the relatively inexperienced driver line-up as they learnt the track all week. The team lacked the ultimate pace to challenge for a top 6 in class, yet the team achieved their target as they completed the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Like I’ve said earlier, finishing Le Mans is no mean feat therefore the team can all be satisfied with their race, with their overall finishing position of 38th being of much less importance. It will be interesting to see the improvement in this team if they return in 2015, with many hoping they will come back for more.
#81 Ferrari F458 Italia: Sam Bird/Steve Wyatt/Michele Rugolo
This #81 entry have proven a huge contender for GTE Am victories in the opening WEC races, and it stole the early headlines in qualifying with a scintillating lap from Brit Sam Bird. The recent single seater convert defied his Am class status to set the pole lap in GTE Am, which was only bettered by a lap from the superstar #51 AF Corse GTE Pro line-up. This lap has surely now put him on the map in terms of a long term Sportscar career as I’m sure many teams sat up and took notice of his talents after qualifying.
After such a high with the class pole the race was continuing in a similar fashion as they battled for the class lead early on. From here things quickly went downhill for the team as Le Mans rookie Sam Bird was caught out in changeable conditions and ran into the back of a slow No3 Audi R18. The damage was extensive enough to force both cars into retirement early on, in what was hugely disappointing for both cars and they looked to challenge for their class victories. Nevertheless, the team showing amazing potential which will surely be fully utilized in the remaining WEC rounds this year.
#66 Ferrari F458 Italia: Spencer Pumpelly/Seth Neiman/Abdulaziz Al-Faisal
For this team, the link up with experienced American GT outfit Flying Lizard provided even more experience to this GT mainstay team. The team was hoping to make all this experience count pre-race. After qualifying in the midfield, the team went into the race still maintaining their hopes of a podium or top 5 finish in class. After a relatively trouble free run the team was able to count on it’s driver line-up to provide quick and consistent laps throughout the race.
This approach usually works at Le Mans and this year proved no different, as whilst the team lacked the last edge of pace to challenge for class victory, they were able to comfortably finish 7th in class and 27th overall. This team appears likely to return next year, and it would be nice to see Flying Lizard return as an outright team again next year too.
IMSA Performance Matmut:
#67 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Eric Helary/Erik Maris/Jean Marc-Merlin
For the highly experienced IMSA Performance Matmut team, this entry was targeting a clean and reliable run in the 24 Hours. Whilst the driver line-up contained hugely fast and experienced Sportscar racer Eric Helary, the other two drivers were unable to match his pace, probably due to their lack of experience at Le Mans in comparison to Helary.
Like many GTE Am team finishing appeared the first priority, something the team can be proud to say they accomplished, with a 13th in class and 34th overall. The IMSA team seems to return to Le Mans every year, and similarly to the #62 AF Corse Ferrari, it would be interesting to see the same line-up to return as I’m sure the improvement would be large from the 2 drivers alongside Eric Helary.
That’s it for the first half of my 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am review, Part 2 will be posted soon so stay tuned for it later today. I hope you enjoyed reading this and please feel free to comment, even if you think it’s terrible. All my contact details are in the contacts section of my blog so feel free to browse. Finally a huge thank you again to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality Le Mans photos, they truly are worth a browse for any motorsport fan. For now, Enjoy!