Welcome to Part 2 of my look at the GTE Am class of this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. The GTE Am class gets more competitive every year, and this year is no different. All 14 cars in this class can compete for a top five result at least, with at least a dozen in contention for the class victory. Let’s take a look at the second half of the GTE Am entry.
#68 Team AAI Porsche 911 991 RSR: Han Chen Chen/Gilles Vannelet/Mike Parisy
The second of the Team AAI entries in conjunction with Prospeed is the team’s newer 991 spec 911, the latest of the 911 model. Despite this entry having the latest Porsche 911, they will struggle to match the older #67 entry because of the driver line up.
The team’s bronze rated amateur driver is Han Chen Chen, as he will look to adapt to the Circuit de la Sarthe quickly on his debut. Partnering Chen will be the French and Blancpain GT regular Gilles Vannelet, who provides plenty of experience to this inexperienced team. Completing the line up is the team’s quickest driver, Mike Parisy. The Frenchman has a wealth of GT racing experience which will prove invaluable, along with the ability to be consistently quick throughout a stint.
Parisy will be leading the team during the race, and for this team to achieve a top eight result they need to have a good run throughout the race, and hope all three drivers are on form for Team AAI to achieve it’s potential. Watch out for Parisy to impress.
#72 SMP Racing Ferrari F458 Italia GTE: Viktor Shaitar/Andrea Bertolini/Aleksey Basov
The Russian SMP Racing team return to Le Mans this year, with a identical set up to last year. The team have clearly favoured returning with a proven package. The team has retained the same driver line up and Ferrari F458 Italia from last year, which may well give the team the edge they need.
So far this #72 entry has been a contender for class victory in the opening European Le Mans Series races, and the team will be hoping to continue this good form into the race. The two Russian drivers Victor Shaitar and Aleksey Basov are very good drivers who are a solid option for this team and will keep the car in one piece, with the on-loan Ferrari factory driver Andrea Bertolini providing the blinding speed for this entry.
The SMP team are supported by AF Corse, which means the preparation of this Ferrari will be top notch all week, which will leave the chances of a great result in the hands of the drivers. Bertolini is a seasoned pro with plenty of experience, so it will be down to Shaitar and Basov during the race. If they can perform consistently well in the race, expect to see this #72 Ferrari in the top three or top five in the final few hours, with a class podium a definite possibility. Maybe even a dark horse contender for a class victory.
#77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Dempsey/Patrick Long/Marco Seefried
The #77 entry is likely to be the highest profile entry in GTE Am, because of the star turn of hit American Grey’s Anatomy actor Patrick Dempsey in the driver line up. The team has once again joined up with the successful Proton Motorsport team, as the team returns to Le Mans in largely the same shape as last year.
The team’s preparations will be top notch, as they look for a good result after several years of trying at Le Mans. Patrick Dempsey is an ever improving semi-pro driver who will look to get close to his quick team mates. Porsche factory driver Patrick Long is a long time team mate of Dempsey, and will be phenomenally quick throughout the race. Completing the trio is the very quick German Marco Seefried, who has an abundance of GT racing experience to complement his blistering speed.
For this team a class win may be a little out of reach unless something unexpected occurs, although this team may be in the fight for class victory, with a class podium on the cards if this team can reach it’s potential during the 24 Hours.
#83 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia GTE: Francois Perrodo/Emmanuel Collard/Rui Aguas
AF Corse’s third and final entry in this GTE Am class is the #83 Ferrari, which based on current form this year has the best chance of their three entries at a class win or podium. This car is 2nd in the World Endurance Championship GTE Am standings, with two second places in the opening two races this season.
The AF Corse team are renowned for their standards of preparation, and the team’s driver line up is also one of the strongest in this class. Leading the line up will be former F1 test driver and Le Mans podium finisher Emmanuel Collard, who brings Le Mans experience from the last 20 years along with the blinding pace that brought him to the attention of F1 teams in the 1990’s.
Joining him at AF Corse is Collard’s protege Francois Perrodo, a successful businessman who took to sportscar racing in 2013. He’s been improving every year under Collard’s tutelage, and will look to keep improving in his third Le Mans 24 Hours. Completing the line up is the quick Portuguese racer Rui Aguas, who showed his pace in F3 and F3000 before switching to sportscar racing. Since then he’s raced in a variety of series, although has extensive GT and Le Mans experience.
This car will be very quick in the hands of Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas, the sticking point for this entry will be the pace of Francois Perrodo. If he can get close to his team mates pace, this car will be a definite contender for class victory barring any dramas during the race. Expect this car to be in the top three in the final hours if they can run trouble free.
#88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 991 RSR: Christian Reid/Khaled Al Qubaisi/Klaus Bachler
The second of the Proton racing entries falls under the Abu Dhabi racing banner, although much like the Dempsey racing entry will very much be run by the experience Proton team. The team have so far run in the top five consistently throughout the opening two WEC rounds, and will be hoping to improve on this at Le Mans.
The team has endless experience running Porsche’s at Le Mans, and the driving talent in this entry is enough to challenge for the class podium. Leading the line up will be the former Porsche junior driver Klaus Bachler, who showed well in his junior formula career before being picked up by Porsche. Despite being set free from their junior roster he is still a seriously quick GT driver with a very promising future ahead of him.
Christian Reid is a vastly experience German amateur driver, who has driven for the Proton racing team for several years now. He is an experienced driver who knows everything needed to keep the car running well at Le Mans. Completing the line up is the Emirati driver Khaled Al Qubaisi, who has shown well in previous sportscar races, and will look to show his pace in this year’s race.
The team are very well experienced, with the speed of Bachler and Al Qubaisi propelling this entry up the order, with Christian Reid bringing the experience needed for a good result. The team will be hoping to improve on their 2nd in class last year, although in a highly competitive GTE Am class this will be difficult this year. For this entry anything is possible.
#96 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Roald Goethe/Stuart Hall/Francesco Castellacci
The first of two works Aston Martin racing entries is this #96 entry, which has shown well so far this season in the World Endurance Championship. They have established themselves as solid top six team, and in the cut and thrust of the WEC this puts them in contention for a class podium at Le Mans.
Stuart Hall and Francesco Castellaci will lead this entry, with both being very quick professional GT drivers. Hall has been a long time Aston Martin driver, whilst Castellacci showing his pace with title success in the 2011 FIA European GT3 series. Completing the team’s line up is the German amateur Roald Goethe, who has extensive endurance experience and will be a solid complement to the very quick pace of Hall and Castellacci.
The team’s chances of a good result will partly rest on the shoulders of Goethe, as his pace will determine whether this car can remain in contention throughout the race. The rest should be routine for the highly professional works Aston Martin team and it’s professional drivers Stuart Hall and Francesco Castellacci. A class podium will be a great result for this team, and if any dramas occur ahead they may well get themselves into a class winning position come the final few hours.
#99 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Mathias Lauda
The #99 Aston Martin entry seems to have taken over the dominance of the departed #95 Dane Train entry, which has moved up to the GTE Pro class for this year. This #99 car has won both rounds of the WEC so far this season, and the team will be looking to continue it’s dominance at Le Mans.
The Aston Martin Vantage is a very quick GT car, and the team’s driver line up is arguably the best in the class this year. Former F1 driver and sportscar expert Pedro Lamy leads this line up, with the Austrian son of Niki Mathias Lauda new to this team for this year. So far he has showed he gained a lot of the genes from F1 world champion dad Niki, and has instantly showed his pace so far this year.
The Canadian amateur driver Paul Dalla Lana is the final piece in their line up, although he is one of the best amateurs in this class in terms of overall pace. Teamed with his experience in this car, and this should be the final piece in a very formidable entry. The team’s driver line up along with the works Aston Martin team behind them makes this car a favourite for class victory, with any result outside of a class podium surely being a disappointment to this team if they have a relatively clean run.
That wraps up my preview of the GTE Am class at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, and with 14 quality entries this class will be competitive throughout the race, especially in the final few hours. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this GTE Am class. Once again I have to say a huge thank you to Motorsport.com for these high quality photos in this blog post. I encourage everyone to go and visit their website http://www.Motorsport.com for all the latest news and photos around Le Mans.