2017 Total Spa 24 Hours Pro Cup Preview Part 4

This is the fourth and final portion of my Pro Cup class preview for this weekend’s greatly anticipated Spa 24 Hours.  Let’s take a look at the final seven entries from the huge 37 car Pro Cup class this year.

#88 Mercedes AMG Team AKKA ASP Mercedes AMG GT3: Felix Serralles/Dani Juncadella/Tristan Vautier

The French AKKA ASP team are another Mercedes factory assisted team and this #88 entry is their premier entry in this hugely competitive Pro Cup class. The team finished a very good 4th last time out in what is known as the warm up for the Spa 24 Hours. The team will therefore hope their confidence is well founded come Sunday afternoon.

On the driving front Mercedes factory driver Dani Juncadella has took to GT cars like a duck to water after switching from the DTM series. He is proving why he was a former European F3 champion and is very quick behind the wheel of a SLS.

Tristan Vautier is very quick in GT cars and is an underrated talent at this level despite a successful American open wheel racing career. Felix Serralles is another former single seater racer who has brought his considerable speed to GT racing, showing this consistently in his first season at this level.

#90 AKKA ASP Mercedes AMG GT3: Michael Meadows/Raffaele Marciello/Edoardo Mortara

The second of the AKKA ASP Mercedes entries may not have factory support, however this car is just as strong as it’s other entry. The team have established themselves and with such a strong driver lineup they can potentially win this race. Their results have been better in the Sprint Cup, although this is unclear why as their third driver is of the highest quality.

The stand out driver is the Italian Raffaele Marciello, who was a high profile addition to the team after he switched from GP2 to GT racing this season. He has proven very quick and consistent and is a great addition to the team. Brit Michael Meadows is an underrated GT driver who anchors this lineup, with Mercedes DTM racer Edoardo Mortara the strongest possible third driver they could have added to the team.

#98 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3: Bruno Spengler/Nick Catsburg/Tom Blomqvist

The German ROWE racing outfit are the top ranking BMW team in this series, and will be hoping for a repeat victory after last years success. The team return with two strong entries again and this #98 car will be hoping to turn their season around after a difficult build up to Spa.

On the driving front the team utilizes the talents of DTM racer Bruno Spengler, someone who is both quick and experienced in an M6 which seems ideally suited to the Spa circuit. Nick Catsburg has developed his reputation as a under the radar talent at this level thanks to his performances in this race over the past several years, something he will be keen to repeat this time out. Tom Blomqvist is another DTM standout who is prodigiously fast and leaves the team with seemingly no weaknesses going into the weekend.

#99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3: Alex Sims/Maxime Martin/Philipp Eng

In the #99 it’s the case of if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. The squad were victorious in a hugely competitive lead battle last year, and will be looking for a another win in the Ardennes. The team currently have only one top ten in three endurance rounds, however they will still have some quiet optimism going into race week.

Alex Sims has established himself now as a BMW factory driver and is on a good run of form in the IMSA WeatherTech series recently. Switching back to the GT3 car will hopefully not change his recent run. Maxime Martin is a local legend of the race and finally won last year after many years of trying, he is seriously quick and knows this track as well as anyone else on the grid. Philipp Eng is a regular in the series and knows this M6 GT3 very well, with all three very quick around this circuit as they proved last year.

#114 Emil Frey Racing Jaguar G3: Christian Klien/Jonathan Hirschi/Marco Seefried

This privately run Emil Frey racing team have in recent seasons added a second Jaguar to their entry, and last year surprised a lot of people by running well in the opening hours before mechanical ailments hobbled them. This year they have again shown flashes in the endurance rounds, without putting it all together to achieve a top result they deserve.

In terms of driving talent the team have three very good drivers, with ex-F1 racer Christian Klien the high profile signing. He’s a very quick driver at this level and along with the very talented Marco Seefried anchors this lineup. Jonathan Hirschi has a lot of sportscar experience and can be trusted to keep the car out the trouble, whilst running very quick lap times.

#117 KUS Team75 Bernhard Porsche 911 GT3-R: Laurens Vanthoor/Kevin Estre/Michael Christensen

Porsche at the last minute announced this much anticipated factory assisted entry for Spa, and the team are clearly here to try and win the race. They topped the pre-race test and have assembled a very strong team for the race. The only possible unknown is how the Timo Bernhard led outfit will handle the step up from ADAC GT Masters to Blancpain.

The team have three Porsche factory drivers for the race, with Laurens Vanthoor the most experienced in this race. He has driven here for the WRT Audi team a lot and his knowledge of the track at this level will be invaluable to the team. Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen are both very quick factory drivers who will need next to no time to get up to speed with the rest.

That wraps up my previews looking at the Pro Cup class for the Spa 24 Hours. I hope you enjoyed reading this and any feedback would be greatly appreciated in the comments section below. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95 and the first portion of my preview of the Pro-Am class will be online very soon!

2017 Total Spa 24 Hours Pro Cup Preview Part 3

This is part three of my preview of the Pro Cup class at this weekend’s Spa 24 Hours.  The 37 car strong Pro Cup entry is almost half of the entire 64 car grid, and will be a closely fought battle for the entire 24 hours. Let’s take a look at the third portion of this class entry.

#55 Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari 488 Italia GT3: Giancarlo Fisichella/James Calado/Marco Cioci

This #55 Kaspersky Motorsport, AF Corse run team had plenty of expectation, with Ferrari’s first foray into the Pro Cup in Blancpain. Going into the Spa weekend the team have so far only shown flashes of their full potential however. A 4th at Monza, a Ferrari friendly circuit, is their best so far and this just shows how competitive the series is in 2017.

On the driving front all three drivers need no introduction. Giancarlo Fisichella was a long established F1 racer before making the switch to GT cars seamlessly. James Calado abandoned a promising single seater career to join Ferrari and has now established himself as one of the best GT drivers in the world behind the wheel of the 488. Marco Cioci is a long established Ferrari GT specialist and with such a strong team this team will be hoping for the victory come Sunday afternoon.

#58 Strakka Racing McLaren 650S GT3: Come Ledogar/Rob Bell/Ben Barnicoat

This #58 entry is another car which has perhaps slightly under performed this season in comparison with the outside expectation going into the year. The team will hope this can be rectified for Spa, however it may prove tough for the team to consistently match the pace of their rivals thanks to the tyres.

All three drivers are seriously quick with Come Ledogar and Rob Bell  are already very experienced McLaren GT drivers who are as fast as anyone else in this series. Ben Barnicoat is another promising single seater driver who made the leap across to sportscar racing, so far he has shown well despite the car not running at the front much this season.

#59 Strakka Racing McLaren 650S GT3: Andrew Watson/Jazeman Jaafar/Pieter Schothorst

McLaren’s struggles this season are being exacerbated in this #59 entry, as they have really struggled to match the pace in a series where one second frequently covers the top 20.

29th so far is the teams best result although in a one-off race such as Spa prior form is not so much of a factor going into the race. Andrew Watson is one of the young drivers McLaren is grooming to be a top line GT racer, and so far he is showing well in his third season with the team.

Jazeman Jaafar showed promise in single seaters and so far shown similar flashes in GT racing.  Dutch racer Pieter Schothorst is a last minute replacement for Dean Stoneman, who has stepped aside for an unknown reason. He has been racing a WRT Audi up to this point and how quickly he adapts to the 650S will play a huge factor in how this car performs.

#63 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Mirko Bortolotti/Christian Engelhart/Andrea Caldarelli

The Grasser team have unlocked something in the Lamborghini Huracan that has put them in a class of their own for large portions of this season. The team have secured two out of the three Blancpain Endurance wins so far and will be hoping to make it three out of four in the center piece race of the season.

Regular drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart currently lead the points standings and both are very quick racers, with Bortolotti in particular really impressing this season with his overall speed both in qualifying and races. Japan based racer Andrea Caldarelli has shown well in the Endurance rounds and in overall terms this has been the best overall package in Blancpain this season.

#66 Attempto Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Mikael Grenier/Jaap Van Lagen/Christopher Zoechling

The Attempto racing team have struggled, like every other Lamborghini team, to match the pace that GRT Grasser have unlocked from the Huracan. They have flown under the radar so far this season, something they will look to change at Spa.

Mikael Grenier is a quick young Canadian driver who is rebuilding his career after a two year break from the sport. Spa is his debut at this level, and in such a high profile race he may struggle to match the pace of his rivals. Jaap Van Lagen brings some experience to the car, although he has not driven the Huracan this season so may need some time in free practice to adjust to the car and find it’s limits.

Austrian Christopher Zoechling has provided some solid showings at this level after stepping up for the full season after some good performances in the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany.

#72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 Italia GT3: Victor Shaytar/Miguel Molina/Davide Rigon

This SMP Racing entry has so far been the best placed of the many Ferrari entries this season. The AF Corse assisted team have three top five finishes in the Blancpain Endurance season, including a second place last time out at Paul Richard.

Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina are both very quick Ferrari factory drivers, who can provide blisteringly quick lap times stint after stint. Joining them is Russian silver driver Victor Shaytar, who has been very impressive this season as he’s held his own against much more accomplished drivers in the Pro Cup class. Watch out for this car as a contender for victory.

#75 ISR Audi R8 LMS: Filipe Albuquerque/Clemens Schmid/Filip Salaquarda

The Czech ISR Audi team have been mainstays in Blancpain and this season are producing some good results which are going largely unnoticed so far. The team will be boosted this weekend with Audi factory backing, which is bound to help the team possibly achieve their best result of the season.

Audi factory driver Filipe Albuquerque is a very quick racer who has plenty of experience in the GT3 spec R8 LMS. He will lead the driver line up, with his co-drivers both likely to improve their pace this weekend under his guidance.

Clemens Schmid is improving in his second Blancpain season, although has found the step up from being a double Carrera Cup Middle East champion understandably tough. Silver ranked Filip Salaquarda has been a mainstay of the family run ISR team throughout his racing career, and is showing some good form after several years in the series. A 4th in one of the Sprint Cup rounds at Zolder shows he is quick enough to match most other drivers in this class.

#76 Audi Sport Team ISR Audi R8 LMS: Pierre Kaffer/Kelvin Van Der Linde/Frank Stippler

This #76 entry is the one with the Audi factory backing for Spa, which brings it’s own good and bad points. The team receiving a full factory support package will elevate the ISR team for the race, however the fact this team have only competed in the Paul Richard race will mean they may be still experiencing niggling problems during the race week.

Frank Stippler has been racing for the team all season and is a very quick and consistent driver at this level, exactly what you need for a 24 hour sprint race. Pierre Kaffer is massively experienced and despite not racing in the series this season will need only a few laps to get up to speed. South African Kelvin Van Der Linde is a rising star in GT racing and is already a ADAC GT Masters champion despite only being 21. He has a big future in sportscars and makes up a very strong ISR Audi entry.

#84 Mercedes AMG HTP Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3: Jimmy Eriksson/Maxi Buhk/Frank Perera

This Mercedes backed HTP Motorsport entry has been one of the very few cars to consistently challenge the GRT Grasser #63 Lamborghini for the season, looking very strong despite a DNF at the last round at Paul Richard. This team has been very strong all season and don’t expect that to change at Spa.

Maxi Buhk anchors this lineup and is a very quick GT racer. He is a former Spa 24 Hours winner and has a great chance to add a second victory to his CV. Frank Perera has been a revelation since signing for the team this season, showing remarkable pace over a stint and adding something extra to the team. Swede Jimmy Eriksson has shown some good pace after switching across from GP2, and looks to be a very good young driver at this level in the coming years.

#85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3: Edward Sandstrom/Fabian Schiller/Dominik Baumann 

For this #85 HTP Motorsport entry they have spent the season in the shadow of their sister #84 car, as they have struggled to match their pace over a race distance. The team are arguably the best Mercedes GT3 team on the planet and with a good driver trio a top ten result is possible for this team.

Edward Sandstrom moved across from Audi and has so far found the transition tough, with 37th the cars best result in the Endurance rounds this season. Sandstrom has experience at this level and can be trusted to bring the car back in one piece, which is crucial in a 24 hour race.

Fabian Schiller has stepped up to Blancpain this season after a successful year in the Renault Megane Trophy last season, but the step up to Blancpain has not been anywhere near as successful so far. Austrian Dominik Baumann will likely lead the trio, as he is coming off a very successful 2016 season in which he finished 2nd in the Endurance series and 3rd in the Sprint Cup. He is a very talented young racer who will likely remain a name mentioned a lot in this series in coming years.

This wraps up part three of my preview of the huge Pro Cup class for the upcoming Spa 24 Hours. I hope you enjoyed this preview and any feedback would be hugely appreciated in the comments section below. The fourth and final preview post will be online very soon so stay tuned and a huge thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

2017 Total Spa 24 Hours Pro Cup Preview Part 2

This is the second portion of my preview of the hugely talented Pro Cup class for this weekend’s Spa 24 Hours. The first part can be viewed here and without further ado I think it’s time to preview some of the entries.

#14 Emil Frey Jaguar Racing Jaguar G3: Lorenz Frey/Stephane Ortelli/Albert Costa

The two Emil Frey Jaguar entries are both paddock and fan favorites, with the Emil Frey doing a remarkable job in turning the car into a reliable and very quick GT3 car without any factory support from Jaguar.

The team have shown flashes of promise all season but have yet to pull it all together to gain the result they likely deserve. They showed well last year before reliability issues and avoiding these will be key to the team finally showing the true potential of the Jaguar.

Stephane Ortelli is a very quick and established talent, perfect to lead this team. Albert Costa is an underrated driver at this level who is very quick over a stint. Completing their trio is Lorenz Frey, an ever improving silver who is consistent however lacks the ultimate pace across his stints in the car.

#17 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS: Stuart Leonard/Jamie Green/Jake Dennis

This #17 is an amalgamation of several Team WRT Sprint cup drivers, with silver ranked Stuart Leonard in particular impressing this season. He has developed into a very quick and consistent driver at this level, as evidenced by his fifth in the current Blancpain GT rankings.

Brit F3 convert Jake Dennis is improving every race weekend, with two top ten results in his last two races. Audi DTM racer Jamie Green completes this all British line-up, and for this entry they’ve been on an upward trend with a sixth at the last race at Paul Richard boding well for Spa, a circuit the Audi R8 always goes well at.

#19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Ezequiel Perez Companc/Rolf Ineichen/Raffaele Giammaria

The Grasser racing team have shown this year that they have made significant step forward with the Huracan, but unfortunately it’s the teams other entry that has been taking the wins instead of this car.

Raffaele Giammaria heads the driving talent, someone who is very experienced and quick at this level after switching across from single seaters over a decade ago.  Ezequiel Perez Companc and Rolf Ineichen are both solid drivers for this entry and will provide some consistently quick times throughout the race, although they will have yet to show this season that they can consistently run at the front like their team mates.

#22 Motul Team RJN Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3: Matt Simmons/Matt Parry/Struan Moore

This RJN Nissan team are another paddock and fan favorite, with the GT-R still proving competitive despite being in the last year of it’s performance cycle. The team have been on the edges of the top ten on a number of occasions this season, although in the past Spa has not played to all of the GT-R’s strengths.

Matt Parry and Struan Moore are both recent single seater converts with good pedigree, Parry having finished 9th in GP3 last year and Moore eighth in the 2015 Japanese F3 series. Parry has impressed in his first season in GT racing, whilst Moore is adapting to the GT-R much better than the McLaren 650S after a difficult first season in Blancpain last year. 2015 GT Academy winner Matt Simmons completes the lineup and is a very good racer considering two years ago he was racing solely on his Playstation.

#23 Motul Team RJN Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3: Alex Buncombe/Lucas Ordonez/Katsumasa Chiyo

This #23 car is the more established entry amongst the Nissan team, with the car proving competitive now for a number of seasons in Blancpain. The team that won the 2015 Blancpain Endurance series have found results slightly tougher to come by in the recent two seasons as their competition keep improving.

A fifth at Paul Richard last time out bodes well for Spa, however the French is one more suited to the Nissan’s top end pace than Spa is. The driver trio of Alex Buncombe, Lucas Ordonez and Katsumasa Chiyo are well established at this level. All three are very quick and consistent driver who epitomize the Pro Cup class of the Blancpain series.

#25 Audi Sport Team Sainteloc Audi R8 LMS: Markus Winkelhock/Christopher Haase/Jules Gounon

This year Audi revealed a statement of intent in the buildup to the race as they announced that French Sainteloc and the Czech ISR team would join WRT as Audi factory supported entries. This #25 entry from Sainteloc therefore has a roster filled with top line Audi GT drivers. The team scored a top ten at Paul Richard and will be hoping they can improve upon that at Spa.

One time F1 racer Markus Winkelhock has been an Audi factory driver for a number of years and has always lived up to that billing in Blancpain. Christopher Haase is another very quick Audi factory driver, who has won everything from the ADAC GT Masters to FIA GT3 European Championship and Nurburgring 24 Hours in his career. Jules Gounon is a recent GT racing convert who impressed with third in the highly competitive ADAC GT Masters last season. He has shown well racing internationally in the IMSA series and looks a very exciting prospect for the coming seasons.

#27 Orange1 Team Lazarus Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Nicolas Pohler/Fabrizio Crestani/Luca Filippi 

The Orange1 Team Lazarus team have found the switch to Blancpain a struggle this season, with 14th their best so far in the opening rounds. The Italian team have a good pedigree in Lamborghini Super Trofeo and formerly GP2, therefore it’s only a matter of time before they find the sweet spot with the Huracan, much like the GRT Grasser team have.

On driving duties it’s former FIA European F3 racer Nicolas Pohler, who has proved consistent although has yet to show the blinding pace that would grab the attention of team bosses across the paddock. Italian

Fabrizio Crestani is in his first year of GT racing after a fragmented single seater career, and will only get better with every race weekend as he learns the intricacies of the Huracan. Former Indycar racer Luca Filippi completes the lineup, after a disappointing season that saw him dropped from his Attempto Racing driver after the opening round, only joining this team in time for Paul Richard. How quickly he adapts to the Huracan will prove a big factor in this teams fortunes in the race.

#43 Strakka Racing McLaren 650S GT3: Jonny Kane/David Fumanelli/Sam Tordoff

Before the season there will have been quiet optimism surrounding the Strakka McLaren team, as the former WEC LMP2 runners Strakka took over the factory McLaren effort. It appears however that the new spec Pirelli tyre for the Blancpain series just doesn’t seem to suit the McLaren, with the team struggling to find the results they did last season.

A best result of 11th is not what the team was hoping for, but it’s certainly not because of the driving talent. Jonny Kane is a very experienced and quick sportscar driver and long time Strakka favorite, whilst Sam Tordoff has adapted well to the McLaren after years in the BTCC. Italian David Fumanelli is another quick young driver who along with everyone else is maximizing the McLaren package right now.

#48 Mann Filter HTP Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3: Kenneth Heyer/Indy Dontje/Patrick Assenheimer

This #48 HTP Motorsport entry will definitely stand out at Spa, with the fluorescent yellow and green Mann filter livery seeing to that. On track the team have struggled however to stand out like their livery, having yet to score a point with 14th their best Blancpain result.

Indy Dontje has found the adaptation to GT racing a struggle since finished 3rd in the German F3 Series in 2014. He can relied upon to deliver a consistent stint but has yet to show the last tenths of pace that decide the top twenty in this series.

Kenneth Heyer has shown his speed with success in the 24 Hours series last season, but so far has struggled to produce similar results in Blancpain. Patrick Assenheimer is another driver who has shown talent in regional series such as the ADAC GT Masters, but much like his two team mates has struggled to replicate it in this series this season.

#50 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 Italia GT3: Pasin Lathouras/Michele Rugolo/Alessandro Pier Guidi

This AF Corse supported Spirit of Race team have shown they are contenders in this series this season. with two top six finishes in the opening two Endurance rounds. The team could prove an outside contender for the victory, although in the past the Ferrari entries have often qualified faster than they’ve raced.

Pasin Lathouras is an ever improving am driver, who despite still not quite being able to match his team mates has proven very quick in this car. Both team mates Michele Rugolo and Alessandro Pier Guidi are very quick Ferrari GT drivers who are amongst the fastest in the world in a 488 Italia. They will anchor the car throughout the race and keep the team at the front unless reliability hobbles the car.

This wraps up the second part of my Pro Cup class preview for the upcoming Spa 24 Hours. I would like to thank anyone reading this and the third installment of my previews will be posted very shortly. Stay tuned!

2017 Total Spa 24 Hours Pro Cup Preview Part 1

The Spa 24 Hours began only a month after the Le Mans 24 Hours, but throughout its history has struggled to match the Sarthe for mass appeal. The race has developed and grown from a touring car event into the unofficial GT3 world championship. Since moving to the GT3 platform in 2011 the race has thrived with every year seeing an increase in the quality and quantity of the entry.

This year is no different, with a staggering 66 cars set to compete on the 7km circuit throughout the 24 hours. The top level Pro cup sees an incredible 36 entries, and ten different manufactures, with almost all having some form of factory support, competing fiercely for the win.  In a series of blog posts I will be previewing the upcoming race, with this being the first post looking at a portion of the incredible Pro cup entry.

#00 Good Smile Racing & Team UKYO Mercedes AMG GT3: Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka/Kamui Kobayashi 

The Japanese Super GT team embark on their maiden assault on the Spa 24 Hours, something that will not prove easy despite having a very strong team. The Goodsmile  team are very successful in the GT3 spec GT300 class in recent years. The team and their regular driver line-up have won the class in 2011 and 2014, and they could not have added a higher quality driver to complete their trio.

The regular season pairing of Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka have been competing together since 2012 and won the class in 2014, with Taniguchi making a name for himself in the world of D1 drifting.

Team mate Tatsuya Kataoka a similarly talented driver who has come up  through the single seater ranks before switching across to GT racing.Completing the line-up is factory Toyota LMP1 and former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi. He’s a seriously quick driver and despite having never driven a GT3 car before he should provide some quick times in the car. For this team a top ten or fifteen result would be a huge achievement in such a highly competitive field.

#1 Audi Team WRT Audi R8 LMS: Antonio Garcia/Nico Muller/Rene Rast

The #1 entry was the most successful of the Audi entries at the preceding Paul Richard six hours last month, and amongst a very strong Team WRT Audi stable any of their pro cup entries could win this race.

The Audi R8 appears to have been disadvantaged by the new spec Pirelli tyre, aside from a dominant double victory in the two Sprint cup rounds at Zolder. The Belgian team however always manage to put themselves in contention in Belgium’s most famous GT race.

Nico Muller is a very quick factory Audi DTM driver with experience in this race, and factory Corvette racing driver Antonio Garcia adapted well to both the car and the team last time out in France. The trio is completed by double Spa 24 winner Rene Rast, and this team are definite contenders for the win if they can remain trouble free.

#2 Audi Team WRT Audi R8 LMS: Conor de Filippi/Christopher Mies/Frederic Vervisch

The WRT Audi team are factory supported and have a huge arsenal of entries for their highlight of the season. The #2 entry is another contender for the victory in this hugely competitive pro cup class entry.

Conor de Filippi and Christopher Mies are well versed as successful team mates, having won the German ADAC GT Masters title together last year and only several months ago they won a dramatic Nurburgring 24 Hours. Frederic Vervisch is another Audi factory driver who can deliver a very quick consistent stint.

To discount any WRT Audi at the GT3 level is a mistake but this entry in particular will be one of the pre-race favorites amongst their massive stable.

#4 Black Falcon Mercedes AMG GT3: Adam Christodolou/Yelmer Buurman/Luca Stolz

The Black Falcon outfit have established themselves as one of the leading Mercedes teams at this level, much like rivals WRT are for Audi. These three have been the full season Blancpain Endurance triumvirate this season, and despite a difficult start to the season the strength of this team and its drivers means you cannot read too much into their results this season.

Mercedes factory driver Adam Christodolou is a former Nurburgring 24 Hours winner and deserves the respect that comes with being a Merc factory driver. Dutchman Yelmer Buurman is a former single seater hotshoe who has now established himself an an excellent GT driver in a Mercedes in particular. German Luca Stolz has risen from the German sportscar ranks to reach the Blancpain level and has so far established himself as a very good driver at this level.

#5 WRT Audi R8 LMS: Marcel Fassler/Dries Vanthoor/Andre Lotterer

This season so far has been slightly underwhelming in comparison with their usual very high levels of success. This #5 entry has been up there with the best WRT Audi’s in Blancpain this year, yet they have struggled for consistently top line results in such a highly competitive series.

Audi LMP1 refugee Marcel Fassler has adapted well to the R8 LMS GT3 car this season along with team mate Dries Vanthoor, a pairing that have worked so well despite being a very different spectrum’s of their careers. Partnering them in a late addition to the lineup is Porsche LMP1 driver Andre Lotterer, who replaces Will Stevens for this race. Him and Fassler were Audi factory drivers last year and he should show well in the car despite limited experience.

#6 WRT Audi R8 LMS: Nathanael Berthon/Stephane Richelmi/Benoit Treluyer 

This #6 entry has suffered some terrible luck this season, failing to finish either of the first three Blancpain Endurance series races. This does not bode well going into a 24 hour sprint race, but the WRT are the premier Audi GT3 team so if anyone can get the car running it’s them.

Another Audi LMP1 refugee is the Frenchman Benoit Treluyer, who is greatly enjoying his debut GT3 racing season despite the cars struggles. Partnering him are two recent F2 converts, Nathanael Berthon and Stephane Richelmi. Berthon is in his first GT season whilst Richelmi has shown flashes of promise in his opening three seasons at this level. This team will be hoping their bad luck is done for the year and on a upward swing beginning at Spa.

#7 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3: Steven Kane/Guy Smith/Oliver Jarvis

The factory Bentley M-Sport team have been winning races at this level since entering the Blancpain series in 2014, however unfortunately this season it has been that way for the other #8 entry.

This car has suffered the lions share of the teams bad luck this season, most notably the teams bizarre disqualification at the opening Blancpain Endurance round at Monza. Steven Kane has been competing well in the full Blancpain GT series, meanwhile Smith and Jarvis has only been competing in the Endurance rounds. All three are very quick GT drivers and cannot be discounted on a circuit which seems to have always suited the Bentley.

#8 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3: Andy Soucek/Maxime Soulet/Vincent Abril

This #8 has led the Bentley charge in recent months, and is coming into Spa on the back of a huge confidence boost with their victory last month in the Paul Richard six hours. The race is known as the warm-up for the Spa 24 Hours and this bodes well for the team.

The team are hoping they are just as competitive as last year, although will be hoping to better the 4th place from last year after late race drama. Something just seems to be clicking for this Bentley team this year, with the trio of Soucek, Soulet and Abril all combining to create a formidable trio going into the race.

#9 Bentley Team Abt Bentley Continental GT3: Nico Verdonck/Christer Jons/Jordan Pepper 

The Bentley team have added another weapon to their arsenal for Spa this year, enlisting the help of factory partner team, the German Team Abt. The Nurburgring 24 hour regulars are new to the Blancpain series but are a well known force in German motor racing.

Belgian Nico Verdonck is an underrated GT driver who will likely anchor this lineup. Christer Jons has established himself in both the ADAC GT Masters and VLN series, although may struggle slightly with the step up from national to European GT3 racing. Completing the trio is young South African Jordan Pepper.

He has risen through the ranks of the VW Cup in South Africa and then Germany, adapting well to the GT3 level in Germany. Much like Jons however he may struggle to match the ultimate pace, which is no shame in your first race at this level against such established talent.

#12 Ombra Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Andrea Piccini/Michele Beretta/Stefano Gattuso

For the Italian Ombra racing team it’s not been the year they will have hoped for this season. Their best result in the Endurance round was 15th at Silverstone, and with an influx of international drivers and entries for Spa it may be difficult for the team to improve upon this result.

On the driving front Andrea Piccini will lead this trio, as he has extensive GT racing experience effectively since the beginning of the millennium. Partnering him are two silver drivers, Stefano Gattuso and Michele Beretta. They are two good drivers and Gattuso indeed was the 2015 Italian GT champion, however they may struggle against the plethora of gold and platinum drivers they are competing against. This does mean they have nothing to lose however and potentially everything to gain.

This wraps up part one of my preview of the upcoming Total Spa 24 Hours, beginning with the Pro Cup class. Coming very soon is the second part of my preview looking at the Pro Cup class. I hope you enjoyed reading this and any comments or feedback would be hugely appreciated!

 

 

 

What F1 Can Learn From Le Mans?

This article is something that came about because of two factors. The obvious one is of course the latest edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Even 24 hours after the race finished the raw emotion the race produces in fans is still evident. The race produced drama for the entire 24 hours and once again proved very exciting for motorsport fans.

The second less obvious reason was a recent tweet from former F1 racer and commentator Martin Brundle. This is what he said. https://twitter.com/MBrundleF1/status/876548908297707520 . He has highlighted a genuine question that Formula One should take some time to answer. Formula One is increasingly struggling to maintain it’s fan base happy and excited with the racing on track, something Le Mans never struggles in this department. So just what can Formula One learn from the Le Mans 24 Hours?

Le Mans 24 Hours is one of the great motorsport races in the world, yet it has evolved into more than that. It has developed into a festival where fans treat the event in a similar manner to a music festival for example. The fans flock to the event every year with the race build up beginning the week before when scrutineering takes place. Now of course Formula One cannot make every race meeting a week long, there is some other things they can do to replicate the success of Le Mans.

Le Mans breeds this festival vibe by the things they do to keep all fans excited all week. They have various fun fair rides across the circuit and host events like music concerts which ensure that even people who don’t have an interest in motorsport could have an enjoyable experience at the race. F1 has already taken these steps as they often host concerts after grand prix’s when they can, which shows they are clearly taking steps to improve the overall experience at grand prix’s.

Recent years have seen Le Mans produce crowds of over 260 000 people, and this is much higher than the biggest grand prix crowd of last year, the British Grand Prix which had a crowd of 139 000 people for the race. Whilst a direct comparison cannot be made as Le Mans is a whole week for most fans and not simply one day, it’s easy to see that F1 can learn from Le Mans in terms of attracting a crowd.

Whilst many would think that the ticket prices are a easy route to attract more fans, this may not be the magic bullet some people would think it would be. Tickets for the British grand prix are £210 for the cheapest weekend ticket, and for Le Mans they are £209. This shows that for the same money Le Mans seems to produce something more for it’s fans that F1 doesn’t.

Sportscar racing is currently experiencing a resurgence since it’s hybrid regulations came into place early this decade. The profile has risen mightily since the creation of the World Endurance Championship in 2012, with many young drivers abandoning single seaters to switch to sportscar racing.

The racing currently in sportscars is always providing exciting racing across all four classes. Unlike F1 the cars can follow each other and battle and this area is where something can be done to attract fans. Fans are increasingly frustrated with the lack of overtaking in F1, something where sportscars have no issue. The Le Mans 24 Hours is very exciting for fans simply because in each class the battle for the lead lasts throughout the entire race.

Whereas in the past the race was a strict test of endurance, thanks to the increase in mechanical reliability the race has now become a 24 hour sprint race. This is what the fans want to see and this is where the rule makers can do to improve racing. If F1 can return to more pure racing where the cars are not affected so much by aerodynamics this will dramatically increase the overtaking in the eyes of fans and will bring them back to F1 and excitedly watching the racing as they do at Le Mans.

Thank you for reading this article and if you enjoyed it please leave a comment below. You can find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

2017 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Preview

The GTE Pro class once again returns with a very high quality field, filled with factory manufacture entries made up of the best GT teams and drivers in the world. The entire class is made up of five different factory teams and 13 cars making up this incredible closely fought class. Let’s take a look at the class contenders.

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: James Calado/Alessandro Pier Guidi/Lucas Di Grassi

AF Corse are the worlds leading Ferrari GT team and with factory support once again return after a tumultuous 2016 battle with Ford. Last year the team suffered a down year yet based on the early 2017 WEC form the AF Corse team are back to their best. They currently sit only two points behind the leading Ford.

James Calado leads this entry, and has developed into a very quick GT racer over the past few years.  Along side him there has been some major change on the driving front, with leading driver Gianmaria Bruni defecting to Porsche for this season.

To replace him Ferrari selected Alessandro Pier Guidi, a very quick driver who has proven himself with various customer programmes. Although he is a Le Mans rookie with professional drivers it doesn’t take them long to adjust to new circuits. The only question mark could be how long it takes him to reach the consistently flat out pace needed to win this class.

Completing the line-up for Le Mans is former Audi LMP1 factory driver Lucas Di Grassi. The Brazilian is a very quick professional driver, however this is only his second ever GT race and therefore he will need time to adjust to the Ferrari 488 GTE. This entry has three very quick drivers, the only question mark is their relative lack of experience compared to their rivals.

#51

This #51 entry has high quality drivers, but will their lack of experience hurt them during the race? Photo: LAT Images.

#63 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Jordan Taylor

The Corvette racing team return for yet another crack at the Le Mans 24 Hours, having shown great form in the American IMSA WeatherTech series. They have proven themselves against the best of the highly competitive IMSA GT class, and always challenge the best of the WEC GT classes when they meet at Le Mans.

This #63 car in particular has enjoyed a very strong start to the season, with full-season pairing Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia already winning twice including the Sebring 12 Hours. They lead the GTLM class and both drivers are clearly in excellent form this season. They are both very quick drivers who have plenty of experience with the Corvette racing team, and they always provide stern competition for their rivals.

This year the team are joined by Jordan Taylor, who so far has been in sparkling form in the IMSA series. Along with brother Ricky they have won the first five rounds of the IMSA series including landmark races such the Rolex 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours. He has plenty of experience with Corvette racing and won the GTE Pro class for Corvette in 2015.

#63

Corvette Racing have proven themselves in the highly competitive IMSA series this season, and have a proven track record at Le Mans. Photo: LAT Images.

 

#64 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Marcel Fassler

The #64 entry from Corvette racing has so far not had as good a season as the sister #63 entry, but to discount a Corvette racing entry would be foolish considering their incredible record of success in this race. They have won their class eight times since the turn of the millennium,

Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner have formed a very strong partnership, having won this class twice since their partnership began in 2011. The duo are very strong and despite having a poor season by their standards they have still won an IMSA race this year, showing their strength. Joining them for Le Mans is Audi LMP1 refugee Marcel Fassler, who despite a long lay off is no stranger to the Corvette.

He last drove for the team in their GT1 spec Corvette in 2009, and will likely need little acclimatisation returning to the car. The team may not have the pre-race headlines as the media focus more on the Ferrari Vs Ford battle from last year, however this will suit the GM boys just fine. Corvette racing can never be discounted at Le Mans, despite having been slightly pegged back for race week in a balance of performance tweak.

#64

Corvette Racing are always contenders at Le Mans, so can they win their class for a ninth time? Photo: LAT Images.

#66 Ford Chip Ganassi UK Team UK Ford GT: Stefan Mucke/Olivier Pla/Billy Johnson

The first Ford GT entry numerically speaking is this #66 car, and so far this season it appears as if the Ford GT cars may struggle at Le Mans. The team stole the headlines last year with a debut class victory, despite it being achieved in controversial circumstances.

So far in the WEC this #66 car scored a class podium at the last race at Spa, however this team finished the Le Mans test day last week with the slowest time in class. Of course reading too much into test day times is unwise as teams will always want to not show their full pace until qualifying.

As for the drivers the team have retained the same line-up as last year, with Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla and Billy Johnson. Both Mucke and Pla are seasoned sportscar racers who are well proven at this level. American Billy Johnson has adapted well after making a name for himself in American GT racing, and with this being their second year they should be hoping to improve upon their fourth place finish from last year. This of course is dependant on the team vastly improving upon their test day performance.

#66

The Ford GT’s have so far flattered to deceive this year, is this something they will improve upon come Le Mans? Photo: LAT Images.

#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK: Andy Priaulx/Harry Tincknell/Pipo Derani

Heading into Le Mans it’s clear based on form this #67 Ford GT is the best performing of the four Ford’s entered this year.

The team currently lead the WEC class points after winning the opening round at Silverstone, and they appear to be riding the crest of a wave right now. Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell are a formidable partnership, with both revelling in their second season with the GT programme. This should not be surprising for a duo who have been multiple WTCC champion in Priaulx and an established LMP2 Le Mans winner in Tincknell.

Completing the trio this year is another LMP2 standout in Brazilian Pipo Derani. He has had two races to get adjusted to the GT, ensuring by race week he should be fully up to speed with the GT. Based on pre-race form if any Ford is going to be challenging for the class victory once again this year, it should be this #67 entry, which would make up for the teams poor fortune in the race last year.

#67

The #67 Ford GT has been the best performing car so far this season, and will be looking to capitalise on this to win at Le Mans. Photo: LAT Images.

#68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT: Joey Hand/Dirk Muller/Tony Kanaan

The #68 Ford has suffered some pre-race drama leading up to the race, as they team have had to find a late replacement for Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais.

Bourdais is out for the season with injuries suffered in qualifying for last months Indy 500, with the team choosing to bring in fellow Indycar racer Tony Kanaan. The Brazilian is not a complete novice having driven the car at this years Rolex 24, however this will be his debut at Le Mans and he did not drive at the test day as he was racing in Indycar at Detroit.

His lack of experience at Le Mans will be the big question mark for this entry, although with such a quick professional driver this shouldn’t take too long. The regular pairing are Joey Hand and Dirk Muller, both of whom have performed well this season in the IMSA WeatherTech series. They won the opening Rolex 24 this year and were the class winners at Le Mans last year.

With such an impressive role call of results over the past year it could be foolish to look past this team as contenders, however it appears that to win the race again this year will be a lot tougher. Along with this how long it takes for Kanaan to reach the ultimate pace will be a factor in how competitive they will be in GTE Pro.

#68

This #68 can claim Le Mans and Rolex 24 victories in the past year, can they add a second Le Mans class win this year? Photo: LAT Images.

#69 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA: Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook/Scott Dixon

The Ford quartet is completed with this #69 entry, the second of the teams IMSA entries. Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook are the full season pairing and currently sit fifth in the IMSA standings, and will be hoping they can improve upon this at Le Mans.

Both are very good drivers who can provide consistently fast stints, and both are also known for being very economical with their racing. This could prove crucial as Le Mans often comes down to fuel economy and to be able to save a pit-stop or consistently go a lap longer than your rivals is a massive advantage over 24 hours.

Lining up alongside the trio is another driver known for being excellent with saving fuel, Indycar legend Scott Dixon. Whilst he is still suffering some minor injuries from his massive Indycar crash, he has some experience of the car and will prove competitive despite his injuries. Whilst this entry may prove slightly overlooked by outsiders, if Ford can run competitively any one of their four entries can be running at the front in the race.

#69

#69 has as good a chance as any other Ford GT entry this year. Photo: LAT Images.

#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon/Sam Bird/Miguel Molina

The #71 AF Corse Ferrari has enjoyed a very good start to the season, winning in the WEC last time out at Spa. They are only two points behind the leading #67 Ford, as they look to be in great contention for a class win this year.

Le Mans was not kind to them last year and this will be something they are looking to improve upon this time out. Both Sam Bird and Davide Rigon are now established Ferrari GT specialists who are combining very well this year. Stepping up to GTE Pro for Le Mans is Miguel Molina, a new Ferrari works driver for this year.

He has impressed this season with Spirit of Race in the GTE Am, and should prove fast with the step up to AF Corse. Becoming a Ferrari factory driver is a big achievement and shows the talent he has. Much like with Kanaan the only question mark is whether he can consistently run at the limit, which is needed to be competitive in this class. For Molina this should prove easier however as he has been racing a similar Ferrari all year.

#71

Ferrari are an iconic name at Le Mans, and will be looking for another class victory this year. Photo: LAT Images.

#82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE: Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella/Pierre Kaffer

Last year it was not the mighty AF Corse team which led the Ferrari charge to class victory, it was the smaller privately entered Risi Competizione team based in America.

Although the team ended up on the wrong side of the bitter GTE Pro battle last year, they return once again looking once again to lead the Ferrari charge. This will of course prove a lot harder this year with AF Corse unlikely to have another down year and the natural development that comes from the factory outfits. Risi is the only genuine privateer in this class, making their achievement last year all the more remarkable.

The team return with the 488 GTE and two thirds of the driver line-up, showing that for the team they are sticking with the same personnel and equipment that worked last year. Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander are very quick professional GT drivers for Ferrari and have had plenty of success at this level. The only variable they have changed is Pierre Kaffer,  a proven sportscar driver who has some experience of Ferrari from competing with AF Corse in 2014.

#82

The Risi team performed incredible well last year, will they repeat their heroics this year? Photo: LAT Images.

 

#91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Richard Lietz/Fred Makowiecki/Patrick Pilet

Despite having a highly successful LMP1 programme the Porsche brand are still taking their GT programme very seriously. They have followed Ford’s lead and gone with the mid-engine layout considered by some sacrilege given the 911’s iconic rear-engine history.

So far the car has proved reliable which is always the first goal with a new car. It’s shown flashes of promise but aside from a class podium at the opening WEC race it has not seriously challenged at the front end. Whilst this may be a concern the car was much closer to success at the Rolex 24 in America, with the car proving the class of the field in wet conditions. During the 24 hours if the conditions turn wet they could well come up trumps.

The trio of Richard Lietz, Fred Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet are all very quick pro’s who have a world of experience with Porsche. They are well versed with the fast and consistent pace needed to win in the WEC, and after a below par 2016 they will be looking to return to the front this year.

#91

Porsche suffered a difficult 2016 in GTE Pro, can a new mid-engine 911 restore them to the front. Photo: LAT Images.

 

#92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Michael Christensen/Kevin Estre/Dirk Werner

This #92 Porsche team have endured a difficult start to 2017, something they need to turn around at Le Mans with double points on offer.

With strong reliability from the new car and strong test day pace, perhaps the team have turned the corner in time for the biggest sportscar race of the year. Of course test day pace is hard to read too much into, but if it turns out to be representative they will definitely be up from during the race.

Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Dirk Werner are all Porsche factory drivers for a reason, they are seriously quick and very consistent over a stint. New signing Werner has a half year now to get fully acquainted with the 911 RSR, meaning the team will be at full strength going into the race.

#92

In the first year of the new 911 can Porsche emulate rivals Ford and win the GTE Pro class with a new car? Photo: LAT Images.

 

#95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage: Nicki Thiim/Marco Sorensen/Richie Stanaway

Last years GTE Pro title winners have struggled so far, currently sitting joint sixth in the WEC standings. Much like the teams GTE Am entry they have endured bad luck at Le Mans in recent years, so this year the team need their bad luck to turn around more than ever.

The famous Dane train of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen have proven themselves very quick at this level, you have to be to become class champions. Kiwi Richie Stanaway is the teams third driver, and has proven a quick convert to GT racing after a promising single seater career was derailed through the cliché lack of funding.

#95

Last years GTE Pro champions have struggled this year, will Le Mans spark their turnaround? Photo: LAT Images.

 

#97 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage: Darren Turner/Jonny Adam/Daniel Serra

The #97 Aston Martin has suffered much like it’s sister entry this year, so will be looking for a similar upturn in form at Le Mans.

With an excellent and highly professional Aston Martin team running the two cars, the talent of the two trio of drivers will play a large factor in the team achieving a good result this year. Long time factory driver Darren Turner is a proven commodity at this level, evidenced by the fact he’s been an Aston Martin factory driver since the programme inception in 2005.

Jonny Adam has become a rising star of the Aston Martin programme in recent years and has quickly established himself as very quick in the Vantage. The third driver is Le Mans rookie Daniel Serra, who has previously been the Dunlop tyres test driver and a leading light in his native Brazil’s Stock Car series.

His inexperience at Le Mans may require some time to get over but with an abundance of track time across the week this shouldn’t be an issue. He has driven plenty of miles in the car developing the teams Dunlop tyres, but will he be able to produce consistently quick lap times in the race? This is the only question mark for the team but he is clearly a quick and experienced driver so it will be a surprise if he cannot provide the lap times quick enough to remain in contention.

#97

Aston Martin could really do with a good result at Le Mans this year, are the #97 Vantage crew going to get the rub of the green finally? Photo: LAT Images.

 

This wraps up my previewing looking at the GTE Pro class. This year the level of completion has once again increased with every car in this class, such is the quality of the entries in this class. The fight for class victory will make this race a 24 hour sprint, which for the fans will provide plenty of exciting battles.

I would like to say a huge thank you to LAT Images for the incredible photos that grace this blog, and to Dailysportscar.com for providing research material for this article. A final thank you has to go to anyone reading this, I hugely appreciate it. Find me on Twitter on @brfcjordan95 and the next post previewing the LMP2 class will be posted soon!

 

 

 

 

2017 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am Preview Part 2

This is part two of my preview looking at the upcoming Le Mans 24 Hours, one of the centre piece races on the motorsport calendar. To view part one of the preview click here . Let’s take a look at the second half of the 16-car GTE Am class entry for this years race.

#83 DH Racing Ferrari 488 GTE: Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Andrea Bertolini

DH Racing earned their invite to the worlds greatest sportscar race by winning in the Asian Le Mans series, and with AF Corse supporting their entry they could spring a surprise during the race week.

On the driving front they bring a familiar colour scheme back to Le Mans, with the distinctive green and blue Krohn livery indicating long time driving partners Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson make up two thirds of this entry.

Both are experienced and this will ensure they should stay out of trouble during their stints, the first basic aim for every sportscar driver. Completing the line-up is Italian Andrea Bertolini, someone is a proven commodity at this level. He is very quick in Ferrari GT cars and won this class in 2015, showing he can provide an edge for this team. Whilst it may be difficult on pure pace don’t count this team out for a chance of a podium.

#83

DH Racing have an outside chance of a podium if they can keep a consistent pace throughout the race. Photo: LAT Images.

 

#84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE: Rob Smith/Will Stevens/Dries Vanthoor

The popular JMW team returns to Le Mans after a years absence, as they transition from their faithful Ferrari 458 Italia to the newer 488 GTE car for this race. This could potentially prove problematic for the team, but with the package already proven internationally they could find themselves on the podium Sunday afternoon.

Am driver Rob Smith has been solid so far in the European Le Mans Series, which is all you can ask from your bronze rated driver. Alongside him are two very capable GT racers, former F1 racer Will Stevens and young Belgian Dries Vanthoor.

Both have come on very well this year with the WRT team in the Blancpain GT series, with the only slight question mark being how quickly they find the limit with the step up to the GTE spec racer. Expect both of these two to impress and produce consistently quick times which could put them into contention for the podium as the race wears on.

#84

JMW are outsiders for a podium, depending on how quickly they get to grips with the new Ferrari 488. Photo: LAT Images.

 

#86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR: Mike Wainwright/Ben Barker/Nick Foster

Gulf Racing come into Le Mans having flown slightly under the radar in the WEC this season. The team have been compromised by having to run a 2015 spec Porsche 911 as opposed to their rivals in 2016 cars.

The team will be led by Ben Barker, a driver who has proved he can be very quick at this level. Australian Nick Foster has showed plenty of speed even though he is still adjusting to the series, with am driver Mike Wainwright improving with his consistency over stints even if he does seem to last a tenth or two compared to some of the quickest am drivers.

For this team a top six in this highly competitive class would be a massive achievement for them, and something that would greatly bolster their WEC campaign. The team will need to have a clean and consistent run, but this is well within their reach.

#86

The iconic Gulf livery once again graces Le Mans, so can Gulf Racing do the colours proud? Photo: LAT Images.

 

#88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR: Klaus Bachler/Khaled Al Qubaisi/Stephane Lemeret

Proton competition are a very experienced team at this GT level, and despite having two year old Porsche’s they are still in with an outside shot of a podium, such is their quality.

Proven Porsche specialist Klaus Bachler was a late addition to the team, although he is already well known to the team from previous years. Partnering him is former team mate Khaled Al Qubaisi, who returns for this one-off race after taking the year off because of business commitments. He has proven himself as a very capable driver and should pick up right where he finished last season.

Completing the trio is Le Mans rookie Stephane Lemeret. He’s proven his pace by winning the GT class of the Asian Le Mans Series with DH  Racing, and if he can adapt quickly to Le Mans and the jump in standard expect this team to be in outside contention for a podium.

#88

This Proton entry has the potential for a class podium despite the two year-old 911. Photo: LAT Images.

 

#90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage: Euan Hankey/Rob Bell/Salih Yoluc

This young British team have taken the GTE class by storm in the ELMS this season, leading the class after the first two rounds. This is despite the team being novices at this level.

The team have already have a proven competitive package with the 2016 spec Aston Martin Vantage claiming the GTE Pro WEC class title. Whilst the team will not a trio of professional drivers at their disposal, they do have a very good line-up for this pro-am class.

Euan Hankey and Salih Yoluc have proven an increasingly potent partnership in recent seasons, with Hankey continuing to mentor Yoluc. Completing the trio is McLaren factory GT driver Rob Bell, a very quick GT driver who claimed the class pole last year when with Clearwater Racing. This team have the potential to fight for the class win and should not be taken lightly as contenders in this competitive class.

#90

TF Sport are the rising team in the GTE ranks, can they continue their good form with a Le Mans class win? Photo: LAT Images.

 

#93 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR: Patrick Long/Mike Hedlund/Abdelaziz Turki Al Faisal

The third and final Proton entry numerically speaking perfectly fits the pro-am format of this class. The team will be undoubtedly be led by Porsche factory driver Patrick Long, who is a very quick professional driver of whom very few racers could get more out of a GTE spec Porsche 911 than him.

Alongside him are drivers Mike Hedlund and Abdelaziz Turki Al Faisal. Hedlund makes his debut at the race and will provide some consistency for this entry. Abdelaziz Turki Al Faisal is an experienced and solid driver, the kind of driver who is pivotal to any teams chance of victory in these pro-am classes. For this team the name of the game appears to be consistency, which can prove the key to a class podium in this class.

#93

This #93 entry will rely on the pace of Porsche factory Pat Long, how far will this take them? Photo: LAT Images.

 

#98 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage: Paul Dalla Lana/Mathias Lauda/Pedro Lamy

This #98 Aston Martin racing entry will likely enter the race as favourites for the class victory, with bad luck seeming to be the only reason why the team have not previously won this class.

The team are currently leading the class in the WEC and with the might of the factory Aston Martin team behind them they have a great chance of victory. With the 2016 spec Aston Martin Vantage already a proven reliable and very quick car, it really seems like nothing but misfortune can stop this team.

The trio of Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana are a proven package and can be argued to be the highest quality line-up in this class. The team are very well prepared and it is hard to bet against this team finally winning the GTE Am class after years of misfortune.

#98

This #98 Aston Martin Racing entry is undoubtedly the class favourite, will they finally end their misfortune at this race? Photo: LAT Images. 

 

#99 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage: Ross Gunn/Andrew Howard/Oliver Bryant

Beechdean AMR have established themselves at this level after winning the 2016 GTE Am class of the ELMS. Over the winter a lot has changed for this team however, with the team now badged as Beechdean AMR as opposed to a full factory Aston Martin Racing entry.

On the driving front the team have once again built a very good line-up this year. Team boss Andrew Howard is an ever improving am driver and will likely prove one of the faster am’s in this class. Aston Martin factory driver Ross Gunn is improving with every year and appears to be being groomed for a future role with the factory GTE Pro class effort.

Oliver Bryant completes the trio and is a quick GT driver who could prove to be the teams secret weapon. The team have a proven Aston Martin package and with this quality line-up the team could well prove enough to secure a class podium.

#99

Beechdean could spring a surprise with a class podium in only their second Le Mans 24 Hours. Photo: LAT Images.

 

This wraps up the second part of my look at the GTE Am class for the Le Mans 24 Hours. This 16 car class is increasing in quality every year and with such a competitive class any number of a half dozen entries can realistically win.

I would like to thank LAT Images and Dailysportscar.com for their high quality images and research which greatly helped with this article. Finally I would like to everyone for reading this you can find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

Next up I will preview the GTE Pro class, which should be posted very soon.