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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.

2017 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE AM Preview Part 1

It’s the time of year when the motorsport world turns it’s attention to the centre-piece Sportscar race of the year, the fabled Le Mans 24 Hours. The race has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as Sportscar racing proves more popular with fans, who prefer the flat out nature of Sportscar races in comparison with the conservation races that Formula One have become.

The GTE Am class may be struggling for numbers in the World Endurance Championship, for Le Mans the class has returned to a far more healthy number of entries with 16 cars set to battle it out for class honours. The class enjoys a truly worldwide entry with teams and drivers who compete in the WEC, IMSA WeatherTech and Asian Le Mans series all competing against each other.

The overall quality of the entries in this class improves with every passing year and this edition is no different. Just like with every other class winning is very tough with every team needing to have a faultless run along with a helping hand from lady luck to prevail over the 24 hours. Let’s take a look at the first half of the class entry for this year.

#50 Larbre Competition Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Fernando Rees/Romain Brandela/Christian Philippon

The French Larbre team are always a welcome addition to the GTE Am class over the last few years, as they return this year after a failed attempt to move into the GTE Pro class of the WEC for this year after Chevrolet factory backing couldn’t be agreed.

The team will definitely stand out this year, and not simply because they are the only team fielding a Corvette in the class. This year the team have a striking art car livery, done by French street artist Ramzi Adek. It appears to have come about thanks to driver Romain Brandela through his connections as BMW France public events manager, the manufacture being known for its art cars.

On track the team may struggle slightly to match the front running pace as the team are one of the few teams in class to have two bronze drivers. Completing the trio is former factory Aston Martin driver Fernando Rees, someone who is both blindingly fast and is well known to the team having driven for them before he joined AMR. With him behind the wheel the car will fly, however they will struggle to maintain this pace once the other two drivers get in.

Larbre

Larbre will catch the attention of the crowd with their thundering Corvette and distinctive art car livery. Photo: LAT Images.

#54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE: Thomas Flohr/Francesco Castellacci/Olivier Beretta

This Spirit of Race entry is run by the Ferrari GT specialist AF Corse team, who return to Le Mans with an arsenal of entries across the two GT classes. The team have showed flashes of promise in their first season at this level, with gentleman driver and team backer Thomas Flohr improving under the tutelage of his pro team mates.

AF Corse is the perfect team to run their entry, making their debut at the race that much easier. Flohr is the teams bronze rated driver and has improved already this year, with help from his full season team mate Francesco Castellacci, an Italian who has found a full season drive after bouncing around partial seasons with the likes of Aston Martin and AF Corse over the past five years. He is a talented driver who will prove the surprise for this entry over the course of the race.

Completing the line-up for Le Mans is Ferrari factory driver Olivier Beretta, who replaces fellow factory driver Miguel Molina who is being called up to the factory Ferrari GTE Pro entry. Beretta is a proven winner at Le Mans with six class wins along with five further podiums across his Le Mans career. Adding such a high calibre factory driver vastly improves this entry and should put them in contention for the class podium with a clean run. The only potential worry will be how quickly Flohr adapts to the circuit across the week.

#54

Spirit of Race have a chance of a class podium in their debut Le Mans, with Ferrari factory driver Olivier Beretta spear heading their entry. Photo: LAT Images.

#55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE: Duncan Cameron/Aaron Scott/Marco Cioci

Spirit of Race have two entries in this years race and this #55 entry is their regular European Le Mans Series entry. It’s been a rough start to the season for the team in the ELMS but they have the potential to bounce back with a great result at this blue riband event.

Regular driver pairing Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott a good driver pairing. Cameron has improved greatly as a bronze rated driver and has plenty of experience at this level in recent seasons. Team mate Aaron Scott has put in good performances in the opening rounds of the season and will be the teams hidden gem come race week, much like Castellacci in the teams other entry.

Completing the entry is the teams hired gun Marco Cioci, a very quick Italian who is vastly experienced with Ferrari GT cars. He has proven himself at this level with several GTE Am podiums in his racing career, with the only potential question mark for this team going into the week being their tyre choice. They have been running on spec Dunlop rubber all year yet for this race have switched to Michelin tyres. What effect will this have on their pace throughout the week.

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This gorgeous #55 Spirit of Race entry will be led by Marco Cioci, but Aaron Scott could prove their secret weapon. Photo: LAT Images.

#60 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE: Richard Wee/Hiroki Katoh/Alvaro Parente

Clearwater racing have grabbed headlines previously with their striking chrome livery, yet with a years experience they are returning to Le Mans with hopes of a class podium. This is their one-off second entry for the race, and with AF Corse providing assistance they have everything in place.

Enlisting McLaren factory GT driver Alvaro Parente is a smart move from the team, as he has established himself as one of the fastest GT3 drivers in the world, and has Le Mans experience. Hiroki Katoh is a vastly experienced Super GT racer who is another great addition to the team, with am driver Richard Wee completing the line-up. He has Blancpain GT Asia experience and will have two very quick team mates to learn from over the course of the week.

The team has a great line-up for the race and with the team gaining experience at this level rapidly, they could be in with a chance of victory. In the hands of Parente and Katoh this car will be very quick, but as with every GTE Am entry the pace of the amateur bronze rated driver will dictate the cars chances of class honours.

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Clearwater Racing are an ever improving team and is a testament to the growth of the Asian Le Mans Series.  Photo: LAT Images.

#61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE: Weng Sun Mok/Keita Sawa/Matt Griffin

This #61 entry is the teams designated full season WEC entry, and this team keeps consistently surprising people with their pace. They claimed pole on their debut in the race last year and finished an impressive fourth in class. This year they claimed a debut victory in the opening round of the WEC at Silverstone several months ago, and will be an outside contender for victory if they have a good race.

This driver line-up may not necessarily be as highly rated as some others in this class, however they are definitely worthy of high praise. Led by experienced Irishman Matt Griffin, a very fast and consistent GT driver, along with team mates Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok.

Sawa is a very quick silver driver who is the reigning Asian Le Mans Series GT champion, with Weng Sun Mok another reliable bronze driver who has built up a good relationship with Sawa through the ALMS. The team could prove surprise winners as they have consistently exceeded expectations at this level.

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Don’t discount the Clearwater team, who are improving rapidly at the highest level of GT racing. Photo: LAT Images.

#62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE: Cooper MacNeil/Townsend Bell/Bill Sweedler

This #62 entry is definitely one of the favourites in this class, with last years Am class winners Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler returning with the team they claimed victory with. For this entry the mantra of what isn’t broke doesn’t need fixing is prevailing, with the only major change for the team being the addition of silver driver Cooper MacNeil, who will likely be one of the quickest silvers in the class.

Bill Sweedler is a very quick bronze rated driver and has a great working relationship with Townsend Bell, himself a very quick and experienced GT racer. This team has been very successful both at Le Mans and in the IMSA WeatherTech series, with able support from renowned Ferrari specialists Kessel Racing.

This entry has to be one of the top favourites for this class considering the high quality driver line-up which could be seen as the best in the class by some. After last years success it would be unwise to bet against this team repeating a class win this year.

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This Scuderia Corsa entry is one of the favourites going into the race, looking for a second consecutive class win. Photo: LAT Images.

 

#65 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE: Christina Nielsen/Alessandro Balzan/Bret Curtis

Scuderia Corsa has two strong entries this year, doubling their chances of a podium place come Sunday afternoon.

Reigning IMSA GTD class champions Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan are together once again, and with such a successful partnership expect them both to lead this car in terms of pace.

Completing the line-up is bronze rated driver Bret Curtis, who is an experienced racer who will anchor this car and with such a competitive class the class contending cars will be the ones with the best bronze rated drivers. This team is highly professional and with a clean run they can easily compete for a podium place, however they may lack the last tenth or two compared to their sister car simply because of how strong Sweedler is as a am driver.

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Scuderia Corsa has a great chance to secure class victory with two very high quality entries this year. Photo: LAT Images.

 

#77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR: Christian Reid/Matteo Cairoli/Marvin Dienst

Dempsey Proton have established themselves as mainstays of this class recently and have a three car entry this year, beginning with this #77 car.

The team have had a good start to the WEC season, despite this car being two years old now. Competing against more modern machinery is going to prove extremely difficult, and the team may need to rely on misfortune or adverse weather to secure a top result this year.

On the driving front the team have a very good line-up with the experienced Christian Reid a good solid am driver and will be very consistent. He’s partnered with Porsche junior driver Matteo Cairoli, who has impressed massively so far with his consistently quick performances. Completing the trio is former single seater racer Marvin Dienst, 2015 German F4 champion and someone who will likely impress all week.

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Despite having a two year-old car, this team still has a chance of victory, such is the strength of the team and its drivers. Photo: LAT Images.

 

That sums up Part One of my preview for the GTE Am class at this years Le Mans 24 Hours. I would like to thank LAT Images and Motorsport.com for the high quality images and Dailysportscar.com for their expert knowledge, some of which helped when sourcing info for this article. I would lastly like to thank everyone who reads this blog as this is what I write for. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95 and Part two will be posted in the next few days!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Indy 500 Preview Part 1

The 101st Indianapolis 500 should prove to be one for the ages, with its reputation as a landmark race only reinforced this year.

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Fernando Alonso News A Throwback

It’s not often the motorsport world is collectively left in shock by a piece of news, but that’s exactly what happened this week. Formula One legend Fernando Alonso announced he would miss the Monaco Grand Prix to instead contest the Indianapolis 500. Both races are prestige events in the world of motorsport, and this exciting news shows Alonso is in touch with the history of this sport.

One of the key reasons Alonso gave for wanting to do the race is so he can attempt to win the triple crown of motorsport. He has already won the Monaco GP twice, in 2006 and 2007, and has already made his intention to try to win the Le Mans 24 Hours in the future widely known, therefore the Indianapolis 500 was the only race left to win.

It appears that the initial idea for contesting the race came as a light hearted joke from McLaren executive director Zak Brown about doing Indy together. It appears from here the idea settled and began to grow in the mind of Alonso, before crunch talks at last weekends Chinese Grand Prix solidified the idea.

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Alonso and McLaren exec director Zak Brown at his Indy 500 announcement. Can the Spaniard win first time out? Photo: LAT.

 

Within the Indycar series there appears to have been a lot of support for the idea, with Stefan Wilson parking his own Indy 500 plans to accommodate Alonso, along with huge support from Indycar, Honda and the Andretti Autosport team that will run Alonso on behalf of McLaren. A weird coincidence is that Andretti Autosport team principal Michael Andretti drove for McLaren during the 1993 season.

The reason why this news was so shocking to many motorsport fans is because of the speciality of modern drivers.  In the modern age drivers are usually regimented in one series, especially at the top levels of racing. Whilst it’s not uncommon for drivers to do on-off races like this in other series, that is largely true in Sportscar or American racing rather than F1.

Alonso taking part in this years Indy 500 will make him the first driver to compete in the race and F1 in the same season since Brit cult hero Nigel Mansell halted his Indycar campaign for a late part-season at Williams in 1994. Whilst German driver Nico Hulkenberg surprised the racing world by first confirming and then winning the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche, this did not generate as much headlines as Alonso.

24 Hours of Le Mans

Nico Hulkenberg celebrating with teams mates Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber in 2015. Photo: Motorsport.com

 

Whilst Indycar has risen in popularity and prestige since the American open wheel reunification in 2008, the series is still no where near its previous popularity of the early 1990’s when Mansell was racing in the series. A lot of shock will have likely been the fact that a lot of people would not have thought Alonso would want to compete in the race. He has not mentioned his dreams of winning the triple crown a lot and no body would have predicted he would miss the Monaco GP to compete in the race.

A big reason why a lot of F1 drivers in the modern era do not compete in other races is because their teams are very regimented in what they allow them to do. Teams worry about another disaster situation such as what happened to Robert Kubica in 2011, where a big rally crash badly injured his hand and effectively forced a early retirement from F1. Many would have thought McLaren would have prevented Alonso from skipping the Monaco race for Indianapolis, but perhaps this is an attempt to appease a man unhappy with the current performance of his McLaren-Honda package.

This news is very exciting for motorsport fans because its a chance to see someone many people call the benchmark driver in F1 compete against the best American open wheel racers. The news will also remind many fans of a bygone era in F1. From the beginning of F1 in 1950 right up until the early 1990’s drivers would routinely add races such as the Le Mans 24 Hours to their F1 schedule.

It was not uncommon for drivers to compete in several different types of car throughout the season, and this diversification with F1 drivers is what fans loved to see. This is why the news is so exciting, as for the first time in a long while we will get to see a F1 world champion competing with the heroes from another series.

All fans of motorsport are winners with this latest news, with the announcement undoubtedly raising the profile of both Indycar and the Indianapolis 500 internationally. Hopefully the buzz surrounding this announcement and his performance in the race will convince some more F1 drivers to branch out and try the big events such as the Indy 500 or the Le Mans 24 Hours in the future. One thing is for certain however, as a fan I cannot wait to see how Alonso fares next month.

Any thoughts on this article? Please feel free to give your opinion in the comments section below and a huge thank you for reading. Follow me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

Could ‘Moneyball’ Ever Work In Football?

Since the new millennium a singular concept has swept through American professional sports. The concept is known as ‘Moneyball’,  has been made famous by the 2003 best selling book and the 2011 film starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. After conquering American sports, the question is, can the concept work in football?

For those of you who  are not familiar with the ‘Moneyball’ idea, it’s the concept that individual players are over valued and a team filled with smaller players working to a common goal are just as effective as world class talent, costing a lot less money and allowing smaller teams to compete with bigger teams. Whilst this is a broad description of it, it’s the only way to explain it so it would work in professional football.

Existing football pundits may suggest that the concept is a novel idea but would not work in football and they could have a point. For a start, football does not have a salary cap unlike major American sports. They would suggest that this means that the concept has little relevance to football, however for me I have to disagree.

The ethos of the concept is to help smaller budget teams compete more evenly with their financially richer rivals. The sport in which gave the concept its fame is Baseball, a game which arguably has the biggest discrepancy in finances. According to Spotrac going into the 2017 Major League Baseball season, there is a difference of $179 million dollars between the L.A Dodgers $242 million dollar payroll and the Milwaukee Brewers $63 million dollar payroll.

Whilst there is a large difference in finances between the top and bottom of the Premier League for example, the financial divide is no where near as big as baseball. If teams such as the Oakland A’s can compete with major teams in baseball the same is possible within the Premier League.

Last season Leicester City proved inadvertently that the ‘Moneyball’ concept can work at a high level in football. They assembled a squad that cost under £30 million pounds, with their biggest signing being Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki for £7 million. With their own brand of counter attacking football manager Claudio Ranieri, they shocked sports fans across the world.

They started the season as favourites for relegation, with some bookmakers they were 5000-1 to win the Premier League. Yet they flew through the season, only losing three games on route to the most unlikely Premier League title in history. Whilst this is rightly being talked about as the ultimate football fairy tale story, what can be learnt from it?

What I think it shows is that the ‘Moneyball’ concept could work in professional football. If a lower budget team adopted the mentality and began searching for players who had good individual attributes, and putting them into a team which could then execute an effective game plan could very well prove to work better for that club than the existing model.

Whilst it’s possible the entire Leicester season was indeed a one-off fairy tale, it’s equally possible that Leicester proved that a new model of structuring a team can be successful in football. It will be interesting to see in the future if any other Premier League clubs adopt this mentality, and if it works the revolutionary balls of change may begin to roll.

‘Moneyball’ proved that in baseball you didn’t need to pay the high wages of a Derek Jeter to be successful and compete, so could Leicester’s success prove you don’t need a Sergio Aguero or Paul Pogba to be successful? Only time will tell.

 

What do you think of the ‘Moneyball’ concept, and do you think it could work in the Premier League? Let me know in the comments section below and thank you for reading. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.