911

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am Review Part 1

The final review of mine for this year’s scintillating Le Mans 24 Hours comes from the GTE Am class. Although considered by many to the slowest of the four classes competing, this class provided some very entertaining battles throughout the 24 Hours. The cars this year were the same spec as the GTE Pro field, therefore with the professional drivers in the cars this class was troubling the more established GTE Pro runners.

RAM Racing:

#53 Ferrari F458 Italia: Johnny Mowlem/Mark Patterson/Archie Hamilton
For the RAM Racing team, the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours proved to be a solid if unspectacular week for them. The team’s driver line up was a contender for the best in class, yet some funding issues prevented the team from updating their Ferrari F458 to 2013 spec like many others in the class. The funding issues hurt more as they prevented the teaming entering the Spa 6 hours World Endurance Championship, a traditional warm-up for Le Mans.

In terms of results the team qualified in the midfield and the #53 entry was running solidly before some small problems hampered the team slightly as the race wore on. From here the drivers ran strong until the flag to come home 12th in a very competitive class, and 32nd overall. For most teams the minimum target is to finish the race, therefore this RAM entry can be proud of that, although they will be hoping to eliminate some of their problems for next year’s 24 Hours. A decent effort all round from the RAM Racing team.

Krohn Racing:

#57 Ferrari F458 Italia: Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Ben Collins
The Krohn racing team came into Le Mans as the most under-prepared team, through no fault of their own, as they received a very late call up to the race only a few weeks before the 24 Hours. From this perspective the team performed admirably therefore to finish the race, finally coming home a remarkable 10th in class. The team suffered very few problems and the driving talent drove brilliantly to secure the finish for this American privateer team. Krohn have become a mainstay of the Le Mans GT classes, and many hope they will return once again in 2015.

Team Sofrev ASP:

#58 Ferrari F458 Italia: Fabien Barthez/Anthony Pons/Soheil Ayari
A lot of French media attention was centred on this new team and in particular it’s driver line-up pre-race, although the presence of a French World Cup winning Goalkeeper amongst the driving talent may have had something to do with that. This relatively new start up French GT team made a good first impression on the 24 Hours, as they performed a solid race and solidified a eventual 9th place finish in GTE Am by the finish, and 29th overall.

For this team, like many, a finish was probably the minimum expectation therefore to complete your first Le Mans 24 Hours is no mean feat. The driver line-up all had a stellar race too as they avoided all the action to secure the finish they so wanted. Many French fans will be hoping this team returns with the same line-up in 2015, as they all proved a hit this time around.

AF Corse:

#60 Ferrari F458 Italia: Peter Mann/Lorenzo Case/Raffaele Giammaria
The #60 AF Corse entry was the first of four Ferrari F458 Italia’s that they were running in the GTE Am class alone. The team is the best European Ferrari GT team in the business, therefore it came down to the driver line-up to ensure a clean and fast run in the 24 Hours. The car qualified in the midfield and appeared to be holding a steady upper midfield spot in the race over the first few hours.

Unfortunately for the team, as the evening and night time drew in this car faltered, and was forced to retire after completing 115 laps. This was a disappointing end to what had been a good run so far for the #60 car. The team looked more than likely to have been fighting for a top 6 in class had it carried on going into the final hours. The AF Corse team will surely be back in GTE Am at Le Mans next year, hopefully they’ll retain this driver line-up for the #60 car too, so they can deliver on the promise they showed last weekend.

#61 Ferrari F458 Italia: Luis Perez Companc/Marco Cioci/Mirko Venturi
I predicted that of the four AF Corse GTE Am entries, this was the most likely to challenge for class honours, and that’s how it played out as the team had a reliable race, complimented by some very fast driving from all 3 drivers. The end result of this was a superb 3rd in class and 22nd overall, only 3 laps down on the winning #95 Aston Martin.

The team delivered on the results it’s shown in the WEC so far this year and will now be hoping they can continue their title winning credentials into the final few races of the WEC season. A definite challenger for GTE Am honours at Le Mans if this team returns unchanged in 2015.

#62 Ferrari F458 Italia: Howard Blank/Yannick Mallegol/Jean-Marc Bachelier
For this #62 AF Corse entry it seemed a reliable run to the finish would be the main target for the relatively inexperienced driver line-up as they learnt the track all week. The team lacked the ultimate pace to challenge for a top 6 in class, yet the team achieved their target as they completed the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Like I’ve said earlier, finishing Le Mans is no mean feat therefore the team can all be satisfied with their race, with their overall finishing position of 38th being of much less importance. It will be interesting to see the improvement in this team if they return in 2015, with many hoping they will come back for more.

#81 Ferrari F458 Italia: Sam Bird/Steve Wyatt/Michele Rugolo
This #81 entry have proven a huge contender for GTE Am victories in the opening WEC races, and it stole the early headlines in qualifying with a scintillating lap from Brit Sam Bird. The recent single seater convert defied his Am class status to set the pole lap in GTE Am, which was only bettered by a lap from the superstar #51 AF Corse GTE Pro line-up. This lap has surely now put him on the map in terms of a long term Sportscar career as I’m sure many teams sat up and took notice of his talents after qualifying.

After such a high with the class pole the race was continuing in a similar fashion as they battled for the class lead early on. From here things quickly went downhill for the team as Le Mans rookie Sam Bird was caught out in changeable conditions and ran into the back of a slow No3 Audi R18. The damage was extensive enough to force both cars into retirement early on, in what was hugely disappointing for both cars and they looked to challenge for their class victories. Nevertheless, the team showing amazing potential which will surely be fully utilized in the remaining WEC rounds this year.

JMW Motorsport:

#66 Ferrari F458 Italia: Spencer Pumpelly/Seth Neiman/Abdulaziz Al-Faisal
For this team, the link up with experienced American GT outfit Flying Lizard provided even more experience to this GT mainstay team. The team was hoping to make all this experience count pre-race. After qualifying in the midfield, the team went into the race still maintaining their hopes of a podium or top 5 finish in class. After a relatively trouble free run the team was able to count on it’s driver line-up to provide quick and consistent laps throughout the race.

This approach usually works at Le Mans and this year proved no different, as whilst the team lacked the last edge of pace to challenge for class victory, they were able to comfortably finish 7th in class and 27th overall. This team appears likely to return next year, and it would be nice to see Flying Lizard return as an outright team again next year too.

IMSA Performance Matmut:

#67 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Eric Helary/Erik Maris/Jean Marc-Merlin
For the highly experienced IMSA Performance Matmut team, this entry was targeting a clean and reliable run in the 24 Hours. Whilst the driver line-up contained hugely fast and experienced Sportscar racer Eric Helary, the other two drivers were unable to match his pace, probably due to their lack of experience at Le Mans in comparison to Helary.

Like many GTE Am team finishing appeared the first priority, something the team can be proud to say they accomplished, with a 13th in class and 34th overall. The IMSA team seems to return to Le Mans every year, and similarly to the #62 AF Corse Ferrari, it would be interesting to see the same line-up to return as I’m sure the improvement would be large from the 2 drivers alongside Eric Helary.

That’s it for the first half of my 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am review, Part 2 will be posted soon so stay tuned for it later today. I hope you enjoyed reading this and please feel free to comment, even if you think it’s terrible. All my contact details are in the contacts section of my blog so feel free to browse. Finally a huge thank you again to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality Le Mans photos, they truly are worth a browse for any motorsport fan. For now, Enjoy!

Advertisements

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Review

After reviewing the two prototype class at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, now it’s time to focus some attention on the two GT classes that competed in the 24 Hours. First up is the GTE Pro category, a class aimed at professional drivers and manufactures, something this class contained in abundance.

AF Corse:

#51 Ferrari F458 Italia: Gianmaria Bruni/Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella
After a difficult 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours for Ferrari, some Balance of Performance breaks and renewed commitment to re-claim their 2012 GTE Pro category win conspired to ensure both AF Corse factory assisted entries were competitive from the moment the green lights switched on to start free practice on Wednesday.The team gave a statement of intent with class pole for this #51 entry, and from the start of the race they proved difficult to move from the top spot.

All 3 drivers drove like the experienced, professional and seriously quick GT drivers that they all are, therefore based on their qualifying pace it appeared only driver error or mechanical problems were going to stop this team claiming the GTE Pro honours. The team experienced a relatively clear run throughout the race, as they sauntered to a one lap victory over the #73 factory Corvette entry. This team had a truly outstanding race and will be hoping the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours is as comfortable as this victory.

#71 Ferrari F458 Italia: Davide Rigon/Olivier Beretta/Pierre Kaffer/James Calado
For the other AF Corse entry, things didn’t quite go as smoothly for them as their sister #51 entry as they were forced to overcome a big drama before the 24 Hours had even begun on Saturday. In the Thursday evening qualifying session Le Mans rookie James Calado suffered a big accident, with the impact enough to give him concussion and force him out of the race. Therefore the team set to work with building a new car and drafted in experienced Ferrari GT racer Pierre Kaffer to replace Calado.

From here their lowly qualifying position mattered little to the team, as they hoped a clean run in the 24 Hours would bring them back into contention. Alas, this car’s bad luck continued into the race as it unfortunately became and early retirement after only completing 28 laps. This team was understandably gutted that they couldn’t show their tremendous potential in the race and will be keen to show their pace in the remaining round of the World Endurance Championship this year.

RAM Racing:

#52 Ferrari F458 Italia:Matt Griffin/Alvaro Parente/Federico Leo
This team was hoping to inflict a shock in the GTE Pro class as they hoped to score a decent result against the hordes of factory GT teams and drivers. Their privateer Ferrari had an all star cast of drivers to help with this and in qualifying they almost showed their potential as McLaren factory GT driver Alvaro Parente was on course for the 2nd fastest time in GTE Pro in Thursday evening’s qualifying session, before he spun off and struck the wall at the first Ford Chicane.

The car was extensively damaged and whilst they sat out the rest of qualifying, the car was ready for the race. The team was making good progress with the Ferrari in the opening few hours, and appeared on course for a comfortable top 6 finish in class as they emerged unscathed from the opening few hours of the race. Things were not to last for the team however as they were forced to retire after completing 140 laps. For this team they showed potential during the week, yet will need much better luck in 2015 if they are to seriously challenge the factory entries in this GTE Pro class.

Corvette Racing:

#73 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Jordan Taylor
For both factory Chevrolet Corvette entries, the Le Mans 24 Hours week got better as it went along, as the Corvette’s looked off the pace slightly on the opening day on Wednesday. Come Thursday they began to show their speed with this entry claiming 2nd in class once qualifying was completed on Thursday night. From it’s 2nd grid spot the #73 entry then proved the most consistent challenger to the leading #51 Ferrari, despite the #92 Porsche holding 2nd in class for a while.

Yet the Ferrari always seemed to have the a slight edge on speed over the rest of the class, therefore despite the Corvette cars throwing everything at Ferrari they had to eventually settle for 2nd in class and 16th overall, a lap behind the victorious AF Corse Ferrari #51 entry. Nevertheless, a close 2nd in class in the new shape Corvette C7.R’S first Le Mans 24 Hours is very promising and you can never discount the factory Corvette entries at Le Mans.

#74 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Richard Westbrook
For the #74 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, they proved very evenly matched with the #73 entry in terms of pace, yet the #74 entry seemed to suffer slightly more issues during the 24 Hours than it’s sister entry, which explains their 4th place in class and 20th overall once the chequered flag came out on Sunday afternoon.

For the all star line up of drivers for the #74 car the result must of been slightly disappointing considering the pace this car had, although the team will be hoping to fully show their pace in the remaining United Sportscar Championship rounds, and will be hoping to come back much stronger to Le Mans in 2015.

Prospeed Competition:

#79 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Jeroen Bleekemolen/Cooper MacNeil/Bret Curtis

This #79 Prospeed entry would have easily won any Ironman award at the 24 Hours if such a thing existed, as they suffered huge misfortune during the week. The team initially entered the GTE Am class, yet in Thursday evening’s qualifying session Am driver Bret Curtis hit the tyres at the Dunlop chicance, and whacked his head on the roll cage, giving himself concussion and ruling himself out of the race. The team frantically searched for an available Am driver, yet the one they lined up was refused by the governing ACO, forcing the team to complete the 24 Hours with only pro drivers Bleekemolen and MacNeil.

Considering these circumstances and their move to the GTE Pro category, the fact the team finished the race is an incredible achievement which in my opinion was highlighted enough post-race. Both drivers must have been satisfied to simply finish and will be hoping next years 24 Hours is a lot less hectic for them. A truly incredible performance.

Porsche Team Manthey:

#91 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Pilet/Jorg Bergmeister/Nick Tandy
For the two factory Porsche GT entries, they were hoping to continue the success they achieved at the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours, where they took class victory after a hard fought battle. Frustratingly for Porsche it seemed in 2014 the rest of the GTE Pro class had caught up with Porsche as both factory entries were mired in the GTE Pro midfield after qualifying.

From the start of the race the two Porsche’s were hoping to make up ground, yet for this #91 entry this proved very hard as the team was beset by a few problems during the race, which left them well behind the GTE Pro pacesetters. Despite a very impressive line-up of factory Porsche drivers the obstacles were too much to overcome and this car eventually finished 7th in class and 36th overall. The team and especially this #91 entry will be hoping for much better next year.

#92 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Frederic Makowiecki/Marco Holzer/Richard Leitz
Of the two Porsche entries in GTE Pro, it was this #92 car that had the more comfortable run in the 24 Hours as they ran largely problem free until the later stages of the race. The stellar cast of drivers in this car were therefore able to exploit the pace of the Porsche 911 as they held 2nd in class for a long period of the race. Just as the team began to think of a possible 2nd in class however, a engine problem left the team lacking power for the final few hours of the race.

Whilst the car was able to continue running, the reduced pace meant the #73 Corvette was able to pass them in the final few hours, relegating the #92 Porsche to the final GTE Pro podium spot. Whilst anything other than victory at Le Mans for Porsche is a disappointment, the team can at least be satisfied they scored decent points for the WEC and will be hoping to challenge for class honours in the remaining WEC races.

Aston Martin Racing:

#97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke/Bruno Senna
Worries from Aston Martin that their poor showings in the two previous WEC races would carry over to Le Mans, proved unfounded as they returned to their usual position in GTE Pro of fighting to class victory. This #97 car qualified 3rd in class and remained in podium and victory contention through the first half of the race. After battling the #51 Ferrari for class honours through the first half of the 24 Hours, their challenge wilted during the night as the car suffered a similar power steering failure to the team’s other entries.

From here the car soldiered on to the final chequered flag, eventually coming home 6th in class in class and 35th overall. For the very quick professional drivers in this car this result is a disappointment, yet the team can take massive positives in the fact they returned to the competitiveness and will be hoping to carry this over into the final round of the WEC.

#99 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Fernando Rees/Darryl O’Young/Alex MacDowall
For this #99 Craft-Bamboo/Aston Martin team the Le Mans 24 Hours provided the ultimate heart break, as the team’s Aston Martin looked strong in GTE Pro after Wednesday’s qualifying session. In the most cruel fashion however, for the #99 entry this is a far as their race week got after Fernando Rees suffered a big accident at the Porsche curves in Wednesday night’s qualifying session.

The car suffered substantial damage and despite the team trying everything to find a new chassis they were unable to locate one and get it to the track, forcing the team to make a late withdrawal just days before the 24 Hours. For the team and drivers it was the ultimate heart break, although they can take solace from their promising showing on the first day. The team will be hoping to carry over this promise into the final WEC rounds now.

That’s my review of the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours according to the GTE Pro class. Next up is a two part review of the highly competitive GTE Am category, so stay tuned in the next few days. Finally once again huge credit goes to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing, high quality photos, they really are worth a look for anyone interested in racing. Enjoy!