GT racing

Robin Frijns: A Talent Missed By F1

October 11th 2015: The Formula One paddock is eagerly anticipating the second ever Russian Grand Prix. 24 year old Dutchman Robin Frijns is eagerly anticipating race day. But whereas Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez steal the headlines in Sochi, Frijns is racing hundreds of miles away from the F1 paddock at the Zandvoort track in his native Holland. Now, you may ask what is surprising about this seemingly innocuous fact.  A look at his junior single seater racing CV will tell all as to why this is a very strange occurrence indeed.

Frijns was a regular go-karter in both France and Belgium, finishing his final year of karting in 2008 coming third in the highly competitive KF2 European championship and second in the French KF2 series. Having shown his talent on the highest level of junior karting, logically the next step was a move into cars.

Before Max Verstappen blazed a trail last year by jumping straight from karting to the phenomenally difficult FIA European F3 championship, Frijns raised eyebrows in 2009 by making a similarly difficult step up to the Formula BMW Europe series. The series list of champions reads like a printout of the 2015 Formula One grid.

Despite being a rookie Frijns made his mark on the series, finishing the year third in the points with one win and five further podiums. At age 18 Frijns had marked himself out as a young driver to watch in the motorsport universe. 2010 saw Frijns return to the series with the same Josef Kaufmann Racing team that propelled him to third the year before.

Frijns was considered the pre-season title favourite, but he found himself in a close title battle all year with British driver Jack Harvey. Six wins and a penultimate race retirement for Harvey meant Frijns was crowned the 2010 Formula BMW Europe series champion by a scant margin of 11 points.

Frijns tops the podium at the Hungaroring round of his victorious 2010 Formula BMW Europe campaign. Photo credit is unknown.



Having taken the title in front of the Formula One paddock, Frijns was moving up to the next rung of the single seater ladder. Frijns had shown further proof of his talent with a guest appearance in the equally competitive Formula Renault 2.0 category. In a one-off outing for Kaufmann in the offshoot Northern European Cup series at Spa, Frijns made up for his lack of experience by claiming a second,fifth and a win in the three races.

It was time for Frijns to move into the Formula Renault category full time in 2011, sticking with Josef Kaufmann racing to compete in the super competitive Formula Renault Eurocup.  As a rookie Frijns once again left the motorsport community drooling, claiming the title in his first year with five wins and four other podiums. It’s notable that he beat current F1 drivers Carlos Sainz Jr, Daniil Kvyat and Will Stevens along with the F1 bound Stoffel Vandoorne to win the title, with all of them being Eurocup rookie’s.

With Renault providing significant support through a scholarship scheme it was a obvious Frijns would be stepping up to the Renault World Series for 2012. With 3.5 litre engines and tons of downforce the series is seen as a rival of the GP2 series, the predominant F1 feeder series.

The established Fortec motorsport team were the one’s to sign Frijns, with a top five in the championship the target for the talented rookie. Whilst the Eurocup title success had been a surprise, winning the Renault World Series title as a rookie shocked the single seater community. A third and a win on his debut weekend was a statement of intent, something he followed up with two further wins and four podiums.

The final round at the Circuit de Catalunya was a three way title showdown between Frijns and the more experienced duo of Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird. His two rivals were both vastly more experienced and were closely affiliated with F1 teams. With the title coming down to the final race of the season, fireworks were predicted.

Late on, the race exploded into life. On lap 21 Bianchi found his way past Frijns at the first portion of the lap, with Kevin Magnussen close behind. Several corners later Magnussen attempted to also pass Frijns, who moved to block him passing. This quick change of direction left him nowhere to go as it then appeared he pushed title rival Bianchi into the gravel trap as he attempted to stay on the track.

Frijns celebrating with his Fortec team after a contentious final round incident sealed the Renault World Series title for him. F1 beckoned. Photo sourced from automobilsport.com .



This highly contentious collision led to a 25 second time penalty for Frijns, dropping him out of the points. In the end this penalty had no effect as Frijns was still able to claim the title over a disappointed Bird and furious Bianchi. Allegations were made by Bianchi post-race that Frijns deliberately made contact with Bianchi to push him off the track, allegations were were not investigated and furiously denied by Frijns himself.

Despite the contentious nature of the victory, it was nevertheless a huge achievement for Frijns to win the Renault World Series title in his first season. This title win propelled Frijns into Formula One community. After a stellar junior racing career with little financial support, it at last appeared that Frijns was destined for F1.

Frijns took part in the post-season F1 young driver test for the small Swiss Sauber team in Abu Dhabi, impressing enough on his day in the car to be announced at the team’s reserve driver soon after. Whilst it was not a race drive, it was a way to impress the F1 paddock with his time in the car throughout 2013.

Frijns driving the title winning Red Bull RB9-Renault at the post-season young driver test in Abu Dhabi. The test is a prize for winning the Renault World Series. Photo credit thanks to Motorsport.com



Both Frijns and Sauber were keen for him to continue racing in 2013, but with little financial support it was tough for him to progress into GP2. Impressive pre-season tests for the Trident and new Russian Time team showed Frijns deserved to be on the grid, but a lack of funding kept him off it for the opening round in Malaysia.

For the second weekend of the season in Bahrain it was announced that Frijns would join the new Hilmer Motorsport team for a number of rounds. He qualified a respectable 10th on his debut, but an accident and his struggles adapting to the Pirelli tyres prevented him from attaining a good result.

With a race by race shoestring budget Frijns was confirmed for the next round in Spain, and he showed his talent by claiming the feature race victory, cementing his status with a second in the shorter sprint race on Sunday morning. With the weekend supporting the Spanish Grand Prix, Frijns had once again shown the F1 paddock his talents as a driver.

Frijns on his way to his only GP2 win of 2013 for the new Hilmer Motorsport team at Catalunya. Photo sourced from Formule1.nl .



Alas, budget concerns and the lack of experience from the new team hindered Frijns for the rest of the season. He was only able to produce two more points scoring finishes as he completed only six of the eleven rounds in the championship.

2013 can be seen as the year his career momentum stalled, with a part GP2 season not offering much and his opportunities at Sauber were severely limited thanks to their grave financial concerns. He was not in the car much and at the end of the season was dropped because of his lack of funds he could bring to the team.

Despite his turbulent 2013 season Frijns was allowed a glimmer of hope going into 2014. His F1 career was rescued thanks to the back marker Caterham team, who appointed him their reserve driver. Whilst it must of been frustrating to have Swede Marcus Ericsson ahead of him in a race drive, considering he’d beaten him on occasion in GP2 the year despite his lack of budget, he could at least say he remained in F1.

One of the rare occasions Frijns was behind the wheel of a Sauber in 2013. Here he is at the mid-season young driver test at Silverstone. Photo sourced from Worldcarfans.com .

Sadly for Frijns his bad luck from Sauber followed him to Caterham, as he only drove in two practice sessions for the team. He drove in Bahrain and Britain, yet the team were taken over mid-season with chronic financial issues. This left Frijns washed up and seemingly out of F1 for good now.

Whilst the future in single seaters looked bleak for Frijns at the ripe old age of 23, his talent would take him in a different direction. He was handed a lifeline by the Belgian WRT GT racing team, who offered him a test at the end of 2014. His impressive showing was enough for WRT team principal Vincent Vosse, a former GT driver, to offer him a drive with his Audi works supported team.

Partnering fellow single seater convert Laurens Vanthoor for the Blancpain Sprint Series and Jean Karl Vernay supporting them in the Blancpain Endurance Series, he was for the first time in his career a professional racing driver. After a small hiccup at the opening round of the Sprint series, Frijns took to GT racing and his Audi R8 LMS like a duck to water.

An even rarer occurrence. Frijns behind the wheel of a Caterham in 2014. Here he is in Bahrain free practice. Photo sourced from F1fanatic.co.uk . Copyright Caterham and F1.

Ably led by Audi GT superstar Vanthoor, Frijns was able to secure the combined Blancpain GT series title at Zandvoort last Sunday, despite missing Vanthoor thanks to an injury several weeks ago which prevented him from claiming the title with Frijns.

Now is where we go full circle, as I mentioned at the start of the article. Whilst Frijns was claiming the Blancpain GT title last Sunday, his talents should have propelled him to a place on the Russian Grand Prix grid last Sunday. Thanks to extreme bad luck and a lack of funding it hasn’t happened for Frijns in F1 yet. For now his story joins a long list of very talented young drivers who should reach F1, but don’t for whatever reason.

For now Frijns must be content with a growing reputation in GT racing with WRT and Audi, along with a recently announced drive for Andretti Autosport for the second season of the Formula E championship. This new electric series is growing and could offer Frijns a chance to showcase his talents to the single seater community. One thing is for sure though. Motorsport fans will hear a lot more about Robin Frijns for the duration of his career.

Frijns on his way to the Blancpain GT series title last weekend at Zandvoort to complete a great first season in GT racing. Sourced from RaceXpress.nl copyright Miguel Bosch .

What are your thoughts on this article? Please feel free to comment below and thank you for reading.

2015 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Preview Part 2

After part 1 previewing the GTE Pro class at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, part 2 looks at the remaining contenders in this fiercely competitive GTE Pro class. With four manufactures and their hord of professional factory drivers set to compete flat out for 24 Hours, their battle for class victory will be scintillating to watch throughout the race.

#92 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Pilet/Frederic Makowiecki/Wolf Henzler The second Porsche Team Manthey entry is much like every other GTE Pro car in that it has a great chance at a class victory, with a top line Porsche factory team and a full line up of factory drivers in this car.

This entry has been fighting with Aston Martin and Ferrari all season so far in the World Endurance Championship, and will be looking to continue this fight at Le Mans. On the driving front this entry has one of the best GT drivers in the world in Frenchman Frederic Makowiecki. Partnering him are long time Porsche factory drivers Patrick Pilet and Wolf Henzler, with all three highly professional drivers who will be delivering consistently quick stints throughout the race.

Amongst the very close GTE Pro field, separating a favourite is too hard to predict. Therefore the winner of this class will be the one who can keep out of trouble during the race, as every entry has the potential to be contending for class honours in the final hours of the race. #95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Marco Sorensen/Nicki Thiim/Christoffer Nygaard

The all-Danish “Dane train” Aston Martin which dominated the GTE Am class last year, has this year stepped up to the cut and thrust of the GTE Pro field. So far the team has shown it can handle the step up, with solid top six placings in the opening two WEC rounds.

Nicki Thiim is the only driver who remains from the Danish trio from last year, with new team mates Marco Sorensen and Christoffer Nygaard for this year. Nygaard has moved across from the sister #98 entry for this year, with the young Dane and GP2 racer Marco Sorensen completing the line up.

Thiim and Nygaard will provide good pace and experience behind the wheel, with the young charger Sorensen balancing his GP2 season with a switch to GT racing. All three will be looking to impress at Le Mans, although in this hugely competitive class, it may be difficult for this team to move up to GTE Pro and win Le Mans in their first year. A class podium would be a great result for the “Dane Train 2.0”. 

#97 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke/Rob Bell

This number 97 Aston Martin will be the one that stands out throughout the race week, as this car will have a very distinctive ‘art car’ livery by artists Tobias Rehberger. As well as standing out for it’s art car livery, it will also stand out as this car will likely be the one that leads the Aston Martin charge for class victory in the race.

The Aston Martin team are regulars now in the highest level of GT racing, and have come very close to winning the GTE Pro class the past two years. This year the team will be aiming for a class victory, and this car is the one most likely to deliver it.

Experience is the name of the game with this driver line up, with Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Rob Bell all being long term factory drivers for Aston Martin. Their speed and experience will be a potent combination in the race, and if the team can avoid misfortune this car will be fighting for victory going into the final hours of the race for sure.

#99 Aston Martin Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Fernando Rees/Alex MacDowall/Richie Stanaway

The third and final works Aston Martin racing entry at Le Mans is the Number 99 car, which goes into the 24 hours on great form after taking the class win at the most recent WEC round at Spa a month ago. This car is very much in the hunt for the WEC drivers title after two rounds, and with Le Mans being a double points round this weekend will have a big outcome on the championship.

Both Fernando Rees and Alex MacDowall will be hoping for much better luck this year, after a huge practice crash for Rees last year forced the team to withdraw from the race on the opening day of running. This year they both have a new team mate in young New Zealand hotshot Richie Stanaway. He has shown well in GP3 and especially GP2 this season, and his fresh injection of pace will only add further strength to this car’s chances of a class win.

If all three drivers have a close to perfect race, their talent and this Aston Martin Vantage will have more than enough pace to take an unexpected GTE Pro class win, although if the car suffers any misfortune in the race it will be difficult to see them being able recover enough to claim the victory. A podium will be a very good result for this team, although a class win is a definite possibility.

That wraps up my look at a very competitive GTE Pro class, hope you enjoy this article and any comments would be appreciate both good and bad. I have to add thanks to Motorsport.com for their amazing, high quality photos which you see in this article. I urge you to go and visit their website http://www.Motorsport.com for all the latest news and photos from the motorsport world. Next up will be a preview of the LMP2 class.

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am Preview Part 2

The final part of my Le Mans 24 Hours preview is dedicated to the GTE Am class. Although the class will be the slowest cars on track, it does contain some seriously quick GT drivers amongst the majority amateur drivers in the class. New rules for 2014 have both ensured that at least one amateur driver has to be in each car, alongside this GTE Am teams are limited to one pro rated driver in each car. These subtle changes will mean a much close race for class honours than 2013, with a high quality field full of factory drivers and some seriously quick amateur drivers too. Like every other class, the GTE Am field will provide plenty of action over the 24 Hours. Let’s look at the second half of the entry.

Team Taisan:

#70 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: James Rossiter/Pierre Ehret/Martin Rich
The fabled Team Taisan returns to Le Mans for the first time in a while, this time with a Ferrari instead of their usual Porsche 911. This team won on it’s debut to the 24 Hours in 2000, although this time around a class win may seem unlikely. This team is as well prepared as anyone in the highly competitive Asian GT scene,something that should be highlighted this week. The team’s driver line-up is solid with the very quick Asian based racer James Rossiter leading the line-up, ably backed up by silver rated amateur drivers Pierre Ehret and Martin Rich. Ehret is highly experienced at Le Mans and Rich should provide some solid driving. This team will have to rely on Rossiter to be bang on the pace of the leading contenders, as well as solid driving from Ehret and Rich if this entry is going to make a similar return to their debut in 2000.

SMP Racing:

#72 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Andrea Bertolini/Victor Shaitar/Aleksey Basov
Alongside their 2 car entry in LMP2, the relatively new SMP racing team has also enters it’s GTE spec Ferrari F458, after some impressive showings in the opening two European Le Mans series rounds. This start-up team out of Russia have shown immediate promise and results since it entered European GT racing last year. The team benefits from a collaboration between them and the AF Corse team, which ensures this team always has one of the best prepared Ferrari GT cars in Europe.

The biggest question mark surrounding this entry will be their relatively inexperienced driver line-up, which includes two Russian’s who are rookie’s to the Le Mans 24 Hours. Both Victor Shaitar and Aleksey Basov have shown pace so far in this car, especially Shaitar, and how they perform will mostly define how well this car performs during the race. The team can count on experienced racer Andrea Bertolini, who will put this car in the mix for class honours for sure, it’s up to the Russians to keep the team there.

Prospeed Competition:

#75 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Francois Perrodo/Emmanuel Collard/Markus Palttala
The vastly experienced Porsche GT outfit Prospeed competition returns to the Le Mans 24 Hours again this year, with their strongest 2 car entry for a long time. Although the team has chosen not to update it’s older 997 spec 911’s to the new 991 shape, the team has showed their older model can still prove effective in the ELMS so far this year. The team contains a wealth of Le Mans experience and it appears fairly likely the team will have a reliable run, bar any unforeseen drama’s for them.

The first of their 2 entries has arguably one of the strongest GTE Am line-up’s in the class, with seriously quick GT racer Emmanuel Collard leading the way for this entry. Markus Palttala has proved a excellent pickup to replaced the injured rookie Matthieu Vaxiviere, and amateur driver Francois Perrodo is far from the slowest Am in the class. If this team has had a trouble free run going into the final few hours, expect this entry to be fighting for class honours.

IMSA Performance Matmut:

#76 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Raymond Narac/Nicolas Armindo/David Hallyday
The #76 entry is the second from the long standing Porsche entrant IMSA Performance Matmut. This most French of teams always has a knack of pulling off a good result in the 24 Hours and this year should see more of the same. The team is highly experienced and the driver line-up reflects this. Renowned Porsche racer Nicolas Armindo will set a blistering pace in the older spec Porsche, something that will be hard for amateur drivers Raymond Narac and French pop star David Hallyday to get close too.

Alongside the two Prospeed entries this #76 entry should prove to be fighting for at least podium honours, of course dependent on a clean run for the team. Something this team will be guaranteed this week however, is the award for the best GTE livery, the classic IMSA Matmut French colours look magnificent on their Porsche.

Dempsey Racing-Proton:

#77 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Dempsey/Joe Foster/Patrick Long
Very much like 2013, the most high profile GTE Am entry again goes to the Dempsey racing-Proton entry, which will looking for a repeat of their strong 2013 run, although this time without the late heartache of a collision which ruined their chances of a class victory with only a few hours left to run. The high profile nature of this entry is entirely related to team owner and driver Patrick Dempsey, renowned Grey’s Anatomy star, who is also seriously passionate about his motor racing.

After several years racing in the American Sportscar scene, he finally made returned at the world’s most famous Sportscar race last year, after making his debut in 2009.. Alongside good friend and business partner Joe Foster, they surprised massively last year with their pace and awareness. With Porsche factory racer Patrick Long completing the line-up, this entry is a serious contender for victory if they can have a largely trouble free run again. The fact their one of the few teams to update their Porsche to 2013 spec also helps, expect them to challenge for the class victory from the start.

Prospeed Competition:

#79 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Cooper MacNeil/Bret Curtis/Jeroen Bleekemolen
The second of the Prospeed Porsche entries appears just as formidable a challenger for class honours as it’s sister #75 entry. Like I’ve mentioned before, the Belgian Prospeed team are highly experienced Porsche and Le Mans racer’s, and their older 997 spec Porsche 911 GT3-RSR’s should prove to be bullet proof for the 24 Hours,barring any contact or driver error. These should be kept to a minimum with the driving talent this entry has behind the wheel. Both Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil are known as serious fast Porsche drivers in their respective racing circles, meanwhile Bret Curtis is a perfectly able amateur driver. Expect fireworks from Bleekemolen and MacNeil, as this team should be fighting for a top 3 finish in class if they can stay out of trouble during the race.

Proton Competition:

#88 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Christian Reid/Klaus Bachler/Khaled Al Qubaisi
The Proton competition team field only one of their own cars this year, after teaming up with Dempsey racing for their other entry. This team is very experienced with this race and the Porsche 911 GT3-RSR,something that will stand them in good stead throughout this week. The team’s driving talent comprises long time Proton driver Christian Reid, alongside young Porsche driver Klaus Bachler, who is quickly making a name for himself in Porsche’s, and finally amateur driver Khalid Al Qubaisi.

This is a solid line-up with Bachler seemingly the most likely to challenge the frontrunner’s during the race. It seems however, that the team may struggle to keep up the leaders pace with this line-up. This leaves them reliant on a trouble free run to compete for the podium,something that is never guaranteed in a race as unique as the Le Mans 24 Hours.

8Star Motorsport:

#90 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Frankie Montecalvo/Gianluca Roda/Paolo Ruberti
Whilst the 8Star motorsport team are only in their second season of GT racing, they’ve already proved their credential both in the previous American Grand-Am championship, and the World Endurance championship. The fact they’ve proved competitive in both series shows the versatility of the team. The team were unlucky last year as they suffered a problematic Le Mans 24 Hours, which prevented them from finishing higher than 10th in class, something the team should easily improve on this year.

On the driving front the team has a solid if unspectacular line-up of pace setter and ex-F3000 racer Paolo Ruberti, backed up by solid GT racer’s in amateur Gianluca Roda and American Frankie Montecalvo. Whilst it seems this team won’t be able to fight for the podium on pace alone, if they run trouble free don’t be surprised to see them challenging for a top 5 result in the final few hours.

Aston Martin Racing:

#95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Kristian Poulsen/David Heinemeier Hansson/Nicki Thiim
The only factory entries in the GTE Am class this year are the two entries from Aston Martin racing. Whilst some may argue it’s not right for a factory team to have entries in a predominantly amateur based class such GTE Am, the competitiveness of the class means it’s the driving talent that will prove the difference between victory and defeat, and this is an area Aston Martin has not exploited with it’s works entries. This very Danish driver line-up is as competitive as any in the class, with Nicki Thiim expected to set the pace, supported by quick racer’s in Kristian Poulsen and amateur David Heinemeier Hansson. Especially Heinemeier Hansson, who for me is the quickest amateur driver in this class, something that could prove crucial in deciding the GTE Am winner after 24 Hours.

The Aston Martin Vantage GTE appears to have been severely affected by the 2014 Balance of Performance tweaks so far in the World Endurance championship, something that other racers have put down to sandbagging from Aston before Le Mans. If the team can find a way to replicate the pace this car showed here a year ago, expect both works Aston Martin’s to be right in the thick of an intense battle for GTE Am honours throughout the 24 Hours.

#98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Christoffer Nygaard
The second of the factory Aston Martin entries should be equally paced with it’s sister entry in terms of pace and overall competitiveness in this hotly contested GTE Am class. A lot of the ultimate pace for Aston Martin is dependent on whether the team can replicate the 2013 pace it showed at the circuit de la Sarthe, something that is far from guaranteed based on 2014 WEC showing’s so far. Something Aston Martin can be confident with however are it’s driver line-up’s for both cars.

This #98 teams experienced racer’s in Paul Dalla Lana and Christoffer Nygaard with the supremely fast GT driver Pedro Lamy. All three should prove quick during the race, with the collective experience they share should help keep them out of trouble throughout the race. The key to their potential victory should rest on this trouble free run, something that should give them a fighting chance of making the podium once the dust has settled at 3pm on Sunday afternoon.

Garage 56 entry

Nissan Motorsport:

#0 Nissan ZEOD RC: Lucas Ordonez/Wolfgang Reip/Satoshi Motoyama
The award for the most interesting entry of the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours most definitely goes to the innovative Nissan ZEOD RC entry.The Nissan team has set lofty ambitions for this highly unconventional hybrid car, with a target of lapping at LMP2 pace, despite have far less power than the class, and will also attempt to complete a full racing lap of Le Mans only on electric power. Whilst this new car is not expected to have a trouble free run based on the high amount of new technologies being used, yet it’s sure to cause a stir this week, and harks back to the very essence of Sportscar racing: innovation.

Completing the Nissan flavor of this entry are the three factory backed drivers for this car, with two coming from another innovative Nissan project, the GT academy. For those of you unaware of the GT academy I urge you to find out about it, as it takes wannabe Playstation racers all the way to Le Mans in the case of inaugural winner Lucas Ordonez and 2012 winner Wolfgang Reip. Completing the line-up is the highly experienced Nissan racer Satoshi Motoyama, mainstay of the company’s Japanese SuperGT team. For this team purely a finish would be seen as a success, as they push the boundaries of new technology on the racing stage. Kudos for Nissan for providing some excitement around Le Mans and for trialling innovate technology.

That’s it from me and my Le Mans 24 Hours previews. Hope you enjoyed reading them and a massive thank you to everyone who has publicized my blog, and for sending my blog’s viewer stats through the roof this weekend. Also huge thanks to Motorsport.com for their amazing photos, I urge you all to visit their website with the link here.http://www.motorsport.com

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Preview

After previewing the LMP1 and LMP2 prototype classes now it’s time to switch my focus onto the GT classes. First up is the GTE Pro series, which this year is mostly the domain of factory teams. This year see’s 4 manufactures take each other on in what should be a very tense battle, as they fight for the all important class victory.

AF Corse:

#51 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Gianmaria Bruni/Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella
The #51 AF Corse entry has been a winner so far in the World Endurance Championship in 2014, yet the team could struggle with the Ferrari at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Indeed, last year’s race for Ferrari may just end up repeating itself as all GTE Pro cars were frozen in 2013 spec before the start of this season. This therefore doesn’t bode well for AF Corse as they struggled to match the pace of Aston Martin and Porsche.

AF Corse can never be discounted however, especially this #51 entry which comprises the same line-up that won this class in 2012. Ex-F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella joins Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander. These 3 are very quick in GT Ferrari’s and expect them to still challenge the pacesetters in the class, despite a car that most likely will be the third best car around the Circuit de la Sarthe.

#71 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Davide Rigon/James Calado/Olivier Beretta
The second of the factory supported AF Corse entries is the #71 entry, which blends experience with youth for Le Mans with Olivier Beretta bringing his vast GT racing experience to complement young chargers Davide Rigon and in particular James Calado. Although Calado and Rigon have little GT experience expect both of them to fly during the race. As I mentioned above the Ferrari’s don’t appear to suit the Le Mans circuit, meaning the most likely route to victory for AF Corse will be a reliable and trouble free run, rather than on outright pace alone.

RAM Racing:

#52 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Matt Griffin/Alvaro Parente/Federico Leo
For the RAM Racing team, 2014 promised so much for this plucky privateer team, yet so far it has delivered little as the team have struggled through the year with financial issues. These issues have severely hampered their Le Mans 24 Hours efforts as they were forced to miss the last WEC race at Spa to be confident of making the 24 Hours. Funding has also affected their driver line-up with experienced racer Ben Collins being replaced by the ex-single seater driver Federico Leo in the run up to the event.

For the only privateer team in the GTE Pro class things were always going to be tough against the might of factory Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin entries, as they fight an uphill battle to challenge the factory outfits in GTE Pro. Luckily for RAM racing they have three very quick GT drivers to share the car, including on-loan McLaren GT factory driver Alvaro Parente. Expect this car to shine in their hands but for this team a top 5 result in GTE Pro would be good but they’ll need a reliable run to achieve this.

Corvette Racing:

#73 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Jordan Taylor
The enormously successful Corvette racing team returns to Le Mans after a bruising 2013 24 Hours where there were far behind the leading pace of Aston Martin and Porsche. This year they aim to rectify this with a brand new C7.R model Corvette, which has so far proved very competitive in the American Tudor United Sportscar Championship, with arguably the most competitive GT class in the world right now.

If the C7.R can adapt to Le Mans quickly expect this team to be right at the front all race long. Certainly they have the driving talent to be at the front with the #73 being crewed by vastly experienced racers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, perfectly complementing the outright pace of youngster Jordan Taylor. Although he’s had little running in the new C7.R, if he can adapt quickly to the car and track, expect this car to fight for the class win.

#74 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Richard Westbrook
The second of the factory Corvette entries is again piloted by an impressive line-up of Corvette racing stalwart Oliver Gavin alongside Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook. This line-up is as strong as any in this class and most importantly if the new C7.R can prove reliable over 24 Hours they will certainly be fighting for the class victory.

The reliability of this new car is very important as the team suffered reliability problems in it’s racing debut at the Rolex 24, something they’ll hope will have been rectified by this time next week. Their performances in the race will be one’s to watch out for in the hotly contested GTE Pro category.

Porsche Team Manthey:

#91 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Patrick Pilet/Jorg Bergmeister/Nick Tandy
The Manthey Porsche team will be hoping for a repeat of their 2013 class win at the Le Mans 24 Hours, with continuity being the name of the game with Porsche as they keep the same band of drivers,car and team for their 2014 campaign. Although there have been Balance of Performance tweaks since last year’s 24 Hours, the Porsche 911 appears to still be the car to beat going into the 2014 edition.

The only relative difference for this #91 entry for 2014, is the promotion of Porsche factory driver Nick Tandy to the factory team, after spending the last few years impressing on assignment with various Porsche customer teams. Alongside fellow factory drivers Patrick Pilet and Jorg Bergmeister both Porsche entries must surely go into the event as pre-race favouries in the GTE Pro category.

#92 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Marco Holzer/Frederic Makowiecki/Richard Leitz
The second of the factory Manthey Porsche’s is piloted by a stellar line-up of factory drivers in Marco Holzer, new signing Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Leitz. Both Porsche entries have proved fast and reliable so far in 2014, and whilst the headlines have been taken by their return to the LMP1 category for this year, the team is adamant the GT racing group is entirely separate from the prototype division. This should ensure the team are in the perfect position to replicate their class victory from a year ago. Anything can happen at Le Mans however.

Aston Martin Racing:

#97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke/Bruno Senna
Similarly to Porsche, Aston Martin returns to Le Mans in 2014 with mostly the same group that gave Porsche an almighty challenge for class honours last year. The factory team brings two entries this year and so far both have struggled in the WEC with Balance of Performance tweaks, which the team feel have blunted their challenge in an unfair manner. Some in the paddock question however is Aston Martin have simply been sandbagging before Le Mans, the truth will only appears once qualifying for the 24 Hours starts on Wednesday.

On the driving front the #97 entry will lead the way with GT stalwarts Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke partnering Bruno Senna for Aston. Whilst Senna may appear a slight weak link with the little running he’s done in the car this year, expect all 3 drivers to be right on the pace throughout the race. Reliability should not be a problem in this well proven car therefore it will be down to the drivers to make the difference needed for class victory.

#99 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Alex MacDowall/Darryl O’Young/Fernando Rees
The second of the works Aston Martin entries this year is a collaborative effort between the works Aston team and the Asian based team Craft-Bamboo. This link-up explains the driver line-up of Bamboo linked drivers Alex MacDowall and Darryl O’Young to partner experienced Brazilian Fernando Rees.

Whilst the driver line-up may slightly hamper this car in a class full of factory GT drivers, if the pace Aston showed last year has remained intact and the car can stay reliable, expect this team to provide glimpses of promise in the race with a top 5 result a real possibility.

That’s it for the GTE Pro class, although the entry is relatively small the 4 factory outfits will be fighting right until the end for the class victory. This is exactly why anyone watching the race should always keep an eye on the GTE Pro fight as the race develops. Once again massive thanks must go to http://www.motorsport.com/#!/lemans for their amazing photos once again all the latest Le Mans 24 Hours news can be seen on the link above. Keep posted for the GTE-Am preview in the next few days. Enjoy!