Porsche

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am Review Part 2

After previewing the first half of a vast 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am class, this is the second and final instalment of my Le Mans reviews from each class. Like I mentioned before, the GTE Am class was one of the closest fought battles in the race and the vast entry shows it’s popularity with the drivers and teams. Long may it continue.

Team Taisan:

#70 Ferrari F458 Italia: Shinji Nakano/Martin Rich/Pierre Ehret
The Japanese based Team Taisan returned to the Le Mans 24 Hours after a long absence, hoping for a similar result to it’s first debut where the team scored a GT class victory in 2000. Unfortunately for the team, the level of competition in GTE Am is much improved in 2014 and a repeat class victory didn’t look likely.

The team suffered a poor qualifying yet the quality in their driver line-up meant they were unlikely to stay in the lower places once the race got underway. From here the team drove a steady and reliable race as they marched up the GTE Am field to an eventual 8th place finish in class by the finish, and 28th overall. For this team that can be viewed as a success on their return after some years away, with many hoping they’ll make a return visit in 2015.

SMP Racing:

#72 Ferrari F458 Italia: Andrea Bertolini/Victor Shaitar/Aleksey Basov
For this newly formed Russian SMP Racing team their link up with experienced Ferrari GT team AF Corse must have proved invaluable on this, their first Le Mans 24 Hours. Whilst the two Oreca LMP2 cars they fielded struggled during session leading into the race, their GTE Am Ferrari qualified a superb 5th in a highly competitive class.

During the race the SMP Ferrari consolidated it’s position at the head of the midfield, just within reach of podium contention. All 3 drivers were driving well, especially the two Russian rookies considering it was their first Le Mans, until the rug was whipped out from underneath the team just as the began to dream of a top 5 position in class. They were forced out during the night after completing 196 laps, and whilst the team can be disappointed they retired, they can take a lot of heart from their performance up to that point. The team looks likely to return in 2015, and watch out for them to be contenders for GTE Am honours.

Prospeed Competition:

#75 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Francois Perrodo/Emmanuel Collard/Markus Palttala
This #75 Prospeed Porsche was a car I tipped for the GTE Am podium as they contained a driver line-up that could match anyone in the class. Unfortunately the team suffered a poor build up to the 24 Hours and qualified well down from their expected front running position.

The team and drivers were vastly experienced however and it wasn’t long before they began their rise through the GTE Am field. The team was staying out of trouble and making up positions until unfortunately the team was forced into retirement in the middle of the night, having completed 194 laps. This was galling for the team as they looked on course to challenge for a top 5 finish in class, although we remain hopeful the team will return next year and deliver on the potential they showed in this year’s 24 Hours.

IMSA Performance Matmut:

#76 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Nicolas Armindo/Raymond Narac/David Hallyday
The second IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche was another, like the #58 Sofrev ASP Ferrari, to garner plenty of French press attention, as this driver line up contained French pop star David Hallyday, who is a regular at the 24 Hours. This experienced team was given a boost with rapid young French GT driver Nicolas Armindo in the line up, although the #76 car failed to show it’s true pace in qualifying.

Come race day, the car was running well during the early hours, before a plethora of small problems hobbled the team from here on out. The drivers drove well to try make up as much time as possible yet by the finish the problems had relegated the team to a lowly 11th in class at the flag. Although this is hugely disappointing for a team that was probably hoping for a top 5 finish in class, they’ll be hoping their luck improves in time for next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

Dempsey Racing-Proton:

#77 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Dempsey/Joe Foster/Patrick Long
Undoubtedly the car with the most attention throughout the race week was the #77 Dempsey racing Porsche. Well known American actor and avid racer Patrick Dempsey returned for his third Le Mans, and second with his own team. After a heart breaking run that came so close to GTE Am honours last year, they were hoping to better that this year. After a midfield qualifying run the team looked set for a good race as Porsche factory driver Patrick Long was soon challenging for higher places in the opening few hours.

From here the steady hands of Dempsey and business partner Joe Foster kept the car in the hunt, although tragically for the team misfortune soon derailed their challenge. This mechanical problem dropped them down the order, and whilst they tried to make up the lost ground, they were able to get back to a close 5th in class. Although this team might feel slightly disappointed, to have such a strong Le Mans two years in a row suggests if this team has a relatively reliable run, they be challenging for GTE Am honours next year.

Proton Competition:

#88 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Christian Reid/Klaus Bachler/Khaled Al Qubaisi
The second of the Proton Porsche’s carried a lot less hype surrounding it than the sister #77 entry, therefore leaving the car to fly under the race during race week. A quiet qualifying was carried over into the race as the car and three drivers ran faultlessly throughout the 24 Hours, whilst the lacked the all round scintillating pace that can be overcome in the race. Their reliability soon had them creeping up the order until they found themselves 2nd in class with only a few hours to go.

Whilst the team started dreaming of a class victory when the leading #95 Aston Martin was pulled into the pits with only a couple of hours left, the team was unable to make up the lap difference before the Aston was fixed and sent back out. Therefore the team cruised from here to take a comfortable 2nd in class, and 21st overall. The team was clearly delighted with this incredible result and will be hoping their good luck continues for another crack at class victory next year.

8Star Motorsport:

#90 Ferrari F458 Italia: Frankie Montecalvo/Gianluca Roda/Paolo Ruberti
For the 8Star team things started badly for the 24 Hours as driver Frankie Montecalvo suffered a big accident in the early qualifying sessions. It was feared at one point he would be unable to race, yet the team were delighted to find out in fact he would be well enough to race after the shunt. The crash therefore blunted their qualifying effort, yet the team were confident they could make up ground with a reliable run.

The team’s race plan worked to perfection during the race as they slowly and methodically moved up the GTE Am order as the race wore on, the #90 seemed to slip under the radar until they reached 4th in class by Sunday morning. From here the team tried to catch the #61 AF Corse Ferrari in in 3rd, yet were unable to do this and settled for a 4th in GTE Am, only one lap off the podium.

Whilst the team might feel slightly unlucky with their accident and starting position it seems the team lived up to their expectations after a difficult start, and will be hungry for more next year.

Aston Martin Racing:

#95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Nicki Thiim/Kristian Poulsen/David Heinemeier Hansson
This was arguably the favourite for GTE Am honours pre-race, something the team delivered on in the ultimate manner. From the moment practice began on Wednesday this team seemed to have an edge on speed over the rest in the GTE Am class, as the Aston Martin Vantage returned to competitiveness at the Circuit de la Sarthe. The team expertly converted a 3rd in class after qualifying into an early lead, which the held for the majority of the rest of the race.

It was one of the few Aston Martin’s that didn’t suffer from power steering problems throughout the race, yet it have it share of problems late on, although by this point the car had enough of a lead to retain it’s GTE Am lead. They eventually crossed the line victorious by 2 laps, in what was hugely emotional win for this all Danish crew, after the loss of team mate and popular fellow Dane Allan Simonsen in the early laps of last year’s 24 Hours. This class win was the ultimate dedication to his memory from everyone at Aston Martin racing.

#98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Christoffer Nygaard
The second of the two factory Aston Martin GTE entries suffered a lot more difficult race as their Aston was the first to suffer power steering problems. Up to this point the team was thrilled as the factory Aston’s ran 1-2 in GTE Am, with the #98 car holding the lead for 86 consecutive laps before surrendering it to the sister #95 entry just after midnight when the power steering problem reared it’s ugly head.

The repairs were extensive and dropped the car well down in the GTE Am class, once repaired the superb driver line up tried to make up as much as possible, yet there was little they could do at this point as the car eventually made the flag 6th in class, 5 laps down on it’s team mate. Although the team will be disappointed with the problem, they can take consolation from the fact they scored points which sets them up well for the remaining rounds of the WEC now.

Garage 56 Entry:

Nissan Motorsport:

#0 Nissan ZEOD RC: Lucas Ordonez/Wolfgang Reip/Satoshi Motoyama
The final entry for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours was the greatly experimental Nissan ZEOD RC, which challenged the boundaries for hybrid technology in the world’s greatest motor race. The team set ambitious target and threw the best available talent behind this project. The vastly successful RML team ran the operation, which aimed to travel at 186mph on the Mulsanne straight and complete a full lap on only electric power stored by the hybrid system.

Unsurprisingly the car ran into a lot of problems during the week, yet the team’s targets had already been met before the 24 Hours even started as they completed their objectives in the morning warm up. From here the overall result in the 24 Hours wasn’t of major significance as the team had already completed it’s goals. Despite this, the team must have been disappointed to see the car roll to a halt halfway between Arnage and the Porsche curves early on.

Once the ACO refused the team’s plea to let the car be collected and returned to the pits, their race was sadly over after only 5 laps. On the whole, the team can take great heart from this project and it’s achievement, despite the race result. The team performed excellently during the week, and all 3 drivers have definitely put themselves in the window for the new Nissan LMP1 project next year with their performances this week.

That sadly completes my Le Mans 24 Hours coverage for this year, all keep posted as I try to write about the remaining Sportscar season, which goes relatively quiet now in Europe after Le Mans. It was a truly amazing Le Mans 24 Hours race, which has solidified my decision to go to the race next year for sure. Please feel free to comment on this, all my details are in the contact page of this site.

Finally I must say one more time a huge thank you to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing photos throughout the whole Le Mans 24 Hours week. I know I’ve said the same thing in multiple posts but their site really is worth a look for any motorsport fan. Until next time, Enjoy!

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!

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!

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP1 Review

After previewing all four class competing in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, now seems an appropriate time to subsequently review all four classes how they fared in a thrilling 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours. The 24 Hours kept race fans glued to the race throughout, with changeable conditions teaming with uncharacteristic unreliability to provide a classic Le Mans. Like with the previews, I’ll go through each class individually, starting with the highest class, LMP1.

Audi Sport Team Joest:

#1 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Tom Kristensen/Loic Duval/Lucas Di Grassi/Marc Gene
For the No1 Audi, this race provided all the extremes this great race can provide. After initially looking quick, a monumental accident in first practice at the Porsche curves rendered Loic Duval unable to race. Audi quickly drafted in reserve driver Marc Gene from the Jota Sport LMP2 team, and set about rebuilding the car. The mechanics worked flat out to get the car qualified the next day, and the team’s confidence grew as the race drew closer. After running solidly early on, the team capitalized on other’s misfortunes to snatch the lead when the leading Toyota faltered in the early morning hours.

From here the team were set for a fairytale victory. However, Le Mans proved how cruel it can be as the car suffered a misfire at around 9am, which forced the car into the pits for 4 laps of repairs, subsequently ending it’s chances of victory. From here the team followed the sister No2 entry in 2nd to the flag after Porsche’s dramatic late demise. Considering the state of the car on Wednesday evening, 2nd is a terrific result for this team, yet anything other than a win for Audi drivers at Le Mans is a disappointment.

#2 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Marcel Fassler/Benoit Treluyer/Andre Lotterer
For all three Audi cars, the 24 Hours week got better the further along we got. Initially in practice and qualifying they appeared to lack the pace of Toyota and Porsche, a concern for the race. Whilst some discounted Audi based on their qualifying pace, the team did what they do best, and provided a relatively trouble free run.

Just as the team were getting comfortable in the lead, after the demise of the leading Toyota, the team were forced to pit in the early hours of the morning with a failing turbocharger, the team lost 20 minutes and dropped to 3rd. From here all 3 drivers drove flat out, and allied with problems for the cars ahead, were able to re-claim the lead for good at around mid morning. From here it was fairly comfortable, as the remaining Porsche challenge crumbled, leaving an Audi 1-2 to the finish. This is the trio’s 3rd win in 4 years, a truly remarkable achievement for this highly talented trio.

#3 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Oliver Jarvis/ Marco Bonanomi/ Filipe Albuquerque
Before the event started, the #3 Audi had already been discounted as a challenger for victory by some people, who pointed to the driver line-up and the fact this not a full season entry as justification for their viewpoint. After qualifying however, they were proved wrong as this Audi was the fastest of the 3 in qualifying going into the race. The team were hoping this car’s usual bad luck would not repeat itself this year, yet the couldn’t of been more wrong.

With only a few hours gone in the race, the rain showers began with heavy intensity, at which point the slow travelling #3 Audi was rear ended by the #81 GTE Am Ferrari, subsequently eliminating both as they were both unable to hustle their cars back into the pits for repairs. A very sad end to what promised to be a great run for this #3 Audi crew, who must surely be asking which spiritual God they offended with the amount of bad luck they have in the 24 Hours.

Toyota Racing:

#7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid: Alex Wurz/Stephane Sarrazin/Kazuki Nakajima
For Toyota and especially this #7 entry, the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours is the ultimate example of one that slipped away. In the pre-race build-up Toyota were more than comfortably justifying their pre-race favourites tag as this car claimed pole. Nobody appeared to be able to match their pace during the race, with the #7 entry leading from the start and building over a 2 minute lead on the chasing pack by the early hours of Sunday morning, despite spending longer in the pits.

This car’s dream run was brought to a sudden halt however as the car lost drive coming out of Arnage in the 9th hour. Despite frantic contact between driver Kazuki Nakajima and the team, the electrical problem could not be fixed and the car was forced to retire. For Toyota this was a heart breaking moment as no manufacture has worked so hard to win this race. Toyota will surely come back stronger in 2015 and they might just finally claim the Le Mans 24 Hours victory they so badly crave.

#8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid: Anthony Davidson/Nicolas Lapierre/Sebastien Buemi
The second Toyota also suffered a greatly unlucky run in the 24 Hours, as their car was eliminated from realistic victory contention within the first few hours of the race. The #8 car was caught out in the same conditions as the #3 Audi. Although driver Nicolas Lapierre gave the car considerable contact in the very difficult conditions, the team was able to mend the car for it to continue, unlike the #3 Audi.

From here the team simply drove flat out and hoped for the best, with the pace they were able to show in the remaining hours proving an ultimate what if statement. Their pace was remarkable as they were the only car to be able to consistently lap in 3m26 laps during daylight conditions. With others misfortunes and their startling pace the car salvaged the final podium spot, after the demise of Porsche in the final few hours. This team will surely come back in 2015 even more determined to claim victory after this year.

Porsche Team:

#14 Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb
For the Porsche outfit, 2014 was always pencilled in as a learning year for this new team, with any competitive results being a bonus for them. During the race, the car was running well above predictions as it mixed it with the Toyota’s for the lead. The team’s great run was dampened however with two separate fuel pressure problems, leaving the car well behind the leaders.

The car continued circulating at an impressive pace, before in the cruellest fashion possible, mechanical problems forced the car into the garage with only 3 hours remaining, where it would remain until the end.For this team the pace they showed will provide huge encouragement, expect this team to be seriously challengers when they return to Le Mans next year.

#20 Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley/Mark Webber
Incredibly, the #20 had an even more impressive Le Mans 24 Hours than the sister car. This entry showed they meant business by claiming provisional pole on Wednesday, thanks to a stunning lap from Brendon Hartley. Although they slipped back on Thursday, they went into 24 Hours reasonably confident of a good result. From the start the team ran under the radar, capitalising on other’s misfortune to climb the leader board.

Sensationally, after the problems for the #1 Audi on Sunday morning, this promoted the #20 Porsche into a fairy tale lead with only a few hours remaining. From here however this slipped out of their grasp as the charging #2 Audi was able to reclaim the lead an hour later. Soon after, things got even worse as the #20 was forced into the garage with a broken anti-roll bar. This halted their run and in a final twist of cruel fate, the car was not classified as a finisher after it failed to complete the final lap in the set time. Again huge positives can be taken from their run and expect them to be on the podium next year.

Rebellion Racing:

#12 Rebellion R-One-Toyota: Nicolas Prost/Nick Heidfeld/Mathias Beche
For the Rebellion team things went according to expectations mostly, with the only major surprise being the relatively faultless run they had in the 24 Hours, considering it was only the second race for a car short on testing miles too. The car’s paced compared to the other LMP1 entries may have worried them, as they finished 14 laps behind the next LMP1 entry ahead of them.

The team did however benefit massively from the misfortunes of others, as they climbed the charts to eventually finish a brilliant 4th overall. The team will be thrilled with this result, with the team’s only concern going into the 2015 24 Hours will be the overall pace of their LMP1 entries, although for now they can celebrate an excellent result for this privateer outfit.

#13 Rebellion R-One-Toyota: Dominik Kraihamer/Andrea Belicchi/Fabio Leimer
The #13 entry proved to be the slightly slower of the two Rebellion racing entries, although this is not a major surprise considering the relative driver line-up’s of the two cars. This car was hoping for a steady run in the 24 Hours, ;although unlike the sister team entry, this car was unable to achieve this. The team suffered terrible luck as an engine problem side lined the car after only several hours. The team will be hoping to come back a lot stronger in 2015 as they aim to bring more pressure to the factory entries.

There’s the first of my Le Mans 24 Hours reviews. The other class reviews will be posted in the next few days. Once again huge thanks to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing photos, please feel free to visit their site if your interested.

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 Am Preview Part 1

After previewing the three other classes racing in the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, the time has come to look at the final class racing this year, the GTE Am class. Similarly to LMP2, the GTE Am class is based on amateur drivers with a minimum of one silver rated amateur driver and a limit of only one pro rated driver. This is aimed to ensure the amateur ethos of this class. The entry this year is huge with 19 entries in the GTE Am class, ensuring a enthralling race is guaranteed for class victory next Sunday afternoon.

RAM Racing:

#53 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Johnny Mowlem/Mark Patterson/Archie Hamilton
The RAM racing GTE Am entry should have a much higher chance of class victory than their GTE Pro entry, however the team’s funding issues in 2014 have hampered their preparations as the team have been unable to update their Ferrari F458 from 2012 spec, the only team in the class with a 2012 car.

The team’s driver line-up changed late also with Archie Hamilton replacing Ben Collins not long ago. The budget problems have severely hampered the team yet Mowlem is a seriously quick GT driver and if the team has a reliable run expect him to drag the car into contention, of course a lot depends also on how Hamilton and Mark Patterson performance during the race. If those two can perform at their best the team has a good chance for at least a class podium.

Krohn Racing:

#57 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Ben Collins
The Krohn racing team received very little time to prepare for the 24 Hours after their desperately late call up to the race at the end of May. Therefore the link they have with the American Risi Competizione team has been a massive help to their preparations for this race.

The team found RAM racing refugee Ben Collins to partner long time team mates Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson. The team has a long recent history at Le Mans and have claimed 3 class podiums in the last 7 years. Therefore this team can never be discounted however the late entry and the competitive nature of the driving talent this year in GTE Am probably means a top 5 in class would be a good result for the American team.

Team Sofrev ASP:

#58 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Fabien Barthez/Anthony Pons/Soheil Ayari
The Sofrev-ASP team are relatively new to international GT racing, yet the team have performed solidly so far in the opening two European Le Mans Series rounds so far. The team is run by experienced GT racer Jerome Policand, who alongside driver Soheil Ayari will provide a wealth of experience to the other two drivers.

Both French footballing legend Fabien Barthez and Anthony Pons are relatively inexperienced, and will therefore benefit massively from Ayari and Policand. Expect this team to surprise with it’s pace with Ayari behind the wheel yet both Barthez and Pons will have to show pace far beyond their experience for this entry to challenge for a top 5 in class. To finish at all would be a result for this newly formed team and relatively inexperienced line-up.

AF Corse:

#60 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Peter Mann/Lorenzo Case/Raffaele Giammaria
The first of AF Corse’s mammoth 4 car entry in GTE Am alone is the #60 for experienced amateur drivers Peter Mann and Lorenzo Case. Pushing this entry forward will be ex-F3000 racer Raffaele Giammaria, who will set the pace for this car. Whilst AF Corse are almost certainly the best Ferrari GT racing team on the planet, the strength of the class this year suggests this entry will struggle to compete for a significant placing once Giammaria steps out the car. A finish will be a result for this team although expect Giammaria to shine.

#61 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Luis Perez Companc/Marco Cioci/Mirko Venturi
This #61 AF Corse entry is the most likely of their 4 GTE Am entries to take class honours as this line-up has already proved successful in the World Endurance Championship this year. The driver line-up of experienced racers Companc and Cioci alongside Mirko Venturi should prove enough to challenge anyone in the class. If the AF Corse team can work their magic and this car has a reliable 24 Hours, expect this #61 entry to be challenging for a podium if not class victory. Definitely one to look out for during the race.

#62 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Yannick Mallegol/Jean-Marc Bachelier/Howard Blank
As I said before relating to the #61 entry being the favourite of the AF Corse entries to claim GTE Am victory, the opposite is true of the #62 which appears to have the least opportunity to claim class honours. Although the car and team are first rate and can match anyone in the class, the driver line-up for the #62 car is well below the level of some other entries in the class.

Yannick Mallegol, Jean-March Bachelier and Howard Blank can all count experience in their favour when it comes to Le Mans, the fact their an all amateur driver line-up severely dampens their chances of a decent result. For this car a reliable run to the finish would be a good result, with any further placing’s being purely a bonus for this all amateur entry. On the plus side this entry could challenge anyone in the class for the honours of best livery.

#81 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Steve Wyatt/Michele Rugolo/Sam Bird
The final of the four entries is the #81 car, which should have the best chance of a decent result for AF Corse outside of the #61 entry. This team has proved competitive so far in the WEC and will be hoping to carry over this form into the Le Mans 24 Hours. The team will produce a first rate car and reliability should be no issue for this well proven car. Therefore a lot like most entries in this class the difference will be between the driver line-up’s of each car.

This favours the #81 car as they boast a solid amateur driver in Steve Wyatt, a fast yet experienced racer in Michele Rugolo and , if he can adapt to the Circuit de la Sarthe quickly, the fastest driver in the class in AMG Mercedes test driver Sam Bird. He’s gained some Sportscar experience in the American United Sportscar Championship so should prove a revelation during the week. If this car can stay out of trouble look for this entry to be right in the fight for victory on Sunday afternoon.

JMW Motorsport:

#66 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Abdulaziz Al-Faisal/Seth Neiman/Spencer Pumpelly
2014 has seen a fair amount of change for this plucky privateer as they have been forced to switch to Michelin tyres from Dunlop. Also the team have changed their driver line-up for a so far competitive campaign in the ELMS. Things are not so rosy for Le Mans however as a tie-up with the Flying Lizard American GT team, means the team will field a mostly new line-up for the 24 Hours.

Partnering experienced amateur racer Abdulaziz Al-Faisal are Flying Lizard partners Seth Neiman and Spencer Pumpelly. Neiman is another experienced Am driver, but it will in the hands of Spencer Pumpelly when this car flies. He’s a seriously quick driver in the American GT scene and once his steps out, this team will struggle mightily to keep pace with the rest. A top 6 would be a good result for this team but they’ll need a clean run first.

IMSA Performance Matmut:

#67 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Erik Maris/Jean Marc-Merlin/Eric Helary
The vastly experienced customer Porsche IMSA Performance Matmut team returns once again to the Le Mans 24 Hours, this year with two older spec Porsche 911 GT3-RSR’s. The first of these is the #67 entry which may well struggle to compete with the ultimate pace in the class this year. Whilst the team is a highly competitive Porsche GT outfit the two amateur driver’s in the line-up will put a wrench in any plans they may have had on a competitive showing.

1993 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Eric Helary will star as always in this entry yet it will be expecting a lot of amateur drivers Erik Maris and Jean Marc-Merlin to even get close to his pace. Therefore a more realistic target for the team will be to have a trouble free race as anything can happen in the 24 Hours. This mostly definitely appears their best chance of attaining a respectable result in class against the wealth of opposition.

That concludes Part 1 of my predictions for the GTE Am category, one that should provide exciting racing throughout the 24 Hours, like every other class racing. A huge thank you to Motorsport.com for their amazing photos again to view them all please visit this link. Enjoy! http://www.motorsport.com/#!/filter/lemans/photos/main-gallery/?sz=2&y=2014&ft=1

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!