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An 8 Car, 3 manufacturer showdown

Featured Image by Kevin Decherf on Flickr

For 2020, the GTE Pro field has vastly shrunk, with the field shrinking to 8 cars, down from 17 the previous year, while the number of represented marques has shrunk from 6 to just 3. The sharp decline in entrants and variety of the field can be attributed to the various factors, beyond COVID-19.

Ford opted against extending it’s GTE/GTLM programme in 2019, which led to a reduction of 4 cars in the field (Ford had also entered both IMSA cars at Le Mans, alongside it’s WEC entry). BMW also opted to withdraw from the WEC in 2019, which led to a further reduction of 2 cars. COVID-19 did however, eliminate 4 more cars from the grid, in the form of 2 cars from Corvette Racing & the North American Porsche GT Team run by CORE Autosport.

Corvette Racing’s reason for withdrawal was stated to be due to uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Porsche’s reasons for withdrawal were stated to be due to the current financial and logistical uncertainties amid the coronavirus pandemic.

AF Corse

#51 | Ferrari 488 GTE Evo| WEC | Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Daniel Serra |
Q: 3rd (3:51.244), HP: 2nd (3:51.115)

#71 | Ferrari 488 GTE Evo| WEC | Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina, Sam Bird |
Q: 4th (3:51.988), HP: 5th (3:51.515)

It took 3 years of trying, after being denied a Le Mans victory in the GTE Pro class after a controversial penalty in 2016 in the hands of Risi Competizione, but the 488 GTE finally achieved it’s first GTE Pro win at Le Mans in 2019, in the hands of AF Corse.

Last year, the #51 AF Corse trio of Pier Guidi, Calado and Serra achieved the 488 GTE’s first Le Mans win in the GTE Pro class. This year, the trio are back in the #51 and are seeking to defend their win. Calado and Pier Guidi are the full-season drivers for the #51, and are currently sitting 3rd in the GTE Pro standings, with 1 pole and 2 podiums, including a win at Shanghai. A win at Le Mans would certainly do much to boost championship chances for the #51 crew.

The #71 crew also sees the same 3 drivers from 2019 retained in the driver lineup, albeit with some changes in full-season drivers, with Miguel Molina trading seats with Sam Bird. Molina and Rigon sit further back in the championship in 6th, with single podium at Bahrain being the sole achievement by the crew thus far. Molina and Rigon will certainly be hoping for a good result at Le Mans to turn around their campaign…

WeatherTech Racing

#63 | Ferrari 488 GTE Evo| IMSA | Cooper Macneil, Toni Vilander, Jeffrey Segal |
Q: 7th (3:52.508)

WeatherTech Racing were an 11th hour addition to the GTE Pro grid, the team having initially been a GTE Am entry. The team were a surprise package, coming in 7th in qualifying, 4 tenths behind the 6th placed #92 Corvette. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the team failed to reach the top 6, and enter the hyperpole session.

WeatherTech Racing is set to be the sole team running a Silver rated driver in the GTE Pro class, and hence expectations are lowered for the American team. The team is unlikely to challenge for top honours in GTE Pro, and will more likely finish within the top 5 in a best case scenario.

Risi Compeitizione

#82 | Ferrari 488 GTE Evo| IMSA | Olivier Pla, Sébastien Bourdais, Jules Gounon |
Q: 8th (No time)

Giuseppe Risi’s eponymous team returns to Le Mans once more, this time with a fresh lineup of drivers. For the team’s 2020 Le Mans campaign, the team has opted to refresh it’s driver lineup, with Jules Gounon the sole driver retained. In place of Gounon’s 2019 teammates Oliver Jarvis and Pipo Derani, Risi has secured the services of 2 other French Drivers, in the form of Olivier Pla & Sébastien Bourdais, making an all-French lineup.

With an all-French lineup, this team could certainly be a fan favourite to watch!

Porsche GT Team

#91 | Porsche 911 RSR| WEC | Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makoweici |
Q: 5th (3:52.036), HP: 1st (3:50.874)

#92 | Porsche 911 RSR| WEC | Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor |
Q: 6th (3:52.142), HP: 6th (3:51.770)

It’s been a season of ups and downs for the Manthey Racing-run Porsche GT Team in the FIA WEC. The 911 RSR-19s have shown much one-lap pace across the season, scoring 5 poles as of time of writing, but on-track results have been slightly dismal, given the amount of potential seen

The #92 car has shown much consistency and pace, finishing 2nd in 4 of the first 5 events, followed by a win in round 6 at Spa, along with 2 poles. However, the same level of success has not been seen in the #91 car, with the team having just 2 podiums, inclusive of a win, and 3 poles.

Porsche has elected to retain it’s 2019 Le Mans lineups, with Fred Makowiecki joining Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz in the #91, while Laurens Vanthoor joining Michael Christensen & Kevin Estre in the sister #92 Car. Both cars see a formidable lineup, and are certainly set to be contenders for the race win.

Aston Martin Racing

#95 | Aston Martin| WEC | Nicki Thiim, Marco Sørensen, Richard Westbrook |
Q: 1st (3:50.872), HP: 3rd (3:51.241)

#97 | Porsche 911 RSR| WEC | Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn, Harry Tincknell |
Q: 2nd (3:50.925), HP: 4th (3:51.324)

Third time lucky for the Vantage AMR? Aston Martin’s prospects for Le Mans have never looked any better with the Vantage AMR. After the team saw the Vantage AMR controversially pegged back last year after scoring pole, the team enters the race with a realistic victory this year. Last year’s post-qualifying BoP change caused the team to fall back relative to the GTE Pro front-runners in last year’s packed field. This year, the Vantage AMR looks set to run without any last-minute BoP changes, which is something that will certainly be appreciated by the team.

Both the #95 and #97 cars see slight changes in their driver lineups, with Nicki Thiim, Marco Sørensen, remaining in the #95 car, while Richard Westbrook replaces Darren Turner. The #97 car sees Maxime Martin & Alex Lynn retained, while Harry Tincknell replaces Jonathan Adam.

For the #95 car, also known as the “Dane Train”, a win would allow Thiim & Sørensen to extend their GTE-Pro Championship Lead, while a win for the #97 will certainly provide a boost in the standings for the Martin & Lynn.

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