L&T Motorsport

Le Mans 24 hours 2017 – GTE Pro preview

What is GTE Pro?

GTE (Grand Touring Endurance) Pro is the top class for GT racing. The Pro designates that all drivers are professional drivers with a second category for AM or amateur drivers. The cars must conform to rules for Grand Touring cars to compete. The manufacturer must produce a certain number of road going version each year and the body shape and engine location must be retained in the race version. GT racing has long been apart of endurance racing as a whole and has seen many changes over the years. To help keep it competitive the FIA and ACO (governing body of motor sport and Le Mans) employ a Balance of Performance (BoP) system to avoid one team gaining a big advantage. This would a focal point in last years race as the Ford GT’s and one of the Ferrari’s entered raced away from the rest of the field. The racing is intense with multiple manufacturer’s in the field fighting for bragging rights and the win.

What to expect?
After winning at the first attempt back last year everyone’s eyes are on the defending Chip Gannasi Ford GT’s. With four in the field, including the winner from last year, they are expected to go well with good reliability and a top driver line up with former Le Mans participants like Andy Priaulx, Richard Westbrook and Indy Car stars Tony Kannan, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon. Last year the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE ran the winner close with former F1 winner Giancarlo Fisichella part of their line up. But with changes the BoP system could we see a closer race across the field this year and see the Porsche 911’s, Aston Martin’s and Corvette’s getting in the mix? Or could any changes open the field up even more and see another dominating performance from one team?

Line Up

AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE #51 and #71

2016 Le Mans Result
Number 51: DNF
Number 71: DNF

2017 FIA WEC Championship to date
Number 51: currently third with two second places
Number 71: currently second with one win at the Spa 6 Hours

Performance at Le Mans Test Day
Number 51: 3.55.827
Number 71: 3.55.385

Drivers:

Both cars make one driver change with Lucas di Grassi replacing Gianmaria Bruni who is on garden leave before joining Porsche Motorsports in the #51 while Andrea Bertolini is replaced by Spaniard Miguel Molina in the #71.

Ford Chip Gannasi Racing USA #68 and #69

2016 Le Mans result
Number 68: Class Winner
Number 69: 3rd in Class

2017 IMSA Sportscar Championship to date
Number 68: Currently second in the championship and Daytona 24 hours class winners
Number 69: Currently 5th in the championship with a best of second at Long Beach

Performance at Le Mans test Day
Number 68: fastest lap of 3.58.011
Number 69: fastest lap of 3.57.536

Drivers

Last years class winners Joey Hand and Dirk Muller return with Tony Kannan replacing the injured Sebastian Bourdais in the #68 while the #69 is unchanged from last year with Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Richard Westbrook at the wheel.

Ford Chip Gannasi Racing UK #66 and #67

2016 Le Mans result:

Number 66: 4th in class
Number 67: 9th in class

2017 FIA WEC Championship to date:
Number 66: Current championship leaders in GTE Pro
Number 67: Currently 4th in the championship

Performance at Le Mans test day:
Number 66: fastest lap of 3.58.181
Number 67: fastest lap of 3.57.881

Drivers

The line up remains mainly unchanged from last year with Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla and Billy Johnson returning to peddle the #66 while Brazil’s Pipo Derani replaces Marino Franchetti alongside Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the #67

Corvette Racing – GM #63 and #64

Le Mans 2016 result
Number 63: 7th in class
Number 64: DNF

2017 IMSA Championship to date
Number 63: Championship leaders with two wins at Sebring and Austin
Number 64: seventh in championship with one win at Long Beach

Performance at Le Mans Test Day
Number 63: 3.55.064
Number 64: 3.54.701

Drivers

One change in each car with Jordan Taylor moving from the #64 to the #63 alongside Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia while Marcel Fassler takes over Taylor’s seat in the #64 alongside long standing Corvette driver Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner.

Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE #82

Le Mans 2016 Result
Second in class

2017 IMSA Championship to date
6th in Championship with two third places at Daytona and Sebring

Performance at Le Mans Test Day
3.55.847

Drivers

Last years runners up in class return with one driver change as Pierre Kaffer replaces Matteo Malucelli alongside former F1 race winner Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander. Kaffer formerly drove at Le Mans for Risi and even helped them to a class win in GT2 in 2009.

Porsche GT Team 911 RSR #91 and #92

Le Mans 2016 Performance
Number 91: DNF
Number 92: DNF

2017 FIA WEC Championship to date
Number 91: Currently fifth with one third place at Silverstone
Number 92: Currently 9th with one DNF and one points finish at Spa.

Performance at Le Mans Test Day
Number 91: 3.54.996
Number 92: 3.54.999

Drivers

Multiple changes at Porsche across both cars with only Frederic Makowiecki and Kevin Estre remaining from 2016 although the Frenchmen do swap cars. Makowiecki is joined by countryman Patrick Pilet and Austrian Richard Lietz while Estre has Denmark’s Michael Christensen and German Dirk Werner for company.

Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTE #95 and #97

Le Mans 2016 Performance
Number 95: 5th in class
Number 97: 6th in class

2017 FIA WEC Championship to date
Number 95: 6th in championship
Number 97: 7th in championship

Performance at Le Mans Test Day
Number 95: 3.55.251
Number 97: 3.55.266

Drivers

Aston have maintained pretty much the same line up with Richie Stanaway and Darren Turner switching cars this season. Stanaway will be partnered with Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim, the 2016 GT Pro WEC Champions, while Turner will have countryman Jonathan Adam alongside Brazilian Daniel Serra who replaces his fellow Brazilian Fernando Rees.

What to look our for.

The first interesting thing to look out for will be the BoP system. During the test day there was over a three second gap between the fastest car (Corvette #64 on a 3.54.701) and the slowest car (Ford GT #66 on  3.58.181). Considering the speed of the Ford’s last year this is quite a difference in lap time so will be interesting if this is balanced up any better before the race or if it will be messed with at all.

Another point of interest is the Aston Martin’s. Not normally in the spot light these days but always there or there about. And as the only GTE Pro team running Dunlop tyres (all others on Michelin’s ) could the difference in tyre be key to a possible podium place for the British team.

Who is favorites​ to win?

Based of the test day and with how well their cars are performing in the IMSA I would say that the Corvette’s look like early front runners to me. The Corvette racing team has been around for many years and know how to win the class also so expect a strong showing from the yellow and black. The field is tightly bunched if you ignore the testing times of the four Fords. Also Ford struggled last season at the test day before dominating the race week, could they be sandbagging?

It is definitely going to be interesting battle within the class for sure and there is always the wonder if the GT cars might get caught up with the faster LMP prototypes at the front end of the overall field. Below is a list of twitter handles to follow over the week with free practice and qualifying starting on Wednesday with scrutinising and photo line up etc before hand. There is also a link of my own twitter handle where I hope to keep a few updates through the race as well when I can and also a link to Andy Blackmore’s spotters guide to make it easier to distinguish between the cars in the entire field.

All that’s left to say is enjoy the race and also check out our other Le Mans category guides from Rob Carlson (LMP1 and LMP2) and Alex Varic (GTE AM).

Andrew Campbell
https://twitter.com/andy81287

Twitter Handles:

Chip Gannasi Racing: https://twitter.com/CGRsportscar
Risi Competizione: https://twitter.com/risicomp/
AF Corse Ferrari: https://twitter.com/afcorse?lang=en
Corvette Racing GT: https://twitter.com/CorvetteRacing
Porsche GT Team: https://twitter.com/porschenaracing?lang=en
Aston Martin Racing: https://twitter.com/AMR_Official
Le Mans: https://twitter.com/24hoursoflemans

Andy Blackmore’s spotters guide: http://www.spotterguides.com/portfolio/17lm/

Photo Credits:

Main Photo: Sportscar 365
AF Corse: Ferrarism
Ford GT: Pursuitist
Corvette: GM Inside News
Risi Ferrari: @risicomp on twitter
Porsche: Planet Porsche
Aston Martin: The Independent

Andrew Campbell

F1 and motorsport fan in general, been watching for over 25 years with much knowledge across different catogaries. Also part time youtuber when time allows and father which is full time.

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