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2020 Race Schedules for Google Calendar & iCal

In order to watch too much racing you will need to know when it happens.

In order to watch too much racing you will need to know when it happens.

Keep up with your favourite racing series by adding my Calendars to your Google Calendar, Apple iCal, Microsoft Outlook, or other service which supports ICAL or HTML format.

Just click the link for the race schedule you want to import and it will appear in your calendar in your browser or on your phone.

Screenshot_20181124-212802

Go here for details:

www.toomuchracing.com/calendar

Lastly, I would like to say a huge thank you to the people who have kindly donated!

I have a Paypal tip jar on the top right of the blog which is aimed at covering my site hosting fees and domain name registrations for the year. These aren’t big, just a basic WordPress.com blog plus some domain names.

I’m astonished people pay at all, let alone anything more than £2, I know acutely there are far more worthy causes than this. It does encourage me to put in the work through a dark dingy autumn and winter, so thank you.

I’m pleased to say thanks to you I’ve covered my fees and enough to keep me in cups of tea for the year as well.

[This is a pinned post on the main blog to direct traffic, please click through to the Calendar page for more details including upload schedule.]

Le Mans 2020: LMP1 Preview

A look at the LMP1 field of the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours, running 19-20 September.

And so we reach the final Le Mans for the LMP1 class and the LMP1-Hybrid. What an era it has been! I’ve loved this class and I will miss it badly. The pinnacle of the non-hybrid era Audi vs Peugeot (pre WEC days!), and the hybrid era of Audi vs Porsche vs Toyota, will each stand the test of time as glory years for prototype racing, in the same way as Group C does for the 1980s. Sadly all good things come to an end eventually.

As ever, when an era ends it does so with a whimper. After all, there would be no point replacing a healthy class. And so it is that we see a grid of just five cars.

The future does look bright. After a lot of arguing and wrangling there are two rulesets coming. In 2021 we’ll see Le Mans Hypercar (ee-pair-car!) and the images released today from Toyota, ByKolles and Peugeot look stunning. If these are the cars they’ll really race, not a mockup for the cameras, we’re in for a treat.
In 2022 the US-based Le Mans Daytona (LMDh – what’s the h for?) rules start. These are considerably cheaper, with upgraded LMP2 chassis similar to the current DPi rules, and are attracting a lot of interest from other manufacturers. By 2025 we could see some big grids in the primary class/classes.

Or is it the end of LMP1? There was an announcement Signatech Alpine will use one of the non-hybrid Rebellion R13s for the 2021 season. This raises the question of how they will balance it with the new but slower Hypercar class, a point already made by Toyota, who have spent millions on Hypercar already. That’s an argument for the winter!

Entries By Class at 15th September:
LMP1 5
LMP2 24
PRO 8
AM 22
TOTAL 59

The main season introduced success penalties. A complete anathema to the classic purity of endurance racing, this adds weight based on the number of championship points you have. The idea being that as you get heavier you get slower, so someone else will win and get more weight, the faster cars get slower and slower so the midfield can win more. And it is based on car, not team.

That system does not apply at Le Mans and thank f**k for that.

Toyota as the last manufacturer standing, agreed to it to help the WEC have a fight for wins in the top class with the independent, non-hybrid teams. It seems strange to me because of course a hybrid is going to be better. It’s quite astonishing Toyota ever agreed – but they want to keep racing into the new era so it was in their interests in that way.

I’m all for better competition and closer racing but let’s do it properly. I hope Hypercar and LMDh will not require such a system once the grids fill up.

As for this year, Le Mans is worth double-points but only three cars have done the whole season.

WEC Points Standings
7 Toyota Gazoo 137 pts
8 Toyota Gazoo 125 pts
1 Rebellion Racing 109 pts
5 Team LNT Ginetta 27.5 pts

WEC Team Standings
Toyota Gazoo 151 pts
Rebellion Racing 109 pts
Team LNT 29 pts

7 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Conway (P) / Kobayashi (P) / Lopez (P) WEC
8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Buemi (P) / Hartley (P) / Nakajima (P) WEC

After the awful luck Toyota suffered over the years, including the heartbreaking car failure just one lap away from winning, I don’t think anybody really begrudges the two “easy” rides to their two Le Mans wins. They’d already put in the hard work, done their time, taken their knocks in the most harshest of ways.

And way back in 2012, remember they joined the WEC a full calendar year before they wanted to, just to support the championship after Peugeot pulled out with weeks to spare.

They may well be a dominant manufacturer these days but that doesn’t make them ‘the evil enemy’. They never had an easy ride beforehand and they’ve done a lot for the sport outside of their on-track results.

That doesn’t mean watching it is always that exciting. I like the purity of a race not being manufactured. But I would like that countered by better competition, not by pegging them back.

“Easy” is in quotes because Le Mans is never easy! You still need to negotiate the traffic, the weather, the conditions, the reliability. And there will be a lot of traffic this year with the big sizes of slower classes.

In theory the race win will be fought over between the two Toyotas. Will the team let them race?

After their heartbreaking DNF, Toyota threw everything at reliability, and with only slower non-hybrids to worry about they can run their cars at 90% and cruise. Except if they have a problem, get hit by a GT, spin off in the rain, or something breaks. Then the comeback will be on.

The 7 crew are yet to win Le Mans but were incredibly close last year after dominating. After 23 hours and Conway driving like a demon, a sensor failed, it told them they had a puncture when they didn’t. The team made two stops to check it and change tyres and lost the lead to the 8. They never invoked team orders to switch it back.

Conway is the quiet assassin. Kobayashi is very fast over a lap. Lopez is still considered the weak link after he crashed the car a few times early on, possibly unfairly so these days. Are these guys due a win? Certainly Conway and Kobayashi are almost criminally under-rated. And they are slightly ahead in points after a good season. The run of form is with them.

The 8 crew are probably a touch faster as a trio? 2-time LMP1 champ and 1-time Formula E champ Buemi doesn’t have any questions to answer. I would argue Nakajima is the more level-headed of the two Japanese drivers on the team, which is to say he’s fast and consistent. The last two years this car has won with Fernando Alonso on the team – this time former Porsche LMP1 winner Brendon Hartley is here and I’ll bet Toyota found the comparison between cars interesting.

The real question is, how effective are the latest EoT rules at bringing the Rebellions into play?

1 Rebellion Racing R13 Menezes (G)/ Nato (G)/ Senna (P) WEC
3 Rebellion Racing R13 Dumas (P)/ Berthon (G)/ Deletraz (G)

Rebellion will pull out at the end of the season and possibly after the end of this race. They won’t drop to LMP2 as they did before. They will be missed. I hope the Sebah operation behind it finds another backer and continues.

The car is the Rebellion R13 Gibson, effectively this is the Oreca LMP2 car with reduced weight, better aerodynamics and an upgraded version of the engine (4.5 litre R13 vs 4.2 litre LMP2). Even though the team will insist you call it a Rebellion you can see the family resemblance when the car is next to the P2. It was a very smart way to go racing since the LMP2 car is excellent in its’ own right.

The R13 is quick over a lap, early in the race when the Toyota hasn’t charged its batteries yet you’ll likely see it in front of them! Unfortunately it has also been quite unreliable. If the car holds together and Toyota struggle they will push, if not they’ll just aim to get home in front of the LMP2 pack and the CLM.

No.1 – without being LMP1 champions! Anyway this is the full-season WEC car. Due to the success ballast in part, but also very good execution, they’ve won two races this season. Without that ballast system, but with changes to Equivalence of Technology, it’ll be interesting to see how close they get at Le Mans this year. Previously they were out-classed by Toyota, were a shade better than SMP, and totally dominated the ByKolles. And there’s no SMP this year.
Bruno Senna obviously anchors the car. Yes two of the drivers are rated Gold but honestly I can’t see why they aren’t Platinum. Menezes won the LMP2 title in 2016.

The no. 3 was meant to do occasional races through the year but this is actually their first start since Silverstone last September. Might be a bit race-rusty? Except Romain Dumas won’t be, he’s a badass and this is his 20th Le Mans! The last time he raced LMP1 at the 24 Hours he won it.
Berthon’s name I know and I thought he was meant to be reasonably good but his Wiki page doesn’t reflect anything other than midfield results. Deletraz I don’t know but he’s competing in Formula 2 this year and has 4 podiums. His lack of endurance experience may tell.

4 ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM Spengler (P)/Dillman (G)/Webb (G)
The plucky underdogs! A truly independent team and car, they build it entirely themselves. I have no idea where the money comes from as you rarely see a sponsor on it.

This is the very same organisation that ran the HRT/Hispania in F1, somehow getting that team through various seasons on no budget at all when others probably would’ve folded much earlier. They do like a challenge.

They’ve had an absolute nightmare the last six years or so. Car breaking down, catching fire multiple times, changing engine partner so many times… They get ridiculed by fans and radio & TV broadcasters alike for it. But I like them! I really enjoy how they just keep coming back no matter what happens and that they’re truly independent. More of that please.

Various versions of the CLM have been around since 2014 albeit it has seriously changed since then, I doubt it’s the same physical car. They’ve changed engine suppliers multiple times to try to solve reliability and are now running the same 4.5 ltr Gibson as Rebellion, the team says it is less powerful than the previous Nismo but very much more reliable. And since Gibson are there supporting 20 cars anyway, it makes sense.

Webb has been with them a while and is the anchor man. He’s definitely keen to see this project end well. Unfortunately he hit some debris in the opening laps in 2017 which caused the engine to overheat – and that was when all the hybrid cars hit trouble and an LMP2 nearly won. That could’ve been their year! Still, if such things can be avoided he’s a good man to have in the car.

Dillmann is rated highly but I’m not seeing the results on his sheets, maybe that’s circumstances, some background I don’t know? And 2012 DTM champ and current US BMW GT man Spengler is only now making his Le Mans debut!

And despite the reputation of the team boss, the team themselves always have a smile on their faces! And when everyone else has a standard quad bike to get about the paddock they have a funky pit vehicle with a rear wing.

ByKolles pit buggy

I really do hope they have a clean run to the finish. They will be slowest in class by some distance and barely a second or two ahead of (what are very quick) LMP2s. But if ByKolles can just stay reliable enough to keep running, if anything happens to the Toyotas or Rebellions, they may get an LMP1 podium. If they managed the harder feat of staying ahead of the ultra-reliable LMP2 pack they may well get an outright podium!

MY TOP THREE

You can’t look past the Toyotas. Even if they get caught up in incidents I expect them to rebound. I think this might be Conway’s year. And for 3rd you can’t look further than the 1 Rebellion. It writes itself. But this is Le Mans. It won’t follow the script.

LMP1 class result:

7 Toyota (Conway/Kobayashi)

8 Toyota (Buemi/Nakajima)

1 Rebellion (Senna/Menezes)

But will this be the overall podium? Last year it was actually the privateers that got delayed. The ByKolles is a bit flaky. The two Rebellions have got caught up in incidents. And the Toyotas can come back from almost anything.

Will we see an LMP2 car on the overall podium? I think yes we will.

Le Mans 2020: GTE Pro Preview

A look at the GTE Pro field of the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours, running 19-20 September.

GTE Pro is the super-serious GT class. For year after year the depth of quality is unsurpassed, in many years the quality is higher even than LMP1 purely because there are more of them. There are 8 cars this year as opposed to some 17 or so last year.

How do you predict GTE Pro? It’s always a train of cars running nose to tail at 110% and to hell with reliability. If you want a 24-Hour sprint race look right here.

There is a depleted field largely because Ford and BMW pulled out last year, a loss of six cars.

In addition, the famous yellow Corvettes and the Porsche North America team elected not to travel this year due to Covid-19.

We do gain a couple of cars from IMSA competition: Risi Competizione do make the trip from the USA and on paper so do Weathertech Racing, although in reality that entry will be European-operated now.

These will go up against the six full-time WEC cars.

Entries By Class at 15th September:
LMP1 5
LMP2 24
PRO 8
AM 22
TOTAL 59

Balance of Performance is always a hot topic in GTE Pro and is often blamed for cars being faster or slower – even in years when a car happens to be inherently faster or slower because the BoP is meant to equalise the field. Much will depend who gets given a horsepower advantage on these long straights.

Le Mans is worth double-points to the WEC teams. Interestingly every team has one car doing well and one not as well! The ones having poorer seasons will want to go for it, I wonder whether the others will be happy to consolidate the points?

WEC Points Standings
95 Aston Martin 127 pts
92 Porsche 108 pts
51 AF Corse 95 pts
97 Aston Martin 92 pts
91 Porsche 79 pts
71 AF Corse 63 pts

WEC GTE Manufacturer Points
Aston Martin 219
Porsche 190
Ferrari 166

FERRARI (4 cars)

51 AF Corse Calado (P)/Pier Guidi (P)/Serra (G) WEC
71 AF Corse Rigon (P)/Molina (P)/Bird (P) WEC

The 51 crew are the 2019 race winners but have only had one win in the WEC season so far. That would suggest they have a great chance again this year..
Cynics would say, since they won last year, the BoP will change to ensure they don’t win this year! In reality there’s more to it than that, see the Porsche and Aston entries below. I think the Ferrari is the only car that hasn’t changed much.

The 51 is having the better season. Serra is rated Gold on the entry list but I bet he’ll be a Platinum next season.

The 71 of Rigon and Molina are last of the six in the points by dint of a DNF at Silverstone – no other car in the class has recorded one. They’ve also ‘only’ had one podium and everyone else has at least two. But that doesn’t mean they are a bad line-up! Formula E star Sam Bird again joins for Le Mans, he’s no fool in an endurance car either.

63 Weathertech Racing Vilander (P)/MacNeil (S)/Segal (G) IMSA

Moved up from the Am class even though they have a silver driver. This means they don’t need to respect the drive time limits enforced in that class for the amateur driver, they can run the Pro drivers much longer. They aren’t going for WEC points so it doesn’t matter. But mainly it is so they are competing against 7 cars instead of 21!

Vilander is extremely fast. Segal is very good and for a silver MacNeil is actually pretty handy himself.

This was meant to be run by the Scuderia Corsa entry from America but, apart from the drivers and the team strategist, they were unable to travel due to Covid-19. AF Corse have drafted in their GT World Challenge Europe crew who certainly know their way around a Ferrari GT at the Spa 24.

82 Risi Competizione Bourdais (P)/Pla (P)/Gounon (G) IMSA

Risi did make the trip from the USA, with nearly all of their crew. Famous race engineer Dave ‘Beaky’ Sims retired some while ago but expect the team to have retained its speed.

Sebastien Bourdais enters his 14th Le Mans. He’s won GTE with Ford (beating Risi in that ultra-controversial 2016 race!), he’s won Daytona both overall and in GT, and add on all those IndyCar/ChampCar wins. Olivier Pla is into his 13th Le Mans and is another ex-Ford man. Gounon has won the 24H of Spa for Bentley.

Without points to worry about these guys will be on it. The question I suppose is how quickly they adapt to the Ferrari with very little testing.

PORSCHE (2 cars)

91 Porsche GT Team Lietz (P)/Bruni (P)/Makowiecki (P) WEC
92 Porsche GT Team Estre (P)/Christensen (P)/Vanthoor (P) WEC

Lietz and Bruni have won the race 3 times (independently!) and I’m amazed Mako hasn’t.

Estre and Christensen are 2nd in points after four 2nd-places out of 6 starts! They won the race 2 years ago. Vanthoor is the endurance driver, he won the 2019 IMSA title and a whole bunch of Blancpain GT wins in the past. Very hard to pick who is the fastest among the six drivers but I think I’d go with Vanthoor.

This is the first Le Mans for the new-spec 911 which debuted at Silverstone last September.

The North American team didn’t make the trip for budgetary reasons after Covid but they’ve raced this version of the car in all the big enduros over there.

ASTON MARTIN (2 cars)

95 Aston Martin Racing Thiim (P)/Sorensen (G)/Westbrook (P) WEC
97 Aston Martin Racing Lynn (P)/Martin (P)/Tincknell (P) WEC

Thiim and Sorensen lead the WEC by 19 points. Lynn and Martin have a quartet of 3rd-place finishes this season.

You rarely teach Prodrive Aston Martin Racing anything – but the pair of Westbrook and Tincknell will surely provide a lot of insight from the shuttered Ford Chip Ganassi programme.

The car has had a lot of testing and has been getting faster and faster. Remember 2018 when it was really quite slow? It’s not slow now! In the results I’ve seen of the FP sessions the Aston has topped both GT classes. Genuine contenders and probably favourites.

MY TOP THREE

How do you predict GTE Pro? It’s always a train of cars running nose to tail at 110% and to hell with reliability. If you want a 24-Hour sprint race look right here.

As I’ve got to pick the driver who grew up an hour from me, Devon’s Harry Tincknell, I’m going with this:

97 Aston Martin

92 Porsche

91 Porsche

Yes the 95 will be in the mix. But something always seems to happen to one or other of the Astons so since I picked 97 to win I’ll have to knock the 95 back. In reality it could be either winning. And Porsche will be very solid.

Le Mans 2020: LMP2 Preview

A look at the LMP2 field of the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours, running 19-20 September.

Although I’m not able to fully research every car I still want to look team by team and then tell you my picks for the top 3 in each class!

Like GTE Am, LMP2 is an under-rated class though perhaps less so than the GT counterpart. I think that’s to do with an even higher level of quality among the Pro drivers in LMP2. You have Formula E champions, IndyCar champions, outright LMP1 winners, Formula 2 and Formula 3 winners. The talent is off the charts.

To recap, in sports car racing drivers are graded Platinum and Gold for Professional, Silver or Bronze for Amateur. Yes there are problems with driver rankings, fake silvers and so on. It is a real problem. I don’t have space to get into that now!
In GTE AM you have to run a Bronze driver and can have only one Platinum.
In LMP2 you are allowed two Platinum drivers.

There’s a bit of an unofficial split: Teams stacked with Platinum talent and a very good Silver, and teams with genuine amateur Bronze drivers in a proper Pro-Am format akin to GTE AM. Arguably they should reflect this with a separate sub-class cup for the latter.

To re-use a paragraph from the Am preview, yes, in the race, huge time gaps will appear in the field as the Pros drive away from the Ams. But just wait. Often the race will close up again when the situation reverses: when the Pro hands over to their Am and the car becomes the tortoise, the chasing car is taken over by the Pro and becomes the hare. Often it is a mystery how the class really looks until it shakes out in the final hour of the race.

There have been a lot of Covid-19 withdrawals in the LMP1 and GTE Pro classes, and so the two pro-am classes feature heavily in the 2020 race.

Entries By Class at 15th September:
LMP1 5
LMP2 24
PRO 8
AM 22
TOTAL 59

Probably my least favourite thing about LMP2 is the lack of variety of cars. That’s not Covid-19 related and has been the case at Le Mans for a while. Nearly everybody in LMP2 uses the Oreca. Nothing against Oreca but prototype endurance racing shouldn’t be a spec formula.

Le Mans is worth double-points to the WEC teams. Will they go for it to make their season? Will they race conservatively for points? Remember the WEC points are awarded as if the non-WEC cars are not there, so if two ELMS cars finish 1-2 and the top WEC car is 3rd, that car will be awarded 50 points for being first WEC car home even though they did not win the race. This opens them up to be challenged by those going for glory at the 24 Hours, knowing the WEC teams need those points.
ELMS entries do not get points towards their own championship.

WEC Points Standings
22 United Autosports 120 pts
37 Jackie Chan DC 98 pts
29 Racing Team Nederland 91 pts
38 Jota Sport 89 pts
42 Cool Racing 79 pts
36 Signatech Alpine 64 pts

ELMS Points Standings
22 United Autosports 68 pts
32 United Autosports 39 pts
26 G-Drive (TDS) 36 pts
39 Graff 35 pts
31 Panis Racing 27 pts

OUTRIGHT PODIUM?

With a heavily-depleted LMP1 field as it rolls to the end of an era there is a very strong possibility we will see an LMP2 car on the overall podium, just as we did in 2017 in that hot race when the hybrid cars failed. This time we only need to see three delayed cars in the top class and it’ll happen.

What chance we’ll see two on the overall podium? What chance a win? Well I think the Toyotas are bulletproof now so we shall see.

DALLARA P217 (1 car)

47 Cetilar Racing Belicchi (G)/Lacorte (B)/Sernagiotto (S) WEC

8th in the WEC. You might call the team plucky. I like them, they’ve worked their way up.

I was hoping to see more Dallaras, they have always been quick in a straight line since the current rules started and I thought they were competitive on the other tracks. Not so much at Le Mans though.

LIGIER JS P217 (3 cars)

11 Eurointernational D’Ansembourg (B)/Maris (B)/Tambay (G) ELMS

2019 LMP3 champion in the ELMS. Adrien ‘son of’ Tambay the headline name here. The team will be hampered a bit by a lack of LMP2 experience but mainly because I think they’re the only team running two Bronze drivers. Will be looking for a finish.
Yes, this is the same team that entered CART Indycar races in the 1990s!

34 Inter Europol Competition Binder (S)/Smiechowski (S)/Isaakyan (G) ELMS

The Polish team with the bright green and yellow cars! You certainly won’t miss them on track. If you only follow WEC you won’t know them but they run LMP2 and LMP3 cars in both European and Asian Le Mans Series with respectable championship positions for all of them. They’ve been working the ladder for a while.
Isaakyan was with the SMP LMP1 effort but was quite wild, he shunted it a few times. Binder is quick.

35 Eurasia Motorsport Yamanaka (B)/Foster (G)/Mehri (P) AsianLMS

They finished 3rd in the Asian LMS with Foster and ex-F1 man Mehri with a run of second places.
At Le Mans in the past their car has been known to visit the gravel often due to some poor driver selections. Let’s hope they’ve chosen a better 3rd driver this year.

ORECA 07 / Aurus 01 / Alpine A470 (20 cars)

The car is the Oreca 07 – the Aurus and Alpine are the same car with a different badging deal.

22 United Autosports Albuquerque (P)/Hanson (S)/di Resta (P) WEC
32 United Autosports Brundle (G)/Owen (S)/van Uitert (S) ELMS

Top-line team leading both WEC and ELMS with Albuquerque and Hanson topping the tables in both series.

Surprised to see Hanson is a silver, he raced Ant Davidson hard at Spa. Wonder if there’s some funky driver ratings going on! Even so, to have Albuquerque and Di Resta in the car means this is always going to be a contender.

The other car is almost as strong, don’t let the silvers fool you here either. This crew are 2nd in ELMS albeit a lot of points behind.

Either car could win and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both on the podium.

For the record, United are also 1st and 3rd in ELMS LMP3!

37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Aubry (S)/Stevens (P)/Tung (G) WEC
38 Jota Sport da Costa (P)/Davidson (P)/Gonzalez (S) WEC

2014 LMP1 champion Ant Davidson anchors the ‘Mighty’ 38 car. I can’t believe it but he’s never won Le Mans and this’ll be his 12th start across 3 classes. He’ll be very motivated to change that. Dominant Formula E champion Antonio Felix da Costa makes his first LMP2 Le Mans start after two years with BMW in GT. Gonzazlez did a season of Champ Car in 2004 with PKV, this is his 3rd LMP2 season – his brother Ricardo won LMP2 at Le Mans in 2013.
Frustratingly, Davidson was ill at Silverstone a year ago and so he didn’t record any points, his car-mates are 4 points ahead of him.

In the 37, Aubry is building a handy reputation, 3 wins in the last season and a bundle of 2nds across two seasons, and he’s also doing the ELMS and the Endurance Cup of IMSA. Ex-F1 reject Stevens has built a nice career in both GT and prototype racing. Tung is pretty handy as well.

The 37 car is slightly ahead in the WEC points but remember the 38 was DQ at Fuji. Both of these cars can win.

21 Dragonspeed USA Montoya (P)/Buret (S)/Rojas (G) ELMS
27 Dragonspeed USA Hanley (G)/Hedman (B)/van der Zande (P) IMSA

Juan Pablo Montoya is the headline name! He’s still mainly known for that amazing Williams F1 stint, and for his two Indy 500 wins. Many don’t know that he also owns 3x Daytona 24 Hour wins and won the 2019 IMSA Weathertech series for Team Penske. He is very much the star name on the LMP2 entry list. And if he transpires to win the race overall he will win the Triple Crown* before Fernando Alonso! * Monaco GP variant

Memo Rojas needs no introduction to US fans, he won the Daytona 24 Hours three times and Grand-Am championship four times alongside Scott Pruett for Chip Ganassi Racing, two of those teamed with Montoya. Since then he’s won two championships in LMP2 in the ELMS. Buret is solid. It’s going to take a lot to beat this car.

In the other car, Ben Hanley has put in some amazing drives in LMP2 and his professionalism in his few IndyCar runs is no surprise even if those entries were very much a surprise to me! Renger van der Zande is a more recent IMSA driver who needs little introduction to US fans, he’s rapid. Hedman is very much the weakest link here and he’ll know it. In the past he was a bit overwhelmed and spun quite a bit but I think he’s improved a lot in recent times as he’s got used to the cars.

Due to the Covid-19 situation the American team is getting logistical help from Racing Engineering, the storied Spanish GP2/F2 team who made their own foray into LMP2 in recent years.

I think the 21 car can win. The 27 car very much depends on Hedman’s fortunes.

25 Algarve Pro Racing Falb (B)/McMurry (S)/Trummer (G) ELMS
16 G-Drive with Algarve Cullen (S)/Jarvis (P)/Tandy (P) AsianLMS

No.25 is 7th in the ELMS with Falb, Trumer and Aubry (see Jackie Chan Racing above). It should have a decent run in the top ten but they’ll be competing in tightly contested upper/mid-pack.

No.16 is a one-off entry added at the last minute. Tandy obviously known for GT racing but also that 2015 LMP1 win! Jarvis won Le Mans LMP2 two years ago and has been racing with Mazda in IMSA. Top drivers but thrown together late, hard to call how this’ll do.

17 IDEC Sport Kennard (S)/Merriman (B)/Tilley (S) ELMS
28 IDEC Sport Bradley (G)/Chatin (G)/Lafargue (S) ELMS

Chatin and Lafargue along with Memo Rojas were the 2019 ELMS Champions and 5th at Le Mans.

A switch to the equally rapid Richard Bradley should’ve led to that form continuing but they’ve not had a good year. They’ll be hoping to break the top ten in a tight field.

I don’t know anything at all of the 17 car crew.

Both cars had incidents in free practice so let’s see if the compressed schedule will affect their race prep.

EDIT (Friday): Merriman was unable to complete the required night laps and the team must start from pit lane, after the entire field has done one lap (yes they have to wait for the last GTE AM car). Patrick Pilet (P) is the excellent choice of super-sub and so all of a sudden the mountain they have to climb, with a huge penalty and a rebuilt car, looks a lot more manageable!

26 G-Drive (TDS) Vergne (P)/Rusinov (G)/Jensen (S) ELMS

Double Formula E champion Vergne thought he’d won Le Mans LMP2 in 2018 but the team were DQ’d for modifying the fuel rig. Rusinov is the man behind the G-Drive sponsorship which has jumped teams so often. Jensen won the LMP3 title with Eurointernational in 2019.

Expect it to be contending to win.

Note this ‘primary’ G-Drive team is run by TDS Racing and the other one by Algarve Pro Racing.

24 Nielsen Racing Grist (S)/Kapadia (S)/Wells (B) AsianLMS
Won LMP3 in the Asian LMS and could’ve picked LMP2 or GTE to enter here.

Can’t say I know if they’ve raced at the 24 before. I think if I were them I’d just be happy to have made it and would aim to record a race finish and do a professional job. Kapadia is very quick in LMP3 cars and I’m looking forward to what he does in a P2.

29 Racing Team Nederland van Eerd (B)/van der Garde (P)/de Vries (G) WEC

Another contender! Jumbo Supermarkets boss Frits van Eerd will be the key here. Others who play the rankings game will be faster, while Frits is a genuine Bronze albeit one of the fastest ones around. Guido van der Garde and 2019 Formula 2 champ Nyck de Vries will have the car at full speed the rest of the time. Stout competition but a possibly top five here.

30 Duqueine Engineering Gommendy (P)/Hirschi (G)/Tereschenko (S) ELMS

Languishing in 10th in the ELMS I think they’re better than that. I’m in the middle of watching the 2018 season and they were race win contenders back then. Team were 7th at Le Mans last year with a different driver line-up. Another top ten is possible but they might need help from others dropping back.

31 Panis Racing Canal (S)/Jamin (G)/Vaxiviere (G) ELMS

The former Panis Barthez Competition. They’re 5th in ELMS points but had one DNF, the other results were 3rd and 4th. Canal won LM 3 times in GT with Larbre and multiple race wins in LMP2 on his way to two titles. They’ll be in the mix.

33 High Class Racing Fjordbach (S)/Patterson (B)/Yamashita (P) WEC

Danish team are 7th in the WEC after a lot of 7th place finishes, with this line-up including 2019 Super GT champion Yamashita. That sort of form would suggest, once the ELMS teams are added in, they won’t make the top ten this time round.

36 Signatech Alpine Laurent (G)/Negrao (G)/Ragues (S) WEC

Multiple champion team and race winner. They’re only 6th in points this season but will be looking to rebound ahead of a step up to LMP1 next year – assuming it can be balanced to the Hypercar but that’s for next year! I know they’re gold not platinum so maybe they don’t have the ultimate edge, but pick a bad driver in this line-up. You can’t.

39 SO24-HAS by Graff Allen (G)/Capillaire (S)/Milesi (S) ELMS

I generally have a lot of time for Graff but I can’t say I have high expectations of this entry. Allen is 4th in ELMS points with the team but his regular co-drivers aren’t in the car. Capillaire I think is OK, I don’t know anything of Milesi. The jury is out for me.

42 Cool Racing Borga (S)/Coigny (B)/Lapierre (P) WEC

5th in WEC and 9th in ELMS with the same drivers. Nico Lapierre will hold everything together, he’s won LMP2 at Le Mans four times – he never did win LMP1 with Peugeot or Toyota. They might spring a surprise here.

50 Richard Mille Racing Team Calderon (S)/Floersch (S)/Visser (S) 24H

I’m so gutted Katherine Legge broke her leg and can’t race this car! Still a reasonable line-up. It’s hard to judge because most of them had middling junior careers and not a lot else, but we all know women don’t get the opportunities so it can be hard to get a genuine reading. I don’t think the car will be as high up as it would’ve been had Legge been here, and it’s all-Silver line-up so expectations must be checked. Top 12? They basically need to finish without losing many laps and they’ll be up there.

MY TOP THREE

I must have put 15 cars in the top ten! The quality level is high this year as it is every year in the modern era. So hard to choose. I’m going with this right now but I change my mind every ten minutes:

22 United Autosports (di Resta)

21 Dragonspeed (Montoya)

38 Jota (Davidson)

I might just be picking my favourite drivers here!

Le Mans 2020: GTE Am Preview

A quick look at the GTE Am field of the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours, running 19-20 September.

This year I’m not able to dedicate the time to research every car and driver fully, in any case the post would be too long if I did that. I still want to look team by team and to tell you my picks for the top 3 in each class!

GTE Am is an under-rated class. Yes, okay, it is for rich blokes. But it’s also for up-and-coming young drivers looking to break into the pro ranks. And for senior pros passing on their trade to others. As well as creating trade to keep teams afloat it is a great way to introduce a team to the Le Mans 24 Hours that might move up to other classes later.

To recap, in sports car racing drivers are graded Platinum and Gold for Professional, Silver or Bronze for Amateur. GTE Am requires at least one Bronze driver and that driver must complete a minimum amount of time in the race. As the Pros are generally within tenths of each other, the name of the game is to get your part-time Bronze driver up to speed while being consistent.

Yes, in the race, huge time gaps will appear in the field early in the race as the Pros drive away from the Bronzes. But just wait. Often the race will close back up again when the situation reverses: when the Pro hands over to their Bronze co-driver and the car becomes the tortoise, the chasing car is taken over by the Pro and becomes the hare. That’s when it gets fun. Never mind the live classification mid-race, often it is a mystery how the class really looks until it shakes out in the final hour of the race.

Do you burn your Bronze time early and run the fast Pros to the end? Do you use your Pros early to build a huge lead and hope your Bronze can hang on at the end? This can work if your Bronze is very good. What if the Bronze guy is not fast, is very rich, funds the team, and his dream is to cross the finish line himself? (Well, you’re the client, you do as he says!) Thankfully most are also extremely competitive so if there’s a sniff of a win they’ll happily put the Pro driver in to get it.

There have been a lot of Covid-19 withdrawals in the LMP1 and GTE Pro classes, in addition to the already planned cutbacks from BMW and Ford. And so the two pro-am classes, LMP2 and GTE Am, heavily feature in the 2020 race. This isn’t a surprise as they form the bedrock of the ELMS.

Entries By Class at 15th September:
LMP1 5
LMP2 24
PRO 8
AM 22
TOTAL 59

The ACO should be congratulated for managing to get so many cars in this pandemic year.

That said, I must admit to being disappointed at the lack of variety. And that’s nothing to do with Covid-19, this was the situation regardless and is a problem with the GTE market. The Ford GT was a one-off last year, Larbre aren’t running the Corvettes, and nobody picked up the BMWs. We’re again faced with a horde of 12 Ferraris and 8 Porsches up against the two Aston Martins. The good news is the quality of teams and drivers is high.

The powerhouse teams are AF Corse (Ferrari) and Proton Competition (Porsche). These teams, or others like Kessel Racing, often provide support to others on the entry list to varying degrees. Anything from a little bit of technical help, right up to running the entire operation under your name. Particularly those based outside Europe as it helps logistically. AF Corse are supporting 13 cars including their own five!

Le Mans is worth double-points to the WEC teams. Will they go for it to make their season? Will they race conservatively for points? Remember the WEC points are awarded as if the non-WEC cars are not there, so if two ELMS cars finish 1-2 and the top WEC car is 3rd, that car will be awarded 50 points for being first WEC car home even though they did not win the race. This opens them up to be challenged by those going for glory at the 24 Hours, knowing the WEC teams need those points.
ELMS entries do not get points towards their own championship.

WEC Points Standings
83 AF Corse 110 pts
90 TF Sport 98 pts
57 Project 1 81.5 pts
98 Aston 80.5 pts
77 Dempsey 61.5 pts
56 Project 1 56 pts

ELMS Points Standings
74 Kessel 56 pts (not at LM)
77 Proton 56 pts (crew split between other entries)
55 Spirit of Race 40 pts
83 Iron Lynx 38 pts (at LM as no.85)
51 AF Corse 28 pts (at LM as no.52)

FERRARI (12 cars)

AF Corse (4 cars):

83 AF Corse Perrodo (B)/Collard (G)/N.Nielsen (S) WEC
54 AF Corse Flohr (B)/Castellacci (S)/Fisichella (P) WEC
55 Spirit Of Race Cameron (B)/Scott (S)/Griffin (G) ELMS
52 AF Corse Ulrich (B)/Gorig (B)/West (B) ELMS

Collard’s 24th Le Mans. Perrodo and Collard have been paired in a variety of GT and LMP2 machinery for about 7 years and currently lead the WEC points. Last time they were here in a Ferrari was in 2016: they won Le Mans and the title. A race favourite.

Flohr and Castellacci are a decent long-term pairing. They’re joined by Giancarlo Fisichella who needs no introduction. Certainly top ten, possible podium.

The green 55 of Cameron, Scott & Griffin is exceptionally fast is one of those non-WEC cars to watch. Another race favourite.

The 4th car I know nothing about. They are the only all-Bronze trio in the class. Expect little.

Iron Lynx (3 cars):

60 Iron Lynx Schiavoni (B)/Pianezzola (S)/Ruberti (G) ELMS
75 Iron Lynx Mastronardi (B)/Cressoni (S)/Piccini (G) n/a
85 Iron Lynx Gostner (B)/Frey (S)/Gatting (S) ELMS

Of this trio the best in points is the all-female no.85 crew 4th in the ELMS (where it races as no.83) of Manuela Gostner, Michelle Gatting and long-time GT racer Rahel Frey. Hopefully this car will make the top six.

I expect little of the other two. The no.60 races full-time but isn’t haven’t a great season. Andrea Piccini usually in that car moved to the one-off no.75 for LM24. He and Matteo Cressoni are rapid so if their Bronze is any good they may finish top ten.

Other Ferraris (5 cars)

61 Luzich Racing Piovanetti (B)/Negri (B)/Ledogar (P) n/a
2019 ELMS GTE Champion team. There was some debate about whether they would take their LM invite as they aren’t racing in an ACO series in 2020.
Ozz Negri is only a Bronze because of his age, usually he can be relied upon to just slot in, but he’s never raced a GTE and he missed all the pre-race testing has he had a positive Covid-19 test. Ledogar is a former McLaren GT factory driver. Keep an eye on this one.

62 Red River Sport Grimes (B)/Mowlem (G)/Hollings (S) WEC
Johnny Mowlem’s driver development program continues its debut WEC season and the man himself has un-retired yet again. 🙂 Wish I could say they were doing better in points, currently last. They have a different goal though: get Grimes from being a track day guy four years ago, to a race finish at Le Mans. If they can do that it’ll be a great advert for their driver agency.

66 JMW Motorsport Heistand (B)/Root (S)/Magnussen (P) ELMS
JMW get their number back after Ford stole it those years ago! Jan Magnussen joins post-Corvette, he’d planned to race LMP2 this year but the team withdrew. Heistand won the 2019 IMSA award giving him an entry to Le Mans. Despite a wholesale driver change – not one of their regular drivers are here – it’s still one to watch. JMW are ALWAYS in contention at Le Mans.

70 MR Racing Kimura (B)/Abril (G)/Cozzolino (S) WEC
A welcome addition as the only Japanese team in GTE Am. Scored a podium first time out at Silverstone but less well since. Owner/Driver Ishikawa can’t make it due to travel restrictions but thankfully the team are still here.

72 Hub Auto Corsa Chen (B)/Blomqvist (P)/Gomes (S) AsianLMS
Asian Le Mans GT3 champion team and another welcome addition, the only Taiwanese entry on the list! Blomqvist raced the BMW GTE in IMSA last year.

PORSCHE (8 cars)

Dempsey-Proton / Proton Competition (4 cars)

77 Dempsey-Proton Ried (B)/Pera (S)/Campbell (G) WEC
88 Dempsey-Proton Preining (G)/Bastien (B)/De Leener (S) WEC

78 Proton Competition Felbermayr Jr (B)/M.Beretta (S)/van Splunteren (S) ELMS
99 Dempsey-Proton Inthraphuvasak (B)/Legeret (S)/Andlauer (S) ELMS

Unusually far down the WEC standings with the 77 in 5th and the 88 in 10th. This has been one of the reference Porsche teams in Am for years.

Ried owns the team and is a fast Bronze in his own right. Andlauer should’ve been with Porsche North America in Pro but it withdrew – no clue why he’s listed as Silver. They’re usually there or thereabouts at the end.

The driver crews often do double-duty in WEC and ELMS hence some new names in the ELMS cars. I have to say the WEC cars are more fancied here. But the classic Felbermayr livery is back!

Team Project 1 (3 cars)

56 Project 1 Perfetti (B)/ten Voorde (S)/Cairoli (G) WEC
57 Project 1 Keating (B)/Fraga (S)/Bleekemolen (G) WEC
89 Project 1 “Brooks” (B)/Piguet (S)/Laskaratos (B) 24H

There’s a strong argument Project 1 might’ve usurped Proton as the out and out fastest Porsche Pro-Am team. Defending race winner, hence awarded an extra entry, the 89 car.

The 57 is a full-season WEC program for Keating & Bleekemolen hence no Ford GT this year, same livery though! And they’re 3rd in WEC points.

Edigio Perfetti is a member of the family that owns Mentos mints, of which he’s a director, did you know that? And he’s one of the best Bronze drivers out there. The 56 crew 6th in points.

The 89 car, I’ve never heard of these drivers.

The 56 and 57 will feature heavily and are equally contenders for the win, the 89 is making up the numbers I think.

86 Gulf Racing Wainwright (B)/Barker (G)/Watson (S) WEC

Always a team to watch at Le Mans, they will lead the race at some point, they always do. Only 7th in WEC points but I expect a top 5 result here. Ben Barker will make it fly.

ASTON MARTIN (2 cars)

90 TF Sport Yoluc (B)/Eastwood (S)/Adam (P) WEC

Currently 2nd in points. Much will depend on the Le Mans BoP but this team knows what it is doing and is a contender. Yoluc is somehow still rated Bronze but he’s better than that I’m sure he is. Jonny Adam and Charlie Eastwood are rapid.

98 Aston Martin Racing Dalla Lana (B)/Gunn (S)/Farfus (P) WEC

The perennial no.98 of Paul Dalla Lana is part of the furniture these days and it would be very strange if it wasn’t in the top 5 during the race and probably contending at the end. Augusto Farfus, latterly of BMW, joined the party last time out in Spa in replacement of Darren Turner who is now in charge of testing the Valkyrie road car.

MY TOP THREE

This is always a toughie and especially with 22 cars! This is my podium prediction:

55 Spirit of Race Ferrari (Cameron)

90 TF Sport Aston Martin (Yoluc)

57 Team Project 1 Porsche (Keating)