While much of the attention in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans may be on the new-for-2014 LMP1 regulations and the three-way battle for the overall win between Audi, Toyota and Porsche, the production-based ranks is still expected to produce competitive battles, with an equally diverse grid.
FOXSports.com kicks off its comprehensive week-long coverage with a look at the teams from the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes that will take part on Saturday (8:30 a.m. ET LIVE FOX Sports 1)
***Porsche, Corvette, Aston Martin and Ferrari will do battle for GTE-Pro honors, in the nine-car class that’s predominantly made up of full-factory machinery. The category was to also see a pair of SRT Viper GTS-Rs, but the Detroit manufacturer was forced to withdraw due to its focus on the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
***Corvette Racing, the only American team in GTE-Pro, is seeking its eighth class win, in the first European appearance for the Corvette C7.R, which claimed wins in the two most recent TUDOR United SportsCar Championship rounds. Longtime program manager Doug Fehan has been awarded the prestigious “Spirit of Le Mans” award for this year.
***After its 1-2 finish last year, Porsche Team Manthey debuts its updated Porsche 911 RSR at Le Mans, which was first rolled out in last year’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-ending round in Bahrain. Since then, the German manufacturer has scored historic wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring with the U.S.-based CORE autosport-run operation.
***The Ferrari F458 Italia, sporting a new Le Mans-specific bodykit, showed their strength at the official test day, while Aston Martin Vantages struggled for pace, despite recent Balance of Performance adjustments following a group BoP test at Michelin’s test track near Clermant-Ferrand.
***A series of late withdrawals has bolstered the GTE-Am grid, with a class-high 19 entries set to take part. It includes a last-minute entry from Houston-based Krohn Racing, which received the call from the ACO than three weeks ago.
***Dempsey Racing has also returned for 2014, again in partnership with the German-based Proton Competition squad, but with Porsche’s new 911 RSR. Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster and factory driver Patrick Long are reunited and are again the only all-American driver lineup in the race.
***There’s further American interest from the U.S.-backed 8Star Motorsports Ferrari squad with driver Frankie Montecalvo, along with Flying Lizard drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Seth Neiman in JMW Motorsport’s Ferrari, and Cooper MacNeil in the No. 79 Prospeed Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which is carrying the WeatherTech colors.
Teams to Watch:
Porsche Team Manthey (GTE-Pro) — The defending class winners are expected to be among the favorites again this year, with the No. 92 entry of Marco Holzer, Fred Makowiecki and Richard Lietz topping the time charts at the test day. The team’s No. 91 chassis, however, has been replaced from the test following a high-flying excursion for Joerg Bergmeister. The German driver is joined by Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy at the wheel of the new No. 91 car.
AF Corse (GTE-Pro & GTE-Am) — Always a threat at Le Mans, look for the pair of Amato Ferrari-entered Prancing Horses to be contenders again. Reigning FIA WEC champ Gianmaria Bruni is reunited with Toni Vilander in the No. 51 Ferrari and are fresh off a win at Spa. F1 ace Giancarlo Fisichella completes the lineup, with Olivier Beretta joining Le Mans rookies Davide Rigon and James Calado in the No. 71 car. Two of the team’s four GTE-Am entries are also expected to play for class honors.
Corvette Racing (GTE-Pro) — After a year to forget in 2013, the boys in yellow have returned with two brand-new Corvette C7.Rs. Richard Westbrook and Jordan Taylor rejoin the Pratt & Miller squad, despite not being part of the American endurance races due to their full-season TUDOR Championship commitments. While teething issues struck the all-new car at Daytona and Sebring, Le Mans could be the break out performance needed for the factory American squad.
Aston Martin Racing (GTE-Am) — While not haven shown the sheer pace of the competition, the reliability of Aston Martin Racing’s GTE-Am entries should pay dividends come race day. The No. 95 Young Driver-backed effort of Danes Nicki Thiim, Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson is expected to factor, as well as the sister No. 98 entry driven by Pedro Lamy, Christoffer Nygaard and Paul Dalla Lana.
8Star Motorsports (GTE-Am) — The only American team taking part in the FIA WEC this year, 8Star shined at the test with Paolo Ruberti posting the quickest time in class and second best among all GTE cars. The Italian and long-time co-driver Gianluca Roda are joined by American Frankie Montecalvo, who fills in for team owner Enzo Potolicchio due to travel restrictions associated with the Venezuelan’s application for a U.S. Green Card.
24 Hours of Le Mans Broadcast Schedule (all times ET):
- Saturday, June 14 – 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (FOX Sports 1, LIVE)
- Saturday, June 14 – 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
- Saturday, June 14 – 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
- Sunday, June 15 – 2 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. (FOX Sports 1, LIVE)
- Sunday, June 15 – 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
- Entire race streamed LIVE on FOX Sports GO