Round 4 of the FIA World Endurance Championship takes us to the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, as we preview the GTE Pro and Am talking points.
Following our WEC Preview on Hypercars and LMP2, we take a look at some of the talking points across both GTE Pro and Am categories, a combined total of 31 entries.
They are expected to produce a fair amount of action whether its in the Pro category with mainly professional works drivers, or the Am privateer runners.
As mentioned in the previous part, there are an abundance of talking points but here, we talk through our main selection.
|Event (excluding four FP sessions)||Day||Time (BST)|
|Qualifying Practice||Wednesday 18 August||6pm to 7pm|
|Hyperpole||Thursday 19 August||8pm to 8.30pm|
|Race – 24 Hours of Le Mans||Sat. 21 to Sun. 22 August||3pm START to FINISH|
Porsche seek redemption from last year
At the 24 Hours of Le Mans of 2020, the race did not quite head the way in favour of the German manufacturer.
Both cars encountered struggles and were simply not on pace to compete with their Aston Martin and Ferrari works rivals, thus finishing behind two and three more GTE-Am competitors.
However, we should expect to see them not only eager for redemption, but more competent on the terms of speed.
Whilst the Test Day times are understably meaningless to infer the true pace, Porsche’s finished 1-2 in the morning and in the afternoon (WeatherTech Racing in P1).
They completed plenty of laps with smooth running for the most part.
Read the pre-Le Mans test day reports:
- Le Mans 24H Test Day: Toyota top incident-filled morning, United Autosports 1-2 in LMP2
- Le Mans 24H Test Day: Glickenhaus Racing fastest over Toyota duo in afternoon session
In the WEC so far this year, they shown strong qualifying pace against AF Corse, most notably down to Kevin Estre taking all pole positions so far.
Speaking of which, both their driver line-ups are talented with Neel Jani having adapted well back into a GTE. It will be the first time he will drive a Porsche at Le Mans since his win in 2016.
Michael Christensen is another driver to look out for to complete the #92 line-up so expect his race pace to be strong.
If reliability falls their way, which it did not do last year, Porsche have a high chance to take the win with the #92 which has been performing well all-season.
Especially against the ambitious AF Corse team who have not run a foot wrong themselves, if you exclude the Monza fuel miscalculation which caused them to pit, ending an intense duel.
In the #72 Hub Auto and #79 WeatherTech Racing, we have the Vries and Laurens Vanthoor brothers in each Porsche, so their drives are ones to look out for.
Also Maxime Martin, who won last year with Aston Martin Racing.
Corvette Racing debut the C8R at Le Mans
The American manufacturer is back after a year hiatus and can finally debut the C8R in France.
When it made its WEC debut last year at the Lone Star Le Mans, it was unable to challenge its rivals but since then, it has won at the Daytona 24.
So perhaps a blessing in disguise it did not go then? Or maybe a missed opportunity?
We should expect the Corvettes to be somewhat competitive in this eight-car class, but unlikely to shout for the win.
However, the manufacturer are on their longest winless streak at Le Mans since 2015 and will be just as eager to add to their eight wins at the circuit.
Their #64 will feature Alexander Sims joining Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy for the first time at Le Mans since the 2018-19 Super Season where he was with BMW.
Reliability, again, will be a make or break factor for Corvette Racing to see them get a chance to get onto the podium against four other Porsches and two Ferraris.
TF Sport look to defend their win
In the nine years of WEC, never has a GTE-Am pole-sitter won the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This is why the GTE-Am category will prove to be just as unpredictable and thrilling as LMP2. TF Sport last year were fifth on the grid, but fought their way to win.
With the #33 WEC entry, #95 ELMS car, and the #777 D’station Racing backed by TF Sport, they are certainly hoping to get onto the podium again with an Aston Martin.
The #33 has had quite a few instances of bad luck so far this season, whether it was the result of a tangle between Dragonspeed and G-Drive Racing back at Spa, or more recently when they suffered a tyre failure at Monza.
Ben Keating’s qualifying performances have not gone unnoticed.
After being disqualified back in 2019, his hunger for a maiden win is more motivated than ever with the experience and adaptability in six different racers at Le Mans to prove it – now in his seventh and having just turned 50-years-old.
Never doubt what the #777 can do on their Le Mans debut.
Tomonobu Fujii has quickly grasped how to extract pace of the Vantage GTE and has shown his determination and position as director of the team with his eagerness to charge up the field.
Teammates Andrew Watson and Satino Hoshino have also worked well with him so far this year.
Expect competition from the #83 AF Corse crew, reigning WEC champions in the category and second-placed finishers last year at Le Mans.
Callum Ilott and his first ever Le Mans
One of the more notable drivers in the category is Iron Lynx’s Callum Ilott who is the test and reserve driver for the Alfa Romeo F1 team.
This will be his second 24-hour race after the recent Spa 24 Hours, although he will be wishing for smoother proceedings after the dramatic accident that happened.
Debuting at Le Mans is also important to him, seeing that sportscar racing could become a primary option for the Briton if Formula 1 ceases to open any more doors.
With Ferrari hinting that Ilott will be working with them as an F1 test driver and more on their other programmes, it is likely he will find himself into their Hypercar seat for 2023.
However, with us expecting up to 10 OEMs, Ilott will be keen to gather as much endurance racing experience and therefore useful experience at Le Mans in preparation; there is obviously no guarantee of a spot, since it is quite early to say, but he is certainly a contender.
Dominique Bastien upping his record
In the #88, just like last year, Dom Bastien will take part to be the oldest starter at 75-years-old.
He breaks his record of 74 in 2020 but looks to be the oldest finisher too, seeing that a crash induced damage that put the Porsche into the garage and thus they were classified as last.
Needless to say, his pace will not be highly competitive to suggest a look at the race victory so the team will simply want to do what they could not do last year in any glory – finish the race.
But he has been racing in the WEC season so far in the #88 Porsche with some reasonable results to show.
The category is highly competitive and full younger faces than Bastien himself, though he will not be afraid to put up a fighting chance.
Thank you for reading our two preview pieces, and stay tuned for the qualifying reports to come over the next two days – plus report coverage on the race itself!