Fernando Alonso and Toyota up against five private teams in the top LM P1 class;
A 20-strong LM P2 grid;
Six manufacturers and 17 cars in LM GTE Pro;
Thirteen competitors in LM GTE Am;
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, ACO special consultant.
The 60-car entry list for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans was revealed today (9 February) at the Rétromobile Show in Paris, before an expectant audience of drivers, team bosses and journalists. The 86th running of the French endurance classic will once again make history as two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso makes his maiden Le Mans appearance at the wheel of a Toyota TS050 Hybrid. This is also the first time that a competitor who already holds two F1 world titles will make his Le Mans debut while still actively competing in F1. The other classes will also be hotly disputed with some very high-class entries and a perfect balance between prototypes (30) and LMGTE cars (30). Make sure you save the date for the second round of the 2018-19 Super Season of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans 2018 (16 – 17 June).
At the next Le Mans 24 Hours, all eyes are bound to be on Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard made clear his ambition to race at Le Mans several years ago, so this is something of a dream come true – as it is for the fans, already excited at the prospect of watching the single-seater champion steer an LM P1 prototype around the 13.626 km of the iconic circuit. Alonso will be competing in endurance racing’s top class at the wheel of the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, partnered by Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. The Japanese constructor, the only works team in the class, will have two cars on the grid in its latest bid for Le Mans glory.
The updated LM P1 regulations have prompted five privateer outfits to take up the challenge against Toyota, meaning there will be a total ten LMP1s on the grid on 16 June, four more than in 2017. The ACO and FIA have clearly made the right choices with their new LMP1 strategy which has drawn entries from Rebellion Racing, Bykolles Racing, CEFC TRSM Racing, Dragon Speed and SMP Racing. The class will also feature some high-profile drivers such as André Lotterer and Thomas Laurent, the whiz kid who has risen through the endurance racing ranks marked out by the ACO.
Everything points to a David-and-Goliath type scenario in this class but, as we all know, at Le Mans anything can happen.
The LM P2 class has proven just as popular as last year, with 15 outfits fielding 20 cars. This year however, Ligier has the advantage with nine JSP217s on the grid, followed by Oreca with eight Oreca 07s, including one Alpine A470, then three Dallaras. Riley, the fourth chassis builder in the class, will not be represented at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. Jackie Chan DC Racing, class winner in 2017 and overall runner-up, is back with a vengeance and four cars, two Ligiers and two Orecas. However, the Chinese team faces some stiff competition in the race for this year’s Le Mans crown.
The LM GTE Pro class has even broader appeal this year with six manufacturers competing: BMW is making its comeback to the discipline with the M8 and will line up alongside Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari, Chevrolet Corvette and Ford. There will be 17 cars on the grid, illustrating the race’s international appeal and affirming the prestige of this class where victory is hugely important for the manufacturers. Last year’s winner, Aston Martin, will be fielding its new Vantage, which it hopes will more than measure up to its predecessor. The bets are on but it’s anyone’s game at this stage!
Finally, there will be a healthy 13-car strong LM GTE Am grid at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, endorsing the ACO’s ideal of including amateur drivers in endurance events. JMW Motorsport is the title-holder but has some serious challengers.
Once again, the size and diversity of the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans grid demonstrates the far-reaching appeal of the race, with teams from all over the world representing 14 nationalities. Sixty cars will line up on Saturday 16 June, split into four classes – 10 in LM P1, 20 in LM P2, 17 in LM GTE Pro and 13 in LM GTE Am – with a perfect balance between prototypes and GTEs.
The reserve list comprises nine teams, six LM P2 and three LM GTE Am. They will be called in as replacements in the order given.
At ACO, history is as important as the future, which is why we are delighted to announce that Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich will be joining us as a consultant this year. The former racing director of Audi, who led his team to 13 victories will be sharing his wealth of sporting, marketing and technical experience with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA WEC. Now retired from Audi, Dr. Ullrich is honoured to be working with the ACO: I enjoyed working with the ACO as team manager. Today’s collaboration adds another dimension to the healthy relationship we have built up over the years. I’m proud to take on this role and look forward to giving back to a discipline which gave me so much as a competitor.
The 36 entrants for the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season were also announced at the conference. The competitors will be racing Le Mans twice, in June this year, and next year, marking the grand finale of the FIA WEC season. To keep the competition wide open throughout, the points system has been reviewed.
Instead of carrying double points, the 24 Hours of Le Mans be worth 50% more than the 6-hour races.
As well as the 36 FIA WEC cars, the grid of the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans will be supplemented by winning teams from the whole spectrum of endurance racing. Invitations to participate will be extended to the four 2018 race class winners as well as four winners of the European Le Mans Series, one from the Michelin GT3 Cup, four from the Asian Le Mans Series and two from the Weathertech United Sports Car Championship. The remainder of the grid will be filled by the successful applicants whose names will be announced in February 2019 as is the tradition.
With the names of all sixty teams for 2018 revealed, thoughts turn to June, with organisers, teams and all involved looking forward to another tremendous weekend of racing. As usual, Le Mans 24 Hours action kicks off with Test Day on 3 June, the rehearsal for the big day.
Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: “The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA World Endurance Championship, the European Le Mans Series and the Asian Le Mans Series are all in fine fettle and endurance racing assumes its rightful place in the motorsport world. I am delighted to see a grid of 60 magnificent cars for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Endurance racing has widespread appeal. The discipline continues to attract manufacturers and teams from all over the world and drivers with diverse backgrounds. All the ingredients are there – everything that makes this discipline so special – and we can look forward to the 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans being as thrilling as ever for endurance racing fans”.
Vincent Beaumesnil, Racing Director of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: “Once again, we have a sparkling line-up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and we are proud to attract competitors of such calibre. Our hard work has paid off. In each class, we made the right choices in terms of regulations, ensuring that endurance racing is here to stay. We had a host of applications and had to make some tough decisions. With a perfect balance between prototypes and GTs – 30 of each – teams will be grappling for position right down to the line, in each class and overall.”
Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA): “The 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans will be round 2 of the FIA World Endurance Championship ‘Super Season’ and once again it has an entry that is worthy of the world’s greatest endurance race. Sixty cars from all over the world, including seven manufacturer teams, all competing for glory at Le Mans. With this year’s race being the first of two visits to La Sarthe in the 2018/19 FIA WEC, the 86th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be doubly exciting to watch and enjoy. Look forward to seeing you there.”
Richard Mille, President of the FIA Endurance Commission: “The entry list for the 86th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is extremely strong and the sixty cars that will line up for the start on Saturday 16 June will represent the best in the world of endurance racing. While I have a long association with Le Mans, the 2018 race will be my first as President of the FIA Endurance Commission, which will make it a very special event on a personal level as well.”