This year’s Road To Le Mans races – supporting the Le Mans 24 Hours – are set to include 45 cars, 29 of them LMP3s, and 16 GT3s. This is up from last year, the inaugural race on the full Circuit de la Sarthe attracting 42 entrants.
In LMP3, there’s diversity, with teams from the Asian Le Mans Series (2), Le Mans Cup (14), European Le Mans Series (6) and elsewhere.
From the ELMS, United Autosport, Cool Racing, By Speed Factory, M. Racing YMR, and AT Racing will bring P3s. From the Asian Le Mans Series, TKS and Win Motorsport meanwhile, will come along.
There’s a variety in chassis too, with 24 Ligier JS P3s, three Normas from DKR Engineering and M. Racing YMR and an Adess and Ginetta from DKR Engineering and TKS respectively.
The Graff team has stength in numbers, with four Ligiers, while reigning European Le Mans Series LM P3 champion, United Autosports, will run three cars to defend its crown from last year; Duqueine Engineering, will also bring a trio of JS P3.
Alexandre Cougnaud, winner in June 2016, will lead M.Racing – YMR. Muller’s team will run two different chassis with two Ligiers and a Norma. DKR Engineering from Luxembourg has entered two Norma M30s and the only ADESS-03 in the field, in which 70-year-old Yojiro Terada will make a headline-grabbing return to the Sarthe. The veteran Japanese driver has raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours on 29 occasions and racked up four category victories during his career.
Notable names in the LMP3 entry include:
Yojiro Terada, 29 participations in the Le Mans 24 Hours since 1974
Richard Bradley, 2015 LMP2 race winner at Le Mans with KCMG
Andy Meyrick, ex Aston Martin and Bentley Factory driver
Peter Kox, 2003 Le Mans 24 Hours GT1 winner with Prodrive Veloqx
Shinyo Sano, 2016/17 Asian Le Mans Series GT Cup drivers champion
In GT3, Aston Martin, Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche will all be represented.
A key addition is Garage 59, the reigning Blancpain Endurance Cup champion with McLaren. The team will be racing with three of its GT Open racers – Alexander West, Michael Benham and Duncan Tappy – with West being joined by McLaren Automotive’s chief test driver Chris Goodwin, who last raced at Le Mans in 1997 in an F1 GTR. For the duo, it will be good experience before their Spa 24 Hours appearance in July, racing in the Am Cup with Top Gear’s Chris Harris.
Also in the GT3 class are four teams which will also race in the Le Mans 24 Hours – Gulf Racing, Spirit of Race, TF Sport and Larbre Competition (which is bringing a Mercedes AMG GT3 to the race).
IMSA Performance meanwhile makes a welcome return to Le Mans with six-time Le Mans 24 Hours starter (and 2013 GTE Am winner) Raymond Narac as part of its driver squad.
Deborah Mayer (Kessel Racing) and Flick Haigh (Optimum Motorsport) make it two female drivers in the class which features six of the teams from the Le Mans Cup series; Gulf Racing being the only name which will not race at the pre-Le Mans round at Monza.
Notable names in the GT entry include:
Tom Onslow Cole: 2017 BMW factory driver and multiple BTCC race winner
Phil Keen: 2016 British GT Championship runner-up, 2009 GT4 Supersport Champion
Ben Barker: 2016/17 full season FIA WEC driver
Duncan Tappy: ex Bentley factory driver
Fabio Babini: 2001 Le Mans 24 Hours GT class winner
Joe Osborne: 2009 European GT4 Champion
Chris Goodwin: 2001 ELMS GTS Champion, ex-Lotus factory GT driver and current chief test driver for McLaren Automotive
Just under 10 of the teams present in June 2016 are back for the second event while Graff, Spirit of Race, United Autosports, Larbre Compétition and TF Sport will also compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Both races will be run to the same format: 55 minutes with an obligatory pit stop lasting at least 2 minutes between the 22nd and 32nd minute. The start of the first heat will be given on Thursday 15th June at 17:30, and the second will be run on Saturday morning at 11:30 just before the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
At least four drivers are listed for Road to Le Mans and the Le Mans 24 Hours, Richard Bradley and James Winslow in LMP3, Christian Philippon and Ben Barker in GT.