Today sees the announcement, at a press conference stage at Retromobile in Paris, of the entry lists for the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship and the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours.
So what do we expect, what can keen observers look out for, and how can you follow proceedings?
HOW TO FOLLOW.
The announcements begin at 15:00 CET – (14:00 UK Time) – 09:00 EST. 06:00 PST.
The announcements will be streamed live on the FIA WEC App, on The FIA WEC and Le Mans Facebook Pages, on the FIA WEC and Le Mans YouTube Channels and on the Le Mans DailyMotion channel.
Radio Le Mans
There will be a concurrent analysis show featuring the dynamic duo of John Hindhaugh and the DSC Editor on RSL Radio on channel RS1 starting at 13:45 UK Time.
WHAT DO WE EXPECT? AND WHAT TO LOOK FOR
First things first, there are some surprises coming!
Some presumed cast iron auto-entry take-ups will not be taken up. That is VERY good news for teams in Championships other than the FIA WEC.
Nine cars have been confirmed publicly and there may well be more announced today.
Each team must nominate a single driver for the entry at this stage and whilst Toyota have confirmed their full squads (as have DragonSpeed for their solo BR1 Gibson entry and Rebellion for their pair of Rebellion R13 Gibsons (though not confirming yet the compilation of each crew) there will be interest in the name or names that appear against the remaining entrants, ByKolles, TRSM (TRS Manor) – Ginetta G60-LT-P1 and SMP Racing – BR1 AER.
Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin are confirmed via Social Media as being part of the SMP Racing set-up.
There will be no third Toyota
How many cars for the WEC full season?
DSC is tracking a likely seven, it’s possible there may be one less, and distinctly possible it may be more!
Again some of those declared driver names could well be very interesting.
Le Mans 24 Hours
How many cars? Last year saw 25, we expect a small but significant reduction this year to accommodate the larger LMP1 field. Expect around 20, significantly more than that would be a surprise.
How many of the 17 car ELMS LMP2 field will feature? Two are already more or less guaranteed with G-Drive Racing taking the entry earned via their DragonSpeed operated ELMS title winners in 2017 and United Autosports taking another for the LMP3 title win. Of the remaining 15 a small number, including DragonSpeed, are known not to have applied this season. There are likely to be c.10 teams/ cars in LMP2 looking to see whether they will get the nod, plus of course GTE teams from the ELMS and others from Asian Le Mans Series and IMSA that have submitted entries too.
BAR1 have said publicly that they have entered with their now (for the time being at least) unique Riley Multimatic Mk30 and DSC believes too that Paul Ip’s KCMG outfit were considering an entry whether or not they managed to secure the auto invitation via the LMP3 class in Asian Le Mans.
10 cars are confirmed via the FIA WEC full season entry, a pair apiece from AF Corse (Ferrari), Aston Martin Racing (with the new Vantage GTE), BMW (the new M8 operated by MTEK), Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK and Porsche. That is likely to be the full season total for the WEC.
Le Mans 24 Hours
Here’s one of THE key questions about the 2018 entry. There are a possible nine additional cars to be added to the WEC 10 – some more likely than others.
Porsche have already revealed that have requested an additional pair of cars, Corvette will certainly be expecting their regular pair. This is NOT the commercial environment for the ACO to be attempting to strong-arm a WEC effort!
Ford should be appearing with their US cars added to the WEC pair, though some sources suggest that may not be necessarily so, we shall see!
French Media sources have written of a third AF Corse Pro car, and Risi Competizione specifically guided DSC NOT to make an assumption that they would not enter a Pro car alongside the Keating Motorsport collaboration in GTE Am.
And there’s a potential third Aston Martin entry, though rather less likely, if a Customer team can be persuaded to pony up for the auto entry earned via their famous win at the Le Mans 24 Hours last year, TF Sport came close to pulling together an ELMS effort to take upon their potential pair.
Definitely over-subscribed for the Super Season and therefore almost certain to see growth on the 2017 quintet.
There are three known aspiring Ferrari entrants (Spirit of Race, Clearwater and MR Racing), There are (or rather were) three potential Aston Martin entries (The Paul Dalla Lana anchored AMR car, TF Sport and initially a possible step up from Beechdean AMR)
The Beechdean effort seems to have fallen away though, leaving a pair of possibles.
With any prospect of a return from Larbre’s Corvette evaporating too that leaves Porsche, and here there were five possible cars, all with the newest 911 RSR.
Christian Ried’s Proton Competiton were set to enter two, as was Mike Wainwright’s Gulf Racing UK, with the Project 1/ Tolimit outfit confirmed as having obtained one of the batch of new cars too.
A single source has suggested that the ELMS entered car from Ebimotors may be a car initially supplied or intended for Proton. If that is true then it could mean that Ried and co have settled for a single entry and that the other potential runners would do likewise.
That would see, assuming no other entrants are in the shadows, a possible 8 car class and a potential 35 car full season WEC entry.
Le Mans 24 Hours
Confirmed would be whatever we get from the FIA WEC (7-8 cars) plus the Keating/ Risi Ferrari, the Ebimotors Porsche and JMW’s auto entered Ferrari, a high quality field in double figures.
Notable by their absence DSC believes, will be the potential pair of Team AAI entries earned via the Asian Le Mans Series. Industry sources suggesting that this year the commercial realities have out-run the opportunities.
Much will depend here on the number of LMP2 entrants, and how many additional GTE Pro cars emerge. Amongst the teams watching carefully this afternoon will be the Duncan Cameron-led Spirit of Race and Krohn Racing Ferrari efforts from the ELMS, Proton Competition too have a pair of ELMS cars that they will be looking for on the list.
Previous class winners Scuderia Corsa must be amongst the likely entrants too, the IMSA regulars a force to be reckoned with in the class in recent years.
And with or without a second WEC entry Gulf UK have another avenue to secure a second slot IF they have entered for a full season with their GT3 Porsche in the Michelin Le Mans Cup (entry list to be revealed later this month).
This is certainly the class, alongside LMP2, where the fingernails will be shredded as the list is revealed.
By this evening they, and we, will know who will take to the track in June!