The 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours entry list has (as this is written in early November 2018) more certainty about it than any previous running of the world’s greatest endurance race this far before it’s been held!
That comes courtesy of the uniqueness of the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship which encompasses both the 2018 and 2019 iterations of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
It means that the 35 full-season entries accepted for the FIA WEC are entitled, subject to final approval from the Selection Committee, to take up an entry for the race in 2019, leaving just 25 slots to be filled from elsewhere.
Several of that 25 though are already accounted for by a myriad of auto-entries already earned elsewhere by teams having had success over the past five months or so.
The class winners in each of the four classes at the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours all earn an auto entry.
That means that Toyota Gazoo Racing, Signatech Alpine, Porsche Motorsport and Dempsey Proton are all entitled to an entry in addition to those they currently hold via their WEC allocation.
Last weekend’s finale for the European Le Mans Series sees the completion of all bar one Championship that feature further auto-entries:
Michelin Le Mans Cup – GT3 class winner – Kessel Racing (GTE-Am)
European Le Mans Series – LMP2 and Overall Winner – G-Drive Racing (LMP2
European Le Mans Series – LMP3 Class Winner – RLR MSport (LMP2)
European Le Mans Series – GTE Class Winner – Proton Competition (GTE Am)
European Le Mans Series – GTE Runner Up – JMW Motorsport (GTE Am)
IMSA Bob Akin Trophy – Ben Keating (GTE-Am) Risi Competizione/ Keating Ferrari
IMSA Jim Trueman Trophy – Misha Goikhberg (LMP2)
And the final four auto entries will come from the soon to get underway 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series with auto entries in LMP2 for the Overall Champions and for the winner in the LMP2 Gentleman’s Trophy (for crews with only Silver and Bronze rated driver line-ups), in GTE Am for the GT class winners and in LMP2 for the LMP3 class Champions.
Add into the mix then the following additional matters:
– The ACO has, in recent years, attempted to balance the entry as close as possible to 50:50 between a combined LMP and combined GTE total.
– The factory contingent on the overall entry has been boosted in recent years with several additional GTE Pro entries, most notably from the IMSA entry.
– (correction) both TRSM Ginettas were registered as full-season entries.
– It can be fairly safely presumed that the additional Toyota Gazoo Racing entry (for winning Le Mans) will not be taken up either.
The Signatech Alpine and Dempsey Proton entries though should be regarded as still ‘live’, potentially giving the French LMP2 team a two-car effort – and a significant commercial boost, and the German GTE Am team the potential to field all four of their fleet of Porsche 911 RSRs (with their Le Mans win auto entry, plus their ELMS win auto entry, plus their pair of full-season WEC entries).
So too, for reasons dealt with below, should Porsche’s available Auto entry via their 2018 win in GTE Pro.
Will all of that speculation counted into the total the current entry could look like this:
LMP1: 8-10 cars
2 x Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid (WEC)
2 x Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson (WEC)
2 x SMP Racing BR1-AER (WEC)
1 x DragonSpeed BR1-Gibson (WEC)
1 x ByKolles CLM-NISMO (WEC)
0-2 x TRSM Ginetta-AER (WEC)
LMP2: 13-15 cars
2 x Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA (WEC)
1-2 x Signatech Alpine ORECA (WEC x 1 plus Auto entry)
1 x DragonSpeed ORECA (WEC)
1 x TDS Racing ORECA (WEC)
1 x Racing Team Nederland Dallara (WEC)
1 x Larbre Competition Ligier (WEC)
1 x G-Drive Racing ORECA (Auto entry)
1 x RLR MSport ORECA (Auto entry)
1 x Misha Goikhberg pick (Auto entry)
1 x Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 winner
1 x Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 Gentlemans Trophy winner
1 x Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 winner
Combined LMP total, 21-25 cars (most likely 21 or 22 cars)
GTE Pro: 10-11 cars
2-3 x Porsche Motorsport 911 RSR (WEC)
2 x Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT (WEC)
2 x Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE (WEC)
2 x BMW Team MTEK BMW M8 GTE (WEC)
2 x AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE (WEC)
(The most likely total is 10 cars)
GTE Am: 14-15 cars
2-3 x Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR (WEC x 2 plus 1 x Auto Entry)
1 x Gulf Racing UK Porsche 911 RSR (WEC)
1 x Project One Porsche 911 RSR (WEC)
1 x Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE (WEC)
1 x MR Racing Ferrari 488 GTE (WEC)
1 x Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE (WEC)
1 x TF Sport Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE (WEC)
1 x Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTE (WEC)
1 x Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR (Auto entry)
1 x JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE (Auto entry)
1 x Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GTE (Auto entry)
1 x Risi Competizione/Keating Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE (Auto entry)
1 x Asian Le Mans Series GTE winner
(The most likely total is 15 cars)
Combined GTE total: 24-26 cars (most likely total = 25)
The total entry known thus far is 45-51 cars (most likely 47 cars)
NOT included in these totals though, are any of the IMSA-based GTLM/ GTE Pro efforts that most certainly include the following likely and/or potential entry requests:
2 x Corvette Racing, Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
2 x Ford Chip Ganassi Racing USA, Ford GT
2 x Porsche Motorsport, Porsche 911 RSR (note Porsche holds an auto entry for one additional car)
2 x BMW Team RLL, BMW M8 GTE
1 x Risi Competizione, Ferrari 488 GTE
Remember too that last year AF Corse opted to enter a third Ferrari 488 GTE. And, that these are the teams that will spend the most at the event, in the paddock and in in the spectator areas and beyond, that buying power is a significant factor.
That adds up to a potential 10 additional Pro cars (though a more likely eight) and a clear indication that if each of the relevant factories requests their additional cars, either the 30 car cap will be busted, or the entry will be trimmed! This is the reason why the Porsche GTE Pro auto entry may still be in play.
Prospects therefore look pretty bleak for any additional full season ELMS/Asian Le Mans Series GT cars to join the final list.
Amongst the ELMS LMP2 teams without any assured entry are the following:
Algarve Pro Racing
Dragonspeed (intend to submit an entry for their ELMS car)
Panis Barthez Competition
Cetilar Villorba Corse
High Class Racing
AVF by Adrian Valles
Plus aspirant LMP2 entrants from Asia not accommodated above including ARC Bratislava and Spirit of Race.
Add in too the LMP3 entrants in the Asian Le Mans Series, one of whom is set to get an Auto entry, United Autosports, Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen, Eurasia, Jackie Chan DC Racing, Inter Europol, WIN Motorsport, Team Virage, Viper Nisa Racing and at least one other, yet to be announced, but confirmed, entry!
That adds into the mix c.18 potential LMP2 entries, the vast majority of which would be from teams with at least two seasons in the class in Europe and/ or Asia.
And don’t discount either any potential additional entries in LMP1 (not a matter plucked out of thin air by this writer!)
Balancing that total just a little is the likelihood that the trio of Asian Le Mans Series auto entries in LMP2 will go to teams in the list above (or to Jackie Chan DC Racing who already have a pair of entries!), with a possible third coming from the LMP3 auto entry in Asia, though there are some very strong contenders beyond the current LMP2 ranks!
The 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series is therefore set to be the most important ever, and by a distance.
Add all of the above together and there is clearly a tightrope to be walked by the 2019 Le Mans Selection Committee, whether they bend towards additional factory GTE Pro entries, or towards their loyal full season European and Asian customers. Either way some significant names are set to feature only on the Reserve List.
There is going to be even more interest than ever in their final decisions.