PREVIEW: 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans – GTE Am


The 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans gets underway this weekend, and in the run up to the race The Checkered Flag is previewing each class, this time the focus is on the secondary GT class – GTE Am.

A real mix of cars take to the more amateur focussed GTE Am class with a number of Asian, American and European entries joining six FIA World Endurance Championship regulars.

That mix has meant that there are a number of unknowns to both fans looking in, as well as the other teams themselves with a number of cars that have gone relatively unobserved so far this season

Larbre Competition

Larbre Competition have the benefit of experience this year (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)
Larbre Competition have the benefit of experience this year (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)

Corvette C7.R

#50 – Yutaka Yamagishi/Pierre Regues/Jean-Phillipe Belloc

The team come into Le Mans on the back foot almost immediately as a heavy accident for Paolo Ruberti  left him needing surgery and the team needed a third driver to complete their line-up.

Larbre tested both Nick Catsburg and Jean-Phillipe Belloc at Test Day and thankfully for the team, both were quick in the Corvette and Belloc was called up to fill the seat – a drive one would suspect he wasn’t completely expecting.

The car itself should be getting up to speed now with a few years of testing under Larbre’s belts and with podiums in the WEC this season they should be in a good position.

AF Corse

The GTE-Am AF Corse machines have strong line-ups (Credit: Adrenal Media)
The GTE-Am AF Corse machines have strong line-ups (Credit: Adrenal Media)

Ferrari 458 Italia

#55 – Matt Griffin/Aaron Scott/Duncan Cameron

#83 – Francois Perrodo/Emmanuel Collard/Rui Aguas

One of the strongest two-car line-ups in the GTE-Am field, the #55 houses Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron, both very capable Ferrari GT racers in the Blancpain GT Series – amongst others – and combined with Aaron Scott, a very quick peddler of Ferraris in the UK, they are a good bet of getting a podium.

However, even stronger than them is the line-up in the #83 as Emmanuel Collard – who has had more Le Mans races than most people have had hot dinners – is joined by Francois Perrodo and Rui Aguas. That line-up scored a podium at Le Mans last year and stood on the podium of all but one of the FIA WEC rounds in 2015.

Team AAI

Team AAI move from Porsche to Corvette for 2016 (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)
Team AAI move from Porsche to Corvette for 2016 (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)

Corvette C7.R

#57 – Johnny O’Connell/Oliver Bryant/Mark Patterson

A Taiwaense car but with a very Anglo-American line-up, Team AAI made a big step to go from a GTE Porsche to the newest evolution of the Corvette but their line-up suggests that a podium would be no shock whatsoever.

Johnny O’Connell himself is a widely experienced drive and his knowledge of GT racing is unsurpassed by anyone else and with Mark Patterson becoming an ever-more capable gentleman driver – stepping into GTE Am this year after racing in LMP2 last year – the old-guard could help power that car to a great result.

However, you can’t forget Oliver Bryant who is rising rapidly through the ranks of the GT world and his experience will be a great addition to the team.

Formula Racing

Formula Racing are defending ELMS GTE champions and have a strong line-up (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)
Formula Racing are defending ELMS GTE champions and have a strong line-up (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)

Ferrari 458 Italia

#60 – Christina Nielsen/Johnny Laursen/Mikkel Mac Jensen

With the ELMS GTE title to their names, Formula Racing come into Le Mans with the biggest target on their backs and with their Ferrari 458 and its mechanics combining to make a well-oiled machine they would no doubt class a podium as the minimum they should be hoping for.

The addition of Christina Nielsen, who has won her class at Sebring this season as well as finishing runner-up in the IMSA GTD drivers championship, provides yet another prong on the car’s attack. She’ll also hope that she can score a podium and carry on the good results of the Nielsen family name – her father Lars Erik Nielsen was a regular podium finisher.

Clearwater Racing

Clearwater Racing will be the first Singaporean team to take on Le Mans (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)
Clearwater Racing will be the first Singaporean team to take on Le Mans (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)

Ferrari 458 Italia

#61 – Mok Weng Sun/Keita Sawa/Rob Bell

The first team from Singapore to take on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Clearwater Racing will be racing in completely different equipment than the machine that did them so well in the Asian Le Mans Series with a Ferrari 458 replacing the McLaren 650S GT3 they used in the championship.

Rob Bell needs no introduction with the Brit always bang on the pace every time he gets behind the steering wheel. Indeed Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa are capable in a range of machinery with the pair well-respected in Asian motorsport for their exploits in GT Asia.

Scuderia Corsa

The Americans will hope for good things (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)
The Americans will hope for good things (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)

Ferrari 458 Italia

#62 – Bill Sweedler/Townsend Bell/Jeff Segal

Winning the GT Daytona category in the IMSA Championship last year has set the trio in good stead for their Le Mans battle, which started well when they finished third at the Le Mans Test Day.

Bell particularly has a lot of racing under his belt, just last month he finished just outside the top 20 at the Indy 500 and will be wanting to add another Le Mans podium to what must be a perilously over-filled trophy cabinet.

Sweedler and Segal are both capable co-pilots and combine as they have done in the past and they’ll leave others standing in their wake.

KCMG

KCMG have good experience in prototypes but need a good result to keep their WEC campaign alive (Credit: Adrenal Media)
KCMG have good experience in prototypes but need a good result to keep their WEC campaign alive (Credit: Adrenal Media)

Porsche 911 RSR

#78 – Joel Camathias/Wolf Henzler/Christian Reid

Experienced greatly in LMP2, KCMG have not got much experience in GTE Am and having got no podiums so far in the FIA WEC season they need a good result to put their championship back on track.

Joel Camathias is back for the first time since his JWA Avila stint four years ago, and with Wolf Henzler and Christian Reid alongside they should be just about in with a shout of a podium.

That said, they could be hampered with issues outside of their own control as the 991 version of the 911 RSR isn’t the potent weapon many would have hoped it would be and could well be eclipsed by the other marques.

Gulf Racing UK

Gulf Racing are one of the lead Porsche teams in GTE Am (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)
Gulf Racing are one of the lead Porsche teams in GTE Am (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)

Porsche 911 RSR

#86 – Michael Wainwright/Adam Carroll/Ben Barker

While Adam Carroll may be an experienced driver of all types of cars, his knowledge of the Porsche may be a little shabby after a few seasons of racing Ferrari’s. Despite this he lead the team to a fifth place last time out in Spa. The team have struggled to settle in this season but will be determined to collect a strong result as they look to get a foothold in the championship.

Joining Carroll at the line up will be Am driver Michael Wainwright. The two have raced together in ELMS last season and will know how each other work, though success was patchy, picking up one win and finishing fourth in the GTE Rankings.

The final seat will be filled by Benjamin Barker, the Silver rated driver completes the all British line-up. Barker will have the most Porsche  experience having spent 2015 racing in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and winning the Bathurst 12 Hours in a 911 as well.

Abu-Dhabi Proton Racing

The #88 has a decent line-up coming into Le Mans (Credit: Adrenal Media)
The #88 has a decent line-up coming into Le Mans (Credit: Adrenal Media)

Porsche 911 RSR

#88 – Khaled Al Qubaisi/David Heinemeier Hansson/Patrick Long

The next entry is once again a Porsche with links to the middle-east. Though with Khaled Al Qubaisi, a multiple 24 Hours of Dubai winner, leading the team the chance of success could increase dramatically.

He won’t be the driver everyone’s got their eyes on though. Patrick Long may be highly rated, but a race doesn’t come down to a single driver. Knowledge of the car may be an issue for the American as he was forced to miss the opening round, while commitments elsewhere has not allowed him to gel a relationship with the team.

Their final driver is by no means their weakest as David Heinemeier-Hansson continues his relationship with the team. The Dane, who has established a name for himself outside motorsport as well as in, will be the second of the teams previous Le Mans winners. The team should be in line for a strong result, but will need to get over the turmoils of the first two rounds.

Proton Racing

The All-American line-up should be confident going into the race (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)
The All-American line-up need to keep confident going into the race (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)

Porsche 911 RSR

#89 – Cooper MacNeil/Leh Keen/Marc Miller

As the only German team in the GTE-Am field, the team will need a strong result as they try to prove themselves amongst the WEC regulars. MacNeil and Keen have had a history together in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship driving the GTD Porsche. As a result, they’ll likely have the best understanding of the car and each other.

Unfortunately for the duo, success has not come less easily. During the past two season in the US they’ve collected only one podium on behalf of Alex Job Racing and have regularly struggled, with a last minute incident forcing MacNeil to complete last year’s 24 Hour race without a third driver.

As for Proton, success has come easier to them in the ELMS, with their #77 winning the GTE Am class in the last round at Spa. However, the drivers have been completely changed for this round and the team has had to adapt. Joining them as the Am driver will be Marc Miller.

Aston Martin Racing

Beechdean have vast GT experience and will hope that experience can translate to Le Mans (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)
Beechdean have vast GT experience and will hope that experience can translate to Le Mans (Credit: Craig Robertson/SpeedChills.com)

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

#98 – Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Mathias Lauda

#99 – Andrew Howard/Liam Griffin/Gary Hirsch

It’s been a tale of two extremes for the Aston Martins who find themselves at the opposite ends of the grid going into the Le Mans main race. The #98 of Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy have become use to success in the WEC, collecting a number of victories while Beechdean continue their learning year in the ELMS.

The #98 crew will have bad memories of last year though after crashing out from the lead with only a few hours to go. Mathias Lauda, who was their third driver for 2015, has returned to help the team chase down their former glory. It proved to be a costly result come the end of the season as the double points system allowed SMP to break away.

Any British GT fans will recognise the second car with 2015 British GT Champion Andrew Howard bringing Beechdean AMR to Le Mans. He’ll be the only driver to jump across from Aston Martin’s ELMS campaign as British GT rival Liam Griffin joins him at the team.

Griffin, who has experience of driving an Aston Martin during his campaign in the Motorbase Performance Aston Martin GT3 last year, will be making his Le Mans debut – as is Howard – but with the ELMS LMP2 champion in the shape of Gary Hirsch joining the team, they’ll have a wealth of experience to call upon.