The first automatically ratified 42 entrants for the 2019 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans have been revealed.
This year’s blue-ribboned event will not only be the 87th running of the highly anticipated endurance event, but it will also host the conclusion of the FIA World Endurance Championship‘s Super Season. The 34 entries from this series gain automatic placement into the iconic event, whilst the other eight spots announced have been awarded to teams based on their results in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, European Le Mans Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The ACO have reported receiving 75 applications for the 60-capped grid, and with the first 42 places now being allocated it will be up to the Le Mans selection committee to decide which teams get the remaining 18. Four places will be reserved for entries from the Asian Le Mans Series, to be announced on the 24th February, whilst the other 14 will be invited from the remaining applicants. Of the rejected 15 applicants, ten will be held in reserve whilst the other five will have to try again in 2020.
The final decision will come at the end of this month, with the full Le Mans grid due to be announced on the 1st March.
All of the WEC entrants will feature on the Le Mans grid, with the exception of the Ginetta LMP1 car. After suffering multiple financial set-backs, Manor Racing leaving the program and issues with suppliers, the sole-remaining Ginetta car, which has been absent from the last three WEC rounds, has lost its place on the Le Mans grid. The team finished last year’s Le Mans at the back of the grid, 105 laps down on the leaders and only managed to get one of their two cars to the finish line.
It is unknown what will or has become of the Ginetta LMP1 program, as no statements have been given from the team since they dropped out of the 2018 6 Hours of Silverstone.
No additional cars have joined the LMP1 class in the initial entry list.
LMP2 sees the return of G-Drive Racing, the team who took class victory in last year’s race, but were later stripped of that victory due to a fuel-flow infringement. The Russian team will return to the Circuit de la Sarthe, after claiming the ELMS Championship last year, hoping to take class victory again, but this time be allow to hold onto it. Jean-Eric Vergne and Job van Uitert have been announced in association with the team in ELMS and Le Mans for 2019, and, although not officially confirmed, are expected to join forces with Romain Rusinov in June.
Due to claiming the 2018 ELMS LMP3 Championship, RLR MSport/Tower Events are the second new car to take a spot in the LMP2 class. Arjun Maini has recently signed for the RLR MSport team, and his racing duties will include partaking in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He will share the cockpit with John Farano for Le Mans, and a third driver that is yet to be announced. The duo will be joined by Bruno Senna for their LMP3 EMLS campaign this season, but the Brazilian will not be with the British team for Le Mans due to commitments with Rebellion Racing in LMP1.
Like LMP1, no new entries have been added to the LM GTE Pro class in this initial entry announcement. It can be expected that Corvette Racing will be invited to attend, making their 20th Le Mans entry, when the full grid is announced in March.
LM GTE Am is the class who has seen the most growth in this initial entry list, with six additional cars finding a place on the Le Mans grid in the automated allocations. Ferraris from WeatherTech Racing USA, JMW Motorsport and Kessel Racing join the grid, bringing three additional cars for the Italian manufacturer.
The Porsche force also grows in Am, with Proton Competition joining the grid and Dempsey-Proton Racing bringing a third car to the race. The Dempsey team will be looking to repeat their success from last year, ending the Super Season on a high after they were stripped of all their points from the first two rounds after errors were found in their fuel data.
Keating Motorsports rounds off the 42-confirmed entries for Le Mans, trading in the Ferrari 488 GTE that they raced with last time out at the Circuit de la Sarthe with a Ford GT and becoming the first and, currently, only Ford in the Am class.
The entry list announcement also came with an announcement that three-time Le Mans winner Hurley Haywood would be the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans Grand Marshal.