Countdown to Le Mans 2019: The LM GTE Pro Class

by Alice Holloway
Meet the LM GTE Pro grid ahead of the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans

The LM GTE Pro class for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is made up, predominantly, with factory entires, as it is in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Single entries are allowed, but due to the driver regulations of the pro class, only works drivers with manufacturer backing usually have GTE Pro drives.

The exception to this rule for the 87th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the Risi Competizione #89 entry. Although the team is backed by Ferrari, the trio of drivers – Pipo Derani, Jules Gounon and Oliver Jarvis – are not works Ferrari drivers. Gounon is a works Bentley driver, but the 2019 Le Mans race marks as his first race around the famous Circuit de la Sarthe.

The Risi Competizione #89 LM GTE Pro entry Le Mans 2019
Credit: Race Photography

The usual WEC competitors of Ford Chip Ganassi, Porsche GT Team, AF Corse, Aston Martin Racing and BMW Team MTEK all take to the GTE Pro grid, with Ford and Porsche being the only teams fielding four cars for their outfit rather than two. Ferrari usually follows suit in this for Le Mans, but it was announced earlier this year that they would only field their two WEC cars due to a ‘lack of opportunity’ with their sponsors at the blue-riband event.

For Aston Martin, Jonny Adam and Darren Turner return to the WEC Pro cars after being moved out of them after last year’s Le Mans. The will join the usual WEC #97 and #95 crews respectively. AF Corse follow the same suit of retaining drivers from last year, with Daniel Serra returning to the #51 and Miguel Molina back in the #71.

BMW also sees Philipp Eng return to the #81 car with Nick Catsburg and Martin Tomczyk whilst new BMW junior Jesse Krohn gets his first call up from DTM to complete the trio in the #82 sister car.

The BMW Team MTEK #81 LM GTE Pro entry Le Mans 2019
Credit: Race Photography

Coming into their 20th Le Mans race with what has been assumed to be the final Le Mans for the now five-year-old Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, Corvette Racing has retained the same driver trios that is has had at the wheel of its two entries for the last few years. Coming from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen, Mike Rockenfeller, Marcel Fassler Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner will be pushing for a strong race for the team.

Rockenfeller set the GTE Pro pace in the Le Mans Test Day ahead of the event, and with minimal adjustments having been made to the GTE Balance of Performance ahead of the event it looks like Corvette may have the, albeit slim, advantage.

The Corvette Racing #63 LM GTE Pro entry Le Mans 2019
Credit: Race Photography

Both Ford and Porsche bring their IMSA cars over from America to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA line ups also come across with their cars, making for a fairly star-studded ensemble of drivers.

American racers Billy Johnson and Jonathan Bomarito join the two full-season WEC cars for this race, with Johnson on board the 1966 Le Mans winner livery wearing #66 and Bomarito joining the British duo of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the #67. The Team USA cars will see Sebastian Bourdais, Joey Hand, Dirk Muller, Ryan Briscoe, IndyCar star Scott Dixon and Richard Westbrook back in the European endurance paddock.

The Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #66 LM GTE Pro entry Le Mans 2019
Credit: Race Photography

Porsche come into this race knowing that one of their WEC cars will claim the GT Drivers’ Endurance Championship, which puts pressure on those cars. Porsche have not discussed whether or not they will use team orders or if the IMSA cars will be used or left out of the championship fight, but with a 36-point lead over the sister car, Kevin Estre and Michael Chirstensen certainly go into Le Mans with the advantage in the #92. They will be joined by Laurens Vanthoor, who will attempt to help them secure the title.

Frederic Makowiecki joins the challenging #91 car with Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz who will need a serious issue to befall the sister car to stand any chance of taking the title from their grasp.

Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber, who were both in the Porsche LMP1 Team car when it took its first overall Le Mans victory in 2015, will be partnered with other Porsche factory driver Patrick Pilet in the ‘Brumos Racing’ livery-running #93, whilst the identical #94 will have Mathieu Jaminet, Sven Muller and Dennis Olsen in the cockpit.

The Porsche GT Team #91 LM GTE Pro entry Le Mans 2019
Credit: Race Photography

Of all of the classes, GTE Pro looked to be the most competitive at the end of the Le Mans test day. Although the championship may be pretty much tied up, there is still Le Mans glory to race for. If the other classes don’t provide entertainment, it has been suggested by early indicators that the ACO/FIA have done well with the pro class BoP, and we could be in for a 24-hour wheel-to-wheel treat.

Car NumberTeamDriver 1Driver 2Driver 3
51AF CorseJames CaladoAlessandro Pier GuidiDaniel Serra
63Corvette RacingAntonio GarciaJan MagnussenMike Rockenfeller
64Corvette RacingMarcel FasslerOliver GavinTommy Milner
66Ford Chip Ganassi Team UKBilly JohnsonStefan MuckeOlivier Pla
67Ford Chip Ganassi Team UKJonathan BomaritoAndy PriaulxHarry Tincknell
68Ford Chip Ganassi Team USASebastien BourdaisJoey HandDirk Muller
69Ford Chip Ganassi Team USARyan BriscoeScott DixonRichard Westbrook
71AF CorseSam BirdDavide RigonMiguel Molina
81BMW Team MTEKNick CatsburgPhilipp EngMartin Tomczyk
82BMW Team MTEKAntonio Felix da CostaAugusto FarfusJesse Krohn
89Risi CompetizionePipo DeraniJules GounonOliver Jarvis
91Porsche GT TeamGianmaria BruniRichard LietzFrederic Makowiecki
92Porsche GT TeamMichael ChristensenKevin EstreLaurens Vanthoor
93Porsche GT TeamEarl BamberPatrick PiletNick Tandy
94Porsche GT TeamMathieu JaminetSven MullerDennis Olsen
95Aston Martin RacingMarco SorensenNicki ThiimDarren Turner
97Aston Martin RacingJonathan AdamAlex LynnMaxime Martin

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