Countdown to Le Mans 2019: Pre-Event Test

by Alice Holloway
The record-breaking 62-strong 24 Hours of Le Mans grid ahead of test day.

The record-breaking 62 car grid takes to the Circuit de la Sarthe today for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans‘s test day. The 8 LMP1s, 20 LMP2s, 17 GTE Pros and 17 GTE Ams have their final chance to test set up ahead of the main event.

The prestigious 24-hour race commences in just under two weeks time, with today’s test allowing all cars, new and old to the Le Mans grid, to get their first feel for the circuit and rookie drivers the chance to get wheels to tarmac on the 13.629 km track.

Brendon Hartley makes his FIA World Endurance Championship return today as he will take on his first event in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Hybrid LMP1 car. Hartley last raced in a WEC event in 2017, where he helped Porsche LMP1 Team secure their third consecutive Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ championships before the German manufacturer walked away from LMP1. He will return next year, replacing Fernando Alonso at the Japanese team.

The usual grid size of 60 cars had excluded teams like United Autosports from running a second car at the prestigious event, something they have frequently done in the past, with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and FIA stating that the selection process for the 2019 rendition of the race was the hardest they had ever faced. However, it was announced about a month ago that the grid would extend by two places, with temporary pit boxes being added to the permanent fixtures. This has allowed United Autosports and High Class Racing entry with two LMP2 cars.

This will be a great test for how the facility can handle additional cars, as the FIA stated at the 1,000 Miles of Sebring this year that they had intentions of expanding the pit complex at Le Mans. The logistics and plans of this will be revealed in due time, as the FIA and ACO plan on having more pit boxes available for teams for the 100th rendition of the race.

The GTE cars have been showing off their new liveries ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Ford and Porsche both moving for one off looks at the blue-ribaned event. The two WEC Porsche GTE Pro cars can be seen sporting a golden stripe around the rear of the car in indication of the World GTE Manufacturers’ Endurance Championship that they secured at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps last month.

As this has been confirmed as Ford’s final Le Mans for now, as the manufacturer is shutting down its works GT team in both WEC and IMSA at the end of the year, Ford have their celebratory farewell liveries, with each car carrying a retro livery. As a celebration of Ford’s deep history in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 1966, 1967, 2016 and 2019 liveries can be seen on the four Pro cars, whilst the one-off Am Keating Motorsport car will sport the 2019 livery design but in the bright purple colour of their title sponsor, Wynn’s.

The Am championship-leading Team Project 1 Porsche also has a special livery for the Super Finale at Le Mans. Displaying the artwork of American artist Richard Phillips, the car is also being used as a marketing tool for Porsche Digital as it showcases their new ‘Second Skin’ technology that will soon be available to Porsche customers worldwide.

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