The 2017 Le Mans preview concludes with a look at the GT Am Class:
Aston Martin Racing (#98) Aston Martin Vantage
Top AM car on test day was the #98 of Lamy/dalla Lana/Lauda, a 3:58 250 showing a good pace around the Sarthe track. Coming off a win at Spa, will 2017 be the year that these three finally get the win they richly deserve? The preparation of the car is to the usual high Prodrive standard, the car itself reliable so it’s the three who will be at the wheel who will make the difference over 24 hours
Larbre Competition (#50) Corvette C7
This year the #50 carries the “art car” livery, a cartoon-themed mix of colours which is unlikely to be overlooked by the TV cameras. Stand-out driver is ex-Aston man Fernando Rees, who impressed at the ELMS Monza 4 hours in May.
Dempsey-Proton Racing (#77) Porsche 911
The familiar rear-engined layout Porsche is a 2015-spec model, but there is a 2017-spec RSR on order for next year. Third-placed in AM, DPR has signed an interesting mix of experience (factory driver Ried) as well as youth (Cairoli and F4 champion Dienst). The latter being groomed as a potential PRO driver for next year, should one or other of the current PRO line-up be called into the Prototype team in 2018.
Scuderia Corsa (#62) Ferrari 488 GTE
IMSA team Scuderia Corsa make the trip across the pond for their AM title defence, with the same two drivers (Sweedler & Bell) being joined by Cooper McNeil instead of Jeff Segal. Another excellently turned-out private Ferrari team, these three will be among the AM front runners.
Spirit of Race (#55) Ferrari 488 GTE
This team is the AM guise of AF Corse, but registered as a Swiss not Italian team. Regular ELMS driver, Irishman Matt Griffin, is driving for Clearwater Racing so his place has been taken by Ferrari protégé Marco Cioci. A late switch to Michelin, like most of the other Ferraris, will be an advantage.
Beechdean AMR (#99) Aston Martin Vantage
The ELMS champions from last year, the paddock’s favourite ice cream brand returns for a second crack at Le Mans. Beechdean boss Andy Howard has taken on two hot properties from British GTs, Oliver Bryant and Ross Gunn, the latter regarded as particularly fast. The most important thing for both youngsters is a clean, trouble-free race.
TF Sport (#90) Aston Martin Vantage
TF Sport bring the first Turkish driver to start the 24 hours, in the form of Salih Youlc, who will be partnered by Euan Hankey and Rob Bell. The team is having an amazing season so far, leading the GTE class in the ELMS. The only blot on the copybook during testing was the lack of track time, but a 3.59.140 on test day was sufficient to put them 7th in AM.
DH Racing (#83) Ferrari 488 GTE
The familiar lime green of Tracy Krohn returns on a GT Ferrari this year, the American veteran being partnered again by Nic Jonsson and Andrea Bertolini, with entry guaranteed by their championship win in the ALMS. However limited running during the test will have put them on the back foot compared to their rivals.
Clearwater Racing (#61) Ferrari 488 GTE
Clearwater have the distinction of becoming the first ever Singaporean team to win an FIA WEC round; after settling for 3rd they were gifted the victory at Silverstone after a last lap crash with Ireland’s Matt Griffin putting in some scorching stints! He is teamed alongside Singaporean Wen Sun Mok and Japan’s Keita Sawa. Hopes are high for a good result after such a strong showing in the first two WEC rounds.
Proton Competition (#88) Porsche 911
Belgian Stéphane Lemeret and Abu Dhabi’s Khaled Al Qubaisi make the driving squad here, but the originally listed Nick Yelloly is replaced by long-time Porsche stalwart Klaus Bachler. Bachler in particular is one to watch, Lemeret on the other hand is making his first start.
Gulf Racing UK (#86) Porsche 911
Gulf have had a bit of a torrid time this season, only 4th at Silverstone bringing them any points. Gold-rated Ben Barker is the key driver here, and they will be hoping for some much-needed reliability to get them to the finish.
Scuderia Corsa (#65) Ferrari 488 GTE
The second of the US team’s two Ferraris, the #65 has the only female driver this year, Denmark’s Christina Nielsen. She is partnered by Brett Curtis and Alessandro Balzan. This team comes to Le Mans as reigning IMSA GTD champions, and both Nielsen and Balzan have shown what they are capable of on US circuits. The pace is there, as is consistency.
Spirit of Race (#54) Ferrari 488 GTE
Ex-Corvette star Olivier Beretta will make his 21st Le Mans start for the AF Corse “B” team. His experience will prove invaluable for his team-mates Thomas Flohr and Franco Castellacci, the Swiss driver above all needing all the input he can get from his co-drivers. This is very much a second-string to the #55 so expect some compromises should the lead car need them.
JMW Motorsport (#84) Ferrari 488 GTE
The team’s loyal 458 was retired after the ELMS Monza race, but with a win in that event the little British team is more confident of getting a good result with the new car. Ex-Manor F1 star Will Stevens is joined by Dries Vanthoor (younger brother of Laurens) and Rob Smith (no not THAT Rob Smith!). The popular yellow car will definitely be a fan favourite!
Proton Competition (#93) Porsche 911
American Pat Long makes his 14th Le Mans start in the third Proton Porsche, looking to add to his tally of two previous class wins. His ranking as a platinum is not without reason, and the team can rely on his experience. Mike Hedlund makes his 24 Hours début after racing in the Road to Le Mans race last year. Abdulaziz Al Faisal is racing a Porsche here for the first time after three years in a Ferrari.
Clearwater Racing (#60) Ferrari 488 GTE
The Singapore team get a second bite at the cherry with a one-off entry for Alvaro Parente, Hiroki Kato and Richard Wee. Parente comes from IMSA PWC, Kato is best remembered for his exploits in the Team Dragon Panoz from 2000 and Wee has experience in Blancpain Asia. This is an intriguing mix and with the support of AF Corse this car may well spring a surprise or two.