02/09/2018 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/09/2018 14:23
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be represented by at least seven cars in the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours, as race organizers from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) and the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) today unveiled the entry list for the 86th running of the twice-around-the-clock race in France on June 16-17.
As has been the case for the past several years, the largest concentration of WeatherTech Championship cars will be found in the GTE Pro class. Of the class' 17 total entries, six will come from IMSA, including two each from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Corvette Racing and - new for this year - a pair from the U.S. Porsche GT Team.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team USA will field the No. 68 Ford GT - which won at Le Mans in 2016 with co-drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais - and the No. 69 Ford GT, which Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon co-drove to the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona nearly two weeks ago.
'Le Mans, just like the Rolex 24, is one of those events where it doesn't matter how many times you've gone there, you still get butterflies in your stomach when you drive through the gate,' Hand said. 'We have good memories there from 2016, but we're looking ahead. The view from that podium is like nothing else and we'll do all we can to get there again.'
'We made it to the podium in 2016 but we haven't won GTE Pro as a team yet, so we still have some unfinished business at Le Mans,' added Briscoe. 'It's hard to describe what racing there means to a team or a driver and to have the honor of racing there again is really just incredible.'
Corvette Racing, which has won the past two WeatherTech Championship GTLM season-long titles and is celebrating the team's 20th season this year, also returns to Le Mans with its familiar No. 63 and No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R race cars. The team owns a total of eight victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Like Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, which is fielding a pair of U.S.-based entries alongside two UK-based Ford GTs that race in the full FIA WEC season, the U.S.-based Porsche GT Team program will have two entries alongside the pair of Germany-based FIA WEC full-time race cars. The U.S. Porsche 911 RSRs will carry Nos. 93 and 94.
'Going to Le Mans is a goal for any sports car team and we didn't hesitate when Porsche presented the opportunity,' said Morgan Brady, COO for CORE autosport, which fields the WeatherTech Championship entries on behalf of Porsche. 'This will be a big challenge for us, but it's exactly what we're built for and we're doing everything in our power to prepare ourselves. The IMSA GTLM class is one of the toughest in the world, so we are confident that we will represent the series and the U.S. well.'
The seventh confirmed entry from the WeatherTech Championship appears in the GTE Am class. Ben Keating, the 2017 Bob Akin Award winner as the top sportsman racer in the WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class, will race the No. 85 Ferrari 488 GTE under the Keating Motorsports banner. Keating has partnered with another longtime WeatherTech Championship team, Risi Competizione, to field the entry, which will include Keating's regular WeatherTech Championship co-driver, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and a third driver to be named later.
'I am so excited to have earned one of the IMSA entries to the 24 Hours of Le Mans,' Keating said. 'This will be my fourth consecutive Le Mans race, but I expect it to be my most significant. After two years in LMP2, I will race in GTE-Am again, which is one of the main reasons why I am so excited and have such high expectations. Most of my experience in endurance racing has been in GT cars. I really feel like we will have an extremely competitive team, and the few years of experience at Le Mans are extremely valuable.'
Two more full-time WeatherTech Championship teams - Scuderia Corsa and BAR1 Motorsports - are on the 'reserve' list to be selected if any on the current 60-car entry list elect not to participate. Scuderia Corsa is fifth on the reserve list with the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE, while BAR1 - listed under the name of team owner Brian Alder - is ninth on the list with its Multimatic-Riley LMP2 car.
JDC-Miller Motorsports, which earned an automatic Le Mans entry by virtue of driver Misha Goikhberg winning the Jim Trueman Award as the top sportsman in the 2017 WeatherTech Championship Prototype class, will not field an entry at Le Mans.
'After spending the past several months working towards participating in the event, the team regretfully informed IMSA, the ACO and their partners that some unexpected challenges came up late in the planning process,' said the team in an official statement. 'The team was unable to finalize arrangements that would have allowed them to be as competitive as they required for running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year.
'JDC-Miller Motorsports would like to thank IMSA for their efforts in trying to work with the team to find a solution. The team would also like to apologize to IMSA and the ACO for being unable to fulfill the awarded invitation and any related difficulties caused to either organization.'
Several full-time WeatherTech Championship drivers are expected to appear at Le Mans when the complete entry list with all drivers is released later this spring.