2014 Silly Season Update: GT Le Mans

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

With significant manufacturer involvement and ultra-close racing, the popular American Le Mans Series GT class carries over into the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship relatively unchanged.

No doubt one of the most anticipated classes for 2014, Sportscar365 continues its “silly season” update with a look at the confirmed, likely and potential full-season entries for the newly named GT Le Mans category for 2014.

Confirmed:

Corvette Racing - Coming off its 10th ALMS championship, the factory Pratt & Miller squad rolls into 2014 with a brand-new weapon in the Corvette C7.R. While yet to be announced, look for an unchanged full-season driver lineup. However, there will be new endurance pilots for Daytona and Sebring due to Jordan Taylor and Richard Westbrook both having already been committed to full-time GM-backed rides in the Prototype class. (2 Corvette C7.Rs)

BMW Team RLL – After an encouraging debut season with the Z4 GTE, the Bobby Rahal-led team is set to return with the same machinery and a similar lineup of drivers. After splitting the seat of the No. 56 BMW with Joey Hand in 2013, look for John Edwards to step into a full-season drive. The remainder of the lineup should remain relatively unchanged, although not yet made official. (2 BMW Z4 GTEs)

SRT Motorsports – Considered the breakout performers of 2013, the Bill Riley-led crew will also return with its pair of SRT Viper GTS-Rs, while also adding a customer GT3-R for the GT Daytona class. Like Corvette and BMW, no announcements have been made on driver lineups, although there is expected to be at least two changes, including filling the seat of Ryan Dalziel, who has gone to Extreme Speed Motorsports for 2014. (2 SRT Viper GTS-Rs)

Porsche North America – The German manufacturer steps up to a full factory program with its new 991-based Porsche 911 RSR, which contested this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship. Three-time PC champs CORE autosport will handle operations of the two-car program, which will be filled with works drivers. While Patrick Long, the only current American factory driver, appears to be a shoe-in, it’s understood the full lineup has yet to be confirmed and will depend on Porsche’s level of involvement in the WEC next year. (2 Porsche 911 RSRs).

Likely:

Team Falken Tire - While the team has declined official comment, it’s understood the Derrick Walker-led organization is preparing to return. Having run Porsches since the program’s inception in 2009, and the German manufacturer offering one customer 991 for next year, it would seem logical for Team Falken Tire to go that route, if and when a program is confirmed. A drawing of a Falken Tire GT car, in what appeared to be a Porsche 911 RSR, was recently posted on the manufacturer’s Facebook page, adding more fuel to the fire. (1 Porsche 911 RSR?)

Pickett Racing - Having revealed in a Sportscar365 exclusive his plans for expansion, team owner Greg Pickett is working to finalize a GT LM program with an unidentified manufacturer. Pickett had been in talks with three GT3 brands, believed to have included Bentley and Mercedes, on homologating their cars to GTE specifications. Where that stands is unclear. Recent rumors have linked Pickett to instead potentially using a GTE car, although not confirmed. What is known is that the team is likely to be on the grid in GT LM. (1-2 TBD cars)

Possible:

Risi Competizione - After a challenging season, the Texas-based squad is continuing to push ahead with plans for 2014, but is subject to sponsorship being finalized. It’s understood discussions are in the advanced stages, but an official go-ahead has yet to be given by team principal Giuseppe Risi. If the team returns, it would again be with its Ferrari F458 Italia, likely with a crop of Ferrari drivers familiar to the team. (1 Ferrari F458 Italia)

Others – Andretti Autosport has been linked to a potential return to sports cars next year, which could potentially be in GT LM. Paul Miller Racing and Alex Job Racing, which both fielded ALMS GT entries this year, however, are set to focus their efforts in GTD next year.

Projected Totals:

Confirmed Entries: 8 cars
Likely: +1-2 cars
Possible: ~1-2 additional cars

28 Comments

  1. cb

    November 1, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Flying Lizard has also confirmed that they will be there.
    http://www.lizardms.com/schedule/

    • joshvc

      November 1, 2013 at 10:52 am

      Lizards are expected to be in GTD.

  2. Kevin

    November 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

    It is a shame to me that Ferrari doesn’t put forth a larger effort here in the States. They should be a confirmed 2 car team!

    • Anthony

      November 1, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      There has been a rumor of Ferrari taking its GT program in-house. Right now its contracted out and while Ferrari does employ a series of drivers, the teams themselves Kessel, AF Corse, Risi, et-al have to come up with their own sponsorship dollars for the season.

      Risi is likely facing (as everybody else) a 20-30% increase in budget over last year and it will be important for them to get access to factory drivers to offset some of their budget.

      There will be a scrambling of the driver lines up when WEC is over as age is starting to become a factor.

      I will say that Bruni has won in America but doesn’t have a Championship here. I wonder if he’ll ask to drive here again….

      • oppositelock

        November 1, 2013 at 6:57 pm

        “There has been a rumor of Ferrari taking its GT program in-house.”

        More than a rumor, though I don’t know how soon it’s supposed to happen.

  3. Bakkster

    November 1, 2013 at 9:04 am

    So, no word on AMR or AF-Corsa entries? A result of class size limits?

    Definitely hoping Falken, Pickett, and Risi all find their way to the grid. All solid teams, and would definitely bolster the field.

  4. John Dagys

    November 1, 2013 at 9:37 am

    AMR and AF Corse would likely be part-time entries at best. This is just for full season teams.

    • Bakkster

      November 1, 2013 at 11:40 am

      I take it Bruno Senna’s plan to run a full season AMR was denied (no thanks to WEC conlicts)?

      • Anthony

        November 1, 2013 at 4:05 pm

        As I have heard Aston Martin was interested in a full season here but only if Butler could find the funding for a full season.

        That’s why he’s thus far only committed to GT-D. Remember TRG is taking over all North American motorsport activity. If AMR-Prodrive enter, it will be the NAEC and Bruno Senna who brings money is likely a part of that.

  5. Denz

    November 1, 2013 at 10:24 am

    It sure would be awesome to see a Muscle Milk Mercedes!

  6. Rob

    November 1, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Pickett running an Aston Martin would be awesome, especially with their connection 2 years ago when they ran the AMR LMP1.

    • Bakkster

      November 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      That would be awesome. And I’m sure Bruno Senna would love to be 3rd driver for all but Petit due to the WEC conflict.

    • Anthony

      November 1, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Not much of a connection, they needed a chassis and Prodrive leased one too them. When the season was over the recovered it, it belongs to a collector and is back in its original Gulf colors.

      I think there were two or three possibilities -

      1) Continue into the top class which is Prototype with HPD P2 and if running at Le Mans was apart of that, then find a Silver driver to partner with your Platinum and Gold drivers.

      Driver Ranking system is still pending so that is likely holding up a decision here.

      2) GTLM; when the Porsche LMP2 went away there was a possibility of Pickett going with GT cars. I think he really wanted to stay in Prototypes though, so he was able to work a deal with Prodrive.

      3) When Marshall Pruett mentioned a connection with a certain German manufacturer, I automatically thought Mercedes Benz. I thought a GT-D program was in the offing, but again, I don’t think this team is interested in much in class wins and for sure not interested in Pro-Am classes.

      So its revealed that Pickett is still trying to work a deal between I am sure IMSA, ACO and FIA to come up with a homologation of a GTLM SLS AMG. Likely that is depending approval not just from them but the board at Daimler. Not only that, can HWA afford to be distracted when they struggled so bad in the 2nd half of the DTM 2013 season?

      Like I’ve been saying, lots of moving parts, its not where near finished moving.

  7. Brandon

    November 1, 2013 at 11:41 am

    John, are the 991s the Manthey cars coming over or new ones?

    • Anthony

      November 1, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      PMNA has said Core and Falken will get brand new EVO cars. The cars Manthey is running the original configuration. The EVO car(s) is set to debut at Bahrain or China.

  8. Jason

    November 1, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    In 2013 there were 6 existing GTLM makes: Corvette,BMW,SRT, Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Porsche. Only at Sebring did we have a race with all 6 of them on the grid at once.

    And at Sebring the Aston Marin was hampered by the ALMS BoP rules and ditto for Corvette and SRT at Le Mans. So we never really got to see a true battle between the best of the best this year in GTLM. As good as the ALMS GT races were this year, could you have imagined what it would have been like if you threw in AMR, AF Corse, and the factory Porsche team in there too. I hope that Daytona and Sebring in 2014 will give us that possbility which 2013 did not provide.

    • Anthony

      November 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      SRT was still in (still are) in development, its unfair to judge them so early. Aston Martin was impacted by ALMS BoP slightly but not so much they didn’t have much on-track data either.

      It is likely you will see AMR-Prodrive and at least one AF Corse Ferrari they will leave here to do the NAEC and the COTA round.

      Paul Dalla Lana owns one of the cars and its here. Is that the chassis, the same that ran at Sebring going to be used again?

      Likely

  9. Scott

    November 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I wonder what the other change for the SRT team will be.

    I’m also curious about Falken Tire. The series uses Continental tires exclusively, doesn’t it?

    • Tim

      November 1, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      GTLM is the only class that is open tire.

    • rissas dad

      November 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      GTLM class is open to any tire manufacturer

  10. Chad

    November 1, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Factory efforts from Corvette, BMW, SRT and Porsche. Plus Falken in a 991, Pickett running a GT Program is there any doubt where the best GT racing resides? Yes it would be awesome if AMR and Ferrari had a bigger presence but even with their part time efforts USCR will have the best GT-E racing in the world.

    • Anthony

      November 1, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      No doubts, WEC is not even close and the other GT2 spec cars are in GT Open where it only a handful of cars.

  11. Anthony

    November 1, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Just connecting the dots….

    Corvette is in the market for Endurance Drivers. With five races total, including Le Mans for these drivers it would seem likely any GT3 driver not currently signed to a factory deal (think Audi or Porsche) is likely available.

    I think they will be watching the Baku City Challenge this month very closely.

    The same issue for Team RLL BMW. Hand is likely to focus on DTM fully time and maybe do the endurance rounds. He’s become a consistent Top 10 runner in the series but I think (as do others) believe he should focus on that period, we’ll see.

    SRT needs to replace Dalziel as well.

    Since we got no announcement from Pickett last month like he said he would give in late Sept, any talk about them is total speculation. Though I do know Mercedes Benz WANTS into this market and Graf has driven for Rowe Mercedes for the last three years in VLN/N24.

    Luhr is also an FIA GT1 Champion, so its not like they don’t have GT experience either as Jr’s or as full professionals.

    I think the calculation is about TV time as much as out of pocket cost.

    DP/P2 will likely more often than not based on history come down to two or three teams or about five cars. While entering GTLM is jumping into the deep end of the pool, where every car has a chance to win; IE the smallest mistake might mean you’re off the podium.

    Also the Pro-Am requirement to run at Le Mans doesn’t make much sense for a team like this either.

    A GTLM program makes the most sense. Since its unlikely they’ll get a Porsche and if they can’t come up with a plan to convert the SLS to GTLM specs similar to what BMW did, its likely going to be a Ferrari or Aston Martin.

    I hope and I believe Risi will return, but Baretta won’t be. He’s lost a step and threw away a victory at Petit and you know what happen the last time a driver or team member threw a victory away…

    Matteo is a shoe-in, I’d say look for Davide Rigon to partner with him.

    Andretti is a bit surprising as common sense would have them running a P2 car to evaluate talent moving forward. Maybe he’s connected to the HPD NSX GTLM program?

    • Bakkster

      November 1, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      It will be a big opportunity for young drivers at the NAEC rounds, with nearly all the factory drivers tied up full season. Especially Petit where the subs from the WEC won’t be available either.

      It will be interesting to see if any teams grab some of their older factory drivers, such as Corvette bringing Johnny O back whether for DP, GTLM, or GTD duty.

    • Scott

      November 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      I don’t think BMW will have too much of an issue. Hand is only needed for the longer endurance events and I think they’ll bring him in as long as DTM doesn’t interfere.

  12. Trevor Longman

    November 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    While I’d love to see a stronger field overall with even an extra 2 cars or so, at least it appears there will be room for AMR and AF Corse to join in for the NAEC. There should be 2-3 open spots in GTLM available.

  13. JorritVD

    November 1, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Wasn’t there a rumour about AIM Motorsport entering a GT LM F458 GTC in TUSC?

  14. Jordan Hopwood

    November 2, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Aston Martin set the fastest lap of the race at Sebring

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