TF Sport owner Tom Ferrier is confident ahead of his team’s Le Mans debut this year, which sees the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup teams’ champion take to GTE machinery for the first time.
2016 was a stellar year for the Surrey, England-based team, winning both the inaugural Le Mans Cup as well as the British GT Championship.
Drivers Euan Hankey and Salih Yoluc will make the step up to the European Le Mans Series as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, with the team earning a spot on the Le Mans grid as its prize for winning the Le Mans Cup title.
“I think it’s a fairly natural progression for us after the year we had in British GT and Michelin Le Mans Cup,” Ferrier told Sportscar365.
“We’re very much looking forward to it, and I think we’ve got a pretty strong lineup going into it really. Hopefully we can repeat some of the success we had in 2016.”
Since TF Sport was founded in 2014, the team has expanded from a British GT GT4 entry to running three different GT3 series simultaneously last year.
Ferrier is thrilled to have a Le Mans entry secured for this season, and hopes there are many more to come.
“From day one of inception, to starting into your fourth year of racing and knowing you’re going [to Le Mans], is a fairly quick fast track, along with all the other race wins and championships we’ve had along the way,” he said.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way it’s going, and I hope this is going to be the first of many Le Mans.”
He spoke very highly of Hankey and Yoluc, both of whom have considerable previous experience in several European GT3 series. Nevertheless, it will be the first time either driver has tackled the French endurance classic.
“Euan is very, very strong,” Ferrier said. “He’s good in all areas, and he will definitely complement our program, 100 percent.
“Salih, as an Am driver, is rapidly improving all the time, really. If you look back two years from when I first met him, to where he is now, about to be on the Le Mans grid and doing GTE in ELMS, he’s moved on tremendously.
“We’re really excited about it, and I think we will have a very strong package in terms of driver lineup.”
Reigning FIA WEC GT drivers’ champion Nicki Thiim will join TF Sport in the No. 90 Aston Martin Vantage GTE for the ELMS season.
Ferrier said he’s confident that the expertise of an Aston Martin Racing factory driver will help Hankey and Yoluc tremendously.
“Salih is constantly learning as an Amateur driver, and he’s getting faster and faster all the time,” he said. “The more he does, the more experience he [gets], so I think he’ll be in a very good position.
“Euan really just needs to learn the GTE machinery. I think with the help of Nicki in the team for the whole of ELMS, they’ll be in a good position.”
For Le Mans, Thiim’s factory GTE-Pro commitments take priority, and so the team will be joined by Rob Bell, in what will be the reigning Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup champion’s ninth Le Mans entry.
“I’ve known Rob for many years, and we had his brother (Matt Bell) in the team in 2015,” Ferrier said. “Rob comes to Le Mans doing it for his ninth time, which is ideal for us really as a new team into it.
“It’s nice to have as many drivers and staff as we can that have got experience really.”
While the ELMS GTE grid has remained in single figures for 2017, Ferrier believes that a high level of competition is still present.
With Beechdean AMR winning the title last year in a similar Aston Martin, he has his eyes on Andrew Howard’s squad as the team to beat.
“The grid’s not massive, and it wasn’t massive last year,” he admitted. “But I think it doesn’t look like there’s any particularly weak cars out there, or weak lineups. It will be tough, I’m sure.
“Beechdean was obviously a benchmark from last year, and they’re in the same bit of equipment as us, so hopefully that means we can have a good year ourselves.
“I’m sure we’ll work together as much as we possibly can through the Aston Martin link, but at the end of the day we’re racing each other and they’re in the same bit of kit, so we’ll see how that pans out.
“If we’re not going to win, I’d rather they did!”
Ferrier has a solid goal of a top-two finish in the ELMS standings this season, and although he admits that his first attempt at Le Mans will be a difficult challenge, he firmly believes that he has the team to deliver.
“In ELMS, I’d like to think we’ve got to try and finish in the top two, to get ourselves a Le Mans entry again, and I think we can do that,” he said.
“Le Mans, who knows? I think on paper, in the Am class, we could be strong enough to have a good result there, but I think you need a lot of elements to come into play over the 24 hours, especially with our first one.
“I’d like just a very good showing, and obviously to get to the end of the race would be our first aim. On paper, with the people we’ve got in the team, and the drivers we’ve got in the team, there’s no reason we can’t have a good result.”
In addition to the GTE program, TF Sport will return to British GT with an unchanged driver lineup. The team is also set to enter another European GT series, with an announcement expected in the coming weeks.