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24H Le Mans

Six Le Mans Auto Invites Granted After Portimao Weekend

24H Le Mans grid gains six more entries after ELMS, MLMC seasons wrap up in Portugal…

Photo: MPS Agency

A total of six teams gained automatic invitations to the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans following the conclusion of the European Le Mans Series and Michelin Le Mans Cup seasons at Portimao last weekend.

The winners of the three ELMS classes in LMP2, LMP3 and GTE, along with the LMP2 and GTE runners-up and the MLMC GT3 champion, all qualified for the French enduro next year.

IDEC Sport’s dramatic LMP2 title win gave the French squad an automatic invite for its fourth consecutive Le Mans appearance.

The team, which ran Paul-Loup Chatin, Paul Lafargue and two-time ELMS champion Memo Rojas in 2019, claimed pole for the 24-hours two years ago with Chatin behind the wheel of its Oreca 07 Gibson.

G-Drive Racing also received an invite for finishing second in the championship with its Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson driven by Jean-Eric Vergne, Job van Uitert and Roman Rusinov.

Eurointernational is set for its second Le Mans after the Italian squad, which runs a Ligier JS P3 Nissan, was declared LMP3 champion following a post-race decision.

Inter Europol Competition’s Nigel Moore and Martin Hippe looked set to have clinched the title with their second-place finish on the road, but their Ligier was docked nine laps for a drive-time infraction.

This handed the title to Jens Petersen and Mikkel Jensen and a potential Le Mans return for the Eurointernational team 25 years on from its last outing.

The Antonio Ferrari-led outfit contested the race back in 1995, with a Ferrari 333SP entered under the EuroMotorsport banner, although the car only completed seven laps.

In GTE, the top two teams received automatic invites for 2020, meaning both Ferrari entrant Luzich Racing and Porsche squad Dempsey-Proton Racing qualified.

Luzich had already wrapped up the title with a victory in the previous round at Spa-Francorchamps, while Proton needed to wait for the outcome of Sunday’s season finale to confirm its second place in the standings.

Both Proton cars were forced to retire from the 4 Hours of Portimao after a huge opening lap accident that brought out a lengthy red flag, but problems for the German squad’s closest rivals at JMW Motorsport and Kessel Racing enabled Matteo Cairoli, Riccardo Pera and Christian Ried to come away with the necessary points gap.

It means that Ried’s Proton organization now has three confirmed entries for next year’s Le Mans, because the team already has two full-season cars entered into the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The final automatic invite went to Kessel Racing which ended the MLMC season with three straight GT3 wins at Barcelona, Spa-Francorchamps and Portimao.

Sergio Pianezzola and Giacomo Piccini secured the title by 21 points and earned the Swiss team a return to the Le Mans grid after it ran two Ferrari 488 GTE Evos this year.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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