While the official list of invites won’t be released for another two weeks, this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans is projected to see a significant increase in participation from U.S. teams, which could double in comparison to the 2015 running of the around-the-clock endurance classic.
As many as ten American teams, totaling a possible 15 entries, could be on the grid for the June 18-19 race, including a considerable contingent of LMP2 cars, as well as the strongest presence yet in GTE-Pro.
FIA World Endurance Championship outfits Tequila Patron ESM (Ligier JS P2 Nissan) and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing (Ford GT) will have at least two entries apiece in LMP2 and GTE-Pro, respectively, with Ganassi seeking an additional two entries, as part of Ford’s comeback on the 50th anniversary of its maiden victory at Le Mans.
The expected four-car effort from Ford will be joined by defending GTE-Pro class winners Corvette Racing, which will field its pair of upgraded Corvette C7.Rs. One entry is already confirmed via its class win last year.
Sportscar365, meanwhile, has learned that both Risi Competizione and Scuderia Corsa have also submitted GTE-Pro entry requests with its new Ferrari 488 GTE cars. It’s understood to have come per the request of Ferrari, in order to potentially equal Ford’s presence in the factory-backed class.
Scuderia Corsa already has one entry confirmed, via an auto-invite from IMSA, for Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and a to-be-announced third driver in a GTE-Am class Ferrari 458 Italia. Sweedler, Bell and Jeff Segal finished third in class in their Le Mans debut last year.
Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Marc Miller are also poised to return in the Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GTS-R, which has lodged an entry request for GTE-Am after a strong showing in 2015.
Up to three other American prototype teams, meanwhile, could join ESM in the LMP2 ranks this year.
One of them will be Michael Shank Racing, which has already confirmed its Le Mans program with a Ligier JS P2 Honda for Ozz Negri, John Pew and Laurens Vanthoor. It will mark Shank’s Le Mans debut, thanks to the second auto-invite awarded by IMSA.
Krohn Racing, which is poised to return to the European Le Mans Series with its Ligier JS P2 Judd, has submitted an entry request for P2, as has Elton Julian’s DragonSpeed operation, which steps up to prototype racing this year with an Oreca 05 Nissan, also for ELMS competition.
While the grid will increase by two to 58 total entries this year, there’s still no guarantees that the entire American contingent will receive invites, although it’s set to be a significant increase over the seven cars that flew the stars and stripes in 2015.
The ACO will reveal the full list of invites on Feb. 5, as well as confirmed full-season entries for the WEC and ELMS.