***Alex Wurz has come out of retirement for one 24-hour race this year at Daytona, but he won’t be making a driving comeback to the race he won twice (1996, 2009) overall. Instead, Wurz was named Grand Marshal for this year’s race. “I was so honored. I love Le Mans. Since its existence, the race has never changed. It’s one of the most iconic events. I’m quite happy. I had a good career. I very much have enjoyed racing and have enjoyed the atmosphere,” Wurz said during today’s ACO press conference in Paris.
***The move from a projected 58 cars up to 60 cars for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans came as a surprise, but was confirmed by ACO President Pierre Fillon during the press conference. “Due to the commitment (of entries), we will have 60 cars this year,” he said, as work continues on the additional garages being built.
***FIA President Jean Todt was, interestingly, not in attendance for this press conference and instead recorded a video message. “This championship is dear to my heart. We’re going to live up to it and all the FIA teams, and myself, will continue to support you as best we can,” Todt said in the message.
***The press conference took place in Paris, with the defending championship-winning No. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid, the new No. 43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier JS P2 Nissan and new No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT present outside before those gathered entered the room.
***Although both the Asian Le Mans Series and Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup were mentioned during the press conference, entry lists for either of those championships won’t be coming for a while.
***Of the 15 automatic invites extended by the ACO, all but three were confirmed during today’s 24 Hours of Le Mans entry list revealed. The three that weren’t came as no surprise: SMP Racing in GTE-Am, BMW Team Marc VDS in GTE and Team LNT in LMP2. SMP won’t run a Ferrari this year, Marc VDS has ended its racing program and Team LNT is yet to determine its 2016 program.
***Tire competition will exist in all four classes for the first time in several years, following Aston Martin Racing’s switch from Michelin to Dunlop in both GTE classes.
***Michelin still has the majority of confirmed entries (6 LMP1, 2 LMP2, 12 GTE-Pro, 11 GTE-Am, plus Garage 56 for a total of 32 cars), while Dunlop is nearly on par (3 LMP1, 17 LMP2, 2 GTE-Pro, 2 GTE-Am for a total of 24 cars). Four cars, the two SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01s, plus the new DC Racing Alpine A460 and TDS Racing Aston Martin Vantage don’t have tires listed, although TDS will be on Dunlops in the European Le Mans Series.
***Alex Brundle is nominated to the first reserve entry, the second Greaves Motorsport Gibson 015S Nissan. Brundle missed last year’s Le Mans but starred in 2014, coming up short of what would have been a debut win for the Ligier JS P2 Nissan before spark plug and engine issues struck in the final hours.
***Team AAI does not have a full-season ELMS entry but does have two Corvette C6.Rs on the Le Mans entry list, one in GTE-Am and one as the tenth reserve entry. It would project out to a full season Asian Le Mans Series entry to acquire a grid position, since the team isn’t present in the WEC or ELMS.
***Confirmation of both the Baxi DC Racing Alpine and Signatech-Alpine teams for the WEC also confirms the rebrand of the new Alpine A460 chassis name, for rebadged Oreca 05s. The open-top Oreca 03Rs were rebadged as Alpine A450s.
***Gulf Racing UK will step up to the WEC full-time with Michael Wainwright the team’s first confirmed driver, and the strengthened relationship with Gulf Oil International will see the iconic blue and orange colors at the WEC level. The team did not outline a timeline for when its other drivers will be named.
***Although it’s not in LMP1, Nissan still leads the way on the engine front, with 19 of the 22 LMP2 engines. Only two Judds and a single Honda make up the balance.
***In the GTE classes, there’s eight Ferraris, seven Porsches, five Aston Martins, four Fords and four Corvettes, to provide a fairly nice balance across the board, albeit without the single Viper.
***Teams are entered from 17 countries this year: Germany, Austria, Japan, Switzerland, France, Russia, U.S.A., Philippines, China, Great Britain, Mexico, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Taiwan, Singapore and Denmark. Portugal could be an 18th country entered if two entries drop off and Algarve Pro Racing, the second reserve, gets a slot.
***This year’s poster was unveiled as well, with a simple look and simple branding of “Mythic, Magic, Unique” over top of a car to describe the 2016 race. Further details are linked here.
John Dagys contributed to this report