Hardpoint team owner Rob Ferriol has confirmed that he intends to take up his Akin Award invitation from IMSA to enter this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in GTE-Am.
Ferriol told Sportscar365 that he and his Hardpoint colleagues are currently figuring out how to arrange the entry, but he indicated that some assistance from an established European outfit would be required to some degree.
Hardpoint currently races in the GTD class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a Porsche 911 GT3 R that Ferriol shares with Katherine Legge.
The pair finished ninth and tenth in the main GTD standings but Ferriol’s ranking as the highest placed Bronze driver sealed his guaranteed spot at the grid for Le Mans.
“It’s one of those things: will you ever get another opportunity? Who knows,” Ferriol said.
“You have to pursue it when you get it. The challenge from a team perspective is that our priority coming out of Petit was getting ready for the Rolex, re-tooling the team and getting ready for the Manthey aspect.
“So we were focused on Daytona. We’ve held some initial discussions with partner teams in Europe, but we have not finalized a plan.
“But we do absolutely intend to pursue a Le Mans entry, we just don’t know what that final solution looks like just yet.
“There are a couple of different ways to structure it, so we’re focusing on finding what is the best way to structure it from cost-efficiency and performance standpoints.
“It’s just trying to find the right balance, in that regard.”
Asked further about the available options, Ferriol said: “You can go the more cost-effective route where I could partner with another funded Bronze or Silver driver and split the cost, which brings your budget down.
“Then you assume a little bit of risk on the performance side with your lineup, because you don’t have the traditional Bronze-Silver-Gold.
“Or you can throw the kitchen sink at it and just put together a full-funded program, bringing the best Silver you can find and slap a Gold on the table, and go have a run at it.
“That’s the decision tree you go through. Do you throw everything at it and go for the podium, or do you go for the first time and get your feet wet doing it as smartly as possible?
“Ultimately I think the answer will lie somewhere between. We plan to try to get that nailed down after we come out of [Daytona].”
Ferriol hasn’t picked a type of car for the Le Mans bid, however the Porsche 911 RSR-19 is his “preference” and is the logical option considering Hardpoint’s experience with the manufacturer in other categories.
Although he envisions siding with a European team, Ferriol wants to preserve as much of the Hardpoint organization that has been built up over the last few years.
“Any way you slice it, it’s going to involve partnering with a team that experience at Le Mans,” he said.
“But the perfect world for me would absolutely be to carry as much of this team as possible over there, to be part of that event.
“I was given the Bob Akin award, but it was the team that ultimately won it. It would be disingenuous of me to look at the Bob Akin award as an individual accomplishment and not as a team accomplishment.
“As such I want the team to be able to enjoy as much of that opportunity as I would individually.
“That means Katherine, it means the engineering team, it means the crew and as much of the team that I can take over as possible.”
Hardpoint Aiming to Enter Detroit
The date clash between the 24 Hours of Le Mans test day and the Detroit Grand Prix is a hurdle that Hardpoint needs to face, but Ferriol is keen to drive in both events.
“Historically it’s been Sprint Cup only, so if you’re going for the full-season championship it’s not a required race,” he said.
“Katherine and I have some unfinished business at Detroit from this past year.
“So we are looking at how to walk and chew gum at the same time. How do we do the Detroit race and get over to the Le Mans test, that period of darkness after the race.
“We would get the redeye over to do the test on Sunday. That’s a historic conflict in the schedule.”