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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Pre-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s pre-race notebook for 87th running of 24 Hours of Le Mans…

Photo: ACO

***Aston Martin Racing team principal Paul Howarth admitted that last night’s pre-race Balance of Performance change that worked against the Vantage GTE will “put more stress on the team mentally” for the “hardest GTE race” it has competed in to date.

***The Aston, which took pole in the hands of Marco Sorensen on Thursday, was dealt a three-millibar turbo boost reduction across its full range in the late adjustment, which is believed to be in the range of a 12-15 horsepower.

***The first Japanese driver to win a FIA world title will be decided on Sunday between the pair of Toyota Gazoo Racing crews. Kazuki Nakajima and the No. 8 crew leads Kamui Kobayashi and his No. 7 co-drivers by 30 points heading in.

***In the event of the No. 7 Toyota winning Le Mans, Nakajima, Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi can clinch the drivers’ world championship by finishing seventh overall or better.

***Porsche’s Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen will need to finish ninth or better in GTE-Pro to claim the World GT Drivers’ Championship, while the Team Project 1 trio of Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti, who hold a 25-point lead in GTE-Am, can win the drivers’ title with a fifth place class finish in WEC points or higher.

***The closest WEC title battle heading into the ‘Super Finale’ is in LMP2, which sees Signatech Alpine’s Nico Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and Andre Negrao hold a four-point margin over Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi.

***There were no major incidents in Saturday morning’s 45-minute warmup session, which saw Fifty-five of the 61 starters turn laps. Click Here to view the starting grid.

***The withdrawal of the No. 99 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, due to Tracy Krohn not being cleared by FIA doctors to race following his accident in Free Practice, has not only broken Krohn and Nic Jonsson’s 13-year run of consecutive Le Mans starts, but also Porsche factory driver Patrick Long’s streak, who had 15 straight starts in the race.

***Johnny Mowlem will make his FIA World Endurance Championship return alongside Bonamy Grimes with the new Red River Sport outfit in GTE-Am next season. The pairing will drive an AF Corse-run Ferrari 488 GTE with a yet-to-be-announced Silver-rated driver.

***Mark Patterson, meanwhile, confirmed he will be part of High Class Racing’s effort next season in LMP2. The U.S.-based South African, who was ruled out of today’s race with Algarve Pro Racing due to a pelvic fracture from an accident in testing last month, said he’s healing “far better” than the doctors expected.

***DragonSpeed has expanded into driver management, with the Elton Julian-owned squad set to focus on the European and North American market. It comes in addition to the team’s European Le Mans Series LMP2 program and planned selected WEC outings next season.

***Porsche has described the updated Hypercar regulations as “interesting news”. The German manufacturer’s head of motorsports Fritz Enzinger said: “Our engineers will look into the new regulations carefully. The FIA WEC and Le Mans will stay very attractive for manufacturers in the future.”

***BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt wouldn’t comment on the status of its contract with MTEK, which is understood to be exclusive to BMW through the end of this year and preventing the Ernest Knoors-led operation to pursue another program until the start of the 2020 calendar year.

***Privateer BMW M8 GTEs, meanwhile, have essentially been ruled out unless an organization arrives with “full funding” according to Marquardt, who confirmed the car, however, will continue in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year as a factory operation.

***The prospects of seeing the U.S.-based BMW Team RLL enter the M8 GTEs at Le Mans in 2020 remain unclear, with Marquardt stating their full focus is on the current WeatherTech Championship season.

***United Autosports is set for a return to the Asian Le Mans Series for the 2019-20 season in the LMP3 class, according to managing director Richard Dean, who said they expect to enter two Ligier JS P3 Nissans with driver lineups being determined.

***The FIA World Motorsport Council approved a new multidisciplinary sporting event dubbed the “FIA Motorsport Games” that will see drivers compete for their nations over a series of racing categories, including GT, touring car, Formula 4, drifting, karting slalom and digital motorsport.

***The inaugural edition of the ‘games’, which will award Gold, Silver and Bronze medals, will be held in Rome on Oct. 31-Nov. 3.

***Michelin is supplying 52 of the 61 cars taking part in this weekend’s race, which has resulted in 11,000 tires shipped to Le Mans with 28 semi-trucks. More than 100 Michelin staff are on-site this weekend, including a dozen staff from North America to support the IMSA-based teams.

***LMP1 teams, which have five different tire options, are allowed only 12 sets of slick tires in the race, with up to 14 sets for LMP2 and 15 sets for GTE-Pro and GTE-Am competitors. 

***Former Gulf Racing WEC driver Adam Carroll won the Ferrari Challenge support race this morning. The Irishman beat Louis Prette, who will be driving in the 24 Hours later, by half a second after a race-long duel between the two Pro-class competitors.

***Only four of the eight-car Pro entry (from 51 cars total) finished the 35-minute race after a first-lap accident at the second Mulsanne chicane wiped out half of the top class.

***Motor Trend TV will carry live flag-to-flag coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, beginning at 8 a.m. ET. Continuous coverage will be available on Velocity Canada as well, also featuring the Eurosport commentary team. Click Here for the full international TV listings. 

***Andy Blackmore’s WeatherTech Le Mans Spotter Guide has been updated since scrutineering and is a must-have to follow the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.

Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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