PARIS – Sixty cars, not the traditional 58, will start the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on June 18, 2016.
That announcement was made Friday in Paris, France, during the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans entry list press conference. At first, as announced last June, 58 cars were supposed to be on the grid, but faced with the growing number of high-quality entry requests, the selection committee decided to allow 60 cars to start the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Of particular note is the fact that Ford has entered not two, but four of the new Ford GT racers that recently debuted during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“Each year the selection committee is finding it increasingly difficult to establish the list of entries for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Thirty-two prototypes and 28 GTs will be on the grid on June 18 for what already looks like being a first-class race,” said Vincent Beaumesnil, Automobile Club de l’Ouest sport manager. “There will be a closely-fought battle in LM P1 and there is even more diversity in LM P2. The appeal of the LM GTE Pro category is greater than ever and more sporting with the introduction of the new regulations and Ford’s return. As always, LM GTE Am will be the theatre of fantastic battles. From both a technical and sporting point of view all the ingredients are in place for a unique 84th Le Mans 24 Hours.”
Thus, the third round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship will see 60 cars on the grid divided up into four categories: nine LM P1s (Le Mans prototype 1), 22 LM P2s (Le Mans Prototype 2), 14 LM GTE Pros and 14 LM GTE Ams. The 56th garage has been allocated to SRT 41 fielded by OAK Racing, whose technologies devoted to helping disabled people will be highlighted on a Morgan-Nissan LM P2 racing outside the classification.
Among the LM P1s, Porsche is determined to retain the 24-Hours Trophy won in 2015 and to emerge victorious in the race for the 18th time in its history. The three major manufacturers, Porsche, Audi and Toyota, have each entered two cars. Rounding off the LM P1 field are three privately entered cars from Rebellion Racing and ByKolles Racing. A total of five manufacturers/constructors will be represented in the top category.
In 2016, the LM P2 category again has the highest number of cars. In 2015, there were 19 on the grid and this year 22 have been chosen by the selection committee. Hong Kong team KCMG will be back to defend its title against a horde of challengers. Six different makes of chassis will do battle in LM P2 with Ligier, victorious in the Rolex 24 at Daytona just last week, holding a numerical advantage. A newcomer to the LM P2 category is the Panis Barthez Competition team with Fabien Barthez as designated driver. In 1998 he was a member of the French team that won the World Football Cup, and he has since changed careers, becoming a successful racing driver. It will be his second outing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans after his debut in 2014 in GTE Am.
This year new LM GTE Pro regulations came into force on Jan. 1, while the LM GTE Am rules remain unchanged.
In LM GTE Pro, the highlight is the previously mentioned Ford GT entries that will try and take the class crown from Corvette. In LM GTE Am Ferrari enjoys numerical superiority with five 458 Italias followed by four Porsches, three Aston Martins and two Corvettes. The battle for victory in this category looks very open especially as the first two teams in 2015 won’t be present. Maybe this will give Scuderia Corsa, third in 2015, the opportunity to finish on the topmost step of the podium.
Thus, the field for the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours consists of 32 prototypes and 28 GTEs, with 41 teams entered representing 17 nationalities from the four corners of the globe.
The reserve list comprises 10 cars, six LM P2s and 4 LM GTE Ams. They will be allowed into the race in the order of the list in the case of withdrawals.
During the press conference Alexander Wurz was named Grand Marshal for the 84th 24 Hours of L emNas following in the footsteps of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Henri Pescarolo.