Season Entries: The series is full up!
There will be 49 cars carefully selected -12 LMP1s, 16 LMP2s, 4 LMGT1s and 17 LMGT2s-, which will take place all along the season on the 2009 Le Mans Series starting line. The grid is rich and varied with six makes in LMP1, ten in LMP2, three in LMGT1 and five in LMGT2. In addition, when the circuit capacity will allow it, some more cars, entered race-by-race, will enrich the grid.
In the proto category, LMP1 sees Aston Martin starring with its works team return; Audi playing the Privateers game and Peugeot choosing a race by race enrolment. LMP2 puts together the "old" teams, which for some of them reveal some changes and adds two new ones. In the GT category, LMGT1 gathers a small but diversified grid, while the LMGT2s make once again evidence that they are "the little ones who thing big".
LMP1: Aston Martin worksteam is back; Audi plays the Privateers game and Peugeot prefers to decide race by race...
As for the manufacturers, Audi has announced the support of the official technical works team for the two cars of Colin Kolles' private team. So far, the two R10s will be the only diesel-powered cars of this season's Le Mans Series grid since Peugeot has chosen to apply race by race. But 2009's star of the category is definitely Aston Martin Racing official works team come back with two prototypes in the legendary blue and orange Gulf livery, aiming for the outright victory. The British manufacturer will delight its supporters who, for sure were not prepared to celebrate in such a manner the fiftieth anniversary of the Le Mans victory!
Among last year's teams, we still have, Oreca Matmut and its Courage-Oreca, still with former French F1 driver Olivier Panis. Speedy Racing Team Sebah, always managed by discrete and most efficient Hugh Hayden has entered one out of his two cars in the LMP1. One of the drivers has a name very popular to French people since we are talking about Nicolas Prost, Alain Prost's son, who promisingly started his endurance career last year in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We cannot forget the two Pescarolos Judd of Pescarolo Sport team, always set to battle fiercely. P1 sees the arrival of two new LMP Ginettas Zytek, managed by Strakka Racing and LNT. Signature Plus, a new 100% French team which relies, among others, on a strong background in F3, enters this year its brand new Courage-Oreca, for a conspicuous arrival in the series.
LMP2: Classic Nouveau...
Old teams, new arrangements... As, for instance, a change of name: Jacques Nicolet's Saulnier Racing team becomes OAK Racing and Karim Ojjeh drops Trading Performance to the benefit of G.A.C Racing Team as he enters under the Gstaad Automobile Club banner. The first one has now powered his two Pescarolos with a Mazda engine, like teams RML & Kruse's Lolas; evidence, if needed, of the Japanese manufacturer's interest for Le Mans. Miguel Amaral and his Quifel ASM team enter this year a P2 version Ginetta Zytek. Xavier Pompidou, a series faithful, will be one of the Speedy Racing P2 drivers. Pierre Bruneau's return, after a sabbatical year, is very expected. He will drive a Radical AER and links his name to the Bruichladdich team. He will fight on the tracks his former challengers such as Barazi, Racing Box, Horag Racing, WR or Ranieri Randaccio.
On the other hand, the LMP2 welcomes two new teams, Bull Racing with a Lucchini Judd and Pegasus Racing, 100% French team & drivers with a Courage.
LMGT1 : Small grid, big diversity
The GT1 category still puts together a small grid for 2009. Actually, if the concerned cars are very appealing, the cost to run them remains quite high. The ACO new regulations should help to minimize those costs.
Four cars, four nationalities and three makes entered for the whole season will make this GT1 grid background. To give honour where honour is due since there will be two Saleens to try and get the title. The first one is entered by Austrian Full Speed Racing Team, the second will be under Slovak banner with the ARC Bratislava-Kaneko team. One Lamborghini Murcielago, run by Russian team IPB Spartak with driver Roman Rusinov, the both of them Le Mans Series regulars; and one Ferrari 550 Maranello marking French team Noel del Bello Racing return, will take up the challenge.
Two more teams, maybe three, will strengthen this grid, with race by race entries, when the circuit capacity will allow it.
LMGT2: The little one who thinks big...
With seventeen cars, the GT2 category holds the biggest number of cars entered record. We must reckon that this class allows the gentlemen drivers to play in the main playground at a reasonable cost. Major part of the drivers are announced yet and not just anybody! Prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis (on a Gallardo) and behind a F430 wheel, the son of a major F1 former diver, Leo Mansell. This class also welcomes Lord Paul Drayson aboard an Aston Martin Vantage; what else could we expect from a House of Lords member, current Great Britain Minister of State for Science & Innovation?
Nearly a Ferrari (F430GT)/orsche (997GT3 RSR) duel, umpired by Lamborghini (Gallardo), Aston Martin (Vantage V8) and Spyker (Laviolette). There are the "Le Mans Series teams" such as Imsa Performance Matmut, James Watt, JMB, Felbmayer Proton, Farnbacher, Modena, Snoras Spyker Squadron, Virgo; and their usual drivers: Raymond Narac, Marc Lieb, Anthony Beltoise ...
Two new teams appear in the class: Easyrace which, in spite of its name, is Italian and Britannic JMW Motorsports.
Le Mans Series is full up in 2009. Announcing during a most difficult period that "critical time, we do not know!" could be considered as inappropriate; but actually it is the result of a determined policy since endurance will always be the dynamic laboratory for the new automotive technologies. The car manufacturers, component suppliers and tyre manufacturers come naturally there to test their ultimate innovations.