The ACO reveals the list of the 50 cars invited to the 24 Hours.
More duels in perspective in the pure Le Mans tradition.
26th March 2004 -- Audi up against an armada of prototypes; Corvette-Ferrari and Ferrari-Porsche duels in the Grand Touring Category; the 72nd Le Mans 24 Hours promises to be an exceptional race.
Pescarolo, Dallara, Lister, Dome, Taurus, Panoz against four Audis in LM P 1. Reynard, Lola, Zytek and WR against five Courages in LM P 2: Ferrari against Corvette with Pagani as outsider in LM GTS: another Ferrari-Porsche battle in LM GT with TVR and Morgan adding spice to the mix.
Such is the selection of cars announced by the "Automobile Club de l'Ouest" Selection Committee on Thursday 25th March, which will take part in preliminary practices on Sunday 25th April 2004 in anticipation of the 24 Hour race on 12th and 13th June.
Unfortunately, out of the 77 entries received by the Club by 11th February 27 had to be turned down. "We had to make a choice and refuse some entries," admitted one of the Selection Committee members. "In certain cases it was like cutting off your own arm, the only choice being whether it would be the left or the right, and as we expected, it was among the GTs that the choice was the most difficult."
Will the fact of being on the list of the six reserves soften the blow of being turned down? It's more than a consolation prize as the choice here was just as difficult.
The field for the coming Le Mans 24 Hours is a varied, one as much in terms of nationalities (8 different ones: see statistics further on) as in engines. In the LM P 1 Category is a car powered by bio-ethanol (the Nasamax Judd) and another is using diesel fuel (the Lola-Caterpillar entered by Taurus Racing). This is the first time that a diesel figures on the entry list since the early 50s! The selection of the four Audis entered by Audi UK (2), Team Goh (1) and Champion racing (1) was already expected. The surprise in this category comes from Henri Pescarolo who has entered a brace of Judd-powered Courages, and for the first time in the history of the team the chassis originating from the Courage workshops change their name and are now "Pescarolos!"
Courage, on the other hand, will be out in force in LM P 2 in which five C 65s have been selected: 2 entered by Courage Competition, another 2 by Michel Leconte's Epsilon Sports Team all powered by the JPX engine. The fifth, though, from Belmondo Racing has an English power unit, the AER, often used by the MG Lolas.
The Grand Touring Category has also attracted a high-quality entry and the battle between Corvette and Ferrari in LM GTS and Ferrari and Porsche in LM GT will have nothing to envy the famous duels of yesteryear. What more could one ask for?
* 26/24: the balance between the cars selected is 26 prototypes and 24 grand
touring vehicles divided up as follows:
- including 19 LM P 1s:
1 LM P1. 13 LM P1s ex-900. 1 LM P1 ex-GTP. 4 LM P1s ex-675
- including 7 LM P2s. 6 LM P2s. 1 LM P2 ex 675.
- 10 GTS
- 14 GT
* Statistics: The breakdown of the nationality of the 50 teams chosen by the Selection Committee is: Great Britain 15, France, 14, USA 9, Germany, Holland and Japan 3, Italy 2, Austria 1.
* Reserves: In addition to the 50 cars selected, 6 reserves will be admitted
to preliminary practice on 25th April increasing the number of vehicles on
the track to 56. One or more will be asked to replace any withdrawals
announced before 28th May at midnight. Beyond that date no car will be
replaced. Here is the list of reserves in the order decided by the Selection
1. Lola-Judd LM P 1 (Taurus Sports Racing)
2. Porsche 911 GT3 LM GT (Thierry Perrier)
3. Ferrari 550 Maranello LM GT (XL Racing)
4. Dome-Judd LM P 1 (Racing for Holland)
5. TVR LM GT (Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport)
6. Porsche 911 GT3 LM GT (Seikel Motorsport).
* Selection Committee: Its seven members are as follows: Messrs Jean-Claude Plassart, President of the A.C.O, Jean-Pierre Allain, Member of the A.C.O Steering Committee, Jean-Marc Desnues, A.C.O Central Director, Daniel Poissonot, A.C.O Sports Director and Clerk of the Course, Jacques Olivier, President of the Stewards of the Meeting, Gerard Caschet, International Relations Delegate and Daniel Perdrix, International Technical Delegate.
* Preliminary practice sessions : they will be held on Sunday 25th April. The track (13,650 kms), will be open from 09h00 to 13h00 and from 14h00 to 18h00. Technical checks and scrutineering will take place on Friday 23rd April from 10h00 to 18h00 and Saturday 24th April from 09h00 to 15h00.
* Drivers: At least two of the team drivers chosen for the race must be among those down to drive the car during preliminary practices. Those who are not on the reference list drawn up by the A.C.O must take part in preliminary practices and cover at least 10 laps to be admitted to official qualifying practice in June.