24 Heures du Mans 2009: The 55 entrants invited, like a dream... The greatest Le Mans 24 Hours have always been the theatre of thrilling battles between works cars, and the 77th event is no exception to the rule. There will be 3 manufacturers at...
24 Heures du Mans 2009: The 55 entrants invited, like a dream...
The greatest Le Mans 24 Hours have always been the theatre of thrilling battles between works cars, and the 77th event is no exception to the rule. There will be 3 manufacturers at the start: Aston Martin, Audi and Peugeot with a total of 12 cars all out for victory. You dreamed it: it'll happen at Le Mans!
The Automobile Club de l'Ouest received 82 entries for the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours, each one as deserving of an invitation as the next for the 55 places at the start. The list of the 55 entries accepted designates the teams that will be present on Wednesday 10th June, after the test day was cancelled as a cost-cutting measure in agreement with the private teams and the manufacturers. It shows the healthy state of the Le Mans 24 Hours, and the large number of potential winners in the overall classification as well as in each of the 4 categories: 21 cars in LM P1, 12 in LM P2, 8 in LM GT1 and 14 in LM GT2.
12 works prototypes in LM P1!
The major surprise on the list comes in LM P1, the top endurance category for overall victory in terms of distance, thanks to entries from 3 major manufacturers with considerable resources.
Aston Martin has chosen the 2009 race to leave the LM GT1 category (victorious in 2007 and 2008), and enter LM P1 with 3 spanking new prototype Lola-Aston Martins powered by V12 engines. The aim is to recall that 50 years ago in 1959, the Aston Martin DBR1 snatched victory from Ferrari, the out-and-out favourite at the time. Will history repeat itself?
It's difficult to forecast as Audi has stacked all the odds in its favour to score its ninth victory. The German manufacturer has entered 3 of the new R15s, and entrusted two of the older R10s to a private team.
The message is clear. With 5 cars Audi is out to fend off other potential winners like Aston Martin, and its most dangerous rival over the past 2 years: Peugeot. But the Lion is hungry for victory and makes no bones about it.
And this is the reason for the biggest surprise on the list of the 55 invitations: 4 Peugeot HDi FAPs including one entrusted to a private team that is an integral part of the Le Mans legend - Pescarolo Sport!
Even if the diesel has not always been in the team's good books, nobody can contest the enormous experience and the unflagging determination of Pescarolo Sport.
It's an exciting challenge and one that will be very popular among Le Mans 24-Hours aficionados. If Audi has a numerical advantage, the level of Peugeot's riposte underlines its desire for revenge and victory. But the ambitions of these 3 manufacturers should not obscure the fact that so much happens in 24 hours, that all the top teams can have their stroke of luck on the day.
Among them, the know-how of the Team Oreca-Matmut must be taken into account, as the team has entered 2 very well prepared Courage-Orecas with considerable backing from the Japanese engineering company, AIM. Among the other outsiders capable of upsetting the applecart is the Pescarolo-Judd entered by Pescarolo Sport independently of the Peugeot operation, the Epsilon-Euskadi-Judd, the Ginetta-Zyteks, the Creation-Judd and the Courage-Judd from Signature, a new arrival in the world of endurance, which has built up an excellent reputation in single-seater championships. And bearing no.13 at the start will be the Speedy Racing Sebah Team's Lola-Aston Martin powered by the V12 petrol engine, whose aim is to upset the diesels and do better than the Lola-Aston Martin's ninth-place finish last year.
Porsche-Mazda battle in LM P2
Three Porsche RS spyders are among the entries in LM P2 including last year's category winner (bought by the Navi Team Goh, the only Japanese team to have won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2004 with an Audi R8).
They will be up against strong opposition in the form of 2 Lola coupes with Judd power (Racing Box SRL, Speedy Racing Team Sebah), and above all the 4 Mazda-powered cars: 2 in Lola coupes entered by the RML and KSM teams, and 2 in the Oak Racing (formerly Saulnier Racing) Pescarolo-Mazdas. Added to this battle of engines are outsiders like Zytek, Radical, AER and Ginetta-Zytek, so the battle for the top positions in LM P2 is going to be a hard-fought one!
LM GT1: still there
No, the big GT1s have not deserted Le Mans as proved by the presence of 8 cars -- and what cars!
The 2 private Aston Martin DBR9s will be locked in battle with their sworn enemies, the Corvette C6.Rs (2 works entries and 2 from the Luc Alphand Adventures stable), plus 2 Lamborghini Murcielagos to add a touch of exoticism, one from Russia and one from Japan.
LM GT2: numerical advantage to Ferrari
Out of the 14 LM GT2s invited Ferrari has a numerical advantage with nine F430 GTs (including five automatically selected entries), but the 3 Porsche GT3 RSR 997s will not let the Italian cars have things all their own way.
A great scrap in perspective to which can be added a singleton Spyker Laviolette and a newcomer to the category, the V8 Aston Martin driven in particular by its well-know owner, Lord Drayson, the minister of science and innovation in the United Kingdom.
Exceptionally, the number of reserves is increased from 8 to 10 cars in case of unexpected withdrawals so that the figure of 55 starters can be more easily respected. Should a reserve be called in, it will be picked in the order of the list designated R1 to R10 no matter what category is concerned by the withdrawal. Reserves will be not allowed in after 22nd May 2009. If R1, the Ferrari F430 GT entered by the Seattle Advanced Engineering team (which carries the colours of Cardiac Surgery sponsorship), is at the start, it will attract fans of the TV series "Grey's Anatomy" as the actor Patrick Dempsey (Dr. Shepherd) will be at the wheel.