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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

GTE drivers "gutted" class will no longer be part of Le Mans

Leading GTE Am drivers say they are "gutted" the category they "love" will no longer be part of the Le Mans 24 Hours after this weekend's race.

#83 Richard Mille Af Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO of Luis Perez Companc, Alessio Rovera, Lilou Wadoux, #86 GR Racing Porsche 911 RSR - 19 of Michael Wainwright, Benjamin Barker, Riccardo Pera

GTE cars have featured in the World Endurance Championship since its rebirth in 2012 but, from next year, will be replaced by the new LMGT3 class.

The GTE Pro division was already axed for 2023 amid dwindling numbers, leaving only the GTE Am division that will also disappear at the end of this season.

Despite a plethora of manufacturers having GT3 machines - with Ford revealing its new Mustang GT3 on Friday - and interest in the new class high, drivers have lamented the end of the GTE era.

Charlie Eastwood, who won the GTE Am class at Le Mans with a TF Sport Aston Martin in 2020 and is starting second for this year's race, believes the presence of ABS on GT3 cars will diminish the driving challenge.

"I'm absolutely gutted," he told Motorsport.com about the demise of GTE. "I drive round here and I know GT3 will just never feel the same.

"For me, ABS takes out 80% of the driving for the driver and what made qualifying so difficult was going from the highest speeds the GTE can go to right down to the lowest at the chicanes.

"You're on the verge of missing the corner and that's the bit that, when you then get to the line, it’s so satisfying.

"I have no doubt the racing is still going to be incredible [with GT3], but I absolutely love the GTE."

 

His thoughts are echoed by Ben Keating, the polesitter for this year's GTE Am race with Corvette Racing and one of the leading bronze-graded amateurs, winning at Le Mans in 2022 in a TF Aston.

"In WEC, a bronze driver's time behind the wheel really makes a big difference in the race," he told Motorsport.com. "Without ABS, the difference between bronze drivers is much higher.

"With GTE, there's a huge risk that if you lock up you're going in the wall or you flat spot a tyre. You can ruin the race with one lock-up, so you have to be more conservative.

"If you go to GT3, you have ABS and I want to learn being closer to the Pro, I don't want the computer to do it for me.

"I have a little pain in my heart it's going away because it's such a special part of history."

Keating, a LMP2 regular in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, is instead evaluating a return to the LMP2 category at Le Mans for next year, after previous entries in 2016-17.

However, Kessel Racing Ferrari driver Daniel Serra - who has taken two GTE Pro victories at Le Mans in both Ferrari and Aston machinery - still believes the GT3s will be great to drive around the La Sarthe circuit.

"I'm trying to enjoy as much as I can this last dance with the GTE, but I know next year it will be an amazing car as well with the 296 that I'm driving and developing," he told Motorsport.com.

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