FORGET ABOUT DPi AT LE MANS – IMSA’S MAKING ITS PRESENCE KNOWN ALREADY
Four-time DP champion Memo Rojas continues his European adventure – having won the European Le Mans Series last year for G-Drive Racing with Ryo Hirakawa and Leo Roussel, the Mexican is listed to race an IDEC Sport Racing Ligier alongside rapid Frenchman Paul-Loup Chatin and Paul Lafargue. Rojas will reunite with his occasional 2017 teammate Nic Minassian, now Sporting Director at IDEC Sport.
New IMSA full season man Filipe Albuquerque heads back in time for Le Mans, joining his European Le Mans Series ride with United Autosport’s LMP2 alongside Phil Hanson and Paul di Resta. The Mustang Sampling AXR racer – and current IMSA championship leader – will share the United garage with Acura Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya, who’ll race United’s other car with regular United men Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer.
The still unretired Mark Patterson, formerly shouldering Ozz Negri in anything Michael Shank decided to run, is still racing! The South African Daytona 24 podium finisher has an LMP2 ride with Algarve Pro Racing, co-driving with Algarve Pro’s South Korean 2017-18 Asian LMS racer Tack Sung Kim and 2017-18 Asian Le Mans Series Gentleman’s Trophy winner Ate Dirk De Jong.
Tequila Patrón ESM star Pipo Derani will build on his GT experience following a partial season with Ford last year; the Brazilian will share the #52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE with factory Ferrari racer Toni Vilander and the F1 team third driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who makes his Le Mans debut having competed in the Fuji and Shanghai rounds of the 2016 WEC for ESM.
Corvette Racing take a revised lineup to La Sarthe this year – GM factory driver Jordan Taylor is missing from the crew for the first time since 2012. Corvette’s IMSA endurance drivers Marcel Fässler and Mike Rockenfeller join the Gavin/Milner #63 and Magnussen/García #64 cars respectively, making a ‘Tall’ and ‘Small’ car to take on the factory efforts from BMW, Porsche, Ford and Ferrari.
Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA are taking their IMSA pairing to Le Mans too. Full season crews Richard Westbrook/Ryan Briscoe and Joey Hand/Dirk Müller are joined by their usual endurance co-drivers Scott Dixon and Sébastien Bourdais. Interestingly, Ford’s established rotating third seat alongside Andy Priaulx and full season Mazda Team Joest man Harry Tincknell in the Team UK entry is filled by Tony Kanaan for the second year in a row.
IMSA team BMW Team RLL’s full season driver Alexander Sims will race the #82 MTEK-run BMW M8 in GTE Pro, sharing the car with Augusto Farfus and António Félix da Costa. BMW’s IMSA endurance drivers Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus will also race for the Bavarian crew at La Sarthe.
Porsche’s four-car assault on the GTE Pro title draws heavily from their IMSA resources. The CORE Autosport crew than run the IMSA program will field two cars – the #93 driven by IMSA regulars Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber and the #94 mixing experience and enthusiasm with Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard and Sven Müller.
Cooper MacNeil, Jeff Segal & Liam Griffin will team up with defending GTE Am winners JMW Motorsport to run a WeatherTech-liveried Ferrari 488 GTE at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. MacNeil took second at Sebring with full season co-driver Alessandro Balzan and Gunnar Jeannette, whilst Ferrari specialist Segal has a third and a first from his two Le Mans attempts so far.
Gentleman racer Ben Keating will also be backed by WeatherTech this year, sharing a Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE with his usual driver partner Jeroen Bleekemolen. The crew will be changing from their usual Riley-run Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the race, and bring their Daytona teammate and Mercedes factory driver Luca Stolz, who’ll be making his debut Le Mans appearance.
IMSA’s Park Place Motorsports crew of Patrick Lindsey and Jörg Bergmeister make the pilgrimage as part of their WEC ‘Super Season’ campaign with two other Porsche stalwarts – Mentos Racing’s Egidio Perfetti and one-make frontrunning team Project 1. The GTE Am effort will be Park Place principal Lindsey’s first Le Mans.
The Porsche influx continues – multiple GTD champion Christina Nielsen has already announced a Le Mans entry with Italian Porsche enthusiasts Ebimotors alongside established GT racer and 2001 GT class winner Fabio Babini. The third driver is yet to be announced, but Ebimotors’ ELMS campaign features Riccardo Pera and Raymond Narac alongside Babini – Narac has multiple podiums and a Le Mans Series championship in GTE Am from his previous seasons running IMSA Performance Matmut.
Spirit of Daytona’s third man Eddie Cheever III – or ‘Threever’ – will be another IMSA face in the GTE Am class. The latest Cheever to hit the track is already an Italian GT champion and will race alongside Japanese gentleman driver Motoaki Ishikawa and his coach Viper, Corvette and Ferrari star Olivier Beretta. The trio will compete in a Ferrari 488 for MR Racing, with AF Corse supporting the entry.
Factory Porsche racer and Wright Motorsports’ man Pat Long is the only driver so far listed in the #99 Proton Competition Porsche. The team’s ELMS drivers Gianluca Roda and Dennis Olsen are not listed to drive for other teams at Le Mans; Roda’s Bronze status would make him eligible to partner Long, but Olsen’s Gold ranking precludes him from joining them as GTE Am rules stipulate “a crew of 2 or 3 drivers must include at least 1 Bronze and 1 Bronze or Silver.”