Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours GT2

The battle in the GT2 class is set to become a classic fight with seventeen entries from seven makes: Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Jaguar, Porsche and Spyker.

Starting with the winners from 2009, Risi Competizione. The American Le Mans Series team will again enter two cars in France. GT2 winner Jaime Melo will be back to defend his title, while Tracey Krohn and Nic Jonsson will be in the second Risi car and hope to improve from the third place they took in 2009.

The runner-up from 2009, BMS Scuderia Italia, will also return to Le Mans, although Matteo Malucelli will not be racing a Ferrari this year. The team will race a Porsche 997 GT3 RSR this year, likely to be the car that was raced in the 2009 FIA GT Championship by Brixia Racing, part of BMS Scuderia Italia.

JMW Motorsport, fourth at Le Mans last year with its Ferrari, will also return to La Sarthe with another car. The British squad will be running an Aston Martin Vantage, the only Aston currently in the race.

A strong performance from the Spyker Squadron team last year meant the Spyker C8 Laviolette GT2R took a brilliant fifth place finish. As in recent years the Dutch squad has been given one confirmed entry and one car on the reserve list. It was interesting to see that the entry list shows Tim Coronel on the #85 and Tom Coronel on the reserve car, but this ‘mix-up’ should soon be corrected.

Completing the top six in 2009 was the AF Corse Ferrari F430 GT2 driven by Perez Companc and Russo. The two Argentine drivers will be back with AF Corse this year. The second AF Corse car, with Giancarlo Fisichella named on it, is on the reserve list.

The top six of 2009 will be facing a very strong opposition in June though.

Corvette Racing will join the category at Le Mans with its Corvette GT2 and drivers Magnussen, Gavin, Beretta, O’Connell and Garcia. Considering their successful era in GT1 the American manufacturer hopes to repeat this success in GT2.

But the Corvettes aren’t the only new cars that could be serious race win contenders. BMW Motorsport will also return to Le Mans with its BMW E92 M3 and drivers like Jörg and Dirk Müller, Dirk Werner, Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus are expected to race for the German manufacturer.
Four other Porsches are entered. Le Mans Series winning team Team Felbermayr-Proton and American Le Mans Series winner Flying Lizard Motorsports will both enter one car. Seth Neiman has been confirmed for the American team, while Horst Felbermayr is named on the Felbermayr car. Felbermayr-Proton has its second car on the reserve list, with Marc Lieb as designated driver. Like at Spyker this could of course change as Lieb has been entered in the same team and might be able to switch to the lead entry.

IMSA Performance Matmut and ProSpeed Competition are the last two Porsches on the 2010 grid. Narac is confirmed on the IMSA Porsche. Dutch Porsche dealer and GT3.nl owner Paul van Splunteren will enter the ProSpeed Competition Porsche, second in FIA GT in 2009.

The two remaining Ferrari F430 GT2s on the list are no small teams either. Modena Group Racing, the renamed Team Modena, will enter one for Roman Rusinov and two other yet to be announced drivers while Hankook Team Farnbacher will enter a car for top drivers Dominik Farnbacher and Allan Simonsen.

A big surprise is the final confirmed entry…the RSR Jaguar XKR GT2. This car did only compete in one race…but the return of the Jaguar name to Le Mans (and of course the team’s plan for 2010) was enough to persuade the Selection Committee to give them an entry.

With seventeen confirmed GT2 cars it seems hard for the reserve cars to get into the race. All of the teams on the list already have one car in. The only exception is the Hong Kong Racing Aston Martin Vantage. This team raced at Okayama, but under normal circumstances we will likely not see this car in France.

Even with so many cars in the race or on the reserve list there were still some teams that missed out. For example CRS Racing and Robertson Racing are not invited, despite full seasons back in 2009 and confirmed plans for 2010. CRS Racing for example has confirmed two-car entries for the entire Le Mans Series as well as International GT Open and the Robertson Racing Ford GT could have given the GT2 race yet another brand. With the Robertsons doing the Asian Le Mans Series as well last year it seems strange that they are not going to race at Le Mans.

All in all the GT2 category at Le Mans is likely to become a classic and not the Ferrari vs Porsche battle it was in recent years. After Spyker went after the Ferrari’s in 2009 BMW and Corvette are now ready to fight for the class victory.

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