The identities of the 60 cars set to compete at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans is beginning to become clearer. The grid comprises a mixture of automatic entries, granted by teams competing in or winning a variety of ACO-run or -supported series around the world, and invitations issued at the discretion of the race organisers.
First and foremost, the 34 full-season cars currently registered for the 2018/19 Super Season receive automatic entries to the endurance classic. They will be joined by the teams granted invitations on the basis of their performance in 2018.
These include European Le Mans Series LMP2 champions G-Drive Racing and LMP3 title-winners RLR Msport. Proton Competition and JMW Motorsport, who finished first and second respectively in the GTE class of the 2018 ELMS, will also be present on the grid at La Sarthe in June. Swiss team Kessel Racing have also secured a Le Mans appearance in 2019 thanks to their victory in the 2019 Michelin Le Mans Cup championship.
Dempsey-Proton Racing receive an automatic invitation due to their victory in the GTE Am class at Le Mans last year, alongside their pair of WEC entries. Additional entries from the other class winners at Le Mans in 2018, for Toyota Gazoo Racing, Signatech Alpine and Porsche GT Team, have not been confirmed at the time of writing.
Invitations for competitors in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship are granted on the basis of the series’ end-of-season Jim Trueman and Bob Akin Awards for sportsmanship. The 2018 saw the prizes awarded to Misha Goikhberg and Ben Keating, with Goikhberg’s Le Mans entry being passed on to the WeatherTech Racing / Scuderia Corsa crew. Ben Keating, on the other hand, will be the first man to race a privateer Ford GT, having purchased a car specifically for Le Mans – and if possible further events moving forward.
The participants from the AsLMS
The automatic invitations from the Asian Le Mans Series were only decided at the weekend, as the 2018/19 season came to a conclusion at the 4 Hours of Sepang. Phil Hanson and Paul di Resta won the LMP2 title for United Autosports in their Ligier JS P2 Judd, while WEC driver James Calado helped Japanese team Car Guy secure a clean-sweep of race wins in the GT category in 2018/19. Both title wins are also rewarded with Le Mans auto-entries.
United Autorsports could potentially have secured another two automatic entries for Le Mans in 2019, but their challenge in LMP3 and LMP2 Am fell to pieces in the Malaysian heat. ARC Bratislava swept up the win in LMP2 Am, securing a return to Le Mans following their maiden appearance in 2017. The entry will also represent somewhat of a redemption for team principal Miro Konôpka, after only making the list of reserves at Le Mans last year.
The final automatic invitation went to Inter Europol Competition (pictured above), who won the LMP3 title in the Asian Le Mans Series. The team can enter a car in either LMP2 or GTE Am and could become the first Polish team to compete at the famous race.
The remaining entries, decided at the discretion of race organisers ACO, will be announced on 1 March.
Image © Asian Le Mans Series