Thursday 5th February marks the ACO’s annual press conference in Paris, in which the entry lists for the 2015 World Endurance Championship and the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans are revealed to the public. What can we expect from the announcement? In past seasons, the announcement has seen all full-season entries announced together with one “named driver”.
So far it has been confirmed that all four factory teams – Toyota, Audi, Porsche and Nissan – will run two-car teams in the 2015 World Endurance Championship. Joining them will be a pair of Rebellion Racing R-Ones, although not at the first round at Silverstone (wec-magazin.com reported), and a single ByKolles CLM P1/01 that ran under the Lotus LMP1 banner last season.
Joining those eleven full-season entries will likely be third cars from Audi, Porsche and Nissan at Le Mans and probably also Spa. Toyota has already confirmed its driver line-up for 2015, with no major changes from 2014. It’s a similar story at Porsche, with Mark Webber, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley retaining the status quo at the German team for 2015. The identities of the three drivers in Porsche’s third car for Spa and Le Mans have been the subject of much speculation over the close season, with current F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg confirmed as one. Expect the other two drivers to come from Porsche’s GT driver ranks, with Fred Makowiecki, Nick Tandy and Marcus Christensen all in the running for a drive. At Nissan, Marc Gené has already been confirmed as a lead driver for one car, with the identity of another set to be confirmed tomorrow. Given Jann Mardenbrough’s prominence in the unveiling of the GT-R LM NISMO at the start of the week, the young Brit could very well be in the running for a full-season seat.
After a somewhat disappointing LMP2 entry in 2014, with only five cars taking the grid for the whole season, 2015 looks set to bring a major boost in numbers and, above all, variety to the LMP2 grid.
2014 LMP2 title-winners SMP Racing are looking towards a two-car full-season entry with its brand-new BR01 coupé prototype. Details of the SMP Racing programme have been scarce, but team principal Boris Rotenberg said in an interview with Sportscar365 that Nicolas Minassian, Mika Sala and Maurizio Mediani would be part of the development programme. G-Drive Racing are likely to continue their successful programme with the Ligier JS P2 coupé, and are also looking for a two-car full-season entry. Another confirmed WEC entry comes from US-based team Extreme Speed Motorsports with two HPD ARX-04b prototypes.
The Strakka Racing Dome is set to make its long-awaited debut at Silverstone, with the British team sacrificing their 2014 effort to concentrate on the 2015 season. One newcomer to the LMP2 is the SARD-Morand team with two Morgan LM P2 Evo prototypes, with the Japanese SARD team eschewing an LMP1 programme in favour of an LMP2 partnership with the established Morand Racing squad. Signatech Alpine, fresh from consecutive ELMS championship victories, are also set to make the step up to the WEC with their Alpine A450-Nissan. Last but not least, Hong-Kong team KCMG will be looking to field a brand-new Oreca 05 coupé.
These full-season entries are to be supplemented by a plethora of one-off Le Mans entries from the wealth of ELMS and Asian Le Mans Series competitors, as well as numerous wildcards at each WEC event.
Expect much of the same in GTE Pro for 2015, with two-car teams from AF Corse, Porsche Team Manthey and Aston Martin Racing. After the promotion of the Young Driver AMR team from GTE Am to GTE Pro for 2014, a question mark remains over last season’s second GTE Pro entry run by Craft Bamboo Racing piloted by Fernando Rees and Alex MacDowell.
AF Corse have already confirmed at least one car in GTE Am for 2015, with another entry possible if a driver line-up can be put together. Proton Competition are also back with a Porsche 911 RSR piloted by Patrick Dempsey for the whole season. A second Porsche could also be on the cards for the Proton team.
Another confirmed entry in 2015 is the Corvette C7.R of Larbre Compétition, to be driven by Paolo Ruberti and Gianluca Roda. It remains to be seen how many Aston Martin Vantage GTEs will take the grid in GTE Am, but expect at least one entry from the British marque – probably in the hands of Paul Dalla Lana.
Lastly, SMP Racing will be looking to supplement their LMP2 programme with a GTE Am entry piloted by 2014 LMP2 drivers’ champion Sergey Zlobin.
With a conservative estimate of some 35 or 36 entries for the 2015 World Endurance Championship, well above the ACO’s cap of 32, it appears that some teams may miss out on their desired programme. The cap is based on the ACO’s wish to optimise its air freight transport, with 4 Boeing jumbos currently used to transport teams around the world. The addition of two or three entries would necessitate the use of a fifth jet, something that ACO supremo Gérard Neveu has already declared to be off-limits. It’s difficult to imagine the ACO turning down professional LMP1 or GTE Pro teams, so the question is: Will the ACO sacrifice two-car LMP2 squads for GTE Am entries?
Potential entry list:
* = not confirmed
+ = spread across two entries
|1||Toyota Racing||Toyota TS040 Hybrid||Anthony Davidson, Sébastian Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima|
|2||Toyota Racing||Toyota TS040 Hybrid||Alex Wurz, Mike Conway, Stéphane Sarrazin|
|3||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi R18 e-tron quattro||Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer|
|4||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi R18 e-tron quattro||Loïc Duval, Lucas di Grassi, Oliver Jarvis|
|–||Audi Sport Team Joest (Spa & Le Mans only)||Audi R18 e-tron quattro||Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi, René Rast|
|5||Porsche Team||Porsche 919 Hybrid||Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb|
|6||Porsche Team||Porsche 919 Hybrid||Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley|
|–||Porsche Team (Spa & Le Mans only)||Porsche 919 Hybrid||Nico Hulkenberg|
|8||NISMO||Nissan GT-R LM NISMO||Marc Gene|
|9||NISMO||Nissan GT-R LM NISMO|
|–||NISMO (Le Mans only, potentially also Spa)||Nissan GT-R LM NISMO|
|10||Rebellion Racing||Rebellion R-One|
|11||Rebellion Racing||Rebellion R-One|
|13||Strakka Racing||Strakka Dome S103||Johnny Kane, Nick Leventis, Danny Watts|
|16||G-Drive Racing||Ligier JS P2||Roman Rusinov|
|17||G-Drive Racing||Ligier JS P2|
|18||Signatech-Alpine||Alpine A450b||Vincent Capillaire*, Paul-Loup Chatin*, Nelson Panciatici*|
|19||Team SARD-Morand||Morgan LM P2 Evo||Christian Klien, Koki Saga|
|20||Team SARD-Morand||Morgan LM P2 Evo||Pierre Ragues, Oliver Webb|
|22||Extreme Speed Motorsports||HPD ARX-04b||Scott Sharp+, Ryan Dalziel+, Johannes van Overbeek+|
|23||Extreme Speed Motorsports||HPD ARX-04b|
|24||AF Corse||Ferrari 458 Italia||Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander|
|25||AF Corse||Ferrari 458 Italia||James Calado, Davide Rigon|
|26||Porsche Team Manthey||Porsche 911 RSR|
|27||Porsche Team Manthey||Porsche 911 RSR|
|28||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin Vantage V8||Nicky Thiim, Christoffer Nygaard, Marco Sorensen|
|29||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin Vantage V8||Darren Turner*, Stefan Mücke*|
|31||Aston Martin Racing||Aston Martin Vantage V8||Matthias Lauda, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy|
|32||AF Corse||Ferrari 458 Italia||Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo, Rui Aguas|
|33||SMP Racing||Ferrari 458 Italia||Sergey Zlobin|
|34||Larbre Compétition||Chevrolet Corvette C7.R||Paolo Ruberti, Gianluca Roda|
|35||Proton Competition||Porsche 911 RSR||Patrick Dempsey|
Image source: fiawec.com