Thursday, March 30, 2006

Le Mans 24 Hours Entry List revealed

It’s Thursday March 30th, so for those rabid Le Mans fans who hang on every word from the Automobile Club de L’Ouest, that means it’s the day that the entry list for the 24 Heures Du Mans is released.

And what a list it is too. Apart from a couple of small issues, it seems as though the ACO has actually done pretty well. I’ve followed this process closely for the last 3 years and have been consistently flabbergasted at some of the choices that have been made. Anyone remember the Spinnaker-Clandesteam in 2004? A former yachting team owner decides to buy one of the remaining Dallara LMP900 chassis and somehow gets an entry to Le Mans over a number of much more worthy teams. There were a couple of Saleens on the reserve list that year from good teams that would have provided some nice variety. Ultimately, too much time had passed by the time that Spinnaker made their inevitable withdrawal for any Saleens to actually make it.

And who can forget last year, when Zytek didn’t get an entry for their car, one of the few that could have been competitive against the Audis? Conspiracy theorists were quick to point out that the Zytek could also compete against the Pescarolos, who were heavily favoured to win and French….

Which brings us to 2006.

In LMP1, there are of course 2 entries for the Joest Audi R10 diesels. They’ll face stiffest competition from the Pescarolos, the brand new factory Zytek 06 and the Creation Autosportif DBA “Zytek-a-like”. Also in there are 3 new Courages, a Lister, a Dome and a Lola. Tasty!

LMP2 has the usual selection of Courages, 5 in fact. However, the winner in this “last man standing” class will most likely be one of the Lolas. Who wants to bet against the American Intersport team who came 2nd at Sebring? Let’s just hope team owner Jon Field doesn’t face any more criminal charges this year…

It has to be said that GT1 looks better than ever. We’ve got 4 Aston Martins, 3 Ferraris, 3 Corvettes, a Lamborghini and a Saleen, with the possibility that 2 of the Ferrari entries will end up being Astons. All these teams (with the possible exception of the Lambo team) are pro outfits.

Finally, GT2 is again stuffed full of Porsches, many of them run by top-notch experienced teams such as Petersen-White Lightning, Flying Lizard, and T2M. Mixing it up are 3 Panoz Esperantes and 2 Ferrari F430s which gave the Porsches some stiff competition at Sebring.

About all that’s left to mention are the missing entries. What a shame that Zytek didn’t get a second entry, which they wanted to run for Johnny Herbert and Guy Smith. Instead they have to run their one car with Danish “gentleman” drivers (e.g. drivers with lots of wedge). Creation also only got one entry, but their second entry is top of the reserve list and will surely get in. This is the car they bought from Jota and are converting to 2006 Hybrid specifications, like their existing DBA4. Since they’re running both in the Le Mans Series, there’s no doubt they’ll be ready when the first withdrawal occurs. The question is, who’ll be driving it? They’ve got Jamie Campbell-Walter signed but not in the #1 car. Could we see the Zytek factory hook up with Creation to put the afore-mentioned Herbert and Smith alongside JCW in this very quick car? The next month or two will prove to be very interesting…

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