When the Le Mans Series full season entry list was announced today our initial reaction was that even though there is still a healthy number of cars set to race in the 2011 season the grid seems to have lost some quality in certain areas. But as always this is just a provisional list and the grids at each race could well be stunning, especially with the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at three out of five Le Mans Series rounds.
Back in 2010 eleven cars were announced in the LMP1 category, this year there are six confirmed entries. The 2010 entry list however did have two Kolles Audi R10 TDI, a Noel del Bello Lola Judd, a Team Oreca Matmut Oreca 01 AIM and the two Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R15 TDI. Three cars did not even race in the Le Mans Series in 2010, the others did just a few rounds.
REBELLION Racing is the only team that raced in LMP1 in 2010 that returns to the top category of the Le Mans Series this year. With the return to competition of Pescarolo Team and Quifel ASM Team stepping up from LMP2 to LMP1 there are four full season entries that should be capable of fighting for the title. Newcomers Guess Racing Europ and Rangoni Motorsport join the series in 2011, it remains to be seen what they can do.
Even though there are just six full time Le Mans Series LMP1 entries the number of LMP1 cars at the majority of the Le Mans Series races will be in the double digits as Peugeot, Audi, Oreca, Aston Martin Racing will all be competing in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and will therefore join the Le Mans Series at Spa-Francorchamps, Imola and Silverstone. Orbello Racing, the former Signature Plus Lola Aston Martin, is also set to appear in some Le Mans Series races.
Like the LMP1 category the LMP2 category has also lost five entries compared to 2010. Five teams – with a total of seven cars – that were on the 2010 list will not be seen in 2011, while OAK Racing will be competing in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and will therefore be around at three out of five Le Mans Series races.
While Quifel ASM Team has moved into LMP1 RML and Strakka Racing will be going head to head this year, both teams now running an HPD ARX-01d. Pegasus Racing, Race Performance, Greaves Motorsport (former Bruichladdich), RLR msport will return with to the LMP2 category, mostly with updated or new machinery.
Pecom Racing (AF Corse), Extreme Limite, Boutsen Energy Racing (from Formula Le Mans), Top Drive Services and Team LNT are new full season entries in the category. Pecom Racing will run a brand new Lola B11/40 with the Judd BMW engine, Extreme Limite will run the Norma, while Boutsen Energy Racing and TDS will enter the new Oreca 03. Finally Team LNT. After years of racing a Ginetta-Zytek the team will enter a Radical SR9 this season – the former Libra Racing car.
GT1 is gone and GT2 has been renamed and split into GTE Pro and GTE Am. GT1 and GT2 had seventeen entries in 2010 and the new GT category will have 14 in 2011. But unlike the LMP categories the quality throughout the field is high.
In the GTE Pro category four brand new Ferraris F458 Italia will take on four Porsches 997 GT3 RSR. AF Corse and Hankook Team Farnbacher return to the Le Mans Series with the new Ferrari’s, while JMW Motorsport returns to the prancing horse after one season with an Aston Martin Vantage. The three existing top Porsche teams (ProSpeed Competition, IMSA Performance Matmut and Team Felbermayr-Proton) will be joined by Gruppe M Eterniti Racing. The ninth and final GTE Pro entry is the Aston Martin Vantage entered by Jota Sport AMR. The GTE Pro category is set to become another great category in the Le Mans Series and could well be even more interesting when Corvette and BMW join at Spa, Imola and Silverstone.
In the GTE Am category for older cars AF Corse, IMSA Performance Matmut and Team Felbermayr-Proton have all entered one car. They will be joined by two other Ferrari’s F430 GT2. One is entered by CRS Racing, the other by JMB Racing.
Compared to 2010 two brands are missing on the full season entry list: BMW and Spyker. The German manufacturer will race in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and is working on a DTM project, while Spyker Squadron’s most recent racing related comment was that they traditionally announce their race activities at the Geneva Motor Show in March.
Not on the list in 2010 were the Formula Le Mans cars, but the 2011 list is completely different compared to the entries there were in the 2010 season. Hope PoleVision Racing, DAMS, Boutsen Energy Racing, JMB Racing and Applewood Seven raced in the 2010 season, but only JMB Racing and Hope PoleVision Racing (1 car) will return. The three other cars set to race in the Le Mans Series are entered by Neil Garner Motorsport, Genoa Racing and Pegasus Racing.