Le Mans: Team-by-Team review – LM GTE

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is behind us. We’ve seen great fights and dramatic pictures of cars retiring from the race. The two LM GTE categories had its share of drama before and during the race. AF Corse won its first Le Mans and Larbre Competition took a third consecutive class win. Here’s a team-by-team review of what happened in the GTE Pro and GTE Am classes.

AF Corse (LM GTE Pro & LM GTE Am, 4x Ferrari)
A rather bizarre week at Le Mans for AF Corse. The team faced a race against the clock when the lead car, the #51 of Fisichella, Bruni and Vilander crashed in practice. The trio of drivers qualified in the sister car and a replacement chassis was prepared just in time to run in the final part of qualifying. Having started from the back of the LM GTE Pro grid Fisichella, Bruni and Vilander fought their way back to the front and won their class, the first ever AF Corse victory at Le Mans, finishing 17th overall. The team’s second car, the #71 of Bertolini, Beretta and Cioci, finished the race fourth in the LM GTE Pro class, despite an off into the gravel early on and unscheduled stops to sort out vibration issues and engine problems.

AF Corse’s LM GTE Am cars were less successful. The AF Corse-Waltrip entry of Kauffman, Aguas and Vickers had a lot of problems. Despite catching fire and returning to the pit lane with its left front wheel fully ablaze the Italian squad managed to send the #61 back out on track where it finished 31st overall and sixth in class. The #81 of Cadei, Griffin and Perazzini did not finish, it was involved in the high speed crash that sent the Toyota TS030 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson into the air. After colliding with the Toyota Perazzini suffered a heavy impact in the barrier and ended upside down.

Luxury Racing (LM GTE Pro & LM GTE Am, 2x Ferrari)
Frédéric Makowiecki secured pole position for Luxury Racing in Thursday’s qualifying session, but he and co-drivers Melo and Farnbacher were unable to keep the AF Corse Ferrari #51 behind in the race. The #59 car had some problems, including an off into the gravel, but strong stints from its drivers and bad luck for its rivals meant it secured second place, albeit 3 laps down on the winning Ferrari.

The team’s second car, the #58 of Ehret, Jeannette and Montecalvo suffered problems with the starter motor early in the race and was retired during the night when Montecalvo crashed and damaged his Ferrari beyond immediate repair.

Aston Martin Racing (LM GTE Pro & LM GTE Am, 2x Aston Martin)
After a poor show in 2011 with the ill-fated Aston Martin AMR-One the Banbury based team entered two Aston Martin Vantages for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. A bad dress rehearsal in Spa-Francorchamps, where the team retired after just 11 laps, was followed by a very solid performance at Le Mans. The LM GTE Pro car, the #97 of Mücke, Fernandez and Turner, was inside the top three in the first six hours – including several laps in the lead. During the night it dropped out of the top six, but as dawn broke it was back – until Mücke went off into the gravel trap. A good recovery drive meant it finished third in class, four laps behind the race winning AF Corse Ferrari. A second place should have been possible had Mücke not gone off.

The team’s second car, the #99 of Simonsen, Poulsen and Nygaard, took the lead in the first hour, but dropped back when it returned to the pit early in the second hour with a misfiring engine. The car eventually returned to the track, but Poulsen went off and damaged the car – it retired after completing 31 laps.

Larbre Competition (LM GTE Am, 2x Corvette)
Larbre Competition had a very successful Le Mans again. The #50 Corvette of Bornhauser, Lamy and Canal went head-to-head with the IMSA Performance Matmut team and kept the Porsche behind. In the final minutes the team had time to swap drivers from Lamy to Canal when their rivals suffered a puncture. Canal celebrated his third win, Larbre its third consecutive victory (two of them with the same car in GTE Am). The second car, the #70, finished fifth in class – a position it fought for for most of the race.

IMSA Performance Matmut (LM GTE Am, Porsche)
IMSA Performance Matmut was the best Porsche team in a field of seven Porsches. The French LM GTE Am team finished second in class and was in contention for the class win until the final stint. Anthony Pons took over for the last stint, but was unable to keep Pedro Lamy behind and then suffered a puncture just minutes from the end. Fortunately Pons managed to keep his car on track, returned to the pit and got back out before the race winning Audi crossed the line so that he could take the chequered flag and second place for his team and co-drivers Narac and Armindo.

Corvette Racing (LM GTE Pro, 2x Corvette)
A dramatic race for Corvette Racing – with no rewards at all. Not starting from pole didn’t matter for the #74 Corvette of Gavin, Westbrook and Milner as it quickly moved up into the lead and maintained that position for several hours. But just after 1 am things started to go wrong.

At the Dunlop Esses Westbrook lost a wheel and returned to the pit. After being repaired and back out on the track, Westbrook then hit the barrier at the second chicane. The resulting recovery and repairs meant it dropped to the bottom of the class. The #73 of Magnussen, Garcia and Taylor moved up into the top three – only to drop down when it suffered a steering-rack problem at around 3 am. Both cars then set fast lap times in the early morning, before things went wrong again just after 8 o’clock with Milner crashing twice. The final pit stop saw the #73 dropping to fifth place in class, where the #74 did return for a photo finish – but no classification as it only completed 215 laps.

Krohn Racing (LM GTE Am, Ferrari)
Not much can be said about Krohn Racing’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2012. The American team secured another podium position by staying out of serious trouble. The #57 of Krohn, Jönsson and Rugolo finished 13 laps after the GTE Pro winning AF Corse Ferrari and 6 laps behind the GTE Am winning Corvette. Despite the podium finish being a reward for its consistency, the car lacked pure pace and would not have finished on the podium if other GTE Am cars had stayed on track. But they didn’t….

Flying Lizard Motorsports (LM GTE Pro & LM GTE Am, 2x Porsche)
Flying Lizard Motorsports had a Le Mans week to forget again. The GTE Am car of Neiman, Pumpelly and Pilet was fifth in class, while the GTE Pro of Bergmeister, Holzer and Long did not finish.
The #79 Porsche took an early lead in the GTE Am class and the team retained its lead until 7.40 pm, when Neiman spun the car into the barrier at Arnage, causing damage to the rear. As it headed back a fire was seen on the right-rear, but that quickly put itself out. Lengthy repairs meant the car dropped down the GTE Am order, but in the final hours the #79 found some pace and managed to keep out of (further) troubles – resulting in a fifth place in class.

In the #80 Bergmeister had an early off into the gravel trap and it was before the end of the second hour that Long returned in the pit with rear-suspension damage. The GTE Pro car returned to the track, but just after midnight Long had to stop once again on the track with accident damage – the car was retired on the Mulsanne Straight, unable to fire up the car again..

ProSpeed Competition (LM GTE Am, Porsche)
Belgian squad ProSpeed Competition opted for a line-up that had not competed together before (Curtis, Al Faisal and Edwards) and made its first laps in the ProSpeed Porsche at Le Mans in the first practice session. The entire weekend Sean Edwards was very quick, but his teammates made too many mistakes and caused the Belgian mechanics a lot of extra work.

In the race the problems continued with the team suffering mechanical and driver errors. The #75 Porsche had only just made its way back into the top 6 in the LM GTE Am category when Al Faisal was seen hitting the concrete Porsche Curves wall backwards and at high speed. The incident ended the race for ProSpeed and brought out the safety car.

Team Felbermayr-Proton (LM GTE Pro & LM GTE Am, 2x Porsche)
A rather disappointing edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Team Felbermayr-Proton. Both Porsches, the #77 of Lieb/Lietz/Holzer and the #88 of Ried/Roda/Ruberti, failed to finish the race and were retired early Sunday morning.

In LM GTE Pro Lieb, Lietz and Holzer were in contention for a podium finish and were in third place after six hours. Just before 4.30am Lieb came to a stop at the second chicane and despite attempts to get going again he was forced to retire with a gearbox problem.
The LM GTE Am Porsche managed to get up into second in class, before a puncture resulted in the loss of positions. Just before 8 o’clock the car lost drive and stopped.

JMW Motorsport (LM GTE Pro, Ferrari)
JMW Motorsport’s ‘Angry Wasp’ wasn’t so angry at all at Le Mans. The #66 Ferrari of Cocker, Walker and Wills had a rather uneventful race and slowly moved up the order. Cold temperatures at night meant the team had to single stint its Dunlops, but nothing was lost. Unfortunately a driveshaft failure meant that Walker had to park his car and as he and the JMW team were unable to fix it or get the car back under its own power the team retired from sixth in class.

JWA-Avila (LM GTE Am, Porsche)
Small team, the only one on Pirelli’s and a lot of time lost during the practice session. They weren’t the best ingredients to start the Le Mans 24 Hours and the result was that JWA-Avila was always at the back of the field. Despite some minor issues, including trackrod damage after glancing the wall and stop-and-go penalties JWA-Avila managed to finish within the Le Mans 24 Hours in 33rd overall. With 290 laps completed the Palttala/Camathias/Daniels finished 39 laps behind the class winner.

JMB Racing (LM GTE Am, Ferrari)
JMB Racing was at Le Mans this year – but they were hardly noticed on the track. Not having the bad luck other teams had, Rodrigues, Illiano and Ferté did not manage to get any better than 32nd overall – second to last of the classified cars and two laps behind the AF Corse-Waltrip Ferrari that had so many problems…

(Images: Gerlach Delissen)

1 Comment on Le Mans: Team-by-Team review – LM GTE

  1. Great comeback for Aston after a desastrous 2011 – I hope this is the beginning of a “full recovery”. And congrats to the AF Corse team – that must have been a hard work to build up a new car in the Le Mans week, and the class win was a great reward. Bad luck for the works Corvette’s this time, but as usual a strong team performance by Larbre in the GT Am class. As I said earlier it’s a pity that the BOP rules keep the Porsche’s far away from the GTE top pace, I hope this will get better with the new 911.

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