The ACO press conference took place earlier today, revealing the provisional entry list associated with the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship, 2016 European Le Mans Series and the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The entries comprise of 32 entrants in the WEC. 44 entrants in the ELMS and 60 entrants at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The additional capacity at Le Mans forms the largest grid seen at the Endurance-classic since the 1950’s, and is possible through an increase in the number of garages at Le Mans.
We aren’t seeing any major surprises in LMP1 for 2016. Audi, Porsche and Toyota will run two cars throughout the whole 2016 season. The only driver change in any of the factory teams this season is Kamui Kobayashi. The Japanese former F1 pilot was earlier this week confirmed to replace Alex Wurz who retired from WEC at the end of 2015.
In terms of the non-factory LMP1 entrants. Rebellion Racing return with two of the AER powered R-ONE’s. Rival privateer LMP1 team, ByKolles also continues in LMP1 with a singular CLM P1/01. Both Rebellion and ByKolles will be running Dunlop tires in the series in 2016 as opposed to the factory LMP1 entrants who remain with Michelin.
LMP2 in the FIA WEC will see Daytona 24 overall winners, ESM once again run a full season FIA WEC campaign. The team will run two Ligier JS P2’s however with Nissan power in the WEC and at Le Mans instead of the Honda (HPD) power used by the team to take them to the win last weekend at Daytona.
SMP racing has two Nissan BR01’s on the full season FIA WEC entry list and therefore at Le Mans. Mikhail Aleshin led the team at Daytona and last season. However with his return to Indycar, former F1 driver Vitaly Petrov will lead one of the teams entrants whilst Nicholas Minassian leads the sister entrant.
Speaking of F1. The Lowden/Booth ‘Manor’ have a singular entrant in the FIA WEC for 2016 with an Oreca 05. The full driver lineup has yet to be confirmed by the team, however Tor Graves who formally raced for ‘Manor’ in British F3 is re-united with his old team as the listed driver.
The other notable LMP2 entrants in the FIA WEC, and therefore having entries in the 24 Hours of Le Mans are the two Alpine A460’s run by Signatech Alpine and Baxi DC Racing. The cars are effectively rebadged Oreca 05’s running Alpine branding.
The Final LMP2 entrants in WEC come from Strakka Racing with the rather venerable Gibson O15S, the team a stalwart in the championship and the G-Drive Racing team which return for 2016, although with a switch from Ligier to Oreca.
ELMS entrants due for appearance at Le Mans are JOTA sport, running under the G-Drive Racing banner this year with a Gibson 015s, Greaves Motorsport, Krohn Racing, Thiriet by TDS, Panis Barthez competition, Murphy Prototypes and Pegasus Racing, among other full season ELMS entrants have also had entries granted for the 24 hours of Le Mans. Whilst additionally IMSA entrant Michael Shank Racing had an invitation granted.
For WEC, the series has two Ferrari 488 GTE’s from AF Corse, two Aston Martin Racing entrants, plus two Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT entrants as previously announced.
Additionally to the three factory teams The FIA WEC has a full season entrant from Dempsey-Proton Racing, running the 2016 spec Porsche 911 RSR. The only Porsche representation in the GTE Pro class full season in FIA WEC competition.
For Le Mans, the GTE Pro grid is expanded. Ford was granted entries for the two IMSA entered Ford GT’s, in addition to the already automatic FIA WEC entrants. Corvette Racing also returns to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the two factory IMSA entrants.
Additionally Risi Competizione has an entry for Le Mans bringing another F488 to the field, whilst Porsche Motorsport will have factory representation at Le Mans with two Porsche 911 RSR (2016) entrants, supplied through its IMSA US commitments. Bringing the grid size at Le Mans in GTE PRO up to 14 entrants.
FIA WEC has a rather small GTE AM field. Larbre Competition are returning with the Corvette, whilst KCMG switch from LMP2 to GTE Am, running a Porsche 911 RSR. Additionally the other new entrant in the class is Gulf Racing UK stepping up from the ELMS to WEC, again running a Porsche 911 RSR. AF Corse, Abu Dhabi Proton Racing and Aston Martin Racing also have a singular entry in the FIA WEC.
The class, as with GTE PRO expands for Le Mans. The IMSA team Scuderia Corsa was granted an entry, alongside a plethora of entrants from ELMS and AsLMS.
LMP3 (ELMS only)
Whilst ELMS has dropped GTC (GT3) entrants for 2016. It has gained substantial entrants in the LMP3 class with 20 entrants in the class. All except one of these entrants are Ligier JS P3’s. The singular entry that is not, is a Riley AR-2 run by Murphy Prototypes with Ginetta having left the class.
Innovative car (Garage 56)
The ACO formally acknowledged the entrant for quadruple amputee Frederic Sausset, who will enter a modified SRT41 OAK Racing entered Morgan LMP2 into the 2016 edition of the race.
A very strong entry at Le Mans, no real surprises in the small drop in full season entrants from last year in the WEC with Nissan’s withdrawal and a cut of one entrant from Aston Martin. Considering that the FIA WEC also lost the factory Manthey Porsche team, it has managed to still retain a strong grid.
The ELMS grid is spectacular once again. I’m slightly disappointed by the dropping of GTC, in exchange for the GT3 Michelin Cup, the ACO has founded, mostly for losing the variety the class brought. However I’m equally impressed by the grid size ELMS has achieved and the mass expansion of LMP3 entrants.
As for Le Mans, well many said after Le Mans 2015, that it was the peak for the event in this era, and perhaps with what has happened at VW, it is the peak in terms of LMP1 but the list shows sixty entrants, and another ten entrants in reserve, showing the health and strength of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in this era of the race pretty clearly to me.
The FIA WEC and ELMS seasons get underway on the weekend of 15-17th April 2016 at Silverstone. The 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place on June 18th 2016.