The first free practice session today at 4 pm, will mark the official opening of the 86th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Sixty cars are due to start, divided equally between prototypes and GT cars. The GT contingent includes 17 cars in the GTE-Pro class and 13 in the GTE-Am. There are three Ferraris in the Pro class and five in the Am.
GTE-Pro. Three Ferraris are competing in the top class for professional drivers, all in the colours of AF Corse. The iconic no. 51 will be crewed by world champions Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado, who today celebrates 29 years on the track. They will be joined by Brazilian Daniel Serra. Last year Calado and Pier Guidi dominated the Drivers’ championship with an incredible second half of the season and amazing wins like those at Austin and Fuji. Daniel Serra, instead, started the IMSA season in America with a pole position in the Ferrari of Spirit of Race at both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. The same trio as last year will drive car no. 71. Sam Bird will take turns in the 488 GTE with Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina, a globetrotting driver who has been notching up some great results in the European Le Mans Series, the Blancpain Endurance and the Pirelli World Challenge.
Car no. 52. The 488 GTE no. 52 is not the usual one that takes part in the FIA WEC. Instead, it is only competing in this race and is doing so with drivers who mix experience and youth. The crew includes Toni Vilander, one of the most experienced drivers in the world, twice winner of the Sarthe classic, Pipo Derani, who despite his tender years has already triumphed in the 24 Hours of Daytona and Sebring, and Antonio Giovinazzi. Giovinazzi has prepared with dedication for his debut in the French race, practising on the simulator and working hard in the test two weeks before the race. Indeed, he recorded the best time for his crew in car no. 52.
GTE-Am. Five Ferrari cars will be racing in the GTE-Am class, three of which are habitual FIA WEC competitors, while the other two appear in Europe and America. Giancarlo Fisichella, Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci will take turns in the 488 GTE of Spirit of Race, while Motoaki Ishikawa, Olivier Beretta and Eddie Cheever III will be in car no. 70 of MR Racing. Car no. 61 of Clearwater Racing, driven by Keitha Sawa, Weng Sun Mok and Matt Griffin, completes the trio of Ferraris entered for the entire championship season. They are joined by the 488 GTEs of JMW Motorsport, which has abandoned its traditional yellow on behalf of sponsor Cooper MacNeil who will be at the wheel along with Jeff Segal and Liam Griffin, and that of Risi Competizione, entered by Keating Motorsport and driven by Jeroen Bleekemolen, Lucas Stolz and Ben Keating. Today’s free practices (4 pm to 8 pm) will be followed by the first qualifying session (10 pm to 12 am). The other two qualifying sessions take place on Thursday (7 pm to 9 pm and 10 pm to 12 am).