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After qualifying and final practice, it’s time to do the impossible: handicap a 24-hour race, when a failed pit stop can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Here’s a look at this year’s favorites in the 62-car field, led by the top qualifiers in each class: #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing in Hypercar, #31 WRT in LMP2, #64 Corvette Racing in LMGTE Pro and the 61 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE in LMGTE AM.
Let’s start with the Hypercar class. It’s the easiest to handicap, given the top performance of the two Toyota Gazoo hybrid race cars, which showed what they had by qualifying for Hyperpole at the top of the standings. Repeat wins, dollar investment, quality driver lineup and experienced crews make Toyota the best bet in the whole business.
It won’t take much for the Alpine to leap forward, despite the penalty imposed by the balance of performance gods at the last minute, and the two Glickenhaus 007s will also be there. Reliability will be key with the three non-hybrids if the Toyotas stumble.
Hypercar qualifying results:
- #8 Toytota Gazoo Racing (Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Ryo Hirakawa)
- #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez)
- Alpine n°36 (Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrao, Matthieu)
- No. 709 Glickenhaus 007 LMH (Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Franck Mailleux)
- No. 708 Glickenhaus 007 LMH (Pipo Derani, Romani Dumas, Olivier Pla)
The LMP2s are the hardest to handicap, given that 26 of the 27 entered look exactly alike, and the odd car, a Ligier in a sea of Orecas, doesn’t really have an advantage.
The qualification was as close as academic. Let’s go with the local teams: Team Penske, #5, will be typically Penske prepared, and the driver line-up is experienced, apart from Dane Cameron, who is making his first trip to Le Mans.
In addition, the two United Autosports entries, numbers 22 and 23, know Le Mans well, and should be solid, as will Team WRT, numbers 31 and 32, dominating in qualifying.
Top LMP2 qualifiers
- No. 31 WRT (Robin Frijns, Sean Gelael, René Rast
- N°41 RealTeam WRT (Rui Andrade, Ferdinand Habsbourg, Norman Nato)
- No. 22 United Autosports USA (Felipe Albuquerque, Philip Hanson, Will Owen)
- No. 38 Jota (Antonio Felix da Costa, Roberto Gonzalez, Will Stevens)
- Prema Orlen team n°9 (Lorenzo Colombo, Louis Deletraz, Robert Kubica)
- No. 23 United Autosports USA (Oliver Jarvis, Alex Lynn, Josh Pierson)
- N°1 Richard Mille Racing (Lilou Wadoux, Sébastien Ogier, Charles Milesi)
- No. 65 Panis Racing (Julien Canal, Nicolas Jamin, Job Van Uitert)
- Team No. 5 Penske (Dane Cameron, Emmanuel Collard, Felipe Nasr)
- Team n°32 WRT (Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti, Dries Vanthoor)
LM GTE Pro
LM GTE Pro is a small class with just seven entries, and so far the two Corvette Racing cars, Nos. 64 and 63, have shown plenty of strength in qualifying at the top, and there’s no denying the team would like a win for the first time since 2015. Porsches and Ferraris are always a factor, but it would be great to see a Corvette on the top step of the podium for the first time in eight years.
LMGTE qualifying results
- No. 64 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R (Tommy Milner, Alexander Sims, Nick Tandy)
- No. 63 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette Racing C8.R (Nicky Catsburg, Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor)
- #91 Porsche GT Team (Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz, Frederic Makowiecki)
- #92 Porsche GT Team (Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor)
- Ferrari AF Corse #52 (Miguel Molina, Antonio Fuoco, Davide Rigon)
- Ferrari AF Corse #51 (Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Daniel Serra)
- #74 Riley Motorsports Ferrari 488 GTE Evo (Felipe Fraga, Sam Bird, Shane Van Gisbergen)
LM GTE Am is a brutal category to handicap. We will start with the AF Corse Ferrari, n°61, which was in the lead in qualifying. We also like TF Sport’s #33 Aston Martin, despite its 19th place finish, as cars with American enthusiast Ben Keating on the driver list tend to finish on the podium. The strength of the #57 Ferrari driver line-up in Kessel could also be a plus.
Top LMGTE Am qualifiers
- #61 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo (Vincent Abril, Conrad Grunewald, Louis Prette)
- #57 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GTE Evo (Mikkel Jensen, Takeshi Kimura, Frederik Schandorff)
- #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 (Sebastian Priaulx, Christian Reed, Harry Tincknell)
- No. 98 North West AMR Aston Martin Vantage AMR (Paul Dalla Lana, David Pittard, Nicki Thiim)
- Ferrari 488 GTE Evo AF Corse n°54 (Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci, Nick Cassidy)
- Ferrari 488 GTE Evo Iron Dames n°85 (Rachel Frey, Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy)
- Porsche 911 RSR-19 #86 GR Racing (Michael Wainwright, Riccardo Pera, Benjamin Barker)
- #56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR-19 (Brendan Iribe, Oliver Millroy, Ben Barnicoat)
- #46 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR-19 (Matteo Cairoli Mikkel Pedersen, Nicolas Leutwiler)
- #79 Weathertech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 (Cooper MacNeil, Julien Andlauer, Thomas Merrill)
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