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4 April 2001.
The waiting was over for the teams on Monday of this week, April 2. For those who knew a day earlier, perhaps some of them felt as though they had been well and truly April fooled. From the outside, it’s hard to work out why some are accepted and others rejected, but even harder when a list of applicants is never released. The total number of applications was thought to total about 80, which is perhaps 20 less than a year ago. Are teams finally getting the message that unless they show a definite commitment to provide a 24 hour race car – and also a commitment now to the A and / or E LMS – they won’t be considered? The contradiction is that some teams ignore the 'guidelines' and still get in.
It’s much more straightforward for the factory teams....unless you’ve only just shaken down your car for the first time, as one did yesterday. Audi made it clear long ago that there would only be two ‘factory’ R8s, because their customer teams were showing all the signs of providing at least one more entry. One Audi might have been entered by an Italian organisation, until Champion and Johansson both committed to the race. Four seems quite enough. Pick your winner from this group, conveniently numbered 1 – 2 – 3 – 4.
The Cadillac and Panoz Motor Sport entries (two each) are entirely predictable, as are the three Chryslers, although the fact that two are entered by Viper Team Oreca is surely an anomaly of the selection / qualification process. Oreca had two confirmed entries for Vipers, but didn’t want to enter Vipers, so they were gifted two guaranteed entries, not that they wouldn’t have received three anyway – which is what they’ve got. Henri Pescarolo’s C52 performed heroically in 2000’s race, so he gets two chances this time. Quite right too. Can we now predict the first six places on June 17?
SMG and Team Ascari are the ‘lucky’ privateers. Cynics might suggest that the latter entered Donington’s ELMS for one reason only, while the former didn’t need to. Ascari have only one confirmed entry though, but their second car is the only reserve in LMP. Anyone significant missing? Kremer? Lola themselves?
LM GTP is simply explained – Bentley. Anyone significant missing? Er, that unusual Lotus GT1 effort?
LMP 675 is an unusual collection. Being generous, four of the successful teams have actually built or are running genuine 675s, while Fabian Roock has managed to get his Roock-KnightHawk Lola SR2 derivative into ALMS races already, as a 675, even though it is mainly Lola B2K / 40. The odd thing about this class – or one of the odd things - is that only Reynard have sold genuine customer cars. Reynard, who made a pig’s ear for the 900 class last year, but have now sold cars to ROC (one in, one reserve) and Barbour Racing (two in). Barbour’s apparent success in the GT class last year seems to have earned him two spots, while ROC raced hard in this class last time, but only get one – despite a form of manufacturer support. Will Barbour’s Judds last for 24 hours?
Will MG’s little turbocharged engines? Both cars are in, and the car is apparently a stunner, with colours perhaps reminiscent of Bentley’s. A Bentley that looks like a Toyota, an MG dressed up as a baby Bentley. A Pilbeam dressed up as...an SR2 car. How did Rowan Racing manage to secure a place? Will the Nicholson engine power this one? No, it's a 3.4 litre IES Nissan V6. One WR is a reminder of front rows of old, but sadly brings back memories of tragedy and unreliability. If anyone deserves a finish, this little team does. ROC and WR both have reserve places, as well as definite entries.
Anyone significant missing in LMP 675? Multimatic won the class last year, so one can only guess that they didn’t enter this time. Stanley Dickens’ team? Did he enter his SR2 Lola, or is he concentrating on the FIA SCC, to the exclusion of all else? Gunnar Racing were turned down. Their Porsche powered Lola met a frosty reception at Sebring, and hasn’t been able to live down that ‘welcome’. That’s a shame. The power unit might just have been a 24 hour winner. How many 675s will last for 24 hours?
When will a manufacturer see the market that is just waiting to be exploited in this 675 class?
GTS is a three marque scrap in prospect. Corvette against Saleen against Viper. Chamberlain have postponed any Viper useage until after Le Mans, so with Oreca busy in another class and Carsport creating a ‘new’ car this year (for the FIA), only Belmondo remains as a ‘traditional’ Viper entrant. He has two entries, and the other two V10s are also French entered. The Equipe de France FFSA car is likely to be prepared to the highest standard that a well known former Viper entrant can manage. Larbre prepare anything well.
Outside of the FIA GT Championship, this could be the Vipers’ best chance of an international win. Corvette Racing may feel that they have earned a 24 hour win in Europe, but Saleen have beaten them already, over 12 hours at Sebring. Corvette’s two cars start as favourites, but four Saleens at the start could see one in there at the death. This will be a hotly contested class.
Anyone significant missing? Only those already mentioned.
The GT class is lining up to be as unpredictable as 675. All bar one are Porsches. Taisan won last year in that gripping race for what seemed to be second with Haberthur – but the Japanese still only get one entry (plus one reserve), while the Swiss aren’t listed at all. Neither are Skea Racing, who eventually nabbed runner up position last time. Seikel Motorsport get two entries, while Larbre get one and a reserve. Freisinger also have one in and one spare. So why do Seikel get two? Noel del Bello is back to make up the numbers, Perspective Racing are also back but with more ambition, while Racing Engineering are probably between the two in terms of potential success.
That leaves just two more Porsches. There’s the unusually named Warmup Luc Alphand Adventures entry, and there’s PK Sport / Ricardo from the UK. This is the only British entered Porsche, and a clearly defined plan for 2001 seems to have paid off for this outfit. Promotion to international level can be rapid if the ambition of a select core is given a chance. Watch them take it. Ascari, Bentley, RML, MG and PK Sport comprise the five entries seeking support from the 50 000 invaders. Bentley might struggle to create that Jaguar effect, MG seem more likely to, while the private entries will capture the imagination of many.
Callaway provide the welcome relief from flat sixes. Ten ‘Snappers’ take on one American entry.
Anyone significant missing? EMKA and Cirtek from the UK, BMW of course, although there was never any intention to use the M3 GTR in anything outside the ALMS. Alex Job? Staying in America too, presumably. White Lightning? Did they opt out late? RWS / Red Bull? Did they opt out too, after recent troubles and tragedy?
Quick summary / predictions. Audi will be rampant again, and no one looks likely to keep them in sight for six hours let alone 24. The 675 survivor will win. GTS is the most open class. GT might be expected to go to Larbre or Freisinger, but an outsider might just get a clean run and surprise us all.
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