Comment – Is it OK to be disappointed?

It happens time after time, year after year. When the entry list for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is released, there are 60 happy teams and x number of disappointed teams.

2019 is no different.

There is no doubt that the 60 cars, that have been allowed in have absolutely nothing to complain about – but still one of the teams does so.

22 minutes after the entry list was confirmed, there was a reaction from United Autosports. They got one car in the race, by winning the Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 title one week ago. They, however, were far from happy.

“Truly disappointed to only have one entry at this years LM24 – having won one in Asian LMS. Given the huge support we give all ACO championships. European LMS x4 cars, LeMans Cup x3, Asian LMS x4 & now FIA WEC x1 a second entry on merit seemed like a fair reward for our commitment.”

BANG – no doubt that the team from Garforth in the United Kingdom are unhappy!

But do they really have something to be disappointed about?

They entered eleven cars in ACO series in 2018, and had a few starts in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship too. So they are right, that they have supplied a lot of cars in the sportscar world, not only through the past 12 months, but a few years in advance as well.

But why haven’t they got more cars on the entry list then?

ACO President Pierre Fillon has already given the answer:

“It wasn’t an easy decision. We had to set ourselves a roadmap and follow it. For LMP2, the first decision was to field as many different teams as possible before considering any second cars. We wanted to reward teams that have been loyal to the race. All selection processes entail rejections.”

So that’s a very clear message from Monsieur Fillon – but that answer wasn’t enough for United Autosports boss, Richard Dean.

“You would have thought we would receive an entry on merit through our eleven cars in various ACO series. The fact we won an entry in Asian LMS seems to have cancelled this ‘on merit’ entry. A question; why do Asian LMS in the future?”

United Autosports #32
Photo: JJ Media

If you take a step back and look from a wider perspective, the ACO has done what they did to protect and encourage all other LMP2 and LMP3 teams. United Autosports are active in all series, and enters with something that might be described as using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, when the team rolls into the paddock with their transporters. The term “The Death Star”, with reference to the Star Wars movie, has been mentioned by some of the smaller teams that UA competes against.

If United Autosports had gotten 2, 3 or 4 entries to the Le Mans race, it would no doubt had attracted Silver and Bronze rated drivers, which are an essential part of a LMP2 line-up, to choose UA only because “they usually to get a lot of entries for the Le Mans race, so we will probably have a safe entry too…”

So is the criticism of the ACO okay from United Autosports? No, we don’t think so – it’s a bit arrogant to think like that. It’s important for ACO see the wider perspective, and not just please one wealthy team, who expects to get a lot of entries to the worlds biggest race, if only they participate in a lot of races.

So is the 2019 fair for all involved?

We would say yes – at least 95% of it.

It might seem a bit uneven with just 25 LMP cars, while 35 GT cars have got the starting permission. It seems a bit excessive that both Porsche and Ford have 4 GTE Pro entries each, when there are other teams battling for a place in the race. And that Risi Competizione, that doesn’t even do the full IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, gets an entry could appear to be a bit of a compensation, since the two other brands are allowed four cars each. BMW, Aston Martin and Corvette only send two entries. In fact, all GTE Pro cars sending in an entry, got it.

Wouldn’t it had been possible to limit Ford and Porsche to three cars each – that would have given two more spaces for LMP2 team. That would have given Duqueine Engineering and High Class Racing an entry to the race. By doing so, we would have been closer to the 50/50 LMP/GT split that the ACO has aimed at in the past. By adding a further two LMP2 teams, would have made all teams sending in an request for the race, have at least one car in the race.

Porsche #94
Photo: JJ Media

Yeah, but the Proton team has four cars in GTE Am – Yes, but they only have that because they have two FIA WEC cars in the shape of #77 and #88. They won the race in June 2018, handing them an additional entry. And then they closed off the 2018 season by winning the ELMS title in GTE, which gave them another auto-entry. So they have four entries due to their results. Had the ACO said no to one or two of those, it would have been against their own rules regarding auto-entries for the race.

And then back to United Autosports. They had three realistic chances of winning three Le Mans tickets at the very final round of the Asian Le Mans Series – they only grabbed one. They had four cars entered ELMS 2018, but none of them managed to win a single Championship. They had two cars entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the best positioned car finished third in the LMP2 category.

What would the other teams had said IF United Autosports had won two Le Mans tickets from ELMS (LMP2 and LMP3 title), 3 from Asian Le Mans Series (LMP2, LMP2 Am and LMP3) and one from winning Le Mans 2018? Oh yeah, and had a FIA WEC entry or two? Then one single team from Garforth in the UK would have sat on 50% of the LMP2 starting grid in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. How fun would that have been? But it’s actually not a crazy thought. Their possibility gets even higher for that in 2019, where both the first and second placed cars in the ELMS LMP2 Championship will get an auto-entry for the 24 hours race in 2020.

So did the right teams get an entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2019? From where we stand, yes – with the slight asterix next to the fourth Ford and Porsche and the extra Ferrari from Risi Competizione.

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