41 cars are ready for the 2019 season opener of the European Le Mans Series.
The list is without surprises, since it’s the exact same 41 cars that were announced two months ago.
The start of the ELMS season was previously used by some FIA World Endurance Championship teams for a bit of extra running. But since we are in the middle of a FIA WEC season, and the cars are on a ship, on their way back to Europe from Sebring, there are no extra teams entering this year.
We have 45 runners last year, but that resulted in teams having to move a bit closer together, since there are only 36 garages at Paul Ricard. While some teams had to share with other teams, it will just be seven of the teams with double entries, who has to do that within their own team.
There are still three TBA, so there are a few spare seats, if a driver show up with his helmet, he might have a chance. But that also results in some of the teams getting a fine, since race control needs to have the full entry list 30 days before the event.
This is the highest level of the ELMS field we’ve seen so far. Especially the LMP2 category has some impressive driver line-ups, where the Silver drivers will have a bigger role in 2019. United Autosports, IDEC Sport and the defending champions G-Drive Racing will once again show up with some stellar line-ups, but there are some dark horses in the shape of DragonSpeed, Algarve Pro Racing, Duqueine Engineering, Inter Europol Competition, RLR MSport and Carlin.
High Class Racing #20 in the LMP2 category will bring a brand new ORECA 07. The first tests for the team have been really positive, and even with limited running, they were faster than before with their Dallara. As long as Dennis Andersen will feel comfortable in the car, the two-driver combo of Andersen and Anders Fjordbach, could be a candidate for some podiums in selected rounds. But everything needs to work 100% for them, since there are so many teams competing for that podium.
United Autosports will for sure be a factor in the LMP3 category too, but Nielsen Racing and Inter Europol Competition showed good speed in the Asian season, that finished one and a half months ago.
The defending champions, RLR MSport #43 are back, but with three new drivers. The two Danish drivers, Martin Vedel Mortensen and Christian Stubbe Olsen will have British driver Martin Rich as a teammate, and could well be a factor as well.
Eurointernational #11 with Dane Mikkel Jensen and German Jens Petersen will be a two-man team, and with Jensen’s Pole Positions, and Petersen’s Michelin Le Mans Cup Championship in 2018, they could very well surprise the others. The Eurointernational team has previously shown good speed, running at the front of the field.
The GTE category will be a fight between Porsche and Ferrari, with nine very equal cars, and the Bronze drivers will determine the victorious teams. Both Porsche and Ferrari have loaded the cars with more or less works drivers, so the battles will be bumper to bumper, as long as the professional drivers are in the cars.
There is no doubt that the defending champions Proton Competition/Dempsey – Proton Racing are the big favourites, but Luzich Racing Ferrari #51 with Alessandro Pier Guidi, Fabien Lavergne and Nicklas Nielsen could very well be their toughest opposition, or at least in the fight for podium positions.
Kessel Racing has two Ferrari’s entered, and while #60 might look like the faster on paper, the #83 gets the most attention with the three ladies Michelle Gatting, Manuela Gost and Rahal Frey in the car. They will be the only females behind the wheel in the ELMS this year, but there are some female engineers on the pitwall too.
Other than previously mentioned DragonSpeed #21 in the LMP2 category, we have another FIA WEC team in the series too, with Team Project 1 Porsche #56 in GTE running a double programe too. They are not guest entries, but full season entrants, and their goal is to win the championship.
Top 2 in both LMP2 and GTE will all receive a Le Mans ticket for the 2020 race, just like the winner of the LMP3 category will. These spots are extremely attractive, since it’s the only guaranteed way to get a spot in the prestigious race – other than entering the FIA WEC of course.
The European Le Mans Series 2019 will start testing this Monday and Tuesday at Paul Ricard, which is located between Marseilles and Nice, while the race weekend runs on 12-14 April at the same circuit.