With the Le Mans 24 Hour entry list now out and final, the roster of those that didn’t make the cut makes for tough reading for several top teams and drivers. This year, most of the big omissions from the list come in the LMP2 class, with multiple European Le Mans Series teams in particular not making the cut.
United Autosports team principal and co-owner Richard Dean was left frustrated by the ACO’s decision to leave its second Ligier JS P217 off the list. The US-flagged, UK-run team co-owned by Dean and McLaren CEO Zak Brown – which competes in the ELMS full-time in LMP2 and has committed to the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship – will only have a single car in this year’s running of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
That entry was handed to it as an automatic invitation last weekend after it won the Asian Le Mans Series’ LMP2 title at Sepang. Dean feels that his team’s years of loyalty competing in ACO-sanctioned series, coupled with its commitment to running 11 cars across three ACO-sanctioned championships last year, should have been rewarded.
“It’s a staggering message to their customers, that adding a successful Asian program effectively cancels out a major commitment to all the other ACO Championships you are present in,” he told RACER.
“We entered 11 cars across three ACO-run championships last year. We won races in the ELMS, both overall and in LMP3, and brought new customers into the ladder through a three-car effort in the Michelin Le Mans Cup. This in addition to bringing four cars across three classes to Asia; winning a race apiece with all four of those cars; taking the championship; and staying in contention until the final round in two other classes.
“I am left with no other conclusion to reach than the fact that our Asian Series win effectively allowed the Selection Committee to take what, by any measure, would surely have been at least one selected entry on merit, off the table.
“We bring high-quality presentation, and have brought big-name drivers to Le Mans with (Juan Pablo) Montoya and (Paul) di Resta. (ED: The team scoring a class podium at Le Mans in 2018).
“I am genuinely confused as to the message to the teams being sent here. It’s not about who is on the list; it’s about the fact that loyalty in depth, including our announcement weeks ago that we would be joining the FIA WEC in LMP2, does not seem to have been rewarded in any way at all.
“Effectively, the only message to an LMP2 team here is that unless you qualified by right via the WEC, there is no way you were going to get more than one car at Le Mans this year. It makes decisions about which championships to support, and with how many cars, all the more difficult for us – and for everyone else – going forward.”
In a statement accompanying the release of the entry list, ACO President Pierre Fillon cited variety as the reason for the decision to leave certain cars out, and in the case of LMP2, not hand any ELMS teams two cars for the race.
“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,” he said.
Duqueine Engineering, the outfit behind Norma’s growing LMP3 operation, also misssed the cut, as the French team was placed atop the reserve list despite its ELMS success, finishing eighth in the LMP2 standings last year.
And Danish outfit High Class Racing, which competed in the ELMS full-time the past two season as a Dallara team, before opting to switch to ORECA for 2019, sits second on the list and is another team that is now unlikely to race in June.
The team also failed to get an entry last year, but had hoped that by entering the ELMS for a third season and committing a pair of Dallara P217s to the 2019/20 Asian Le Mans Series season, that its chances of getting a Le Mans place this year would be strengthened.
High Class’ Anders Fjordbach was another member of the ELMS pack to vent his frustrations to RACER after today’s news.
“We, just like any other team who haven’t got an entry, are disappointed. I fully understand it’s a difficult decision ACO must make. I am a bit disappointed just like the rest of our team, sponsors and partners,” he said.
“We were first reserve last year, which was also very disappointing after several talks with ACO staff, assuring us that we were ‘in’ or that ‘much should go wrong before we wouldn’t get the entry’. But a lot must have gone wrong, because we didn’t get the entry.
“On those words, we made contracts, found sponsors, sold VIP tickets, but we ended up as reserve. That was tough, and expensive.
“This year, we applied without any expectations. Lesson learned last year, when we got carried away with promising words from the right people and ended up as second reserve.
“We do what we can to get an entry. The team has been running since year one of the current LMP2 era, now bringing in a third car for Dennis and I in the ELMS. Maybe we should have bought a 488 instead?
“Anyway, some will be disappointed, some will celebrate tonight. That’s how it goes when there are so few spots and so many eager participants.”