The grid for the Le Mans 24 Hours will be expanded to 62 cars for 2019, adding two cars to the original 60-car entry.
The change means that United Autosports’ second Ligier JS P217 and Danish team High Class Racing’s ORECA 07 have been added to field.
“In February, the selection committee faced a harder task than it has in many years,” said Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. “There were 75 applications – all of a high standard – and it was particularly difficult to choose only 60. We quickly came to the conclusion that we had to find a way of accepting additional competitors, and our crews confirmed the feasibility of adding two garages to pit lane. We knuckled down and are overjoyed to be able to accept 62 entrants for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s a record number, and a sign that this race is as popular as ever.”
These additions have been made possible by a plan to accommodate two more cars with temporary garages that will be added to the bottom end of the current pit lane in time for the Le Mans Test Day.
Both garages will be placed in the gap, which doubles as an access road, between the first two permanent garages at pit-in and the Module Sportif building.
To enable these new garages to be installed, the ACO will need to create a new pit-lane access road on the other side of the Module Sportif Building and relocate the current VIP car park which sits behind it.
The final arrangements, which will determine which team(s) will take up the temporary garages, have yet to be made.
The 62 car grid will be a record for the race, and one that’s set to be broken again in the near future, with the ACO still in the midst of planning a major rebuild of the current pit structure to accommodate an even larger grid in time for the 2023 24 Hours.
For High Class Racing, this is huge news. The team has been a full-season LMP2 entrant for the past two years in the European Le Mans Series, and will now make its Le Mans debut.
It had filed for an entry this year and in 2019, and was turned down by the ACO on both occasions due to there being such high demand.
Being denied again this year came as a major disappointment for the drivers Anders Fjordbach and Dennis Andersen, and for the High Class Racing team, which invested in a pair of new ORECA 07 Gibsons to replace its Dallara P217 chassis for this season in a bid to achieve stronger results.
United Autosports will also see this news as a major relief. The team had expected to be awarded a two-car entry to the race because the outfit fields the most cars of any team racing under ACO rules.
“I’m delighted with the news, whatever the circumstances,” Alex Brundle, who will drive the No. 32 Ligier at the race said to RACER.
“Obviously it’s the highlight of our year and it’s always magic to be involved in that race. To get a last-gasp entry makes it all the more special.”
Currently, United Autosports competes in the ELMS’ LMP2 class, the Michelin Le Mans Cup’s LMP3 category, will step up the FIA WEC in 2019/20, and this past winter competed in both prototype classes of the Asian Le Mans Series.
“My first thought is that we’re really happy, delighted, it’s what we hoped for originally,” co-owner Richard Dean told RACER. “But my second thought is that we now have to undo everything we’d undone from our original plans. Six weeks to prepare for Le Mans isn’t a long time – the lead time on components, gearbox and everything else on the car is often longer than that. But it’s a nice problem to have. We’ve had to cancel hotels, back out of sponsor agreements, and obviously, we had commitments with drivers we’re resurrecting. It’s created a certain amount of work but for the Le Mans 24 Hours it feels worth it.
“You always hoped something might happen, and we heard the news that the Spirit of Race Ferrari pulled out. But did I have confirmation before today? No. But we always hear rumors and we’ve heard a lot about a new pit complex with a bigger grid. When you want something to happen, you read between the lines and start imagining things. But, today was the day we got confirmation and heard for sure we’re in. It’s good news!”
High Class Racing and United Autosports occupied the second and third spots on the reserve list for the race. Top of the list when it was first published was French LMP2 team Duqueine Engineering, which was previously announced as a part of the current entry after the No.55 Spirit of Race Ferrari dropped out.
Along with the news, the ACO released a revised entry list.
Jordan King (who made his WEC debut at Sebring) and IMSA regular Ricky Taylor have been added to the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA, to race alongside previously confirmed Dane, David Heinemeier Hansson.
In GTE Am meanwhile, the No. 62 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari’s line-up has been fully revealed; the car featuring former class Le Mans Am winner Rob Smith alongside American Cooper MacNeil and Ferrari factory driver Toni Vilander.
The reserve list features just five cars now, with Eurasia Motorsport, which competes in the Asian Le Mans Series, now sitting atop the list. Below it are the No. 24 Panis Barthez and No. 27 IDEC Sport Ligiers P217s. The remaining cars are GTEs – the second Team Project 1 Porsche, and the TF Sport Red River Sport Aston Martin Vantage.