The Le Mans 24 entry list has been in a bit of a flux lately. First was the shock postponement of the Peugeot team’s new radical Hypercar. Next up was the abandonment of the race from Russian-backed G-Drive over, um, political differences. After that most recent shuffle, the ACO was forced to re-open the entry process to re-fill the 62-car grid. It was only open for 48 hours, and it would seem that was all that was needed. The entry list is finally finalized, though there are not any reserve teams on the list, so if any of these cars fail to make it to June, the grid will simply get smaller.
This is the first “normal” Le Mans since 2019. The race was postponed to September in 2020 due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, and pushed out to August in 2021. In both cases that meant longer night running and hotter track temperatures, which certainly didn’t help with car reliability, or driver reliability for that matter. The race in 2022 will return to its June time slot, and there will be no limits placed on fan attendance. Surely this will be the race teams will want to win.
The entry list is totally packed, but most of it will be teams that the average fan won’t care about. A full 50 cars on the grid are from the LMP2 class and the GTE Am class, or the boring two classes. Sure, there are some standout teams and racers in both of those classes, but all that really matters is Hypercar fighting for the overall victory, and GTE Pro where the factory-backed cars and racers compete. There are just five cars in Hypercar once again this year, and a mere seven cars in GTE Pro.
“What a line-up!” said ACO president Pierre Fillon. “After unveiling a packed program of activities for race fans, we are delighted to announce a high-caliber 62-car field that promises a thrilling race in every class for the 99th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. June cannot come quickly enough! We are so looking forward to a great celebration of endurance racing and a week of exciting track action.”
Hypercar is an identical field to 2021, featuring a pair of Toyota Gazoo GT010 Hybrids, a single grandfathered-in Alpine A480 (which is just a Gibson LMP1 in blue), and a pair of Glickenhaus 007 LMHs. I was really hoping for Peugeot to come in and mix things up a little, but alas for it was not to be. This is Toyota’s race to lose, once again. That is clearly going to be the more reliable and quicker setup. Maybe, just maybe, if Glickenhaus has done its homework, a fight could be had. I won’t hold my breath.
In LMP2 the big news is Penske Racing. The Penske organization is looking to re-learn the endurance racing ropes in 2022 ahead of its full-on assault on LMDh with Porsche in 2023. More good news in this class, it looks like Algarve Pro Racing will take over for the missing Russian G-Drive cars. APR was already running the cars for G-Drive, so it’ll just continue on without Russian backing, so that’s cool. Sebastien Ogier is making his Le Mans debut in LMP2 this year, that’s cool. This is the most populous class on the grid, and it’s all pretty closely prepared, so it should be a good fight.
GTE Pro features a pair of Corvettes and a pair of Porsches from their respective factory-backed players. Two 488s from AF Corse, effectively the Ferrari factory team, will be joined by a single 488 from Riley Motorsports. I kinda like that Riley entry with Felipe Fraga, Sam Bird, and Shane Van Gisbergen. That should be an exciting non-factory Pro class entry.
GTE Am is 23 cars deep this year, meaning there is a lot of good here, but there’s a lot of garbage, too. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is going to be the work of 24 hours come June, and I look forward to the end result
Le Mans is always a great race, but it’ll be even greater in 2023 when there’s a lot more fighting at the front for the overall win. Toyota winning four in a row without any real competition is getting a little boring.