Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Predicting Le Mans 2013 withdrawals

With the withdrawal of the ALMS' Extreme Speed Motorsports from the Le Mans 24hr (which could almost have been predicted) we decided to take a look at the list of invited entries to see who is likely to withdraw from the French Classic.

Before going any further, here are only a few reasons a team would withdraw: the lemans entry is not compatible with their full season program, a lack of resources, during the season they realize they're over matched in their class, they do not have a compelling reason to be there (WEC entrants have to complete 70% to get points, and winning the race is a nice sales booster for manufacturers).

LMP1

We do not foresee any retirements from these ranks. All the entrants here have the means to the desire to be here. Rebellion and Strakka were the only privateer P1 teams to be classified in every single round of the WEC in 2012.

LMP2

Lotus: They have 2 factory invitations for lemans, however none of their entries with actual Lotus badged engines in any other series have had any success. We only need to take a look at their Indycar car and their ALMS GTE adventures of last year to be reminded. Even in the WEC, despite having the services of F1 caliber drivers they were usually at best a middle of the pack runner. We think the learning curve associated with running a new cars, with untested and limited parts could curb their ambitions. We think one of the cars could be withdrawn.

KCMG: They are declared as a full season entry in Asian Le Mans series. Because of their inexperience, they might reconsider their season objective after going a couple rounds against Oak Racing in the ASLMS. So why are they accepted as an entry while a more experienced and proven team like Signatech has their 2nd entry waiting on the reserve list? Simple, the ACO has a policy of diversity, so they get the entry by default as they are the only entrant from China. Same reason JLOC used to receive invitations.

Morand Racing (reserve entry): The sight of Natacha Gachnang is already a draw in itself. But it seems they might be relying on pay-drivers of the Le Mans exercise. The 24 hr race could actually divert resources away from their ELMS season. We think they will pull their name from the reserve list.

DKR Engineering (reserve entry): We rooted for them when they campaigned the GT1 C6R corvettes, ever since then we have had a fond spot for them. So we will again be clapping them in the ELMS. So why do we think they will withdraw from the reserve list? We think their weapon of choice leaves them vulnerable. The Lola B11/40 while only a couple years old is considered outdated, because the cost of acquiring and maintaining a more modern P2 rig has dropped dramatically (relatively speaking). Lola has also stopped development of all their open top cars. Which means while they might still make spare parts for it, they have not designed new parts that would improve its performances. Their Judd engine is also a point of contention. It's not a coincidence that there are 4 Judd engined teams on the reserve list while there is only 1 actual Judd engined team as an entrant.

For a long while, Judd was the engine of choice for any prototype class. But with the arrival of Honda and Nissan on the scene, Judd Power just hasn't been able to keep pace with their level of development. We think one reason the HVM-Status entry, which has a Judd engine was accepted is because of the ACO's diversity policy. They need a diversity of engines. So the strongest team with a Judd engine got selected.

LMGTE-PRO

JMW Motorsport: In all respects JMW is a well run racing organization. We used to love watching Rob Bell driving for them during the GT2 days. But it's now called GTE Pro, and the giants of the land have decided this is the battlefield they have chosen to measure themselves against each other. None of the other competitors here have any resource limitations. Dunlop is a major sponsor of the 24hr race and JMW has usually benefited from their generosity. But the Dunlop badging on the car has been less and less obvious to us, and last year the uniforms only sported a tiny Dunlop badge on the chest.

They won the ELMS GTE-Pro championship last year, so unless their sponsors are willing to ante up for the Le Mans foray, they might decide to concentrate the troops on defending their championship.

LMGTE-AM

Larbre Competition: We don't wish to say they will withdraw entirely. After all they have 3 consecutive LeMans class victories running: 2010 with the Saleen in GT1, 2011 with the GTE-Am Corvette and 2012 again in GTE-Am with the Corvette. This year however it seems the LeMans entry is depending more on GM helping them field the second entry. Notice only one entry for GTE-Am in the WEC. The team itself has made it clear that GM will have a say on the lineup of one of the cars. So unless they're having a terrific year in the WEC, the General could pull the plug if they sense a second entry would not be a sure fire winner at LeMans. GM would only be interested in them winning so they could use the driver of their choice for marketing purposes.

Putting our thinking cap on who could GM possibly pick to man the second car....Johnny O'Conell and Andy Pilgrim alongside Pedro Lamy? Just a thought. The C6R for them might seem as if it has 2 engines compared to the CTS-V.

TRG-AMR North America (reserve entry): Kevin Buckler could dice it up with the best of them in his day, and he even won the class GT2 at Le Mans in 2002. But he no longer regularly drives competitively. This entry request is purely motivated by his business revenue model. The ACO only gave them a seat on the reserve list based on their strong reputation.