A Guide to the Le Mans 24 Hours

This year's 73rd Le Mans 24 Hours has all the ingredients for being a classic

A Guide to the Le Mans 24 Hours

The atmosphere will be as brilliant as ever as hundreds of thousands of sportscar racing fans from around the globe gather to cheer on their favourite drivers and teams; the funfair will illuminate the night skies and the beer and wine will flow in the spectator areas.

But the racing alone is primed for a real dogfight. With the exception of the famous victory for Bentley in 2003, Audi's iconic R8 has won here every year since 2000. Three are entered this year, but victory may be beyond them, even though they're being run by top teams.

The reason for this is that they are not only carrying 50kg more ballast, but an air restrictor is strangling their power output, so they'll have to rely more on stealth than speed. Trouble is, such has been the pace of progress in recent years, especially in terms of reliability, that the race is almost a 24-hour sprint now, perhaps pointing to a win for the Pescarolo or Courage chassis. Or even a Dome or Dallara, which makes the race more open than it has been for years.

Should either of the Champion Racing Audis be first to the finish, though, it will be the first win for an American team since 1967. Yet the victory celebrations, whoever wins, will be extra vigorous as only Oreca of all the teams competing have ever won here before.

Autosport-Atlas presents a guide to all the contenders.

Champion Racing (2)
Audi R8 (2)
Frank Biela (D)/Allan McNish (GB)/Emanuele Pirro (I)

Fastest practice time: 3m39.418s (8th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 3rd
Team's best Le Mans result: 3rd (2003 & 2004)

Take a proven car, put it in the hands of one of the world's top sportscar teams and insert a trio of Le Mans winners, and this what you get. The car was only eighth fastest in pre-event testing, but its fastest driver, McNish, was absent that day. The Scot is confident that they and their sister car will be able to mix it with the pair of Pescarolos that were dominant in testing and the challenging Courages, Domes, Dallaras and the lone DBA to give the Audi R8 a winning swansong. McNish won here for Porsche in 1998.

Champion Racing (3)
Audi R8
Tom Kristensen (DK)/JJ Lehto (FIN)/Marco Werner (D)

Fastest practice time: 3m38.719s
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 3rd (4th)
Team's best Le Mans result: 3rd (2003 & 2004)

Champion Racing is packed to the gunwhales with Le Mans-winning talent, with Kristensen and Lehto among the stars of the race over the past decade. Only Werner has yet to stand on the top step of the podium here, but the German is much garlanded elsewhere, especially in the American Le Mans Series with Lehto in which they lead the championship. For Kristensen, this year's race offers him the chance to become the most successful driver in the history of the 24 Hours, as he guns for his seventh win which, amazingly, would be his sixth in succession.

Audi Playstation ORECA (4)
Audi R8
Jean-Marc Gounon (F)/Franck Montagny (F)/Stephane Ortelli (MC)

Fastest practice time: 3m39.060s (7th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: 1st (1991)

ORECA has long been one of France's top racing teams, but it faces a challenge for national honour from Pescarolo Sport and Courage Competition. Hugues de Chaunac's team will be relying on its Audi's reliability to counter the speed of the newer Pescarolos and Courages and he's praying that ORECA will repeat its feat of guiding Mazda to victory in 1991. Renault F1 test driver Montagny doesn't have much sportscar experience, but joins a rapid and capable duo, with Gounon in deserving a result to match his talents. Ortelli won Le Mans in 1998 and would love to add another.

Jim Gainer International (5)
Dome-Mugen S101Hb
Seiji Ara (J)/Katsutomo Kaneishi (J)/Ryo Michigami (J)

Fastest practice time: 3m38.875s (5th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

Effectively the works Dome team, this outfit run by Jim Gainer has so far this year had only one outing in its hybrid chassis in the Le Mans Endurance Series, finishing a distant fourth at Spa. Ara knows what it takes to win at Le Mans, having raced alongside Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello in last year's winning Team Goh Audi to gain huge exposure at home as only the second Japanese driver (after Masanori Sekiya in 1995) to win here. He's supported by regular teammate and Kaneishi who was a late signing to replace Juichi Wakisaka.

Creation Autosportif (7)
DBA4-Judd 03S
Jamie Campbell-Walter (GB)/Nicolas Minassian (F)/Andy Wallace (GB)

Fastest practice time: 3m39.568s (9th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

Andy Wallace is on a roll, scoring a double podium finish at Mont Tremblant and Mid-Ohio during one weekend in May. A winner here in 1988 for Jaguar, there's no reason why he can't make it two, but it would be an outside shot as the DBA4 isn't famed for its reliability and this is the team's debut here. Speed over one lap is one thing, being consistently fast through the rigours of Le Mans is another. Campbell-Walter and Minassian have starred in the Le Mans Endurance Series this year, good for victory until mechanical failure intervened.

Rollcentre Racing (8)
Dallara-Nissan LMP
Michael Krumm (D)/Harold Primat (F)/Bobby Verdon-Roe (GB)

Fastest practice time: 3m49.826s (18th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: Retired (2004)

Krumm will consider himself the fastest of this trio, bringing considerable sportscar racing knowledge as well as prior experience of racing for Rollcentre at Sebring this spring. However, late signing Verdon-Roe is champing at the bit to make his mark in a prototype after racing a piecemeal selection of cars in recent seasons. In comparison, Primat is a sportscar novice after years spent competing but not shining in F3. The Nissan engine in their car could be their Achilles' heel in comparison to the Judd in their sister car which has a greater record of reliability.

Team Jota (9)
Zytek 04S
Sam Hignett (GB)/Haruki Kurosawa (J)/John Stack (GB)

Fastest practice time: 3m42.739s (12th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

The team is new to Le Mans, so the going won't be easy. To make matters harder still, the two British drivers have never raced here before, either. The car is good, though, with David Brabham having qualified it third last year when it was run by Zytek Engineering. It didn't go the distance, but may stand more chance of doing so this time around as the trio's aim is simply to reach the finish, to gain vital experience to put towards next year's foray. Hignett and Strack know each other well from racing together in the Le Mans Endurance Series.

Racing for Holland (10)
Dome-Judd S101
John Bosch (NL)/Elton Julian (USA)/Jan Lammers (NL)

Fastest practice time: 3m41.507s (11th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 7th
Team's best Le Mans result: 6th (2003)

The chequered livery has been toned down by the addition of Dutch national orange, but should be even quicker this year as it's running on hydro-pneumatic suspension. One of only a handful of previous winners in this year's race, Lammers triumphed for Jaguar (alongside this year's rival Andy Wallace) in 1988. However, it's Julian who could be one of the drivers to watch for as this former F3 race winner is back from six years out of the sport and was on the pace immediately.

Courage Competition (12)
Courage-Judd C60-H
Alexander Frei (CH)/Dominik Schwager (D)/Christian Vann (GB)
Fastest practice time: 3m39.633s (10th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: 2nd/1st in WSC prototype class (1995)

Pescarolo Sport stole all the glory in pre-event testing with its out-and-out speed and ORECA should shine with its reliable Audi. However, Yves Courage is determined that it will be his team taking the glory for France, taking Courage to a level it has never attained before. The team ran in the LMP2 class last year, and failed, but now is their time to deliver on the big stage. Schwager is the pick of the crop, a race winner in Japanese Super GT this year, but Vann is starting to accumulate some useful Le Mans experience to draw upon.

Courage Competition (13)
Courage-Judd C60-H
Jonathan Cochet (F)/Bruce Jouanny (F)/Shinji Nakano (J)

Fastest practice time: 3m37.674s (3rd)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: 2nd/1st in WSC prototype class (1995)

Some consider 13 to be an unlucky number, but perhaps this trio will buck that theory. On paper, it's the stronger of the team's two driver line-ups, with Cochet a definite star. Indeed, the Frenchman was fastest of all in testing here at Le Mans in spring and third fastest at pre-event testing a fortnight ago. Jouanny is no slouch, either, with the same being true of former F1 driver Nakano, although neither Jouanny nor the Japanese driver are short on sportscar experience. The biggest question mark of all is the performance of their Yokohama tyres.

Pescarolo Sport (16)
Pescarolo-Judd C60
Jean-Christophe Boullion (F)/Emmanuel Collard (F)/Erik Comas (F)

Fastest practice time: 3m32.468s (1st)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 4th
Team's best Le Mans result: 4th (2000 & 2004)

Collard was fastest in pre-event testing and he put the wind up his rivals by stating that there was more to come from the car, perhaps even two seconds on a flying lap once qualifying rubber has been fitted. The trio knows that it's race pace and reliability that counts, yet they're confident they can finally give their four-time Le Mans winning boss Henri Pescarolo his first win here as an owner. Indeed, it would be popular, as the bearded man at the helm is due some glory and his drivers have all deserved more in their careers.

Pescarolo Sport (17)
Pescarolo-Judd C60
Soheil Ayari (F)/Eric Helary (F)/Sebastien Loeb (F)

Fastest practice time: 3m35.893s (2nd)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 4th
Team's best Le Mans result: 4th (2000 & 2004)

Ayari and Helary spend alternate weekends battling for track position in their works Peugeots in the French Supertourisme series, so they know each other extremely well. Loeb, on the other hand, is less of a known talent, coming from the FIA's World Rally Championship. However, he is the man on the loose, running away with this year's series to add to last year's world title and is not to be underestimated, so long as he doesn't expect directional tips over his head-set from a co-driver. Helary won here in a works Peugeot in 1993.

Rollcentre Racing (18)
Dallara-Judd LMP
Joao Barbosa (P)/Vanina Ickx (B)/Martin Short (GB)

Fastest practice time: 3m38.976s (6th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: Retired (2004)

Many of the British public, or anyone else who supports an underdog, will be wishing for Rollcentre to land a top result this time year, as Short was so cruelly deprived of one last year when his Dallara's crashed out of fourth position just after dawn on the Sunday after his suspension collapsed following an earlier clash. Portuguese driver Barbosa is alongside him again, joined this year by Vanina Ickx, the daughter of six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx. She faces the largest challenge because this will be only her second outing in a prototype.

PiR Competition (20)
Pilbeam-JPX MP93
Pierre Bruneau (F)/Philippe Haezebrouck (F)/Marc Rostan (F)

Fastest practice time: 4m03.688s (34th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

Bruneau's self-run team brings a new Pilbeam to the Sarthe in place of the aged MP84 model it has been campaigning for years. Their entry to the race isn't down to any flashes of speed but due to their successful participation in the LMP2 class of the Le Mans Endurance Series last year, in which they finished as runners-up. Longtime sports-prototype racers Bruneau and Rostan will head into proceedings concerned about the likely reliability of their JPX engine, though, as they have had precious little running with it.

Welter Racing (23)
WR-Peugeot LMP2003
Sylvain Boulay (F)/Jean-Bernard Bouvet (F)/Robert Julien (CDN)

Fastest practice time: 4m08.550s (41st)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 26th (2nd in LMP2)
Team's best Le Mans result: 4th (1980)

Gone are the days of the locally-built WMs run by Welter Racing seeking glory by simply aiming for the greatest velocity down the Mulsanne Straight at the expense of any realistic chance in the race itself. In fact, that went out with the introduction of the chicanes for 1990. And, with it, the team's slide from grace began. They're still a Le Mans fixture, but their budget is tiny, especially as they try to run two cars on it. This WR is the normally-aspirated one, but don't expect either speed or reliability from it.

Welter Racing (24)
WR-Peugeot LMP2001
William Binnie (USA)/Patrice Roussel (F)/Yojiro Terada (J)

Fastest practice time: 3m57.780s (30th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 26th (2nd in LMP2)
Team's best Le Mans result: 4th (1980)

Unlike its sister car, this WR is powered by a turbocharged Peugeot engine. Terada - a veteran of 25 Le Mans outings - is back for a third year with the underfinanced French team partnered, as he was in 2004, by Roussel, with Binnie back for a second crack at the race after winning the LMP2 class on his debut last year, albeit with Intersport Racing last June rather than Welter Racing. Binnie campaigns an LMP2 Lola in the American Le Mans Series and his sometime teammate Julien is in WR's other entry.

RML (25)
Lola/MG-Judd EX264
Tommy Erdos (BR)/Warren Hughes (GB)/Mike Newton (GB)

Fastest practice time: 3m44.614s (14th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: 23rd (2002)

They were pipped to be fastest in LMP2 in pre-event testing, but this is the favourite for class honours. Indeed, they may even pick off some of the LMP1 runners. Erdos and Newton have formed an effective partnership in recent few years under Ray Mallock's tutelage. They're joined by touring car specialist Hughes who is delighted to be racing a prototype again, having enjoyed his runs in a works run MG predecessor in 2002. If the racing becomes competitive, expect car owner Newton to stand back and let Erdos and Hughes go for it.

Kruse Motorsport (30)
Courage-Judd C65
Phil Bennett (GB)/Ian Mitchell (GB)/Tim Mullen (GB)

Fastest practice time: 3m45.844s (15th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

Bennett and Mitchell raced together in this year's Sebring 12 Hours and in the Le Mans Endurance Series. Former British touring car frontrunner Bennett is the far more experienced, and faster, of the duo, though and will act as team leader. The German team signed Mullen at the 11th hour to accompany them, replacing Harold Primat who jumped ship to race in LMP1 and bringing the experience he has gained racing in the British GT Championship over the past few years.

Noel del Bello Racing (31)
Courage-Mecachrome C65
Ni Amorim (P)/Romain Iannetta (F)/Christophe Pillon (CH)

Fastest practice time: 3m56.044s (28th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: 15th/1st in LMP675 (2003)

This former sportscar racer has taken a back seat as his team's efforts have become more serious. His team won the junior category in both 2002 and 2003, but to take class glory again will require more speed than before as the ante is upped. Running a Courage powered by a Mecachrome means that he could yet conquer LMP2 for the third time if RML trips up. Amorim has plenty of experience to draw upon.

Intersport Racing (32)
Lola-AER B05/40
Gregor Fisken (GB)/Liz Halliday (USA)/Sam Hancock (GB)

Fastest practice time: 3m44.426s (13th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 25th (1st in LMP2)
Team's best Le Mans result: 25th/1st in LMP2 (2004)

Fastest in class in pre-event testing after all but matching the pace of the similar RML Lola. Hancock became the third driver after team owner Jon Field stayed in the USA to fight a court case and it was he who set the flying lap, marking himself out as the driver who'll spearhead this line-up. Fisken goes faster by the year and is shaking off the tag of being a historic racer. Halliday has been gaining experience in Europe by racing in the FIA GT series in a Lister, but she also contested the Sebring 12 Hours in Intersport's Lola.

Intersport Racing (33)
Courage-AER C65
Juan Barazi (BR)/Bastien Briere (F)/Sergei Zlobin (RUS)

Fastest practice time: 3m53.735s (25th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 25th (1st in LMP2)
Team's best Le Mans result: 25th/1st in LMP2 (2004)

Intersport's second entry, a Courage, is run under their banner by the Le Mans-based Epsilon team. Frenchman Briere was drafted in as a last-minute replacement in place of veteran Francois Migault. He joing former Formula 3000 racer Zlobin and Barazi, who's better known in historic racing circles but steps up from gaining experience this year in the GT2 class in both the American Le Mans Series at Sebring and in the Le Mans Endurance Series in a Porsche run by his In2 Racing team.

Miracle Motorsports (34)
Courage-AER C65
Ian James (GB)/Andy Lally (USA)/Joe Macaluso (USA)

Fastest practice time: 3m50.947s (21st)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

Put together after winning their class in last year's American Le Mans Series guaranteed them an entry for Le Mans, the team's first visit to Le Mans is spearheaded by ex-patriot British driver James and team owner Macaluso who race the team's Courage in the American Le Mans Series. They are augmented by Lally, another driver highly considered on the American sportscar racing scene. Running on Korean-made Kumho tyres is unlikely to set it apart from the ranks. Well, not for the right reasons...

G-Force Racing (35)
Courage-Judd C65
Frank Hahn (B)/Val Hillebrand (B)/Gavin Pickering (GB)

Fastest practice time: 4m03.301s (33rd)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

Hillebrand is very much the leader of this Belgian team. Unknown in topline sportscar circles until it broke into the prototype ranks in the Le Mans Endurance Series after contesting the Radical series, G-Force has much to learn. Hillebrand brings the experience gained in racing here for the Racing for Holland team in 2003 and 2004. French club racer Jean-Francois Leroch had hoped to be the third driver, but he failed to complete the minimum of 10 night laps in pre-event testing and is therefore replaced by Briton Pickering, who has raced at Le Mans for the last three years.

Paul Belmondo Racing (36)
Courage-Ford C65
Claude-Yves Gosselin (F)/Karim Ojjeh (SA)/Adam Sharpe (GB)

Fastest practice time: 3m53.655s (24th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: 16th/4th in GTS (1999)

The son of France's most famous film star is doubling up his efforts for 2005, bringing Ford France money to the project (and rebadging the AER motors with the famous blue oval as a mark of deference). Maybe this will bring luck, and so may the evocative Gulf sponsorship, winners both together in the late 1960s. However, this is very much the team's second entry, with Gosselin the most experienced of the trio but perhaps Sharpe the one with the most talent.

Paul Belmondo Racing (37)
Courage-Ford C65
Didier Andre (F)/Paul Belmondo (F)/Rick Sutherland (USA)

Fastest practice time: 3m46.522s (16th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: 16th/4th in GTS (1999)

This is clearly the team's lead Courage, with Belmondo himself at the wheel and Andre back from his racing spell in the United States to lead the way. Sutherland isn't in the same category in terms of pace, but he was able to come away as one of the winners of the LMP2 class last year, albeit in a year when the class was both poorly supported and hit by mechanical failures, making it very much case of being the last one standing. In fact, his car was 101 laps down on the outright winning Audi.

Chamberlain/Synergy Motorsport (39)
Lola-AER B05/40
Bob Berridge (GB)/Gareth Evans (GB)/Peter Owen (GB)
Fastest practice time: 3m47.586s (17th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 21st (8th in GT2)
Team's best Le Mans result: 14th/3rd in GTS (1999)

Team boss Hugh Chamberlain is one of the great stalwarts of Le Mans, a benevolent figure in the pitlane. The budget for this campaign is far from massive, but Chamberlain does earthy rather than flash and gets the most bang for the buck. Berridge is the driver he'll turn to when he wants speed, Evans and Owen when he demands clean runs with no mistakes. And this combination stuck to that script in the opening round of the Le Mans Endurance Series - the Spa-Francorchamps 1000km in April - in which they finished fifth overall and won the LMP2 class.

Lucchini Engineering (45)
Lucchini-Judd XV
Franco Francioni (I)/Piergiuseppe Peroni (I)/Mirko Savoldi (I)

Fastest practice time: 3m51.350s (22nd)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

This is the Italian marque's first crack at Le Mans after years spent picking up awards in the junior classes of Europe's assorted sports-prototype championships. Peroni and Savoldi have been racing together for years, winning the SR2 class of the FIA Sportscar Championship in 2003, while Francioni is no slouch. Trouble is, none have raced at Le Mans before and the car is brand new and has remarkably few testing miles under its belt, which is clearly less than ideal coming into this most gruelling of endurance races.

Larbre Competition (50)
Ferrari 550 Maranello
Olivier Dupard (F)/Patrice Goueslard (F)/Vincent Vosse (B)

Fastest practice time: 3m55.340s (27th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 14th (5th in GT1)
Team's best Le Mans result: 8th/1st in GTS (1994)

Larbre is a team more than capable of landing a top result, but it's unlikely to be this year for all the merits of Vosse behind the wheel. They may have looked close to the pace of the Corvettes in pre-event testing, but it's thought that the American cars were sandbagging, and the Aston Martins, of course, were five seconds and more clear. The French team has tasted success in class twice before, in 1993 and 1994, with Goueslard one of the drivers in that 1993 run. He and Dupard were paired together last year when the team finished 14th overall.

BMS Scuderia Italia (51)
Ferrari 550 Maranello
Fabrizio Gollin (I)/Christian Pescatori (I)/Miguel Ramos (P)

Fastest practice time: 3m58.199s (31st)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: 8th/4th in GT1 (1997)

This Italian team was the class of the field in the FIA GT Championship in 2003 and 2004, but it's concentrating on longer races this year in the Le Mans Endurance Series. And they enjoyed a flying start to their 2005 campaign by winning their class, in sixth overall, at the Spa-Francorchamps 1000km. Judging by the pace of the Aston Martins and Chevrolets, they will have their work cut out to get to the head of GT1 in their now ageing 550 Maranello, but in reigning FIA GT champion Gollin and Pescatori in particular they have a pair of rapid pedallers.

BMS Scuderia Italia (52)
Ferrari 550 Maranello
Michele Bartyan (I)/Matteo Malucelli (I)/Toni Seiler (CH)

Fastest practice time: 3m58.428s (32nd)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: 8th/4th in GT1 (1997)

This trio is very much the second string driver line-up from BMS Scuderia Italia, with only the Swiss veteran Seiler offering much in the way of sportscar racing experience. He partnered Bartyan to third in class in the Spa-Francorchamps 1000km a couple of months ago, but their attack was led that day by Pescatori, now in the team's lead car. He's replaced for Le Mans by Malucelli.

Aston Martin Racing (58)
Aston Martin DBR9
Tomas Enge (CZ)/Peter Kox (NL)/Pedro Lamy (P)

Fastest practice time: 3m50.033s (19th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A, but Prodrive 11th (4th in GT1)
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A, but Prodrive 10th/1st in GTS (2003)

This highly experienced trio topped the tables by being fastest in class at the pre-event testing, by half a second from their sister car. It's safe to say that this trio knows its craft, with Kox and Lamy having shared victory in an Aston Martin one-two in the Silverstone round of the FIA GT series. They won't be able to match Aston Martin's outright Le Mans win of 1959, but this Prodrive-run team will assuredly do more than just excite with their evocative livery of metallic British Racing Green and coloured nose bands.

Aston Martin Racing (59)
Aston Martin DBR9
David Brabham (AUS)/Stephane Sarrazin (F)/Darren Turner (GB)

Fastest practice time: 3m50.539s (20th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A, but Prodrive 11th (4th in GT1)
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A, but Prodrive 10th/1st in GTS (2003)

The Aston Martin crews had an advantage of more than four seconds per lap over the Corvettes in pre-event testing, but Brabham predicts it will be much closer when the racing gets underway, reckoning that the Covettes were sandbagging in order not to alert the race's organisers that they could lap faster than their recommended lap time of 3m55s and thus incur weight penalties. The Australian says that his understanding was that any such penalties won't come until next year. Former F3000 racer Sarrazin has been lured back from a new career in rallying. Turner finished fourth with Brabham in the Sebring 12 Hours.

Cirtek Motorsport (61)
Ferrari 550 Maranello
Christophe Bouchut (F)/Nikolaj Fomenko (RUS)/Alexei Vasiliev (RUS)

Fastest practice time: 3m53.635s (23rd)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 19th (7th in GT2)
Team's best Le Mans result: 19th (2004)

One of only a dozen drivers in this year's race who have won Le Mans outright, Bouchut is very much the star of this driver line-up, the driver who won here for the works Peugeot team as long ago as 1993 offering not just outstanding pace but also more than worthwhile advice to his Russian teammates on how to make the most from their blue Ferrari. They will be observing the speed of the rival Aston Martins with interest as they're due to be driving one under their Russian Age Racing banner later this year in the FIA GT Championship.

Corvette Racing (63)
Chevrolet Corvette C6.R
Ron Fellows (CDN)/Johnny O'Connell (USA)/Max Papis (I)

Fastest practice time: 3m56.174s (29th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 6th (1st in GTS)
Team's best Le Mans result: 6th/1st in GTS (2004)

This most American of teams is back at Le Mans with its international line-up of drivers to do battle once more and defend its GT1 title (GTS last year). Its leading rivals are again fielded by Prodrive, but this time in Aston Martins rather than Ferrari 550 Maranellos. Prodrive bloodied their nose by winning their contest at the Sebring 12 Hours, but the pace was there to suggest that the Corvette has every chance to get even. The yellow Corvette's speed deficit in pre-event testing was put down to sandbagging in the interests of not being landed with extra ballast for 2006.

Corvette Racing (64)
Chevrolet Corvette C6.R
Olivier Beretta (MC)/Oliver Gavin (GB)/Jan Magnussen (DK)

Fastest practice time: 3m54.183s (26th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 6th (1st in GTS)
Team's best Le Mans result: 6th/1st in GTS (2004)

The competition within Corvette Racing is every bit as fierce as their battle with the pair of Prodrive crews. Although Fellows and O'Connell beat Beretta and Gavin to last year's class honours in the American Le Mans Series, it was the latter pair, plus Magnussen, who claimed the class scalp here at Le Mans and thus perhaps more bragging rights. Whatever the outcome of their intra-team squabbling and their jousting with Aston Martin, their rumbling V8 motors will prove a perfect antidote to some of the noisier race entries, something that's most welcome by daybreak when tiredness kicks in.

JMB Racing (69)
Ferrari 575GTC
Stephane Daoudi (F)/Jean-Rene de Fournoux (F)/Jim Matthews(USA)

Fastest practice time: 4m04.435s (35th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: 25th (2003)

The trio which raced together for JMB Racing in 2004 was supposed to step up all together to GT1, but Jaime Melo Jr was substituted at the 11th hour by Jim Matthews. The team upgraded from last year's mount of a Ferrari 360GTC to a 575GTC, but the drivers will no doubt wish that they were powering out of the pit exit in a Ferrari 550 Maranello, though, as although this was developed by privateer teams it has proved superior to the works-developed 575GTC. On the plus side, the team has tasted victory in a round of the FIA GT series this year. However, that was with a different car, a Maserati MC12...

Alex Job Racing (71)
Porsche 911 GT3-RSR
Leo Hindery (USA)/Marc Lieb (D)/Mike Rockenfeller (D)

Fastest practice time: 4m06.464s (39th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: 14th/1st in GT (2003)

Porsche-backed drivers Lieb and Rockenfeller are bound to deliver, but their progress will be held back by the presence of the ever enthusiastic Hindery in the driver line-up. However, his BAM! team owns the car. Rest assured, though, that if his involvement looks set to spoil their battle with the White Lighting entry (with three top rank racers on board), he will surely step back and limit his time at the wheel of this black-on-silver racer. Alex Job's crew will be on top of their game as a hugely respected team, one that Porsche has long trusted with semi-works status.

Luc Alphand Adventures (72)
Porsche 911 GT3-RS
Luc Alphand (F)/Christophe Campbell (F)/Jerome Policand (F)

Fastest practice time: 4m12.274s (43rd)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 16th (5th in GT)
Team's best Le Mans result: 16th/5th in GT (2004)

Once upon a time, Alphand was one of France's leading downhill ski racers, even winning the world title in the mid-1990s. Racing has since been his way of finding a replacement for that adrenaline rush and the results have been improving year on year. Assisted by the crack Solution F team, he hopes that this year's entry will be his best yet and, with former Formula 3000 racer Policand and Porsche Carrera Cup racer Campbell alongside, he stands every chance of doing so. Like the Narac and T2M teams, he will be held back by racing the superceded 911 GT3-RS model.

Raymond Narac (76)
Porsche 911 GT3-RS
Romain Dumas (F)/Sebastien Dumez (F)/Raymond Narac (F)

Fastest practice time: 4m05.367s (38th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

This little French team is stepping up for its biggest challenge yet, graduating from the French national racing scene. Dumas and, to a lesser extent, Dumez should be able to give the red and white-coloured car its head. That their rivals with stronger driver line-ups are also equipped with the higher spec and more recent 911 GT3-RSR models only goes to emphasise that they ought to view this race as one in which to gain valuable experience for the future.

Panoz Motor Sports (77)
Panoz Esperante GTLM
Bill Auberlen (USA)/Robin Liddell (GB)/Scott Maxwell (CDN)

Fastest practice time: 4m05.059s (37th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: 5th (2000 & 2003)

Think of GT2 and it's easy to think only of the Porsche 911 GT3-RSR as likely winners. Well, think again, as the Panoz Esperante GTLM is very much a darkhorse, with Liddell flying in pre-event testing. The Scot lapped just 0.144s slower than Bernhard's record-breaking lap and has thus thrown his hat into the ring. Auberlen and Maxwell offer experience aplenty to the line-up, with Auberlen being Liddell's regular partner in the American Le Mans Series, in which Maxwell turns out in the sister car with Bryan Sellers who is in the second Panoz for Le Mans.

Panoz Motor Sports (78)
Panoz Esperante GTLM
Patrick Bourdais (F)/Marino Franchitti (GB)/Bryan Sellers (USA)

Fastest practice time: 4m13.734s (45th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: Retired
Team's best Le Mans result: 5th (2000 & 2003)

On paper, you'd have to fancy the other works Esperante. However, Le Mans is a race that throws up problems indiscriminately and could easily afford them a clear run while others have to make unplanned pit stops to fix mechanical gremlins, or even to dig themselves out of gravel traps. The experienced Bourdais (father of reigning Champ Car champion Sebastien), Franchitti (brother of Indy Racing League frontrunner Dario) and Sellers are more than good enough to make the most of any such opportunities in this unsual, Ford-powered, front-engined racer.

Flying Lizard Motorsports (80)
Porsche 911 GT3-RSR
Seth Nieman (USA)/Lonnie Pechnik (USA)/Johannes van Overbeek (USA)

Fastest practice time: 4m08.406s (40th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

Nieman, Pechnik and van Overbeek know each other well from racing in the American Le Mans Series together, but everything is going to be new to them at Le Mans as the team has never been here before. Indeed, it was formed only last year to contest the ALMS in which van Overbeek once put one over the crack Alex Job Racing entries in class. Their silver and black RSR has one of the meanest looking colour schemes entered for the race.

Seikel Motorsport (83)
Porsche 911 GT3-RSR
Philip Collin (USA)/Horst Felbermayr (A)/David Shep (CDN)

Fastest practice time: 4m20.543s (49th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 15th (4th in GT2)
Team's best Le Mans result: 12th/6th in GT (2001)

Here's a strong team attempting to find its way with an RSR for the first time. The German team management and pit crew know their craft and their multi-national driver line-up knows how to keep a car going through a 24-hour enduro. A result is possible, with Collin managing to place fourth in class for Seikel last year, finishing but 10 laps down on the class-winning entry that was piloted by drivers of a far higher calibre.

Spyker Squadron (85)
Spyker C8 Spyder
Tom Coronel (NL)/Donny Crevels (NL)/Peter van Merksteijn (NL)

Fastest practice time: 4m13.263s (44th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: Not classified (2003)

Variety is said to be the spice of life, and never is it more welcome than in a sportscar race. This Dutch marque has been producing tailor-made cars for a long time now, but has only recently tried its hand at racing. Their swoopy-shaped, Audi-engined racer is welcome back to Le Mans after a year away in which Spyker concentrated on building a sufficient number of road cars to satisfy the race's rule makers. Former Formula Nippon star Coronel is their class act, but he will be hoping that he has the chance to shine in more than just qualifying.

Sebah Automotive (89)
Porsche 911 GT3-RSR
Pierre Ehret (D)/Lars Erik Nielsen (DK)/Thorkild Thyrring (DK)

Fastest practice time: 4m16.032s (47th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

This isn't a team rolling in money, but it's one that's on the up all the same as its GT class victory in last year's Le Mans Endurance Series proved, landing the team one of the treasured entries for this year's Le Mans 24 Hours. Ehret and Nielsen have paired together already in the team's white RSR, and they're attack is bolstered by sportscar veteran Thyrring, a driver who first raced at the Sarthe back in 1986.

White Lightning Racing (90)
Porsche 911 GT3-RSR
Jorg Bergmeister (D)/Timo Bernhard (D)/Patrick Long (USA)

Fastest practice time: 4m04.915s (36th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 10th (1st in GT2)
Team's best Le Mans result: 10th/1st in GT2 (2004)

Not only was this Porsche fastest in class in the pre-event testing, but Bernhard set a GT2 lap record in doing so. Better still, Mike Petersen's team arrives at the Sarthe with the confidence borne of winning GT2 for the past two years. With a trio of Porsche-backed drivers in Bergmeister, Bernhard and young American hotshot Long at the wheel, this is the car to beat. Bergmeister and Long have partnered each other successfully in the car in this year's American Le Mans Series, in which Porsche has placed Bernhard at Alex Job Racing, for whom he leads the class.

T2M Motorsport (91)
Porsche 911 GT3-RS
Jean-Luc Blanchemain (F)/Xavier Pompidou (F)/Yutaka Yamagishi (J)

Fastest practice time: 4m14.988s (46th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: 27th (2003)

Like the Luc Alphand Adventures and Raymond Narac teams, T2M is fielding one of the older generation 911 GT3-RS models. Pompidou and Blanchemain know Le Mans, but their greatest hope is to be consistent and hope that the faster Porsches (and the Panoz duo) hit trouble. Still, not every entry is in it to win it. For T2M Motorsport, gaining valuable experience in how best to field a car in this annual enduro is still a lesson that needs to be learnt.

Cirtek Motorsport (92)
Ferrari 360GTC
Joe Macari (GB)/Stefan Eriksson (S)/Rob Wilson (NZ)

Fastest practice time: 4m16.687s (48th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: 19th (7th in GT2)
Team's best Le Mans result: 19th (2004)

The 360GTC has never really been the car to have in GT2, having to cede to the predominant Porsches. It's unlikely to be any different this year, but provides welcome variety all the same. This driving line-up fails to have the lustre of the one in the other 360GTC, Scuderia Ecosse's, and Kiwi veteran Wilson will have to use all of the experience gained in three decades in the sport to keep this black car in touch of those ahead. Their best time in pre-event testing was twelve seconds off the class pace.

Scuderia Ecosse (93)
Ferrari 360GTC
Nathan Kinch (GB)/Andrew Kirkaldy (GB)/Anthony Ried (GB)

Fastest practice time: 4m10.180s (42nd)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: N/A

If the Aston Martins attract the British support as they race around looking evocative in their British Racing Green livery, as Bentley did most recently on their winning way in 2003, then this team will be the one cheered in particular by the Scots. Sure, the red, white and blue-liveried car isn't British but Italian. However, the drivers are all from north of the border, with Reid adding some serious clout to Kinch and Kirkaldy who have been paired so successfully in the British GT series over the past two seasons.

RaceSport Peninsula TVR (95)
TVR Tuscan T400R
John Hartshorne (GB)/Piers Johnson (GB)/Richard Stanton (GB)

Fastest practice time: 4m25.304s (50th)
Team's 2004 Le Mans result: N/A
Team's best Le Mans result: Retired (2002 & 2003)

Thousands of TVR-driving British fans will have eyes only for this car as their road-going versions gather dust in the campsites and car parks. The question with TVRs is always whether they will still be there at the end. Encouragingly, there were two still circling at the end of last year's race, so it's up to Dennis Leech's crew to ensure similar reliability for this lone entry. Johnson is very much the lead driver, with Stanton looking to add to his Le Mans experience and Hartshorne looking to find his feet in this gruelling race.

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