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Le Mans 24: GTE-Am car-by-car preview

FIA World Endurance Championship - Six Hours of Silverstone

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: A general view of cars on the main grandstand straight during the FIA World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Silverstone race at the Silverstone Circuit on April 17, 2016 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

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Inevitably in a four-class grid one of the classes might be lesser fancied, and GTE-Am probably has that distinction this year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Still, within its 13 cars, there’s a number of good stories and still good variety. With the new Ferrari 488 GTE in GTE-Pro, the venerable Ferrari F458 Italia is still present in GTE-Am along with entries from Corvette, Porsche and Aston Martin.

Here’s a look through this grid:

50-Yamagishi/Ragues/Belloc, Larbre Competition, Corvette C7.R (M)

Jack Leconte’s team has a winning pedigree at Le Mans but faces adversity this year. Belloc is a last-minute stand-in for injured Paolo Ruberti and while a team veteran, doesn’t have the raw speed of Nick Catsburg, who led Test Day. A podium is certainly possible, though.

55-Cameron/M. Griffin/Scott, AF Corse, Ferrari F458 Italia (M)

Here’s a possible class contender with Matt Griffin due to lead the car’s chances, and race debutante Aaron Scott looking to stay out of trouble. Perennial Le Mans entrant Duncan Cameron has improved by leaps and bounds and an AF Ferrari 458 is always steady.

83-Perrodo/Collard/Aguas, AF Corse, Ferrari F458 Italia (M)

The more likely of AF’s two primary cars to contend, its lone WEC entrant should be in with a definite podium if not win shout. While the GTE-Am rules generally prefer two true ams, Aguas flirts with that fine line of a downgraded to Silver pro and as such enhances the lineup.

57-O’Connell/Bryant/Patterson, Team AAI, Corvette C7.R (M)

Here’s an ultimate “wild card” entry as an Asian Le Mans Series front-running team, albeit with zero Asian components in its driver lineup or car choice for Le Mans. O’Connell makes his triumphant return to La Sarthe while Bryant and Patterson are clean, capable runners.

60-Laursen/Mac/C. Nielsen, Formula Racing, Ferrari F458 Italia (M)

The all-Danish Ferrari entry looks to bounce back from an accident at the ELMS round at Imola. This will be a popular entry to watch, and talented young Christina Nielsen – who’s done well in IMSA competition Stateside – is set to make her Le Mans debut.

61-R. Bell/Sun/Sawa, Clearwater Racing, Ferrari F458 Italia (M)

Another that figures to have AF support if not be an outright AF entry, Singapore-entered Clearwater Racing is an Asian team that’s had a bit of success in the Asian Le Mans Series. Rob Bell is the known Le Mans quantity in this trio.

62-Sweedler/T. Bell/Segal, Scuderia Corsa, Ferrari F458 Italia (M)

All-American lineup is now armed with the value of experience from running here as a trio last year, and getting on the podium. NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell and Jeff Segal are paired with Bill Sweedler; Bell and Sweedler won IMSA’s GTD title last year.

78-Ried/Henzler/Camathias, KCMG, Porsche 911 RSR (M)

In theory this should have been one of the contenders in GTE-Am this year given the lineup and Proton Competition operation, but it’s been a rough start in the FIA WEC. The Porsche doesn’t seem to be the car to have this year.

86-Wainwright/Carroll/Barker, Gulf Racing UK, Porsche 911 RSR (M)

It’s a sneaky “two pro” lineup in the pro-am class owing to Barker’s Silver status, but like the other full season FIA WEC Porsches the results haven’t matched the promise of operation thus far. Top-five in class would be a good result for this trio.

88-Al Qubaisi/DHH/P. Long, Abu Dhabi Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR (M)

A lineup true to the spirit of the regulations, this is a good Le Mans lineup with Long and DHH having had past class victories and Al Qubaisi consistent on pace, if unlucky from a results standpoint. Few would begrudge success for this car after Spa late-race heartbreak.

89-MacNeil/L. Keen/M. Miller, Proton Competition, Porsche 911 RSR (M)

All-American lineup should be able to succeed in GTE-Am, even though the adaptation will be to the German Proton squad. Expect the WeatherTech-backed car to be fighting for a potential podium finish.

98-Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda, Aston Martin Racing, Aston Martin Vantage V8 (D)

This car was so desperately close to winning its class in 2015 before Dalla Lana’s late-race accident. But they’re off to a strong start this year with second and first place results thus far; will be interesting to see how the updated Aston tackles Le Mans now on Dunlops.

99-Howard/L. Griffin/Hirsch, Aston Martin Racing, Aston Martin Vantage V8 (D)

It’s a respectable but not incredible lineup set here in the Beechdean-backed Aston. In the 13-car field, seeing this car contend for a class win would come as a surprise.

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