The teams entered for the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours have announced the names of the three drivers who will be at the wheel of their cars. Overall, it is a mouth-watering list for the 80th running of the most prestigious endurance race in the world.This is the first year of the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of which a drivers’ world title will be awarded, so for those taking part in the Le Mans 24 Hours, which counts for double points, the race is of capital importance. For the teams, entering for the Le Mans 24-Hours race is a two-stage process: they had until 19th January 2012 to send in their entry for the event nominating one driver. By 9th May at the latest they had to send their complete driver line-ups consisting of three people to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest.
After the usual checks, the ACO is publishing today, 23rd May, the list of drivers per car. It includes 167 names for 56 cars, as Toyota Racing has asked for the authorisation, granted by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, to announce the name of the third and last driver of the no.8 TS030 hybrid only by the end of this week, as a replacement for Hiroaki Ishiura who recently cried off (sore back).
It is a mouth-watering list with nine outright winners at the start, the oldest being Martin Brundle (winner in 1990, Jaguar) who is back with his son Alex and Lucas Ordenez from Spain, and the most recent Tréluyer-Fässler-Lotterer who will drive the Audi bearing the number one.A number of 2011 winners are back to defend their crown: Tréluyer-Fässler-Lotterer outright and LM P1 winners, Olivier Lombard victorious in LM P2 entered in the no. 23 Signatech-Nissan, Antonio Garcia, Tommy Milner and Olivier Beretta, winning trio in LM GTE Pro who are split up this year (Garcia, no. 73 Corvette, Milner no. 74 Corvette and Beretta no. 71 Ferrari) as well as Patrick Bornhauser and Julian Canal, who came out on top in LM GTE, and who are still sharing the no. 50 Corvette in which Pedro Lamy has replaced Gabriel Gardel.
Lamy, who was with Peugeot in 2011, is one of the former Lion drivers who has found a seat. Bourdais and Minassian will team up in the no. 17 Dome, and Alexander Wurz is the lead driver in the Toyota squad where he has been joined by Anthony Davidson. Stéphane Sarrazin is racing in LM P2 for the Starworks Motorsports team, and Marc Gené has found a seat as reserve in the Audi squad. Gené, Lamy, Sarrazin, Bourdais, Wurz and several others are all ex-Formula 1 drivers. There will be many of them at Le Mans this year with the arrival of guys as quick as Nick Heidfeld (Rebellion Racing), Sébastien Buemi (Toyota Racing) and Karun Chandhok (JRM) who were racing in F1 in 2011. Another driver competing in one of the most prestigious championships in the world is NASCAR star Brian Vickers who will be making his Le Mans debut in the no. 61 Ferrari.
This year there is only one women driver on the entry list, Keiko Ihara from Japan in the LM P2 Lola entered by the Gulf Racing Middle East Team.
Le Mans is also the theatre in which a number of amateur drivers like Patrick Bornhauser, Tracy Krohn and Jacques Nicolet, who do battle throughout the year in the FIA World Endurance Championship, will show off their talent.
On this list the ACO hasn’t forgotten its own licence holders like Benoît Tréluyer and the various drivers who have learned the ropes in its driving school like Bastien Brière from the Sarthe plus ACO Volant winner, Fabien Rosier.
The vast majority of entrants will take part in the test day on 3rd June, which is a general rehearsal for the race itself. It is obligatory for new cars, for teams and drivers that have never raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours before, or drivers who are not on the list of those automatically allowed to compete in official practice since the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours.
They will then take part in scrutineering and admin checks on 10th-11th June, in official and qualifying practice on 13th-14th June before the culmination of the Le Mans week, the start of the Le Mans 24 hours on Saturday 16th June at 15h00.