While the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is still over two weeks away, sports car racing’s crown jewel will begin to unfold on June 2. The annual Le Mans “Test Day” is of such importance that it puts the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM class on hold until the “24 Hours” is over. Even many participating in the Grand Prix of Detroit WeatherTech race will depart the “Motor City” immediately after the checkered flag falls on Saturday’s GTD and Prototype class race and fly overnight to reach France in time for the first test laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday.
Nine Porsche 911 RSR race cars — including four Porsche GT Team “works” machines — are scheduled to turn laps on the 8.467-mile race course in the World Endurance Championship’s LMGTE-Pro and LMGTE-Am classes. All four of the factory cars will be represented in the GTE-Pro category with the Nos. 93 and 94 being prepared by the North American arm of the Porsche program. IMSA GTLM class points leading driver Earl Bamber (New Zealand) will be joined by Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring-winning drivers Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) in the No. 93. Mathieu Jaminet (France), Sven Muller (Germany) and Dennis Olsen (Norway) will pilot the No. 94 Porsche 911 RSR. The WEC effort has entered the Nos. 91 and 92 for the “Super Season” finale at Le Mans. The No. 91 of Richard Lietz (Austria), Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and Sebring-winner Frederic Makowiecki (France) make-up the first half of the two-car team while the No. 92 driver pairing of Michael Christensen (Denmark), Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) come to Le Mans to defend their class win. Vanthoor — who has won the last two IMSA events with Bamber — will support Christensen and Estre in their attempt to lockdown the GTE-Pro Drivers’ title when the teams return for the race. Porsche won the constructors title at Spa-Francorchamps in early May.
Five customer teams — several with North American connections — bring the year-old Porsche 911 RSR to the GTE-Am group. The Pro-Am style class is led at the test — and in the season championship — by the No. 56 Team Project 1 car of Porsche factory driver Jorg Bergmeister (Germany) who is a familiar face in the IMSA paddock. With Bergmeister, Egidio Perfetti (Norway) and Patrick Lindsey (Santa Barbara, California), Team Project 1 leads the class Drivers Championship. Lindsey is the Team Principal and driver of the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in the IMSA WeatherTech GTD class. This weekend he will forgo the seat in his machine at Detroit to focus on Le Mans testing. As a pilot, he will fly several of the drivers — including his Park Place driver Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) — from Detroit to Le Mans, France for the test weekend.
As North America’s only Porsche factory driver, Long heads the No. 99 Dempsey-Proton Racing team with Tracy Krohn (Houston, Texas) and Nic Jonsson (Atlanta, Georgia) for the Le Mans Test Day and at the 24-hour classic on June 15 – 16. Dempsey-Proton, which is co-owned by Patrick Dempsey (Malibu, California) also fields the No. 77 for Matt Campbell (Australia), Christian Reid (Germany) and Julien Andlauer (France) as well as the No. 88 with Satoshi Hoshino (Japan), Giorgio Roda (Italy) and Matteo Cairoli (Italy). Proton Competition brings the No. 78 Porsche 911 RSR for Italians Louis and Philippe Prette along with Vincent Abril of France. The final Porsche in the GTE-Am class is the familiar Gulf Racing colours of the British driver trio of Michael Wainwright. Benjamin Barker and Thomas Preining.