LE MANS 24 HOURS EX­PANDS TO 60-CAR FIELD THIS YEAR

LE MANS EX­PANDS TO RUN 60 CARS

Motor Sport News - - Head­line News - By Rob Lad­brook Photos: LAT, Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing

Le Mans 24 Hours or­gan­is­ers have con­firmed that 60 cars will be able to start this year’s 84th run­ning of the French en­durance clas­sic.

Race or­gan­iser the Au­to­mo­bile Club de l’ouest has pushed for­ward the com­ple­tion date of four new garages at the Cir­cuit de la Sarthe, which are be­ing con­structed across the old parc ferme area to­ward the exit of the pit lane.

It was orig­i­nally planned for 58 cars to take part this year, with only two new garages due for com­ple­tion in 2016 be­fore the rest were opened for 2017. But faced with ris­ing in­ter­est in the race, the ACO will cater for a record-equalling num­ber of cars this sea­son. Sixty cars took part in three events in the early 1950s, but that amount has never been bet­tered.

ACO sport­ing man­ager Vin­cent Beaumes­nil said: “Each year the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee is find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to es­tab­lish the list of en­tries. We will have 32 pro­to­types and 28 GT cars this year and it al­ready looks like a first-class race.”

Among the en­tries is an ex­panded four-car at­tack from the Ford fac­tory team, which will field a quar­tet of its new Chip Ganassi-run GT ma­chines in the GTE Pro class. Two cars had been ex­pected to run, but the ACO has granted two ad­di­tional en­tries to Ford, which cel­e­brates 50 years since its first vic­tory at La Sarthe.

Both of Ford’s full-time World En­durance Cham­pi­onship cars – en­tered for Marino Fran­chitti and Olivier Pla – will run as will its two IMSA Sportscar Cham­pi­onship cars with Joey Hand and Ryan Briscoe as the first driv­ers con­firmed. The cars are num­bered 66-69 to com­mem­o­rate the mar­que’s four con­sec­u­tive Le Mans wins with the orig­i­nal GT40.

“Run­ning all four cars will be a big chal­lenge for us but one we are thrilled to un­der­take,” said Ganassi. “We have pre­pared well and can’t wait to get the cars on track to show what they can do.”

Ford has four GTE Pro en­tries for GT Garage ex­pan­sion al­lows more cars

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