MATT JAMES “GTE Pro looks like it will be a highlight”
While the major scraps at Le Mans this season will be fought out among the factory players at the front of the field, Porsche, Toyota and Audi are unlikely to produce as close a competition as some of the classes will.
After last weekend’s test day, the eye is immediately drawn to the fight that will race in the GTE Pro division. Of the 14 machines that took part in the test running, there was only 1.8s between them in terms of lap time.
For any other race meeting, that might sound like a sizeable gap, but don’t forget that this is Le Mans. There are 8.469 miles of circuit to get wrong – or right. There are cars to lap. There are variances in a number of elements to overcome.
The fact that manufacturers such as Corvette, Aston Martin and Ferrari are taking the division seriously is good news on two counts.
Firstly, one of the major reasons that firms with that kind of sporting heritage are interested in putting their machines in the shop window is precisely that – it is a place to sell hardware. That means that there is a healthy marketplace, which in turn means GT racing is strong globally.
And if manufacturers want to show off their machines being driven as fast as they can go, then they are going to be looking around at the best of the up-and-coming talent to pedal them.
Of course, there will always be a place for amateurs in GT racing (although, in some of the line-ups on the grid for this year’s edition of the 24 hours, it is hard to spot the weaker link). The gentlemen races have always been the underpinning of that type of racing, and they should not be overlooked.
But GTE Pro is the highest level, and that means that there are a number of opportunities for younger racers, an increasing number of which are turning their back on single-seaters as the costs rise to prohibitive levels.
A driver can make a decent career in GTS, and it is the goose laying the golden egg as the category flourishes.
Of course, with the major sportscar makes taking GT racing so seriously at the highest level, it is still a tough route for a young racer to take. It is no longer a safe harbour for those singleseater racers who were ‘good but not quite good enough’. These days, there is nowhere to hide. That is just another element which is going to make the GTE Pro division worth keeping an eye on at the French classic.