The 89th running of the Le Mans 24 Hour is this weekend and there are three Kiwis to follow along across the race.
Unfortunately, Nick Cassidy’s name is no longer on the entry list, most likely because of his Formula E commitments that limited testing time.
Likewise, Heiki Kovalainen, who was provisionally listed to race alongside Cassidy in a GTE-Pro Porsche, is no longer racing.
Still, there are three Kiwis in three different classes this weekend. Check out who they are:
- Best result: Wins (2017, 2020)
- 2021 class: Le Mans Hypercar
- 2021 co-drivers: Kazuki Nakajima & Sebastien Buemi
One year ago (well, 11 months to be exact), Brendon Hartley took his second Le Mans victory and his first for Toyota.
The New Zealander and co-drivers Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi took over the lead after the sister Toyota ran into mechanical trouble.
They then controlled the race to claim a convincing five lap win.
This year marks the first Toyota will tackle Le Mans with its new Hypercar.
Hartley is an unchanged line-up in the No.8 machine, which currently leads the World Endurance Championship after three rounds.
This year, the Toyota Hypercars are undisputed favourites for the overall win should they avoid any trouble in the race.
Monday’s testing times suggest the Glickenhaus Hypercars were slightly faster than the two Toyotas, though expect Toyota to turn up the wick before qualifying.
The last WEC round in Monza was a woeful race for Hartley and the No.8 team after reliability issues dropped them several laps.
Hartley said after Monza it was good news to have encountered the issues before Le Mans. However, whether Toyota has fully rectified the problem remains unknown.
Still, expect Hartley to be a contender for pole position tomorrow (NZT) and then hopefully challenge for the win come race day.
- Best results: Wins (2015, 2017)
- 2021 Class: GTE-Pro
- 2021 co-drivers: Cooper MacNeil & Laurens Vanthoor
Earl missed last year’s Le Mans but returns for a shot at a third class victory.
The Kiwi claimed overall wins with Porsche in 2015 and 2017, the latter being with fellow New Zealander Hartley.
This year, Bamber is in a WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 GTE-Pro entry.
His co-drivers are American racer Cooper MacNeil and long-time friend Laurens Vanthoor.
Bamber and Vanthoor were regular winners and eventual champions in the IMSA GTE series together and they were soon dubbed ‘Bamthor.’
The trio was quick in testing earlier this week, so expect them to be class front runners this year.
Between all three of them, there are 16 Le Mans starts, three class wins and three further podiums. It makes them one of the most experienced teams in the GTE field.
- Best result: Debut this year
- 2021 Class: GTE-Am
- 2021 co-drivers: Matt Campbell & Christian Reid
Jaxon Evans will no doubt be fizzing to make his Le Mans debut this weekend.
The Kiwi made a one-off appearance in the World Endurance Championship at Bahrain last year before joining Dempsey-Proton Racing full-time for the 2021 season.
There is no questioning Evans’ speed. He has proved he is an adept GT handler in the Porsche Supercup the past few years.
However, Le Mans will be a new challenge for Evans.
Circuit de la Sarthe is a notoriously difficult track to master, especially in such a narrow testing window.
Evans will be alongside Bathurst 12 Hour winner and friend Matt Campbell for the race and team owner Christian Reid.
The trio finished a commendable ninth at Monza last time out. That momentum could give them a solid push heading into Le Mans.
NZ viewing times:
Live coverage of the race will be on Sky Sport pop-up 1 Channel 600
|Q1||THU 5 am|
|Hyperpole||FRI 7 am|
|Race||SUN 2 am|