Another Strong IMSA Contingent Set for 24 Hours of Le Mans

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IMSA teams have performed extremely well over the past few years in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with back-to-back GTE Pro victories in 2015 and 2016, a pair of full-time IMSA WeatherTech Championship drivers winning overall in the LM P1 class in 2015, and a GTE Am class win last year.

It stands to reason, then, that IMSA will again have strong representation at Le Mans in 2017 on June 17-18. A total of eight WeatherTech Championship teams will compete, as well as 19 full-time drivers in the series. Thirteen drivers in the Le Mans field have won at least once in the 2017 WeatherTech Championship season, and the field will include more than 40 drivers that have started two or more races in the series this year.

Leading the charge will be the Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA trio of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais, who return to defend their 2016 GTE Pro victory in the No. 68 Ford GT. They’ve since added another crown jewel to their trophy case, a GT Le Mans (GTLM) victory in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona, and will be joined by another U.S. entry from Ganassi, the No. 69 Ford GT shared by Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and IndyCar star Scott Dixon.

The IMSA team carrying the most momentum to Le Mans has to be Corvette Racing. Co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia have won two of the past three WeatherTech Championship races in the GTLM class, including another crown jewel in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida. They will be joined in the No. 63 Corvette C7.R by Jordan Taylor, who has won all four 2017 WeatherTech Championship races to date in the Prototype class sharing the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R with his brother, Ricky Taylor. More on him in a moment.

The other Corvette Racing entry, the No 64 C7.R, will be shared by 2016 WeatherTech Championship GTLM champions Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, being joined once again by endurance teammate Marcel Fassler. Gavin and Milner won earlier this year in the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, and were 2015 GTE Pro champions at Le Mans with Jordan Taylor as their co-driver.

After finishing on the Le Mans podium last year in GTE Pro, Risi Competizione aims for the top step with its No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE and full-season WeatherTech Championship co-drivers Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella (who won Le Mans in GTE Pro in 2014) joined by Pierre Kaffer, who previously raced with the Risi team in 2015.

Getting back to Ricky Taylor, he’ll be part of an intriguing three-driver lineup in the LM P2 class, sharing the Gibson-powered No. 43 Multimatic-Riley entry with current WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) points co-leaders Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen. Keating and Bleekemolen also have won two of the last three WeatherTech Championship races – at Sebring in March and earlier this month in the Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown at Circuit of The Americas in Keating’s home state of Texas – but are trading their regular Mercedes-AMG GT3 ride for a Prototype at Le Mans.

In the GTE Am class, Scuderia Corsa has doubled down on its efforts to defend its 2016 class victory at Le Mans, entering a pair of Ferrari 488 GTEs. In the No. 62 will be 2016 Le Mans GTE Am winners – and 2015 WeatherTech Championship GTD co-champions – Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell, joined by Cooper MacNeil, who won the GTD class at Long Beach last month in the No. 50 WeatherTech Mercedes-AMG GT3.

The other Scuderia Corsa entry, the No. 65 Ferrari, will be co-driven by 2016 WeatherTech Championship GTD co-champions Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan, along with frequent WeatherTech Championship competitor Bret Curtis.

“Once again this year, IMSA fans will have plenty of familiar drivers and teams to root on this year at Le Mans,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton. “We’re extremely proud of the record of success our teams have had at Le Mans, recently and throughout our history, and believe we’ve got another stellar crop to take on the world this year.

“Without question the entries from the WeatherTech Championship will be favorites for the podium. We wish all of our teams and drivers the very best as they embark on this grueling test of their abilities and hope to celebrate another Le Mans victory, or two, this year at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen two weeks after Le Mans.”

Practice and qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans begins on Wednesday, June 14.