Le Mans: GTE stunners and spoilers

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We’re taking a look through the field ahead of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans at the manufacturers and teams entered. Next up is GTE, with both the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes (race action from 2014 pictured right).


GTE-Pro: What the class lacks in manufacturer diversity it still has in quality. We say this every year seemingly, but take your pick of a Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche or Corvette.

  • AF Corse Ferrari: The defending class champions of Vilander, Bruni and Fisichella will be going for broke once again. Rigon, Calado and Beretta seek to upend their more successful teammates, or at least provide rear gunner support.
  • Corvette Racing: Corvette got back to P2 last year with the C7.R in its race debut, and nothing less than a win is the goal this year. If Magnussen, Garcia and Briscoe pull it off, they’ll be a perfect three-for-three at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans, and the story that could provide is an incredible one. But I’m sure Mssrs. Gavin, Milner and Taylor would like a win themselves…
  • Porsche Team Manthey: With the focus on the overall win for Porsche, it remains to be seen whether the factory GTE program will suffer any. Still very good lineups and preparation, and while a win wouldn’t be a surprise, they’re not the first pick this year.
  • Aston Martin Racing: Three all-pro lineups and the lone three-car entry in class does give Aston Martin a much better fighting chance than it had a year ago. Still, the veteran trio of Turner, Mucke and Bell is the team’s best bet above either of the young guns in the Nos. 95 and 99 car. Consider Aston the Audi of GTE-Pro, with one veteran trio and two cars with young chargers.

GTE-Am: Ferrari, Porsche and Aston are joined by the full-season Larbre Corvette, back in the class after a year’s hiatus, and the SRT Viper, now a privateer effort and also back after a year’s hiatus.

  • Larbre Competition: Larbre went back-to-back in the first two Le Mans with GTE-Am in 2011 and 2012, and with a great GTE-Am lineup of Roda, Ruberti and past Le Mans winner Poulsen, this car should contend in the Corvette C7.R’s class debut.
  • Riley Motorsports-TI Automotive: Bound to be a fan favorite, the ground-pounding V10 Viper will be in good hands with Bill Riley leading the charge and another very good for GTE-Am lineup of Bleekemolen, Keating and Miller.
  • AF Corse: AF is the favorite in GTE-Pro… it is not in GTE-Am. Other than Matt Griffin in the No. 55 car and Emmanuel Collard in the No. 83 car, it’s less than stellar lineups across the board in the team’s three cars.
  • Scuderia Corsa: A lineup of Townsend Bell, Jeff Segal and Bill Sweedler pushes the limit of what should be legal in GTE-Am, which is to say Giacomo Mattioli and his team have given themselves the best possible opportunity to win in their race debut.
  • JMW Motorsport: Always one of the sneakier entries in class because the Jim McWhirter-led team has a propensity to punch above its weight. This year should be no different with a very solid trio of Kuba Giermaziak, Michael Avenatti and Abdulaziz Al Faisal.
  • Team AAI: The surprise team with two cars via Asian Le Mans Series automatic entries, it will be a surprise if either of these Porsches factor in the class.
  • SMP Racing: While SMP’s two P2 cars don’t have a realistic shot, this one could be decent in GTE-Am. Watch Andrea Bertolini in his stints.
  • Dempsey Racing-Proton: Dempsey’s single focus on the WEC and Le Mans this year will guide this team’s ultimate result. He’s had two races to prep in Europe, compared to being a U.S.-based entrant just coming over now. Long and Seefried will be fine but it’s how Dempsey stacks up against the fellow Bronze drivers that likely will determine the finish.
  • Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing: Of four Porsches in class, this is likely one with the best chance of a result. Ried, Al Qubaisi and Bachler is a solid GTE-Am lineup.
  • Aston Martin Racing: We come last to the defending GTE-Am winners. The team’s No. 98 car must be considered favorite with a gaudy GTE-Am lineup of Lamy, Dalla Lana and Lauda. The sister No. 96 car has potential but is not as strong on paper.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.