Le Mans 24: GTE-Am car-by-car preview

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Inevitably in a four-class grid one of the classes might be lesser fancied, and GTE-Am probably has that distinction this year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Still, within its 13 cars, there’s a number of good stories and still good variety. With the new Ferrari 488 GTE in GTE-Pro, the venerable Ferrari F458 Italia is still present in GTE-Am along with entries from Corvette, Porsche and Aston Martin.

Here’s a look through this grid:

50-Yamagishi/Ragues/Belloc, Larbre Competition, Corvette C7.R (M)

Jack Leconte’s team has a winning pedigree at Le Mans but faces adversity this year. Belloc is a last-minute stand-in for injured Paolo Ruberti and while a team veteran, doesn’t have the raw speed of Nick Catsburg, who led Test Day. A podium is certainly possible, though.

55-Cameron/M. Griffin/Scott, AF Corse, Ferrari F458 Italia (M)

Here’s a possible class contender with Matt Griffin due to lead the car’s chances, and race debutante Aaron Scott looking to stay out of trouble. Perennial Le Mans entrant Duncan Cameron has improved by leaps and bounds and an AF Ferrari 458 is always steady.

83-Perrodo/Collard/Aguas, AF Corse, Ferrari F458 Italia (M)

The more likely of AF’s two primary cars to contend, its lone WEC entrant should be in with a definite podium if not win shout. While the GTE-Am rules generally prefer two true ams, Aguas flirts with that fine line of a downgraded to Silver pro and as such enhances the lineup.

57-O’Connell/Bryant/Patterson, Team AAI, Corvette C7.R (M)

Here’s an ultimate “wild card” entry as an Asian Le Mans Series front-running team, albeit with zero Asian components in its driver lineup or car choice for Le Mans. O’Connell makes his triumphant return to La Sarthe while Bryant and Patterson are clean, capable runners.

60-Laursen/Mac/C. Nielsen, Formula Racing, Ferrari F458 Italia (M)

The all-Danish Ferrari entry looks to bounce back from an accident at the ELMS round at Imola. This will be a popular entry to watch, and talented young Christina Nielsen – who’s done well in IMSA competition Stateside – is set to make her Le Mans debut.

61-R. Bell/Sun/Sawa, Clearwater Racing, Ferrari F458 Italia (M) 

Another that figures to have AF support if not be an outright AF entry, Singapore-entered Clearwater Racing is an Asian team that’s had a bit of success in the Asian Le Mans Series. Rob Bell is the known Le Mans quantity in this trio.

62-Sweedler/T. Bell/Segal, Scuderia Corsa, Ferrari F458 Italia (M)

All-American lineup is now armed with the value of experience from running here as a trio last year, and getting on the podium. NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell and Jeff Segal are paired with Bill Sweedler; Bell and Sweedler won IMSA’s GTD title last year.

78-Ried/Henzler/Camathias, KCMG, Porsche 911 RSR (M)

In theory this should have been one of the contenders in GTE-Am this year given the lineup and Proton Competition operation, but it’s been a rough start in the FIA WEC. The Porsche doesn’t seem to be the car to have this year.

86-Wainwright/Carroll/Barker, Gulf Racing UK, Porsche 911 RSR (M) 

It’s a sneaky “two pro” lineup in the pro-am class owing to Barker’s Silver status, but like the other full season FIA WEC Porsches the results haven’t matched the promise of operation thus far. Top-five in class would be a good result for this trio.

88-Al Qubaisi/DHH/P. Long, Abu Dhabi Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR (M) 

A lineup true to the spirit of the regulations, this is a good Le Mans lineup with Long and DHH having had past class victories and Al Qubaisi consistent on pace, if unlucky from a results standpoint. Few would begrudge success for this car after Spa late-race heartbreak.

89-MacNeil/L. Keen/M. Miller, Proton Competition, Porsche 911 RSR (M)

All-American lineup should be able to succeed in GTE-Am, even though the adaptation will be to the German Proton squad. Expect the WeatherTech-backed car to be fighting for a potential podium finish.

98-Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda, Aston Martin Racing, Aston Martin Vantage V8 (D)

This car was so desperately close to winning its class in 2015 before Dalla Lana’s late-race accident. But they’re off to a strong start this year with second and first place results thus far; will be interesting to see how the updated Aston tackles Le Mans now on Dunlops.

99-Howard/L. Griffin/Hirsch, Aston Martin Racing, Aston Martin Vantage V8 (D)

It’s a respectable but not incredible lineup set here in the Beechdean-backed Aston. In the 13-car field, seeing this car contend for a class win would come as a surprise.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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