2009 Le Mans 24 Hours Class-By-Class Preview: LMGT1

James BroomheadAnalyst IMay 30, 2009

LEXINGTON, OH - JULY 19:  The #3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C6-R driven by Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell during the American Le Mans Series Acura Sports Car Challenge on July 19, 2008 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)

2008 Winner:

Aston Martin Racing

Drivers—David Brabham—Antonio Garcia—Darren Turner.

344 laps completed


What to watch for in 2009:

  • The end of an era
  • Inter-team battles
  • Can anyone stop Corvette?

2009’s LMGT1 class is a shadow of the class that has delivered some of the great talking points and rivalries of recent years, and has the feel, as perhaps it should, of a class winding down before the rule changes for 2010 make the current cars obsolete.


Undoubtedly the biggest loss was the works Aston Martins DBR9s, who after fielding two cars in 2008 decided to move to LMP1 with their new Lola built coupe. Then another Aston Martin team was lost as Team Modena moved down a class to campaign a Porsche in GT2.


However, when the entry list was revealed there were still two customer Astons on the list, entered by Jetalliance and Gigawave respectively, alongside two Lamborghini's and four Corvettes. While an eight car list looked good, warning signs were in the air already as the sole Saleen S7 invited—that of Larbre Competition was languishing deep in the reserve lists, unlikely from the off to ever make the final 55.


From there is got worse. The Gigawave Aston was the first withdrawal of any class, with the team struggling to run the Aston, alongside the new 2010 GT1 spec Nissan GTR in the FIA GT series. Then for reasons probably clear only to the team themselves the second Murcielago, entered IPB Spartak, also withdrew, leaving the threadbare six car class of today’s preview.


#63 Corvette Racing—Corvette C6.R

Drivers—Jan Magnussen—Johnny O’Connell—Antonio Garcia


This year’s GT1 class is probably only worthwhile as it is the swansong for the works Corvettes in the class, before they switch their focus to a GT2 program. And it’s difficult to see them not going out on a high, robbed of the works Aston Martin's that have been their main competition over the years the door is wide open for a Corvette victory, barring mechanical failure. With a tried and tested endurance driver line-up, Garcia was in the class winning Aston last year, only a mechanical failure can stop them, and while the "Vettes" aren’t bullet proof, they take a lot of stopping.


Prediction: Winner


#64 Corvette Racing—Corvette C6.R

Drivers—Olivier Beretta—Oliver Gavin—Marcel Fassler

The second works Corvette, obviously has the same pros and cons as the first, and has the same level of driving expertise lined up behind the wheel, with Swiss Fassler joining the traditional “Olies” Corvette driver pairing. However, there is just something lacking in the trio on paper that the #63 car has, which could just leave this car losing out to it’s stable mate, come the end of the race. If anything serious befalls the first car, there will be an identical one, barring a paint scheme, behind it to take it’s place.


Prediction: Podium


#66 Jetalliance Racing—Aston Martin DBR9


Drivers—Lukas Lichtner-Hoyer—Thomas Gruber—Alex Muller


The sole Aston left in the class, and one that shouldn’t concern the front runners, either overall of in class. That said the Jetalliance squad are far from out of their depths having run in the FIA GT championship, which of course has a 24 hour race itself, as well as other GT series, and we know that the base car is no slouch. However, the weak link is definitely the drivers. All of them have some experience, mostly in FIA GTs, but in my mind the team have missed a trick bringing Karl Wendlinger across from their past efforts and could suffer over the course of the race, the end result being the garage door being pulled down early.


Prediction: DNF


#68 JLOC Isao Noritake—Lamborghini Mucielago

Drivers—Atsushi Yugo—TBA—Marco Apicella

The only glimmer of variety in the class, marked more so because of the range of equipment elsewhere, the Japanese Lamborghini Owners’ Club don’t have the happiest history at La Sarthe, having completed only one lap in their most recent effort in 2007 after a practice crash. And while there may not be another practice crash, or such a dismal failure, I’m afraid to say it’s going to be a failure all the same, and it’s probably going to come sooner rather than later.


Prediction: DNF


#72 Luc Alphand Aventures—Corvette C6.R

Drivers—Luc Alphand—Patrice Goueslard—Yann Clairay


Luc Alphand’s privateer Corvette team has come on leaps and bounds since their debut in 2006, and they still have a record for never having had a retirement, which is no mean feat, especially for a customer team. Given this they should be right there, and should expect a podium from at least one of their cars, maybe more if the works machines suffer problems. Of the two cars entered this year, this entry has the history, both Alphand himself and Goueslard have previous podiums at Le Mans. The only week link in Clairay, whose sportcar experience is minimal and who otherwise has had a thoroughly average single-seater career putting a 24 hour race some distance out of his comfort zone.


Prediction: Podium


#73 Luc Alphand Aventures—Corvette C6.R

Drivers—Guillaume Moreau—Xavier Maassen—Julien Jousse

The second team car also sports a line-up mixing the experienced heads—Moreau and Maassen—with the up and coming talent—Jousse, who has far more talent than Clairay in the other car. This balance should put them in the same sort of position as the #72, and just like the second works Corvette if anything happens to their teammates they will be the first car to take advantage.


Prediction: Finisher  


UPDATE: Moreau out at Luc Alphand, teams reshuffled, Stephan Gregoire in.


Moreau is out of the #73 car, moving to an LMP2 squad. Yann Clairay has been moved to the the vacant slot (making the #73 car noticably the weaker of the LAA cars). Stephane Gregoire - seven Indy 500 starts, 2 Le Mans starts (2003, 2008) into the #72 car.


Other Le Mans Class-by-Class previews