British contingent set for centenary 24 Hours of Le Mans

Wednesday 07 June 2023

This weekend (10/11 June), the 24 Hours of Le Mans gets underway. It will be the centenary of the prestigious race, one of motorsport’s triple crown events (alongside the Monaco Grand Prix and Indy 500) and looks set to be the most competitive in years with the introduction of the new Hypercar class, featuring six manufacturers.

At the front of the field, several Brits have a realistic shot of overall victory. One of the strong contenders is two-time WEC champion and 2021 Le Mans winner Mike Conway, who lies second in the championship standings coming into the weekend in the Toyota GR010 he shares with Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez.

Ferrari is seeking its first overall Le Mans victory since 1965. Pole position on debut at Sebring, followed by second place at Portimao and a podium at Spa for factory driver and former Motorsport UK Academy Team UK member James Calado, puts the Italian manufacturer’s two AF Corse-run 499P’s – and Calado – in strong contention.

Porsche have also rejoined the party after a few years away – having last won in 2017 in the LMP1 era – and picked up a podium finish at Portimao on the same weekend as its 963’s first victory at Long Beach (IMSA). Nick Tandy, who was part of that Long Beach victory, won Le Mans for the German brand in 2015 and was on Academy Team UK the same year as Calado. He rejoined Porsche this year after a brief sabbatical to Corvette Racing.

Porsche is also represented by British privateer outfit and multiple LMP2 category winner Hertz Team JOTA, running a single 963 with former Academy Team UK driver Will Stevens amongst their line-up.

Meanwhile, 2009 race winner Peugeot makes its return to sportscar racing and Le Mans with a two-car effort featuring former DTM champion and ex-Formula 1 driver Paul di Resta.

Former Academy Team UK member Alex Lynn pilots one of the two factory Cadillacs, sharing his entry with long-time Porsche specialist and Chevrolet factory driver Richard Westbrook, while Alexander Sims and Jack Aitken – also Academy Team UK alumni – race the American machine for IMSA outfit and European racing debutant Action Express Racing.

Multiple Brits have a shot at victory in the ultra-competitive LMP2 division, featuring 24 identical Orecas. Tom Blomqvist, part of Academy Team UK’s 2011 squad, leads the contenders for the highly successful United Autosports operation and shares his car with 2017 class victor Oliver Jarvis, while their other entry features Phil Hanson and Frederick Lubin.  Elsewhere, current Academy Team UK driver Tom Gamble is one of the two 2023 members entered for Le Mans, as he makes his second start at the French enduro with Racing Team Turkey.

Academy Team UK alumni Ben Barnicoat and Le Mans first-timer Olli Caldwell are entered with AF Corse and Signatech Alpine respectively, and Ryan Cullen (Vector Sport) and Ben Hanley (Nielsen Racing) also feature.

Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari and Chevrolet are all present in the 21-car LMGTE Am entry. 2023 Academy Team UK driver Casper Stevenson, who finished third in the 2020 ROKiT F4 British Championship, will make his Le Mans debut in D-STATION Racing’s Aston Martin as part of his full-season WEC campaign – while 2011 Academy Team UK member Harry Tincknell will be making his tenth consecutive start at the event, driving Proton Competition’s Porsche 911 RSR.

Simon Mann, Michael Wainwright, Ben Barker and Ian James make up the rest of the British contingent – however, the latter is British-born but races under an American license.

Meanwhile, the supporting Road to Le Mans races – the highlight round of Le Mans Cup for LMP3 and GT3 machinery – take place on Thursday and Friday. Amongst several British drivers entered, 2023 Academy Team UK member Josh Skelton will race a Ligier LMP3 for Nielsen Racing, and Academy Team UK Performance Manager Andy Meyrick shares a similar car entered by United Autosports.

Motorsport UK Team UK is a national squad of elite competitors selected to receive a bespoke one-to-one performance programme as they compete at the top level of motorsport. Drivers come through the Motorsport UK Academy and a new selection of Team UK elites is picked every year.