This Saturday, November 13, the start of the Petit Le Mans endurance race will be given. Eight French drivers will be on the starting grid.
The IMSA, of which Petit Le Mans is the closing race, is the most important North American Endurance Championship. It has always attracted French drivers by the quality of its circuits and the presence of good level cars. In 2023, the premier category, which is now called DPi, will be replaced by the LMDh. It will then be a question of staging hybrid prototypes which will be as well homologated for racing in IMSA as in the FIA-WEC world championship, and therefore at the 24 hours of Le Mans. It is also this prospect that attracts French drivers (but not only) from the other side of the Atlantic, many of whom see this championship as a potential springboard for the Sarthois double clock.
Eight French specialists at the start
For the 2021 edition of Petit Le Mans, out of 93 drivers entered, eight are French. Six of them will be at the start in the DPi category, including three in a Cadillac prototype of JDC Miller Racing: the Le Mans Sébastien Bourdais, great expert and many times titled in American motorsport, the Chartres Loïc Duval, winner of Le Mans in 2013 ( with Audi), and the Isère Tristan Vautier, who had already made a name for himself in Indycar before making a joint car with his compatriots in IMSA. We will also find Simon Pagenaud, the winner of the 2019 edition of the Indianapolis 500, driving a team Penske Acura. The French will team up with former Formula 1 driver Juan-Pablo Montoya and American Dane Cameron.
Still in DPi, Olivier Pla will share his Mazda with the British Oliver Jarvis and the American Tristan Nunez. The Toulouse driver, who celebrated his 40th birthday on October 22, will be one of the veterans of this 10-hour race. The last French entered in the DPi category, the Parisian Gabriel Aubry will team up with Chris Miller (USA) and Matheus Leist (Brazil) aboard a Cadillac. The young 22-year-old driver, second in the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans in the LM P2 category (7th in the general classification), is clearly at the start of Petit Le Mans to try to find a place in Endurance, while the 2023 season will certainly be the most important of the century.
Two other French drivers, and not the least, will be at the start of Petit Le Mans in the GTLM category. First the very friendly Frédéric Makowiecki, great specialist in the category, vice-world champion in GT1 2012 and brilliant driver in Super GT in Japan but also in Endurance (two second places at Le Mans in GTE Pro in 2018 and 2019 with Porsche ). He will be driving a Porsche 911 RSR-19, which he shares with Briton Nick Tandy and Australian Matt Campbell. In the other official Porsche 911 we will find the last French entered at Petit Le Mans, Mathieu Jaminet, who will officiate alongside the New Zealand driver Earl Bamber and the Belgian Lanrens Vanthoor. Originally from Lorraine, the young (27 years old) official Porsche driver is also one of the strongest racing drivers in Endurance racing, and particularly with the German manufacturer with whom he has spent most of his career.
French equipment manufacturers invest in Petit Le Mans
The French footprint in North American Endurance is also the presence of Michelin in the IMSA championship. Since 2019, the Petit Le Mans race, at the end of the season, no longer takes place on the Road Atlanta circuit, but on the “Michelin Raceway road Atlanta”. Spectators will also notice the Michelin Tower, a tower inaugurated in 2019 and which, on five floors, houses the race management, a press room, several private lounges and a rooftop with barbecue. A significant investment for Michelin, which is also the sole supplier of all the cars entered in all categories. IMSA is also Michelin’s first motorsport program. At Petit Le Mans, there are 155 cars entered in all categories, which will consume 6,000 tires from the French manufacturer in three days of activity. In total, IMSA represents an annual business of tens of thousands of racing tires. It is therefore both important from a commercial point of view, but also a formidable marketing lever for the brand, which continues to progress across the Atlantic.
The race will start this Saturday at 12:10 local time, or 6:10 in France. Arrival expected at 10:10 p.m., i.e. 4:10 p.m. on our side of the Atlantic.