Le Mans, 16 June 2017 – A Ferrari will start from the front row in the GTE-Pro class in the 85th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans that will start on Saturday at 3 pm, the No. 51 AF Corse 488 GTE of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Michele Rugolo. The sister car, the AF Corse 71 of Sam Bird, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina, was fourth while Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Pierre Kaffer will start from 11th in the Risi Competizione car. In the GTE-Am class the fastest Ferrari was the No. 62 of Scuderia Corsa. The 2016 class winners Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler are joined this year by Cooper MacNeil in their 488 GTE. It was also a successful day for the No. 55 Spirit of Race crew of Cioci-Scott-Cameron and for the JMW Motorsport trio of Vanthoor-Stevens-Smith.
GTE-Pro. In GTE-Pro class the best times for Ferrari were those recorded by AF Corse in the first session. Only at the end of the second session, that ended well after 9 pm because of a series of accidents involving some cars of the LMP2 class, did the times begin to drop. In the 71 car, the best placed after Q1, Sam Bird was able to repeat his time of 3’52”2. Similar times were also recorded by teammates Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina. Sam Bird, however, improved the best time of the 71 car significantly when he was able to stop the clock at 3’51”086, the fourth best time. In the 51 the improvements were more progressive. Starting from Wednesday’s 3’53”123, Alessandro Pier Guidi was able to set 3’52”952. James Calado later improved that time with a 3’52”374 and then with a 3’52”087. It was the newcomer Michele Rugolo who took the most laps in the 51 car after Lucas Di Grassi was declared unfit to race by the Medical Delegate. In the final minutes James Calado was back in the car and improved significantly, getting a 3’51”028 that was enough for second place. The Risi Competizione team, on the other hand, had a more complex day. For a rule infringement, all of the Wednesday times of the 82 crew were deleted. When the car emerged from the garage, it was Giancarlo Fisichella at the wheel. The Italian driver first stopped the clock at 3’52”575 and then immediately improved to 3’52”138. Toni Vilander was able to set a pretty similar time while Pierre Kaffer focused more on race pace. The No. 82 Ferrari will start from 11th on the grid. Pole position went to the No. 97 Aston Martin of Turner-Adam-Serra.
GTE-Am. In the GTE-Am class, with eight Ferrari crews involved, the best Ferrari 488 GTE was third. It was the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa car of 2016 winners Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell joined by Cooper MacNeil, fresh from competing in the Ferrari Challenge North America round last Sunday at Montreal. Fifth place went to the No. 55 Spirit of Race car of Marco Cioci, Aaron Scott and Duncan Cameron, sixth was the No. 84 car of JMW Motorsport driven by Dries Vanthoor, Will Stevens and Robert Smith. The DH Racing 488 GTE, entrusted to Krohn Racing, was seventh with Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Andrea Bertolini. It was a difficult day for the other Scuderia Corsa car, the No. 65 of Christina Nielsen, the only woman competing this year, Alessandro Balzan and Bret Curtis. The car couldn’t run after a technical issue emerged and the trio will have to start from last on the grid. However the race will last 24 hours and the starting place has a limited value, especially if one remembers what happened last year in GTE-Am class. The 62 car of Sweedler, Bell and Segal started last after a terrible qualifying: 24 Hours later the drivers enjoyed the champagne from the top step of the podium.
Parade. As tradition requires, on Friday there will be no activity on the track, as the 60 crews of the 24 Hours will move to Le Mans’ historic centre for the parade that introduces the event. The start of the race is scheduled for Saturday at 3pm, following the second race of the Michelin Le Mans Cup which will be held in the morning.