Le Mans features incredible rookie class of 2018

June 15, 2018

Le Mans features incredible rookie class of 2018

June 15, 2018

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the pinnacle of endurance sports car racing. This year, the race features an incredible rookie crop of drivers who look to add Le Mans to their glittering resumes.

The most obvious headlining “rookie” is Fernando Alonso. Alonso made his sports car debut with United Autosports at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. He is racing the full FIA World Endurance Championship season with Toyota Gazoo Racing.

Alonso is pursuing winning racing’s “Triple Crown.” He’s won the Monaco Grand Prix before. But within the last 13 months, he’ll have made his debut in both the Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Jenson Button is Alonso’s former teammate at the McLaren Formula 1 team. Button, too, is a Le Mans rookie. With his F1 career over, he’ll be part of SMP Racing’s lineup in LMP1.

Juan Pablo Montoya will make his Le Mans debut. Montoya will be with United Autosports in LMP2. Montoya has two-thirds of the “Triple Crown” secured, with victories at Monaco and the Indianapolis 500.

Further ex-Formula 1 drivers in Pastor Maldonado, Felipe Nasr and Paul di Resta also make their debuts, all in LMP2. Di Resta is another driver at United. Maldonado races for DragonSpeed. Nasr will drive with Cetilar Villorba Corse.

While these are the “big names” among rookies, they are not the only ones.

Renger van der Zande makes his debut in DragonSpeed’s LMP1 car. The Dutchman shares Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac in IMSA.

Ferrari junior driver Antonio Giovinazzi is part of an intriguing lineup in AF Corse’s third Ferrari in GTE-Pro.

Race officials rank some drivers as rookies despite having extensive Le Mans experience. This is due to not appearing on the official list of “experienced drivers” following extended absences.

Examples here include Mike Rockenfeller (GTE-Pro) and Fabio Babini (GTE-Am), who both have Le Mans wins on their resumes but have not competed in their current classes before.

Babini has seven prior Le Mans starts but none since 2009, and has a class win in 2001 in GT.

Rockenfeller won overall for Audi in 2010. But the German, who has eight Le Mans starts, has not raced here since 2012. His last GT start at Le Mans came in 2005, in a Porsche.

Those two drivers are the outliers among the full list of rookies, which can be found here via the FIA WEC website.

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