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A LE MANS 24 HOURS OF PREMIERES FOR BMW AND TEAM WRT


Mobil Sean Gelael dan Rossi yang akan tampil pada kejuaraan Le Mans 24 Jam sebagai putaran keempat laga FIA WEC 2024, 15-16 Juni 2024. (fiawec)

MEDIABALAP.com – The 24 Hours of Le Mans is around the corner, as always, expectations and anxiety are high on the eve of what certainly is the climax in the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar and arguably the biggest race of all. It will mark another milestone in the history of Team WRT, as this will be the first time that the Belgian squad will compete in the top class and the first time it will field four cars, two BMW M Hybrid V8 under ‘BMW M Team WRT’ in the Hypercar class, and two ‘Team WRT’ BMW M4 GT3 in the LMGT3 class. A memorable moment that will be duly celebrated with some special liveries.

The 2024 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, its 92nd running, promises to be no less glorious than the Centenary edition of last year, given the battle of Titans that will go on stage in both the Hypercar and the LMGT3 classes.

Team WRT approaches the two challenges with slightly different ambitions, as underlined by Team Principal Vincent Vosse: “It is the fourth time that we go to Le Mans, but it will be our debut in the top class. Just to be there, defending the colours of a top manufacturer such as BMW, and bringing the largest entry we have ever brought to Le Mans, makes us proud of what we have achieved as a team. Still, this is a reflection that keeps our minds busy for no more than a couple of minutes. The really important thing is the competition ahead of us. In Hypercar, it is difficult to tell what our ambitions can be. We have had a start of the season that was eventful and promising at the same time, and we still are in a progression phase. It’s difficult to make predictions until we’re on track at Le Mans. That’s when we’ll know where we and the others stand in terms of performance. We’ll do our best, without putting more pressure on ourselves, than the one deriving from defending the colours of a top brand, which has a winning mentality and has been successful here 25 years ago.

Vosse continues: “Concerning the LMGT3 the objective is to make up the points lost at Spa. We won on strategy in Imola but were very unlucky in Spa. We had an ideal plan to arrive at Le Mans leading the standings, and this is not the case, so the objective is to close the gap here. We have a competitive car and great drivers, so we’ll aim at making a perfect and faultless race. We all know that in 24-hour races this generally pays off.”

Vosse does not ignore the aspects beyond racing that Le Mans entails and thinks to the WRT drivers that will make their debut at Le Mans this year (Leung, Marciello, Rossi, van der Linde and Wittmann): “It’s impressive to notice that the event doesn’t stop growing year after year. When we think that it is more than two weeks that part of the staff is already on site setting up and preparing, we realise this is a big thing! I also see the emotion of our drivers, especially those who will contest their first Le Mans. They are going to live a magic moment. Even for a racing icon like Vale, it is going to be a very special moment, actually, a dream come true, something he mentioned in the very first conversation we had.”

Such a special event deserves special liveries and BMW and Team WRT will contribute three of those, for the delight of fans and model car collectors. As known, the BMW M Hybrid V8 #20 that will race in the hands of Robin Frijns, René Rast and Sheldon van der Linde, will be the 20th BMW Art Car. Unveiled last week in a world premiere at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the 2024 Art Car carries the signature of New York artist Julie Mehretu and continues the tradition that unites art and racing initiated by BMW in 1975 with Alexander Calder.

The two BMW M4 GT3 will also sport a special livery at Le Mans, with two-colour stripes, in the traditional blue and yellow for car #46 of Ahmad Al Harthy, Maxime Martin and Valentino Rossi, in white and red for the #31 of Augusto Farfus, Sean Gelael and Darren Leung, taking inspiration from the livery design of the BMW 3.0 CSL that won the IMSA class in 1977, known as the ‘UFO BMW’ from the name of its sponsor, a jeans manufacturer. It was prepared and run by Belgian squad Luigi Racing and driven by Spartaco Dini, Jean Xhenceval and Pierre Dieudonné, the latter, a key member of Team WRT and who will be at Le Mans as co-Sporting Director of the LMGT3 team. The tribute to Pierre is clear, as explains Vincent Vosse: “It’s a nice nod to our friend Pierre, a revered figure in Le Mans and in our team, and a nice way to celebrate a great BMW win and a team, Luigi Racing, who has done a lot for Belgian motorsports. That car has also a special meaning for me. I was a five-year-old child at the time but that striking livery magnetised me, it is indeed the first racing memory that I have.”

Pierre Dieudonné, on his side, acknowledges the tribute with the wisdom that comes with having a six-decade-long relationship with Le Mans, as a journalist, driver (11 starts, four class wins, seven overall top-10 finishes), Team Manager, and Sporting Director. “It is a nice thought from the team and I’m grateful for the attention”, he says, “1977 was the first 24 Hours of Le Mans that I raced. That year Jean Xhenceval and I were defending the European Touring Car title conquered in 1976 and the week before Le Mans we were racing in Brno, then beyond the Iron Curtain. Luigi had told us last minute that if we didn’t break the car at Brno, we would stop in Le Mans and do the 24 Hours on our way back to Belgium! He had the entry and a derogation to be allowed to pass technical scrutineering one day later given the long journey from Czechoslovakia. It just tells how much we were prepared… The car was a Group 2, so among the slowest in the straight, and we qualified 42nd, but in the race it performed like a clock, refuelling and changing tyres were the only interventions to be done. We won the class and finished 8th overall! Le Mans has changed a lot since then, it goes with the evolution of things, but the essence is the same. It is a race that you love and hate at the same time because everything it gives you is extreme. It can be unfair, painful, and cruel, but it provides unparalleled joy when you achieve something. And both things can come together as we did experience at WRT in 2021. It’s a unique race, of another dimension because incredible speed and race length combine in a way that doesn’t exist in any other race.”

For the 92nd time, the curtain is about to rise.

QUOTES

Dries Vanthoor, BMW M Team WRT #15: “I’m very much looking forward to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the return of BMW, 25 years after their last win. For us, it will be the first time competing in the top category and aiming at the overall victory. It is going to be a tough race, and competition is very high. It will be a very big event too, with a full grid and everything is sold out. We are definitely living a golden era in endurance racing and we must use it to attract fans to our sport.”

René Rast, BMW M Team WRT #20: “I am really excited to be at Le Mans again. It’s the biggest event of the year and it is going to be a wonderful edition. To be driving the BMW Art Car is very cool, this will certainly attract a lot of attention and will be remembered. We have a good car, a great team, and a solid line-up, let’s see what we can achieve.”

Darren Leung, Team WRT #31: “This opportunity to compete in Le Mans is such a special moment. It’s a privilege every time to step into the #31 BMW, and Le Mans takes this to a new and unique level. This means we have no choice but to leave no stone unturned. As a team, we’ve all been pushing hard, and Sean and Augusto have done a fantastic job of sharing their extensive expertise with me. I’m particularly looking forward to the race start. The atmosphere and the pressure that comes with it are very rare moments to test how far we’ve come, and I’ll be grasping it with both hands and won’t let go. Let’s have it!”

Valentino Rossi, Team WRT #46: “The big moment has arrived, and it will be my first time at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most famous race in the world. I am very happy and proud to be associated with BMW and Team WRT for this big race. I have known the track since last year, having participated in the Road to Le Mans race, and I like a lot the Circuit de La Sarthe. We’ll be there for a long week and we are ready. We did some good performances in the first races of the season, but now we need to understand our level, speed, and competitiveness in Le Mans. We hope to be strong and I cannot wait to live this experience!” (arl/wto/w-racingteam)

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