Year of records as NZ graduates aim to make Le Mans history

Brendon le Mans (940 x 450)

No fewer than 18 graduates of Toyota’s New Zealand Castrol TRS and Formula Regional Oceania’s championships are set to take the start this weekend at the most famous endurance race of them all – the Le Mans 24 Hours.

It is a record number of former competitors in what is one of the best fields in the French classic since the Group C era of the 1980s.

No fewer than 23 Hypercars – another record – will start the race on Saturday and there are ten former TRS and CTFROC racers in that class, including Brendon Hartley, Callum Illot, Raffaele Marciello, team mates Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi, Oliver Rasmussen, former F1 racer Daniil Kvyat, 2018 TRS Champion Robert Schwartzman and Luis Felipe Derani.

Toyota Racing Series graduate and former Le Mans winner Earl Bamber is the fastest of the alumni – and top Kiwi – sitting second on the grid for Cadillac with his team mate Alex Lynn making it two TRS graduates on the front row.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s own works team – multiple winners at the event in the hybrid era – are in good shape for the race having topped the times in the final practice session. Neither car however, will start in the top eight on the grid.

Three graduates feature in a large LMP2 field as well, with Ryan Cullen, Jean Baptiste Simmenauer and Clement Novalak all aiming for success. Cullen is the fastest of those three – and will start eighth on the LMP2 grid.

Gregoire Saucy, Rui Andrade, Charlie Eastwood and Dennis Olsen compete in LMGT3. Saucy is fastest of the graduates in that class, starting 11th in the ultra-competitive LMGT3 field.

“This is a fantastic edition of the iconic race and has an exceptionally exciting field where anyone can win in those three classes,” said TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand motorsport Manager Nicolas Caillol.

“Obviously we’re going to be supporting the works Toyota team, but we’ll be keeping a keen eye on all of our graduates and we wish them the best of success too. It’s a great testament to the quality of our premier single seater championship over the years that so many graduates compete at this level in this annual classic, and remarkable too that some of our earliest graduates are still at the front.”