When the Le Mans entry list was unveiled earlier this year, Porsche had its expected four-car assault on the GTE Pro class. Two 911 RSRs are already entered in the current WEC season, and two more 911 RSRs were pushed into duty for Le Mans only from North America's IMSA GTLM class. With Ford and BMW pulling out of the GTE Pro class for 2020 the class was looking a bit sad with just a pair of Corvettes, three Ferraris, and a pair of Aston Martins to fight against the four-car might of Porsche.
With coronavirus-induced budgetary concerns being the reasoning, Porsche announced Friday that it would pull the two IMSA cars, numbered 93 and 94 on the entry list, from the postponed 2020 Le Mans 24. This means that Earl Bamber, Nick Tandy, Matt Campbell, Julien Andlauer, Mathieu Jaminet, and Patrick Pilet will not be racing at Le Mans for Porsche after all. While it is disappointing for us fans, I can't imagine how disappointing it must be for those drivers to lose a seat in the greatest endurance race in the world.
This leaves Porsche with just a two-car squad to take on the 24 hour race if/when it comes around in September. The #91 Porsche has Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Mako, and Richard Lietz onboard for the 2020 running, while the #92 car will see reigning World GT Champion drivers Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen with Laurens Vanthoor rounding out their squad. We don't expect Porsche to change the driver lineups at this point, but anything is possible in the current motorsport environment.
This will make the 2020 Le Mans 24 GTE Pro category the smallest it has been in quite some time with just 9 cars, which is massively down from the incredible 17 car grid we saw at Le Mans last June.
The world has not reached the end of the coronavirus pandemic and isn't expected to for quite some time. More importantly, the economic fallout around the world from the viral scourge will have long-reaching knock-on effects that are likely to impact motorsport well beyond what it already has. I don't expect this to be the last time we hear about a program being cancelled. Will Porsche drop its WEC program? Its IMSA program? Its Formula E program? We hope not, but won't be surprised if we see such a thing.
It's a tough world out there right now for all of us, and we don't even have motorsport to focus on. Let's stay home and beat this thing so we can get back to racing again. Stay safe.