New LMGT3 entrants making the most of pre-Le Mans running

With the Le Mans 24 Hours now just weeks away, for the teams racing brand-new cars in LMGT3 maximizing the track time at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend has been hugely important.

So far the new-for-2024 GT3 cars have experienced mixed fortunes in WEC competition, with only the new Aston Martin Vantage LMGT3 in the hands of Heart of Racing featuring high up the order in both races. The U.S.-flagged team has achieved two top-five finishes — one of which was a podium on debut at Qatar back in March — and finds itself as an early title contender ahead of the most important stretch of the season.

Alex Riberas, who drives Heart of Racing’s Vantage with Ian James and Daniel Mancinelli, told RACER that the team has been encouraged by its start, which he says gives them confidence they can compete for the win at Le Mans.


“Without a doubt, the EVO (spec Vantage for 2024) has been a tremendous success already, the feeling for us was positive on day one,” he said. “With a new car you always have a learning phase, so our expectations were in check. But in WEC the car was good in Qatar from the first practice session and it has continued to evolve from there.

“There are many details on the car that make it easier for us to drive. It’s still a work in progress in some areas, of course. Being a front-engined car, it has always struggled to get out of corners with traction, unlike some of the rear- and mid-engined cars. So optimizing those aspects has been the key in putting together this car using what we learned from the previous generation car and fine-tuning it.

“But in other areas, Aston has made so much progress. Mechanical grip, braking, traction and acceleration are so good.”

Riberas is particularly complimentary of the new LMGT3 formula, which features torque sensors and a virtual energy tank monitored by the rule-makers to help balance the field. Now the season is well underway, he feels the new-for-2024 rulebook — as intended — has reduced the temptation for teams to sandbag to manipulate the BoP table for the most important races of the season.

This in turn has helped Heart of Racing hit the ground running, get a sense of where it sits in the category’s natural hierarchy and understand where it can make gains early in the season.

“Everything here feels like it’s under control, much more than in other series,” Riberas explained. “I think the FIA and ACO are doing a phenomenal job with WEC and the way they are implementing these rules with the energy and torque sensors. It’s so transparent, as we know exactly how much energy everyone is using and taking at each stop. There’s nobody playing the game with performance levels.

“There’s no way to hide. So it feels like the WEC is the first championship that has recovered the essence of making progress on track by finding ways for the car to perform better and drivers to improve at every race. It’s exceptional.”

As an evolution of a previous model rather than an entirely new car, it is no surprise to see the new Vantage emerge as the most well-rounded package of the three new GT3s at this early stage.

For TF Sport, which previously represented Aston Martin in the WEC, competing with the new Z06 LMGT3.R is proving to be more of a challenge. But the team is making steady progress in both performance and reliability terms after two races and a handful of valuable test days between Qatar and Imola.

A few well-used test days paid dividends for TF SPORT between Qatar and Imola. Motorsport Images

To this point, the team has shown it can deliver strong single-lap pace with the ’Vette; look no further than Tom Van Rompuy’s pole position lap in the season-opener. The next step will come when the team puts everything together over a full race distance and fights for places at the sharp end of the field all the way to the checkered flag.

Daniel Juncadella, who drives the No. 82 with Sebastien Baud and Hiroshi Koizumi, believes this will be possible soon. He feels the team is finely poised to improve on its best finish of seventh this season tomorrow afternoon in Spa.

“We were testing here a month ago, so that obviously paid its dividends in getting a kick-start ahead of our competition, I believe,” Juncadella said. “The track is still developing. I think there has been some rainy days in the past week, so it was a very dirty track to begin with.

“Obviously it’s still early. I don’t think it means that much to be up front, but I’d rather be up front than at the back and questioning ourselves. We didn’t have any setbacks (in practice). The team worked very well around the car, and my teammates did a good job as well. We’re looking good for the race.”

That leaves us with Proton Competition and its pair of Ford Mustang GT3s. The German outfit’s recent top 10 finish in its first World Challenge Endurance Cup race at Paul Ricard and fifth place finish at Long Beach in IMSA are clear signs that things are beginning to come together for the team during its first year representing ‘The Blue Oval’.

But it hasn’t been an easy ride for Proton to this point, with a limited number of test days and an unexpected call-up to compete in World Challenge to deal with after Ford and Dinamic GT parted ways on the eve of the season.

With all that in mind, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that the team has managed to get a car in the top 10 in both WEC races this season. And the best is yet to come as with the ‘erratum’ fixes for the boot lid and diffuser now in place, it can begin to focus on fighting the competition rather than getting to the finish with its cars intact.

“When we started the year we knew we would have our work cut out for us. Building a GT3 car is no easy task, up against brands that have been building these cars for 10 years. We’ve come from a blank slate, similar to Corvette,” Proton driver Zach Robichon told RACER.

“And immediately we were hit so hard by the freight delays in Qatar. Our chassis was the homologation chassis that had been with the FIA for months before the event, so it went to that race without any time being prepped in the shop and it needed like 50 updates put in place .

“From the word go we never got into testing (at the Prologue), we were just ironing out bugs, so it was sort of a write-off. Imola felt more like the start of the year. And the car felt good to drive there and we feel proud of our results there.

“We’re now getting to the point where we can work on marginal gains which is good, and the team has done such a good job of adapting. Working directly with Multimatic has also been a great experience, as it’s given us access to the people who designed the car. Now that we’re in the groove and we hope to go get their results.”

Story originally appeared on Racer