SARD-Morand Withdraws Entry, Riley Viper Confirmed for 24H Le Mans

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

Riley Motorsports-TI Automotive has secured an entry for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, following the withdrawal of one of Team SARD-Morand’s Morgan LMP2 EVOs from the French endurance classic.

The ACO confirmed Thursday that the No. 53 Dodge Viper GTS-R, with nominated driver Jeroen Bleekemolen, will compete in the GTE-Am class. It had been the first reserve entry.

It comes following a reduction of the Swiss-Japanese LMP2 squad’s commitment, with the withdrawal of its No. 39 car. SARD-Morand’s No. 43 car remains on the entry list.

The team missed last weekend’s FIA WEC season-opening Six Hours of Silverstone due to “administrative and legal issues.” It is, however, on the entry list for next month’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps but also with only one entry.

Riley, meanwhile, will make its return to Le Mans for the first time since 2013 when it fielded the Vipers as a two-car factory effort in GTE-Pro.

Bleekemolen will be joined by Ben Keating and a third to-be-announced co-driver in the TI Automotive-backed entry, which is coming off a successful shakedown at Road Atlanta last week.

“It is great to return to Le Mans. It will be my tenth time, so it is something special,” said Bleekemolen, “and to do it with a Viper is super!”

“We knew we had a chance, being the first reserve entry, but nothing is certain until you get the confirmation. The team is working hard to prepare, we even tested the car already.”

“Obviously we’ll try go get a decent result. Our third driver isn’t one that brings money, but simply the best available driver. Winning the race is our aim, but it won’t be easy to do that.”

Five reserve cars remain on the entry list, with the No. 49 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan having now been promoted to first on the list. An updated entry list can be found here.

26 Comments

  1. Glenn Smith

    April 16, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Best news in a long time.

  2. steve johnson

    April 16, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    GREAT!!! Go get’em boys!! Couldn’t happen for a nicer bunch of guys!! Good luck!!

  3. Bob Baldwin

    April 16, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    This is Great News !

    NOW who will be the next team to fall by the wayside ?

    • Mike D

      April 16, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      I preface this by saying that this is purely speculation, and I have no information to back any of these up.

      If I had to guess…
      The other SARD-Morand car
      Team AAI in GTE-Am (one or both cars)

      I was going to say SMP Racing also, but I think they would just run their (actually, AF Corse’s) ORECA-Nissans if the new car isn’t ready.

      • Arthur Dent

        April 16, 2015 at 12:57 pm

        The team AAI cars will be run by Prospeed, the cars are probably already in preparation, as the AAI company does not look poor.

        SMP could get into trouble, as they had to rename their ELMS cars to AF Corse for economy sanction reasons, something they can’t do at Le Mans.

        Sard Morand looks a bit sketchy, and KCMG should call some of their drivers…

        It may be an underdog bet, but there is another team with a technical director refusing to confirm their hybrid actually works…

        • Fabio

          April 16, 2015 at 1:39 pm

          Nissan will be there. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Morand withdraw the other car too (from Le Mans and the rest of the WEC).

        • Vance

          April 16, 2015 at 2:13 pm

          Question. What prevents them from renaming? I’m genuinely asking because I don’t know

          • Arthur Dent

            April 16, 2015 at 2:24 pm

            LM24 rules state that “entries are not transferable”, so if some companies would be unable to supply stuff to anything SMP-related, they could not just hide behind AF Corse like in ELMS.

  4. Nuno Rosário

    April 16, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    GO GET THEM VIPER!! hopefully we can get Chrysler to make more of the GTE/GT3 Vipers!

    • Slow

      April 16, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      You mean Riley, and Riley will make as many as people are willing to buy. So far I think they only have 4-5 sold though. 1 in PWC, 2 in IMSA, and at least 1 over seas running GT-Open.

      • Nuno Rosário

        April 16, 2015 at 1:37 pm

        btw,didnt Ben Keating got hold of both of the GTE Vipers,plus the GTD one he currently had? so why isnt the other one on the entry list?

        • ViperFan55

          April 16, 2015 at 2:30 pm

          Ben owns two GT3-R Vipers that he campaigns in the TUSC, #33 and #93, not the GTS-Rs.

          • Jareth Belanger

            May 24, 2015 at 10:13 pm

            I thought Riley still had both GTS-R’s as they fulfilled their contractual obligations to Fiat/chrysler. If not what happened to them.

            If riley has to built new vipers for the GTE regs..well this means they are doing even better than I thought without Fiat’s backing.

  5. Fabio

    April 16, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    He did ? At first I thought SRT had them. They even stood against Riley selling them as customer efforts in WEC/ELMS.

  6. HM

    April 16, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    just imagine the final hour being a battle against the labre corvette for 1st

    • Ernie2492

      April 17, 2015 at 12:20 am

      Let’s hoping they’re able to race until the end at the same lap

  7. Bandit

    April 16, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    still pulling for the 55 Ferrari (because of Matt Griffin) and the 77 Porsche (because of Marco Seefried), but I will always enjoy watching more diversity!

  8. Cf

    April 16, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    OMG, OH Yeah, The Vipers are back Baby!

    But, here are the 2 Million Euro Questions:
    1.Will the use 2 cars?
    2.Will thy survive?

    Will SRT Motorsports merge with Riley for this because SRT has the experience.

    I think the liveries Riley will use (along with SRT) on the Vipers can be:
    (No. 93) SRT Motorsports Livery traditional Red with White Racing Stripes.
    (No. 53) Riley Motorsports Livery.

    • Bandit

      April 16, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      They only have one car entered so there won’t be two vipers this year. maybe next year, but not this year.

    • Me

      April 16, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      Not trying to be ‘that guy’, but your speculations in the past few articles have been a bit…off. I’d suggest reading the articles more fully before posting next time.

    • Jareth Belanger

      May 24, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      “SRT motorsports” was Riley, Riley Motorsports had a Fiat backed GT-LM program under the SRT name, much like how the porsche 911 GTE/GT-LM team is operated by Core Autosport for Porsche America, and Corvette Racing is operated by Pratt & Miller. Riley was dropped no less than 30 minutes after winning the Tudor championship for SRT.

      What happens is instead of building a brand new team from scratch most manufacturers will contract and financially back a private team to run their program with engineering assistance from their engineers. Chip Genassi will be running Ford’s GTE/GT-LM program next year.

  9. RyStar

    April 16, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    So, will he be using one of his GTD/GT3 Vipers and convert them to GTE spec somehow? Or will he take one of the retired factory/Riley SRT GTE cars from last year and race that?

    • D.O.G.

      April 16, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      The latter is correct. Bill Riley has a 2014-spec GTE car.

  10. D.O.G.

    April 16, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Third driver…

    Goossens?
    Wittmer?
    Farnbacher Dominik?
    Farnbacher Mario?

    • Mike D

      April 17, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Jeroen Bleekemolen
      Ben Keating (Silver-rated)
      Marc Miller (Bronze-Rated)

      They’re running in GTE-Am, which means you must have one Bronze and another Silver OR Bronze driver.

  11. Antonio

    April 18, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Now that they’re racing @ Le Mans, they should contest some of the remaining races in the FIA WEC to add more diversity. That is depending on each driver’s racing commitments.

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