The all-female Meyer Shank Racing LMP2 entry for June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans has been declined by the ACO and FIA World Endurance Championship.
Co-owned by MSR partner/driver Jackie Heinricher, the Caterpillar-sponsored ORECA 07-Gibson entry for Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen, and Bia Figueiredo was formed to bring the team’s all-female IMSA GT Daytona program to the world stage in the pro-am LMP2 category. The No. 44 MSR ORECA, which would have been run in collaboration with the Algarve Pro Racing LMP2 outfit, was one of two all-female entries for Le Mans.
Kessel Racing, set to embark on a full-time FIA ELMS campaign starting in April, was granted an automatic Le Mans entry as a result of winning the GT class in the ACO’s 2018 Le Mans Cup series. It will bring a Ferrari 488 to the GTE-Am category for Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting, and Manuela Gostner. The MSR/Heinricher LMP2 entry was listed ninth of 10 alternates identified for Le Mans.
Jackie Heinricher at Daytona. Image by Michael Levitt/LAT.
“I want to express my disappointment,” Heinricher told RACER. “I thought we put together a good package that has been making a positive and successful impact so far here in the States, and we thought it would be successful at Le Mans. With our team and partners and drivers, we felt we could have done a very good job. I’m also disappointed that Katherine, who is one of, if not the fastest woman racing in the world, deserved a shot, not to mention the great people at Meyer Shank Racing.”
Where Kessel Racing’s place among the 60 prized invitations to race at Le Mans was ensured, many teams competing outside the world of ACO/FIA-sanctioned endurance racing championships aren’t as fortunate. It meant Heinricher and MSR, along with the other non-guaranteed entries, were always going to be subject to a selection process that often lacks clarity.
Having competed at Le Mans in 2016, MSR’s history as a previous entrant was one positive factor to consider. Offering a higher-profile LMP2 effort comprised of a two-time IMSA GT Daytona champion in Nielsen, a front-running race winner in Legge, and veteran IndyCar and sports car driver in Figueiredo, specifically designed to promote the advancement of women in racing, could have been another factor to contemplate.
“While we were very surprised that we weren’t included, even more, we were listed ninth among the 10 alternates who weren’t included — the bottom, basically,” Heinricher said. “It’s very puzzling.”
Despite being listed among the reserve entries, the No. 44 MSR ORECA is seventh and last among the LMP2 alternates, meaning almost half of the 17 accepted LMP2 entries would need to decline their invitations or fail to turn up for the event in order for the Ohio-based team to compete in the 24-hour event. In light of today’s news, MSR confirmed it has released Algarve Pro Racing from any planned commitments for Le Mans.