Former Hankook 24H DUBAI winner IMSA LS Group Performance is set to make its first start in the 24H SERIES since 2017 at Barcelona, doing so with a 992-generation Porsche 911 GT3 R donning the team’s traditional #76 number board.
Words – James Gent
Images - Paragraph5 | Pro-Photos-Sport | Gruppe C Photography | Laurent Gayral | Eric Teeken
IMSA LS Group Performance, the overall winner of the 24H DUBAI in 2010, will make both its 24H SERIES and 24-hour racing return at this year’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA.
The French team is among the 13 entries already confirmed for the event’s GT3 category, and will race a 992-generation Porsche 911 GT3 R. As well as “preparing its return to endurance racing,” this year’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA also marks the first 24H SERIES outing for IMSA Performance since the 2017 Hankook 24H DUBAI, and only its third start with CREVENTIC since 2010.
IMSA LS Group Performance is the second former Hankook 24H DUBAI winner to make its return to the 24H SERIES in 2023, 2011 event winner Land-Motorsport having ended a six-year hiatus at the European season opener in Mugello. The pair will join fellow former 24H DUBAI winners Car Collection Motorsport (2019) and Herberth Motorsport (2017) on the grid in Barcelona.
Sporting what IMSA calls “the emblematic no. 76” – the same number with which the team took its GT2 and LMGTE-Am class wins at Le Mans in 2007 and 2013 respectively – the Porsche 992 GT3 R will be driven by French compatriots Grégory Guilvert, Simon Tirman and Laurent Hurgon, alongside Porsche PRO, Julien Andlauer.
Both Guilvert and Tirman are preparing for their respective 24H SERIES debuts. Guilvert, part of the test team behind the Peugeot 208 T16 with which World Rally Championship GOAT Sébastien Loeb set a Pikes Peak record 10 years ago, is a three-time French FFSA GT championship winner, while 27-year-old Tirman most recently competed in the GT4 European Series.
Hurgon is gearing up for his first series start since finishing 2nd in-class at the 2015 Hankook 24H CIRCUIT PAUL RICARD (specifically in the A2 class in an Autosport GP-entered Renault Clio Cup). Though his role as an official test driver for the Renault Group means Hurgon’s competitive career ran intermittently from during the 2000s and 2010s, he has since completed full-season programs in FFSA GT Championship, the Alpine Elf Europa Cup, and GT4 Europe.
Andlauer meanwhile, a champion in both French and German Porsche Carrera Cups as well as a GTE-AM class winner at Le Mans, currently has three starts to his name at the Hankook 24H DUBAI, an event he won outright with the UAE’s GPX Racing in 2021 and in 991-Pro with FACH AUTO TECH in 2018. This year’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA though will be first start for the young Frenchman in the 24H SERIES outside the UAE.
“I’m very satisfied with the driver line-up led by Julien Andlauer that we’ve been able to put together,” team manager Franck Rava explains. “The provision of an official driver underlines the support of Porsche Motorsport, which will be providing technical support in Barcelona. We all hope that the maiden 24-hour race since the restart of the team's competition activity will be the first of a long series!”
While many anticipate the 2010 24H DUBAI winner will compete at the sharp end in Barcelona, LS Group CEO Edouard Schumacher is taking a more conservative approach. Given IMSA Performance’s six-year absence from the 24H SERIES, Mr Schumacher is instead hoping to “put IMSA back in the quest for performance and success” in Catalunya.
“Endurance is at the forefront of IMSA's culture. Almost a year ago to the day, LS GROUP took over the IMSA Performance racing team and it is important to preserve its legacy.
“We are not pretentious enough to claim that we are going to win the [Hankook 24H BARCELONA], but it’s a really excellent playing field and a great opportunity to reconnect with the history of the team. Those who have built the successes of IMSA Performance will be present in our team in Barcelona alongside new skilled personnel recruited to drive our development. We want to put IMSA back in the quest for performance and success. And for that, you have to face other highly competitive teams.”
On its 24H DUBAI debut in 2010 – the fifth edition of CREVENTIC’s headline event – IMSA LS, then entered as ‘IMSA Performance Matmut,’ made an impressive start by claiming pole position, despite polesitter Patrick Pilet having never previously driven the Dubai Autodrome. Thereafter, Pilet, together with teammates Raymond Narac and Marco Holzer, spent most of the event comfortably in the top three, and eventually brought the #66 Porsche 997 GT3 RSR home three laps ahead for its first 24H DUBAI win. Later than year, IMSA Performance came less than a minute shy of winning the Spa 24 Hours as well, took overall honours in FIA GT2 European Cup, and won the first of three consecutive VdeV Endurance GT Challenge titles.
The French team would not appear on the 24H SERIES grid again until 2017, when it once again entered the Hankook 24H DUBAI. Though unable to replicate outright pole position and its 2010 win, IMSA nevertheless impressed with a top five finish for its #76 Porsche, the returning Narac this time driving alongside Thierry Cornac, Maxime Jousse, and Mathieu Jaminet. Ironically, the latter would go on to win the 2021 Hankook 24H DUBAI alongside Julien Andlauer.