The entry list of the 24 hours of Le Mans is limited to 56 cars, spread across the 4 classes LMP1, LMP2, LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am. This number is not random; it’s actually set by the number of pits available at the racetrack. All teams entered in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) for the full season are automatically qualified for the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Until some years ago there was a pre-qualification weekend a couple of weeks prior to the race. All teams willing to participate had to show up at Le Mans, drive their qualification laps and with a few exceptions, e.g. the winner of the previous year, only the fastest cars were qualified for the race. This has been changed to a system of “pre-selected” and “A.C.O.-selected” entries and the pre-qualification weekend became a compulsory test weekend for all participants.
Due to the world economic crisis the test weekends 2009 and 2010 were cancelled, but 2011 saw the return of the test day. All “rookie” drivers must complete their 10 laps by the end of the test day to qualify for the race.
Besides the WEC full season entries there are more teams which will have automatic entries: If these teams apply for an entry, they will be accepted. The list of these additional pre-selected entries is compiled based on the results of the previous year. For this year 13 teams received automatic entries:
This only applies if the entry is to the same class as it was pre-selected for. The privilege belongs to the team and is not related to a chassis or engine make.
If a pre-selected entry is not taken or any spaces are available once all the WEC competitors are taken into account, the remainder of the entries is given away at the organizers discretion.
The following is a quote from the A.C.O. regulations about their guidelines for the selection procedure of the remaining entries:
When applying for an entry, each team has to nominate at least 1 driver per car who cannot be replaced (except in cases of force majeure). If such a nominated driver is withdrawn by the team, the withdrawal will lead to the driver being removed from the list of those who can be selected for the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours - he/she cannot change to another team! Entries that do not make the 56 car entry list will be placed on a reserve list. Two reserve lists exist – One for LMP and one for GTE. Any LMP entrant that returns their entry will be replaced from the LMP reserve list and the same applies to GTE.