Without mentioning the three dreaded words which spark controversy in this class, the battle for top honours in GTE Pro looks set to become another classic with Ford now defending champions in the five-way manufacturer fight.

After the loss of Audi from LMP1 and the Oreca-only dogfight dominating LMP2, it terms of manufacturer prestige the GT class appears to be thriving - and only set to be strengthened by the arrival of BMW in 2018 - but the continued Balance of Performance worries may dictate whether it will be a race of the all-time annuals or another case of what could have been.

Rigon/Bird/Molina ITA AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT GTE Pro Calado/Pier Guidi/Di Grassi ITA AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE GTE Pro Johnson/Mucke/Pla USA Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT GTE Pro Priaulx/Tincknell/Derani USA Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT GTE Pro Lietz/Makowiecki/Pilet GER Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR GTE Pro Christensen/Estre/WernerGER Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR GTE Pro Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor USA Corvette Racing - GM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R GTE Pro Gavin/Milner/Fassler USA Corvette Racing - GM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R GTE Pro Hand/Muller/Bourdais USA Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT GTE Pro Briscoe/Westbrook/Dixon USA Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT GTE Pro Vilander/Fisichella/Kaffer USA Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE GTE Pro Turner/Adam/Serra GBR Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE GTE Pro Thiim/Sorensen/Stanaway GBR Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE GTE Pro

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Key Talking Points - GTE Pro

Balance of Performance

It became the central talking point and deciding factor in the pecking order of the GTE Pro race 12 months ago and despite the FIA and ACO aiming to learn from last year a similar picture is feared.

Defending champions Ford have been laboured with 20kg more weight and a turbo boost pressure reduction compared to its 2016 configuration, effectively making it the biggest losers compared to last year, while Le Mans Test Day toppers Chevrolet have already been pegged back with an engine air restrictor increase (29.5mm from 29.0mm).

After returning to Le Mans and storming to victory, Ford now become the hunted as defending champions

Whether this will remain the case is incredibly unlikely with Balance of Performance changes expected throughout the free practice and qualifying sessions and the rule makers will still hold the right to make changes after final qualifying on Thursday.

Any predictions could literally be out of date within a few hours, which certainly adds to the drama in the category albeit with an artificial flavour to it.

In 2016 the late BoP changes drew a senior Porsche chief to tears in front of the assembled media on the Friday before the race - with the German manufacturer ruling itself out of victory contention before a racing lap had been completed - so hopefully the situation won't spiral so dramatically this time around.

Sandbagging

What is feared to mess with the Balance of Performance indicators are teams sandbagging - deliberately going slower than their optimum performance - in order to catch the opponents off guard or gain an advantage. Although difficult to prove, Ford were rumoured as the biggest suspects during the test day after falling so far off the pace of the field.

Of course, it makes sense to sandbag especially with BoP overhanging but the ACO and FIA are confident of learning from last year's events to make their decisions fairer for all competitors.

Audi ex-pats

After Audi's shock withdrawal from endurance racing last year, the factory drivers that found themselves without a team have been parachuted across the classes for this year and the GTE Pro field welcomes Lucas di Grassi at AF Corse Ferrari and Marcel Fassler at Corvette Racing.

The added spice of top-quality drivers gives an extra gleam to the field (one manufacturer's loss is another's gain) and if Fassler can claim victory with Corvette he'd became part of an exclusive group of LMP1 and GTE class winners to strengthen his reputation as one of the greatest endurance racing drivers in the modern era.

BMW watching with intent

They might not be here in an official racing capacity but be sure there is a strong presence from BMW watching and learning for next year. The German manufacturer joins the GTE ranks in 2018 and will hope to emulate Ford who won on its first return to Le Mans in GT racing 12 months ago.

BMW is supplying the course, medical and safety cars for the ACO and the arrival of the manufacturer chiefs is eagerly anticipated as it looks to revive its past glory days which included the overall Le Mans 24 Hours victory in 1999 in a partnership with Williams Racing.

Eager bystanders for 2017 upon BMW's return to Le Mans for 2018

GTE Am round-up

Defending Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am champions Scuderia Corsa Ferrari has strengthened its line-up with the addition of Cooper MacNeil alongside Townsend Bell and William Sweedler, while the championship hosted the closest battle for supremacy last year when the top three were split by a lap and a half.

The WEC contenders have been joined by a host of familiar faces in a field largely dominated by Ferrari 488 GTE machines. The single Larbre Competition Chevrolet could throw up a surprise with the Corvette C7-Z06 with hits chargers led by Fernando Rees with Romain Brandela and Christian Philippon.

GTE-Am has an F1 flavour in 2017 with Will Stevens driving for JMW Motorsport Ferrari

The elite level of driver category continues to trickle down the entire grid with ex-F1 star Will Stevens in at JMW Motorsport Ferrari and serial Le Mans winner Olivier Beretta at Spirit of Race Ferrari.

Wainwright/Barker/Foster GBR Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR GTE Am Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda GBR Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE GTE Am Ried/Dienst/Cairoli GER Dempsey-Proton Porsche 911 RSR GTE Am Mok/Sawa/Griffin SIN Clearwater Ferrari 488 GTE GTE Am Flohr/Castellacci/Beretta CHE Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE GTE Am Cameron/Scott/Cioci CHE Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE GTE Am Rees/Brandela/Philippon FRA Larbre Competition Chevrolet Corvette C7.R GTE Am Wee/Katoh/Parente SIN Clearwater Ferrari 488 GTE GTE Am Mac Neil/Sweedler/Bell USA Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE GTE Am Nielsen/Balzan/Bret USA Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE GTE Am Krohn/Jonsson/Bertolini HNK DH Racing Ferrari 488 GTE GTE Am Smith/Stevens/Vanthoor GBR JWM Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE GTE Am Bachelor/Lemert/Al Qubaisi GER Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR (991) GTE Am Long/Al Faisal/Hedlund GER Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR (991) GTE Am Yoluc/Hankey/Bell GBR TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE Am Howard/Gunn/Bryant GBR Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GTE Am