• 2016 6 Hours of Bahrain

    Audi win their last race in LMP1 for the forseeable future. Neel Jani, Mark Lieb and Romain Dumas are world champions for Porsche!

    Video Credit: FIA WEC

  • 2016 FIA WEC Season Review

    Welcome to our review of the 2016 FIA WEC Championship. Put the kettle on, make a brew, settle down in your favourite chair and enjoy!

    LMP1 Season Review 

    Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas took the FIA World Endurance Championship crown for the first time with a fifth place finish in the 6 Hours of Bahrain, however this season was by no means easy on the crew. They took the first win of the season at Silverstone after the #7 Audi crew were disqualified, second place at Spa Francorchamps in round 2 before taking a last minute win at Le Mans after Toyota heart break in the dying minutes. With double points at Le Mans, the #2 car held a substantial lead at the mid point, 94 points out of 103 on offer saw them sitting at the top of the championship with a 39 point lead. Le Mans was the turning point for the #2 car, early promising performances were replaced with recurring technical issues, reportedly with the cars hybrid system and a distinct lack of pace. Jani, Lieb and Dumas failed to see the podium again this year. Despite these issues, going in to Bahrain, talking to Neel Jani before the start of the race, he was confident the team had what it took to take the title.

    This fall in pace surely held the door wide open though for the ever consistent Audi team to close the gap and take the lead at some point before the season was out? This season however’ Porsche got lucky. A string of issues for Audi meant they were unable to capitalise on the #2 crew’s bad luck in the second half of the year.

    The #8 Audi crew of Oli Jarvis, Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval were Audi’s main title hopes this year. They were on the pace and working well together, claiming two victories this season in Spa and Bahrain. Uncharacteristically, Audi were hit with a string of issues this year and as a result, both cars arrived in Bahrain out of the championship. Their pace in Austin was phenomenal but hybrid issues for the #8 and a badly timed safety car took both cars out of contention and gifted the win to the #1 Porsche of Webber Bernhard and Hartley. Mexico was yet another poor race for Audi. The #8 was out in front when Jarvis went off at turn one in tricky conditions. Lotterer then hit the wall during a lock up. Porsche came through to take another solid points hall towards both the teams and drivers championship challenge. Another difficult run to fifth in Shanghai for the #8 further dented their title challenge.

    Toyota came in to 2016 with a brand new car, the TS050. The car was a big improvement on the 2015 TS040, the car was competitive and even took the win on home soil in Fuji. As we headed out to Bahrain, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Stephane Sarrazin were the only 3 drivers capable of challenging the #2 Porsche for the drivers title. Toyota had more than their fair share of difficulty this year though. They were leading the race at Spa before the #5 car broke down and leading the race at Le Mans before heartbreak on the final lap.

    LMP2 Season Review

    The 2016 LMP2 season was dominated by the #36 Signatech Alpine, adding the FIA WEC to their 2014 European Le Mans Series crown. Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stephane Richelmi won half the races in 2016 in the Nissan powered Alpine A460 and never once finished outside the top four. They fought hard with the #43 RGR Sport and #26 G-Drive racing cars throughout the season with Strakka and Manor mounting outside challenges in what was arguably the most competitive class of the season. The LMP2 grid was heavily involved in the FIA driver rating changes this year, a number of teams, including the #36 Signatech, found themselves benefitting from "Super Silver" drivers, drivers classified silver but professional drivers rather than amateur racers. Gustavo Menezes was one of those "Super Silvers" who found himself lapping inside the top 10% of the field on a frequent basis. However, it was a dominant performance from the crew and drivers which saw them take the title.

    Silverstone was the season anomaly for the #36 squad with all three drivers complaining of tire ware issues, they took fourth place and their joint worst result of the season. It was one of only two times they would finish off the podium. Their absence from the podium was filled by the newly formed RGR Sport team running the #43 car with Bruno Senna, Filipe Albuquerque and Ricardo Gonzalez who took their maiden victory. One of the standout events of the season however was Spa Francorchamps. Nico Lapierre made a last minute move to pass Pipo Derani around the outside. The Tequila Patron ESM got caught up behind Marino Franchitti’s Ford GT.

    The #36 car quickly found themselves back on the top step of the podium next time out at Le Mans, an incredible performance from the team considering Richelmi and Menezes were in their debut Le Mans and Menezes, who at 21 years old, had never completed a 24 hour race before. All three drivers put in a remarkable performance, Menezes especially who pulled out a quadruple stint in the early hours of Sunday morning to keep the car in site of the podium. A strong drive from Nico Lapierre, who had taken victory just one year before helped the team take the flag.

    A third straight win for the crew at the Nurburgring, round 4 in July, continued to build their lead. RGR Sport took victory in Mexico with a fitting win, driver Ricardo Gonzales the official promoter of the event took the top step of the podium on home soil. Alpine returned to the top of the podium at the Circuit of the Americas with three races left to run. The team took the title in Shanghai finishing second, wrapping up the title with one race to spare, they were never really under threat.

    G-Drive put on a strong showing in the final three races of the season, taking  a hat trick of wins for Roman Rusinov and Alex Brundle. They were joined for two of those wins by former Manor F1 driver Will Stevens, with Rene Rast stepping back on board for the final outing in Bahrain. Rusinov had trouble in Mexico which cost the team the win with a catastrophic brake failure in the final hour. Despite the team coming from the back of the grid to take the win, RGR managed to secure second place in the championship.

    GTE-Pro Season Review

    Aston Martin Racing headed in to the 2016 FIA World Endurance with a heavily upgraded Vantage GTE. They were up against the new Ferrari 488GTE and the new Ford GT run by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK. Porsche opted to take a year out to focus on the 2017 car, however, Dempsey-Proton Racing ran a customer team Porsche.

    Aston Martin’s Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen proved themselves more than capable of the challenge, taking the drivers championship in Bahrain with a win in the #95 car. The teams championship however, went to Ferrari, marking a successful first year for the new 488 GTE. The 488 had some big boots to fill. Ferrari own the 2012, 2013 and 2014 GT Manufacturers title with the hugely successful 458 and two drivers titles in 2013 and 2014. The 458 also won Le Mans in 2012 and 2014. No >pressure then.

    Aston Martin stalwart Darren Turner began alongside them at the start of the season, the trio claiming a podium at Silverstone behind the AF Corse Ferraris which dominated the race. Sam Bird and Davide Rigon dominated the race in the #71 Ferrari ahead of Gimi Bruni and James Calado in the #51 which also had to serve a three minute time penalty for an engine change between qualifying and the race. It should be noted, that Bruni set the quickest ever GTE time around Silverstone this year, the first driver to break the 1:59 barrier, going 2.5 seconds quicker than his previous record.

    Disaster struck for the team at Spa, Nicki Thiim was spun in to the barriers by an LMP2 car and came to a rest on his roof at Courbe Paul Frere.

    Ferrari capitalised, however a late engine failure for Calado stripped Ferrari of the projected 1-2 finish they were after. The charge came to a stop at Le Mans though with severe mechanical difficulties. Fourth for the GTE-AM AF Course however gifted the team 24 points, a valuable contribution to the teams title chances.

    Despite not making the podium at Le Mans, the trio took points as the second placed WEC entered car. Both the #51 and #71 cars failed to finish and Aston Martin took the championship lead. Ford put on an incredibly dominant performance at Le Mans which saw them bring home three cars in the top four. The #82 Ferrari of Fisichella, Vilander and Malucelli spoiling a Ford front three lock out with a second place. This dominance would see a BOP adjustment later in the season.

    After Le Mans, Aston Martin had a reshuffle of their driver line up which saw Turner swap to the #97 car. Thiim and Sorensen took third place behind the dominant Ferraris before taking third place in Mexico. Turner and Stanaway took the first AMR win of the season in Mexico which put Turner in to the championship lead. Thiim and Sorensen finally took their first win in Austin at the Circuit of the Americas which put them at the top of the table with three races to run and a 12 point lead. Fords dominance returned for Shanghai and Fuji, taking 1-2 finished in both races ahead of #51 Ferrari of Gimi Bruni and James Calado. Heading in to the final race of the season, AMR had a 12 point lead. Turner and Adam set identical qualifying laps to take pole in the #97 before the #95 took the race and a second win of the season.

    Bruni and Calado lost vital points this season and despite finishing on the podium in every race they finished, including a win at the ‘Ring, DNF’s at Spa and Le Mans took them out of contention for the title. They did however, finish third ahead of both the Fords who finished half a point apart, Muecke, and Pla having the slight advantage over Tincknell and Priaulx. Ford took two victories this year and max points at Le Mans enroute to third in their first season back in endurance racing. Three cars in the top four at Le Mans meant they scored max points, whilst two second places at Fuji and Shanghai meant the #66 bested the #67.

    GTE-AM Season Review

    The stats show that the #83 AF Corse Ferrari 458 was not the quickest car in class. They took one win this season but finished every race and claimed 50 points at Le Mans. They took six second place finishes, only failing to take the podium in Austin. The #98 Aston Martin Vantage was notably quicker. The car with Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda at the wheel took six pole positions including the final race in Bahrain, and five wins. Unfortunately, they took hard knocks at Le Mans and Mexico,not finishing either race. Pole position under the night sky of Bahrain gave them hope.That margin of hope however was incredibly small. Collard, Aguas and Perodo just needed to finish, they crossed the line third whilst the engine failed on the #98.

    The #88 Abu Dhabi Proton took victory on the WEC’s first visit to Mexico and again in Bahrain. The retirement of the #95 gave second in the championship to Al Qubaisi and Heinemeier Hansson. With Klaus Bachler replaced by Patrick Long at Le Mans, Al Qubaisi and Heinemeier-Hansson again came close to beating the Ferrari for the top WEC-registered team, but a late charge from Collard saw the Frenchman take second spot in the final hour, which resulted in a decisive 14-point swing.

    The Porsche crew came on form in the final race, Pat Long put pressure on Lauda which saw the #95 spin, Long then lead the rest of the way fending off Wolf Henzler in the KCMG Porsche. The #78 took their fifth consecutive podium in Bahrain but after technical infringement at Nurburgring and technical failure at Silverstone, they were out of the running. Gulf Racing had a solid performance across the year with some big improvements seen across the season for Ben Barker, Adam Carroll and Mike Wainwright.

  • Audi take Pole in final WEC Race

    In a close battle for pole position, where track limits was the talk of the day, Audi have clinched pole position for their final World Endurance race. The crew of the #8 Audi R18 took pole ahead of reigning World Champions Porsche #1 by 0.264 seconds. In LMP2, for the third time in a row, G-Drive #26 start on class pole ahead of this year’s class Champions, #36 Signatech Alpine.

    The battle for LMGTE Pro pole went to Aston Martin, but for the sake of the Championship, it will be the wrong Aston starting ahead. Johnny Adams helped Darren Turner put the #97 on class pole returning for his first race since winning the GT3 Drivers Title in British GT. The sister car, #95, will start alongside #97 second in class. AF Corse were hoping to seal the Am Championship today by taking pole position and putting too many points between them and Championship rivals #98 Aston Martin to be knocked off the top step. But it was not to be as the #98 crew made it a GT Pole lock-out for Aston Martin by stealing class pole in the closing seconds of the GT qualifying session.

    Track limits were the biggest issue the teams faced today. A lot of drivers lost their times for exceeding track limits, with most incidents occurring at Turn 13. The Toyota pair were handed a great disadvantage as both Anthony Davidson and Mike Conway had times deleted. With the fresh rubber having being pushed already on the track it left Toyota having to set half their flying times on scrubbed tyres. Championship contenders Toyota #6 came out on top of the sister car for fifth on the grid but that would not have been the start to the weekend they were after.

    Audi looked to be on the pace from the offset and with Brendon Hartley having a messy first lap it put Porsche on the back foot and opened the door for a final Audi 1-2 starting order. Andrea Lotterer initially put Audi #7 on provisional pole, going a tenth of a second faster than Oliver Jarvis. Luca di Grassi had to put in a blistering lap to take a final pole position for Audi and the Brazilian did not disappoint. With the fastest lap of the session, di Grassi set a time of 1:38.828 and was the only driver to set a time sub 1:38s.

    It was looking to be an Audi 1-2 but the Porsche crew put an end to that hope. Both Timo Bernhard and Marc Lieb came out to set the second times for their teams and did exactly what they needed to do. Impressive lap times from both of them saw the two Porsches, in numerical order, climb up the time sheet. It was not enough to demote pole sitter Audi #8 but it was enough to drop Audi #7 to fourth as Andrea Lotterer failed to improve on his lap time.

    Toyota #6 needs to win the race tomorrow and have Porsche #2 finish fifth or lower to take the 2016 Driver’s Championship.

    In an extremely close battle for LMP2 pole, Rene Rast – returning to G-Drive for the final round of the season – and Roman Rusinov just managed to clinch their sixth pole of the season. Rast had had the advantage when he handed over the car to Rusinov (the only G-Drive racer who can take second place in class off of RGR Sport), but the class Champions were not ready to be put to the side. Stephane Richelmi set in a brilliantly fast lap time compared to Rusinov and put the #36 just 0.002 seconds off the average time of the G-Drive car. It is a race for second in the LMP2 Championship tomorrow, and G-Drive #26 has the advantage. With the pole point and both #36 Signatech Alpine and #44 Manor in between them and rivals #43 RGR Sport they have had the best start they could want to the weekend.

    Johnny Adam and Darren Turner set identical times of 1:56.953 in the #97 Aston Martin, leaving them with an advantage of just over a tenth to the sister car and Pro class Championship leaders. AF Corse placed a car in third, but just like Aston Martin, it is the wrong one to be challenging for the Championship. The #51 AF Corse took the position behind the leading Aston Martins with the Championship challenging #71 had to settle for fifth.

    The Am pole shoot out went down to the wire as it was only in the last moments that #83 AF Corse lost pole position and an unchallengeable Championship lead. The advantage had been with the Ferrari team for the entire 20-minute qualifying session but it was Pedro Lamy who stole the advantage back. Lamy had originally had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits so returned to the car in the last few minutes. With his new time, Lamy brought the #98 Aston Martin’s average time to 0.348 seconds faster than the #83 AF Corse and took class pole. The gap between #83 and #98 in the class Championship is 24 points. Aston Martin can only win if AF Corse fail to finish the race.

    #4 Bykolles LMP1 Privateer CLM/AER and #88 Porsche GTE Am Abu Dhabi Proton-Racing did not set times in their respective qualifying sessions and will start at the back of the grid tomorrow.

  • Audi Win Dramatic Spa 6 Hours

    The #8 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro of Oliver Jarvis, Lucas Di Grassi and Loic Duval this evening won the 2016 FIAWEC 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, a race which will go into the history books as one of the most fraught and action packed contests in endurance racing history.

    FIA WEC Spa Francorchamp-0899 LORES

    In a race that always seemed to be throwing another spanner in the works, almost all of the top cars lead at some point. Initially Porsche had the upper hand before hybrid issues took their toll, before a surprisingly quick Toyota pair inherited - and then sacrificed - the top spots due to engine trouble.

    In the end it was the #8 which spent most time out of its garage, and therefore ended up somehow at the front of the race when the chequered flag flew. Second place was taken miraculously by the #2 Porsche which, after dropping to the back when its hybrid system stopped working altogether, stayed on track while all the others suffered.

    Rebellion racing were ecstatic to take the last step of the overall race podium with their #13 R-One, an unthinkable result for a privateer team in the current LMP1 formula. The sister Rebellion finished fourth ahead of the recovering #7 Audi and the #4 ByKolles CLM.

    The LMP2 field waited a long time to unleash their customary fierce battle, but when it came it was a classic thriller. The top four cars were battling right into the final minutes with the #36 Signatech Alpine taking the top spot from the #31 Extreme Speed Ligier with just 8 minutes to go.

    FIA WEC Spa Francorchamp--5 LORES

    Manor Racing took a hugely popular 3rd place when Roberto Merhi overtook RGR’s Filipe Albuquerque on the second to last lap of the race, a first podium in only their second endurance event.

    GTE Pro was a rather one sided event with the two AF Corse Ferrari streaking into the lead at the start and comfortably lapping a number of seconds per lap quicker than the rest of the field. However an easy 1-2 was scuppered with just a few laps to go as the #51 was forced to retire, driver James Calado pictured holding his head in his hands in despair.

    The #71 of Davide Rigon and Gimi Bruni took the class win, while second and third were taken by the #67 Ford and #97 Aston Martin. There were worried faces all round when the competitive #66 Ford had a huge accident at Eau Rouge, but pilot Stefan Mucke was cleared by the medical team with just ‘a fair amount of bruising’. The #95 Aston Martin was competitive at the start but ended up being rolled over into the tyre wall by an unfortunate clash with an LMP2 car.

    GTE Am was a slightly quieter affair, with multiple penalties of all kinds putting paid to a number of teams’ chances at a win. The final order was headed by the #98 Aston Martin which had been well driven by Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana, while the #83 AF Corse Ferrari and #50 Larbre Corvette rounded off the podium.

    Next up for the WEC is the big one - the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With five of six leading cars having experienced serious issues in the first four hours of this race there are big question marks for the great race - it’s anyone’s to play for.

    Stay tuned to Speed Chills on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest - and see you at Le Mans!

  • Emotional 1-2 Sees Audi out

    It was six hours of raw emotion during the 6 hours of Bahrain as Mark Webber and Audi Sport saw out their final races in the World Endurance Championship.

    The overall podium could not have been more perfect as Audi placed both of their cars on their final podium with Webber and the #1 crew taking the bottom step. A flawless race from Loric Duval, Oliver Jarvis, and Luca di Grassi saw them go from pole to win in Audi’s final appearance. An incredible recovery drive saw the #26 G-Drive team, who had been stripped of their pole position after failing parc ferme with non-homologated brake cooling ducts, bring themselves from the back of the grid to take the LMP2 class win. They stood above #43 RGR Sport and LMP2 Champions #36 Signatech Alpine for the last race of the season.

    LMGTE Pro saw Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen take their second class win of the season and take the GT Driver’s Championship title. They trumped over the two chasing AF Corse Ferraris, with the #51 ending ahead of the sister car #71. A retired Aston Martin saw the crew of the #83 retain the LMGTE Am Class title. Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo and Rui Aguas came third, taking the title once their only rivals were out of the race. It was the Abu-Dhabi Proton Racing #88 that took the race win, with #78 KCMG completing the podium in second.

    It was a strong win for the #8 Audi, crossing the line 16 seconds ahead of the sister Audi #7. Everyone was hoping for a clean race for the Audis in their final outing, and after their recent run of bad luck, it was a nervous six hours for all watching and the team. But Porsche had no answer to Audi’s pace as the German team secured a strong 1-2 for their final race. Duval lead from pole to the first stops. It was after the driver changes that saw #8 lose the lead. Andre Lotterer’s pace was too much for then leader Oliver Jarvis and the #7 took the lead. Audi #8 had no answer and could not close the gap enough to retake the lead. It was a slow third pit stop for the #7 that saw advantage swing back to the #8 crew and promoted them back to the front of the grid.

    Audi split strategy in the third hour, putting Treluyer and the #7 Audi back ahead of the #8. But Duval was a man on a mission and he caught and passed the sister car on track before performing a double stint on used tyres in the fifth hour. It was this performance that gave Audi #• the advantage they needed to take their final race win.

    It cannot be forgotten that Porsche #2 took the Driver’s World Championship. Like the sister car the year before, it was not handed to them easily. Neel Jani was ahead of Timo Bernhard after the first round of pit stops, but contact when he was hit by the #78 KCMG GTE Am Porsche 911 saw the Championship contenders encounter a broken left rear wheel. This forced them to take an extra pit stop and lost them a lot of time on track. The car was three laps down when it returned to the track, with everything to fight for between the beginning of the second hour and the chequered flag. They still managed to do what they needed to, with the car finishing in sixth place in class and taking the championship by 13.5 points.

    Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi, Stephane Sarrazin, and Mike Conway had an outside chance of taking the title from Porsche #2, but that chance never arose as Porsche #2 – even after their issues – never dropped low enough in the order to potentially be outscored by Toyota. Also, the Toyota team needed to finish second or higher to get enough points, something which Audi never made possible.

    G-Drive #26 had an incredible race as they came from the back of the field to take the LMP2 win. It was the team’s third LMP2 victory of the season. This race saw the return of Rene Rast to the cockpit, who had been covered by Will Stevens as Rast sat out the last few races. It was a close race in the end as only four seconds split #26 from the RGR #43 car. The #43 had been leading the LMP2 field for most of the race. It was a last minute surge that saw Rast pass RGR driver Filipe Albuquerque for the lead with only 18 minutes of racing left. The duo tussled for the last few laps but it was Rast who had the superior pace and managed to take the satisfying win for his team.

    Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen triumphed with a 12-second victory over the chasing AF Corse GTE Pro cars. Jonny Adam (returning to the Aston Martin #97 after his success in British GT) and Darren Turner had been leading for Aston Martin for the beginning of the race. When it lost a wheel straight after a pit stop Adam was lucky enough to be able to limp the car back to the pits to carry on. But the victory was now out of their reach and handed to the sister car of Thiim and Sorenson. Adam and Turner finished fifth behind the two Ferraris (completing the podium) and Ford #67.

    The pressure came off the reining GTE Am Champions when their only title contenders retired from the race. It was a horrible ten minutes for Aston Martin as Adam and Turner lost their wheel and moments later the engine failed on Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, and Paul Dalla Lana’s Aston Martin. It was a shame for the Am Aston Martin team because they had had a long run of successful races and race wins.