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  • 2018 Le Mans Classic Review Part Two

    It is at this point, we take a gigantic step back in time, from the screaming V10s and ground effect aero of Group C, back to where it all began in the early 1920s.


    Plateaux 1 1923-1939


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    Plateaux 1 covers from 1923 to 1939 with representation from Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Lagonda, Bugatti, BMW and Talbot to name a few. Back then the Circuit looked very different. It was 19KM long run mostly on gravel roads with cars reaching a averaging a speed of 107 km/h. By 1939, the circuit had been cut to just over 13km and tarmac roads, average speeds were now around 155 km/h. Top speeds today reached 200 km/h at the fastest points of the circuit.

    It was a time for invention and courage back then. French Engineer Jean Albert Gregoire was a pioneer in front wheel drive technology and one of the first to enter a front wheel drive car at Le Mans. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a head injury after a bad crash on a reconnaissance lap but despite this, he started the race with an enormous bandage wrapped around his head and a new unexpected team mate. He drafted in one of his mechanics to replace his team mate who was also injured in the same accident. Gregoire went on to finish seventh in his Tracta. The car may no longer be running; however, this represents some of the earliest developments in technology Le Mans has been responsible for over the years.

    In recent years, Plateaux 1 has been dominated by both British and French entered Talbots but this year, BMW put up a strong fight in each of the three races. In race one, Michael Birch in the #20 1932 Talbot 105 took the win against strong competition from the #69 Bugatti Type 51 and #6 1939 BMW 328 Roadsters. Rob Spencer challenged for the lead in race two in the #21 1928 Bugatti Type 35B but was unable to beat Gareth Burnett in the #17 1931 Talbot 105. The #14 BMW 328 Roadster of Albert Otten and Diethelm Horbach rounded out the podium in third place. Burnett took the final win of the weekend in race three after a challenging race against Michael Birch and the #14 BMW 328.

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    Plateaux 2 1949-1956


    Plateaux 2 represents cars from 1949 through 1956, the last outing for some of the great pre-war manufacturers such as Talbot. New comers Ferrari and Jaguar dominated through the early 1950s. There is an increased focus on aerodynamics and brakes to achieve the best performance in areas such as the Mulsanne Straight. The race is now attracting some of the biggest names in the business; Fangio, Moss, Hawthorn and Collins to name a few. It also began to attract other manufacturers, one of whom went on to become the most successful brand in the event’s history, Porsche.

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    The 1955 disaster resulted in a big overall of circuit safety, not just at Le Mans but around the world. The pit complex was raised and rebuilt further back allowing the pit straight to be widened. Whilst safety standards improved, the cars got faster, and open cockpit roadsters battled against closed cockpit coupes as average speeds now hit the 200 Km/h mark! The two Cadillacs entered by American Briggs Cunningham were the first to have radio links to the team in the pits back in 1950. That year they finished 10th and 11th respectively. Cunningham returned to the great race in the coming years and in 1953, the latest generation of the car had 400 horse power, an additional 100 horse power on the previous year. That year, the cars hit 249km/h on Les Hunaudieres. John Fitch brought the car home in third and immediately pulled up to his pit box to celebrate and join the team for champagne. It was as the celebrations began an official pointed out that he had crossed the line a couple of seconds before the 16:00 finish point and therefore still had one lap to go! Panic quickly ensued as Fitch dropped his champagne and jumped back into the car, still soaked from his earlier champagne shower! Luckily for him, fourth place was still far enough behind that he was able to re-join and complete the subsequent lap to take the flag and finish third. The Cunningham C4R is racing this weekend in the hands of Alain Ruede who achieved a best place of eighth in race three on Sunday afternoon.

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    As in period, Jaguar dominated each of the three races this weekend, locking out the podium in two out of three races. The #3 car of Clive Joy took two out of three wins, winning the first and second race whilst finishing second in race three. Carlos Monteverde continued to challenge Joy across the weekend, taking first place in the final race but finishing second in race one and two. Maserati made a brief appearance on the podium in race two, Richard Wilson putting the 1957 Maserati 250 on the third step having finished fourth in the first and third races.

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    Plateaux 3 1957-1961


    Plateaux 3 represents the next step forward in sports car racing, bigger engines, more power, more speed. Cars are now averaging over 200 km/h as large capacity 6-cylinder engines or V12s become the norm. Ferrari dominated the era with 3 victories over Aston Martin and Jaguars one apiece. The smaller Maserati also fought it out with the three bigger rivals in the top category. In Grand Touring, the cars are only slightly less powerful with Porsche scoring regular class victories and class championships. The American Carroll Shelby takes his first win alongside Roy Salvadori in the Aston Martin DBR1 in 1959 as lap times begin to tumble.

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    Jaguar picked up another win in 1957, however there was a brief flash of brilliance at the start of the race that could have seen things go very differently. Ferrari were drafting in the best drivers from Formula 1 at the time so in 1957, Scuderia Ferrari entered a team of Maurice Trintignant, Mike Hawthorn, Luigi Musso, Phil Hill and Peter Collins. Collins quickly became a favourite with Enzo himself and in 1957, he started the race. Collins ran the sprint across the track, jumping into his 335MM and screamed off down the track, the 390bhp V12 roaring as he accelerated off into the distance. Just four minutes later, he screamed down the start finish straight at 300 km/h, close to 180mph! Despite a standing start, he had smashed the previous lap record. Just two laps later though, disaster struck. The Ferrari had blown a piston and would not re-join the race.

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    Despite domination in period, Ferrari only took one win this weekend with Lukas Halusa taking the first race win in the Ferrari 250 GTO “Breadvan”. Roger Wills and David Clark finished a close second before going on to win race two and three in the #68 Lotus XV. The Breadvan went on to finish second in the third race after a good scrap with Clark and Wills midway through the race.

  • Jani leads the Rebellion at Spa

    The #1 Rebellion Racing R13 topped the time sheets this morning, Neel Jani posting a time of 1:57.12, eight tenths up on Mike Conway in the #7 Toyota.

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    Jani’s time was around two seconds faster than the previous best lap set by Rebellion but still a second off the pace of Toyota from FP2. Rebellion also claimed third spot in the session, the #3 car of Mathias Beche, Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes clocking a 1:58.124 around Spa. Once again, the two CEFC TRSM Manor Ginettas only managed an installation lap before returning to the pit lane. We wait to see if they will take part in qualifying later this afternoon.

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    In LMP2, Dragonspeed once again topped the session, again Pastor Maldonado going fastest in the #31 Oreca 07 with a time of 2:02.281. Jean Eric Vergne took second in class in the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca with the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing claiming third spot, Ho Pin-Tung posting a 2:03.35.7.

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    Ford topped FP3 again in GTE Pro, the #67 topping the time sheets; Andy Priaulx posting a time of 2:13.693 8 laps into the session. BMW broke into the top three for the first time, Tom Blomqvist setting a time of 2:14.225 to split the two Fords. Olivier Pla brought the #66 Ford home in third, posting time of 2:14.249. Porsche took fourth and fifth in session with Aston Martin again struggling with the new Vantage AMR. The #97 posted a time of 2:15.457 whilst the #95 only managed a 2:18.493; slower than eight of the GTE-Am entries.

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    The #77 Porsche 911 RSR went quickest in GTE-Am, Matt Campbell setting a time of 2:15.410. The #88 took second place with TF Sport rounding out the top 3, Euan Hankey setting a time of 2:15.778.

  • Prologue 2018 - What did we learn?

    30 Hours of testing, 53,000km covered by all entries and it was Toyota Gazoo Racing who came out on top of the official pre-season test at Paul Ricard.

    #8 Toyota

    LMP1

    Toyota covered 5872km across the two cars, Mike Conway, topping the timing screens with a time of 1:32.662, significantly quicker than the non-hybrid LMP1 cars. It was however confirmed that Toyota had been running an unrestricted set up to test a new cooling system. This will perhaps come as some kind of relief to the competition with the closest non-hybrid entry, the #11 SMP Racing BR1 falling 4.3 seconds shy of the quickest pace. However, this is only pre-season testing, how much are the teams willing to reveal at this stage? Qualifying at Spa in just a few weeks’ time will be the first time to see the cars being pushed to the maximum.

    #1 Rebellion

    The huge amount of change in LMP1 over the winter break has been a major point of discussion and speculation in the past few months. Rebellion Racing have returned to LMP1 with the Rebellion R-13 piloted by Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna, arguably one of the most experience trios in the class and certainly one to watch as the super season unfolds! A deal was announced prior to the Prologue between TVR and Rebellion which sees the brand return to Le Mans for the first time in over a decade. TVR will be present as an “automotive partner”.

    It was a promising start for the LMP1 non-hybrid field with SMP Racing and Rebellion split by just 0.010 on the fastest lap, the #11 SMP besting the #1 Rebellion R-13 to take third and fourth respectively in the overall quickest lap time. An impressive start for Rebellion considering the lack of testing during the winter break. Unveiled to the world in Bahrain at the end of last season, the two SMP entered BR1s between them ran 515 laps.

    It was a quiet but good weekend for ByKolles in the updated CLM P1/01. The team dropped out of the 2017 season after Nurburgring as planned to focus on developing the new car. The car managed to run 331 laps, a significant improvement on this time last year when at Monza, they ran just a handful of laps.

    #6 CEFC TRSM

    CEFC TRSM (Manor/Ginetta to you and I), step up to LMP1 this year with a pair of Ginetta G60-LT-P1s. They experienced a number of minor issues throughout the test, struggling to get anywhere near the competition in terms of lap times complete. The #6 car finished with 121 laps on the board whilst the #5 made a late debut on Friday after a water leak stopped the team from running early on Friday. It was a fantastic job from the Ginetta and Manor pit crew to get the car up and running considering it was still being built on Thursday. The #5 made an initial run around sunset on Friday evening but was forced back to the pits with a few teething problems. The car returned later that night with Mike Simpson at the wheel before getting some consistent running in early Saturday morning, managing to clock 138 laps as a result.

    DragonSpeed split their efforts between LMP1 and LMP2 this year, running a Gibson BR1 in LMP1. This was one of the first outings for the car with the team focused on trialling different set ups and getting track time for Henrik Hedman. They completed the session with 145 laps on the clock.

    LMP2

    #38 Jackie Chan Racing

    Its the same old faces but with additional variety this year in LMP2. Jackie Chan DC Racing return to the championship with their two Gibson powered Oreca 07s alongside TDS Racing and Signatech Alpine. Championship regulars and 2016 champions G-Drive have stepped back from a full season campaign and were absent at The Prologue but will join the grid at Spa in preparation for Le Mans. Team Nederland join the championship running the Dallara P217 whilst Larbre return to the WEC but this time in the Ligier JSP217, not the GTEAm Corvette of recent years. Along with multiple chassis this year, the teams are also running different rubber, split between Michelin and Dunlop tyres.

    #31 Dragon Speed

    It was a pretty quiet event for LMP2 with none of the teams signed up to run the full 30-hour session, all of them pulling into the pits before the sun set and re-joining the following morning. The DragonSpeed Oreca will be driven this season by Roberto Gonzalez, Ben Hanley and Pastor Maldonado, looking to relaunch his career after a few years out of F1. Maldonado was the quickest driver of the class, the only one to lap.

    GTE Pro

    #91 Porsche

    Porsche took a 1-2 finish at the top of the time sheets looking dominant throughout the weekend, the #91 leading the way in the hands of Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni with a time of 1:51.332, half a second ahead of the #92 which posted a time of 1:51.837. Ford were the only real challengers of the weekend, the four cars completing over 200 laps and split by less than a second.

    The latest generation of the Ferrari 488 GTE struggled all weekend. The #71 caught fire during re-fuelling early on Saturday and didn’t run again that day whilst the #51 struggled with tyre wear.

    #95 Aston Martin

    Aston Martin Racing debuted the new Vantage this weekend, not going for outright pace but favouring long distance running. The #95 completed 852 laps with all six drivers behind the wheel at one point or another, some of them splitting time between the #95 and #97 which got a further 235 laps under its belt.

    It was the championship debut for the new BMW M8 GTE (which had its official race debut at The Rolex 24 At Daytona back in January), the #82 car clocked up 682 laps whilst the #81 only completed a six-hour run.

    GTE Am

    #86 Porsche

    Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda return as defending champions in the #98 Aston Martin. They will once again face up against Dempsey Proton, who this year field a two-car line up, Gulf Racing back once again with the #86 Porsche, Spirit of Race Ferrari and Clearwater, each of whom have entered one car for the season. The class regulars will be joined by Team Project 1 (911 RSR), MR Racing (Ferrari 488) and TF Sport (Aston Martin).

    As in GTEPro, Porsche led the way in GTE AM, each team for the first time running the 911 RSR. Gulf Racing UK and Dempsey Proton were the ones to watch, the #88 of Matteo Cairoli eventually taking and holding the top spot with a time of 1:52.936. What was interesting about GTEAm however this year was how, on one lap pace, they mixed times with the GTEPro category. Will some of the faster Am drivers be able to fight with the back runners in GTE Pro?

    The Class of 2018

    17 Prototypes and 19 GTE cars lined up at Paul Ricard. There is clearly still a lot to learn and no one is really giving away their true performance just yet, however, it is going to be an incredible season. The championship new comers will hopefully shake the championship up this year, the privateer LMP1 teams challenging Toyota, the new LMP2 chassis with varying tire choices adds another variable to the competition who will have the advantage this year after an Oreca chassis lock out in LMP2 in 2017?

    Can BMW and the new Aston Martin Vantage look to challenge Porsche and Ford who have both enjoyed successes in the past couple of years?

    And with a number of championship new comers joining the fight in GTE Am, will it be the experienced WEC veterans who come out on top or the new challengers?

    Join us at Spa Francorchamps in May when the season truly begins.

  • Toyota lock out the front row in China Qualifying

    Toyota continue their dominance in LMP1, locking out the front row in qualifying for the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Shanghai.

    Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi took pole position with an average time of 1:42.931 with the championship leading #8 car of Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima just 0.228 seconds behind. During the first half of qualifying, Bruno Senna split the Toyotas going quicker than Fernando Alonso. Nakajima fought back in the second session though to best Andre Lotterer by just three tenths of a second. The resulting average times meant that the #1 Rebellion took third, losing out on second place by six hundredths of a second! The #17 SMP Racing took fourth with the #3 Rebellion rounding out the top five.

    In LMP2, Jackie Chan DC Racing took a 1-2 front row lock out for their home event. Ho Pin Tung and Gabriel Aubrey posting an average time of 1:48.888 around the Shanghai circuit. The #37, which took the win in Fuji averaged a time of 1:49.138 – three thents off pole position. With the #38 scoring a point for pole position in class, they are now on equal points with Signatech Alpine for the lead of the championship. Alpine will start fourth in class behind the DragonSpeed Oreca on the second row.

    In GTE-Pro, Stefan Mucke and Olvier Pla took Ford’s third pole of the season after a close fight with BMW Team MTEK. BMW were on for a 1-2 finish in qualifying before Mucke put the 66 Ford top of the time sheets with a time of 1:58.464. The #81 BMW M8 GTE of Martin Tomczyk and Nicky Catsburg will start second with the #82 car in fifth. The #97 Aston Martin and #92 Porsche dropped the BMW down the order, setting fast times late in the session.

    A last-ditch lap from Pedro Lamy saw the #98 Aston snatch pole position in GTE-Am ahead of the #88 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR. The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari will start in third.

    Tomorrows race looks set to be a wet one and gets under way at 11Am local time.

  • Toyota overcomes Wednesday struggles to secure qualifying 1-2

    Toyota Gazoo Racing has locked out the front-row in qualifying for this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours after a turnaround in form allowed Kazuki Nakajima to move the #8 up to second – 0.411s behind the pole-sitting #7.

    The front-row start is in stark contrast to the TS050’s form in Qualifying One on Wednesday night as Nakajima’s early flying lap in Thursday evening’s second session moved the car up to second. Despite his up-turn in pace, Kamui Kobayashi was also quick to improve on the provisional pole time for the #7 – his 3m15.497 was just 0.120s slower than the pole-time at last year’s Le Mans, the start of the Superseason.

    Six-tenths behind the Toyota was the #17 SMP Racing BR1. Stoffel Vandoorne had briefly set the fastest lap early in second qualifying – before it was beaten by the hybrid LMP1s – but was good enough to finish a couple of tenths clear of the fourth-placed #3 Rebellion Racing R13. That’s despite that car losing a chunk of time in Qualifying Two having pulled over exiting Mulsanne Corner with smoke and oil pouring out of the back of the car. Fifth went to the second SMP entry, which was the meat in a Rebellion sandwiched as the #1 finished the session sixth – losing the final hour of qualifying for a similar engine issue to the sister car.

    DragonSpeed will start seventh, the team not improving on the 3m20.200 set on Wednesday night. ByKolles did improve its time, but its 3m23.109 was almost three seconds off the back of the rest of the LMP1 field.

    Tristan Gommendy claimed LMP2 class pole for Graff in the last of three sessions as his 3m25.073 leapt the Oreca 07 ahead of the Loic Duval, who had sat on provisional class pole for a handful of minutes in the TDS Racing car. Despite sitting on top for the first two sessions, the #31 DragonSpeed car of Roberto Gonzalez, Anthony Davidson and Pastor Maldonado couldn’t make a similar upturn in pace to its rivals ahead and will start in third. Signatech Alpine will join DragonSpeed on the second row as the team’s mechanics resolved a mechanical issue that caused the Alpine A470 to lose a significant chunk of track time in the night session. Nicolas Lapierre’s 3m25.874 moved the car up from eighth and relegated IDEC Sport to fifth. G-Drive Racing will start the race in sixth in its Aurus 01, while United Autosports will start seventh in its Ligier. IDEC Sport will join DragonSpeed on the second row – two-tenths ahead of the G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 in fifth.

    The back-and-forth battle for GTE Pro honours went the way of Aston Martin Racing as Marco Sorensen’s 3m48.000 in the #95 Vantage beat the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT by 0.112s, despite Harry Tincknell lowering his provisional pole time from last night by more than 1.4s. Corvette Racing secured third with just 20 minutes of qualifying remaining as Antonio Garcia hauled the #63 C7.R ahead of its IMSA rival the #93 CORE Autosport-run Porsche GT Team 911 RSR. Nick Tandy set the fastest lap for that car, 0.201s ahead of the #82 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE as five manufacturers locked out the top five places. The sister BMW, driven by Nicky Catsburg, caused the first Slow Zone of Qualifying Three as he went off at the Ford Chicane. The #81 missed the remaining 110 minutes of the session as mechanics set about repairing the front-end damage to the car. It will start second-to-last in class, beating only the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

    Dempsey-Proton Racing’s GTE Am entries sandwiched the Risi Ferrari as Matteo Cairoli in the #88 Porsche 911 jumped ahead of Matt Campbell in the sister #77 on Thursday night as the team enjoyed a 1-2. Porsche entries secured a top three in the category as Thomas Preining moved the Gulf Racing example up to third in the dying moments of qualifying. The #78 Proton Competition car – the sister of the Dempsey-Proton entries – missed out on the chance of securing a 1-2-3-4 for the German manufacturer as Francesco Castellacci pipped the team to fourth by 0.011s as he moved the JMW Motorsport Ferrari up from P16.

    In worse news for the Proton team, there was official confirmation that the #99 run for Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Pat Long has officially been withdrawn from the race. Krohn was advised by the FIA to take a week off racing following his large shunt on the Mulsanne Straight in Free Practice.

  • Toyota take first pole of the season.

    The #7 Toyota took the first pole of the new World Endurance Championship super-season for tomorrow’s Spa 6 Hours, as Toyota dominated the red flag-interrupted session.

    Toyota LMP1 Spa 2018

    The #7 Toyota TS050 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez beat its sister #8 machine of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi by just under four tenths on the average time. After the first runs Conway’s 1m54.679s mark beat Alonso’s effort by just under half a second. Then in the second efforts Kobayashi 1m 54.488s time was three tenths under that of Nakajima.

    “Just tried to put two good laps together between me and Kamui,” said Conway, “we had a few poles last year we didn’t quite convert to wins, we’ll make sure we’ll convert some wins this year. It’s a good start anyway. It’ll still be tricky tomorrow with the amount of tyres we have, I’m sure the privateers will keep us on our toes.”

    As anticipated Toyota were clearly the quickest of the LMP1 cars. The Rebellion-Gibson R-13s led the privateer non-hybrid LMP1 pack behind, with Neel Jani and Bruno Senna – who will be driving with Andre Lotterer tomorrow – starting third with an average 1.8s off the pole-time. Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes got fourth in the other Rebellion with an average 2.4s off the pace. They will drive tomorrow with Mathias Beche.

    The SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 all-Russian #11 car of Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov will start fifth, ahead of the ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01 of Oliver Webb, Dominik Kraihamer and Tom Dillmann.

    FIA WEC Dragonspeed WEC

    Prototype qualifying was first interrupted in the early minutes by the #17 SMP Racing BR1 stopping on the Kemmel straight having lost the engine and gearbox with Stephane Sarrazin at the wheel, and had not set a time. Then around a third of the way into the session Pietro Fittipaldi caused a lengthy stoppage with a big front-on crash at Raidillon in his DragonSpeed-Gibson BR1.

    An official statement from the team and the FIA declared: “At 15:52 today, Friday 4 May 2018, the No.10 DragonSpeed BR Engineering BR1 left the track at high speed at Raidillon. The driver, who was conscious at all times, was attended immediately by the Circuit de Spa Francorchamps Medical Services and FIA Medical Delegate Jacques Tropenat, extracted from the car and taken by helicopter to the Centre Hospitalier de la Citadelle de Liege with suspected fractures to both legs. He is accompanied by the DragonSpeed Team Manager and his condition is not life threatening.”

    The CEFC TRSM Racing Ginettas didn’t set a qualifying time, and it was announced shortly after qualifying that the team will take no further part in the weekend due to financial issues with sponsor TRS.

    Alpine LMP2 Spa 2018

    Signatech Alpine Matmut took LMP2 pole after pipping the G-Drive Racing machine. The average time of Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet in their Alpine A470-Gibson beat that of Formula E championship leader Jean-Eric Verge and Andrea Pizzitola in their Oreca 07-Gibson by just two hundredths of a second.

    “Very tough weekend so far,” said Lapierre, “but we’ve improved the car a lot for the qualifying so we are very pleased, it was a very special qualifying as we didn’t have so much time to set a lap.”

    The Jota Sport-run Jackie Chan DC Racing pair was next up, with Ho-Pin Tung and Gabriel Aubry starting third with an average time four tenths off the pace and beating team-mates Jazeman Jaafar and Nabil Jeffry’s average in fourth by two tenths. They were followed by the DragonSpeed Oreca 07-Gibson of Pastor Maldonado and Roberto Gonzalez in fifth.

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    The Chip Ganassi-run Fords took the first two places in GTE Pro class, with the #67 car of Andy Priaulx, Harry Ticknell and Tony Kanaan pipping Olivier Pla, Stefan Mucke and Billy Johnson in the #66 by just 0.083s. Pla beat Priaulx by two tenths in their first runs but Ticknell’s best in the second runs beat Mucke’s by over three tenths to but him just ahead on average time.

    “Had a good first banker lap,” said Priaulx, “and Harry did a great lap on the used tyre. So really super happy with the car. But the Porsche looked really strong and our team-mates were strong so I think this year the GTE Pro class is going to be a really tough battle.”

    The Ford pair just beat the Porcshe 911 RSR of Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni, whose average time was just four thousandths slower than the #66 Ford on the average time. The other Porsche 911 of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre was fourth, four tenths off the top.

    Reigning GTE Pro champions James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the Ferrari 488 GTE EVO were fifth quickest, 1.4s off the top, while the best of the BMW M8 GTEs making its championship debut was Andretti BMW Formula E duo Antonio Felix Da Costa and Tom Blomqvist in sixth, a tenth behind the Ferrari on the average time.

    The quickest of the new Aston Martin Vantage AMRs was the #97 car of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn in seventh.

    Porsche #77 FIA WEC Spa

    Dempsey-Proton Racing’s Porsche 911 RSR #77 took the GTE Am pole, for Christian Ried, Matt Campbell and Julien Andlauer. They beat reigning GTE Am champions Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda in the Aston Martin Vantage #98 by a mere 0.002s on the average.

    Team Project 1, new to the series from Porsche Supercup and Carrera Cup, took third in class with the #56 Porsche 911 RSR for Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti.

  • Toyota Top Silverstone Practice Sessions

    Toyota remain top of the time sheets through all three Free Practice sessions at Silverstone.

    Toyota Gazooo Racing kicked of the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone with a 1-2 finish in each of the three sessions. The #7 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez set the fastest time in the opening session on Friday Morning, Conway setting a 1:39.916 with the sister car, the #7, just three tenths behind. Jose Maria Lopez made sure that the #7 remained top of the time sheets in FP2 later on Friday Afternoon, going 1.4 seconds quicker than Conway’s earlier bench mark to post a time of 1:38.536. Come Saturday morning and the final Free Practice session of the weekend, it was Fernando Alonso who topped the time sheets, taking another second off Friday’s times with a 1:37.677. Most notably however from the third session of the weekend, the #7 Toyota finished fourth, the two hybrid runners were split by both of the SMP entries, Jenson Button initially taking second place early in the session before his time was beaten by team mate Stephane Sarrazin in the other car.

    The first session on Friday morning was red flagged on two different occasions, the first of which was the result of a substantial accident for the #1 Rebellion Racing R13 of Bruno Senna. Senna had a big off at Copse Corner and suffered a right ankle fracture in the impact. He has been ruled out from the remainder of the weekend leaving Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer to compete on their own. Rather impressively, Rebellion managed to get the car repaired and back out on track in time for FP3 on Saturday morning. The second red flag from Free Practice 1 was caused by the #4 ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM dropping oil on the track between turns 5 and 6 down the Wellington Straight.

    In LMP2, the #28 TDS Racing Oreca 07 has remained around the top of the time sheets all weekend so far, taking the fastest time in Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 3. Former Audi LMP1 star Loic Duval set the fastest time of FP1 with stiff competition from the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca and the #36 Signatech Alpine. The trio are clear favourites this weekend having traded times throughout each of the three practice sessions. Frenchman Gabriel Aubry took the fastest time in Free Practice 2 for the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car before the #28 TDS Racing Oreca returned to the tope of the time sheets in Free Practice 3.

    Despite a change in BOP regulations in the build up to Silverstone, Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK continued to top the time sheets in the opening Free Practice session. The results looked much the same as normal early on, Ford leading the way with Porsche close behind. Ferrari managed to split the two Porsche GT Team cars, the #51 taking fourth at the end of the first session with both Aston Martin Racing and BMW Team MTEK making up the rear of the field. It was however, all change in Free Practice 2, Aston Martin Racing shot to the top of the time sheets early on before Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx responded to end the session fastest. It was a good result however for Aston Martin who managed to split the two Fords to take second and fourth in class. There were more surprises in store for Free Practice 3 on Saturday Morning, BMW Team MTEK briefly topped the running, the #82 of Augusto Farfus setting a 1:56.8. But by the end of the session, normal service was resumed, Ford going 1.2 seconds quicker than anyone else. Aston Martin and Ferrari however finished third and fourth, indicating that the recent BOP change may have had a positive affect on the class. Let’s see how things turn out in qualifying.

    Porsche and Aston Martin continued to dominate in GTE-Am, the #88 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche initially setting a time of 1:59.418 and leading a Porsche 1-2-3 from the #77 Dempsey Porsche and the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche. Aston Martin fought back well in Free Practice 2 but were not quite quick enough to take the top spot, the #88 Dempsey Proton Racing managing to hold on in the final moments. The #98 Aston Martin finished top of the time sheets in FP3, however, the top seven cars (of nine in class) were split by less than a second, the three top spots held by three different manufacturers.

  • Wayne Taylor Racing win rain soaked Rolex 24 At Daytona

    It was a cloudy and chilly start to the 57th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the race marking the first event of the 50th anniversary season for IMSA and it looked set to be a fantastic race.

    Oliver Jarvis took the overall lap record in qualifying driving the #77 Mazda run by Team Joest. Jarvis led the pack away from the green flag as the pack thundered around the trip-oval banking past the grand stand on the run in to turn one. Jarvis had both the Penske Acuras hot on his tail though as the first round of pit stops approached, losing the lead exiting the pit lane. It wasn't long before the lead Cadillacs began to make themselves known. The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac is joined for the 2019 race by Toyota WEC drivers Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi. Jordan Taylor started the race for squad, getting 60 laps under his belt before handing the reigns to Fernando Alonso.

    The GT ranks promise to be full of drama and entertainment in both GTLM and GTD with the shear volume of entries in both classes and the incredibly talented list of drivers taking part. GTLM was close fought in the early stages, the #911 Porsche of Nick Tandy fighting hard with Jan Magnussen in the #3 Corvette Racing C7.R. Magnussen took the lead early on around the outside of the banking before Porsche retook the lead after the first pit stop. At the end of the first hour, the two BMW RLL M8 GTE entries sat third and fourth. It was not a completely trouble free opening hour however with the #912 Porsche having to pit twice with brake problems and the #67 Ford disappearing behind the pit wall after making contact with the wall after spinning on cold rubber.

    GTD got off to an entertaining start, the #86 Acura holding the lead after the first round of stops in the hands of Trent Hindman. Riley Mercedes were pushing hard though in the hands of Ben Keating, chasing first whilst fighting with the Via Italia Ferrari.

    With just four full course yellows throughout the 2018 race, there were five by the end of the first six hours of racing. The #10 and #31 Cadillacs were fighting hard at the front of the field, leading the way. Jordan Taylor started the race for the #10 Konica Minolta backed WTR Cadillac, completing a 60 lap stint before handing the reigns to two time F1 World Champion Fernando ALonso for a quadruple stint of 94 laps. It was then the turn of Kamui Kobayashi who quickly established himself as the fastest driver on track, breaking the 1:34 barrier with a 1:34.598.

    LMP2 are running in a separate class this year, with just four LMP2 Oreca's two of which have been entered by Dragonspeed, the #18 Dragonspeed car leading the class was already 3 laps off the pace of the leading DPi. The #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport Oreca came together with one of the Acura DPi cars at Turn 1, taking heavy damage and spinning out, causing the fifth Full Course Yellow of the race.

    In GTLM, Porsche, Ford and Ferrari were battling hard, with BMW and Corvette a lap down on the leaders but within touching distance should one of the front runners fall away. The #912 Porsche rejoined the race three laps down but with Nick Tandy behind the wheel and the incoming rain, the #912 crew still have an outside chance.

    GT Daytona has been as exciting as ever so far, Lexus leading the way early on with the #14 but by the 6 hour mark, it was the #71 Mercedes AMG GT3 of Maxi Buhk leading the way with the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Pedro Lamy, Matthias Lauda, Paul Dalla Lana and Daniel Serra chasing hard.

    Despite such a promising start for Mazda, the #77 ran out of luck in the seventh hour, blowing the turbo down the back straight away before grinding to a halt at the bus stop, flames shooting from the exhausts. The two Cadillacs, the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing and the #31 Whelen Engineering were leading leading the way, with the two Penske Acura's also in the mix. By the 12 hour mark, it was the #10 leading the way with the #6 Acura splitting the two Cadillacs, the #31 Cadillac in third and the #7 Acura in fourth. The #55 Mazda rounded out the top five, just off the lead lap.

    Dragonspeed continued to dominate in LMP2, the #18 leading the #81. The #38 Performance Tech car sat third in class, seven laps off the lead in class and well out of the running.

    GTLM continued to entertain, positions changing as the cars made there way through the traffic. The #3 Corvette led 12 hours in despite an early collision in the pit lane with the #4 Corvette but stopped out on track with a fuel flow issue. The car was towed back to the pits and pushed away behind the wall and back in to the garage. The #25 BMW M8 took over the lead before the next round of stops before the previously delayed Porsche of Nick Tandy took the lead.

    Lamborghini led the way in GTD, but it was an incredibly close fought battle with 9 cars all on the lead lap by the half way mark. Theres four hours until daylight with the weather forecasts getting progressively worse!

    The Rolex 24 At Daytona is run under approximately 13 hours of darkness, and with day light still some time away, the race continues to chop and change as we progressed into the third quarter. The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Cadillac was the star of the show at this point, Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi driving head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Alonso was up to three seconds a lap quicker than any other driver out on track during his soaking wet night stint. Full Course Yellow periods were called repeatedly as cars fell off the track left right and centre throughout the night as the rain came down harder and harder. The Red Flag was called out shortly after and the race was halted in the 15th hour. The #10 Cadillac led the way with the #6 and #7 Acura's running second and third. Both Mazdas were out of the race by this point, the #55 car cut out whilst on track and was hit by another car, sending the Mazda out of the race. The race was read flagged after an hour of running under Full Course Yellow, Tommy Milner aquaplaned off the track at Turn One, sliding straight across the run off area and slamming into the crash barrier side on.

    No change in LMP2 at this stage but now a three lap split between the #81 and #18.

    With the race halted, the #62 Rizi Competitione Ferrari held the lead, the #912 Porsche held second with the #66 Ford GT in third.

    In GTD, there were still 5 different brands in competition for the top spot, the #33 Mercedes leading the way from the #86 Acura, #29 Audi, #540 Porsche and the #63 Ferrari.

    Early indications showed the race could be an absolute classic with the race distance forecasted to run well beyond any previous records. The cars in every class were running faster than before with class records broken throughout the different classes on the new Michelin rubber. But with 8 and a half hours left to run, the heavens opened and the rain came crashing down, steady at first before it got heavier and heavier. The race was red flagged again with two hours to run the face was red flagged and the race stopped for the final time. The high speed banked sections of the circuit were not an issue, it was the infield section and the run off turn one which proved to be the most treacherous parts of the track.

    The Wayne Taylor and Whelan Cadillacs fought hard in the final moments of Green Flag running, the #31 car holding the lead before a mistake from Felipe Nasr saw the Cadillac run wide at Turn 1, handing the lead to Fernando Alonso just before the final red flag.

    With just four entrants in LMP2, there were only two in competition for the win by the final stages, the #18 Dragonspeed car and the #38 Performance Tech Car. The #88 Dragonspeed car ran off late in the race whilst leading by 3 laps. The #88 recovered to a distant third place finish.

    It was an emotional victory in GTLM for the #25 BMW Team RLL car following the loss of Charly Lamm, a key player in BMW Motorsport. The #62 Ferrari took second place, James Calado the last man behind the wheel as the red flag fell. The #67 Castrol liveried Ford came home in third place.

    The GTD class was a competitive as always with a number of offs in the final stages, throwing the results up in the air. It was the #11 Lamborghini Huracan that eventually took the win, making it a second consecutive win at the Rolex 24 At Daytona for Lamborghini.

    Images Courtesy of IMSA