Ferrari

  • 2018 Le Mans Classic Review Part Three

    Our third and final article of the series picks up where the story left off, Plateaux 4 covering 1962 through to 1965.


    Plateaux 4 1962-1965


    Ferrari continued to dominate through the early 1960s winning 6 consecutive years between 1960 and 1965. Ford join the series with young Kiwi Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon looking to go head to head with Ferrari for the overall win. Ferrari introduce the mid-engine layout and so begins the battle of the V8 vs the V12, the artisan from Northern Italy vs the powerhouse from Detroit. Away from the front, Porsche continue to improve with additional class victories.

    In 1964, Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt found themselves down in 15th place after three hours of running. The pair were in an old Ferrari 275 LM entered by NART. Jochen Rindt was a star of Formula 2 at this time and would later go on to win the F1 World Championship in 1970 whilst Masten Gregory was a very quick driver who had previous experience with both Jaguar and Aston Martin. By this point he had taken part in Le Mans nine times but finished no better than fifth in 1961 in a Porsche. He did however, have the 1960 lap record in the Maserati so there were no doubts that he had the pace.

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    Sitting down in 15th place, they began to fight back, carving their way through the pack. The works cars of both Ford and Ferrari all retired, primarily due to shattered brake discs but Gregory and Rindt were flying. At every fuel stop, they were both getting an earful from NART team boss Luigi Chinetti who had only authorised the duo to use at most 7500 RPM to save the engine. The pair ignored him, pushing the engine to 9000 RPM, gradually clawing their way up the field and taking the win.

    Plateaux 4 was dominated by Ford this weekend Diogo Ferraro taking the first race win of the weekend in the #61 GT40 MK1. He went on to finish second in the remaining two races, a strong performance for the Portuguese driver. Shaun Lynn came home in second place in the first race just ahead of Ludovic Caron in the Shelby Cobra 289. David Hart took the second race win of the weekend in the yellow #8 Ford GT40 from Ferraro and James Cottingham in the #64 Ford GT40 MK1. Race three was a near repeat of the results with Cottingham and Ferrao taking first and second as the #51 Ford GT40 MK1 of Grant Tromans took the final step of the podium.

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    Plateaux 5 1966-1971


    Plateaux 5 represents the domination of Ford in the late 1960s, taking four consecutive victories for the GT40. Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon took their first win in the GT40 MKII in 1966 starting a brief period of dominance for the Americans. A change in regulations see’s the birth of the early prototypes in 1970/1971 with the Porsche 917K taking two straight wins on the bounce going up against the likes of Alpine, Alfa Romeo and Matra. 1969 saw the last Le Mans start in which the drivers would run to their cars. A protest by Jacky Ickx in which he walked to his car rather than running, nearly getting hit in the process, forced the organisation to make a decision. The decision was made for them when Ickx won the race. The aerodynamic prototypes are still in their infancy at this stage and are incredibly tricky to drive with not enough downforce over the rear end to keep the cars stable. That said, they are seriously quick in a straight line and lap times are now averaging around 240km/h! The 917 was maxing out at 360km/h! In Grand Touring the battle continues to rage between the Porsche 911s, Porsche 914s and the Ferrari GTB and Daytonas.

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    In the 1960s, Denny Hulme spent the majority of his time racing at McLaren, both before and after the death of Bruce McLaren. However, there is one particular race that could have seen that relationship change dramatically. With the finish of the 1966 race in site, the blue Ford GT40 of Hulme and Ken Miles was in the lead, McLaren and Amon were sat in second. It was at this point that Henry Ford decided to organise a dead heat final, to “underline the victory of the car rather than one of its driver line-ups”. Miles slowed to let Bruce draw level along with the third place GT40 which was a few laps down. The trio crossed the line together. The organisers declared the result a victory for Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon as they had been slower in qualifying and therefore started 20 metres further down the grid and as a result covered more distance during the race. Hulme and Miles would never win Le Mans. Whilst Hulme continued to race with McLaren, Miles was killed in an accident whilst testing the new Ford J just two months later.

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    The racing this weekend swung in favour of the prototypes of the era, with the #69 Ligier JS3 DFV from 1971 taking the first two wins of the weekend. It was a strong performance from the Lola T70 MK3 with at least one making it into the top three in each of the races. David Hart took second place in the first race at the wheel of the #34 Lola T70 with Carlos Tavares taking third place. Jaques Nicolet took second place in race two followed by a win in race three in the Duckhams Ford. Tavares took third again in race two with Pierre Alain France rounding out the top three in race three in the #70 Lola T70.

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    Plateaux 6 1972-1981


    By this point, there has been a big step forward in engineering and aerodynamics, with the potential for cars to hit 400km/h down the Mulsanne. As a safety precaution, the organisers limited the size of the engines to 3 litres. As a result, Matra took a trio of wins between 1972 and 1974 with the Matra Simca MS670 piloted by Henri Pescarolo, Graham Hill and Gerard Larrousse. Ford jumped back to the front in 1975 with their V8 engine befor Porsche dominate for the next two years with the Jacky Ickx driven Porsche 936. At this point, aerodynamics are becoming more refined, rather than running as much downforce as possible. In GT, the Daytona’s and Porsche’s rule before Ferrari and BMW arrive with the BB and M1 Procar respectively.

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    It's 1977, Le Mans was a disaster for Porsche. The Favourite car was broken and the other was running 49th. “I’ve had some great races but there’s one in which I really excelled myself,” says Le Mans legend Jacky Ickx. “Le Mans in 1977 with the Porsche 936. I’ve never driven as well in my life. It was unbelievable! The mechanics, the other drivers, everybody was in another world! And we transformed what had begun as a debacle into victory. I did double stints at night in the fog and the rain. I was on the absolute edge in the car, the circuit, the conditions. I pulled back such huge chunks of time on the Renaults, which were comfortably installed in the lead, that no one could believe their eyes! I stopped at the pits” “Do you want to change?” “No. I’ll stay in the car. And then you take charge, and nobody dares to say a word to you. Ask the Porsche engineers. They’d never seen anything like it in their life. We were running rings around the Renaults which weren’t exactly slowcoaches!”

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    It was a strong performance this weekend from Yves Scemama in the Toj SC 304, taking one race victory in Race two and two second place finishes in the first and third race. Roald Goethe and Stuart Hall took the first win of the weekend in the Mirage GR7. Patrice Lafargue took third place in race one followed by second place in race two with Paul Lafargue and Dieteren Lalmand wrapping up third place in Race 2 and Race 3 respectively.

  • Le Mans Free Practice and Qualifying One

    Neel Jani put the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid at the top of the time sheets in FP1 in a session that ran without much incident. Kamui Kobayashi topped the time sheets with his first flying lap, going seven tenths quicker than anyone else with a time of 3:20.996 in the final hour of running. It looked like the time was going to stand but with 20 minutes to run, Jani went sixth tenths quicker with a time of 3:20.362.

    Qualifying One saw Toyota Gazoo Racing top the time sheets to take provisional pole but it was Timo Bernhard who initially went quickest in the #2 Porsche after the first few flying laps. Toyota reacted instantly, pitting the #7 and #8 cars and sending out Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima. Kobayashi responded, setting the fastest lap of the session, going six tenths quicker than anyone else with a time of 3:18.793. Nakajima took second in a Toyota One-Two whilst Bernhard’s time was good enough for third place. Having set the pace in FP1, Neel Jani could only manage to put the #1 Porsche 5th. ByKolles had another difficult session, lapping just half a second quicker than the leading LMP2.

    LMP2

    Alex Lynn knocked the #13 Vaillante Rebellion off the top of the time sheets in FP1, the ex-GP2 driver posted a time of 3:30.363 in the #26 G-Drive, 1.3 seconds quicker than anyone else.

    ORECA certainly appear to have a big advantage over the other competitors, the best non-ORECA car finished 10th. The SMP Racing Dallara in the hands of Victor Shaytar was over four seconds a lap slower. There was a close battle in qualifying between all the World Endurance Championship entrants. It looked as if Manor had the pace throughout the session as with just half an hour to run, Jean-Eric Vergne and Vitaly Petrov locked down the top two positions with the #25 and #24 cars. However, as time moved on and the temperature dropped, the rest of the field began fighting back. Bruno Senna broke in to the 3:29s before Vaxiviere went half a second quicker in the #28 TDS Oreca to take provisional pole with a time of 3:29.333. The Signatech Alpine entries sat sixth and seventh whilst the second Rebellion #13 finished eighth with Rusinov rounding out the top nine in the #26 G-Drive.

    The fastest non-ORECA running LMP2 finished 13th and was the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara in the hands of Rubens Barrichello, taking part in his first Le Mans qualifying session. The Brazilian set a lap time that was 4.463 seconds off the pace of provisional pole-sitter, Vaxiviere.

    GTE Pro

    There was a last minute driver change in GTE Pro, Lucas di Grassi has been ruled out of the event on medical grounds having broken his fibula in a charity football match. di Grassi failed to get himself out of the car without assistance within the seven second time limit on the driver extraction test. Michele Rugolo has been drafted in to fill his vacant seat patterning James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari.

    #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 jumped to the top of the time sheets towards the end of free practice one. Aston Martin traded lap times with Corvette for most of the session before Bird put the Ferrari on top in the closing laps by half a second. James Calado pushed hard in the closing stages of the session to try and and match the pace of Bird but he was unable to match the time of 3:55.504.

    Aston Martin jumped straight to the top in the first qualifying session, Marco Sorensen leading the way in the #95 with a time of 3:52.117, it was only a tenth quicker than Sam Bird but Birds team mates were unable to improve on his opening lap time leaving the #71 crew second at the end of the session. The #51 Ferrari came in 0.888 down on the pole sitting Aston but overall, just two seconds covered the top six.

    GTE AM

    The factory-entered Aston Martin led the time sheets early on, Mathias Lauda setting the early pace before the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette went quickest at the end of the first hour. The #50 Corvette had a moment through Porsche Curves early on in the second hour and slammed in to the tyre barrier on the outside of the track. The Safety Car was called out for minor repair work and the session restarted. The Clearwater Ferrari was leading the session, even after suffering a left-rear puncture at the end of the third hour. Just after the final hour had started, Pedro Lamy set a new fastest lap of 3:58.234 which allowed him to end the session on top of the class with the #98 Aston Martin.

    Aston Martin also held the advantage from the start of the session in LM GTE Am. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche took the lead of the class for the first few minutes of the session, but as soon as Pedro Lamy had set his fast time there was no challenge to his 3:55.232. Only his team-mate, Mathias Lauda, could better the time, improving the Aston Martin #98’s provisional pole time to a 3:55.134.

    Matteo Cairoli‘s original fastest time in the #77 was enough to hold on to a comfortable second place. He had a three-tenth advantage over third-placed #90 TF Sport Aston Martin when the chequered flag fell.

  • Official Lap Records Fall at Daytona as Mazda take pole

    Oliver Jarvis topped the time sheets at the Roar Before the 24 earlier this month but officially broke the lap record previous set by PJ Jones way back in 1993. The Mazda Team Joest driver posted a time of 1:33.685, three tenths slower than the time he posted at the Roar but a couple of tenths faster than the record set by Jones.

    Ricky Taylor was the closest competition for Jarvis, Taylor posted a time of 1:33.873 in the #7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05. Juan Pablo Montoya put the #6 Acura into third with a time of 1:34.095. Previous winners Cadillac were a little off the pace, Felipe Nasr posting the fastest time for Cadillac with a time of 1:34.433 which was good enough for fifth place only. The #5 Action Express Cadillac failed to set a time in qualifying, suffering a loss of power on the out lap.

    James Allen went fastest in LMP2, the #81 DragonSpeed car setting a time of 1:35.904, half a second up on Gabriel Aubry in the #52 PR1 Oreca.

    Porsche took pole in the #911 Porsche 911 RSR, posting a new GTLM lap record, Nick Tandy posting a time of 1:42.257 after a brush with the wall. Tandy was half a second up on last years time and had Jan Magnussen just three tenths behind the #911 posting a time of 1:42.583. Ryan Briscoe took third in class in the #67 Ford GT posting a time of 1:42.634.

    Marcos Gomes put the #13 Via Italia Racing Ferrari 488GT3 on pole with a time of 1:45.27, setting a new GTD lap record, beating the time set in 2018 by Daniel Serra by eight tenths of a second. Ben Keating took second place in the #33 Mercedes AMG Team Riley Merecedes AMG-GT3 with a time of 1:45.324 whilst Trent Hindman rounded out the top three in the #86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 Evo.

    Image courtesy of IMSA.

  • 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 Win 6 Hours of Silverstone

    Toyota claimed their third straight 1-2 finish at the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone making it three from three for the #8 Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Fernando Alonso.

    The race got off to a chaotic start in LMP1, there was contact between the #17 SMP Racing BR1 of Stephane Sarrazin and the #3 Rebellion R13 of Mathias Beche. Beche was spun around whilst Sarrazin was forced wide off the circuit before rejoining on the run down towards Village. The pack split to avoid the tangled cars with a number of cars running wide over the run off. The #11 SMP Racing BR1 retired early on with engine failure and before home favourite Jenson Button even stepped in the car.

    By the mid way point, Toyota held a comfortable lead, they were two laps ahead of the LMP1 privateer field with Fernando Alonso leading the way in the #8. The two cars had been jostling for position in the opening few hours before Alonso made a move on Mike Conway to take the lead. Rebellion managed to take third and fourth after Egor Orudzhev spun the car out of third position. Rene Binder retired the ByKolles CLM a couple of hours in, Binder diving off the circuit in avoidance of the Larbre Ligier who hit the brakes to adhere to a Full Course Yellow. Binder slammed into the barriers at the exit of the complex before spinning back out onto the track.

    Toyota crossed the line with a comfortable lead at the end of the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone, the two TS050 Hybrid’s dominating as expected, crossing the line 4 laps ahead of the third place Rebellion. The Toyota #8 took a late lead in the final hour as the #7 of Conway, Lopez and Kobayashi suffered an issue with the floor. It was far from an easy win for the #8 though, the two cars traded places throughout the race, running within a couple of seconds of each other throughout the race. With the #7 dropping back in the final hour, the #8 Toyota crossed the line 19 seconds ahead. The #1 Rebellion looked set to take its first podium of the year but unfortunately had to change the rear wing at the final stop, dropping them in to fourth place behind the #3. It was a steady race for the Rebellions. Both cars were caught up in the Turn 1 incident but the teams got their heads down and pushed on as the rest fell by the wayside.

    LMP2 was fairly static early on, the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca held an early advantage of nearly half a minute towards the end of the first hour. There was a change of position at the end of the first hour as Ho Pin tung managed to pass the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara of Giedo Van Der Garde to make it a Jackie Chan DC Racing 1-2, an impressive achievement in itself following a drive through penalty for the #38 in the opening stages for contact at Turn 1. Further down the pack, it was a difficult start for the #31 DragonSpeed LMP2 entry, Roberto Gonzalez was forced to perform a full car re-set in the middle of the pack, cars dived left and right to avoid the stranded car but the #67 Ford made contact resulting in Gonzalez pitting for a rear end change.

    The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca lost the lead with a puncture just before the halfway point, dropping the car back to fourth and promoting the #38 car into the lead. At the halfway mark, the #28 TDS Racing Oreca and Signatech Alpine completed the top three. The third hour ended under safety car with TDS Racing emerging in the lead once the latest round of pit stops were completed and the race went back to green, Loic Duval leading the way. It was Jackie Chan DC Racing however who fought back to take a 1-2 finish, the #38 taking its second win of 2018. It was an impressive finish for the team, both cars had issues throughout the race. The #37 suffered a puncture and the #38 served an early drive through penalty for jumping the start before losing more time behind a safety car to recover the #82 MTEK BMW which went off at Beckets in a cloud of smoke. The championship leading Signatech Alpine finished third and a lap down on the two Jackie Chan DC Racing cars.

    GTE-Pro was its usual self, close racing throughout the field with Olivier Pla having to work hard to recover the lead having been forced wide through Turn 1 to avoid the chaos ahead. Kevin Estre assumed an early lead, holding position through to the first round of stops. It was a strong start for Aston Martin who enjoyed a hard battle with both Ford GT’s early on. By the first round of stops, it was Kevin Estre who led the way from Andy Priaulx in the #67 Ford and Sam Bird in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

    Ford continued to lead in GTE-Pro, Andy Priaulx having now handed over to Harry Tincknell who led the field under safety car. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari split the two Fords having pitted just before the full course caution. Porsche were struggling with tyre degradation issues and were unable to challenge the leaders for now. Aston Martin were still lapping well but had fallen down the order before the safety car was called out as the result of a violent puncture. An issue in the next pit stop for the #66 Ford dropped the Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla car out of contention.

    The battle in GTE-Pro continued all the way to the finish as the #51 AF Corse Ferrari took their first win of the year. The #91 Porsche took second place ahead of the #67 Ford which took the final podium position after a fantastic fight to the finish with the #92 Porsche. Harry Tincknell went around the outside of Christensen at Stowe, the two of them banging together in the process before drag racing on the run down to the Vale Club complex. It was the best performance of the season so far for Aston Martin who finished fifth. The #95 had gearbox issues throughout the race but the #97 was always amongst the fight for the top five positions.

    Leading the way early on in GTE-Am was the TF Sport Aston Martin of Salih Yoluc, Jonny Adam and Charlie Eastwood. Like the GTE Pro field, Yoluc had to take avoiding action through Turn 1, emerging in the lead ahead of the two Porsches. Contact for Paul Dalla Lana and the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari saw both cars enter the pits early on and fall down the running order. Project 1 Porsche managed to retake the lead at the first round of stops with the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche holding third place behind the #90 TF Sport Aston. By the half way mark, the #56 Project 1 Porsche led the way from the TF Sport Aston Martin. The #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche was holding its own in third.

    The fight in GTE-Am came down to the final hour of the race between the Team Project 1 Porsche and TF Sport Aston Martin, or so it appeared. The two cars fought hard for the lead, Jonny Adam and Patrick Lindsay fighting hard in the final couple of hours. Both cars were handed 75 second stop-go penalties for pitstop infringements under Safety Car. As a result the #77 took the lead and inherited the win, extending their title lead with a second win of the season. The TF Sport Aston finished second place with the #56 Project 1 Porsche taking third place on the final lap of the race, passing Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin.

  • WEC 6 Hours of Spa Qualifying

    Having topped the time sheets in all three Free Practice sessions, everyone’s money was on Toyota to take pole position at the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps. But in a session that was interrupted by a red flag, it was the #1 Porsche 919 of Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy that took pole position with an average lap time of 1:54.097.

    This is Lotterer’s first pole position with the 919. “Neel did an amazing lap, for me it was smooth, conservative, I didn’t realise there was so much grip, it’s cool that my fastest lap was quicker than by best lap in F1 here,” Lotterer said. “I didn’t think we’d beat the Toyotas as they’ve looked strong all week. The first job is done, the next step is to win the race tomorrow.” Toyota took second, third and fourth on the grid with Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway setting the best lap time of the three with a 1:54.693. It could be argued that Toyota could have made pole position if the session had not been red flagged. They also had laps removed for track limits. Brendon Hartley made an uncharacteristic error at the Bus Stop, locking the brakes and going straight off circuit on his flying lap. Hartley and Bernhard were unable to recover and could only manage a best average time of 1:55.440.

    G-Drive Racing took pole position in LMP2, their second of the season which saw championship new comer Alex Lynn post a time of 2:01.253. That time was quicker than the pole position time set by Allan McNish in the #2 Audi R18 in its first race at Spa. With Pierre Thiriet’s lap time taken into account, the pair averaged a time of 2:02.601. Matt Rao and Gustavo Menezes took second place in the #36 with a time of 2:02.624, just 5000ths of a second quicker than the sister #35 car. The #24 Manor and #13 Vaillante Rebellion rounded out the top five in a qualifying session where the top five were split by just a second, incredibly, the top four were just 0.031 seconds apart. The session was red flagged part way through with Vitaly Petrov crashing the #25 Manor at turn nine on his first hot lap. Petrov lost the rear of the car under braking and slammed in to the tyre wall side on, damaging the right side of the car.

    In GTE Pro, Davide Rigon and Sam Bird topped the time sheets with a 2:15.017 in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488, the pair were half a second quicker than the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK GT with Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla posting a 2:15.418. Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell were just a tenth behind, qualifying the Silverstone winning #67 car in third. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Calado and Pier Guidi took fourth with the #91 Porsche rounding out the top five. Aston Martin will start on pole position in GTE Am, Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy securing the 46th class pole for Aston Martin in the #98 Vantage. Lamy put in a late lap to post an average time of 2:18.659 and take pole position ahead of the #77 Porsche and #54 Ferrari. The top 3 in GTE Am were split by exactly a second.

  • WEC 6 Hours of Spa Race report

    Toyota #8 Take Second Victory in an action-packed race that saw over 61,000 spectators attend Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend for the second round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 driven by Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took a narrow victory ahead of the sister car, scoring the first Toyota one-two since 2014. Two full course yellows played with the luck of the race that gave Toyota #8 the win after what they admitted should have been victory for the #7 crew. LMP2 saw a tight battle throughout the race but it was pole-sitters #26 G-Drive Racing who converted the race victory that they failed to do in Silverstone.

    LM GTE Pro was tightly fought between Ferrari and Ford at the start of the race, but ultimately the 488 GTEs had the pace advantage this weekend. An inter-team battle stemmed between the #71 and #51 AF Corse crews for the majority of the race, ending with advantage going to Sam Bird and Davide Rigon. LM GTE Am was dominated for the duration of the race by the #98 Aston Martin Racing entrant. They had no competition as they drove to an easy victory, even after picking up a time penalty during their pit stop for an infringement on the grid.

    Off the start, Andre Lotterer was pressured to protect his pole position as two of the Toyotas ran side by side with him towards La Source. Locking up his breaks, Nicolas Lapierre shot the #9 Toyota straight off into the run off on the outside of the circuit and took the car out of the lead fight. Porsche #2 benefited the most out of the front-runners at the start as Brendon Hartley managed to get it up to second and start chasing down Toyota #8.

    There were two Full Course Yellows during the six-hour event that played with the fortunes of those up and down the grid. The first one came from the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche pulling up and stopping on the start finish race. The #86 had had a troubled race from the start, with consistent abuses to track limits the team picked up multiple time penalties in their pit stops for their offences. There seemed to be damage on the car already when it bumped the rear of on of the Fords coming through Bus Stop, from what is unknown, but there was some sort of debris on the kerb of the chicane that caused the #86 to spin. After looking like it would be good to get going again it shuddered to a halt next to the pit wall where it retired from the race. The #7 Toyota had just taken their scheduled pit stop when the Full Course Yellow came out, meaning that the other three LMP1 cars gained a time advantage on them when they took their stops under the Full Course Yellows. This unlucky fate also befell the #7 during the second Full Course Yellow. The cause of the second full caution was the #28 TDS Racing LMP2 car going straight on at Courbe Paul Frère and heavily into the tyre barrier. Luckily for the LMP2 team, the car was able to get back to the pits after it was pushed out of the tyre barrier and simply needed a front nose replacement to carry on. However, for Toyota #7, once again the Full Course Yellow came at the wrong point in their pit strategy and lost them time against their competitors.

    It was a close race to the line at the end in LMP1. Kamui Kobayashi was pushing hard in the #7 Toyota to close down a four second gap to the sister car that was leading ahead. All of the LMP1 cars had had to stop for a ‘splash and dash’ in the last fifteen minutes of the race so the victory fight was between Toyota. Kobayashi came so close, but traffic in the final lap saw the Japanese driver almost take himself out of the race. He finished second to the #7 by just under two seconds, when one point in the last couple of laps the gap had been seven tenths. Porsche #2 completed the podium twenty-six seconds down the road after a slow puncture had lost them time earlier on in the race. Hartley had a moment in the final stint where contact was made with the #36 Signatech Alpine LMP2 car that is being investigated after the race. The Kiwi driver was trying to overtake the traffic of the #36 and committed to a move on the inside of the corner. It appeared Hartley noticed he would not be able to make the move as the #36 was not going to leave him enough room, so he hit the brakes, locking them in the process. Unfortunately, the #2 Porsche clipped the back of the #36 Signatech Alpine and spun it around.

    It was a great race for the #4 ByKolles. Making it to the chequered flag and encountering no issues through the race, the team ran competitively above the LMP2 field, lapping about a second a lap quicker. They finished a strong sixth which was not expected after they qualified eleventh. Alex Lynn spent most of the race on board the race-winning #26 G-Drive Racing car. The car was competitively paced throughout the race, and although there were swaps of the lead throughout the race the team always looked to be the strongest on track. Lynn had a comfortable lead advantage at the end of the race that allowed him to know that he would not be under any threat for the lead. Second place was a closer battle as the chequered flag approached as the #31 Vaillante Rebellion and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing cars where split by a few seconds. But as hard as Ho-Pin Tung pushed he could not close the gap to knock the Rebellion out of second place. Sam Bird made the move that spurred the inter-team battle in AF Corse in the Pro class. Whilst the #51 was lining up to pass the struggling #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK for the lead just before the halfway mark, Bird used the tow from the sister car to follow it through when it made the pass on the Ford. Having extra momentum, Bird pulled the #71 Ferrari ahead of the #51. But a Toyota that had been passing through traffic did not leave enough room for Bird to comfortably pull ahead. A few corners of jostling between the two 488 GTE Ferraris saw Bird’s bold move come out victorious as he took the lead of the class. The battling between the two Ferrari continued until the end of the race but with fifteen minutes until chequered flag, Bird had built up a twenty second lead meaning that the #51 had no chance of stealing the win at the line. The #66 Ford finished off the podium in a class that finished two by two through manufacturers. Porsche left Aston Martin to take the last two places in the LM GTE Pro class.

    In a complete reverse fortune; Aston Martin Racing completely dominated the Am class, not once giving up the lead to another car. The team were handed a time penalty to take in their pit stop due to a broken rule during the start procedure. Even after they took this they were still competitively ahead of the rest of the field and cruised to an easy victory. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche also appeared to have a fairly straightforward race. After a little period of battling on track and recovering from time lost in pit stops Christian Reid and Matteo Carioli had an easy race to take second in Am. The #61 Clearwater Ferrari made it three different manufacturers on the Am grid again by securing third. There was a brief fight between the two Ferrari-running teams for third until around the halfway mark of the race but after this the final order seemed to establish itself. The day was warm and sunny at the start of the race, but the potential rain that was predicted did not fall as heavily as it needed to to make a strong impact on the race. The #8 crew had ‘”mixed feelings” about their victory, saying that all the luck had come to them today and that the #7 had had the quicker pace all weekend. This was a sentiment that the Porsche #2 crew echoed; suggesting that the podium all believed it should have been Conway and Kobayashi on the top step. Had there have been a couple of laps more, they very well could have been.