Ferrari 488

  • 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.

  • 2017 WEC Season

    We are now quickly approaching the first race of the season. The cars made their first appearance at Monza at the beginning of the month and whilst there has been a lot of changes over the winter, it is shaping up once again to be a fantastic season.

    LMP1

    For the first time in nearly 20 years, we will not see an Audi Prototype fighting at the front of the grid, all good things come to an end however, times change and things move on. From first impressions at Monza, it would appear that both Toyota and Porsche are cable of filling the gap, both teams running redesigned variations of their TSO50 and 919 Hybrids. The future of LMP1 is certainly bright with a number of customer cars due to enter in 2018 with the newly designed Ginetta chassis. Away from the Hybrid factory cars, ByKolles return for the season with a new engine and a newly designed car.

    Porsche return to the championship with a substantially updated 919 Hybrid, comments from Monza indicating that around 70% of the car has been newly developed including new body work and substantial changes to the front aero and head lights. The Porsche driver line up has also seen a number of changes over the winter, beginning with the announcement towards the back of 2016 that Mark Webber would retire at the end of the year. Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb stepped down from the team at the end of the season with Earl Bamber and and Nick Tandy returning to the team after their 2015 Le Mans success. Andre Lotterer also joins the team stepping in to the #1 car alongside Bamber and Neel Jani.

    The 2017 Toyota TS050 Hybrid like the Porsche has been substantially updated, the far has a brand new aero package and a brand new 2.4 litre twin turbo V6 petrol engine. Feedback from members of the team in Monza, confirmed the car had undergone 30,000 KM of testing, including four 30 hour endurance sessions. Toyota will also be running a third car at Spa and Le Mans this year featuring a reshuffled line up. FIA World Touring Car Champion Jose Maria Lopez joins Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi in the #7, the #8 line up stays unchanged. Stephane Sarrazin makes the switch to the #9 car partnering alongside Super Formula Champion Yuji Kunimoto and former Toyota driver Nicolas Lapierre.

    ByKolles return with an updated chassis and a new power plant. The 2016 car suffered with serious overheating issues in 2016 which saw the AER engine blow up on more than one occasion, including Le Mans. The updated car now features the Cosworth designed Nissan LMP1 GT-R LM engine from 2015. The Prologue was a troublesome weekend for ByKolles however, only venturing out of the garage for six laps the whole weekend before the rear wing collapsed. Oliver Webb got the only track time in the car. Robert Kubica was announced as a new driver for 2017 but there is yet to be an official announcement on a third driver. Dominik Kraihamer was due to test the car in Monza but there are no further announcements on his plans for this year. It is unlikely that ByKolles will offer any competition for Toyota and Porsche but it will be an important development year for the team with the Ginetta customer chassis coming in next season.

    It is hard to take any firm conclusions away from the Prologue with teams running various different set ups. Porsche were visibly quicker through the speed traps, topping out at 319.5 KPH in the hands of Earl Bamber. In comparison, Toyota only managed to hit 306.8 KPH in the hands of Nico Lapierre. However at the Prologue last year, Toyota topped the time sheets by over 20 kph and struggled early on in the season.

    LMP2

    LMP2 is very much a one make series this year in the WEC, each team running with the Oreca 07, Alpine running a modified version of the chassis. Le Mans will see a variety of chassis entries though with both Ligier and Dallara to be represented at the 24 Hour in June. The new cars are quick. They have an additional hundred horse power, the Alpine hit 314 KPH through the speed traps in the hands of Romain Dumas, beating the Toyotas in a straight line.

    There has been some big changes in LMP2 this year, Jota have signed to run the Jackie Chan DC Racing cars with Ho-Pin Tung, Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent in the #38 car with David Cheng, Alex Brundle and Tristan Gommendy in the #37.

    TDS Racing have made the step up this year from the European Le Mans Series to the World Endurance Championship. They are partnered with G-Drive Racing, Pierre Thiriet joining Roman Rusinov and Alex Lynn in the #26 car, former GTE-Am runners Francois Perrodo, Mattheiu Vaxiviere and Emmanuel Collard running the #28 TDS entry.

    Manor WEC return with new sponsorship and backing in the form of China Energy and SMP with Vitaly Petrov confirmed as the third driver in the #24. Both cars feature a new look livery for 2017, with a substantial amount of sponsorship coverage in comparison to last year.

    Rebellion made the switch over the winter to LMP2, returning to the class with a new look livery and sponsorship package, the team now officially called Vaillante Rebellion. David Heinemeier Hansson makes his return to prototype racing, partnering up in the #13 with Mathias Beche and Nelson Piquet Jr. The #31 car will be driven by Bruno Senna, Nico Prost and Julien Canal.

    GTE Pro

    The big news in GTE Pro is Porsche making their factory return to the championship having take a year out to develop the new “not mid-engine’d” 911 RSR. Aston Martin return with the next iteration of the Vantage, a fairly old car now in comparison to the Ford and Ferrari entries. The new 911 is a serious piece of kit and certainly a title contender. The engine has been moved closer to the middle of the car, but as per the launch press conference in Monza, it is not a “mid-engined” car. Porsche have admitted that there will be no road going variants of the car. With a number of teams making the mid season switch to two drivers, it is slightly surprising to see Ford and Aston Martin running three drivers in each car. Pipo Derani (of ESM fame) joins the #67 team whilst Billy Johnson joins Mucke and Pla in the #66. Richie Stanaway joins the #95 with Aston Martin development driver Daniel Serra joining Jonny Adam and Darren Turner in the #97. As ever in GT Racing, it is hard to tell just where every body stands with the development of Balance of Performance measures, however, this season will hopefully be better managed with a new automated BOP system. Last years restrictions were often altered on a session by session basis rather than between race weekends.

    GTE Am

    As with the rest of the grid, there have been some big changes to the class. Clearwater Racing join for a full season after a strong debut at Le Mans, they will be racing the ex Gimi Bruni AF Corse 488 with Matt Griffin partnering Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok. Spirit of Race join the championship with Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci and Miguel Molina at the wheel. They will have backing from AF Corse throughout the season.

    Aston Martin return with the loan season entry, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Matthias Laura all returning for the season. The trio missed out on the championship last year despite taking a number of wins. Gulf Racing return with the old shape 911 RSR, Ben Barker joining Michael Wainwright and Nicholas Foster, who steps in to replace Adam Carrol. Dempsey Proton drop down to the Am Class, Christian Reid partnering Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst. It will be a shame not to have a full season Corvette entry registered, however we will once again be joined by an American contingent of Corvettes at Le Mans.

    Audi maybe gone, but 2017 is going to be a fantastic season. There is a chance that LMP1 could be a very one way fight, however, if both cars are on par with each other then it is going to be a fantastic fight at the top. Fuji last year being a prime example where Toyota took their home race win by just over a second. Add into the mix that the LMP2 cars now have an extra 100BHP, there is a very real chance that a P2 car could finish on the overall podium. At Le Mans, if close enough, the LMP2 cars may even stand a chance of passing the LMP1 cars down the Mulsanne Straight, to then lose the ground through the corners.

    Both GTE fields are going to be as varied as always with each class managed by BOP. Traffic management will be incredibly important for each of the four classes, the speed differentiations being so different both through the corners and in a straight line.

    It all kicks off in less than a weeks time at Silverstone, what ever happens, one thing for sure is its going to be a great season!

  • Daytona lap record looks set to fall.

    Lap times fell on the second day of running at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Mazda leading the way throughout, Jonathan Bomarito setting the fastest time of the day in the night session with a 1:34.533 in the #55 Mazda Team Joest DPi. Times weren't just falling in the DPi class however, most of the field were lapping faster than the best race times from 2018.

    Harry Tincknell was the first to break the 1:35 mark in the first session of the day, the Mazda running fastest and closing in on the 1993 lap record, a 1:33.875 set in a Toyota Eagle MK III. Tincknell set a time of 1:34.925, Fernando Alonso just behind with a time of 1:35.052 before the session closed. Renger Van Der Zande fought back in the fourth session though, the times dropping again to 1:34.534 in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac. Ricky Taylor put the #7 Acura ARX-05 second in the fourth session with a time of 1:35.017 with the top three rounded out by Mike Conway in the Action Express Cadillac.

    Jonathan Bomarito fought back in the final session of the day, and the first night practice session for the class of 2019. It was a close fought session though, Bomarito going just 0.444 faster than Van Der Zande by the end of the session. Initially Bomarito was just 0.001 seconds faster than Renger Van Der Zande but as the session wore on, the Mazda crew pulled further ahead. The #55 Mazda went six tenths up in the final stages of the session before the #31 Action Express Cadillac of Pipo Derrani fought back to split the two Mazda's with a time of 1:35.179.

    The #52 PR1 Oreca finished the second day at the top of the time sheets, Gabriel Aubry once again at the front and over a half a second up on Ben Hanley in the DragonSpeed Oreca. Aubry set a time of 1:36.99, 2.457 seconds off the pace of the front running DPi cars.

    Porsche finished 1-2 in GTLM in the final session of the day, the #911 ahead of the #912, former Porsche LMP1 driver Nick Tandy posting a time of 1:43.402 to close of the days action. Porsche lead the way in the first session of the morning, Mathieu Jaminet topping the times with a 1:43.862 in the #912 just 0.007 seconds up on Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette. Ford fought back in the second session of the day, Scott Dixon taking the fastest time of the GTLM class at the Roar so far with a time of 1:43.148, 0.075 up on Patrick Pilet in the #911. Scott Dixon couldn't quite beat the Porsche's at night, coming within four tenths of Tandy in the night session.

    Porsche also lead the way in the first session of GTD, the #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Matteo Cairoli setting a time of 1:45.919, 0.026 quicker than the #96 Acura NSX of Trent Hindman and Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian. Hindman took the top spot in session two of the day though, going quicker again with a time of 1:45.533, eight tenths up on the #57 sister car. Paul Dalla Lana caused the only red flag of the session, the Canadian this time at the wheel of a Ferrari 488 GT3 rather than the Aston Martin Vantage GTE car he runs in the WEC, hit the barrier head on at the second horseshoe in the final moments of the session. The #13 Via Italia 488 GT3 Ferrari finished the day at the top of the time sheets, Victor Franzoni setting a time of 1:45.842, two tenths faster than the #71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 which took second.

    All images courtesy of IMSA

  • Incredible Lap Puts Toyota On Pole

    Kamui Kobayashi has set the fastest lap time of the weekend to take pole position for the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing. The lap time was unrivalled throughout the session, and made teammate Mike Conway’s job fairly easy when generating the aggregated lap time for pole position. A close battle in LMP2 saw #26 G-Drive Racing picking up the pole position point this weekend. Ford retained the rapid pace they had shown in the final practice session to clinch LM GTE Pro pole, whilst Aston Martin stole Am pole from Ferrari’s grasp.

    Porsche did not have a chance at challenging for pole position when Toyota’s Kobayashi set a 1:36.793 on his second flying lap. Pole was fairly secure for the car as Kobayashi handed over to teammate Mike Conway. Although there was a moment of concern for the team when Conway’s first lap time was deleted due to exceeding track limits, the car still comfortably took pole in the LMP1 class. Locking out the front row, it will be two Toyotas at the front for the start of the first race of the 2017 WEC season, with Porsche having to settle for the second row.

    The LMP2 times were changing so rapidly throughout the session it was hard to keep track of who was on provisional pole. At the halfway split, it was Alex Lynn leading the field in the #26 G-Drive. But the advantage was not unreachable and the tension was high as the second drivers climbed into the cockpits. Pierre Thiriet did what he needed to make Lynn’s hard work count and secured pole position for G-Drive with an average of 1:44.387. #36 Signatech Alpine’s Nicolas Lapierre did what he had been accomplishing all weekend and put in a fast enough lap as the second driver to place the ORECA/Gibson second in class. He leaped ahead of the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car and the #28 TDS Racing machine with his flying lap. Due to multiple deleted lap times, the #28 fell from its provisional second in class to seventh in class. #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing appeared to have a torrid session and ended slowest of all the LMP2 cars.

    ByKolles made a step up for qualifying but were still off their desired pace. It classified ninth overall, which meant it was slower than four of the LMP2 cars. The average of the car was nine tenths off the average of the pole sitting G-Drive. It was a better performance than they showed in the morning practice session but still the team have some big gains to make.

    LM GTE Pro became a battle between Ford #67, Ferrari #71 and Aston Martin #95. None of the other Pro cars could get close to the top three as the twenty-minute session panned out. Harry Tincknell set the pace to beat in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car but David Rigon was not far behind in the #71 Ferrari. After the first drivers had set laps, it seemed to be a two horse race, but Marco Sorensen put an end to that with a fantastic lap that put the #96 Aston Martin’s average lap time less than a tenth off the pace of the #71 Ferrari. It seemed the second drivers did enough to maintain the position their teammates set before them, with the #67 sitting on the first 2017 WEC LM GTE Pro pole. Porsche suffered a lot throughout the session and could not seem to get the 911 RSRs into optimum running. Both the Pro cars sat at the back of the Pro field over two seconds off the pole-setting pace.

    It was a two car fight in Am, with the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE taking on the #98 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage. After the first drivers got out of the cars, it was the #61 ahead with a small margin. Paul Dalla Lana hopped into the #98 and found the time Pedro Lamy could not out on track, taking the class poll position by six-tenths in average lap times. Porsche were a little bit more competitive in the Am class, taking third place for tomorrow’s grid, but they were nearly a second off of first place. Challenging for anything higher than third was out of reach. The battle at the bottom of the grid was close with each car separated by around three-tenths. The second Ferrari, #54 Spirit of Race, split the two Porsche–running teams, leaving the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR to take the final spot on the grid.

  • Sam Bird returns to Daytona

    Scuderia Corsa have confirmed today that Sam Bird will join Alessandro Balzan, Christina Nielsen, and Matteo Cressonifor their Rolex 24 at Daytona driver line up. This will be the Ferrari Factory Driver’s first Daytona appearance since 2014.

    The four drivers will pilot Scuderia Corsa’s GTD class Ferrari 488 GTE in the 24-hour race at the end of the month.

    The last time Bird participated in the Rolex 24 at Daytona he was aboard a Prototype Challenge-class Oreca run by Starworks Motorsport. The car finished fifth in class and 24th overall. Bird will make a one-off appearance in IMSA before his full season commitments start in WEC GTE Pro for AF Corse.

    Balzan and Nielsen will defend their 2016 WeatherTech SportsCar GT Daytona championship as well as racing the full season for Scuderia Corsa. Cressoni will join the pair for the remaining North American Endurance Cup events at Sebring, Watkins Glen, and Petit Le Mans. Team owner Giacomo Mattioli is confident that this year’s line up will be able to continue the success the team achieved last year.

    Photograph scuderiacorsa.com

  • 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.

  • WEC 6 hours of Silverstone

    For the first race of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, Toyota Gazoo Racing remained on the form they had displayed throughout the weekend to take home victory from the 6 Hours of Silverstone. The #8 crew of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi, and Kazuki Nakajima led most of the six-hour endurance race and only had to fight for position in the closing stages. LMP2 continued to show a mixed field with the pace of all of the cars being very similar throughout the class. It was the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing team that came out on top as the chequered flag fell. After a trouble-filled race that saw them having to pit early, Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx brought a surprise victory to the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car whilst a last lap incident saw the #98 Aston Martin Racing LM GTE Am car lose the class victory to the #61 Clearwater Racing team.

    At the start of the race it looked like it was going to be easy for Toyota to secure a one-two at the chequered flag. Although Porsche was setting consistent lap times to the pace the Toyota duo were setting the Japanese team had managed to pull out a lead from the line that Porsche were struggling to close down. But it was not plain sailing for the Toyota team as mixed weather conditions brought Porsche right into the field of play.

    For the first three hours there was nothing Porsche could do to catch up to the front-runners. Both teams – Porsche and Toyota – had an inter-team order switch within the first few laps with Brendon Hartley passing Neel Jani for third and Buemi getting ahead of his teammates in the sister car. It was around the halfway mark when the rain started to fall that Porsche looked to have an opportunity.

    It first came in the form of pit stops. With timing giving the advantage to Porsche, both the Porsche 919 Hybrids pitted as the rain began to fall, meaning they were in prime position to pass Davidson in the #8 who was struggling on the dry weather tyres. Bernhard and Nick Tandy took on the slicktermediates during their driver change pit stops and passed the struggling Toyota easily on track, dropping Toyota to third on the grid.

    The #7 Toyota had suffered issues during the first half that had seen it travelling slowly and falling to fourth on track, but the day got worse for the second Toyota Hybrid. Losing brakes, Jose Maria Lopez had a fast speed crash going straight into the tyre barriers at Copse Corner. Luckily the driver was alright but the car lost an hour and a half after it limped back to the pits and brought out a Full Course Yellows which eventually turned into a safety car due to the debris Lopez scattered across the track. This took the #7 completely out of contention and the battle for the lead between #8 Toyota and #2 Porsche.

    Race starters Hartley and Buemi were back in the cars for the closing stages of the race. Having double stinted the tyres at the end of the race and completing a short, fuel-only stop at the end, Hartley returned on track with an eight-second lead, something Toyota did not expect. An incredible drive from Buemi on the fresher tyres and lighter fuel load saw the Swiss driver close in on Hartley at a rapid pace. It became more of a matter of when was Buemi going to pass rather than would he catch up enough to make a move. Coming into Village, Buemi lined Hartley up, getting his Toyota TS050 Hybrid on the inside of the Loop Corner and squeezing Hartley out a little. Having a much better exit from the corner, Buemi made the move stick and went on to take the first victory of the season by 6.1 seconds. The #1 Porsche finished off the podium, bringing home an unexpected double podium to the German team.

    The only LMP1-Privateer entrant, #4 ByKolles Racing, was doing much better than many expected during the 6 Hours of Silverstone. After such a poor Prologue, it was assumed that the team would have a difficult first weekend, leading to many assuming this was the reason Robert Kubica dropped out of the team three days before the first event. However, the car was running strong and, besides a couple of short stints in the garage, it was running within the LMP2 field at a competitive level. But it was not meant to be for the #4 team as, with just fifteen minutes to go; the car was parked up in the garage and did not take the chequered flag. This means that the team did not classify for this race.

    Off the start, Nicolas Lapierre was once again the driver to watch. From fourth on the grid Lapierre laid down a blinding pace that saw him take the lead of the class within the first half an hour of racing. But it sadly was not something that was meant to last. Although his teammates fought well there was not enough in the car to get it to cross the line any higher than fourth. The #36 Signatech Alpine crew showed an excellent showcase of teamwork as they fought a tough on track battle with the #28 TDS Racing and #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing teams.

    Pole-sitter Alex Lynn had a tough race in the #26 G-Drive Racing machine. It suffered an early door malfunction that forced the team to pit for an extra stop to complete repairs. With just over an hour complete the team had fallen out of contention and it was too much of a gap to close before the chequered flag.

    The #38 team had been a threat from the start and remained so throughout the six hours of racing. There were at least five different leaders of the LMP2 class through the race showing just how close and competitive this year’s class will be. It was between Oliver Jarvis in the #38 and the TDS Racing #28 for the lead of the class as the race came to an end. An impressive drive from Jarvis saw him take class victory for his first race in the LMP2 class on track. TDS Racing took second whilst the early leader of the race, #31 Vaillante Rebellion, rounded off the LMP2 podium.

    The race was packed with action and drama for the pole sitting #67 Ford Chip Ganassi team. They lead the field off the line and held the advantage competitively until Priaulx suffered a door failure. Whilst speeding down one of the straights the driver’s side door of the Ford GT opened a fraction. This happened a few times and Priaulx looked like he was able to sort out the problem from within the cockpit, but in fear of being forced into the pits by the stewards the team took the decision themselves and pitted about halfway into the race. A big slam of the door seemed to fix the problem but it dropped Tincknell and Priaulx right down the order, handing the lead to the sister #66 Ford car.

    But it did not last long as the #92 Porsche GT Team entrant was soaring through the class. Porsche explained that they had been focused on the race pace of the car, hence why they appeared to be so off the mark in qualifying, and the performance of the team was proving that tactic correct. They lead the field competitively for a small duration of the race. Disaster struck as the mid-engine car caught on fire, with the car pulling to a stop on Stowe corner. This incident brought out the first Full Course Yellow of the race as the team could only look on whilst the car was doused with a fire extinguisher.

    This handed the advantage back to Ford and the rapid lapping #67. As the #67 Ford entrant was out of sync with everyone else’s pit stops they seemed to be making the alternative strategy work for them. Tincknell had made up a lot of ground during his stint in the car and this left him in prime position to inherit the lead of the class. Against all odds the door failure that plagued the beginning of their race returned with just ten minutes on the clock. Tincknell, like his teammate, managed to get a temporary fix on the issue that was enough to see him over the finish line to take the class win. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE finished second in class whilst the #91 Porsche entrant made it three different manufacturers on the podium.

    The #98 Aston Martin Racing team were the ones to beat throughout most of the race in the Am class. For around an hour during the rain shower, the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche had the edge, leading the class, but once the track dried out Aston Martin were back to controlling the pace. It looked like they were set to win even with the multiple spins Paul Dalla Lana suffered during the rainy period of the race that luckily caused no damage to the car.

    But the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari had been on a mission and with a few laps left it was closing in on the Aston. Pedro Lamy was pushing as hard as he could, as the chequered flag got closer. The Ferrari was quick but it looked like it would not be enough before the end of the race.

    Throwing caution to the wind, the #61 through a move up the inside of Lamy, spinning both of them off the track through contact. Due to their lead on the rest of the field being so great, neither of them lost any positions. But as the Ferrari got moving first it stole the chequered flag, taking the first class victory. Lamy struggled home for second with the Aston clearly suffering a lot of damage as it stopped at Farm Corner after taking the chequered flag.

  • WEC 6 Hours of Spa FP3

    Kazuki Nakajima topped the final practice session with a time of 1:55.233 in a Toyota 1-2-3, the #8 car just edging the #7 by 0.005 seconds. Porsche took fourth and fifth with Andre Lotterer posting the best time in the #1 with a 1:56.404 early on in the session. In LMP2, Alex Lynn topped the times with a 2:01.708 in the #26 G-Drive Oreca 07. Notable incidents in the session included the #13 Rebellion losing a front left wheel and the #38 DR Racing Oreca hitting the #61 Clear Water Racing Ferrari. AF Corse took a 1-2 finish in GTE Pro, the #71 Ferrari of Pier Guidi setting the best time of 2:14.904; Sam Bird and Davide Rigon were just two tenths back with a time of 2:15.1. The #67 Ford took third whilst the #95 Aston Martin which had shown early promise in FP2 came home last. Matteo Carol topped the time sheets in the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche, setting the fourth quickest time overall across both GTE classes. The #98 Aston was second and the #61 Ferrari third.