Ford

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 2019 Le Mans Test Weekend Session 1 Catch Up

    It was a record breaking 62 cars which took to the track for the 2019 official Le Mans test day at Circuit de la Sarthe at the weekend with 8 LMP1s, 20 LMP2, 17 GTE Pros and 17 GTE Ams entered into the race this year.

    Normally a 60 car grid, limited by the amount of garages at Le Mans, would run but the ACO and FIA announced they would be extending the entry list to 62 cars, allowing the second United Autosport entry and High Class racing into the LMP2 category.

    A proportion of GTE cars were running one off custom livery designs for the 24 Hours with both Ford and Porsche running in one of colours for the final round of the 2018/2019 World Endurance Championship. Ford opted for a retro livery on each car with the four liveries representing wins in 1966, 1967, 2016 along with the 2019 colours.

    In GTE Am, the Keating Motorsport Ford GT will be running in the stunning purple colour of Wynn’s racing whilst Project 1 features a specifically designed art car layout to showcase Porsche’s Second Skin technology.

    With 186 drivers set to take part in the 2019 race, the majority of them were on site already on Saturday morning with a number of reserve drivers also lined up to take part in the test. Aston Martin rising star Ross Gunn had some valuable seat time lined up for Sunday’s test in both GTE Pro Aston Martin’s. Of those 186 drivers however, there were 20 drivers taking part in the Paul Ricard 1000KM race as part of the 2019 Blancpain Endurance Cup. There were also 11 drivers taking part in the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle as part of the 2019 IMSA championship in the United States. Project 1 driver Patrick Lindsey was on call as pilot for the chartered flight back to Europe.

    Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais were given special dispensation not to run in the test weekend as they were both on Indy Car duty on Sunday in Detroit.

    With the first session of the day kicking off at 9AM Sunday morning, it wasn’t long before Toyota were topping the time sheets, Sebastien Buemi putting the #8 Toyota on top of the times in the first of the two four hour sessions with a time of 3:21.875, a second faster than the previous best set by Fernando Alonso. The #7 Toyota was second fastest with Jose Maria Lopez posting a time of 3:22.027. The #3 Rebellion led the way for the P1 privateer cars, Gustavo Menezes setting a marker of 3:23.978.

    Pastor Maldonado led the way in the #31 DragonSpeed Oreca in LMP2 for most of the session, posting a lap time of 3:32.244 early on however, Felipe Albuquerque pushed the Columbian off the top spot by just 2 thousandths of a second in the dying moments of the session.

    Ford were leading the way for most of the session in GTEPro, Billy Johnson’s best time in the #66 car was beaten on the final lap of the session by Antonio Garcia in the #63 Corvette by just 0.024 of a second, Garcia setting a time of 3:55.704 on his final run. Gimmi Bruni rounded out the top three, putting the #91 Porsche in front of the two AF Corse Ferrari’s. The top 7 in the 17 car class were split by just 1 second.

    Francesco Castellacci led the way in GTEAM for most of the session, posting a time of 3:58.478 in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari, not only did this put Castellacci at the front in GTEAM, it was also faster than the two factory Aston Martins and the #82 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE.

    By the end of the first session, it was a Ferrari top 4 with the #61 Clearwater, #84 JMW and #57 Car Guy Ferraris finishing ahead of Pat Long in the #99 Krohn Racing Proton Competition 911 RSR.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Lopez heads Toyota 1-2 in final Sebring practice

    Jose Maria Lopez continued Toyota Gazoo Racing’s domination of the 1000 Miles of Sebring as the Argentinian headed another 1-2 for the team in Free Practice Three.

    The #7 was the pacesetter from the very start of the 60-minute session with Mike Conway setting an early benchmark time in the TS050 Hybrid. Fernando Alonso briefly knocked Conway off the top spot in the sister #8, but Lopez struck his decisive lap – a 1m41.448s – with just less than 40 minutes of practice remaining.

    Claiming third in LMP1 was the DragonSpeed BR1-Gibson, in a remarkable turnaround in fortunes from Thursday’s running. The team finished bottom of the class in both sessions yesterday but a 1m44.156s from Renger van der Zande propelled the #10 ahead of both the Rebellions.

    The Rebellions occupied fourth and fifth, with SMP Racing taking sixth and seventh, the #11 finishing ahead of #17.

    In LMP2, Gabriel Aubry stole a march on his category rivals as he took the top spot for Jackie Chan DC Racing after unseating long-time class leaders Racing Team Nederland. The Dutch team, making up for lost time after a suspension issue in its Dallara P217 in FP2, was running in first thanks to another stunning lap from Nyck De Vries who set a 1m49.028s. However, the squad ended FP3 in third after Signatech Alpine’s Andre Negrao ensured the French squad secured second in every practice in Florida.

    Andy Priaulx ensured Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK finished top of a practice session in GTE Pro – having finished second in both of Thursday’s practices – as he beat Kevin Estre in the #92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR by three-tenths of a second. Gianmaria Bruni ensured a Porsche 2-3, ahead of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 Evo shared by Daniel Serra, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado. Aston Martin Racing, which paced the opening two sessions with the #97 of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn, finished last in class – the #95 of Marco Sørensen, Nicki Thiim and Darren Turner five-hundredths of a second quicker than the #97. Julien Andlauer set a time that was good enough for fifth in the combined GTE standings as he took the top spot in GTE Am for Dempsey-Proton Racing. The German, in the #77 Porsche 911 RSR, finished 0.7s ahead of the sister #88 car piloted to second by Giorgio Roda.

    Team Project 1 made it a Porsche top three, as the hastily built car – the squad’s European Le Mans Series machine - claimed the top spot ahead of the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. The only significant accident in the session came from the #98 Aston Martin piloted by Paul Dalla Lana. The Canadian was caught out by the fearsome Sebring bumps at turn 17 and crashed into the tyre barrier rear-first. He managed to get the Vantage back to the pits, albeit with significant rear bodywork and suspension damage.

  • Round Up of the Rolex 24 at Daytona 2017

    Last weekend marked the 55th edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona and kick-started the 2017 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The race was filled with drama from the first hour and heavy rainfall putting the grid under a 2-hour long full course yellow in the early hours of the morning. With the full course yellows making 21 appearances over the 24 hours of racing it was evidently an action-packed race. 14 of the 55 entrants in the race failed to take the chequered flag, with the last retiree dropping out of the race with just half an hour left on the clock.

    From the beginning of the race weekend, it was clear that the Cadillac DPis were the dominant car on the field, taking fastest lap in all of the practice sessions and qualifying. The case did not change during the race. Although the VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley/Multimatic did hold the lead of the race for around 30 laps during the 24 hours, it was primarily a fight between the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac and the Action Express Cadillacs for the overall win.

    There were a few challenges from other chassis in the Prototype class for the overall win but none of these came to light. The #22 Tequila Petron Nissan Onroak DPi looked to be in with a chance of challenging for the overall win during the night period of the race. However, heavy rainfall was making it very difficult for the drivers to get the tyres up to optimum racing temperature for a few laps after they had been in the pits. This caused great issues for the #22 as, with Brendon Hartley at the wheel, the New Zealand driver lost control of the car coming onto the banked corner and made contact with a GT car, damaging the steering on the Nissan. This incident took the #22 completely out of contention for the race, ending 17th overall and seventh in class.

    It was not just issues for the #22 during the race. The second Action Express car – number #31 – had a start-up issue from the beginning of the race. This was losing the car time during pit stops as the team had to take it behind the wall to bump start it in the garage. Seb Morris got into the car for the first time, having won his seat in the Sunoco Challenge, and put on an amazing display. He managed to get the #31 up to first overall and get a pit stop advantage on second place in his first stint.

    But that was where the good fortune of the #31 disappeared. All of Morris’ hard work was undone as the car failed to start up again in the pitlane. Rather than a simple start-up behind the wall, the car disappeared for around half an hour for more extensive repairs. It fell down the order and out of contention for the win. There were issues on the #5 Action Express Cadillac, but nothing as extensive as those issue to behold the #31. After 24 hours of racing, the final half an hour saw intense wheel-to-wheel racing for the overall lead of the race, with under a second splitting the leading pair.

    Using the pitstops, #5 Action Express had managed to get ahead and be leading going into the last few laps. The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing car was forced into a ‘do or die’ move as the end of the race got closer. As he tried to go up the inside into the first corner, leading to the infield section, the #10 made contact with the #5, spinning the Action Express car off into the off-field. Both cars managed to get through the accident unscathed, but it was a shock when the #10 was not handed an “advantage by contact” penalty. #10 Wayne Taylor Racing went on to take the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona overall win, with the #5 crew having to settle for second. Filipe Albuquerque, who was piloting the #5 at the end of the race, was furious about the result, claiming that in-race incidents happen but the Wayne Taylor Racing car should have waited for him to keep their race going wheel-to-wheel to the chequered flag and make the win of the race fair.

    The Prototype Challenge class saw the #38 Performance Tech Motorsport car as the only one not to succumb to a big issue during the 24 hours. They won the Prototype Challenge class with the two Starworks Motorsport cars retiring in the last few hours. The #8 and #88 Starworks cars had suffered a lot of damage, with them both being involved in heavy impacts that saw them in the garages for repairs for a long time. The #88 was hit by the #31 in a similar accident that fell upon Hartley in the #22 Tequila Petron car, whilst an off-track moment from the #8 Starworks Prototype Challenge car saw it spear into the side of the #73 GT Porsche, crashing it into the tyre barrier and taking the Porsche out of the race. The Porsche had been leading the GT Daytona class at the time. The #8 Starworks car was handed a ten-minute stop/go penalty for the incident after it had been in the pits for about four hours for repairs.

    Incidents during the race saw the two BAR1 Motorsports finishing 22 laps behind the leader of the class. The #20 and #26 cars appeared to have lost some performance from qualifying, losing their advantage over the #38 Performance Tech Motorsport car. The #38 managed to take the win in class from pole in class and barely had any challenge for the lead during the race.

    After locking out the top three in qualifying, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing had a much harder time during the race. Although they still held an advantage over the GT Le Mans field there was a much stronger challenge from behind through the 24 hours. In the end, four GT Le Mans cars were in contention for the win, with the cars all running wheel-to-wheel during the final handful of laps. What made the end of the race even more exciting was four different manufacturers in the top four at the end of the race, showing that Ford’s advantage from qualifying had been overcome during the 24-hour race.

    The #62 Risi Competizione looked to be the biggest threat for class-leader #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing as they sat second on track behind the American team. The #62 had been the biggest competition to the Fords throughout the race and managed to keep coming back to second, sometimes first, after the pitstop cycles. However, the Porsche #911 was sitting third at the end of the race and looking for any opportunity to progress further up the field. The Corvette #3 was sitting fourth, also looking for a chance to get higher up the field but it didn’t quite have the pace of the leading three.

    Taking the opportunity when the #62 tried to make a move up the inside of #66 and went wide the #911 Porsche managed to steal second from the Ferrari 488 GTE and begin chasing down the Ford for first in class. The #62 had no chance to fight back as it fell into range of the #3 Corvette behind it, leaving it vulnerable to losing a podium altogether. As much as they tried the pace of the Porsche and Corvette were no match to those ahead in the Ford and the Ferrari, seeing the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing take the overall class win and the #911 Porsche and the #62 Ferrari finishing off the class podium.

    Of all the classes to be competing, the GT Daytona class had the closest racing of them all. During the 24-hour race there was consistently a different leader, with the top eight cars in class usually all being from different manufacturers. The class was too close to call before the race had started, and even with just 30-minutes left who was going to win was unpredictable.

    The unpredictable nature of the class was underlined when just half an hour of the race remained the leading #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 suddenly stopped on track. Sam Bird had been fighting back through the field, showing the superior pace of the Ferrari, and had just re-taken the lead when his car, with no warning, stopped out on track dropping him completely out of contention. There was not enough time left in the race to try and repair the car so last year’s GT Daytona Champion-winning car failed to finish the race.

    The #73 Porsche had been showing great pace during the first section of the race, leading the class and having Matthew McMurry perform impressively during his stints. It was unfortunate that the car was taken out of the race by the #8 Starworks Prototype Challenge car as it had been showing fantastic pace and could have been a contender for the class win had it have made it to the end of the race.

    The class was won in the end by the #28 Alegra Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, with the #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS second and the #33 Riley Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 rounding off the podium positions. It was a perfect reflection of the closely pegged GT3 cars in this class that the podium housed three different manufacturers. Six different manufactures were present in the top ten at the chequered flag, just as there had been on average through the 24-hours of racing.

  • Toyota Lead The Way At Quarter Distance

    The #7 Toyota TS050 has led the way in the opening six hours of the Le Mans 24 Hours, with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez not relinquishing their lead throughout the opening stages.

    Making a quick getaway from pole position, the sister #8 couldn’t challenge from second as Sebastien Buemi found himself briefly relegated to third by a hard-charging Gustavo Menezes in the #3 Rebellion Racing R13. Menezes had a straight-line speed advantage over the Toyota, but Buemi’s acceleration out of the corners allowed him to quickly nip back up into second. By that point, though, Conway had powered off into the distance and was adding chunks of time to his advantage every lap as the #8 struggled for pace around the Circuit De La Sarthe. Throughout the opening quarter of the race, the front of the field continued much in that fashion with the #7’s lead ever so slightly decreasing as Fernando Alonso – in the #8 as the first six hours reached its conclusion – started to eat into the deficit.

    As 9pm local time came up on the clocks, the #7’s lead is down to 22 seconds as the field bunches up under a safety car following a crash for Marcel Fassler in the #64 Corvette Racing C7.R at the Porsche Curves. The American car went off after receiving contact from the #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche which has been having a race to forget after an early spin from the lead of GTE Am while Satoshi Hoshino was behind the wheel. With the Toyotas comprehensively in the lead, albeit with the #7 extending its advantage over the #8, the focus of the LMP1 class fell to the captivating battle for third between the #3 Rebellion and the #11 SMP Racing BR1.

    For the majority of the opening quarter, third belonged to the Swiss team but throughout his stint Stoffel Vandoorne in the Russian car was gradually looming ever larger in Nathaniel Berthon’s mirrors. The eventual move didn’t come on track. A slow stop for the #3 as Berthon handed the car over to Thomas Laurent allowed Vandoorne to power past before making his own handover to Mikhail Aleshin. A slick stop from SMP allowed the #11 to swoop out ahead.

    However, just as the six-hour mark was reached Laurent had a better restart after the safety car – to recover the stricken Corvette – came back in. Tucking himself underneath the rear-wing of the BR1 coming out of a slow zone at the second chicane on the Mulsanne Straight, Laurent was all over the back of Aleshin, eventually making his move at the Porsche Curves. Fifth is currently safely in the hands of the second SMP car, which has a two-lap advantage over the #1 Rebellion which lost time in the opening hour with a puncture.

    A frenetic LMP2 battle currently has Signatech Alpine leading the way after a mega back-and-forth battle between the French team and G-Drive Racing in the last couple of hours which has seen the crews swapping the top spot on a number of occasions. With strategies roughly similar, the action has been taking place out on track with Job Van Uitert fending off the advances of fellow Silver – but less experienced – Pierre Thiriet during the pair’s respective stints. The Dutchman’s hard work was undone though, as the team was slapped with a ten-second penalty for speeding under a Full Course Yellow. The additional delay handed Signatech the lead, but that seemingly fired up Roman Rusinov – who took over from Van Uitert – as he bridged the gap and retook the top spot in class. However, that changed again just before the end of the sixth hour as Andre Negrao stuck his elbows out and muscled his way past Rusinov at the second Mulsanne chicane.

    Third was held by the DragonSpeed entry with Pastor Maldonado finding his way past the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca – which had pitted just before a full course yellow was called to recover the stricken Spirit of Race Ferrari as Francesco Castellacci had a wild spin at the Porsche Curves and beached the 488 in the gravel. With its rivals able to pit under the caution, the #38 dropped from third to fourth.

    The GTE Pro battle has been a merry-go-round for most of the opening quarter as a number of teams have taken stints at the head of the field. The pole-sitting #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage started by Nicki Thiim found itself quickly relegated to second as Antonio Garcia powered the #63 Corvette up the field in the opening hour and into a lead he retained for a significant chunk of the running as the American muscle car proved it had the speed at Le Mans. However, as the race went into the evening, the Porsche GT Team showed its hand with the #92 and #93 Porsche 911 RSRs moving to the fore as Laurens Vanthoor and Nick Tandy – normally team-mates in IMSA competition – squabbled between themselves for the lead. Despite Daniel Serra briefly taking the lead in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari just before the safety car was called to recover Fassler’s C7.R, he ended the sixth hour in second as Kevin Estre – who took over from Tandy – reclaimed the lead as the pitstops started to cycle through. The sole Corvette – taken over again by Garcia – currently runs in third, with the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT of Harry Tincknell in fourth.

    GTE Am continued to be dominated by the Keating Motorsport Ford GT as Felipe Fraga and Jeroen Bleekemolen did a great job to power the Blue Oval up through the class and into a commanding lead. Thanks to a clean run, they have a three-minute lead over the #84 JMW Motorsports Ferrari. Third is the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche with the WeatherTech Racing 488 further back in fourth.

  • 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