Ginetta

  • Bumper Le Mans and WEC Grids announced

    This afternoon in Paris, the ACO/FIA unveiled the entrance list for the 2018/2019 FIA World Endurance Championship "Super Season" and the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans.

    The "Super Season" consists of 36 entries across the four categories with teams representing 12 different countries. The grid consists of 10 LMP1 cars, 7 entries in LMP2, 10 entries in GTE Pro with the addition of BMW for this year and 9 entries in GTE Am.

    "It's very satisfying to have 36 competitors including six major manufacturers and a good balance between prototypes and GTEs. This is just the start!" WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said. "Now the show goes on and we are confident the figures will continue to increase as they have done for the last six years. Welcome to the Super Season!"

    After Porsche pulled out of the championship towards the end of 2016, everyone thought LMP1 was done but just six months later, there are 10 full season entries in the class, one of which has Fernando Alonso at the wheel. Toyota recently announced their updated TS050 for the 2018-2019 season and a commitment to the sport and the championship to help them develop further their hybrid technology.

    Toyota will be the only two hybrid cars on the grid this year which features eight privately entered cars. Rebellion make a return to LMP1 with the R13, Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani included in the line-up after making the switch from Porsche.

    ByKolles dropped out of the 2017 season after the European leg to focus on developing the 2018 car. They will make a return to the championship this season in the ENSO CLM P1/01. They will be joined by two CEFC TRSM Racing entries, the new Ginetta G60 LT-P1.

    BR1 LMP1 2018

    BR Engineering unveiled their new car in Bahrain at the end of 201, two of them will be run by SMP Racing who return to the series for the first time since 2016 with an AER engine and the third will be run by Dragon Speed who have established a new driver line up that includes Renger van der Zande and Ben Hanley. In LMP2, there will be seven entries across three different chassis manufacturers, Oreca, Dallara and Ligier. Signatech Alpine Matmut and TDS Racing make a return alongside Jackie Chan DC Racing. Along with their LMP1 entrant, DragonSpeed will also field an LMP2 entry and Racing Team Nederland join the championship with Giedo ven der Garde leading their line up. Making their return to the FIA WEC, Larbre Competition make the switch from the GTE Corvette in to LMP2 having sat out the 2017 season.

    GTE sees the addition of BMW to the grid this year with the M8 GTE, the two cars will line up alongside the all new Aston Martin Vantage AMR, (with two new drivers this year, Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin). AF Corse Ferrari of course return with the latest generation 488GTE whilst Ford return with the two Chip Ganassi Team UK GT's and Porsche return with the latest generation 911 RSR.

    The LM GTE class is the largest it has been this year featuring nine full season entries across three different manufacturers. 2017 champions Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda return for Aston Martin and will be joined by a second Aston entered by TF Sport. Clearwater Racing return to the championship alongside Spirit of Race along with new entry MR Racing. The Aston Martins and Ferrari's will be joined by four Porsche 911 RSRs from Depsey Proton Racing, Gulf Racing and Project 1.

    Start of the Le Mans 24 Hours

    The entry list for the 24 Hours of Le Mans was released shortly after the WEC announcement with a capacity grid of 60 cars announced for the event due to take place on June 16th-17th.

    All 10 LMP1 cars will challenge for the overall win, eight non-hybrid LMP1 cars alongside the two Toyota TS050 Hybrids.

    In LMP2, there will be three chassis manufacturers represented this year with entries from Ligier, Oreca and Dallara. The 7 full season entries will be joined by 13 other LMP2 entries totalling 20 LMP2 prototypes alongside the 10 LMP1.

    17 cars have been entered in the GTE Pro class at Le Mans with Ford also entering the two IMSA GT's along with Porsche who will also field the two American 911's. Corvette return for the French endurance classic whilst Ferrari will also field an additional 488 GTE under the AF Corse team.

    In GTE Am, the 9 full season entrants will be joined by an additional four cars from Ebimotors, JMW Motorsport, Proton Competition and Keating Motorsports. There are nine reserve entries this year including Scuderia Corsa, Krohn Racing and BAR1.

    Alongside the FIA WEC and Le Mans entry release this afternoon, Ginetta confirmed their first two drivers for the G60-LT-P1 which will both be run by CEFC TRSM Racing (Manor Endurance). Formula 2 race winner Oliver Rowland and 2015 European Le Mans Series LMP3 Champion Charlie Robertson will each pilot one of the cars.

    Ginetta LMP1 2018 - Manor Endurance

    Ginetta Chairman Lawrence Tomlinson said; "I'm delighted to confirm that CEFC TRSM Racing will be running a two car effort in the FIA WEC and LE Mans 24 Hours. Our LMP1 project has brought together some of the brightest stars in motorsport design and engineering, and the next chapter will see CEFC TRSM Racing announcing driving talent of equally high measure. Personally, I am delighted to see Charlie Robertson's name on the entry list. We have taken him from a 14 year old experiencing his very first race car in the Ginette Junior Championship, all the way to the pinnacle of international motorsport and that's something we strive to do for every one of our drivers."

    Graeme Lowdon, President and Sporting Director: "We are very happy to welcome Oliver to the team, we have followed him closely over the years and have been very impressed with his performances. Although this will be his first season in sports cars we have every confidence that he will adapt to LMP1 very quickly. It is great to be returning to FIA WEC and we are looking forward to starting the season at the Prologue in April."

    Oliver Rowland, Driver: "I am very excited to be joining TRSM for the LMP1 World Endurance Championship. Endurance racing is a new experience for me and it will create a fresh challenge, but I am really looking forward to working with the team and driving such an amazing car.

    Competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is extremely exciting and it's something that I've always wanted to race in. I can't wait to get started with the team to ensure we get the best out of the package and moving forward seeing if we can challenge for some fantastic results in the championship."

  • Fernando Alonso leads FP1 at Spa

    Toyota Gazoo Racing finished FP1 at the top of the time sheets, Fernando Alonso leading the way.

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    The FIA WEC debutant topped the time sheets in FP1 this morning at Spa; besting Mike Conway by just 2 tenths of a second with a time of 1:58.392 in the #8 Toyota TSO50. Rebellion were the best of the non-hybrid runners, the #3 Rebellion R13 Gibson of Menezes, Laurent and Beche was four tenths of the pace of Toyota. Championship new comers, CEFC TRSM Racing spent the session in the Garage after setting an installation lap at the beginning of the session in the Ginetta LMP1.

    Fernando Alonso:

    “I think its going to be an interesting season. Obviously we’ve done some tests already in Spain and Portimao. I missed the Prologue, I was racing in F1. Now is really the first time we meet with all the traffic and all the other cars, so definitely still a lot to learn, but step by step, I’m trying to learn this as much as I can with every single lap in the car. We’ve been training a lot in the simulator, this kind of traffic and these kind of situations, I hope I’m as prepared as I can be. We’ll see on Saturday. I’m not too worried about traffic management." Short Image Description

    In LMP2, it was the #31 Dragonspeed Oreca in the hands of former F1 driver Pastor Maldonado which set the quickest time of the session, a 2:03.494. Alpine took second in class in the #36 Alpine A470, Andre Negrao setting a 2:04.134 with Jean Eric Vergne putting the #26 G-Drive Oreca third in class with a time of 2:04.198.

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    Ford and Porsche pick up their 2017 rivalry where it left off, both demonstrating strong pace in the opening session. The #67 Ford topped the time sheets, Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Tony Kanaan piloting the car this weekend. The #66 Ford of Stefan Mucke, Oliver Pla and billy Johnson took second in the session, two tenths off the pace with a time of 2:15.273. Gianmaria Bruni rounded out the top three with a time of 2:15.631. Ferrari and BMW alternated between fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh whilst the two Aston Martin Vantage’s well a few seconds short of the pace, the #97 posting a time of 2:17.993 and the #95 posting a time of 2:18.227.

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    And in GTE AM, the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR posted a time of 2:16.601 with Matteo Cairoli behind the wheel. The #86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR took second thanks to a 2:17.552 lap from Ben Barker. The #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche took third in GTEAm.

  • Ginetta and Manor Endurance Racing Split

    Ginetta and Manor Endurance Racing part ways ahead of the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji

    Manor Endurance Racing have stated that they will have no further involvement in the running of the Ginetta AER G60 LT-P1 program due to commercial reasons. It is no secret that the Chinese backers involved in the project, CEFC China Energy have been having financial difficult from the early stages of the program which forced both cars to sit out the season opening race at Spa Francorchamps. Both cars faced technical issues at the Prologue back in March which severely limited the amount of running they were able to do. As As a result, the competition debut of the car was this summers 24 Hours of Le Mans.

    The entry is held by TRSM China Motorsport who contracted Manor Endurance Racing as a service provider. Ginetta have heavily subsidised the running of the program this year in the interest of getting the cars out on the grid and competing on the world stage and are now focused on getting the car back out there with the new AER engine to see how they stack up against the competition. Manor Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon stated that Ginetta were not in a position to change the engine ahead of the Silverstone race, however, Ginetta insisted the car had been homologated in time for the event. However, this was apparently not the case with both cars failing to take the start of the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone as the team had missed the deadline for dispensation from the FIA Endurance Committee to enter under a different model of car.

    A single G60-LT-P1 is still entered for the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji in October with Oliver Rowland, Alex Brundle and Mike Simpson on the entry list.

  • Ginetta to Join LMP1 in 2018

    After trying to become a listed LMP2 chassis constructor, and being denied the possibility, Ginetta has switched focus to the LMP1-L class. It has been confirmed today that they will enter into the LMP1 field in 2018.

    The ACO’s five-year rule freeze in LMP1 appears to be working; the reason for the freeze was to entice more manufacturers into the class to extend the grid after the departure of Rebellion Racing and Audi Sport Racing at the end of last year. Ginetta is hopefully the first of many to look into developing a car to enter into the World Endurance Championship LMP1 class.

    The project is already underway and Ginetta looks to be aiming high for their debut in 2018. Already having confirmed being at an advanced stage in talks with Mecachrome as an engine supplier and Xtrac for their gearbox supplier, they have recruited Adrian Reynard as the head of aero development, Paolo Catone to be heavily involved in the LMP1-L design, and a yet to be named Head of Aerodynamics who bring LMP1-H experience.

    Ginetta is in no rush to get the operation complete. They plan to produce ten chassis and, instead of running a factory-based outfit, supply three teams to run a two-car operation. This should hopefully bring an extra six cars to the LMP1 class, which would bring the grid numbers about what they were in 2016 for the class. Although the 2017 grid in LMP1 will hold only five cars for full season, the future of LMP1 looks a lot less bleak than it did at the end of 2016.

  • Ginetta Withdraw from Spa

    Ginetta have confirmed that the pair of G60-LT-P1s will not be released to CEFC TRSM Racing for tomorrows FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa due to the team missing payment deadlines.

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    “It is with great disappointment that we have to announce that Ginetta will not be releasing the two LMP1 cars that successfully ran at the FIA WEC Prologue at Paul Ricard at the beginning of April. Unfortunately funds promised have not arrived from TRS to CEFC TRSM Racing. The required funds for Ginetta were due some time ago and whilst we understand that TRS has been working with its sponsors to sort the issue, without payment, Ginetta cannot allow the cars to race. Ginetta remains committed to working with CEFC TRSM Racing on this programme.

    We are aware that CEFC TRSM Racing has visited TRS many times in China and can also confirm that TRS have visited Ginetta three times recently, the last time to attend a Royal visit. We have been informed by TRS that the current situation is a short term cash flow problem and that the main funds are in place for payment before Le Mans.”

    Chairman of Ginetta, Lawrence Tomlinson said: “We’ve got to a situation where a UK-based team with excellent ability, kit and personnel, plus a pair of the latest LMP1 cars with confirmed and fully paid up entries for the 2018/19 FIA WEC (including two entries at Le Mans in both 2018 & 2019) are unable to race simply due to funds not flowing.”

    The team are still aiming to get the cars out for the Le Mans 24 Hour next month with Ginettas Lawrence Tomlinson at Spa today, holding talks with senior officials from the ACO, WEC and FIA. A further statement will follow on the status of the programme and what future awaits it.

  • Heroes and underdogs

    Lewis Hamilton has cleaned out his social media history, apparently, after a thoughtless Christmas gaff involving some unfortunate comments about his little nephew wearing a princess dress caused the world champion a heap of angry heat.

    Yep, that's as good as it gets on Formula 1 news this winter. Let's just say it's been a particularly quiet off-season in the Grand Prix world.

    Thankfully, there's been plenty of real news to savour in sports car racing. Forget F1 - long-distance endurance racing has given motor racing fans plenty to chew on during the bleak midwinter.

    First, there was the 'Roar before the Rolex 24', the traditional test weekend at the Daytona International Speedway in early January that offered action-starved race fans something of real nourishment to savour.

    Cadillac's DPi dominated, with Action Express, Spirit of Daytona and Wayne Taylor Racing showing the rest the way. Felipe Nasr, recently of Sauber F1 fame, set the pace in the final day 'qualifying' session that decides garage allocations for the race itself on January 27-28. He's raced at Daytona before, way back in 2012, so the Brazilian shouldn't have any trouble recalibrating to long-distance sports car racing at the end of this month.

    Roar Before the Rolex 24 Cadillac DPi

    The bigger question will be whether Fernando Alonso - a slightly higher profile and more successful F1 ace - can make the transition as smoothly.

    The Spaniard was surprised at the lack of running he managed in his first taste of Daytona for the United Autosports team, driving an LMP2 Ligier JSP217. That was a consequence of the test schedule rather than a team shortfall, but whatever the reason, Alonso will be taking steps into the relative unknown come race weekend.

    He was only 12th fastest at the 'Roar' in a car that isn't entirely suited to Daytona's mix of oval banking and twisty road course, but speed is hardly likely to be a problem for one of the great racing drivers of the modern era. What will test him is to know when and how to use that awesome natural ability.

    Lapping traffic is a significant feature at Daytona, perhaps more than at any other sports car race thanks to the size of the grid and the - ahem - mixed quality of drivers. The Rolex 24 remains a genuine pro-am challenge, which makes for an unpredictable cocktail. Is a backmarker you are approaching an experienced hand who knows how to keep clear of contact while maintaining his own pace - or is it a so-called 'gentleman' driver who hasn't checked his mirrors? Alonso won't have a clue.

    Victory at the Rolex 24 certainly looks a long shot for the two-time F1 champion, sharing with impressive youngsters Lando Norris and Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 champion Phil Hanson. Still, his progress will be fascinating and he's sure to be a huge story at Daytona.

    And as the man himself has admitted, this is all about laying the groundwork for a future Le Mans campaign. When and in what car this will happen is impossible to say - sadly it looks unlikely to be 2018 and in a Toyota at this stage - but Le Mans is Alonso's real target.

    For another genuine global motorsporting hero, Le Mans has also long been in his sights, but like Alonso, Alex Zanardi will be testing the waters at Daytona - although he has at least raced in GTs before.

    The Italian, who lost his lower legs in a terrible Indycar crash back in 2001, told me when I interviewed him two summers ago that Le Mans was still an ambition for him. Now, with long-time manufacturer partner BMW, he has gone public on an aim to race at the Rolex 24 in 2019, with a specially adapted M8 GTE. After that, Le Mans will surely be next.

    Zanardi is hugely popular in America after his dominance of Indycar racing in the late 1990s - and his accident only lifted his folk-hero status to new heights.

    When I met him he was preparing for the Rio Paralympics, in his new sport of hand cycling. Success in Brazil added to his London medal haul in 2012, and he now has four golds and two silvers to add to the eight world titles he has won in this discipline. The man is quite incredible, up there with the most charismatic and inspiring racing drivers I ever had the good fortune to meet.

    He'll be a huge draw at Daytona next year.

    Many thousands of miles from the Florida speedbowl and a little closer to home, there was more to whet sports car appetites this week.

    The annual Autosport International racing car show took place in Birmingham, where the wraps came off Ginetta's striking new LMP1 car. Beside new racers from BR Engineering and Rebellion Racing, whose car will be seen for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in March, the Ginetta represents a shot in the arm for privateer participation at Le Mans.

    Ginetta G60 LMP1 Launch

    As I wrote in my last blog for Speed Chills, new regulations promise to allow non-hybrid privateer entrant a genuine chance to compete with the technical masterpieces that have come from the factory teams in recent years - now reduced to one in the form of Toyota, following the consecutive withdrawals from first Audi and then Porsche.

    Former F1 team Manor Motorsport will run at least one Ginetta at Le Mans in June, and appear to carry genuine hope that the new rules will give them a shot. The evidence of 2016, when an LMP2 almost won overall thanks to the problems endured by the factory hybirds, offers support to that point of view.

    Sitting here right now in the depths of January, before the Ginetta has turned a wheel in anger, it's hard to believe Manor can really challenge Toyota. But the Japanese giant is famous for its abysmal record at the greatest race in the world - so who knows?

    The day of the underdog could be about to return.

    Whatever the reality, right now there is so much to look forward to as Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship begins a bright new era. And it's certainly more interesting than Lewis Hamilton's Twitter feed.

    POSTSCRIPT: Before I sign off, I must add a word or two about another hero: Dan Gurney, the great American all-rounder whose death was announced on Monday morning this week.

    For sports car fans, Gurney's headline achievement was sharing the winning Ford MkIV with AJ Foyt at Le Mans in 1967 - then subsequently inventing the tradition of spraying champagne.

    But of course, that was just one glorious moment in a wonderfully full life. Gurney could race anything, anywhere. A winner in F1, sports cars, Can-Am, Indycars, Trans-Am and NASCAR, he also had a brilliant engineer's brain and in the Eagle Mk1 F1 car, was perhaps responsible for the best-looking Grand Prix car of all time - and one in which he conquered Spa just a week before that Le Mans win.

    Later in life, Gurney's Eagles also took IMSA by storm in the high-powered GTP era of the 1980s and early '90s.

    His life and career straddled the eras like only a handful of other racing men - and perhaps most impressively of all, he remained a much-loved gentleman through it all.

    A great all-rounder in more ways than one, then. RIP.

    Damien Smith, former Editor of Motor Sport Magazine

  • Prologue 2018 - What did we learn?

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

    #8 Toyota

    LMP1

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

    #1 Rebellion

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

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

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

    #6 CEFC TRSM

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

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

    LMP2

    #38 Jackie Chan Racing

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

    #31 Dragon Speed

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

    GTE Pro

    #91 Porsche

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

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

    #95 Aston Martin

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

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

    GTE Am

    #86 Porsche

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

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

    The Class of 2018

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

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

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

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

  • Toyota take first pole of the season.

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

    Toyota LMP1 Spa 2018

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

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

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

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

    FIA WEC Dragonspeed WEC

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

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

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

    Alpine LMP2 Spa 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Porsche #77 FIA WEC Spa

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

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