GTE-AM

  • #7 Toyota ends the first day of Le Mans running on top despite crash

    The #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez finished the first full day of running at the Le Mans 24 Hours on the top of the times, but lost a chunk of time after crashing into an LMP2 Oreca.

    Having also led the four-hour free practice session held under mixed conditions on Wednesday afternoon, Lopez struck early in the night-time Qualifying One session to set the provisional pole-time of 3m17.161. The #7’s programme was curtailed though as it was caught out by Roberto Gonzalez in the LMP2 pace-setting DragonSpeed Oreca. Gonzalez was recovering from a spin at the Ford Chicane and pulled back on track in front of Conway, causing the Brit to smash into the nose of the LMP2. After rapid repair work, both cars managed to get back out on track – the DragonSpeed got out with 25 minutes still to run while the Toyota completed the final 16 minutes. Despite the incident, the #7 Toyota’s time beat the closest of the LMP1 privateers – the #17 SMP Racing BR1 – by half-a-second. That doesn’t tell the full story though, as the sister #11 had set the fastest time for the bulk of practice thanks to Stoffel Vandoorne, until Kobayashi’s penultimate lap put Toyota back on top by almost two seconds.

    The #11 couldn’t match the same pace in the darkness, finishing P7 – behind the two eye-catchingly liveried Rebellion R13s which have both been in the top five mix throughout the day – the fastest of the Swiss cars beating the #8 Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi in both sessions. The car finished fourth in both sessions after a tricky day for that entry.

    Propping up the lead prototype class in both sessions was the ByKolles Enso CLM P1/01 of Paolo Ruberti, Tom Dillmann and Oli Webb.

    LMP2 went the way of DragonSpeed - Pastor Maldonado’s 3m26.804 early in the session enough to keep the Signatech Alpine A470 in second by 0.131s. United Autosports claimed third at the end of day one, four-tenths behind the Alpine but half-a-second ahead of practice pace-setters IDEC Sport in a category that is shaping up to be anyone’s game come race day, with G-Drive Racing’s Aurus 01 performing strongly in the earlier session.

    GTE Pro provisional pole is currently in the hands of Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT. The Brit set his lap in the dying moments of qualifying, finishing 0.028s ahead of Nick Tandy in the #93 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR ran by the CORE Autosport team.

    Third went to the #97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Alex Lynn, Jonny Adam and Maxime Martin, with the additional three Porsche GT Team entries in fourth, fifth and sixth.

    The #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche set the bar in Free Practice 1 with a time of 3:55.304 with the #54 Ferrari and #98 Aston Martin less than half a second behind. The #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche of Satoshi Hoshino caused a Fully Course Yellow after the car went off at Porsche Curves, through the gravel and into the wall. Around 45 minutes of the session was red flagged following an incident involving Tracy Krohn, the #99 Dempsey-Proton Porsche appeared to have bounced off the crash barrier several times on the approach to the second chicane. With a lack of cameras on that part of the track, it was not exactly clear what had happened but its believed that the Am driver was clipped by a faster LMP2 car. The crash damaged the chassis and whilst Porsche confirm there is a backup chassis available at Le Mans, it is unclear whether the team will use it at this stage.

    In the first of the night sessions, it was the #88 Porsche that took provisional pole position with Matteo Cairoli's best time of 3:52.454. The #56 Project 1 Porsche finished second three tenths down whilst the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche took third place.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Conway and Lopez seal pole position for Toyota Gazoo Racing

    For the third time this year, Toyota take pole position, however this time, its the #7 car that will lead the field at the start of tomorrows FIA WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone

    Fernando Alonso set the early pace in the LMP qualifying session with just one flying lap earlier this afternoon but Mike Conway returned to the top of the time sheets shortly before the driver change, beating Alonso by just 0.020 seconds. Kazuki Nakajima struggled to match Alonso’s pace after the switch over in a session hindered by traffic. The Japanese driver could only manage a time that was eight tenths slower than Lopez resulting in the first pole of the year for the #7 car. Although the #7 car took pole at Spa, it was disqualified in post qualifying scrutineering. The #7 car set a time of 1:36.895 with Alonso and Nakajima managing a 1:37.306.

    It was a relatively strong performance for SMP Racing, the #11 BR1 of Mikhaeil Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov and Jenson Button qualified third in class but just over two seconds off the qualifying pace of the lead Toyota with a time of 1:38.932. Rebellion will start fourth and fifth in class tomorrow afternoon, the #3 leading the #1 car by just four tenths of a second.

    In LMP2, the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing car led a front row lock out, Jazeman Jaafar and Nail Jeffri setting a combined average of 1:44.896. The sister car, the #38 of Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi was just three tenths back whilst the championship leader, the #36 Signatech Alpine of Lapierre, Negrao and Thiriet finished the session in third place with a time of 1:46.370.

    Pastor Maldonado caused the first incident of the session, sending the #31 Dragonspeed into the gravel trap early on. This was shortly followed by contact between the #50 Larbre Competition Ligier JSP217 and the #29 Racing Team Nederland entry through Becketts. With just 5 minutes on the clock, Frits Van Eerd spun the #29 into the gravel backwards at Copse, causing a temporary red flag before a last minute dash to the flag.

    In GTE Qualifying, Aston Martin continued to show an improved performance as a result of the rebalancing of the BOP regulations. Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla put the #66 Ford on pole position despite a strong challenge from the #97 Aston Martin of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn. The Aston duo qualified less than a tenth behind the Ford with a time of 1:55.805. Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim will start from third on the grid.

    It was a disappoint session for Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford who will start tomorrows race in fourth. Both drivers struggled with traffic and will have a hard job tomorrow to recover lost ground.

    BMW once again found themselves at the back of the pack, the #82 and #81 qualifying seventh and eighth respectively.

    Championship new comers this year Project 1 secured the teams first pole position in the hands of Jorg Bergmeister and Egidio Perfetti, taking pole by two tenths over the Le Mans winning #77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche. Aston Martin took third an fourth in class, TF Sport taking third position ahead of the #98 AMR.

    Tomorrows race kicks off at 12:00
  • 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 1-2 finish in Shanghai

    Toyota Gazoo take a 1-2 finish in the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Shanghai.

    The #7 TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez took the win in a rain soaked 6 Hours of Shanghai that was interrupted by numerous red flags. The storm began before the race, intensifying in the run up to the start. The race began under safety car and with poor visibility it was quickly red flagged after the #3 Rebellion R-13 slammed into the barriers after aquaplaning on standing water. The race began briefly before a second red flag as the rain intensified. The race eventually went green with just over three hours to run as the track began to dry. The ByKolless CLM caught fire on the pit straight bringing out another safety car. With the safety car back in the pits, the race re-started before a final safety car and late rain storm towards the end of the race added to the drama.

    Behind the Toyota, SMP and Rebellion fought for the last step of the podium, SMP claiming their first podium of the season. The #11 BR1 of Jenson Button, Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin finished a lap down on the two Toyotas but ahead of the Rebellions and the sister car - Matevos Issakyan having a big off in the final 20 minutes and triggering the final safety car. The #1 Rebellion R13 finished fourth ahead of the #3. Lotterer and Petrov fought hard in the closing stages, Lotterer unable to keep up with Petrov in the final minutes.

    In LMP2, the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing of Stephane Richelmi, Gabriel Aubrey and Ho Pin Tung took their third win of the season in difficult conditions. The car had multiple offs during the race but managed to keep consistent when on track. The DragonSpeed #31 Oreca led the race for most of the second half before eventually finishing second. The Signatech Alpine took third after the TDS Racing Oreca had to pit on the final lap. The #38 now has a good lead in the championship, both cars having started the race on equal points. The LMP2 cars struggled throughout the race, the GTE Pro cars performing better in the wet conditions saw the GTE-Pro class winning #95 Aston Martin finishing ahead of the LMP2 field.

    It was a massive victory for Aston Martin in GTE-Pro, taking the first win of the season for the new Aston Martin Vantage. Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen mastered the tricky conditions, fighting their way through the field from fourth in the fifth hour after the ByKolles fire. Behind them, Richard Lietz took the #91 Porsche to second place, passing Tom Blomqvist in the #82 BMW, Davide Rigon in the #71 Ferrari and Alex Lynn in the #97 Aston Martin. The #92 Porsche finished third in the hands of Michael Christensen who fought past Maxime Martin in the finally stages. The #51 Ferrari rounded out the top five. BMW fell down the order as the race progressed, the #82 falling outside of the top 10 whilst the #81 crossed the line in sixth place.

    Having started on pole, the #66 Ford got caught up in contact with the #92 Porsche early on. Kevin Estre hit Olivier Pla into Turn 1. The stewards put it down to a racing incident with no penalty for either car. Andy Priaulx lost control of the #67, sending the Ford into the gravel trap. Priaulx and Tincknell finished in seventh.

    Dempsey Proton Racing took the win in GTE-Am, the team having lost all of their points following technical infringements and data tampering after Fuji. The #77 won the race, leading the way from the Project 1 Porsche who have now inherited the AM Class Championship. The #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche finished the podium places having lost second in the closing moments.

  • Toyota Top Final Test

    Once again, Toyota Gazoo Racing topped the time sheets, Sebastien Buemi setting the overall fastest time of the day in the second session with a time of 3:19.440 in the #8 car. For comparison, the fastest lap of the test weekend in 2018 was 3:19.066.

    The #8 was just over a second quicker than the #7 car which finished second and 2.7 seconds clear of the non-hybrid privateer #1 Rebellion. It’s early days however, the fastest times will mean nothing until the first qualifying session next week. What is important to note however, is that the two Rebellions and two SMP’s were running within a second of each other which promises a good battle during the race.

    DragonSpeed were having issues most of the day, only clocking up 31 laps in eight hours of track time. The team had issues with ride hight and the gearbox but were confident of getting everything resolved for the main event.

    Ho Pin Tung set the fastest laps in LMP2 in the Afternoon session, posting a 3:28.504 in the final laps of running. This put the #31 DragonSpeed Oreca second, Maldonado setting a time of 3:28.769 whilst Nico Lapierre put the #36 Signatech Alpine third.

    Corvette Racing led the way in GTE Pro, Mike Rockenfeller setting a time of 3:54.001 in the #63 C7.R. The #67 Ford split the two Corvettes to take second place but it was a close fought battle throughout the afternoon. The top 15 cars in GTE-Pro all finished within 1.2 seconds of each other.

    It wasn’t all clean running however as a few cars suffered issues throughout the day. The #95 Aston Martin lost a significant amount of time with an electrical issue which caused the red flags in the morning session as Marco Sorensen rolled to a stop at Porsche Curves. Oliver Jarvis, having flown straight from Detroit stopped out on track at the first chicane in the Risi Competizione Ferrari bringing out a short safety car period.

    It was American Team, WeatherTech Racing who finished on top in GTE Am, Toni Vilander topping the ranks with a time of 3:56.862. The top five contenders in GTE Am were all Ferrari’s. The #61 Clearwater 488 took second ahead of the #54 Spirit of Race car whilst the #57 Car Guy Racing and #60 Kessel Racing cars rounded out the top five.

  • Toyota win in Bahrain, Porsche fill podium

    Porsche LMP1 Team were hoping to end their final season in the World Endurance Championship with a victory but it was not to be as the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing claimed the win. It was a close battle for the LMP2 championship as pit strategy played a big part in the closing stages. It was the #31 Vaillante Rebellion that took the win, gifting Bruno Senna and Julien Canal the LMP2 Endurance Trophy. GTE Pro and Am had looked to have an exciting race at the start, but by the halfway point it had settled into a fairly static race. The #71 AF Corse took a lights-to-flag victory whilst the sister car took second, securing the GT Drivers’ World Endurance Championship. After four years of trying, Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda finally secured the 2017 Am Endurance Trophy.

    The winning trio of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson were the only LMP1 car to not suffer any incidents during the six-hour race. Toyota had the pace on Porsche, but it should have been a closer battle than it was. Because of the carnage behind them, the #8 was the only car to end up on the lead lap at the chequered flag.

    Porsche had to be happy with a double podium at the end of the race, but with that having been unlikely it was a nice send off for the German team. An incident between the #92 Porsche GT Team and the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing in which the #7 made contact and took the #92 out of the race saw the second Toyota drop out of contention, leaving the path clear for Porsche to take a two-three.

    Championship-winning #2 Porsche were taken out of the victory contention early on when a bollard got wedge under Timo Bernhard in the first few minutes. Due to contact between the #1 and the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche that gave the #1 a puncture, the #2 car were able to make up some lost time and take second with the sister car behind.

    Starting from sixth, the #31 Vaillante Rebellion made a great start in the hands of Senna, getting up to second behind a flying Vitaly Petrov in the #25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing within the first hour of the race. It was exactly where they needed to be to secure the championship.

    As the race progressed, tyre and pit stop strategy began to come into play. With the challenging #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing taking stopped about every 20 minutes, the Rebellion duo countered that with longer stints. It put the #38 ahead in the middle of the race, but come the end there was a big pit stop window available for Senna to use and retain the win.

    With a power steering issue, it was predicted that Senna would use his last stop for new tyres and a driver change, bringing them very close on track to the #38 Jackie Chan car. However, in fear of being caught, Senna soldiered on with the issue and only took fuel in his last stop, leaving him with a 30 second advantage on Oliver Jarvis in the #38 behind.

    A crack in the fuel tank cost the #38 some pace, but Jarvis was pushing hard. They finished behind the #31 Rebellion, with ten seconds being the gap between winning and losing the championship.

    #71 had led the race competitively from the start, but the full course yellows that hit the track to clear the stricken #92 Porsche came at the wrong time for them. Having just had their pit stop, they went from a 20 second lead to a 30 second deficit in one lap. AF Corse tried a different strategy, but it did not pay off.

    As they had used the #71 as a guinea pig for the strategy, they had cost them time on track, meaning the #51 sister car was ahead. With just five minutes to go, AF Corse ordered for a car swap so that the #71 took victory. With both the championship rivals of the #51 behind, it did not matter that the car finished second. James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi took the championship.

    It had looked at one point that Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell could claim the win. They were leading with the #51 in third behind the #71, meaning there was enough points between them for the Ford Chip Ganassi team to steal the victory. A fire up issue in their pit stop lost them too much time to stay in the Ferrari fight, so they had to settle with taking their last podium of the season with third.

    Aston Martin, after a promising start to the weekend, could not give the Vantage the send out they wanted to. They could do no better than sixth and seventh at the chequered flag, with Jonny Adam and Darren Turner’s #97 leading the duo.

    After a fight between the #61 Clearwater Racing and the #98 in the first few hours of the race, the Aston Martin got the edge on the Ferrari and took a pleasant dominant race to class victory by 1m17s, claiming their first AM Endurance Championship. The team have had 12 race victories in their four-year career, with four of those being won this season, all pole to flag.

    The two Ferrari-run Am teams joined them on the podium, with Clearwater ahead of Spirit of Race.

    The championship battle everyone was hoping for never really appeared as the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing was not a threat to the Aston at any point of the weekend.