Kamui Kobayashi

  • 2016 FIA WEC Season Review

    Welcome to our review of the 2016 FIA WEC Championship. Put the kettle on, make a brew, settle down in your favourite chair and enjoy!

    LMP1 Season Review 

    Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas took the FIA World Endurance Championship crown for the first time with a fifth place finish in the 6 Hours of Bahrain, however this season was by no means easy on the crew. They took the first win of the season at Silverstone after the #7 Audi crew were disqualified, second place at Spa Francorchamps in round 2 before taking a last minute win at Le Mans after Toyota heart break in the dying minutes. With double points at Le Mans, the #2 car held a substantial lead at the mid point, 94 points out of 103 on offer saw them sitting at the top of the championship with a 39 point lead. Le Mans was the turning point for the #2 car, early promising performances were replaced with recurring technical issues, reportedly with the cars hybrid system and a distinct lack of pace. Jani, Lieb and Dumas failed to see the podium again this year. Despite these issues, going in to Bahrain, talking to Neel Jani before the start of the race, he was confident the team had what it took to take the title.

    This fall in pace surely held the door wide open though for the ever consistent Audi team to close the gap and take the lead at some point before the season was out? This season however’ Porsche got lucky. A string of issues for Audi meant they were unable to capitalise on the #2 crew’s bad luck in the second half of the year.

    The #8 Audi crew of Oli Jarvis, Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval were Audi’s main title hopes this year. They were on the pace and working well together, claiming two victories this season in Spa and Bahrain. Uncharacteristically, Audi were hit with a string of issues this year and as a result, both cars arrived in Bahrain out of the championship. Their pace in Austin was phenomenal but hybrid issues for the #8 and a badly timed safety car took both cars out of contention and gifted the win to the #1 Porsche of Webber Bernhard and Hartley. Mexico was yet another poor race for Audi. The #8 was out in front when Jarvis went off at turn one in tricky conditions. Lotterer then hit the wall during a lock up. Porsche came through to take another solid points hall towards both the teams and drivers championship challenge. Another difficult run to fifth in Shanghai for the #8 further dented their title challenge.

    Toyota came in to 2016 with a brand new car, the TS050. The car was a big improvement on the 2015 TS040, the car was competitive and even took the win on home soil in Fuji. As we headed out to Bahrain, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Stephane Sarrazin were the only 3 drivers capable of challenging the #2 Porsche for the drivers title. Toyota had more than their fair share of difficulty this year though. They were leading the race at Spa before the #5 car broke down and leading the race at Le Mans before heartbreak on the final lap.

    LMP2 Season Review

    The 2016 LMP2 season was dominated by the #36 Signatech Alpine, adding the FIA WEC to their 2014 European Le Mans Series crown. Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stephane Richelmi won half the races in 2016 in the Nissan powered Alpine A460 and never once finished outside the top four. They fought hard with the #43 RGR Sport and #26 G-Drive racing cars throughout the season with Strakka and Manor mounting outside challenges in what was arguably the most competitive class of the season. The LMP2 grid was heavily involved in the FIA driver rating changes this year, a number of teams, including the #36 Signatech, found themselves benefitting from "Super Silver" drivers, drivers classified silver but professional drivers rather than amateur racers. Gustavo Menezes was one of those "Super Silvers" who found himself lapping inside the top 10% of the field on a frequent basis. However, it was a dominant performance from the crew and drivers which saw them take the title.

    Silverstone was the season anomaly for the #36 squad with all three drivers complaining of tire ware issues, they took fourth place and their joint worst result of the season. It was one of only two times they would finish off the podium. Their absence from the podium was filled by the newly formed RGR Sport team running the #43 car with Bruno Senna, Filipe Albuquerque and Ricardo Gonzalez who took their maiden victory. One of the standout events of the season however was Spa Francorchamps. Nico Lapierre made a last minute move to pass Pipo Derani around the outside. The Tequila Patron ESM got caught up behind Marino Franchitti’s Ford GT.

    The #36 car quickly found themselves back on the top step of the podium next time out at Le Mans, an incredible performance from the team considering Richelmi and Menezes were in their debut Le Mans and Menezes, who at 21 years old, had never completed a 24 hour race before. All three drivers put in a remarkable performance, Menezes especially who pulled out a quadruple stint in the early hours of Sunday morning to keep the car in site of the podium. A strong drive from Nico Lapierre, who had taken victory just one year before helped the team take the flag.

    A third straight win for the crew at the Nurburgring, round 4 in July, continued to build their lead. RGR Sport took victory in Mexico with a fitting win, driver Ricardo Gonzales the official promoter of the event took the top step of the podium on home soil. Alpine returned to the top of the podium at the Circuit of the Americas with three races left to run. The team took the title in Shanghai finishing second, wrapping up the title with one race to spare, they were never really under threat.

    G-Drive put on a strong showing in the final three races of the season, taking  a hat trick of wins for Roman Rusinov and Alex Brundle. They were joined for two of those wins by former Manor F1 driver Will Stevens, with Rene Rast stepping back on board for the final outing in Bahrain. Rusinov had trouble in Mexico which cost the team the win with a catastrophic brake failure in the final hour. Despite the team coming from the back of the grid to take the win, RGR managed to secure second place in the championship.

    GTE-Pro Season Review

    Aston Martin Racing headed in to the 2016 FIA World Endurance with a heavily upgraded Vantage GTE. They were up against the new Ferrari 488GTE and the new Ford GT run by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK. Porsche opted to take a year out to focus on the 2017 car, however, Dempsey-Proton Racing ran a customer team Porsche.

    Aston Martin’s Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen proved themselves more than capable of the challenge, taking the drivers championship in Bahrain with a win in the #95 car. The teams championship however, went to Ferrari, marking a successful first year for the new 488 GTE. The 488 had some big boots to fill. Ferrari own the 2012, 2013 and 2014 GT Manufacturers title with the hugely successful 458 and two drivers titles in 2013 and 2014. The 458 also won Le Mans in 2012 and 2014. No >pressure then.

    Aston Martin stalwart Darren Turner began alongside them at the start of the season, the trio claiming a podium at Silverstone behind the AF Corse Ferraris which dominated the race. Sam Bird and Davide Rigon dominated the race in the #71 Ferrari ahead of Gimi Bruni and James Calado in the #51 which also had to serve a three minute time penalty for an engine change between qualifying and the race. It should be noted, that Bruni set the quickest ever GTE time around Silverstone this year, the first driver to break the 1:59 barrier, going 2.5 seconds quicker than his previous record.

    Disaster struck for the team at Spa, Nicki Thiim was spun in to the barriers by an LMP2 car and came to a rest on his roof at Courbe Paul Frere.

    Ferrari capitalised, however a late engine failure for Calado stripped Ferrari of the projected 1-2 finish they were after. The charge came to a stop at Le Mans though with severe mechanical difficulties. Fourth for the GTE-AM AF Course however gifted the team 24 points, a valuable contribution to the teams title chances.

    Despite not making the podium at Le Mans, the trio took points as the second placed WEC entered car. Both the #51 and #71 cars failed to finish and Aston Martin took the championship lead. Ford put on an incredibly dominant performance at Le Mans which saw them bring home three cars in the top four. The #82 Ferrari of Fisichella, Vilander and Malucelli spoiling a Ford front three lock out with a second place. This dominance would see a BOP adjustment later in the season.

    After Le Mans, Aston Martin had a reshuffle of their driver line up which saw Turner swap to the #97 car. Thiim and Sorensen took third place behind the dominant Ferraris before taking third place in Mexico. Turner and Stanaway took the first AMR win of the season in Mexico which put Turner in to the championship lead. Thiim and Sorensen finally took their first win in Austin at the Circuit of the Americas which put them at the top of the table with three races to run and a 12 point lead. Fords dominance returned for Shanghai and Fuji, taking 1-2 finished in both races ahead of #51 Ferrari of Gimi Bruni and James Calado. Heading in to the final race of the season, AMR had a 12 point lead. Turner and Adam set identical qualifying laps to take pole in the #97 before the #95 took the race and a second win of the season.

    Bruni and Calado lost vital points this season and despite finishing on the podium in every race they finished, including a win at the ‘Ring, DNF’s at Spa and Le Mans took them out of contention for the title. They did however, finish third ahead of both the Fords who finished half a point apart, Muecke, and Pla having the slight advantage over Tincknell and Priaulx. Ford took two victories this year and max points at Le Mans enroute to third in their first season back in endurance racing. Three cars in the top four at Le Mans meant they scored max points, whilst two second places at Fuji and Shanghai meant the #66 bested the #67.

    GTE-AM Season Review

    The stats show that the #83 AF Corse Ferrari 458 was not the quickest car in class. They took one win this season but finished every race and claimed 50 points at Le Mans. They took six second place finishes, only failing to take the podium in Austin. The #98 Aston Martin Vantage was notably quicker. The car with Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda at the wheel took six pole positions including the final race in Bahrain, and five wins. Unfortunately, they took hard knocks at Le Mans and Mexico,not finishing either race. Pole position under the night sky of Bahrain gave them hope.That margin of hope however was incredibly small. Collard, Aguas and Perodo just needed to finish, they crossed the line third whilst the engine failed on the #98.

    The #88 Abu Dhabi Proton took victory on the WEC’s first visit to Mexico and again in Bahrain. The retirement of the #95 gave second in the championship to Al Qubaisi and Heinemeier Hansson. With Klaus Bachler replaced by Patrick Long at Le Mans, Al Qubaisi and Heinemeier-Hansson again came close to beating the Ferrari for the top WEC-registered team, but a late charge from Collard saw the Frenchman take second spot in the final hour, which resulted in a decisive 14-point swing.

    The Porsche crew came on form in the final race, Pat Long put pressure on Lauda which saw the #95 spin, Long then lead the rest of the way fending off Wolf Henzler in the KCMG Porsche. The #78 took their fifth consecutive podium in Bahrain but after technical infringement at Nurburgring and technical failure at Silverstone, they were out of the running. Gulf Racing had a solid performance across the year with some big improvements seen across the season for Ben Barker, Adam Carroll and Mike Wainwright.

  • 2017 Le Mans Qualifying

    The Toyota #7 crew never lost provisional pole throughout the three qualifying sessions, with Kamui Kobayashi setting a fantastically quick lap in the middle of Qualifying Two to take pole position for the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans by a competitive 2.4 seconds. None of the other LMP1 teams could challenge the 3:14.791 lap time that broke the lap record Neel Jani set in 2015 by just over a second. Kobayashi himself was shocked that the lap time was in the 3m14s; he expected to set a 3m15s or 3m16s.

    After a long delay due to having to change the engine after suffering an oil supply issue, the #8 Toyota crew took second on the grid, 2.4 seconds behind the record-breaking lap time. Sebastien Buemi came out at the start of Qualifying Three, having lost most of Qualifying Two to the engine change, and set a 3:17.128, going just a few hundredths of a second faster than Neel Jani’s lap time in the Porsche #1 to take a Toyota one-two. The third Toyota struggled on pace throughout yesterday’s evening sessions. After trying a variety of front noses Nicolas Lapierre could go no faster than a time that put the #9 fifth on the grid.

    Porsche made improvements on their Wednesday qualifying times in the early evening session of running yesterday. Jani made an eight-tenth improvement on the sister car, qualified by Timo Bernhard, to move the #1 ahead of the #2 for third on the starting grid. Neither Porsche made improvements in the final qualifying session, but there was trouble for the #2 as the light faded last night. An overheating issue caused Brendon Hartley to pull the #2 Porsche off the track at Indianapolis and spend the remaining hour of the session trying to get the car running again so he could return to the pits. This would not be an issue Porsche would want to be faced with ahead of the 24-hour endurance race.

    The #4 ByKolles had been at risk of starting behind some of the LMP2 cars as after Qualifying Two Vitaly Petrov’s provisional LMP2 pole time was faster than the time recorded by the ByKolles. Oliver Webb came out in the final session and improved to a 3:24.170 to place it sixth on the grid.

    ORECA Dominates LMP2 Field

    After holding onto provisional pole in class at the end of Qualifying One, #28 TDS Racing were unable to stay fastest and the battle for class pole was primarily between CEFC Manor TDS Racing, Vaillante Rebellion and Jackie Chan DC Racing. The #8 Jackie Chan DC Racing finished Qualifying Two on top with a 3:26.776, but that time was to be significantly beaten in Qualifying Three.

    Since free practice, the #26 G-Drive Racing team had been lapping around with a low profile, not making too much of an impression in the second qualifying session. However, as the laps began getting faster in the night and Vitaly Petrov was leading the LMP2 field with a 3:25.549, G-Drive set Alex Lynn into the action. He did not disappoint, going two-tenths of a second faster and taking pole position with a 3:25.352.

    The non-ORECA running LMP2 cars seem to be at a disadvantage this weekend as the ORECA 07 chassis has been competitively superior to the other chassis all week. The top nine in qualifying were locked out by ORECA-running teams, with the #27 SMP Racing being the first of the non-ORECAs in tenths. The time set by the #27 was a 3:27.782, showing a deficit of 2.5 seconds to the fastest ORECA machine.

    There were many incidents with the LMP2 cars in yesterday evening’s running, with the #33 Eurasia Motorsports having a big shunt at the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight – Forza Motorsport Chicane. The Armco barriers did their job at deflecting the energy and making sure Erik Maris was able to walk away from the incident unscathed, but this lead to a 50-minute delay in the session as extensive barrier repairs took place.

    The other place of incident seemed to be Tertre Rouge. A few of the LMP2s got a wheel wide on the grass on entry of the corner, meaning that they had to correct the mistake to not end up in the gravel run off. The #28 TDS Racing machine was the car with the least amount of luck when making a mistake through this corner. Spinning the car, the TDS clipped the Armco barrier and spun into the gravel trap, causing damage to the barrier and bringing a ten-minute early end to Qualifying Two.

    Aston Martin Pro Battle Closer than Expected

    Aston Martin dominated both Qualifying One and Two in the Pro class and the Am class, and looked like they could only challenge themselves. The #95 and #97 Aston Martin Racing cars swapped provisional pole times throughout the Qualifying Two session. But as the end of qualifying drew closer the AF Corse Ferrari team began to show more pace.

    James Calado and Sam Bird finished the session in the cars and were pushing hard to get some more ultimate pace out of the Ferrari 488 GTEs. The time set by Darren Turner was too much for the Ferrari to overcome and Calado had to settle for second in class. Richie Stanaway set the fast lap in the #95 Aston Martin, which, at the time, had looked like it, would be fast enough for pole position. He managed to fend off the second Ferrari of Bird and will take third on the grid.

    Ford had looked like they had found some more pace in Qualifying Two, with the #69 Team USA entry holding provisional pole for a duration of time. But as the evening cooled off and the night running began they once again fell down the pack. The highest placed Ford for the race will be the #69 with a 3:51.232. Ford have seemed to close the gap since having a higher BoP added to their cars, with the gap to the pole sitter in class just over four-tenths.

    It was in Qualifying Three that Aston Martin lost the advantage in the Am class. There was a big shuffle in the order at the beginning of the session that saw the Ferrari entrants look to be the favourites for pole. Will Stevens put the JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE on provisional pole and it looked like there was no extra time out there for the other Am cars to beat it.

    The Am class has been varied in class leaders throughout the beginning of the WEC season, and this was the case again for qualifying. Four different manufacturers filled the top four at the final chequered flag, with the returning #50 Larbre Competition Corvette taking the glory of pole with a 3:52.843. The Corvette was the only LM GTE Am car to break into the 3m52s, with Pedro Lamy four-tenths behind in the championship-leading Aston Martin #98.

  • Kobayashi heads Roar second session

    Kobayashi tops rain soaked second session.

    Session two of the 2019 Roar Before the 24 was interrupted by torrential rain, giving the teams a good opportunity to test the new Michelin wets before the session was red flagged. Kobayashi posted an early time of 1:36.596, just 0.008 faster than the #55 Mazda which finished the session in second. The #77 car was just 0.242 seconds off the pace before the rain came down.

    The #50 Juncos Cadillac took third ahead of the #7 Acura which rounded out the top five. The CORE Nissan DPi managed to set its first times of the day, finishing eighth in class with a time of 1:37.522.

    Three of the four LMP2 cars took part in the second session, the #81 Dragonspeed Oreca making its first appearance taking second in class with a time of 1:39.788, 0.213 behind Matt McMurry in the #52 PR1 Mathiasen Oreca. The #18 Dragonspeed Oreca still remained in the garage.

    The sole entry Ferrari, run by Risi Competizione topped the session with a time of 1:44.718, topping the session by just a tenth of a second. Ryan Briscoe put the #67 Ford into second position ahead of Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette. the #912 Porsche took fourth place, meaning there were four different manufacturers all separated by less than three tenths of a second.

    The #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes topped the times again, Jeroen Bleekemolen going fastest again with a time of 1:46.452. The #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari took second place with the #96 Turner BMW M6 GT3 of Jens Klingmann took third.

    All images courtesy of IMSA