LMP2

  • #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.

  • A look ahead to the 2019/2020 Prologue

    The provisional entry list for the FIA World Endurance Championship's pre-season Prologue Test at Barcelona has been released this week. Initially the entry list unveiled 30 cars to take part in the 16 hours of track time over two days of running following the European Le Mans Series 4H Barcelona which takes place this coming weekend.

    LMP1 will see six entries taking part in the pre-season test at Circuit Catalunya with Toyota Gazoo Racing bringing the full 2019-2020 line-up featuring Brendon Hartley who steps in to replace Fernando Alonso in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid. Frenchman Thomas Laurent is a late addition to the #7 Toyota ahead of the test. Rebellion are yet to confirm who will be taking part in the test but both cars will be present in Barcelona, however, they will only run one car for the season. Team regulars Bruno Senna, Gustavo Menezes and Nathanael Berthon are expected to drive along with several newcomer at the Barcelona test. with Team LNT bringing Charlie Robertson and Michael Simpson to test the Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER. SMP Racing have recently withdrawn from the championship reducing the LMP1 class to just six entries.

    There will be four new teams entered in LMP2, United Autosport, High Class Racing, Cool Racing and Cetilar Racing have all stepped up to the WEC from the European Le Mans Series. Cetilar Racing will run the Dallara P217 Gibson with Andrea Belicchi, Roberto Lacorte and Giorgio Sernagiotto taking the wheel. High Class Racing will run with Mark Patterson, Anders Fjordbach and Kenta Yamashita. Cool Racing will also run the Dallara with Nicolas Lapierre, Antonin Borga and Alexandre Coigny. United Autosport will run regular drivers, Philip Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta for the test in the Oreca 07. Anthony Davidson, Pastor Maldonado and Robert Gonzalez have made the switch from DragonSpeed to Jota Sport. Signatech Alpine, Jackie Chan DC Racing and Racing Team Nederland will also run at the Prologue, each team fielding the Oreca 07. The #36 car will feature Andre Negrao, Thomas Laurent and Pierre Ragues for the 2019/2020 season. Jackie Chan DC Racing have confirmed the addition of Will Stevens to the confirmed pairing of Ho-Pin Tung and Gabriel Aubry.

    Five cars will run in LMGTE Pro, two Ferrari 488 GTE Evo's run by AF Corse, two Porsche 911 RSR-19 cars and one Aston Martin Vantage. Ferrari return with James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Davide Rigon, the fourth seat usually occupied by Sam Bird, will be occupied by Miguel Molina. Porsche have entered Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre for the 2 day test.

    LMGTE Am expands for the 2019/2020 season, with Red River Sport joining the series in partnership with Spirit of Race in the Ferrari 488 GTE EVo, Bonamy Grimes, Charlie Hollings and Johnny Mowlem listed to drive the car. Team Project 1 expand to a two car line up with Egidio Perfetti, Patrick Lindsey and David Heinemeier Hansson the three named drivers so far.

    AF Corse have entered two 488 GTE Evo's in the class with Thomas Flohr, France Castellacci, and Giancarlo Fisichella set to take the wheel of the #54 car whilst Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen entered in the #83 car. Regular LMGTE Am entries Aston Martin Racing, Gulf Racing and MR Racing will also take part in the Barcelona test. The #86 Gulf Porsche will be driven by Mike Wainwright, Andrew Watson and Nico Bastian. Jonny Adam returns to the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin, absent of Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey who will both be taking part in the Spa 24 Hours. Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda return in the #98 Aston Martin but will be joined by Darren Turner, Ross Gunn and Matthieu Vaxiviere for the test.

    There are still a large number of seats to fill ahead of the test, with drivers to be announced in the coming days.

  • Button: can he win Le Mans?

    Well, what a great surprise. Jenson Button racing a Jaguar XJR-9 at Le Mans Classic in July is exciting. But now the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion has chosen to bring his La Sarthe debut forward by a month: he’s going all-out for an attack on the 24 Hours itself. Fantastic news.

    I must say, I was surprised. In his press statement, Jenson said “it’s always been a dream of mine to race at Le Mans”, but that didn’t seem to be the case during his Grand Prix career. Button enjoyed 17 eventful years in the F1 bubble and for most of that time showed little interest in anything else going on in the wider motor sport world. I recall times when he was asked specifically about Le Mans, especially in his later years at McLaren, and he tended to be a little dismissive.

    But like many of his ilk, now that F1 bubble has burst he’s gained some perspective. Always a good chap and a pure racer at heart, he’s embracing what else motor racing has to offer away from the cauldron of intensity that is life in F1.

    Jenson’s affinity for Japan led him to commit to the fantastic Super GT national series, in which he scored a second place in the first round of 2018 at Okayama a few weeks back, partnering Naoki Yamamoto in Team Kunimitsu’s Honda NSX-GT – and his taste buds for endurance racing have clearly been tantalised.

    Now along with his Japanese commitment, the 38-year-old has signed up for the Le Mans 24 Hours and a subsequent World Endurance Championship campaign with SMP Racing. Button will drive the new Dallara-built BR1 LMP1 alongside rapid Russian duo Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin. He knows the former from Petrov’s time in F1 with Renault, while Aleshin has history as a talented Indycar racer. All in all, a potent line-up.

    SMP Racing at the Prologue 2018

    The big questions are how competitive the BR1 will be at Le Mans – and will it really have any chance of going the distance?

    We’ll know more about the genuine speed of the new non-hybrid LMP1 after this weekend’s WEC ‘Super Season’ kick-off, the Spa 6 Hours (which Button is missing). At the WEC Prologue test at Paul Ricard it was the best of the new breed of privateer prototypes and only slower than the hybrid Toyotas.

    Reliability is entirely another matter for SMP, as it will be for all the teams running new cars. Lasting six hours untroubled would be an achievement in Belgium, never mind over 24 in France.

    So why has Button committed to this unproven programme? He has spoken bullishly of going to Le Mans to win, but can that really be a goal this year?

    His old McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso is in an entirely different situation, of course. As a member of the only factory to compete in the top class, the Spaniard has a great chance of making a winning debut at the big race. That’s pressure.

    Button? The pressure cannot be so great when he’s racing a brand new car. Expectations for Jenson will be nowhere near as high as they will be for Fernando – and that could play to the Briton’s advantage.

    But again, can he really win? Well, Toyota has to be the hot favourite – but with its cursed record at Le Mans, nothing can be taken for granted. If the two hybrids falter, one of the privateers could pick up the pieces – and if that’s the case, it’s likely to be the one that has the least amount of trouble. In that case, why not SMP?

    Then again, and rather bizarrely, Button’s best chance of a debut win might have actually been with a well-run LMP2 in the prototype second division. They might not have the pace of the top class, but they’re proven over this distance. Who can forget last year when the Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA led overall and was only eventually beaten by a hybrid Porsche?

    Whatever their fortunes, the addition of a pair of F1 world champions is a huge boost for the race, especially in the year following Porsche’s withdrawal. How they get on will be fascinating. All eyes will be on Button and Alonso on June 16/17.

  • 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
  • G-Drive disqualified in Bahrain

    After taking their sixth pole position of the season, G-Drive #26 has been disqualified from qualifying and lost their LMP2 class pole position. The car failed scrutineering after taking class pole by just 0.002 seconds.

    The accumulative pole position time of 1:49.690 was set by Roman Rusinov and returning Rene Rast to take the team’s sixth pole position of the season. However, after it was discovered that the car was running non-homologated brake cooling ducts it was disqualified from the session. The team will need to resolve this before the 6h race starts.

    This was devastating news for the whole team, but especially for Rusinov who is the only #26 G-Drive driver who can take second in the LMP2 Driver’s Championship from the #43 RGR Sport crew. He had had the advantage starting from pole with RGR qualifying fourth but this disqualification puts the #26 at the back of the field and hands the advantage back to RGR #43.

    #26 G-Drive needs to finish scoring 12 points more than #43 RGR Sport for Rusinov to take second place in the LMP2 Driver’s standings. If G-Drive win, RGR need to finish fifth or lower to be outscored. As long as RGR Sport finish fourth or higher they will hold onto second in the LMP2 standings.

    After the disqualification, 2016 LMP2 Champions #36 Signatech Alpine take pole position, the #44 Manor Racing car will start second in class and RGR Sport #43 takes third on the LMP2 grid.

  • Getting Ready for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring

    The World Endurance Championship is back this weekend with more thrilling track action at the Nürburgring. The 24 Hours of Le Mans brought a spectacular race to the blue riband event and the fourth round of the championship promises to be just as gripping. With the championship battles closer than ever throughout all the classes in the WEC, the teams are going to more determined to take class victory as every point counts. As this is the last race before the summer break, the grid will be looking to end the first half of the season on a high and come back in Mexico with a positive mentality.

    The disastrous Le Mans for the LMP1 class has seen the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship already narrowed down to being between two cars. This means that for the rest of the season both Toyota Gazoo Racing and Porsche will probably employ team orders to promote the #2 and #8 entrants to score more points. The closest LMP1 car to the lead battle is last year’s champion car with Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy onboard, 55 points behind.

    Jackie Chan DC Racing had one of the best races of their career out in Le Mans. After the #13 Vaillante rebellion was disqualified for illegal alterations to the car’s bodywork, Jackie Chan DC Racing scored a double overall podium. This puts the overall second-place finishers of the #38 car in a comfortable lead in the LMP2 Drivers’ and Team Championships. However, it is still a battle between Rebellion and Jackie Chan Racing as the #31 team are 38 points of the Le Mans class winners. However, Rebellion’s main concern will be the #36 Signatech Alpine who sit third in the championship, only 10 points off them.

    The last minute second place that #67 Ford Chip Ganassi inherited at the end of Le Mans has kept them ahead in the GT Drivers’ Championship. Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Pipo Derrani lead the Le Mans GT Pro class winners of Jonny Adam, Darren Turner and Daniel Serra for the lead of the championship by nine points. Aston Martin have gained an advantage this weekend as the automated BoP has come into action. They will be running lighter than the other competitors in their classes, which could aid them in taking the Championship lead.

    Due to the amount of non-scoring LM GTE Am entrants at Le Mans, the 24-hour event did not cost the #98 Aston Martin Racing team too much. Although ending eighth in class, Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda were awarded points for fourth position, meaning they have only fallen six points behind the new Am Driver’s Trophy competitors #61 Clearwater Racing. With the BoP advantage that Aston Martin is supposed to have this weekend, the sole Aston Martin Am crew could get back ahead of the Ferrari-run team by the end of the weekend.

  • Goodbye Daytona Prototype, Hello Daytona Prototype International

    The Daytona Prototype cars have participated in 171 races over the 14 years in which they competed. A record of winning 163 of those races showed the Daytona Prototypes were cars to be taken seriously on the racing scene. But after 14 years of spectacular racing, the Daytona Prototypes as they were known have hung up their helmets for the last time. 2017 will no longer see the fleet that originally competed in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, as the new Daytona Prototype Internationals (DPi) take their place in todays IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.


    Image: www.imsa.com

    The Daytona Prototypes have had a long and successful life of racing. The class was initially started in a hope to reduce costs of running cars and teams. The number of participants for the Rolex 24 At Daytona was high but it was the expensive cost that saw teams put off of entering the series for a full season. The Grand American Road Racing Association (GARRA) saw, in 2002, that something needed to be done to increase the full-season entrant numbers. A new class of cars was introduced that would be a lot cheaper to run for a full season and also addressed the issue of the top speeds being too great around concrete-walled Rovel Speedways: the Daytona Prototypes.

    Their introduction in 2002 was not easy; a lot of speculation surrounded the new Daytona Prototypes, especially with the reduced top speeds to make them safer. Grand-Am took the Daytona Prototypes and started a new, stand-alone North American racing series to introduce them to the Motorsport World. They kept the costs highly capped, meaning that manufacturer-owned teams were not allowed to compete in this series. Alike the FIA LMP2 class, there was a set car that teams purchased so they could race in the series with restricted development and modifications. Every Daytona Prototype ran a turboframe chassis from a series chosen chassis supplier and relatively high-powered engines that were derived from production engines from major production manufacturers.

    Three generations of Daytona Prototypes were created before the introduction of the United SportsCar Championship in 2014. The popularity of the series grew as it started to gift some of the closest and most exciting wheel-to-wheel racing in any motorsport series.

    The Daytona Prototype cars took part in 141 Rolex Sports Car Series races and 30 IMSA races (since 2014). Only having lost eight of the races that they took part in, the Daytona Prototypes could be one of the most successful sports car series of all time. Chip Garassi Racing is the team with the most Daytona Prototype wins. Felix Sabates helped take them to their 46 series wins. Scott Pruett, however, holds the record for the most wins by one driver, with 44 wins to his name. It was in 2006 that the Rolex 24 At Daytona 24 saw the most Daytona Prototypes on the track, with 30 competing in the series blue-ribbon event. In the 14 years of racing, 103 Daytona Prototypes were manufactured, with team Riley having produced the most with 47 cars to their team’s name.


    Image: Mazda Racing

    The Daytona Prototypes have raced alongside the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) series of cars since the birth of the IMSA Sportscar Championship in 2014. The main reason for the change from the Daytona Prototypes to the DPis was to try and allow the DPis to be eligible to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. IMSA worked with the ACO and FIA to try and make the regulations for the DPis class the same as those for the LMP2 entrants of Le Mans. Different business goals for IMSA and ACO/FIA did not ultimately make this achievable.

    Whereas the Daytona Prototypes only shared similar regulations to the LMP2 series, the new DPis share the exact same regulations. All participating DPis must run one of the four selected manufacturer chassis and use the same standard specification of Cosworth electronic package. Engines, like they always have, will be selected from major road car production manufacturers and must be homologated by IMSA. The four chassis providers for the DPis differs from the LMP2 list, with Dallara, Onroak Automotive, ORECA, and Riley/Multimatic being the four chassis providers for the DPis.


    Image: Ligier Racing

    With the DPis being the top class of cars in IMSA, in comparison to LMP2s not being the top class of the FIA’s World Endurance Championship, the aims of the two classes in their respective series differs. Because of this, the DPi teams have a little more freedom in the modifications they can make to their bodywork. The bodywork used has to be an IMSA homologated manufacturer-designed and branded bodywork but the teams can make modifications to their nose, sidepods, rear-wheel arch, and rear valance to allow for variation through the field. If the DPis wish to enter into the Le Mans 24 Hours they must run a low downforce bodywork package for that event.

    The same chassis of the LMP2s and the DPis will allow and encourage closer and fairer competition between the two car classes. The severe alterations to the Daytona Prototypes to make them Daytona Prototype International is to help integrate the DPis into more racing series so the opportunity to go racing is higher. The same ‘core car’ in both series will allow the two series to compete against each other in more IMSA and ACO competitions. What originally started out as a cost-efficient sports car racing class in America has now stepped up onto the international field, with more exciting competitions now within its reach.

  • Le Mans 2017 6 Hour Report

    For a brief session at the beginning of the race, the #7 Toyota lost the lead to the sister #8 car, but apart from that the #7 Toyota has led the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first six hours. Vaillante Rebellion has been commanding the field in LMP2 after the pole-sitting #26 G-Drive Racing had a terrible start that led to an early retirement from the race. Aston Martin have been the teams to beat in the GTE classes but they have not run away with the pace, with Ferrari and Ford keeping the teams on their toes.

    It seemed to be an easy six hours for the #7 Toyota as all three drivers have climbed aboard to competitively lead the race. Neel Jani made quick work of overtaking Sebastien Buemi in the #8 Toyota to steal second place and split the Toyotas. Buemi did fight back and keep the pressure on Jani, but after the first driver changes Anthony Davidson seemed unable to keep up with Nick Tandy in the Porsche #1.

    Issues have plagued a couple of the LMP1 cars. The #9 had an issue with their door not closing and was forced to make an extra stop in the fifth hour so the team could try and resolve the issue. At the time of publishing, the door was no longer an issue.

    But disaster struck for the #2 Porsche as a front axle drive failure forced the car into the garage. The team lost nearly an hour of the race sitting in the garage as the team did an incredibly quick job of replacing the entire front unit of the car. At the time of publishing, Brendon Hartley was in the car pushing for damage limitation with the car down in an overall 55th position.

    The ByKolles looked to have a strong start by before the end of the first lap it suffered a rear left puncture. Having to pit so early saw it fall down the order but a suspected engine failure saw the car become the second official retiree of the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans in the second hour.

    The first official retiree of the race was the #88 Proton Competition Porsche. After having a bad start and a spin at the Ford Chicane, pole-sitting #26 G-Drive Racing was pushing hard to recover lost positions. Misjudging the space between the two cars, Roman Rusiov got the overtake on the #88 wrong and sent both cars into the barriers at the Porsche Curves. Both cars, with significant damage, made it back to the pits as slow zones covered the Porsche Curves area for barrier repairs. However, neither of them had repairable damage and both cars retired from the race.

    The misfortune for the #26, which dropped down the field on the start lap, handed the advantage to Vaillante Rebellion, who has led the class since the second hour. The CEFC Manor TDS Racing #24 has been keen to challenge for a top two spot but has yet to get any higher than third in class. #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing is also battling up the front of the class and all four cars are looking strong as the first quarter of the race is complete.

    At the start of the race, the Aston Martins pulled an advantage on the GTE fields, but the Ferrari-running teams were hot on their heels. As the day has begun to cool as the evening running gets underway, the Ferraris have fallen off a little and the battle in Pro is now between the Fords and the Aston Martin. Harry Tincknell had a mega lap that has seen the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car in strong contention for a podium position.

    The #66 Ford was looking good for a high position but an early issue with the rear light forced the car to pit out of sequence for a quick repair. The car is still lapping with the top of the class, but the advantage is with the other cars around it as it has to pit after the other LM GTE Pro cars have taken their pits.

    Ferrari had an impressive stint around the third hour in the Am class, with a Ferrari one-two-three led by Will Stevens in the JMW Motorsports #84. The JMW Motorsports entry is still running strong at the sharp end of the class but Aston Martin has come back with a strong pace from the works #98 car. It’s an impressive performance from the #90 TF Sport crew who, at the time of publishing, were running third in class.

    Four cars have been lost in the first quarter of the race, with the fourth retiree coming in the closing stages of the fifth hour. Matthieu Vaxiviere lost the car under braking for the Forza Motorsport Chicane and side swiped the #82 Risi Competitione. The #82 was spun into the Armco barrier, which suffered a lot of damage, and destroyed the front of the Ferrari 488 GTE. It retired on the spot as the marshals lifted the stricken car off of the racetrack.

    The #28 TDS Racing was undamaged from the incident. The LMP2 team has received a 7-minute stop/go penalty for taking out the Risi Competitione.

  • Porsche Dominate 6 Hours of Nurburgring

    Porsche took a dominant one-two around their home race at the Nurburgring. Toyota Gazoo Racing had no respose as, after leading for most of the first hour, the Porsches disappeared with nearly a lap lead. The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing LMP2 car also had an easy race to victory. None of the other cars could close in the gap to challenge for the win, so the team converted their inherited pole position into the race victory. The GTE classes delivered the predicted Porsche/Ferrari battles. Ferrari came out on top in the Pro class with the #51 AF Corse whilst Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 did a splendid job for their first victory of the season.

    The action of the race started before the green flag dropped as disaster hit the #8 Toyota. On the formation lap, Sebastien Buemi had a fuel pump failure that saw the team bringing the car into the pits to replace the part. This instantly turned their race into one of damage limitation as they fought back from the back of the grid. They ended five laps down but managed to classify fourth overall, only losing 13 points to their championship rivals in the Porsche #2.

    The LMP1 race very quickly became a inter-team battle as Porsche clearly have a pace advantage with their high aerodynamic kit. Due to pick pick ups of rubber the two Porsche were suffering from aero degradation that created a “yo-yo” effect for which car was leading. Both of the cars were evenly matched pace wise and presented a fantastically close race to the chequered flag. Just 1.6 seconds separated Timo Bernhard and Andre Lotterer as the chequered flag fell.

    For the first time this season, both LMP1 teams were running the high-downforce aero packages on their cars. It became clear by the end of the 6 Hours of Nurburgring that Porsche had a pace advantage over Toyota Gazoo Racing with this aero kit. Toyota will need to spend some time over the summer trying to improve that if they wish to have any chance of catching Porsche or fighting them for the World Endurance Championships.

    The race behind the #38 was where the action was in the LMP2 class. Nicolas Lapierre once again showed his speed with some fantastic stints for the #36 Signatech Alpine that helped Gustavo Menezes, Tristian Gommendy and he get third place in class. Gommendy’s stints in the middle of the race were also a big contributing factor to help Lapierre pass and extend a lead from the #13 Vaillante Rebellion crew.

    Rebellion had shown they had a strong pace behind the #38 car. Bruno Senna, Julien Canal and Filipe Alburquerque drove to a competitive second place whilst the sister #13 battled valiantly with the #36 and the #37 that challenged for their then third place in class. The #13 finished just off the podium in fourth place.

    Although a difficult final race for the team, the #4 ByKolles Racing did see the chequered flag, classifying 14th overall. From their side of things, the race was fairly uneventful and they had an incident and garage time-free six hour race to the flag. Only one car retired from the race. The #35 Signatech Alpine suffered damage that would have taken too long to repair. They dropped out of the race just before the halfway point.

    The thrilling track battles came from the GTE classes. AF Corse and Porsche GT Team had a tough battle for the lead of class in the first hour. Frederic Makowiecki came out on top of that battle to see the Porsche get ahead. However, around the halfway mark James Calado pulled off a stunning move passed the then-leading #91 Porsche GT to claim the class victory. There looked like there would be another inter-team battle between Porsches as Kevin Estre was closing in on the sister car #92 with Richard Lietz on board. However there were not enough laps for Estre to demote Lietz and Makowiecki off the second step of the podium.

    At the back of the grid was the battle of BoP. Championship rivals #97 Aston Martin Racing and #67 Ford Chip Ganassi kept ending up nose to tail on track. However, it is assumed that the BoP advantage Aston had coming into this weekend gave them a pace advantage on the straights. Daniel Serra kept both the #66 and #67 at bay for a long duration of time by driving defensively and using the extra pace they had on the straights to get far enough ahead that Ford could not challenge them. Olivier Pla had to get very clever with his driving line, compromising his entrance into corner to get a much better exit to try and get closer to the Aston so their pace advantage did not matter.

    In the end, the #67 lead the trio over the line, taking up fifth, sixth and seventh in class. This gives Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx an extra four points in the championship battle with Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Daniel Serra as we head into the summer break.

    The fight for the lead in Am was exhilarating from green flag to chequered. From pole, the #98 Aston Martin Racing car of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda lead the way, gaining just over a minute advantage on the field by the 90-minute mark. But Porsche and Ferrari had proven through the practice sessions that they has better pace this weekend, and the race was no exception. Matteo Cairoli was a man on a mission as he chased down the #98 in the second half of the race. With a better pace, he managed to pass the Aston Martin and extend a competitive lead to the end of the race.

    But Miguel Molina also saw his opportunity this weekend. Within the final hour of the race, Molina in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari was in hot pursuit of at least a podium, if not the class win. He deposited the Clearwater Racing #61 with ease before chasing down Dalla Lana for the second step of the podium. The Aston Martin had no power in which to stop the rapid pace of the Spanish driver and he cut down an 18 second lead to a 4.6 second lead in 30 minutes. Had there have been an extra five minutes of the race the Dempsey-Proton Porsche and the Spirit of Race Ferrari would at least crossed the line nose to tail.

  • Porsche Lead the Way for Nurburgring Practice

    Both Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber have shown that the Porsche 919-Hybrid has a competitively strong pace ahead of this weekend’s 6 Hours of Nurburgring. The Porsche #2 has led both session at the chequered flag, whilst the #1 gave Porsche a one-two as the day came to a close. Aston Martin may have a BoP advantage this weekend, but so far it is yet to be shown. The GT classes, both in Am and Pro, look close on a pace basis. This will hopefully promise some spectacular racing come the six-hour event on Sunday.

    Toyota Gazoo Racing appeared to be on the back foot in the afternoon session of practice. They kept the competition close in the morning, with just three-tenths of a second separating the four LMP1 Hybrid cars, but in the cooler temperatures of the afternoon they could not keep up with Porsche. They were a clear second off the pace in free practice two, and even when Anthony Davidson climbed aboard with a few minutes left he was unable to close the gap to the Porsches ahead.

    ByKolles had a troubled session in the morning, spending most of it in the garage and only getting six laps on the board, but the second practice session looked to be an improvement for the team. This will be the last race that ByKolles compete in as they are taking the second half of the season to test and develop their car ahead of the 2018 season. This decision was made before Le Mans as ByKolles feel they are not currently prepared enough, nor would they be prepared enough if they completed the full season, to take on the new LMP1 Privateers that are joining the field next year.

    Vaillante Rebellion looked to be strong once again. They set the pace in the first practice session and were only two-tenths off the pace-setting #26 G-Drive Racing in the second practice session. However, at the end of the first practice session, the #31 Rebellion made contact with the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche. Both cars were fastest of their respective classes when the contact happened. With only four minutes left on the clock the red flag brought out a premature chequered flag, not allowing for any late improvements.

    But the incident caused some internal damage to the #31 which meant that they were unable to participate in the second practice session. The two teams were called into the stewards office but no further action will be taken with either team. The left side pod of the #31 was damaged and the front of the #77 was damaged, suggesting that the #77 hit the side of the #31. The #31 was also seen in the barrier at the entrance of the pit lane.

    Although the advantage was predicted to be with Aston Martin due to their lighter BoP, it has been Ferrari and Porsche dominating the Am class. The field is close, with only half a second covering the entire class at the end of Free Practice One, so the racing come Sunday is predicted to be intense. Aston Martin Racing has finished both sessions fourth in class so they will be looking for some improvement during the final practice session before qualifying.

    The BoP advantage that Aston Martin believed to have at the start of the weekend has yet to be discovered by either the Pro or Am team. The first practice session saw the Aston duo at the back of the class field whilst AF Corse and Porsche GT Team battled for fastest lap. It seems that Porsche and Ferrari have an advantage in the GT classes and should be the ones to watch come race day.

  • 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.

  • Seven magnificent reasons why we’re excited about 2018

    On the face of it, the consecutive losses in the past year of both Audi and then Porsche from the LMP1 ranks have dealt hefty blows to the world of sports car racing, worthy of an Anthony Joshua right hook.

    But have the Le Mans 24 Hours and the FIA World Endurance Championship crumpled to the canvas, out for the count in their wake? Of course not.

    In fact, the jewel of long-distance sports car racing and its associated series have weathered the double blow remarkably well, and as we power on towards the brightening horizon of 2018 both appear decidedly spritely. Motor racing’s ability to sniff the smelling salts, rejuvenate and punch back stronger than ever never ceases to amaze.

    Le Mans in particular has always proven bigger than any single manufacturer, throughout its illustrious 95-year history. So as we settle into the brief seasonal hibernation induced by the heady mix of minced pies and mulled wine, let’s ponder exactly what will get our juices running again in 2018 as a new era dawns for the greatest motor race in the world.

    1. LMP1 takes a leaf from Mark Twain’s book

    Sure, as the last manufacturer standing with a hybrid thoroughbred, Toyota will never have a greater chance to end its infamous Le Mans jinx – with or without Fernando Alonso – running an updated version of its TS050 HYBRID.

    Toyota TS050 Hybrid 2017

    But with only two entries expected from the Japanese giant, even now nothing can be taken for granted. As Toyota knows only too well from recent (bitter) experience, the first competitor any manufacturer at Le Mans has to conquer is the race itself. Even with an apparent open goal, the capacity to balloon it over the bar once again, either through technical failures or driver mistakes, will be all too real for this team come June 16/17.

    2. There’s Rebellion in the ranks…

    Fresh from WEC title success in the super-competitive LMP2 arena, top prototype privateer Rebellion Racing has confirmed its return to the top category for 2018 with a two-car entry bristling with promise.

    And with the new rules designed to equalise performance between factory hybrid and privateer non-hybrid power, the Anglo-Swiss squad will carry genuine hope into the new year that its new contender will have the capacity to carry the fight to Toyota. Whether that’s realistic or not remains to be seen.

    The new car, said to be another creation from seasoned partner ORECA, will be revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March. Meanwhile, a superstar line-up of drivers has already been confirmed.

    Porsche LMP1 refugees Andre Lotter and Neel Jani have been named among the six, which also includes Bruno Senna – nephew of Ayrton – and talented youngster Thomas Laurent, who has controversially switched from the rival DC Racing LMP2 squad that came so close to sensationally winning the race overall last June.

    Rebellion is a seriously good racing team. Toyota will not underestimate its challenge.

    3. Privateers on parade: the new arrivals

    Along with Rebellion, the promise of greater LMP1 competition between manufacturer might and privateer pluck has enticed optimistic new projects into the top class, and one in particular looks certain to give the hordes of British Le Mans disciples a new focus come June.

    Successful LMP2 chassis builder Ginetta has accepted the challenge with an exciting all-new design set to be revealed at the Autosport International show at Birmingham’s NEC in January. The company has linked up with former F1 entrant Manor Racing for what promises to be a potent challenge.

    Then there’s SMP Racing’s new Dallara-built LMP1, dubbed the BR1, which was unveiled at the Bahrain WEC season finale in November. Run by top GP2/F2 team ART Grand Prix, with former Renault F1 ace Vitaly Petrov among the drivers, this is another serious effort with long-term potential.

    Fingers will be firmly crossed among sports car racing’s rule-makers that this revived interest in LMP1, fueled by ‘realistic’ budgets, will reap rewards for the privately funded entrants who have made the commitment. The silver lining of Audi and Porsche’s withdrawal glistens with genuine hope.

    4. GTE: who needs prototypes?

    Even if LMP1 does fall flat at Le Mans in June, the intensity of what will be happening behind them in the GTE ‘supercar’ class will more than compensate. Manufacturer interest has shot through the roof, and in a certain respect, it’s just a pity the influx of contenders aren’t competing for the overall win…

    That’s a debate for another day. For now, what matters is that the ‘race within a race’ at Le Mans promises serious bragging rights for some of the biggest and most famous motoring brands in the world.

    5. The Porsche factor: Mark Twain still relevant!

    Yes, I’m borrowing that cliché once more: the number one Le Mans manufacturer’s demise at the 24 Hours has been greatly exaggerated, despite that headline LMP1 withdrawal. That’s because Porsche has now doubled its efforts to conquer the GTE class, following its hat trick of overall wins between 2015-17.

    Regular GT aces Richard Lietz, Frederic Makowiecki and Gianmaria Bruni, who will make his first start for Porsche at Le Mans following his defection from Ferrari, are all confirmed. But also expect to see former LMP1 stars Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas in action. That’s quite a squad to keep the winning run going, albeit in the lower class.

    6. German flavour remains potent

    As Porsche shows a renewed commitment to GT racing, so too do two other German automotive giants. For the first time since 2011, BMW is returning to Le Mans with an all-new GTE contender, while Mercedes will also be represented – even if it’s in disguise.

    Aston Martin will keep the British end up once again, with its fantastic-looking new Vantage set to defend the hard-fought victory of 2017. But the German link is under the hood: an AMG Mercedes twin turbo now powers Aston’s front-engined GTE contender, following the engineering tie-up between two brands.

    Aston Martin Vantage LM-GTE 2018

    Add in an unchanged Ford line-up, Ferrari coming off the back of WEC title success and a continued challenge from Corvette, and GTE offers potentially one of the strongest manufacturer entries in Le Mans history. The battle between Ferrari vs Porsche vs Aston Martin vs Corvette vs Ford vs BMW… take a breath… will be simply immense.

    Who needs LMP1?

    7. Super-sized season with a double helping of Le Mans

    All this is then set in the context of the WEC’s new-era ‘Super Season’ calendar. For the first time in the series’ history, the WEC will carry over into a second calendar year – allowing two consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours to count towards one world title campaign. Intriguing.

    The marathon season kicks off in May with the Spa 6 Hours, before the teams take in the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours in June. The next six-hour round follows at Silverstone, now running in spectator-friendly August (we hope!) rather than at wet and windy Easter, before the calendar year concludes with races at Fuji and Shanghai.

    FIA WEC 2018-19 Super Season Calendar

    Then in 2019 the ‘super season’ picks up once more in March, with an exciting new 1500-mile round at Sebring in Florida, taking place the day after IMSA’s blue-riband 12 Hours. The weekend of action creates a fantastic double-header that looks certain to become a new and hugely popular sports car racing tradition.

    Following Sebring, the teams return to Spa for another 6 Hours, before the series hits its climax at the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours. That establishment of a new rhythm to the sports car racing season, with the series ending at its most famous race, should hopefully boost the profile of the WEC – and in the future will offer a season shape that mimics that of football. It makes sense.

    So there you have it. Far from hand-wringing at a weakened LMP1 entry, sports car racing fans can look forward to fresh beginnings in 2018 – and Le Mans will be as unmissable as ever.

    Care to join us?

    In the meantime, have a very merry Christmas and here’s to a flat-out new year.

    Damien Smith, former Editor of Motor Sport Magazine

  • The 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona Grid

    The 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona gets closer everyday, with the event taking place on the 28/29th of January. 49 entrants have already been confirmed for the Daytona 24, with more expected to join the grid before the event. Last year, 54 cars participated and classified for the 54th running of the prestigious event. It was Scott Sharp, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, and Pipo Derani who took the overall win in a Tequila Patrón ESM Ligier JS P2. They return to try and defend their title for the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona.

    Below is the confirmed grid, so far, to start off Speed Chill's Roar before the 24.

    Daytona Prototype Internationals

    The end of 2016 saw the end of an era for the Daytona Prototype, the class has been merged with LMP2 in the hope of expanding the grid and attracting factory-backed entries across North America. Petit Le Mans 2016 saw the final race in the category as we knew it, where the Daytona Prototype cars raced alongside the LMP2 specification of prototypes since 2014. The new legislation means that the Daytona Prototype of 2017 is a re-engined LMP2 chassis with custom body work. 2017 sees seven next generation cars on the grid run by four different teams with 3 different manufacturers, Nissan, Mazda and General Motors.

    The next generation Nissan DPI will be run using the new Ligier chassis, the JS-P217. The car turned its wheels for the first time in a private test at Sebring late 2016. The car will be run by Extreme Speed Motorsport who return to IMSA after their 2016 success at Daytona and will contest the full season after several years in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Scott Sharp will race alongside Ryan Dalziel in the #2 car with Pipo Derani stepping in as the third driver for Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta as part of the North American Endurance Cup. The #22 car will have Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown as the full season pairing along side Bruno Senna for the North American Endurance Rounds and Porsche factory driver Brendon Hartley at Daytona.

    Mazda brings the new RT24-P to the 2017 championship in partnership with Riley Multimatic. Speedsource is running two cars in 2017 with Jonathan Bomarito, Tom Long, Tristan Nunez, Spencer Pigot and Joel Miller on board for the full season. The car has a four cylinder 2.0L turbo charged engine developing nearly 600 horse power.

    General Motors have three cars lined up for the championship running the Chevrolet 6.2 Litre V8, two cars will run under the Action Express banner with a third car entered by Wayne Taylor Racing, all three are running the Dallara chassis. The Action Express team have retained their 2016 line up, the #5 car will be run by Filipe Albuquerque, Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa for Daytona with the 2016 championship winning #31 car of Eric Curran and Dane Cameron joined by Toyota factory star Mike Conway and the 2016 Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner Seb Morris, who in 2016 drove alongside Rick Parfitt Junior for Team Parker Bentley in the British GT Championship.

    Wayne Taylor Racing once again, sign on for the full season with their 2016 line up of Ricky Taylor and Jordan Taylor. Max Angelleli joins the pair for the endurance races along side Nascar super star, Jeff Gordon.

    LMP2

    There are a number of teams who have confirmed to be running the next generation of LMP2 cars in IMSA Competion alongside the factory backed Daytona LMP2 cars.

    Visit Florida Racing will be running a Riley Multimatic Gibson with Marc Goossens and Renge van der Zande on board for the full season. Team Manager Troy Flis is also targeting a run at Le Mans in 2017.

    After announcing their switch to LMP2 for the World Endurance Championship, Rebellion Racing also announced they would be mounting a challenge on the North American Endurance Cup with Nick Heidfeld, Neel Jani, Sebastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin at the wheel of the next generation Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2.

    JDC Miller will be running a full season campaign in the Oreca 07 but the driver line up is as yet un-announced.

    PR1 Mathiasen will be running the next generation Ligier JSP217 Gibson with Tom Kimber-Smith and Jose Gutierrez the full season contenders. Mike Guasch will join the duo for the four NAEC rounds.

    Dragonspeed will also compete at Daytona in their upgraded Oreca 05 with the ELMS trio of Nicolas Lapierre, Ben Hanley, and Henrik Hedman. The trio will be joined by Loic Duval.

    GT Le Mans

    Corvette Racing return to the IMSA championship with a two car line up and an unchanged driver line up. Tommy Milner/Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia are on board for the full season, looking to defend the championship. Audi stars Mike Rockefeller and Marcel Fassler also return for Daytona and Sebring.

    Porsche North America run by CORE Autosport will debut the new 911 RSR with Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre, Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner piloting the new mid engined 911 for the season. Richard Lietz and Fred Makowiecki join the team for Daytona.

    BMW have gone under a substantial reshuffle with Martin Tomczyk and Alexander Sims joining the squad alongside John Edwards and Bill Auberlen. Nicky Catsburg and Kuno Wittmer will join BMW for the North American Endurance Cup rounds with Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler also onboard for Daytona.

    Ford returns to IMSA with the 2017 GT without any major changes. Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller and Richard Westbrook/Ryan Briscoe will take on the full season with the FIA WEC cars also joining the squad for Daytona. The first time all four cars have run together since Le Mans 2016.

    GT Daytona

    GT Daytona, the IMSA equivalent of GT3, will see Scuderia Corsa, the class champions of 2016 return with the Ferrari 488 GT3 for 2017 with Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen at the wheel. Matteo Cressoni will join the duo for the NAEC races. Michael Shank will contest the season with the new Acura (Honda) NSX GT3 with Jeff Segal, Ozz Negri, Katherine Legge and Andy Lally on for the whole season, Mark Wilkins and Tom Dyer for the NAEC races and Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay in for Daytona.

    3GT Racing will bring out the Lexus RC F GT3 with two cars featuring FIA WEC driver Gustavo Menezes for the endurance rounds. Riley Motorsport makes the jump from Dodge to Mercedes with the new AMG GT3, they field two cars in a season long campaign with Thomas Jaeger and Shane van Gisbergen on board for Daytona. Sun Energy1 Racing, a new team to the IMSA paddock are also running the AMG GT with a full season entry, the driver line up is not yet complete at time of writing.

    Core Autosport, Park Place, and TRG are all set to run the Porsche 911 GT3R program for season long campaigns in GT-D with a number of Porsche factory drivers spread throughout the lineup and a number of drivers still to be confirmed.

    Lamborghini returns to the grid with one car entered by Paul Miller Racing and one under the banner of Change Racing, both for full season campaigns. The two season entry Lamborghinis are also set to be joined by Dream Racing for the endurance races as part of the NAEC and Grasser Racing Team, the highly successful European team making its debut in the United States at Daytona. Grasser will be bringing with them their highly successful lineup of Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Rolf Ineichen and Ezequiel Perez Companc with them to Daytona. Future plans are yet to be confirmed. Ebimotors will field an additional Lamborghini at Daytona and Sebring with Fabio Babini and Emanuele Busnelli confirmed so far.Sole Daytona entries include Aston Martin Racing with a Vantage GT3 run by Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Laura and Pedro Lammy with Niicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen both possibilities for the 24. Konrad Motorsport will return to Daytona with a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with potential for further appearances later in the year. Manthey Racing will field a customer entered Porsche 911 GT3 R; Land Motorsport Audi fresh from claiming the ADAC GT Championship will make a one off appearance at Daytona and AF Corse Ferrari will enter one 488 GT3 with an unannounced lineup.

  • The Countdown to Le Mans 2019

    LMP1

    Having taken the LMP1 Manufacturers Championship last time out at Spa, Toyota Gazzoo Racing will finish the Le Mans weekend at the top of the championship with the drivers championship also wrapped up by the end of the 24 Hour endurance classic. The only question is, which trio will win it? The #8 trio of Alonso, Buemi and Nakajima currently have a 31 point lead following the #7’s technical difficulties at Spa last month and are undoubtedly favourites. It would have to go catastrophically wrong for the #7 to win the drivers championship however, this is Le Mans, and as we all know, anything can happen…

    Toyota have already stated there will be no team orders for the race so both cars will be giving it absolutely everything.

    Don’t write off any of the privateer teams yet either. Toyota maybe out right faster, but it’s a long race. Flashback to 2017 and we had an LMP2 car leading the race with the 919 Hybrid hunting it down to the finish. The battle for best of the rest and the first of the non-hybrid contenders is to come down to the wire between Rebellion Racing and SMP Racing. The two teams have been at the front consistently throughout the season even with some minor changes to driver line ups throughout. Mathias Beche stepped into the #1 for the 1000 Miles of Sebring filling in for Andre Lotterer but has now been replaced in the #3 car by Nathanael Berthon who will partner up with Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes.

    ByKolles Racing and DragonSpeed round up the LMP1 field, each fielding a single car. Le Mans is the final race for DragonSpeed who will be leaving the WEC to focus on IndyCar commitments. It’s been a difficult season for DragonSpeed who have never really proved their potential. ByKolles will be looking for a better performance to wrap up a disappointing season. Oliver Webb is back in the car this weekend alongside Tom Dillmann and Paolo Ruberti.

    The #10 DragonSpeed car will be sporting a tribute Gulf livery for its final outing in the WEC. The livery is a tribute to Gulfs three outright wins at Le Mans, each marked on the tail fin with names of 10 circuits plastered across the rear wing where Gulf took previous wins.

    SMP Racing are now without Jenson Button who left the team at the beginning of 2019 to focus on his Super GT commitments. Brendon Hartley stepped in for Sebring but has now been replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne who came on board before Spa and remains for Le Mans. Vandoorne will partner up with Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin in the #11 SMP entry. Sergey Sirotkin steps into the #17 car, taking the wheel from Matevos Issakyan and will partner up with Egor Orudzhev and Stephane Sarrazin.

    LMP2

    Following the extension of the Le Mans grid to a record breaking 62 entries, High Class Racing and a second United Autosport entry were added to the line up which features seven entries from the FIA WEC, eight from the European Le Mans Series and two fro the Asian Le Mans Series. The WEC Championship battle has come down to the final race and is a close fought competition between the Signatech Alpine #36 entry and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing. Consistency from Lapierre, Negrao and Thiriet in the #36 plus a win at the 2018 Le Mans race sees them top of the championship with a four point advantage.

    Algarve Pro were forced into a late driver change prior to Le Mans with Mark Patterson suffering an injury in an event at Monza. Zollinger was drafted in to replace him and has previous Le Mans and VdeV experience under his belt. John Falb is a former LMP3 champion and is making his LMP2 debut this year. The pair are joined by ELMS Drivers Champion Andrea Pizzitola and is a fantastic addition to the team.

    Alpine have to be favourites going in to the race, with a win in 2016 and 2018 and a pair of overall podiums in 2017 and 2018, the team have the win and the championship in site. They took the win in 2018 following the exclusion of G-Drive and currently lead the championship. Nico Lapierre takes on his twelfth Le Mans 24 this year and his third in LMP2. Its an incredibly strong team with Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet in the line up and some of the fastest LMP2 drivers around.

    After failing to make the entry list for Le Mans last year for ARC Bratislava, Miro Konopka expanded the teams efforts in Asia to take the LMP2 Am title. The Slovakian driver is joined by Henning Enqvist and Konstantin Tereschenko.

    The #31 DragonSpeed entry is in with an outside chance of taking the LMP2 title this weekend in the final outing before the crew switch to Jota Sport for next season. DragonSpeed are in with a genuine chance of winning this weekend. With Le Mans legend Anthony Davidson behind the wheel, Roberto Gonzalez and Pastor Maldonado, the team stand a great chance.

    Duqueine Engineering are joined by FIA WEC and double Le Mans winner Romain Dumas who joins Nico Jamin and Pierre Ragues for the 24 Hour. The team are strong but lack Le Mans experience which will be critical this weekend.

    Graff only have one car entered in the 2019 race with local driver Vincent Capillaire partnering up with ELMS regulars Tristan Gommendy and Jonathan Hirschi. The team are fast and have performed well in the European Le Mans series so far this season.

    ELMS champions G-Drive Racing return again with Romain Rusinov joined this time by Jean Eric Vergne and Job van Uitert. After taking the win in 2018 but being stripped of victory in post race scrutineering, the team will be fighting hard to take the win this year. They return with an ELMS title to their names and a new colour scheme adopted from the Aurus brand. Rusinov and Vergne have campaigned Le Mans before together, Job van Uitert joins the team following a championship win in the ELMS LMP3 category last year. High Class Racing make their Le Mans debut this year, the Danish team have been racing in the ELMS with a Dallara chassis but have now made a switch to Oreca. The pace has been strong and the team have a lot of promise. Make sure to keep an eye on them as they are an outside contender this weekend. IDEC Sport have been performing well in the ELMS so far in 2019 with Paul Loup Chatin one of the fastest drivers on the grid. Memo Rojas has had a solid year with the team and Paul Lafargue, having missed the race last year through injury and surgery is back on form. Inter Europol Competition make their Le Mans debut following a successful campaign in the Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 category and made the step up this year into LMP2. It’s run by ex Zakspeed man Sascha Fassbender. They have James Winslow in to the team last minute to cover for an injured Leo Roussel, Nigel Moore and Le Mans debutant Jakub Smiechowski. Certainly one to look out for given the previous experience within the team.

    Two incredibly strong driver line ups, both cars still in contention for the title make Jackie Chan DC Racing the team to watch this weekend. The #37 car almost took the overall victory in 2017 with both cars on the podium behind the the Porsche 919 Hybrid which eventually took the win following a 45 minute chase. The team are set to drop back to a single car entry next year with a second car entered under the Jota Sport brand. The two cars are split by a single point and just 4 and 5 points respectively off the lead. Ricky Taylor steps into the #37 to replace Will Stevens who is on duty with Panis Barthez.

    Larbre regulars Ricci and Creed will once again be joined by Nic Boulle, the first driver all season to remain with the team for more than one race.

    Panis-Barthez are making their fourth appearance at Le Mans this year. The team were founded in 2016 by Olivier Panis and former Manchester United goal keeper, Fabien Barthez. This year the team will have Julien Canal, Will Stevens and Le Mans rookie Rene Binder behind the wheel. The team are campaigning just one of their ELMS Ligier’s on new Dunlop rubber. 2019 will be Canal’s 10th consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours, the first three he took wins in GT cars before making the switch to LMP2.

    Racing Team Nederland are supporting a Minardi tribute livery this year, in what will be Frits van Eerd’s last outing with the team before a switch to TDS. Giedo van der Garde led the teams best performance last time out at Spa but the team have not really delivered all season.

    RLR MSPort are a new name in LMP2 and sees LMP3 customer John Farano who is looking to take the next steps forward. Arjun Maini, the ex Formula 2 driver joins the team for Le Mans only with Norman Nato taking the place of ELMS regular Bruno Senna. Nato has winning pace from last seasons ELMS and Le Mans experience with SMP in 2018. The #28 TDS car has not achieved this season in the FIA WEC, former GTE Am driver Francois Perrodo made the switch up to LMP2 and had a strong outing at Le Mans last year, finishing fourth in the race before post race scrutineering excluded them from the results. Perrodo is joined by Loic Duval and Matthieu Vaxiviere who certainly have the outright pace to take the car to the front of the race.

    United Autosport will once again field a two car line up, the Asian Le Mans Series championship winning car will see Filipe Albuquerque, Philip Hanson and Paul di Resta behind the wheel whilst the ELMS car will be driven by Alex Brundle, Ryan Cullen and Will Owen. Podium finishers in last years race, United Autosports will be hoping for a strong performance this year. The two cars have high calibre driver line ups with impressive raw speed with Felipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta. The #32 has an equally impressive line up with Alex Brundle, Ryan Cullen and Will Owen partnering up. Brundle is undoubtedly fast, Ryan Cullen is quickly rising up the Prototype ranks and Will Owen knows the team well. Its the final outing for Villorba Corse and Team Manager Christian Pescatori before the team moves on to the FIA WEC and AF Corse Ferrari. The Dallara chassis has shown brief moments of promise and speed this year. Andrea Belicchi returns after injury alongside Giorgio Sernagiotto and Roberto Lacorte.

    GTE Pro

    The LM GTE Pro category consists of the usual suspects for 2019. All 10 FIA WEC entries are joined by their North American counter parts with the addition of a single entry Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, and the two car IMSA entries from Corvette, Ford and Porsche joining once again.

    Jonny Adam and Darren Turner make a welcome return to Aston Martin, joining the #97 and #95 respectively for the final race of the Super Season. The new Vantage GTE has shown promise the past season, winning in Shanghai and Spa but it been by no means a faultless season for the team with mechanical issues, challenging conditions and tyre choices all playing a part in the teams under performance this year. The team will be looking to relive their 2017 success, after all, who can forget Jonny Adam chasing down the Corvette and over taking in the dying moments of the race.

    With recent news that BMW will be bowing out of the FIA WEC, this is the teams final chance to pick up their season and get a good result. It’s been a challenging season for the German team who came into the championship with so much promise. MTEK ran the car in conjunction with the IMSA entered RLL cars so had the experience but at the end of the day, they have not delivered and will drop out of the championship after a relatively poor season. The team have worked hard all season long and although they claimed a couple of podiums along the way, they never managed a race win.

    Corvette are back for their 20th anniversary at Le Mans and what is potentially the final outing for the C7.R which looks set to be replaced by a mid engined model currently under going testing. The #63 and #64 cars will be driven by a trio of drivers, Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller in the #63 with Oliver Gavin, Tom Milner and Marcel Fassler piloting the #64.

    Ford once again return to Le Mans with four cars, each in different liveries and each paying tribute to historic moments in Fords long racing history. It’s the teams final race with Ford backing out of the series after three seasons of racing. Team UK have been strong all season with the #66 taking the win at Spa back in 2018. Billy Johnson will be stepping into the #66 car having joined the team at Spa whilst Bomarito steps in to the #67 for his Ford Debut. Bomarito last raced at Le Mans back in 2013 but has previous experience in the GT having stepped in with Priaulx and Tincknell for the 1000 miles of Sebring.

    Ford Team USA will fight on until the end of 2019 through the remaining IMSA races before Fords official departure from GTE and a win would be a great way for Team USA to round off Fords time at Le Mans following the #68s win back in 2016. Joey Hand, Richard Westbrook and Dirk Muller return alongside Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon.

    Ferrari return with the same line up as last year, Daniel Serra joining the #51 car whilst Miguel Molina steps back into the #71 line up. Its been a difficult season for Ferrari in some respects. Porsche have a substantial lead in the championship meaning the best the Italian marque can hope for this year is third in the championship for the #51. The #51 car has been consistently on the podium with the exception of the first round of the Silverstone back at Silverstone in 2018, taking a win, a second place and three fourth places. The #71 car on the other hand have a single third place finish to their name, their best result of the season which came at Silverstone right back at the beginning of the super season. Since then, it has been a string of poor results with a best finish of sixth in the subsequent races. Miguel Molina joins the team for one final push at Le Mans.

    Porsche return to Le Mans knowing that come Sunday afternoon, one of the cars will claim the GT Drivers Endurance Championship. It’s not always been the fastest but time after time, they have finished on the podium and won races. They took the manufacturers title at Spa with a 93 point lead over Ferrari. Estre and Christensen currently lead Bruni and Lietz by 36 points. Laurens Vanthoor will step into the #91 this week with Fred Makowiecki jumping into the #92. Patrick Pilet will join Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber in the #93 whilst the #94 will have Mathieu Jaminet, Sven Muller and Dennis Olsen behind the wheel.

    GTE AM

    As per GTE Pro, the GTE AM category features 17 cars this year and for the first time, will contain a Ford GT in its ranks, entered by American team Keating Motorsport. Weathertech Racing join the grid from the IMSA WeatherTech series with Cooper MacNeil, Robert Smith and Toni Vilander in the cockpit in a Ferrari 488 GTE, one of six in the class.

    Having won the class in the Asian Le Mans Series, Car Guy Racing join the grid for the first time with the highlighter yellow #57 488 GTE with Kei Cozzolino, Takeshi Kimura and Come Ledogar sharing the driving.

    Its been a long time since the #98’s last win, the 2018 6 Hours of Spa. The 2017 champions have had a difficult time this season and a win at La Sarthe has always eluded the long standing trio of Dalla Lana, Lauda and Lamy. A win for the team would be a great result for the crew.

    This year, Clearwater Racing return to Le Mans with a different driver line up following the departure of Weng Sun Mok and Keita Sawa, leaving just Matt Griffin in the car. Luis Perez Companc and Matteo Cressoni stepped into replace them and so far have had a difficult season. The car was terminally damaged before the race at Sebring following a big crash in night practice but they fought back to third at Spa.

    Dempsey Proton have had a turbulent season thus far, having taken race wins early on before having all of their points docked at Fuji for data tampering. The #77 has had further wins at Shanghai, Sebring and Spa and could still claim the championship with a good result and the odds in their favour here at Le Mans. Proton are fielding four cars this time out with the #77 joined by the the WEC #88 and the two ELMS cars, the #78 which features Bentley Boy Vincent Abril and Louis and Phillippe Prette. None of the crew have raced at Le Mans before and this is their first race together in the 911 RSR. And finally, there is the Krohn backed #99 featuring Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson who return for the 14th consecutive time. They will be joined by Porsche factory driver Patrick Long.

    It’s been a challenging season for Gulf Racing, the team unable to find the podium so far. Their performance will hinge on Mike Wainright having a good weekend as the tother two drivers certainly have the pace to run at the front. Preining has had a good strong year in his debutant season in the WEC and has a strong future ahead. Ben Barker is arguably one of the fastest Porsche drivers on the planet and more than capable of putting the car at the front.

    Kessel Racing make their official Le Mans debut this weekend however, they have previous experience at Le Mans running under the Scuderia Corsa banner. The #60 Ferrari earns its place having won the 2018 Michelin Le Mans Cup whilst the all female #83 car arrives via a partnership between the ACO and the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. Both cars do however race full time in the 2019 ELMS with Kessel looking at a one car entry to the 2019/20 FIA WEC.

    Keating Motorsports make a return to Le Mans but this time in a Wynn’s liveried Ford GT, the first customer Ford GT to be entered and the teams first time with the car. Its the race winning 2016 chassis so it has history and potential to run well this weekend. The team have limited time with the car however, but there is plenty of time for practice before the big race on Saturday. Bleekemolen, Keating and Fraga are one of the stronger line ups in the class.

    JMW won the GTE Am class back in 2017 and all three drivers certainly have plenty of GT experience with them having been competing in the World Challenge America series but only one of them Segal, has a Le Mans start to his name.

    MR Racing entered the WEC at the start of the 2018 but have failed to make a mark on the championship. Ishikawa has struggled with pace and although the team has the backing of AF Corsa, and two quick drivers in the form of Cheever and Beretta, a good result here may be a struggle. This will be Beretta’s 23rd consecutive appearance at Le Mans, a record that also has six class wins and five podium finishes included.

    Project 1, on their debut season currently top the championship by 23 points. Its been an impressive season for the team with five straight podium finishes, including a win at Fuji. Patrick Lindsey, Egidio Perfetti and Jorg Bergmeister are certainly in a strong position but as we all know, anything could happen at Le Mans.

    Spirit of Race have had a good year in the WEC and present a genuine risk to Project 1 claiming the championship. They’ve not won any races but have had two second places finishes and two fourth places. They’re 23 points off the lead but are still mathematically in with a shot.

    TF Sport may be running the oldest car in the class, but they have a genuine shot at taking the GTE Am win and class title albeit, they have a 26 point deficit to over come first. A win and some poor luck for the other entrants however, could swing things their way.

    Cooper MacNeil returns for a fifth time to Le Mans in the company of 2017 class winner Rob Smith and double GTE Pro Le Mans winner Toni Vilander. The trio will race the Weather Tech Racing Ferrari 488 GTE topped the class times in test day following an over night flight from Detroit (for Macneil and Vilander) and Paul Ricard (for Rob Smith). The car certainly has potential and is being managed by Scuderia Corsa who took the AM win back in 2016.

  • 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 take Pole for 6 Hours of Nurburgring

    After Porsche dominated Friday, Saturday belonged to Toyota. Taking the fastest lap in final practice and in qualifying, Jose Maria Lopez helped take the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing car to pole position for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring. The close fights for pole position continued down the field, with the biggest advantage a pole sitter had was 0.4 seconds. Both the #26 G-Drive Racing and the #98 Aston Martin Racing cars continue to have an unbroken streak of pole positions this season, whilst Porsche GT Team made it four different manufacturers on pole in Pro in the first four rounds.

    Lopez was a man on a mission after returning to the #7 car for the first time since his crash at the 6 Hours of Silverstone. He proved to the team why he should be in that car by taking the fastest lap in both free practice three and qualifying. Giving Kamui Kobayashi a two-tenth advantage on the second-placed Porsche #2 at the driver change over, it was a nice simple job for the Japanese driver to set a relative lap time that gave them pole position.

    Timo Bernhard tried his hardest to close the gap on the Toyota team, but traffic meant he could get Brendon Hartley and his average lap time any closer than 0.154 seconds. The advantage for the #2 car is that it was not their championship rival Toyota who took the pole position point today, and tomorrow they have the sister Porsche between them. Hartley stated that he hoped team orders would not come into play with so much of the season left, but it can be assumed that Porsche will not risk their championship-contending car losing points to Toyota if they can manipulate the situation.

    The qualifying session for the #8 Toyota was a messy one which cost them in the fight for pole. Although the car had been set-up with more focus on the race, as Anthony Davidson told Speed Chills, LMP2 traffic hindered the majority of their session. Davidson’s teammate Kazuki Nakajima was nearly driven off the track by #35 Signatech Alpine driver Nelson Panciatici. Exiting Bilstein Curve, the LMP2 driver ran Nakajima wide, looking like he had not seen the LMP1 car before swerving away. The #35 has picked up a 30 second stop/go for the incident.

    The drama did not stop there. Davidson went on to explain to Speed Chills that as he was starting his flying lap another LMP2 car came out of the pits, traveling much slower than Davidson, and drifted onto racing line. This compromised Davidson’s fast lap and contributed to the #8 Toyota only managing a fourth-place start, half a second off the pace. Davidson was not happy about the way the LMP2s had driven in the qualifying session, saying that the drivers needed to learn to “Look in their mirrors.”

    Aside from the incidents with the #8 Toyota, the racing in the LMP2 class for pole position was between #26 G-Drive and the Le Mans-winning #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car. Oliver Jarvis was pushing hard to try and close in on the #26, but the G-Drive team proved once again why they have had four consecutive pole positions. The astounding pace of Pierre Thiriet and Ben Hanley, standing in for Alex Lynn who is in New York for Formula E, gave G-Drive Racing their 20th WEC pole position. However, the #26 G-Drive failed scruteneering after qualifying had finsihed because their front barge board was at too steep of an angle. This means that the car will start at the back of the grid, whilst #38 jackie Chan DC Racing inherits its first class pole position of the season and Vaillante Rebellion hold a strong two-three.

    The GTE Pro Le Mans-winning Aston Martin had a bad qualifying session as the team ended up at the back of the class. Multiple infringements for track limits saw lap time after lap time deleted for the team, meaning they could only get an average 1.3 seconds off the time of the pole-sitting #92 Porsche GT Team. This was a positive thing for GT Drivers’ and Team Championship leaders in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi car. With a small disadvantage due to a heavier BoP, Ford have appeared to be on the back foot all weekend. It was a surprise when Olivier Pla managed to jump the #66 up to fastest in class in the final moments of free practice three this morning. The #67 did not have the best qualifying, but they will start ahead of the #97 Aston Martin tomorrow, meaning they have a track advantage. If they can keep the British team behind them they will extend their championship lead before the summer break.

    It was an impressive performance from Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in the #92 Porsche. The Porsche 911 RSRs have been the cars to beat this weekend and look to be in for a tight fight with the AF Corse Ferraris tomorrow. Their pole position today means that all four of the manufacturers in the GTE Pro class this year have taken pole position this season. Four different pole sitters in four races just proves how close the fight between the GT cars is this year. The pole position is also the first for the new Porsche 911 RSR so a great achievement for the team.

    The sole Aston Marin in GTE Am performed spectacularly in qualifying. Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana are the qualifying duo for the team and did not disappoint as they took to the track to take their fourth consecutive pole position of the season. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche, however, cannot be overlooked ahead of tomorrow’s race. The team pushed hard, keeping the pressure on the Aston Martin to the chequered flag. With the two going wheel-to-wheel in tomorrow’s race, the Am class holds the potential for some fantastic on track battles. The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE has also been very quick so far this weekend. Stating from third, the team could really muscle into the fight for class victory.

    The entire grid was very close on pace today, showing that there should be some tight fights come tomorrow’s six-hour endurance event. Make sure to follow @SpeedChillsView on twitter for live updates from trackside as the race unfolds.

    Lights out for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring is at 13:00 CEST.

  • 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.

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