Rebellion Racing

  • #8 Toyota wins the opening race of the Super Season

    Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima won the first race of the World Endurance Championship super-season at Spa, despite a stunning comeback by their sister Toyota after a pit lane start following a qualifying infringement.

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    The #8 Toyota TS050 triumphed after the #7 machine of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez was excluded from qualifying having taken pole for an incorrect declaration of the fuel flow meter. It therefore started from the pit-lane a lap after the rest. A series of incidents got the #7 onto the leading Toyota’s tail. At mid-distance the #8 lost a minute when Nakajima had to return to the pits a lap after taking over from Alonso as his seatbelts were not done up correctly. Shortly afterwards Nakajima lost another 10 seconds by spinning at La Source.

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    This left Kobayashi under a minute behind the leader. He had earlier got his car back onto the lead lap and soon after the #8 car’s dramas passed the Rebellion pair to claim second place. Then a safety car period with an hour to go after a heavy crash for Matevos Isaakyan in the #17 SMP Racing BR1-Gibson at Eau Rouge reduced the gap between the Toyotas to just 6s. Alonso driving the final stint kept his head however to hold off Conway by just 1.4s for the win.

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    The non-hybrid LMP1 pack was headed by the #1 Rebellion of Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna, who took the final podium place despite repeated problems with the car’s data transmitting and being ordered to pit to change its transponder. The other Rebellion of Mathias Beche, Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes finished fourth having run in close company of the #1 for much of the way. The #17 SMP Racing BR1-Gibson of Stephane Sarrazin, Egor Orudzhev and Isaakyan had also battled the Rebellions for the final podium place before Isaakyan’s crash, after starting from the back after not setting a qualifying time due to stopping on track with technical problems.The ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM P1/01 driven by Oliver Webb, Dominik Kraihamer and Tom Dillmann finished fifth followed home by the SMP Racing BR1-Gibson driven by Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov to complete the LMP1 finishers.

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    The G-Drive Racing Oreca 07-Gibson driven Formula E championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne, Andrea Pizzitola and Roman Rusinov were comfortable winners in LMP2, leading home the Jota Sport-run Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 driven by Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry, Stephane Richelmi in second by 20s. The Signatech Alpine Matmut driven by Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and Andre Negrao in their Alpine A470-Gibson completed the LMP2 podium. The Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217-Gibson rose quickly to lead the LMP2 class early on with Giedo van der Garde at the wheel, but then had a lengthy stop in the second hour due to a gearbox problem which cost it 15 laps.

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    The GTE Pro race was a close battle between the Fords and Porsches, which was won by the Ganassi-run Ford GT driven by Olivier Pla, Stefan Mucke and Billy Johnson. They were chased to the flag by the Porsche 911 RSR driven by Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre, 14s adrift. The Porsche had been delayed at two-thirds’ distance by a stop-go penalty for spinning their wheels when being released from the pits. The Ferrari 488 GTE of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird seized GTE Pro third place at the last, with Rigon elbowing past the #91 Porsche 911 of Richard Lietz at the Bus Stop chicane with a minute to go. The other Ganassi-run Ford GT crashed out an hour into the race when Harry Ticknell had a violent front-on smash in the Eau Rouge barriers, which he walked away from, caused apparently by a failure on the front-left of the car. The accident heralded a lengthy safety car period. Reigning GTE Pro champions James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi the#51 Ferrari 488 had ran off the Ford and Porsche pace and their chances ended when Pier Guidi collided with the Team Project 1 when exiting the pits with two hours to go. This meant lengthy repairs.

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    Reigning champions Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda took the GTE Am win in their Aston Martin Vantage, with Lamy holding off a late sustained attack from second-placed Euan Hankey in the TF Sport Aston Martin.

  • Fernando Alonso leads FP1 at Spa

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

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

    Fernando Alonso:

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

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

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

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

  • Jani leads the Rebellion at Spa

    The #1 Rebellion Racing R13 topped the time sheets this morning, Neel Jani posting a time of 1:57.12, eight tenths up on Mike Conway in the #7 Toyota.

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    Jani’s time was around two seconds faster than the previous best lap set by Rebellion but still a second off the pace of Toyota from FP2. Rebellion also claimed third spot in the session, the #3 car of Mathias Beche, Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes clocking a 1:58.124 around Spa. Once again, the two CEFC TRSM Manor Ginettas only managed an installation lap before returning to the pit lane. We wait to see if they will take part in qualifying later this afternoon.

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    In LMP2, Dragonspeed once again topped the session, again Pastor Maldonado going fastest in the #31 Oreca 07 with a time of 2:02.281. Jean Eric Vergne took second in class in the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca with the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing claiming third spot, Ho Pin-Tung posting a 2:03.35.7.

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    Ford topped FP3 again in GTE Pro, the #67 topping the time sheets; Andy Priaulx posting a time of 2:13.693 8 laps into the session. BMW broke into the top three for the first time, Tom Blomqvist setting a time of 2:14.225 to split the two Fords. Olivier Pla brought the #66 Ford home in third, posting time of 2:14.249. Porsche took fourth and fifth in session with Aston Martin again struggling with the new Vantage AMR. The #97 posted a time of 2:15.457 whilst the #95 only managed a 2:18.493; slower than eight of the GTE-Am entries.

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    The #77 Porsche 911 RSR went quickest in GTE-Am, Matt Campbell setting a time of 2:15.410. The #88 took second place with TF Sport rounding out the top 3, Euan Hankey setting a time of 2:15.778.

  • Neel Jani on top at the Roar Before the 24 

    Neel Jani topped the time sheets in the #13 Rebellion Racing Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 in both sessions. The Swiss driver, who has never driven at Daytona, or on a banked circuit, posted a time of 1:39.164 in the first session ahead of Ricky Taylor in the #10 Cadillac DPI (-0.332s) and Dane Cameron in the #31 Cadillac DPI (-1.976s).

    The second session saw Jani improve his time to 1:39.160 ahead of the #85 JDC Miller Oreca 07 (-0.274s). Jani’s team mates Sarrazin, Buemi and Heidfeld were all in Las Vegas on Formula E duty giving Jani the car to himself for the day, the trio are due to make an appearance on Sunday, the final day of the test.

    The #10 Wayne Taylor Cadillac took third (-0.875s) with the #52 PR1/Mathiasen car fourth (-0.973s) and the #81 Dragon Speed Oreca fifth (-1.166s). With very limited running, VISIT FLORIDA Racing took 12th (-2.427s). The #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport Ligier JSP217 topped the speed trap at 194.3 mph with the #10 Wayne Taylor Cadillac clocking in at 191.5mph.

    The Mazda crew were busy assembling a brand new chassis for the #55 car for most of the first session but they managed to get it out on track for some installation laps. Mazda are experimenting with a new exhaust system and are using the Roar Before as a test bed before finalising the set up for the Rolex 24. Both cars had issues however, the #55 stopped on track during FP1 with electrical problems whilst the #70 car stopped in FP2 with suspension issues.

    Overall, it appears that the Gibson powered LMP2 cars hold an early advantage over the DPI cars, three of the French Oreca’s were in the top five overall. Early driver observations indicate that the P2 prototypes are better on the brakes whilst the DPI cars have a more torque and accelleration out of the corners. Lap times were nearly two seconds slower however than the December test, indicating that the cars have more to give and teams are unwilling to show their true potential just yet.

    2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice moves back to sports cars with BAR1 Motorsport running in the PC category, the four cars in class all running within 0.4 seconds of each other with Rice posting the fastest time of a 1:44.025. The Performance Tech Motorsport PC entry unfortunately became the first casualty of the 2017 season, IMSA Lites champion Clark Topped spun the #38 Oreca FLM09 in to the wall at the bus stop chicane, breaking the gear box and suspension system. The team are targeting a return to track in time for Saturday’s night practice session, providing they are able to replace the gearbox. In the second session, Johnny Mowlem topped the session in the #26 car by over a second posting a time of 1:42.701.

    The first GT Le Mans session was lead by Corvette Racing with Jan Magnussen posting the fastest time in the #3 Corvette C7.R (1:44.76). The Ford GT’s now in to their second season of racing looked strong with Ryan Briscoe putting the #67 Ford second just three tenths back (-0.287s) in the first session with Dirk Muller a further tenth back in third place (-0.399). In the second session of the day, Muller topped the time sheets in the #66 Ford GT with a time of 1:44.773. British driver Andy Priaulx took second place in the #69 (-0.071s) with Oliver Gavin taking third place in the #4 Corvette C7.R (-0.196s).

    Conor de Phillippi led the way in GT Daytona in the #29 Audi R8 LMS posting a 1:47.629 with the #75 Mercedes AMG GT3 just 0.078s back. The established European GT3 cars were on top again in FP2, this time with the Stevenson Motorsports #6 Audi R8 LMS posting a 1:47.553. Two Mercedes AMG GT3 cars were less than two tenths behind. The brand new Acura NSX GT3 took ninth place (-0.663) whilst the new Lexus RC F GT3 took 13th (-0.783). GTD however looks to be an incredibly close fought battle during the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the top 19 cars were separated by just 1.075s.

    Session 1 Results

    Session 2 Results

    Photograph John Dagys - Sports Car 365

  • Prologue Kick Starts the WEC Super Season

    Taking place at Paul Ricard this weekend is the official pre-season test for the World Endurance Championship. The cars were unveiled to the global media on Thursday in the south of France with the 30 hour test session kicking off Friday morning, the first time in 2018 that all the competitors will run together on track.

    In total there will be 35 cars from across LMP1, LMP2 and the LMGTE Pro and Am categories preparing frantically for the curtain-raiser 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in May and then the big one of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. The session will run straight through the night, beginning 10:00 local time and finishing at 16:00 Saturday Afternoon.

    “FIA

    There will be particular interest in this Prologue as much is different this WEC season. First off it will be an eight-race ‘Super Season’ that stretches across the calendar year of 2018 and the first half of ’19, as WEC transitions to a winter-series format for 2019/20.Therefore this campaign will contain the next two Le Mans 24 Hours – the Super Season will conclude at the 2019 race, and subsequent seasons will end with Le Mans also. Also Silverstone returns to the calendar in August and the 1000 miles of Sebring in Florida is added next March. Other races from 2017 – Austin, Bahrain, Mexico City and the Nurburgring – are dropped.

    There also will be a new look among the LMP1 frontrunners. Champion Porsche has pulled out, leaving Toyota as the only manufacturer. But if you think that means a Toyota walkover, not so fast. Toyota is challenged by five other privateer LMP1 teams. Last year only a single ByKolles Racing Team entrant joined Toyota and Porsche in LMP1 and only for the opening four rounds of nine. And performance parity between Toyota’s hybrid technology and the privateers running non-hybrid P1 machinery – via a system of regulations and penalties – is promised. Toyota has expressed worry too, particularly for Le Mans. The Prologue will be our first chance to see how the rest actually measure up against Toyota; Toyota intends to run its Le Mans-spec car in The Prologue’s night running.

    LMP2 champion Rebellion returns to LMP1 after a year away and has a tie-up with the iconic British sportscar manufacturer TVR. It also boasts a strong driver line-up including former Porsche LMP1 pilots Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer.

    Manor Ginetta, racing under the CEFC TRSM Racing banner, also steps up from LMP2 to LMP1 and has just added Alex Brundle to its driving roster, as well as former GP3 runner-up Dean Stoneman for the opening two rounds.

    And of course this season we’ll have two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso joining Toyota’s driver line-up, alongside Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. Alonso isn’t at The Prologue however, as he’s competing in the Bahrain Grand Prix, neither is Nakajima or Kamui Kobayashi, due also to calendar clashes. Anthony Davidson and Alex Wurz therefore join its Prologue line-up.

    Graham Kielloh is a member of the Autosport Academy and contributor to Speed Chills View

  • Rebellion top on Day 2 of the Roar

    Cadillac took an early lead in the time sheets, going quickest in a damp and greasy FP3 session on Saturday Morning. Wet weather meant the top teams were running nearly 15 seconds a lap slower than Friday, Ricky Taylor posting a 1:51.854 in the #10 Cadillac DPI.

    Only four of the 12 Prototypes made their way out on to the track with two PC cars and 6 GTLM cars, it was clear that teams were being cautious, not wanting to cause any lasting damage before the main event in just three weeks time. Trent Hindman lead in the PC class setting a 1:57.107 in the #26 BAR1 whilst Billy Johnson topped the charts in GTLM in the #68 Ford GT posting a 1:54.376, just a few tenths of the slowest prototype car, the JDC Miller car which posted a time of 1:54.014. #59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3R lead the way in a 20 car strong GTD field, posting a 1:56.898.

    The fourth session of the Roar Before the 24 saw dry skies return along with a significant drop in temperatures. Neel Jani once again went quickest in the #13 Rebellion Racing Oreca 07 with a 1:39.017 with Tristan Nunez in the #55 Mazda RT24 DPI just 0.14 seconds back after completing 53 laps. The sister #70 car was just four tenths behind, a very strong performance from the team after they were hit by a number of issues on Friday. After a number of electronic and setup issues on Friday, the VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley MK30 took sixth place, the team making some big improvements on the day before. VISIT FLORIDA Racing have been working closely with Mazda Motorsport on the Riley Chassis, with both teams suffering from similar issues with the electronics and suspension system. With the issues both teams are facing impacting the safety of the car, they have put their rivalry aside and agreed to share any information and data they have and work together to solve the problems. Team Manager at VISIT FLORIDA Racing, Troy Flis, located a machine shop nearby that could manufacture some new components for both teams and get them out on track on Saturday. The VISIT FLORIDA Racing engineers are making progress with the cars electronics and set up; everyone is in the same boat though, running a brand new car with very little time to develop and set up before the first race of the season.

    After a heavy crash on Friday, the Performance Tech team had managed to repair the car and get it back out on track to top the PC field, Pato O’Ward set the fastest lap time with a 1:44.191.

    Ford are looking dominant in GT Le Mans, the team took a 1-2-3 finish on the time sheets with Scott Dixon leading the way in the #67 with a 1:44.558 followed by the #68 (-0.250s) and the #66 (-0.803s).

    The close racing we can expect in GTD was demonstrated once again in this session with the #46 EBIMOTORS Lamborghini Huracan topping the time sheets by just 0.14 seconds. Fabio Bambini posted a 1:48.484 with the #86 Michael Shank Acura NSX in second place and the #59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 in third (-0.245).

    Rebellion Racing once again topped the time sheets in the first night session at Daytona International Raceway, Jani put the Rebellion at the front of the field with a 1:38.994. The identical DragonSpeed Oreca 07 was half a second behind (-0.517) as the Oreca chassis continued to outshine the rest of the field. The #55 Mazda RT24-P was third (-0.668s) with VISIT FLORIDA Racing in fourth place (-0.959) ahead of the #31 Cadillac DPI (-1.079) and the #2 ESM Nissan (-1.411).

    The newly rebuilt Performance Tech PC #38 car topped the PC class again posting a 1:43.119, nearly 1.4 seconds ahead of the identical Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09.

    Ford once again dominated in GTLM, this time Andy Priaulx lead the 1-2-3 finish with the #69 car posting a 1:44.785 ahead of the #68 (-0.056s) and the #67 (-0.122s). The Corvettes were close behind them however, Oliver Gavin posting a time just 0.044 off the pace of the #67 car.

    GTD was lead by the #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 with Christopher Mies setting the quickest time of the night session, a 1:47.723. The night session was hit by two red flags as Joao Barbosa lost drive in the #5 Action Express Cadillac. The second stop was caused by contact between the #911 Porsche of Patrick Pilet and the #98 Aston Martin GT3 which broke the front left suspension on the Porsche and forced the car to retire for the night. Marco Sorensen will join the #98 Aston Martin alongside Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy, making his Rolex 24 debut.

  • Round up from the Roar Before the 24

    It was an incredibly busy weekend at the Roar Before the 24 2 weeks ago with some big stories across the whole of the weekend. It was Ben Hanley who took the fastest overall lap time of the weekend after early dominance from Swiss driver Neel Jani in the brand new Rebellion Racing Oreca 07. Hanley topped the time sheets on Sunday in the Dragon speed Oreca in the cars first competition outing.

    With such big regulations changes over the 2016/2017 winter break in the prototype class, there were bound to be some big headlines with the new Daytona Prototype International cars arguably the biggest talking point. 2017 see’s three manufacturer backed DPI cars run by Mazda, Nissan and Cadillac in the highly competitive Prototype Class, they will also be joined by the next generation of  Le Mans/WEC spec LMP2 cars, the Oreca 07, the Ligier JSP2-17 and the Gibson powered Riley Mk30.

    Oreca led the way over the course of the weekend, the 07 out performing the competition in 5 out of 7 practice sessions. All the teams have clearly been doing a lot of development work over the winter break. Rebellion in particular have had to rebuild the car from a brand new chassis after Stephane Sarrazin wrote the car off in a private test at Sebring. The star performance of the weekend came from Ben Hanley, the British driver posting an overall quickest time of 1:38.343 on Sunday Morning. Hanley was a silver rated driver throughout 2016 but his early performance at The Roar clearly justifying his promotion to an FIA Gold rating.

    Ben Hanley is effectively an unknown driver in the United States. He has been racing with Dragon Speed in the 2016 ELMS season and was paramount to their great performances  which included four podiums and a lights to flag victory at the four hours of Spa Francorchamps back in September 2016. Luis Felipe Derani was relatively unknown on the American Motorsport Scene at the beginning of 2016. He was still relatively new to sports cars and prototypes at this point having spent just 1 and half seasons in LMP2 after making the switch from Formula Renault and Formula 3 in Europe. On his first WEC race, Pipo put his LMP2 car on pole at Silverstone, he went on to take six podium finishes in just eight races with G-Drive. Derani made his debut at the Rolex 24 in 2016, setting fastest lap and helping Tequilla Patron Extreme Speed Motorsport to victory. If Hanley can emulate the South American driver in any way, and his early performance indicates that he will, Hanley has a great future ahead of him in which ever route he decides to pursue. One thing is for certain, Ben Hanley is one to look out for at the upcoming Rolex 24 At Daytona, it will be  great to see how the young Brit performs on his first US outing.

    Neel Jani also made his Daytona debut at the Roar Before but it wasn't his first time racing in the US, Jani raced with Rebellion in America back in 2013 under the American Le Mans Series banner. Jani performed great in the opening first few days of the test, the sole driver in the #13 Rebellion as his team mates were on Formula E duty in Las Vegas. It is an incredibly tough call to make between Rebellion and Dragon Speed. Both teams are running the Oreca 07; Rebellion arguably have the better line up with Jani, Sarrazin, Heidfeld and Buemi but Dragon Speed have experience running at the Rolex 24. However, last time out they were driving a Ferrari F430 GT car. They do however have experience running in the American Le Mans Series Prototype Challenge category so that will give them a good grounding. It is clear that team manager Elton Julien has a lot of ambition and confidence in his team. He has relocated the team to France to allow them to focus on their ELMS campaign and to set the overall fastest time at The Roar after only just two laps of shakedown around Paul Ricard is an incredible feat. DragonSpeed are certainly going to be one of the teams to watch this coming weekend.

    The speed of the cars and the lap times achieved never quite reached the same level as the December Daytona test which was a big talking point around the paddock. A number of Balance of Performance changes have limited the top speed and acceleration of the cars, however there is, as always, an element of sand bagging with no one wanting to reveal their true potential this early in the season. Most notably, the Cadillacs have been slowed since the December Test through Aerodynamic changes, other cars came out a little quicker. IMSA released a number of BOP changes recently, altering aerodynamics, and set ups for a number of cars, however it is hard to establish exactly what affects this will have just yet. Whatever the reason for the differing performances, the debut of the Daytona Prototype International cars generated mixed results. Cadillac were fastest at the December Test however, with the exception of Jeff Gordon signing for the team, their weekend went mostly under the radar. Gordon’s return to sports cars after his last appearance in 2007 and the media and fans have been all over it. Gordon isn't treating his appearance at the Rolex 24 lightly however, he wants the win and has been working hard with the team to get the car developed and set up as best as possible. The second biggest news to come out of the Cadillac portion of the paddock is the announcement after the Rolex 24, Max Angelleli will retire from professional competition. He will be hunting down one final win, a win that has proved elusive to Cadillac over the years. If Cadillac pull it off, this could be one of the stories of the weekend.

    Cadillac were notably slower than some of the other prototypes however, drivers commenting on how quickly there were closing in on the three Cadillacs. A big change from the early pace shown in December. The Roar was the first appearance of the new Nissan DPI, as such the ESM team were using the weekend as a bit of a shake down and development weekend with one of the cars having a full engine change over night. Mazda also had a number of issues early on in the weekend with a number of electrical and set up issues. Mazda ended up working together with VISIT FLORIDA Racing to get the three cars up and running again. Troy Flis even went out late one night to find a local machine shop to manufacture some key components to help get the cars back on track. As a result, Mazda found some pace on the final day of the test, setting a time of 1:38.363 and hitting a speed of 197mph through the speed traps. Initial impressions show that Mazda could possibly be the best of the new DPI cars, but it is still early days. Everyone will have a better idea of true pace and performance by the end of this coming week before the race begins on Saturday.

    Whilst VISIT FLORIDA Racing did not quite have the pace of the Oreca 07’s and struggled early on with technical issues and electrical gremlins, the Gibson Riley LMP2 was only half a second or so off the leaders by the end of the weekend. Troy Flis admits that the team need a bit of work before the main event to bring the team completely up to speed, the team need some long mileage runs to understand the cars performance better over long stints. With the experienced line up of Renger van der Zande, Rene Rast and Marc Goossens, the team could be in with a great chance of winning the Rolex 24. Each of the three drivers has a lot of experience behind them in both GT cars and Prototypes so will be a forced to be reckoned with if the team can get all the mechanical and electrical issues ironed out. That being said, VISIT FLORIDA Racing are by no means on their own when it comes to issues, as already stated; Mazda had suspension and electrical issues, Nissan had to do a full engine rebuild and Cadillac have some pace to find. Even the front running Oreca’s had electronic issues and steering issues relating to the Cosworth steering system.

    PR1/Mathiasen and JDC Miller also suffered from electrical gremlins as they tried to shake out the kinks across the course of the weekend. The Prototype class is a new level of competition for them, both teams having made the step up from the outgoing Prototype Challenge category. It will certainly be interesting to see how the teams handle the step up, racing the next generation Ligier JSP2-17 and Oreca 07 respectively. The teams may not challenge for the overall win at this early stage based on speed however, if reliability comes in to the equation and they can race cleanly and keep the car on track, they may be in with a chance, particularly this year with everyone running brand new machinery. 2017 was a good year for the two teams to make the step up in to Prototype with the new set of regulations coming in to effect but with only five cars left in the final year of the Prototype Challenge it was a good call to make. Whilst there are five Prototype Challenge cars entered for the Rolex 24, there are only two full season confirmed entries so far.

    James French topped the five car field over the three days of running. Despite only being five cars, there could still be some great competition between the 5 identical Oreca FLM09 cars, notably between Starworks and BAR1, both teams are fielding two cars for the Rolex 24 with one car from Performance Tech. However previous years have often shown that the PC class goes down to a race of attrition, who is the last team standing after 24 hours? The teams will be focusing on getting the car through to the final stint rather than going for outright pace. Notable drivers in the category include Buddy Rice (Indy500 2004 Rolex 24 2009) who is making his return to the Rolex 24. Patricio O'Ward joins the grid after finishing second in the Pro Mazda Championship in 2016.

    The GT categories also feature a star studded line up of some of the best GT drivers on the planet.  Ford were pulling out all the stops, once again running both their IMSA and WEC cars in a four car line up with three of the cars running in the top four. Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon topped the time sheets with the #67 car, the #69 car was third. BMW were also running strongly with Alexander Sims, Bruno Spengler, Nicky Catsburg and Martin Tomczyk split between the two cars. Ferrari also have a strong line up, the Rizi Competition entry running Giancarlo Fisichela, Toni Vilander and James Calado. Porsche are also running a world class line up with Dirk Werner, Patrick Pilet, Frederic Makowiecki, Kevin Estre Richard Lietz and ex Audi factory drive Laurens Vanthoor. Corvette were of course the race winners in 2016 after a dramatic race to the flag. The big story of the Roar Before in GTLM however, was the fire in the #4 Corvette caused by a fuel leak. Marcel Fassler escaped the car unharmed and set about looking for a fire extinguisher before the safety truck arrived to put the fire out. Corvette GT cars are renowned for being practically bullet proof. In 10 years of racing, there has only been one full write off. Its going to be an incredibly close race in GTLM. Ford clearly have the strength in numbers and with 6 victories under their belts in 2016 across the four cars they have the performance as well. Arguably however, BMW, with the line up they have, could be in contention for victory. After all, BMW already have one 24 hour victory to their name in 2016 at the Total 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps. Alexander Sims was one of their standout drivers of that event so expect strong performances all round from the German two car line up. Corvette have dominated the American GT scene in recent years, winning last years race in some style with a last minute sprint to the flag. They are arguably most peoples favourites to take the win.

    GT Daytona is going to be a fantastic battle this year. 27 cars, withe some of the best GT drivers in the world spread across a variety of cars, some European stalwarts mixed with some brand new cars from both Acura and Lexus with the NSX and RC-F. Manthey Racing posted the best time of the weekend but we had four manufacturers making up the top four, all of them separated by just tenths. Its going to be one of the most competitive GTD line ups in years with nine manufacturers represented; Acura, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche; all with factory support. The Rolex 24 will by the competitive debut of the Acura NSX, the 24 hour debut of the Lexus RCF and the American debut of the Mercedes AMG GT3 which has performed incredibly well across Europe so far. The strength of the driver line ups across the field is almost second to none, it is effectively a professional line up with a couple of Silver drivers thrown in for good measure. This in itself is both a good and bad thing. It is great for the competition of course, however it also draws similar controversy to the WEC LMP2 debate that has been going on for a couple of years with regards to driver grading's. The GTD category is supposed to be a Pro-Am race, however in most cases, it is almost impossible to class any of the drivers as an Am. That being said, its a 24 hour race that really is impossible to call in GTD.

    Image Epoch Times

  • Toyota seals 1-2 finish at home race

    #7 climbs from the back of the field to take first win of the season

    Toyota Gazoo Racing secured a 1-2 finish at its home FIA World Endurance Championship race at Fuji Speedway as the #7 climbed from the back of the LMP1 field to take its first win of the superseason. The start of the race, held on a wet-but-drying track, was held under safety car conditions as teams got a feel for the conditions. As soon as the race went green, the #7 – of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez – started to gain positions as it cut its way through the LMP1 privateers. However, they didn’t have much chance to make real inroads as an explosive tyre failure for the MR Racing Ferrari 488 of Motoaki Ishikowa led to a lengthy caution period as the marshals cleared up tyre and bodywork debris scattered across the start-finish straight. While Jenson Button inherited the lead of the race – thanks to the Brit staying out under the safety car in his SMP Racing BR1, rather than pitting for new tyres – the #3 Rebellion Racing R13 of Gustavo Menezes had its race ended abruptly. Coming out of turn one, Menezes lost control of the car and hit the barriers causing extensive damage to the rear of the car. After the early excitement, the six hours turned into a comfortable rhythm for the Toyota crews as the #7 moved into the race lead by the end of the second hour and didn’t relinquish the position. The #8 of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima finished second, 11.440sec behind. Rounding out the podium positions was the #1 Rebellion Racing R13, while Button brought the #11 – which he shared with Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov, home in fourth.

    In LMP2, Jackie Chan DC Racing continued the dominant pace the team had shown from the start of the weekend as the #37 led home the #38 Oreca 07. The team had fortune on their side though, as the pole-sitting Dragonspeed Oreca – started by Anthony Davidson – gambled on full wets at the start but quickly lost positions to the cars behind which had started on intermediates on the rapidly driving track. The correct tyres, and good strategy, allowed Jazeman Jaafar and Gabriel Aubry to climb up to the top spots in the JCDC entries, while a great overtaking move at turn one by Nicolas Lapierre in the Signatech Alpine moved the Frenchman up to third during the second hour. When the chequered flag came out, those positions remained the same with Matthieu Vaxiviere – in the TDS Racing entry – finishing a lap down in fourth.

    The GTE Pro battle proved to be one of the tightest on the track as most of the manufacturers led the class for at least some section of the race. Aston Martin Racing started on pole with the #95 of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen, but as the track dried out, the Vantage lost pace – allowing the BMW Team MTEK BMW M8 of Antonio Felix Da Costa to pull into the lead after a great opening stint. However, as the race went on, the #92 Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre regained the positions they lost early on to take their second win of the season. The BMW of Da Costa and Blomqvist held onto second, as they opened up a solid gap over the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.

    Team Project 1 continued the Porsche dominance of the GTE classes as the #56 won GTE Am. Driven by Patrick Lidsey, Jorg Bergmeister and Egidio Perfetti, the trio were in contention from the start as they battled the Spirit of Race Ferrari on-and-off for the opening two-thirds of the race. As the Ferrari fell away, the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche moved into contention as Matteo Cairoli relegated Jonny Adam – in the TF Sport Aston Martin – to third in the final half hour. Cairoli looked to be closing in on Bergmeister, but ran out of time to have any chance of threatening the leaders. Adam finished on the podium, ahead of the factory Aston Martin of Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana despite the latter spinning to the back of the field on the opening lap.

  • Toyota survives rain, snow and hail to take victory in Spa

    #8 Toyota wins race dominant by lengthy spells under the safety car

    The #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi have put themselves in a great position to take the FIA World Endurance Championship title after winning a rain, snow and hail affected 6 Hours of Spa. While the start was held under glorious sunshine, it took a total five minutes for the race to be turned on its head as a rain-and-hail storm turned the track into an ice rink and left teams scratching their heads over when the best time was to switch to wet tyres with elements of the track still dry. However, as the storm worsened, the choice became elementary and the first of four safety cars came out to avoid drivers risking throwing their race away on the worst of the ice.

    With the race swapping between dry and wet on a regular basis, with snow and hail mixing things up as well, the race was dominated by safety car periods totalling more than 90 minutes as the race was eventually red flagged with eight minutes remaining and hail falling again. Calm through it all - despite a small spin for Alonso at Pouhon after running onto damp kerbing on slicks - was the #8 Toyota. As well as better dealing with the wet conditions - as the Hybrid system acts as a four-wheel drive system - their cause was helped by the sister #7 of Jose Mari Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway losing more than ten minutes in the garage with a Hybrid driver sensor failure. Recovering to sixth - four laps down on the winners - allowed them to score some drivers championship points but they are facing a deficit of 32 points to the sister #7 with only 38 available for winning the final round of the Superseason - the Le Mans 24 Hours.

    Back in Belgium, the #7s demise promoted the privateer LMP1s onto the podium. Second went the way of Rebellion Racing as the #3 of Thomas Laurent, Nathaniel Berthon and Gustavo Menezes came out best in a race-long duel with the SMP Racing entries. The Russian cars came home third and fourth, with the #11 finishing a lap ahead of the #17 after a largely faultless run for the BR1s despite the #11 - of Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov and Stoffel Vandoorne - receiving a drive-through penalty just after the halfway mark for not respecting the full course yellow procedure. Fifth went to the second #1 Rebellion, while ByKolles capped off a difficult weekend by finishing 38 laps down in last place overall after a lengthy spell in the garage to repair damage sustained by tangling with the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 at the entry to La Source. A combination of great pace in all conditions and perfect timing from the safety cars secured the LMP2 class victory for DragonSpeed and Roberto Gonzales, Anthony Davidson and Pastor Maldonado.

    Picking their way through the field in the final third of the race, Pastor Maldonado pulled the Oreca up to third and when the penultimate safety car put the Venezuelan on the back of the Signatech Alpine and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing cars, Maldonado took his chance. Passing both of them with brilliant displays of racecraft, he built up a healthy gap over the pair before the last neutralisation period. Despite seeing his lead shrink to nothing, Maldonado managed the final minutes of green flag running to secure the teams first win of the Superseason. Second went to polesitters G-Drive Racing as Jean-Eric Vergnes late pace moved the Aurus 01 up to second. Signatech Alpine rounded out the podium as Nicolas Lapierre demoted the #38 to fourth. Early pacesetters Racing Team Nederland, which Giedo Van Der Garde spectacularly navigated to the lead of the class following some blindingly quick opening laps, slipped to sixth in class by race end. Their fall down the order was caused by both a drive-through penalty for not respecting the FCY procedure, and a two-minute stop-and-hold penalty after Frits Van Eerd forced Aston Martins Nicki Thiim off-track at La Sources while trying to lap the Dane. Finishing in front of the yellow Dallara was TDS Racing, with Norman Nato, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Francois Perrodo not able to maintain a leading pace in their Oreca.

    A thrill-a-minute GTE Pro was eventually decided in favour of the #97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of local favourite Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn after Martin passed AF Corses Davide Rigon with a great turn of speed in the wet following the penultimate restart. The Belgians cause was helped by alternating pit strategies relegating his nearest competition - namely Rigon in the #71 Ferrari and both BMWs - down the order. Late stops for all three allowed Rigons team-mate James Calado to snatch second for the #51 with Richard Lietz rounding out the podium. However, the latter #91 Porsche driven by Lietz - and shared with Gianmaria Bruni - was hit with a 17s post-race time penalty in lieu of a drive-through for causing a collision with the GTE Am Spirit of Race Ferrari. The penalty drops the #91 down to eighth in class, with the sister #92 of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen moving onto the podium. Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK struggled in the wet, with Harry Tincknell reporting early in the race that the Ford GT struggles to build up tyre temperature in the wet conditions. The best of the blue ovals was the #67 Tincknell shares with Andy Priaulx, which finished sixth.

    GTE Am went the way of Dempsey-Proton Racing as the #77 of Christian Ried, Riccardo Pera and Matt Campbell pulled away from Charlie Eastwood in the TF Sport Aston Martin at the final restart to take yet another win for the Porsche team. Behind Eastwood, was the Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE. Matt Griffin, Matteo Cressoni and Luis Perez Companc putting a difficult Sebring round - in which Companc crashed in qualifying and the team failed to start the race - behind them.

  • Toyota take pole at Fuji

    Kobayashi and Lopez take home pole for Toyota in LMP1

    Toyota Gazoo Racing will start its home FIA World Endurance Championship race on pole position as it took a 1-2 in qualifying at Fuji Speedway. The #7 TS050 Hybrid of Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez ended the 20-minute session on pole, but they had fortune on their side as the #8 – driven by Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi – had a lap deleted late on. The penalty, for Buemi running wide at turn 15, demoted the Swiss from pole to second, and his second lap was only good enough for second – 0.091sec off the pole on the two-driver average lap times.

    The second row was locked out by Rebellion Racing as the pairing of Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani in the #1 R13-Gibson edged out their team-mates Gustavo Menezes and Thomas Laurent by 0.174sec. Fifth went to the #11 SMP Racing entry of Stephane Sarrazin and Egor Orudzhev, the pair finishing just ahead of the sister car of Jenson Button and Vitaly Petrov.

    In LMP2, it was the Dragonspeed Oreca 07 that claimed the top spot as Anthony Davidson’s blistering lap in his stint combined with an equally strong time from Roberto Gonzalez to go 0.297sec clear of the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca. The #37 – driven by Jazeman Jaafar and Nabil Jeffri – edged out the second car of Stephane Richelmi and Gabriel Aubry by just 0.091sec in a session-long battle between the pair.Fourth went to Signatech Alpine, with TDS Racing – which was fighting at the top in practice – only fifth at the hands of Francois Perrodo and Matthieu Vaxiviere.

    In GTE Pro, Aston Martin Racing secured the best qualifying result for the new Aston Martin Vantage so far this season as it claimed a 1-3 start. Taking pole position was the ‘Dane Train’ #95 of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen as the pair set a 1m36.093sec on their average times to go 0.182sec clear of the BMW Team MTEK BMW M8 of Tom Blomqvist and Antonio Felix Da Costa. Third was the second Aston Martin of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin, which was just 0.091sec quicker than the Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell – the latter losing time on his last flying lap, and missing out on the chance of improving the #67’s time. The #71 AF Corse Ferrari of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird rounded out the top five, just 0.449sec off the pace of the pole sitters.

    Like Free Practice Three this morning, GTE Am was dominated by the Porsche 911 RSRs. Claiming pole position was the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing entry driven by Matteo Cairoli and Satoshi Hoshino. The Pedro Lamy/Paul Dalla Lana Aston Martin was second – breaking the Porsche dominance slightly – but they have two Porsches breathing down their neck – the #77 Dempsey-Proton entry and the #56 Team Project 1 car.

  • Toyota tops disrupted Fuji practice

    #8 Toyota sets the pace in the first two practice sessions in Japan

    Toyota Gazoo Racing topped both the opening practice sessions for its home FIA World Endurance Championship round at Fuji, despite both sessions being disrupted by red flags. In both sessions, it was the #8 TS050 Hybrid of Sebastien Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima that topped the LMP1 times. In the first session, Buemi was the master of the damp/drying conditions while in the second, it was Alonso who set the fastest lap of the weekend so far. Best of the rest in the top prototype class was shared between the #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1–AER and the #13 Rebellion Racing R13-Gibson. However, both sessions were heavily disrupted as staff at the Japanese circuit had to undertake multiple repairs to ‘sausage’ kerbs which were damaged repeatedly in the two 90-minute practices.

    The fastest time in LMP2 was set by Matthieu Vaxiviere the TDS Racing Oreca 07 in the first session. Signatech Alpine’s Andre Negrao set the pace in the second test, but couldn’t find the pace to beat the Frenchman’s early benchmark. Jackie Chan DC Racing had a good start to the weekend as the #38 of Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi was twice the runner-up around the Fuji Speedway.

    Despite Balance of Performances changes prior to the weekend, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing topped GTE Pro in FP1. Stefan Mucke finished ahead of both the Porsche 911 RSRs and the second Ford GT of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell. However, FP2 was the Aston Martin show as the #95 Aston Martin Vantage of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen topped the competitive GT class thanks to a late charge by Thiim. The Dane’s time, with just ten minutes remaining in the slightly extended session, deposed Tincknell from the top spot and denied Ford a sweep of Friday practice.

    In GTE Am, Pedro Lamy left it until his last lap of the session to give the previous generation Aston Martin Vantage GTE top honours in FP1, denying the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche of Matt Campbell - the pace-setter for most of the session. Dempsey-Proton got its revenge in the second session though, as Matteo Cairoli topped the times in the sister #88.