Toyota

  • 'Practice makes Perfect' in Bahrain

    Thursday brought about the first two practice sessions of the last race for the 2017 World Endurance Championship. Albeit close, Toyota Gazoo Racing had the edge over Porsche LMP1 Team in both sessions and finished the day with two one-twos in their back pocket. There was a mix of teams at the top of LMP2, but Vaillante always featured, giving them a good advantage heading towards the race. Aston Martin Racing surged after their recent few race slumps, with Jonny Adam charging the #97 to an impressive finish. The Am championship fight looked to be on in the first practice session, but the Ferrari-running teams shone in the second.

    Toyota are pushing hard to take their third win in a row and fifth of the season. If they manage this, they will have won more races than Porsche this season without winning the championship, showing how important double points at Le Mans may be. Porsche always remained close to Toyota today, but Toyota’s half a second advantage in both sessions suggests they may have pole position in the bag. It should still be a close battle for the race win if early indicators are anything to go by.

    The #7 took glory for Toyota after a horrid end to their 6 Hours of Shanghai last time out. Mike Conway set a 1:42.313 at the start of the first session that was enough to keep them at the top of the board. Anthony Davidson took fastest lap in the cooler second session with a 1:40.095. The Porsche also swapped order between sessions, with the #1 taking third in session one and the #2 taking third this evening.

    In the second session, Earl Bamber and #26 G-Drive Racing newbie Leo Roussel had a moment of contact at Turn 11. The pair were summoned instantly to the race stewards at the end of the session to discuss what happened. It is unclear exactly what happened out on track and who is in danger of being penalised. At the time of publishing, no verdict had been given.

    Vaillante Rebellion were the team to try and beat in LMP2, looking to be favourites to take race victory on Saturday. The #13 kept the #26 G-Drive at bay in the first session to secure a fastest lap of 1:48.707. The #31 had looked to have a poor first practice session, but resolved that when Bruno Senna put in a staggering 1:47.664, a clear six tenths fastest than the sister car. With a one-two in the second session, it is looking ominous for the Rebellion team to be the ones to beat come race day.

    The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing championship-challenging car had a bit of a quiet day, ending the first session seventh. They came back in the second session to take third behind the Rebellion pair. Having lost the championship lead for the first time of the season last race, the #38 team are fighting to take back the four points to take the LMP2 trophy at the end of the season, something they had thought was theirs until last race.

    GTE Pro is looking as close as it has done all year, with three different manufacturers featuring in the top three at the end of the first session. In the cooler track conditions, the grid settled into a two-by-two order which is hopefully something that will not be repeated when the race goes dark just after the start of the six-hour race.

    James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, leading the GT Drivers’ World Endurance Championship, ended the earlier session fastest, with Aston Martin’s Adam placing the #97 just behind them. Ex-championship leaders Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell managed to improve to third after an oil leak in their Ford that put a 36-miunte red flag delay on the first session. The additional 30 minutes that were added to the first session to make up for lost time definitely helped the Ford team get back on track.

    In the second session, Adam was back on a mission, taking the wheel from team mate Darren Turner for a couple of laps to set a breath-taking 1:57.014. No teams could get close to that time, not even the sister car that had to settle for second, four-tenths off. Sam Bird in the third-placed AF Corse #71 was a further half a second off Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen, nearly a full second off Adam’s time.

    Aston Martin’s pace should be a cause for concern for the other three teams who are fighting for the championship. The better they place, the harder it will be for Ford and Porsche to stop AF Corse claiming the title. On the flip side, Aston Martin are pushing hard to have a perfect race for the Vantage’s last outing, so a send off in victory would be a fantastic way to end this era’s Vantage’s racing career.

    It seems, from today’s practice sessions, that the Dempsey-Proton Racing car may have an advantage on the #98 Aston Martin. To win the championship, the #77 must win and take pole whilst the #98 has to finished third or lower. Ten points separate the two teams with the Aston Martin ahead after taking race win last race out at Shanghai.

    However, Ferrari could play a part in the championship decider after showing they may have a better pace in the night, when the track is cooler. Ferrari-running cars Clearwater Racing #61 and Spirit of Race #54 took one-two for the manufacturer respectively. If they can get between the Porsche and the Aston Martin fighting for the Am title, they could help or hinder either of the car’s chances.

  • "I know I want to race" - Anthony Davidson

    Anthony Davidson is a frustrated man at Le Mans this year. The Briton has been an integral part of Toyota's Le Mans campaign in recent years and is widely considered to be one of the finest sports car racers in the world. Nevertheless, this year he finds himself on the sidelines, having been forced to make way for Formula 1 superstar Fernando Alonso, who has taken his seat in the #8 TS050 HYBRID. Speed Chills caught up with Davidson at the circuit on Wednesday to hear how he feels about the situation.

    "I know that I want to race, and I know that when I drove the laps here in practice a couple of weeks ago, I clicked straight back into it. I was quick and sat top of the time sheets for 20 or 30 minutes. It all just felt natural.

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    "I’ve done a lot of miles in the car already this year. I took the new lap record at Aragon during winter testing, so I am still fast and still committed to the team, but I now find myself in this situation. It is a bit strange, however, it is not the first time in my career that I’ve been a reserve driver. It is however, strange finding myself here as a reserve driver, especially as I know this place so well. I’ve done 10 Le Mans. I should have won it at least once or twice, so it feels strange to not have the chance to win this time round. But, a lot can happen in sports cars. I might be back with the team, you never know. It’s a long way to go.

    "It was completely the team’s decision to move me in to the reserve driver role. It was not my decision not to race. I was told it was me that had to step aside for Fernando, so I have to respect the team. It is a shame, however – that’s the way motorsport is sometimes. It was a tough decision for the team, all six drivers were performing well so it was never going to be an easy decision to move one of their top driver’s asides. It’s a strange situation, I won five races last year in 2017. But basically, Fernando had to be here, and he had to take one of our drives. It’s as simple as that. Its unlucky that it was me but that’s just life. If you were going to step aside for anyone in the world, then Fernando is not a bad driver to step aside for so that makes it a bit easier. If it was Joe Bloggs, then I would be annoyed. It is like the world wants Fernando to win Le Mans this year. He’s on a quest for the triple crown and he finds himself here with the team. Fernando had limited options once Audi and Porsche both dropped out of the series so there was only one team to go for and it was this team. This is his best opportunity to win Le Mans.

    "I know I was performing at my best and I am proud of what I achieved last year. As I said, I won five races and in particular, the last two were very good for me. I couldn’t have given any more. My family are happy to see a bit more of me now and my wife is happy that I am not out on track risking my life. Obviously, Le Mans is not the safest race in the world. It is dangerous. I’ve ended up in hospital over the years. I broke my back in 2012. Le Mans is dangerous, and it can bite you. It’s probably the most challenging circuit we go to in terms of safety and the drivers respect that.

    "We have put a lot of work into testing and development over the winter. It is essentially the same car as last year but with a few small developments. Primarily, we have improved the usability for the drivers and the engineers. We have tested numerous scenarios and if anything goes wrong, we can get the car home. Winter testing has been hard work, it has been quite involved and it is the work that no one gets to see. That is the time when we, as drivers, really make our money. It’s bloody hard work. We do long tests, 36-hour sessions with five or six drivers and we don’t stop. That’s the stuff under the radar.

    "We’ve been testing at Portimao and Aragon primarily and the car has been performing really well, as it was last year. It’s the same package but it is nicer and easier to drive. We have been focusing on all the possibilities that could go wrong. We have been approaching it like Nasa would approach a space mission, looking at anything that could possibly go wrong, and we have developed a backup plan for each situation.

    "We have learnt a lot about the car, we know it inside out like never before. We have been given manuals on the steering system, the switches, the controls. We have learnt how to repair the car with the onboard kit we carry. We are completely ready to make sure that we are on top of any possible situation that could go wrong. Of course, there are things outside of our control, force majeure and all that and with this race, there is always a chance of that. But that said, we are in a much better place as a whole team than ever before.

    "Everything that you could think of that could possibly go wrong, we have tried our best to replicate in testing and simulation work to prepare for it. It has been quite good fun actually in many ways. Only a select few people within the team know what’s going to happen. The drivers and mechanics were not aware, and scenarios would be thrown in as a surprise to see how people would react and perform. You could never relax, you always had to have your wits about you and be focused. The issues were rarely announced and there were of course times when the team and drivers got it wrong and would have ended up in a situation where the car could not be recovered. We learnt the hard way and that’s the best way to learn. It has been absolutely fascinating as a driver to experience. I had some input into it all and fell down a few times!

    "What’s the saying team Sky use? Train hard, race easy. It takes time to learn and defeat only makes you stronger. By going through that defeat, we have realised how hard things are and how to recover from a situation. If you turned up and just won by luck and you don’t know how you win then that is sometimes more dangerous as you are unprepared for the event. In terms of development, we don’t necessarily need to make the car quicker. We know it has the pace to win, the main focus has been on reliability and understanding the trials and tribulations of Le Mans. All those defeats the team have suffered, they have been pretty cruel over the years, but it makes you stronger.

    "If we were to have the 2016 situation right now, in exactly the same way, we would have still won the race. Everyone would be able to recover it. And what happened to Nico last year, we would be able to recover that now. We would have got back to the pits. We are now set to make sure that we can get the car home. It’s that never give up attitude and you don’t see it in any other racing, certainly anything I’ve done and its incredible to see that if those two situations happen now then it is fully recoverable.

    "It’s a shame for me not to be out there, I feel readier than ever. Even if we had Porsche and Audi here now or any other quality brands, I feel that we are in the best position to win. I am here as a reserve driver, that’s it. I’m not going to polish it up, I am here as the back-up in case something goes wrong with one of the other drivers. I wouldn’t want any other roles or responsibilities. We’ve got Alex Wurz to be the team advisor/ambassador. I’m here to just hang around in case anything goes wrong. It may be my easiest Le Mans ever, you never know!

    "There was never an option to run a third car this year. I don’t know the exact reason, but you would say, if there was ever a year to run 3/4/5/6 cars, it would be this year, but it was never an option. You will have to ask some other people to get an answer for that question, it sure would have helped me if there was a third car.

    "All the other teams, with the exception of ByKolles are new. We are such a well-polished team now. We have learnt from our bad experiences and it has put us into this situation we are in today. I’m not saying that nothing will go wrong because you can never predict that. We are however in the best situation we could possibly be. We cannot prepare for a sudden downpour at one corner when you’re on slicks, or someone’s engine blowing and dropping oil all over the track and you go flying off into the barrier. You cannot foresee things like that, but we are trained as drivers in this team to report any oil or a slippery surface on track, we report that back to the team who will pass that on.

    "We have done some work on the clutch as well, we have burnt it to a crisp in testing and it is bullet proof. So, if some guy jumps out in front of us in the pitlane pretending to be a marshal, we can recover from that and it won’t be a problem.

    "I think the best and worst memories are from 2016, I drove my best Le Mans I ever have. Bringing the car back to the front and leading the race. You know when you have driven 100% and in terms of personal satisfaction, it was my best race. And I had that feeling of winning Le Mans, I could taste it. I was just waiting for Kazuki to pass the line before it was taken away. But that feeling, I would take physical pain over that any day."

  • #7 Toyota stripped of pole position

    Pit lane speed penalty denies Toyota a 1-2 start

    The #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez will start the Six Hours of Fuji at the back of the LMP1 field after being stripped of pole position. The entry, which had initially benefitted from Sebastien Buemi’s fastest lap in the #8 being deleted for a track limits violation, was itself stripped of its times because Lopez was adjudged to have been too fast going into pit entry. The penalty means the #8 – driven by Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima - has secured its third pole position of the season and will start on the front-row alongside the #1 Rebellion Racing R13-AER.

    Toyota explained that the Argentinian hadn’t engaged the pit speed limiter before the pit lane entrance, meaning he was 8.7km/h too fast entering the pits.

    “It happened and from my side I have learned from this and will avoid a similar situation in the future. My biggest mistake is not reporting the issue because I had a little doubt. I didn't know it could affect my lap time, which had been completely legal. If I had known that I would have reported it and for sure we would have done another lap but I will learn from this. It's a pity but there is still a long race ahead of us,” Lopez added.

  • #8 Toyota secures lights-to-flag victory at Sebring

    The #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took a dominant victory in the maiden 1000 Miles of Sebring, despite a late rain storm causing chaos.

    Starting on pole ahead of the sister #7 driven by Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway, Buemi – who took the first stint – was untroubled at the head of the field as he pulled clear of the competition. Even as day transformed into night, the #8 ran like clockwork over the airfield circuit’s fearsome bumps to open up a comfortable lead over the #7. Its victory was all but assured with just over three hours of the eight-hour race remaining when Lopez clattered over a kerb at turn 15 trying to avoid the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage. He was called into the pits so the car could be checked over and lost more than four minutes while the Toyota mechanics went to work.

    The #8 had a scare of its own with less than 15 minutes on the clock as Nakajima slithered off the track despite using wet tyres. He only lost a handful of seconds, but it could have been much worse for the race winners, as the Japanese driver only just missed the barriers.

    After the #28 TDS Racing Oreca, with Loic Duval behind the wheel, went straight on into a tyre wall at low-speed, the last 12 minutes of the race was run under the safety car – guaranteeing a fourth win of the season for the #8.

    Brendon Hartley claimed a podium finish on his return to endurance racing as the #11 SMP Racing BR1 survived an early explosive tyre failure to finish third – the team’s second consecutive podium after success in Shanghai. Their cause was helped by a crash for the #1 Rebellion Racing R13 with three hours to go which sent the car to the garage. The #3 Rebellion also had a number of mechanical issues which relegated it to a distant fourth in LMP1. The #17 SMP machine was on course for a good result in the top class, but Egor Orudzhev crashed into the barriers at turn one just before the two-hour mark. The Russian was running third at the time, having pulled clear of the #3 Rebellion in the opening quarter of the race. Also failing to finish was the DragonSpeed BR1, which was pushed into the garage with a mechanical issue with two hours and 40 minutes still on the clock.

    A decisive move on the opening lap of the race proved to be decisive for the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing crew of David Heinemeier-Hansson, Jordan King and Will Stevens. Passing the sister #38 at turn one on the opening lap, the trio was unchallenged as they took victory in LMP2 by more than 50 seconds. The pole-sitting #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca endured a frustrating race. The car lost almost an hour in the pits as the team dealt with a gearbox fault in the car and then lost more time after a bizarre issue with the door failing to open on the Oreca at a driver change. It eventually finished 30th, last of the classified runners.

    Finishing second, a familiar position for the team after the three Free Practice sessions, was the Signatech Alpine A470. Despite a clean race for the French team, its crew of Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet couldn’t match the front running pace of the DC Racing team. Despite disappointment in LMP1, DragonSpeed picked up a podium in LMP2 as the #31 of Anthony Davidson, Pastor Maldonado and Ricardo Gonzalez had enough pace to counteract two unscheduled pitstops to replace the rear-wing twice – once for a failure on the bumps and once after Maldonado swiped the barriers on the exit of turn 17. Despite a herculean effort to get the car from last on the grid to P8, the Racing Team Nederland entry could only manage fifth in class at the chequered flag – behind the Larbre Competition Ligier.

    GTE Pro proved to be the hardest fought category during the race, with almost every entry in the 11-car class enjoying a spell in the lead and half-a-dozen cars often covered by less than three seconds. Despite the back-and-forth between the teams, it was the heavy rain with less than 20 minutes of the race remaining that made the decisive difference. With teams scrambling into the pits to swap their slicks for wets, Gianmaria Bruni – in the #91 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR – jumped the #81 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE in the pits and with the late safety car to recover the #28 TDS Racing Oreca, the Italian held on to secure the victory.

    The #81 finished second, the best result of the season for Martin Tomczyk, Nicky Catsburg and Alexander Sims, with the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT in third. That car had led for the majority of the opening four hours, but faded as the race went on – that was summed up by a great overtaking move by Bruni to relegate the #67 from the lead, the Porsche driver out-braking Jonathan Bomarito going into the turn seven hairpin. James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Davide Rigon ensured four manufacturers were represented in the top four as the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo finished ahead of the #92 Porsche of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen. The latter lost time late on as Estre was given a stop & go penalty for rear-ending the #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Darren Turner. The Aston was running in second at the time, but the contact, which sent turner spinning across the grass, dropped the car down the order.

    Dempsey-Proton Racing secured top honours in GTE Am to make it a Porsche clean sweep of the GTE classes as the #77 of Matt Campbell, Christian Ried and Julien Andlauer fought hard to pass the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. The Ferrari finished second, despite receiving a penalty for side-to-side contact which sent the Team Project 1 Porsche into the barriers early on in the race. Thankfully for the Project 1 team, the damage proved to only be minor and thanks to a strong charge from Egidio Perfetti, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey, the team recovered to the third step of the podium. Gulf Racing took advantage of a black and orange flag for the TF Sport Aston Martin – after the rear diffuser on the Vantage broke apart on track – to finish fourth. The TF Sport car crossed the line sixth after hasty repairs – behind the MR Racing Ferrari.

  • #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.

  • 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans

    The race that will be forever remembered for the unfortunate technical issues to hit Toyota so close to the end of the race.

    Video Credits: FIA WEC

  • 2016 6 Hours of Fuji

    Toyota win on home turf!

    Video Credit: FIA WEC

  • 2016 FIA WEC Season Review

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

    LMP1 Season Review 

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

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

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

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

    LMP2 Season Review

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

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

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

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

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

    GTE-Pro Season Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    GTE-AM Season Review

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

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

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

  • 2017 Le Mans Night Summary

    Disaster struck for Toyota through the night as two of their three cars retired from the race. There were many incidents that kept the night running action-packed and a few shocking events that no one could have predicted. Going into the seventeenth hour of racing, the #1 Porsche leads the field by a competitive eleven laps, with the closest LMP1 car being the sister Porsche down in P10.

    Toyota’s woes started when the #8 was forced into the garage with a hybrid issue. It lost just under two hours in the garage as extensive repairs took place, dropping it right down the order to the last of the running cars.

    But the #8’s reappearance was nearly lost in the shock of seeing the leading #7 Toyota lapping slowly. There had been a safety car period to clear some gravel and debris off the dark track, and once the safety cars had pulled in Kamui Kobayashi got stuck in gear with the Toyota unable to go any faster than 60kph. The Japanese driver tried many power cycles and limping the #7 as far as he could but he could not get any closer to the pits that Porsche Curves. Sheer disappointment was clear as Kobayashi climbed from the car, retiring from the race before the halfway mark.

    That was not the end of the disappointment for Toyota. With the #7 retired and the #8 a long way off the leaders, their hope all felt to the #9. Not even ten minutes after the #7 had retired, the #9 made contact with the #25 CEFC Manor TDS Racing and picked up a rear right puncture. Nicolas Lapierre tried to get the car back to the pits for repairs but the punctured tyre caused a lot of damage to the back of the car and cause the rear to catch on fire. Lapierre, cruelly, got much closer to pit lane than Kobayashi did and was only 200 yards from pit entry when he climbed from the cockpit.

    After having lead most of the first half of the race with a competitive pace, Toyota fell to only having one car on track and it being right at the back of the field. The #25 Manor retired instantaneously as heavy contact with the tyre barrier put a lot of damage on the ORECA 07-Gibson.

    This left #1 Porsche in the lead with an 11 lap gap to the next car on track and a big gap to the next LMP1 car. The #2 crew and the #8 team have been pushing hard through the night to try and get back up the grid into a competitive position and to take as many points home from the weekend as possible. the #2 is currently in 10th whilst the #8 is behind in 15th.

    #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing took over the lead of LMP2 in the hands of Oliver Jarvis on track, using a great strategy and the safety car periods to leap the two Vaillante Rebellions. The Rebellions seem to have lost their edge through the night as little issues and brief visit to the garage have seen them drop further behind the #38, giving the leading LMP2 around a lap advantage.

    A big incident saw the #92 Porsche GT Team join the growing list of retired cars. In the middle of the night, it lost the car at Ford Chicane and made contact with the tyre barrier. Repairs on the barrier and removing the car from the track were the reasons behind the slow zones and yellow flags. Unfortunately, the Porsche could not get running again so it retired behind the barrier at the side of the track.

    Aston Martin had been the team to beat throughout the night, but as the sun has broken across the track the top four positions in class are covered by four different manufacturers. With the weather supposed to hot up for the closing stages of the race, it could go any way for the chequered flag.

    #90 TF Sport and #84 JMW Motorsport have had fantastic performances throughout the race, with the JMW now leading the class with a lap in hand. The #90 had been pushing #84 for the lead but after a scheduled brake change and an unscheduled brief stop out on track the #90 down the order, leaving the #99 Beechdean AMR as the best placed Aston Martin. Ferrari-running teams are currently locking out the top three positions in the Am class.

  • 2017 Le Mans Qualifying

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

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

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

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

    ORECA Dominates LMP2 Field

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

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

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

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

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

    Aston Martin Pro Battle Closer than Expected

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

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

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

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

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

  • Alonso smashes Sebring lap record to secure pole for Toyota

    Fernando Alonso set the fastest ever lap around Sebring as he headed a Toyota Gazoo Racing in qualifying for the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring.

    The Spaniard, competing at the Floridian circuit for the first time, set a 1m40.124s to demolish Jose Maria Lopez’ previous lap record in the sister TS050 Hybrid set in Free Practice 3. Partnering with Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 entry, Alonso’s average time was 1m40.318 – almost half-a-second faster than the #7 of Lopez and Mike Conway.

    SMP Racing secured third as Egor Orudzhev and Stephane Sarrazin topped the standings for the non-Hybrid LMP1 machines – just 0.133s ahead of the fastest #3 Rebellion of Gustavo Menezes and Thomas Laurent. Brendon Hartley propelled the second SMP BR1 to fifth, ahead of the #1 Rebellion. DragonSpeed rounded out the LMP1 class in seventh.

    Jackie Chan DC Racing locked out the front row in the LMP2 class as the #38 of Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi out-paced the #37 of David Heinemeier-Hansson and Will Stevens by 0.650s. Third went to Signatech Alpine’s pairing of Pierre Thiriet and Nicolas Lapierre, just ahead of the #31 DragonSpeed Oreca of Roberto Gonzalez and Anthony Davidson. Racing Team Nederland, which had set the pace in free practice, struggled to replicate that time in qualifying as Frits van Eerd and Nyck De Vries finished bottom of the LMP2 class.

    In GTE Pro, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre fought off the challenge of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK to secure pole for Porsche GT Team in the #92 Porsche 911 RSR by 0.115s. The #67 of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell secured second – ahead of the sister #66 of Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke. Fourth went to BMW Team MTEK’s Augusto Farfus and Antonio Felix Da Costa as the pair relegated the #63 Corvette Racing C7.R to fifth late on in the session. Aston Martin Racing was denied what could have been pole position after Maxime Martin was unable to set a lap time in the #97 due to a technical issue. Alex Lynn had set the fastest time in his portion of qualifying, but Martin was unable to set a representative lap time – they’ll start on the back-row.

    The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche secured its second pole of the season in GTE Am as Christian Ried and Matt Campbell headed a Porsche 1-2 in the class – ahead of the Team Project 1 entry of Jorg Bergmeister & Egidio Perfetti. The latter pair rewarding their mechanics for quickly building up a replacement 911 in less than 24 hours after their first car burnt down in testing.

    Aston Martin Racing mechanics performed a miracle to repair the #98 after its big crash in FP3. With a new rear-end and suspension in the car, Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana combined to go third in class, 0.061s ahead of the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE.

    Luis Perez-Companc brought out the only red flag of qualifying after a nasty crash in the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE. The car snapped left on the approach to the turn seven hairpin and hit the concrete barrier. Thankfully, he got out of the car unaided but will start the race in last place.

  • 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
  • Fuji - Toyota Win at Home

    Toyota took their first World Endurance Championship win since 2014, securing the top step of the podium at Fuji after an intense battle with Audi that went down to the flag.

    The gap between the winning #6 Toyota and second-placed #8 Audi was measured at 1.4 seconds as the chequered flag dropped. Porsche #1 came home to complete the podium, but throughout the race all three manufacturers looked like they could win around the technically challenging Japanese circuit. LMP2 saw reigning class champions G-Drive #26 take their first 2016 victory ahead of #43 RGR Sport after a tight battle in the final hour. Class Championship leaders #36 Signatech Alpine took the bottom step of the podium keeping their championship campaign alive.

    The GTE classes saw dominance at the front of the field. There was no match for the Ford’s in GTE Pro, allowing the team to scored their first 1-2 win with the UK-based squad. AF Corse were always just behind them, the #51 car taking the final step of the podium. For the fourth time this season the #98 Aston Martin took the win in GTE Am, the #83 AF Corse Ferrari took second with the KCMG #78 Porsche in third after the #50 Corvette suffering technical issues, taking them out of contention. A full green circuit gave six hours of uninterrupted racing and saw 30 of the 32 contenders reach the chequered flag. There were a few brief moments of yellow flag areas on track but no Safety Cars or Full Course Yellows played havoc with the strategies the teams had planned. This allowed all of these strategies and tactics to play out, giving an exciting six hours of racing and a heavy advantage to those who called the strategy correctly.

    For most of the six hours, it looked like Audi had yet another potential win in the bag. Bad luck struck them once again as, within the first hour, #7 was forced into the garage for nearly an hour and a half due to a hybrid motor failure. The team tried to repair the car but, in the end, sent it out with the hybrid front drive disconnected so the car would run. After consultation with the FIA, the car was deemed to breach the technical regulations for the LMP1 class, the FIA informed Audi that the car would not be classified. With this information, Audi retired the car before the end of the second hour, not willing to put the energy and resources into trying to repair the problem when they would not be classified for points. The #4 ByKOLLES Racing Team was the only other retiree from the race along side the #7 Audi.

    The LMP1 race really came alive through the last hour and a half. Toyota gained the advantage over Audi #8 and Porsche #1 through two tactical calls in the closing stages of the race. To jump the Porsche, Toyota short fuelled the #6 in their penultimate pit stop. This kept them out ahead of the #1Porsche which still had to make its next scheduled stop. Mark Webber jumped in the car for the final stint and looked to be closing in on the pair out ahead, but the car could do nothing to close the gap and settled for ending 17.339 seconds behind the leading duo.

    In choosing not to change the Toyota’s tyres during their final stop, Kamui Kobayashi got back out on track about 12 seconds ahead of the Audi. But with the Audi on fresher tyres it was a race to the chequered flag. Traffic forced the gap to fluctuate, with Audi sneaking ever closer. After their last few races it was another victory Audi did not want to see slip through its fingers. A train of traffic with about ten minutes to go brought the Audi right up behind the Toyota but there was nothing Loic Duval could do to pass as the chequered flag dropped.

    Although at some stages it looked like it could challenge the Porsche for P3, the #5 Toyota never shared the same pace the #6 had. It finished fourth, holding off Championship leader’s Porsche #2 who struggled with balance during the entire weekend. The balance issues on the second Porsche saw a significant drop in performance, completely taking it out of contention for the podium. Porsche #2 still lead the championship, but the points advantage is now 23 points with two rounds left of the season.

    LMP2 held most of the action through the 6 Hours of Fuji, with close racing between the cars. The G-Drive #26 held the lead comfortably for most of the race, leaving the field to fight for the positions behind it. Alex Lynn, debuting in the #45 Manor, was one of the only start incidents. Contact saw the car having to pit for repairs and dropped it out of contention with the race having barely stared. This was confirmed when the team was handed a drive-through penalty for the incident and a 35 second penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

    Other debutants, Sean Gelael and Antonio Giovinazzi, joined Giedo Van de Garde in the newly sponsored #30 Extreme Speed Motorsport Ligier/Nissan. They finished fourth and would have possibly challenged for the podium had they not have been handed a 20 second penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

    The battle for the lead, alike LMP1, came down to the last lap. Strategy had seen the RGR Sport #43 managed to get ahead of #26 G-Drive after the last pit stop. RGR were chasing their third win of the season whilst G-Drive where after their maiden win of the season, with bad luck having stalled their chances of retaining the LMP2 title this year. Will Stevens was the last man in the car, standing in for Rene Rast this weekend. He was chasing down Bruno Senna and pulled off an impressive performance to get the G-Drive ahead of the #43 Ligier. However, the pass was debatable for both teams. Stevens made the move on Senna by crossing the pit exit line, which meant he technically exceeded track limits. On the other hand, it could be argued that Senna pushed Stevens off wide, giving him no choice but to leave the track. The stewards deemed Stevens responsible for leaving the track and instructed the G-Drive team to hand the position back. It was the fairest penalty to be handed out to G-Drive under the circumstances.

    The problem was that Stevens had fresher tyres and clearly more pace than Senna, meaning he had to slow down a lot to let the RGR back passed. This brought in the threat of the #36 Signatech Alpine who was sat in third and closing in slowly on the lead battle.

    But the superior pace of the #26 G-Drive saw Stevens get a clean pass on Senna with five minutes left of the race. It was a deserving win for the G-Drive team who had dominated the race up until the strategic call that got RGR out ahead of them.

    The #66 Ford started on pole, but by the first corner the sister #67 Ford was up ahead of it. The car shared by Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx continued to hold an unchallenged lead for the entire six hours, taking Ford’s second win of the season. Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke finished second to the #67 with a 15 second buffer splitting them at the chequered flag. The gap was relatively close between the two Ford’s throughout the race until the fifth hour. Pla had a spin in the fifth hour that put him in the mix with the Ferrari’s and dropped him away from challenging for the win. But the advantage that Ford had around Fuji Speedway saw the #66 Ford back up to second before the close of the hour. AF Corse finished third and fourth, with the #51 crew out pacing the sister team in the #71. The #95 Aston Martin looked to challenge the #71 for fourth, getting between the two Ferrari’s for a period of time, but the pace deficit was too much to overhaul and Thiim and Sorenson had to settle for fifth.

    The Am class was dominated again by the #98 Aston Martin crew of Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana. They finished a lap up on second place and class championship leaders #83 AF Corse crew containing Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo and Rui Aguas. Larbre Competition had been set to take third-place in class, with the #50 Corvette performing strongly around the Japanese circuit. However, an failure on the car saw it drop off the podium, handing the position to #78 KCMG. The Chevrolet finished at the bottom of the timesheet, 97 laps off the leading #6 Toyota LMP1 car.

    Photograph Gabi Tomescu - AdrenalMedia.com

  • 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.

  • Le Mans Free Practice and Qualifying One

    Neel Jani put the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid at the top of the time sheets in FP1 in a session that ran without much incident. Kamui Kobayashi topped the time sheets with his first flying lap, going seven tenths quicker than anyone else with a time of 3:20.996 in the final hour of running. It looked like the time was going to stand but with 20 minutes to run, Jani went sixth tenths quicker with a time of 3:20.362.

    Qualifying One saw Toyota Gazoo Racing top the time sheets to take provisional pole but it was Timo Bernhard who initially went quickest in the #2 Porsche after the first few flying laps. Toyota reacted instantly, pitting the #7 and #8 cars and sending out Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima. Kobayashi responded, setting the fastest lap of the session, going six tenths quicker than anyone else with a time of 3:18.793. Nakajima took second in a Toyota One-Two whilst Bernhard’s time was good enough for third place. Having set the pace in FP1, Neel Jani could only manage to put the #1 Porsche 5th. ByKolles had another difficult session, lapping just half a second quicker than the leading LMP2.

    LMP2

    Alex Lynn knocked the #13 Vaillante Rebellion off the top of the time sheets in FP1, the ex-GP2 driver posted a time of 3:30.363 in the #26 G-Drive, 1.3 seconds quicker than anyone else.

    ORECA certainly appear to have a big advantage over the other competitors, the best non-ORECA car finished 10th. The SMP Racing Dallara in the hands of Victor Shaytar was over four seconds a lap slower. There was a close battle in qualifying between all the World Endurance Championship entrants. It looked as if Manor had the pace throughout the session as with just half an hour to run, Jean-Eric Vergne and Vitaly Petrov locked down the top two positions with the #25 and #24 cars. However, as time moved on and the temperature dropped, the rest of the field began fighting back. Bruno Senna broke in to the 3:29s before Vaxiviere went half a second quicker in the #28 TDS Oreca to take provisional pole with a time of 3:29.333. The Signatech Alpine entries sat sixth and seventh whilst the second Rebellion #13 finished eighth with Rusinov rounding out the top nine in the #26 G-Drive.

    The fastest non-ORECA running LMP2 finished 13th and was the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara in the hands of Rubens Barrichello, taking part in his first Le Mans qualifying session. The Brazilian set a lap time that was 4.463 seconds off the pace of provisional pole-sitter, Vaxiviere.

    GTE Pro

    There was a last minute driver change in GTE Pro, Lucas di Grassi has been ruled out of the event on medical grounds having broken his fibula in a charity football match. di Grassi failed to get himself out of the car without assistance within the seven second time limit on the driver extraction test. Michele Rugolo has been drafted in to fill his vacant seat patterning James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari.

    #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 jumped to the top of the time sheets towards the end of free practice one. Aston Martin traded lap times with Corvette for most of the session before Bird put the Ferrari on top in the closing laps by half a second. James Calado pushed hard in the closing stages of the session to try and and match the pace of Bird but he was unable to match the time of 3:55.504.

    Aston Martin jumped straight to the top in the first qualifying session, Marco Sorensen leading the way in the #95 with a time of 3:52.117, it was only a tenth quicker than Sam Bird but Birds team mates were unable to improve on his opening lap time leaving the #71 crew second at the end of the session. The #51 Ferrari came in 0.888 down on the pole sitting Aston but overall, just two seconds covered the top six.

    GTE AM

    The factory-entered Aston Martin led the time sheets early on, Mathias Lauda setting the early pace before the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette went quickest at the end of the first hour. The #50 Corvette had a moment through Porsche Curves early on in the second hour and slammed in to the tyre barrier on the outside of the track. The Safety Car was called out for minor repair work and the session restarted. The Clearwater Ferrari was leading the session, even after suffering a left-rear puncture at the end of the third hour. Just after the final hour had started, Pedro Lamy set a new fastest lap of 3:58.234 which allowed him to end the session on top of the class with the #98 Aston Martin.

    Aston Martin also held the advantage from the start of the session in LM GTE Am. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche took the lead of the class for the first few minutes of the session, but as soon as Pedro Lamy had set his fast time there was no challenge to his 3:55.232. Only his team-mate, Mathias Lauda, could better the time, improving the Aston Martin #98’s provisional pole time to a 3:55.134.

    Matteo Cairoli‘s original fastest time in the #77 was enough to hold on to a comfortable second place. He had a three-tenth advantage over third-placed #90 TF Sport Aston Martin when the chequered flag fell.

  • Le Mans preview: the race Toyota must not lose

    This time, surely. That’s the overriding sentiment of the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours at the start of the biggest week of the motor sporting year. Toyota will finally banish the 30-year curse and win the big one – won’t it?

    Well, it really should. The Japanese giant is the last manufacturer standing in the top-class LMP1 hybrid category, following the withdrawal of both Porsche and Audi over the course of the past two years. For pace alone, the band of plucky privateers and their non-hybrid LMP1s really shouldn’t be able to live with the pair of TS050 HYBRIDS.

    Then consider Fernando Alonso, the McLaren F1 driver considered by many to be the greatest active racing driver in the world. At 37, the Spaniard’s hopes of a third F1 world title have probably slipped away with McLaren’s failures to deliver him a competitive car. Therefore, his focus has switched to motor sport’s unofficial Triple Crown: the Monaco Grand Prix, which he has won twice, the Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours. All-round racing greatness awaits if he can equal the feat of winning all three that only Graham Hill has previously managed.

    Alonso has a great shot at ticking off Le Mans this week. Fastest at the recent test day, the great man knows only misfortune (and a rapid team of drivers in the sister TS050, of course) stands in his way of glory on his debut at the greatest race in the world.

    But that’s where the intrigue is: Toyota’s misfortune at Le Mans is the stuff of legend. Agonisingly close to the tune of just three minutes in 2016, it missed out last year too, following four previous occasions in the past three decades when the manufacturer looked set to win this race. Nothing can be taken for granted at La Sarthe. The team must conquer the 8.4-mile track first, but also its own psychological barriers to finally deliver what should be a victory of sheer relief on Sunday afternoon.

    Privateers on parade

    If Toyota does falter – and history shows quite plainly it might – the privateer entries could pick up the pieces for an incredible Le Mans story.

    Rebellion is established as the best of the privateer teams in long-distance endurance racing at this level and has three top-six Le Mans finishes to its name already. Its pair of ORECA-built Gibson-powered prototypes mixed it with the Toyotas at the test day and with drivers such as former Audi race winner Andre Lotterer among the line-up, the experience to achieve greatness is in its grasp. The rules favour Toyota and its hybrid, in terms of stint length as well as out-right pace – but if Rebellion can run a clean race for at least one of its cars, you never know.

    Of the other privateers in the top LMP1 category for the fastest prototypes, Bykolles Racing’s singleton entry and the three BR Engineering cars will all hope to be contenders. Ex-F1 world champion Jenson is among those hoping to spring a surprise, driving for the Russian SMP Racing team. In Mikhael Aleshin and fellow F1 old boy Vitaly Petrov, he has quick team-mates, but as is the case for all the privateers, avoiding new-car reliability problems is a tough task at Le Mans. New racers have won first time out at the 24 Hours in the past – but not often. Top six finishes and podium aspirations are more realistic than a victory. But again, with this race, you never know.

    Can LMP2 pull off the shock of the century?

    If Toyota does implode once again, it might be just as likely that an overall winner comes from the slower LMP2 prototype class. Once upon a time, such a suggestion would have been scoffed at. But last year, it almost happened – and with doubt always nagging away at Toyota and the LMP1 privateers coming to the race so unproven, the reliable LMP2 brigade of seasoned campaigners could be in with a shout of an unforgettable result.

    Among the entries, the throng of teams running ORECAs could all contend for the class victory (and maybe more), but the good news is the Ligiers should be more competitive than last year following an aerodynamics rules break. Driver talent in this class is becoming richer by the season and boasts this year such stars as Le Mans debutant and former F1 grand prix winner Juan Pablo Montoya, a veteran of the Daytona 24 Hours in the US. As ever, the form guide suggests the class is wide open.

    To spot the difference between LMP1 and LMP2, look out for the blue number squares instead of red for the secondary prototypes, and the ‘P2’ stickers on their flanks.

    GTE: supercar heaven for the big manufacturers

    While LMP1 has struggled to retain interest for car manufacturers frightened off by multi-million dollar budgets to build sophisticated hybrids, the ‘grand touring’ GTE category for familiar-looking supercars continues to attract massive attention from some of the world’s most famous makes.

    This year, the race within a race presents Porsche vs Ford vs Ferrari vs Corvette vs BMW vs Aston Martin… what a stunning prospect.

    One of four Porsche 911s entered topped the test day times, but Ford’s GT was mixing it for pace too. Aston Martin won the race last year with its ageing Vantage, but returns with a stunning new version of the car this time and with an impressive testing programme under its belt, the British team has high expectations. Can Aston win again in its new bright green livery?

    Ferrari’s factory-blessed AF Corse team is full of ambition to take the Prancing Horse back to the top at Le Mans, while BMW’s stunning new M8 promises to offer more than just good looks. And you can never rule out the Corvettes, which are almost becoming ubiquitous at a race the American Pratt & Miller will take on for a 19th consecutive time. That’s simply remarkable.

    Honours in both the Pro and Am GTE classes are wide open. Look out for the green square backgrounds for the numbers on the Pro-class cars, while the Am entries feature orange number squares. These stunning looking cars are more than just traffic for the prototypes to negotiate. The will contribute plenty to what looks certain to be another unforgettable Le Mans 24 Hours.

    Enjoy the biggest race of the year!

  • Le Mans Test Day

    Toyota have lead the way in the official Le Mans test day ahead of the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Setting a lap time that was fastest than the pole position time for last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota declared a pace that Porsche could not contend with. Last year’s LMP2 class champions Signatech Alpine were on top of things in their respective class, ending both the morning session and the day with the fastest LMP2 time. Returning to the WEC solely for Le Mans, Chevrolet made their mark by taking the fastest time in LM GTE Pro. Proton Racing #77 Porsche took the fastest lap in the Am class before lunch, with Aston Martin finishing the day on top of the class.

    Coming off the back of a highly-competitive six hour of Spa-Francorchamps, Kazuki Nakajima reflected the same form he showed last month claiming the fastest time of the morning session. His 3:20.778 lap time was an impressive 1.5 seconds faster than the time set by Sebastien Buemi in the sister #7 car. Toyota locked out the top three, with Jose Maria Lopez setting a 3:22.006 in the #9 – a good effort in his debut around the Circuit de la Sarthe.

    Timo Bernard had had the #2 Porsche comfortably second during the first four-hour session, but the last half an hour of fast laps from Toyota saw the Porsche drop to fourth, setting a fastest time of 3:23.089, 2.3 seconds off the pace of the fastest Toyota. Porsche did not complete any fast laps at the end of the session, showing they appeared to be on a different programme to Toyota. Andre Lotterer’s time was only half a tenth off of Bernhard’s, showing the Porsches appear to be equally matched.

    In the afternoon session Toyota continued to steal the show. Kamui Kobayashi put the championship leading #7 Toyota fastest with a 3:18.132, a time that was over 1.5 seconds faster than Neel Jani’s 2016 pole time for the 24-hour event. The Toyota’s, once again, locked out the top three positions whilst Porsche ended the day 3.3 seconds off the fastest lap time, but only 0.4 seconds off third-placed #9 Toyota. The #2 Porsche lost time in the afternoon session as the engine was changed on the 919 Hybrid.

    The Signatech Alpine #35 was the car to beat in LMP2 as it lead the way at the end of both test sessions. Andre Negrao put the ORECA-Gibson 07 fastest at the end of the morning session with the first LMP2 time to break the 3m30s barrier: a 3:29.809. His teammate, Nelson Panciatici, reiterated what Negrao had performed in the morning’s four-hour session by ending the day with the fastest time of 3:28.146. This gave him a seven-tenth advantage over Jean-Eric Vergne in the #24 CEFC Manor TDS Racing, who ended the day second fastest in class.

    In the morning, it was the #13 Vaillante Rebellion Racing that finished second fastest in the LMP2 class. Mathias Beche was nearly beaten to second in class by the ELMS-entry Graff car. Only 0.011 seconds kept Beche ahead of Richard Bradley as the chequered flag fell.

    It does seem, from the final test day times, that the ORECA-chassis running LMP2 cars may have an advantage over any other chassis. The top fourteen cars in class were all ORECA-Gibsons when the chequered flag ended the day. However, all of the cars are a lot faster this year. The extra 100bhp that the LMP2 cars have this year have already seen them setting lap times seven seconds faster than they were twelve months ago.

    Jan Magnussen returned Chevrolet to WEC racing with intent as he took the fastest lap time of the morning session in LM GTE Pro. It was a close fight between the #63 and the #91 Porsche for fastest lap time with 0.027 seconds separating Magnussen and Patrick Pilet at the end of the first four-hours testing. The sister Chevrolet rounded off the top three half a second down on the fastest pair.

    The intention of Chevrolet is clear for this blue-ribboned event as they topped the afternoon session competitively. Oliver Gavin made it a Chevrolet leading a Porsche in the #64 with a lap time of 3:54.701. The #64 crew started the afternoon session with an engine change and was able to lead the class by just over two-tenths on the #91 Porsche.

    Porsche took honours in LM GTE Am at the end of the morning session with the #77 Proton Racing Porsche leading the class with a 3:59.117. The time, set by Matteo Carioli, was a tenth up on second-fastest #83 AF Corse-run DH Racing Ferrari. In the afternoon session, however, it was Aston Martin on top, with Pedro Lamy setting the pace with a 3:58.250 in the #98. The Am field looks like it will be as close as it has been all season when the grid takes to the 24-hour endurance race in a fortnight’s time.

    The afternoon session was ended twelve minutes early as there was dropped oil on track. It is unknown which car lost the liquid out on circuit.

  • Le Mans Test Day

    Toyota have lead the way in the official Le Mans test day ahead of the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Setting a lap time that was faster than the pole position time for last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota declared a pace that Porsche could not contend with. Last year’s LMP2 class champions Signatech Alpine were on top of things in their respective class, ending both the morning session and the day with the fastest LMP2 time. Returning to the WEC solely for Le Mans, Chevrolet made their mark by taking the fastest time in LM GTE Pro. Proton Racing #77 Porsche took the fastest lap in the Am class before lunch, with Aston Martin finishing the day on top of the class.

    Coming off the back of a highly-competitive six hour of Spa-Francorchamps, Kazuki Nakajima reflected the same form he showed last month claiming the fastest time of the morning session. His 3:20.778 lap time was an impressive 1.5 seconds faster than the time set by Sebastien Buemi in the sister #7 car. Toyota locked out the top three, with Jose Maria Lopez setting a 3:22.006 in the #9 – a good effort in his debut around the Circuit de la Sarthe.

    Timo Bernard had had the #2 Porsche comfortably second during the first four-hour session, but the last half an hour of fast laps from Toyota saw the Porsche drop to fourth, setting a fastest time of 3:23.089, 2.3 seconds off the pace of the fastest Toyota. Porsche did not complete any fast laps at the end of the session, showing they appeared to be on a different programme to Toyota. Andre Lotterer’s time was only half a tenth off of Bernhard’s, showing the Porsches appear to be equally matched.

    In the afternoon session Toyota continued to steal the show. Kamui Kobayashi put the championship leading #7 Toyota fastest with a 3:18.132, a time that was over 1.5 seconds faster than Neel Jani’s 2016 pole time for the 24-hour event. The Toyota’s, once again, locked out the top three positions whilst Porsche ended the day 3.3 seconds off the fastest lap time, but only 0.4 seconds off third-placed #9 Toyota. The #2 Porsche lost time in the afternoon session as the engine was changed on the 919 Hybrid.

    The Signatech Alpine #35 was the car to beat in LMP2 as it lead the way at the end of both test sessions. Andre Negrao put the ORECA-Gibson 07 fastest at the end of the morning session with the first LMP2 time to break the 3m30s barrier: a 3:29.809. His teammate, Nelson Panciatici, reiterated what Negrao had performed in the morning’s four-hour session by ending the day with the fastest time of 3:28.146. This gave him a seven-tenth advantage over Jean-Eric Vergne in the #24 CEFC Manor TDS Racing, who ended the day second fastest in class.

    In the morning, it was the #13 Vaillante Rebellion Racing that finished second fastest in the LMP2 class. Mathias Beche was nearly beaten to second in class by the ELMS-entry Graff car. Only 0.011 seconds kept Beche ahead of Richard Bradley as the chequered flag fell.

    It does seem, from the final test day times, that the ORECA-chassis running LMP2 cars may have an advantage over any other chassis. The top fourteen cars in class were all ORECA-Gibsons when the chequered flag ended the day. However, all of the cars are a lot faster this year. The extra 100bhp that the LMP2 cars have this year have already seen them setting lap times seven seconds faster than they were twelve months ago.

    Jan Magnussen returned Chevrolet to WEC racing with intent as he took the fastest lap time of the morning session in LM GTE Pro. It was a close fight between the #63 and the #91 Porsche for fastest lap time with 0.027 seconds separating Magnussen and Patrick Pilet at the end of the first four-hours testing. The sister Chevrolet rounded off the top three half a second down on the fastest pair.

    The intention of Chevrolet is clear for this blue-ribboned event as they topped the afternoon session competitively. Oliver Gavin made it a Chevrolet leading a Porsche in the #64 with a lap time of 3:54.701. The #64 crew started the afternoon session with an engine change and was able to lead the class by just over two-tenths on the #91 Porsche.

    Porsche took honours in LM GTE Am at the end of the morning session with the #77 Proton Racing Porsche leading the class with a 3:59.117. The time, set by Matteo Carioli, was a tenth up on second-fastest #83 AF Corse-run DH Racing Ferrari. In the afternoon session, however, it was Aston Martin on top, with Pedro Lamy setting the pace with a 3:58.250 in the #98. The Am field looks like it will be as close as it has been all season when the grid takes to the 24-hour endurance race in a fortnight’s time.

    The afternoon session was ended twelve minutes early as there was dropped oil on track. It is unknown which car lost the liquid out on circuit.

  • Porsche Bow Out of LMP1 with Pole

    The fairytale starts as Porsche want it: taking pole position in their final outing of the LMP1 919-Hybrid, but the story is far from over. Toyota are hot on their heels and seem to have the pace advantage in the race. The LMP2 championship battle is going to be one to not take your eyes off. The leading #31 Vaillante Rebellion starts down the grid whilst their rivals in the #38 are on the front row. With just four points splitting them, it will be a tense six-hours. AF Corse have pole for the last race, but not with the championship contending car. In the Am class, #98 Aston Martin Racing may very well be on their way to claiming their first title after claiming another pole position this season.

    Porsche led a one-two into the final practice session of the weekend, giving them an edge before the teams took on qualifying. It was a fairly calm 60-minutes for the LMP1 teams, with Timo Bernhard setting his time board-topping 1:42.438 within the first five minutes of the session. No one seemed to be able to close in on that time, with the closest being Neel Jani in the sister car, six tenths off the pace.

    But this was not the case in qualifying. Toyota used a strategy that saw them leaving the pits five minutes after everyone else in an attempt to get some clear track. It worked, and Mike Conway set the first sub 1m40s lap time of the weekend with a 1:39.517. It was clear after Porsche’s second drivers had climbed in the cars it was going to be a big ask to get them ahead of the Toyotas.

    But Jani was determined to give the Porsche one last pole position. Pushing the car to the limit, he produced a lap time that even his team mates were astounded by, putting the #1 in close contention with the proivional pole-sitting #7 Toyota. Nick Tandy climbed back into the Porsche cockpit, with pressure on his shoulders, with the mind set of not letting Jani’s lap time go to waste. A small personal improvement saw the #1 Porsche take its final pole position by just over two tenths of a second.

    The sweltering heat of Bahrain played its hand on the LMP2 field this morning, with both the #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing and the #36 Signatech Alpine bringing out a brief Full Course Yellows as they slowed and stopped on track. The Jackie Chan DC Racing cars seemed best equipped for the high morning track temperatures as they secured their first one-two of the weekend, also being the first time either of their cars have been fastest in a practice session this weekend. The 1:48.879 set by Ho Pin Tung in the #38 gave them half a second advantage on the rest of the field. After battling with the #37 for second place, G-Drive Racing #26 had to settle for third.

    The #36 got back on top of the pace after it’s earlier issue and put in an impressive lap average to take pole by four tenths. Gustavo Menezes declared that team mate Andre Negrao had “pulled the boat along” with his lap time, making Menezes job simple when he got in the car.

    Lining up beside them tomorrow will be the #38 Jackie Chan car. A bad qualifying for both Vaillante Rebellions sees the #38 crew on the front foot going into the race. Just four points separate the two and with the #31 Rebellion starting four sixth it is going to need to be the recovery drive of all drives from Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost and Julien Canal if they are to secure the 2017 LMP2 Trophy.

    After a short red flag period brought out by the #86 Gulf Racing Am Porsche, which caught fire and stopped on track at Turn 9 – leaking fluid, the GTE classes were in qualifying simulation mode for the end of free practice three. The leaders of both classes changed every lap, with lap times tumbling as the end of the session drew closer. James Calado put the #51 AF Corse fastest with a 1:57.972, ahead of championship rival Andy Priaulx in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car. The second AF Corse Ferrari, #71, rounded off the top three, half a second off the sister car.

    Qualifying quickly became a Ferrari affair with consistent laps from the #71 AF Corse pair too much for anyone else to contend with. The prediction had been that the two Astons would be fighting for pole position in the final qualifying session, but in the end there was no stopping Sam Bird and Davide Rigon who had struggled throughout the practice sessions.

    Andy Priaulx was set to place his championship contending #67 second on the row, but the weekend’s rapid Adam put an early end to that, dropping in a lap time that was quick enough to demote the team. Harry Tincknell said after the session that they were happy with the performance, but that it was all to play for tomorrow. As the underdogs for the championship now, they have the least to lose in the race, but starting ahead of the other championship contenders is definitely a positive.

    James Calado explained that they were focused on the race in the championship leading #51. He said that they were happy starting from fourth and were looking to have a nice, simple race to get them back home to the championship. If the race finished with the grid positions as they have qualified, there would not be enough of a points gain for the #67 to take the title. Porsche GT Team #91 starts further down the grid and has the most to do tomorrow if they want any chance of stealing the title.

    It had looked like the #98 Aston Martin Racing car was going to take its first fastest lap of the weekend, but it did not seem to be able to keep up when the fast laps started pouring out at the end of the session. Glory went to the #61 Clearwater Racing team that has recently confirmed it’s return to WEC for the 2018/19 ‘Super Season’. Championship contending #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing was second, with the #54 Spirit of Race taking third.

    After it’s earlier fire, the #86 car sat out of qualifying, using the time to repair the car so it will be ready for the race tomorrow. It was Paul Dalla Lana’s day as his second driver lap pulled the #98 ahead of the #61 Clearwater Ferrari that had looked to have pole position in the bag. In terms of championship battles it’s a positive for the Aston Martin as now they take an 11-point advantage into the final six-hour endurance of the season, making it harder for Dempsey-Proton to steal the title from under their nose. The trio have come close to taking the title in the past, but this would be the first time they had actually secured it if all goes their way in tomorrow’s race.

  • Porsche win Climactic 2017 Le Mans

    Coming back from a hybrid system issue early in the race which had looked to put them out of contention for the 2017 Le Mans podium, the #2 Porsche crew fought back to take a spectacular victory in one of the most eventful races Le Mans has ever held. Tagged as an ‘old school Le Mans’ race, there was never a dull moment as the 24 hours flew past. Eleven of the starters failed to complete the race, one of the lowest percents of non-finishers in a 24 Hours of Le Mans.

    It had seemed like the race was over for the #2 Porsche crew when they were hit with a front axle drive failure around the four-hour mark, as it turns out, this was related to the hybrid system. The only way they would be able to recover the hour they had lost in the garage was if the entire LMP1 field suffered a delay as bad as they had. In a shocking twist in the middle of the night, two of the Toyotas retired from the race whilst the third Gazoo Racing entry was stuck in the pits for two hours. The bizarre twist of events saw the #2 up to second in class, albeit being about 45th in the overall classification.

    The plan for the team changed as the #2 crew focused on trying to score constructors points for the team. Constructor’s points are handed out at Le Mans depending on where the car finishes in class clarification. For the driver’s championship, the points are given to the drivers depending on where they finish in the overall standings. With the Porsche #2 team knowing they were in a good place in class clarification they focused on having a clean safe race and getting it across the line at the chequered flag.

    But Le Mans was not done with throwing up the twists and turns of the 24-hour endurance race. With only about three hours left on the clock, the Porsche #1 that had been leading by a comfortable 12 laps to the second-placed car (in the overall standings) dropped a lot of speed heading around Tertre Rouge. An oil pressure problem saw Andre Lotterer pulling over at the side of the Mulsanne Straight. As much as he tried to get the car back to the pits there was not enough battery power to limp back to the garage from where he was.

    This changed the race for the #2 Porsche as they were suddenly the highest placed LMP1 car. Crunching the numbers, they worked out that with an amazingly fast and consistent pace they could potentially pass all the LMP2 cars that were ahead of them and take the overall victory. They predicted that they would reach the then-leading LMP2 by the last lap of the race, however, three amazing stints by Brendon Hartley saw the Porsche #2 in a position to take the lead from the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing with an hour of track time left.

    The last hour was completely nerve-wracking for the #2 Porsche team. They had seen three of the five hybrid LMP1 cars retire instantly from the race and seen hybrid issues on the #8 as well as suffering hybrid issues themselves. There was a sense that Le Mans was not done with the LMP1 field and until Timo Bernhard took the chequered flag no one in the Porsche garage would believe that they had won the 85th running of Le Mans.

    The Toyota #8 was the only other LMP1 car to actually classify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It seemed that the oppressive heat that descended over the Circuit de la Sarthe was affecting the hybrid systems of the LMP1 cars. Sebastien Buemi crossed the line to place the #8 ninth overall.

    It was a tight battle in LMP2 for the leading #38 car to take the overall victory of Le Mans. They had been in a strong position throughout most of the latter part of the race. When the #1 retired there was a small sense of belief that they would take the overall victory, but Hartley’s rapid place made it clear quickly that Porsche was on a mission.

    There was no challenge for the #38 for the LMP2 class victory. The real battle was between the #13 Vaillante Rebellion and the #35 Signatech Alpine as the race drew to a close. the #13 had the better race pace, but a starter motor failure saw them contending with extra long pit stops as they have to remove the back engine cover to manual kick the car into life.

    #13 ended up taking second in class, which also meant they took the bottom step of the overall podium. The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing was very close to taking the position from the Rebellion crew and showed great race pace in the latter stages of the endurance.

    LMGTE Pro gifted one of the most intense wheel-to-wheel battles to the line for the victory in class. Over the last few hours of the race, the battle had been between Corvette Racing and Aston Martin Racing to take the class lead. Pit stops were shuffling the order and usually saw the Aston on top at the end of the hour as they pitted first.

    As the final hour ticked down, Jonny Adam was half a second off the back of the #63 Corvette Racing, then in the hands of Jordan Taylor. Adam tried to make a move work going into Arnage but going up the inside of the corner meant he went very deep on exit. He held the lead for a brief moment before Taylor took it back with ease.

    An assumed brake failure saw Taylor go straight on over one of the chicanes down the Mulsanne and pull a big advantage out on Adam. In terms of fair racing, Taylor dropped off the speed a little to reduce the advantage he had and make sure there was nothing he could be penalised.

    Adam was very clever as they headed through the final sector of the track. He kept his lines very tidy and clean, making sure he had the perfect run off of the Ford Chicane. Taylor had been trying to defend and left the racing line for Adam to use to produce a beautiful overtake for the lead of the class.

    Once Adam was passed, Taylor suffered a failure on his car that was either a brake failure or a puncture as a result of his excurtion through the Mulsanne gravel traps. As it was the final lap, Taylor drove carefully and tried hard to push the car to the finish whilst trying to hold onto his second position. But Harry Tincknell had been racing in the Ford Chip Ganassi #67 with a pace that would see him in the right place if one of the cars ahead of him had an issue. Knowing Taylor was vulnerable, Tincknell pushed hard for the last lap of the race, demoting Taylor to third in class as he took a deeply deserved second in class.

    The Am class podium saw a Ferrari domination. The #84 JMW Motorsport put on an amazing performance that saw them take class victory with at least a lap’s advantage over the rest of the field. Spirit of Race #55 Ferrari finished second with the last Ferrari on the podium being the #62 Scuderia Corsa.

    Aston Martin looked strong at the beginning of the race. The #98 Aston Martin Racing was leading the class at the beginning of the race before a tyre blow out saw them in the garage for a while with repairs, dropping them down the order. The #90 TF Sport was also looking like it could challenge the Ferraris for a podium finish, but a mistake in the middle of the night put the car in the barrier. Again, repairs in the garage saw it fall down the order.

    The best finishing Aston Martin in class was the #99 Beechdean AMR. It finished just off the podium in fourth, an admirable effort considering it is only the second time the team has raced Le Mans and they had a rookie driver on the team.

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