Tag Archives: FIA World Endurance Championship

6 Hours of Nurburgring

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Nurburgring Review

FIA WEC 6 Hours of the Nurburgring Review

Our customers at the Nurburgring enjoyed another exciting round of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship at the weekend. Although the result was ultimately a good win for Porsche there was a lot of other stories happening elsewhere on the track too. Our man in the stands takes a look at what we learnt from the FIA WEC 6 Hours of the Nurburgring 2017.

Toyota are still in the fight
Despite having had a disastrous run at Le Mans and now a result to forget at the Nurburgring (with Porsche finishing 1-2), Toyota Gazoo Racing are still very much in the fight for more wins and the 2017 title. The team has always struggled mightily at the Nurburgring and this time were more than competitive. The No.7 TS050 Hybrid took pole position, and led the opening hour of the race, until damage to the car’s underfloor, and rear wing (discovered after the race) caused a drop in the car’s ultimate pace.

6 Hours of the NurburgringIn 2016, both Toyota cars were lapped by the winners. This time around their No.7 car in third finished just a minute behind. Porsche’s new high-downforce kit inevitably  still has pace to be unlocked, but the early signs are that the rest of the season is set to be close between the two main LMP1 manufacturers.

Toyota needs to ensure that the No.8 has a good run for the remaining five rounds in the season, as finishing five laps down at the Nurburgring after a fuel pump issue has damaged the title hopes of Kazuki Nakajima, Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi who now find themselves 30 points back from the No. 2 Porsche boys. (The No.7 car is all but out of the race after DNFs at Silverstone and Le Mans).

Team orders are already at play
Porsche is clearly trying to sew up the title as early as possible and negate any recovery from Toyota. Porsche utilized team orders at the final pit stops at the Nurburgring to ensure that the No.2 Porsche of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber took the win on Sunday. Yes, we’re only at the halfway mark of the season, but it is clear that Porsche knows that it’s No. 1 car (with a DNF at Le Mans) has almost no chance of taking the championship this year.

6 Hours of the NurburgringIf Toyota is to win the Driver’s title, then it needs to ensure that the No.8 also finishes ahead of their No.7 wherever possible during the remaining non-European rounds.

GTE Pro title race tightens
In the GTE Pro category, the title races have heated up nicely with the second half of the season still to run. Both the Driver’s, Team’s and Manufacturer’s title races are still close, with all four factories in the mix, which is a testament to the strength of the Balance of Performance this season.

6 Hours of the NurburgringThere’s just 20 points separating the top five teams in the LMGTE Pro teams title race. The No.67 Ford UK GT still leads the way, but with 84 points, is just 11 ahead of the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari which finished first at the Nürburgring and the No.91 Porsche which is now level after a second in Germany, but classed as third due to the No.51 having a win on its record this season. The No.97 Aston Martin is fourth, four points back with 69, ahead of the No.71 AF Corse Ferrari that finished last at the Nürburgring after gear shifter problems that’s now on 64.

It’s slightly more complex in the Drivers’ title race, which has been affected by the inclusion of GTE Am drivers (eligible for the championship) scoring highly at Le Mans. Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell are on 84 points at the top, with Pipo Derani alone in second (though he will slip down the order now that his Ford deal is over). The nearest challengers to the No.67 Ford GT duo is the No.91 Porsche GT Team pair of Fred Makowiecki and Richard Lietz that are a point off Derani and 11 points of the leaders. The No.97 Aston Martin is now 15 points back in fourth (but truly third) after finishing off the podium at the Nurburgring.

The closest battle in the GTE ranks though, is in the Manufacturers Championship. AF Corse’s win in the Eifel Forest has seen them move level with Ford on 135 points in the lead. Aston Martin have 113 in third, with Porsche on 106 in fourth.

Jackie Chan DC Racing running away with it in LMP2
Meanwhile in LMP2, Jackie Chan DC Racing is running away with it, after its ‘Mighty 38’ trio of Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho Pin Tung produced their third win in four races this season. It was a dominant run too, after building a lead in the first half they became untouchable for the final three hours of the 6 hours of the Nürburgring, the winning margin was eventually over a lap.

6 Hours of the NurburgringThe only real contender in the title race now, is the No.31 Rebellion, which needs to start winning races if it is to have any shot of even taking the title race down to the wire. But being 46 points behind though, is a pretty tall order. Jackie Chan DC Racing have looked almost unbeatable at times when everything runs smoothly. The only way this gap closes is if they drop significant points on multiple occasions and the No.31 trio are able to capitalize.

Dempsey Proton emerges in GTE Am
The title fights in GTE Am, like GTE Pro, are also tight knit, and have the potential to be decided at the Bahrain season finale. Dempsey Proton Racing had a fantastic run on home turf last weekend, with young rookies Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst steering the team, and teammate/team owner Christian Reid to their first win of the season. That, coupled with the championship-leading Clearwater Racing Ferrari finishing fourth, has closed the gaps considerably.

6 Hours of the NurburgringMeanwhile, in the championship for GT Am Drivers, it is all change. Christian Ried, Marvin Dienst and Matteo Cairoli have moved into the lead, with 88 points after their win, although they are level with Clearwater’s trio, which dropped points at Le Mans by finishing behind guest entered GTE AM drivers. Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda are third, but just two points back. With three clear protagonists, the rest of the season will be fascinating.

The FIA World Endurance Championship now moves away from Europe for the rest of the season, starting at Mexico at the beginning of September. Travel Destinations will be returning to all European rounds again in 2018 and you can register for more information by emailing us at info@traveldestinations.co.uk

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Toyota LMP1

FIA WEC Spa-Francorchamps Review

The 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship moved on to Belgium and the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit this last weekend. As always this is the last FIA WEC race before Le Mans, so whilst there were battles on the track for championship points, there was also a lot of planning for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Ever present, our man in the stands was present trackside to follow all the action and bring you this exclusive report, looking at the main talking points and what we learned from the race.

1. Toyota’s Le Mans chances look good
Toyota Gazoo Racing has started the FIA WEC season with two wins from two races, and a Le Mans outlook which has arguably never been stronger. The 2017 TS050 Hybrid is a winning machine, with the regular drivers in the No.7 and No.8 cars both proving to be in the form of their lives heading into the big race next month. The question remaining though, concerns the aero-package. At Spa, the No.9 car of Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Sarrazin and Yuji Kunimoto debuted the low-drag configuration of the car, which the team will race at Le Mans, while the No.7 and No.8 full-season FIA WEC entries ran the high-downforce kits that the team will use at the six-hour races all season.
FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsWhile the performance (a fifth-place finish) for the Le Mans option is likely down to the team using the race as an extended test session for both the car and drivers, it was interesting that it didn’t feature all weekend. The car did briefly take the lead when Lapierre out-braked himself into La Source at the start, but after that it failed to feature in the race for the podium, finishing far behind the two other Toyotas and both Porsches.

The difference is that Porsche has been running its own Le Mans kit all season so far, and has therefore had much more race experience with it, which is confidence building, as even though it hasn’t won yet, it came close at Spa with the No.2 919 Hybrid, which would have been involved in a grandstand finish had Brendon Hartley not lost time in the pits due to a nose change late in the race following a clumsy collision with the No.36 Signatech Alpine.

It remains to be seen how close the two marques will be on-track at Le Mans because of this, though it has all the makings of a classic should Toyota have some speed up its sleeve.

2. Aston Martin struggling for pace?
Aston Martin Racing has had a remarkably quiet 2017. While its two Vantages are still relatively fresh from combining to score the Teams’ Championship and Drivers’ Championship last year, so far this year they haven’t looked like even sniffing a podium.FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa FrancorchampsIn GTE Pro it’s been all Ford and Ferrari so far, with Chip Ganassi Team UK and AF Corse in turn dominating Silverstone and Spa. Porsche has had flashes of pace, but the new car looks to be a few months from being perfect in the reliability and consistency department. Le Mans could well be a different story though. Le Mans will have a separate and thus far undetermined Balance of Performance applied, and this could favour Aston Martin’s Vantages as the cars have looked to be struggling.

In addition, the No.95 did produce one single lap in Free Practice 2 at Spa which put Dane, Marco Sorensen seconds quicker than his teammates, and atop the standings in the class. After that it was unable to produce a similar time, but it begs the question, is there something in reserve?

3. The Ferrari 488 has arrived
As mentioned above, the Ferrari 488 dominated at Spa, and in the second half of the race proved totally untouchable. It has been reliable – which it wasn’t last year – and now has the speed to match. AF Corse’s driver line-up too seems to be strong from top to bottom, with newcomer Alessandro Pier Guidi looking both quick and consistent over his stints in the car.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsThe team finished the race 1 & 2, and looked unstoppable. If they can continue their form at the Le Mans 24 Hours, then they may well emerge as title favourites, should Ford not keep tabs, the Porsche get up to speed and Aston pick up the pace.

4. The new LMP2s look reliable
Before the season started there was much speculation as to how reliable the new LMP2 cars would prove. In testing the cars were suffering from electrical woes, and gearbox issues which often prevented teams from having extended runs. Silverstone and Spa though, have been very encouraging, the 2017 cars looking strong over long distances all of a sudden. Last weekend there was only one retirement in the field, which was Tockwith Motorsports’ Ligier JS P217, which suffered from a gearbox failure at the very end of the race. Tockwith is new to racing in LMP2 though, and the FIA WEC is a difficult challenge to master.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsLe Mans may be a different story, as going for twenty-four hours is much harder than six. But so far the signs are positive, and Le Mans’ potential to become a race of attrition is looking increasingly slim.

5. And race well together too!
As well as being reliable, the race at Spa put to rest the nay-sayers who assumed the racing in the FIA WEC’s LMP2 class would be poor, with the entire field being made up of Oreca 07s. The cars are aerodynamically sophisticated and performance wise much more powerful, which on paper in effectively a ‘spec series’, has the potential to produce processional racing. So far that hasn’t been the case, especially at Spa, with the 07s able to get a good tow and race close together.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsThe drivers are enjoying racing with the new kit, and so are the fans. So when Le Mans rolls around, with a diverse 23-car grid, it could be the class to watch!

The next round of the FIA WEC will be the 24 Hours of Le Mans, taking place on the 17th -18th June 2017.
If you would like tickets to be at the big race of the season then please call the Travel Destinations team now on 0844 873 0203. Availability is limited, but we can still look after you.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

FIA WEC 2017

FIA WEC Silverstone – Round Up

Easter weekend saw Silverstone host the first race in the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship. As always our man in the stands was present to record all the action. Below is his summary of what we all learned from another great race in the FIA WEC.

1. Porsche’s low-downforce aero is scary
Porsche LMP1 Team will head to Spa and Le Mans confident. It didn’t win at Silverstone, but going into the weekend it felt it was very unlikely. Porsche opted to use its low-downforce aerodynamic package for its 919s – which doesn’t suit the ‘Home of British Motorsport’s’ sweeping bends and medium speed corners – to continue its development pre-Le Mans. Toyota on the other hand, used its high-downforce kit in an attempt to start the season on a high.

Porsche at SilverstonePrior to the weekend the team assumed it would be somewhere in the region of two seconds a lap slower because of this, where in reality it was closer to one second. The result? Porsche was able to stay on the lead lap in the first half of the race, and challenge for the win after the Saftey Car went in in the closing stages. The team’s #2 919 of Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard ended up leading in the final hour, with Toyota’s Sebastian Buemi taking the lead with fresher tyres in the final 15 minutes.

Toyota won the race, but Porsche will be extremely satisfied by its potential when the high-downforce kit it will use after Le Mans comes into play.

2. The GTE Am title race looks to be a corker!
The finale to the 6 Hours of Silverstone saw major drama in the LMGTE Am division, with Pedro Lamy and Miguel Molina colliding at Stowe while battling for the lead, allowing Clearwater Racing’s Matt Griffin to snatch the lead just a handful corners from the end on the final lap to take the win.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of SilverstoneAm was a hotly contested class throughout, and while Aston Martin Racing led most of it – before Lamy limped home second – Clearwater Racing and Spirit of Race were in the fight until the end. Aston Martin Racing has been here before with Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Lamy, while Clearwater and Spirit of Race are new to the WEC and once up to speed have the potential to take the title to the wire.

GTE Pro looks a lot tighter this year, and with the addition of a close-knit Am battle, GTE in general could provide fans with the best racing action all season.

3. Plenty of intrigue in LMP2
The new-look LMP2 class in the WEC, while not good on the diversity front, produced some great racing and a surprise winner. Throughout the weekend it seemed that either G-Drive Racing or Signatech Alpine would take the win, but the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca of Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung prevailed and finished on top.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of SilverstoneDuring the race the action was close, though the nature of the entire field being Gibson-engined Orecas did make it visibly difficult for drivers to overtake, even with traffic. It should be a close title race though, as there’s clearly four or five cars which have the potential to win multiple races.

In driver terms, while the usual names featured, Matthieu Vaxiviere shone for TDS Racing, steering the team to a podium finish by race end after an astonishing final stint. Emmanuel Collard in his return to prototype racing impressed too, as did gentlemen driver Francois Perrodo, who in his prototype debut was able to lap with the other drivers in the class of his driver grading admirably.

4. Toyota’s serviceability gets a thumbs up
While it’s always hard to take positives from a big accident, WEC debutant Jose-Maria Lopez’s shunt at Copse provided Toyota Gazoo Racing with some valuable in-race practice of repairing the new TS050. All signs are positive, as the car – which didn’t have much left of its front-end after the impact – was out after just an hour in the garage. It was therefore able to finish fourth in LMP1, scoring valuable points.

Toyota LMP1That sort of practice could come in very useful at a race like Le Mans, where the Japanese team will have three cars and will look to turn a car into a Guinea pig should it get caught up in an incident during the race.

5. Ford looks strong in Pro
The Ford GT now looks like the car which we all thought it would be last year. Harry Tincknell (who notably had the drive of his life), Andy Priaulx and Pipo Derani combined to hand the UK Chip Ganassi team the win in their #67 GT, which should have been the headline for a Ford 1-2.

The No.66 ran with it, but faded late in the race after running 1-2 at the top for much of the middle-stint. Nevertheless the car appears to hold the advantage early doors in the title race, and with no BoP adjustments until the round at the Nürburgring (though at Le Mans there will be a separate BoP process), the No.67 crew should be odds on for a good result at Spa.

Ford in the 2017 FIA WECIt must be noted though, that the new Porsche 911 fared well and scored a podium (though one did retire after an engine fire) and AF Corse’s 488s came on strong in the race on the performance front, making for a thrilling battle between the three teams.

Aston Martin Racing meanwhile, will have some work to do prior to Spa, as it failed to feature at all, with a lack of raw pace which prevented either one of its cars challenging for a podium.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

The FIA WEC moves on to Spa-Francochamps from the 4th – 7th May. The last opportunity to see the cars in action before Le Mans. Please call us for last minute ticket details.
Of course we will all be at Le Mans for the biggest race of the year on the 17th – 18th June. We do have some ticket availability for the 24 hours. Please call for us for further details.
Then the final European round of the FIA WEC takes place at the Nurburgring from the 14th – 17th July. We have trackside camping available for this event. Please call us to book.

Porsche at Bahrain

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Bahrain

Our man in the stands has just returned from Bahrain, following the last round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Below are a selection of his thoughts following what was a memorable and emotional race.

Audi bows out in style
Audi could not win a title in its final season of LMP1 racing, but they did manage to win one final race. In true Audi fashion, the No.8 R18 of Oliver Jarvis, Lucas Di Grassi and Loic Duval dominated the 6 Hours of Bahrain, headlining an Audi 1-2, giving the team one final hurrah before its 18-year Le Mans prototype programme came to an end. It was an incredibly emotional weekend all round for all those connected to Audi, with tributes to the team aplenty throughout the meeting courtesy of both the race organisers in the FIA and many of its competitors. Toyota in particular were as classy as ever, sporting tributes to Audi on the nose of their TS050s, and getting its team to hold a banner which read “Thank you Audi. We will meet again, some time, some where.” on the final grid walk of the season. The WEC came together as one, and in the fairest way possible, gave Audi a worthy send off.

Audi Sport

Then, once the race got underway, both the R18s raced off into the distance and were unchallenged past the first hour of the race. All season long the the 2016 R18 has proven to be the quickest of the three hybrid LMP1 chassis, but also the most unreliable. In Bahrain though, that was not the case, as the pair of Audis ran faultlessly for the duration, finishing the race over a minute ahead of the No.1 Porsche. The result left everyone wondering what could have been, had Team Joest been able to replicate such dominant performances earlier In the year.

Alonso states his intentions
It appears that Audi’s sudden departure has done little to effect the attractiveness of the FIA WEC to world-class drivers, as two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso all but confirmed his intention to drive for Porsche at the end-of-season FIA WEC Awards Ceremony. In a tribute video to mark the end of Mark Webber’s driving career, a personal message from Alonso was shown on the video boards at the gala, in which Alonso said: “You’ve had a fantastic career and now all your success with Porsche. You didn’t wait for me there, it would have been nice but you’ll still be around and I will ask you many things when I join your adventure.” Fernando Alonso joining the party would give the FIA WEC a huge boost at a time when it’s in dire need of a good news story. He would bring not only talent, but a wealth of publicity to the championship, which could go a long way in attracting further manufacturers into the LMP1 H class.

Aston Martin almost completes the triple
While Aston Martin Racing left Bahrain with a pair of GTE Pro championships, the team at one point looked to have all three sewn up. At the halfway point of the race, Aston’s pair of Vantages were running 1-2 at the head of the field, until a wheel came off the No.97, forcing Darren Turner to pit the car for repairs. The result was AF Corse taking the Manufacturers World Cup for Ferrari with a second and fourth place finish.

Aston Martin Racing

Nevertheless, it was a great result for the British marque, which after five years of trying, now has championship wins to show for its efforts. GTE Pro this season was a strange one, with Balance of Performance rows aplenty and on-track battles frankly too few and far between. But Aston Martin Racing proved that you don’t need a turbo-powered car to win in GTE, and that a budget like that of Ford’s doesn’t necessarily ensure you are any more competitive than the next team. Ultimately, that’s exactly the philosophy that the FIA and ACO are trying to achieve.

Regulation freezes
Audi’s withdrawal from the sport has already started to send shockwaves across the sports car racing world. The first notable one coming last weekend when the ACO announced that the current LMP1 H regulations will be frozen until 2020. That ensures that costs are kept down due to development and testing restrictions, put in place, presumably to keep Toyota and Porsche coming back for more. It also means that running a third energy recovery system with a 10 megajoule package is now not on the horizon. Will it attract any new manufacturers? That appears unlikely unless there is a real cost-capping system in place. Never say never though.

The unlikely champions
When all was said and done on Saturday night, Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani were crowned champions, despite failing to finish on the podium in the six races after Le Mans. The trio in the No. 2 Porsche scored consistently throughout the year following their triumphs at Le Mans and Silverstone, but never found the combination of pace and luck needed to claim more silverware from the series’ trip to Germany onward.

Porsche

Nevertheless Porsche are worthy champions, and their championship represents the spirit endurance in almost every way. The No. 2 car battled issues, incidents and rotten luck to finish every race with points, and cruised home to take the title at Bahrain sixth after an early puncture put them three laps down. What will be interesting though, is what the future holds for all the Porsche drivers, as there have been rumours swirling about that the Porsche lineup will feature some new names for the 2017 FIA WEC season.

FIA World Endurance Championship Calendar 2017

6 Hours of Silverstone, U.K. 16th April 2017 (Click here for ticket offers)
6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 6th May 2017 (Click here for travel & ticket offers)
24 Hours of Le Mans, France, 17th & 18th June 2017 (Click here for travel & ticket offers)
6 Hours of Nurburgring, Germany, 16th July 2017 (Click here for travel & ticket offers)
6 Hours of Mexico City, Mexico, 3rd September 2017
6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas, U.S.A. 16th September 2017
6 Hours of Fuji, Japan, 15th October 2017
6 Hours of Shanghai, 5th November 2017
6 Hours of Bahrain, Bahrain, 18 th November 2017

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Ford GT40

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Shanghai

Our man in the stands has returned from the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Shanghai with some thoughts on where we are an what to expect next.

Audi’s performance in China was a microcosm of its 2016 season
Well, Audi has just one race left in LMP1, and its only chance of ending its season on a high is with a win, not a title. Audi bowed out of both the Manufacturers and Drivers World Championships last weekend in China, once again failing to win or even compete for a win after yet another series of miscues and poor luck. A fuel-rig issue robbed the No.8 Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Loic Duval and Lucas Di Garssi  (which was firmly in the Drivers Championship race) of a chance to win, before a clumsy incident with the sister No.7 R18 in turn ended Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler’s chance of a podium.

Audi R18
In the end the two cars limped home a distant fifth and sixth; not what Audi wanted, especially under the cloud of its announcement to terminate its FIA WEC programme at the end of the season.
With six hours of racing left for the Four Rings, it’s going to be an emotional end, but thankfully there’s still one last chance for a send-off worthy of its 18-year-long effort.

Toyota and Porsche are neck and neck
For the second race in succession and the third race this year (including Le Mans) Toyota and Porsche looked perfectly matched. Qualifying was again incredibly tight on Saturday, and on Sunday Toyota was able to go toe-to-toe with the winning No.1 Porsche. Rotten luck stood in the way of victory for Toyota, once again. Fresh from its triumph on home turf, it looked like a second win was more than just a possibility, and in the final third of the race, the No.6 TS050 of Mike Conway, Stephane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi looked set to take the lead of the race after a bold call on tyre strategy. But the team was dealt an unfortunate blow, when a second puncture on the No.6 forced the car to pit an extra time, allowing the No.1 Porsche to cruise home.

FIA WEC
Now, the No.6, by finishing second, and crucially two spots ahead of the championship-leading No.2 Porsche which continues to disappoint on pace, still has a chance to win it all. It’s an outside chance, as the crew have to win or finish second and hope that the No.2 has a woeful day, either retiring or finishing way down the order, to steal it. Never say never though, as we saw at Le Mans, never count anything out. If anything though, it’s promising that the two brands look evenly matched as the Audi era concludes.

GTE Pro at Bahrain has the potential to be one for the ages
The cyclical nature of this season’s GTE Pro results, have left all three titles in the class going down to the wire, with Ford, Ferrari and Aston Martin all with a shout of taking the title. At the moment it looks to be advantage Ford, with two-straight dominant wins, but Ford’s title chances are the slimmest of the three marques. Aston Martin narrowly leads the Drivers and Teams Championship with the No.95, Ferrari narrowly leads the Manufacturer’s Championship and Ford’s only real chance is in the Teams race, as it still lags behind in all three. If it kicks off at Bahrain though, with door-to-door action, then expect fireworks and it could be a classic.

LMGTE Pro
Alpine’s exceptional year ended with the LMP2 title 
Gustavo Menezes, Stephane Richelmi and Nicolas Lappiere  (driver ranking debates aside) have been the class of the field in LMP2 at almost every round this year, and fully earned their LMP2 titles. It was a fitting to see the Alpine team battle with the RGR Sport by Morand battle all the way to the end at China, capping off an exciting, and at times shocking, season in LMP2.

Signatech Alpine
With Signatech Alpine presumably in damage-limitation mode throughout the weekend, knowing it didn’t need a podium to secure its titles, G-Drive took its second win of the season in dominant fashion. Had lady luck been on the Russian team’s side it may have been a different story this season, she wasn’t though, and Alpine became 2016 LMP2 World Champions.

AF Corse’s Am squad is almost certain to win the title at Bahrain
To keep the GTE Am championship races alive, the No.98 Aston Martin had to win; and it did. Problem was that Francois Perrodo, Rui Aguas and Manu Collard finished second (following a post-race penalty for KCMG). That means the trio hold an almost insurmountable 25-point lead heading into the Bahrain finale. The only way the Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda can win is if they win and the No.83 retires, because by matching the Ferrari trio will mean they will win based on number of wins. It’s such a strong lead, that the No.83 car can win the title in Saturday Qualifying, by scoring an extra point. Obviously it’s not 100% certain, but Collard, Perrodo and Aguas can breathe easy for the next week or so, knowing that they’ve got the championships all-but locked up.

AF Corse Ferrari

The final round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Chanmpionship takes place in Bahrain on the 19th November. There will be much to celebrate for the victors and wounds to lick for those without trophies, but most eyes will be moist as the Audi Sport team say goodbye.. for now.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

6 Hours of Fuji, Japan

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji

Just back from Japan, our man in the stands takes a look at some of the talking points arising from the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji

The LMP1 manufacturers have never been closer
Qualifying ahead of this year’s 6 Hours of Fuji saw the best Audi, Porsche and Toyota laps all within two tenths of each other, and then all of them finish up the session within half a second. The result? A stunning race in which all three factory teams had a chance to win.

6 Hours of Fuji

Audi once again had the fastest car, but pit stop blunders ultimately cost the No.8 car of Oliver Jarvis, Lucas Di Grassi and Loic Duval the win. In the end it was Toyota’s No.6 TS050 that were victorious, with Stephane Sarrazin, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway taking the win by under two seconds in the end, after a bold strategy call at the final round of pit stops catapulted the car ahead of the No.8 Audi despite trailing it almost the entire race.

It was the first win for the Japanese brand since the final round of the 2014 season, so it’s been a long time coming. Audi meanwhile, will spend the next two weeks reflecting on their future (see below), after what turned out to be a very odd weekend for the German LMP1 stalwarts.

 

Audi’s LMP1 programme may have an expiry date
Rumours seem to swirl every year, that Audi will be pulling the plug on its LMP1 programme; especially now that it’s been racing a sister brand in Porsche since 2014. This time it does seem that there may well be some substance to the speculation. Prior to the on-track running at Fuji Speedway, German media outlet Auto Motor und Sport reported that the Audi board will terminate the programme at the end of 2017 season, therefore running it until the end of the current WEC regulation cycle. Now, there’s no full confirmation that this is the case, but the piece was written by a well respected journalist in Marcus Schurig, who this writer can say whole heartedly wouldn’t publish a story of that magnitude unless he was more than 100% sure there was something there.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji

Losing Audi would send shockwaves through sportscar racing, that’s for sure, and it would be a crying shame to see it leave. But these things happen, and it certainly wouldn’t come as a total surprise given that Audi Sport certainly don’t owe the sport anything after supporting it through thick and thin since 1999 and in a classy manner too. As the Audi crew congratulated the Toyota team though, with full of emotion after the race last weekend, John Hinhaugh on the WEC commentary feed did make a very interesting point: “That’s why they won’t be leaving, there’s too much passion, it means too much to them.” Watch this space.

 

Ford’s UK GTE team has life
After what was a very underwhelming season until the trip to Fuji, the UK arm of the Chip Ganassi Ford programme finally kicked into gear and took what seemed like an easy 1-2 in the Pro class. At each race to that point the pair of Fords had under performed, often having reliability issues or on-track blunders which cost them multiple podiums; lets not forget that the pair of GTs from the USA Ford team were the ones that had the dream run at Le Mans this season.

Ford

With two rounds remaining, it appears that both Aston Martin Racing and AF Corse will finally have to deal with the Ford squad when it comes to racing for the win, after consistently finishing above them in each of the rounds prior to the race in Japan. And that’s great for the class.

 

LMP2 in its current form is spectacular
Yes next year’s cars will be considerably faster, and the quality of entries looks to take another jump; but what the LMP2 class has at the moment should be cherished. The variety in chassis was on full display last weekend at Fuji Speedway, with six of the cars in the class all having a legitimate shot of winning the race. It is safe to say that it turned into one of, if not the best LMP2 race in WEC history, with multiple nail-biting moments and clean racing throughout the field.

Start at the 6 Hours of Fuji

After hours of duels between Alpine, RGR Sport, Manor, Strakka and ESM it came down to Will Stevens in the leading G-Drive Oreca and Bruno Senna in the RGR Ligier. And the battle between the two ex-F1 drivers didn’t disappoint. A gamble on tyre strategy from RGR promoted the Mexican team’s Ligier to the top spot after G-Drive led the whole race from the start. Stevens then had to fight his way back, taking the lead just a couple of laps before the flag. For G-Drive it was an incredible way to take its long-awaited first win of the 2016 season, and for RGR its title chances became even less likely, with Alpine holding a very healthy lead heading into the round at China.

 

The No.2 Porsche needs to return to form
After Le Mans it looked like the No.2 Porsche of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb would be a lock to win the title after winning at Silverstone and taking the full double points finish at the 24 hours at La Sarthe. But the trio have struggled since, finishing off the podium at each round and at Fuji looked totally lost, coming home a distant fifth.

Porsche at Fuji

Now, they still lead by 23 points but all of a sudden the No.6 Toyota, which sits second in the standings looks like the stronger car. A couple more wins for Conway, Sarrazin and Kobayashi and the title fight could turn into a thriller that goes down to the wire. It wouldn’t be the first time…

The FIA WEC now moves on to China where the Six Hours of Shanghai takes place on the 6th November.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Gulf Racing

FIA WEC 6 Hours of COTA

FIA WEC 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas

Our man in the stands, has just returned from Austin, Texas following the latest round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Porsche may have taken the win, but Stephen Kilbey takes a look behind the scenes and reports on some of the other stories around the paddock.

1. Toyota will head to Fuji confident
After struggling for pace and reliability at all of the six-hour races prior to COTA this season, Toyota Gazoo Racing travel to the final three races of the year knowing it is capable of more podiums; even with the high-downforce kit for the TS050 lacking in top-end speed.

Toyota at COTA
In Texas both cars had the raw pace to compete with both Porsches during the race, and in the end the No.6 of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin finished the race third, just seconds from the No.8 Audi in second. The sister car would have been there or thereabouts too, but suffered intermittent waste-gate issues with its turbo and came home fifth. Nevertheless, the whole team is on the up, and is looking to finally put its Le Mans demons behind it before the end of the season.

2. The final WEC/IMSA double bill for the foreseeable future could have been better
Once again, the paddock left Austin underwhelmed by the IMSA/WEC event in the USA, which was a shame, as it seems unlikely that it will happen in the future, with the relationship between the two governing bodies appearing strained at best. The crowd – despite the (much bloated) figure touted – was poor once again, with almost all the grandstands appearing empty for the entire meeting. The racing was also all on the Saturday, which during the fall in Texas is suicide, because a huge portion of the population is focused on college football all day each Saturday.

COTA Austin, Texas
The temperature was also extremely high; too high for many. Drivers suffered through their stints without air conditioning, and everyone else, including the fans, spent most of the meeting desperately trying to find shade, or cooler areas to escape the 30+ degree heat and 80-90% humidity. Holding Lone Star Le Mans event at the start or end of the season would be more prudent going forward.

3. LMP2 is all but sewn up
With yet another win this season, the No. 36 Signatech Alpine of Gustavo Menezes, Stephane Richelmi and Nicolas Lapierre holds a sizable 38-point lead heading into the final rounds. The trio has won four races so far in 2016, and consistently has the pace to outclass their rivals in the RGR Sport by Morand Ligier.

LMP2
Obviously a retirement for the No.36 and an RGR win would close the gap significantly, but if the French team’s form continues then there’s they can wrap it up before heading to Bahrain.

4. AF Corse needs to sort out its Am-leading 458’s lack of pace and durability quickly
The No.83 AF Corse Ferrari, which currently leads the GTE Am championship, saw its lead take a hit last weekend, when the car was nowhere in qualifying and had electrical issues during the race that resulted in it finishing last of the classified runners. Prior to that the car struggled for pace in Mexico, though the team scored well when both its title rivals at the time retired.

AF Corse Ferrari
Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas hold just a 33-point advantage going forward, with both the No.98 Aston Martin and No.88 Abu Dhabi Proton Porsche finding form.  If the team is unable to compete for wins once again in the trips to Asia and the Middle-East, then the title race could go down to the wire, which would be a real surprise.

5. LMP1 reliability is still an issue
Remember the race at Spa this year? When every LMP1 H entry had issues, resulting in a surprise win for the No.8 Audi and a podium for the No.13 Rebellion? Well it certainly seems like that sort of race could happen again after the race last weekend in the USA. During the race, the No.8 Audi had a total electrical failure, the No.6 Toyota had turbo issues, the No.7 Audi had issues with its drinks bottle and door. Both Porsches had almost faultless runs this time, but in the past they’ve been subject to a variety of niggles.

Audi mechanics
Sure, none of the six factory cars retired from the race at CoTA, but even at this late stage of the season they still seem fragile. If for whatever reason, the title race goes down to the finale at Bahrain, then it could be interesting to see how the cars hold up when the teams and drivers get desperate.

The FIA WEC now moves on to the Fuji circuit in Japan for the next race on the 16th October.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photos by Dailysportscar

Porsche in Mexico

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Mexico

Following on from last weekend’s inaugural trip by the FIA World Endurance Championship to Central America, our man in Mexico takes us through five key post-race talking points from the 6 Hours of Mexico 2016.

1. Audi should have won
In a year that’s turning out to be very un-Audi for the long-standing German manufacturer, Audi Sport once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Both the No.7 and No.8 R18s were the class act of the field on pace in the race, and in the early stages looked to be on course for a 1-2 finish. But a mixture of bad luck and good fortune for Porsche resulted in Audi coming away from Mexico with even less of a chance of winning either titles available to the LMP1 class.

Audi at the 6 hours of Mexico

In the race the No. 8 had a hefty shunt after a front-left wheel bearing failure while Oliver Jarvis was leading the race, and the No.7 finished second after an extra pit stop was required following a costly error by Andre Lotterer while tracking down the leading No.1 Porsche in the closing stages.

The board will be deciding the future of Audi’s factory motorsport programmes in the coming months. If the round in Austin sees it continue its rough string of results, then it may be harder than ever to for those high up at Audi Sport to justify continuing the programme heading into 2017. And that, would be a crying shame and would send ripples across the FIA WEC.

2. Aston Martin is back!
Balance of Performance debates aside, Aston Martin Racing’s WEC GTE Pro programme has had a rough couple of years, which has seen them unable to compete for race wins on a regular basis. Mexico City – with its high altitude and its tight, slow course to race on – favoured the boys in green, and this saw them dominate all weekend. During the race, AMR were running 1-2 in the Pro class by as much as 90 seconds at one point, and only a mistake by Nicki Thiim in tricky conditions prevented a total sweep of the weekend for the British marque.

Aston Martin Racing

All of a sudden, Darren Turner leads the Drivers Championship, and the team leads the World Cup for GT Manufacturers by three points, and seem odds on to win it all if its cars can continue their consistent points scoring performances all the way through to Bahrain.

3. The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez deserves its place on the WEC calendar
Disappointing crowd figures (38,000) aside, the event was run extremely well. The efforts of promoter – and LMP2 race winner – Ricardo Gonzalez paid off, with the circuit suiting the racing and the fans treated to a good fan area and selection of food and places to watch the action from.

Mexico

It has a long way to go before it becomes as well respected as the races in Fuji and Spa, but for year one, it’s was a very good start. When the calendar was first announced, the decision to hold a round in Mexico City was met with a lot of scepticism, but thankfully most of the initial concerns were not a real issue. It was well promoted locally and felt like a proper race meeting.

The 6 Hours of Mexico is here to stay, at least for the next two years, and that’s a good thing.

4. The Am title is very much AF Corse’s to lose

With four rounds remaining, it looks like the No.83 crew of Francois Perrodo, Manu Collard and Rui Aguas have their title dreams firmly within their grasp. Another very impressive performance in finishing second, while their title challengers – the  No. 98 Aston Martin and Larbre Corvette – faltered, seeing them head into the round in America with a 35 point lead over the Abu Dhabi Proton team.

AF Corse Ferrari

What was most eye-opening about their run last weekend was that they struggled in each session prior to the race with power. Being 7000 feet above sea level left everyone down on power, up to 25% in some cases! But for the sole Ferrari 458 it seemed as if it was doomed to finish last after being far off the pace in Free Practice and Qualifying. However, cooler temperatures on race day, an almost faultless run and being able to capitalize on the misfortune of others, leaves them the team to beat in the second half of the season.

5. The champions have found form
In the race, Porsche took the win, but the No.2 car of Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas, which leads the points tally, once again was on the wrong end of the results sheet. Now, because their closest rivals in the No.8 Audi heading into the race scored just 1 point, they head to Texas with a 41 point advantage. Finishing fourth was by no means impressive, but it was enough. They will know though, that if Brendon Hartley hadn’t crashed into the Gulf Racing Porsche at Silverstone and had reliability issues at Spa then it could be a very different story.

Porsche 919

In a repeat of the Nurburgring 6 Hours, the reigning champions in the No.1 Porsche 919 were the class of the Stuttgart-based brand, and took their second win of the season. Don’t be surprised if their new found form continues in the next three months.

The next round for the FIA WEC will take place in Austin, Texas on the 17th September and much could be decided both on and off the track after that race.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photographs by Dailysportscar.com

Corvette at Le Mans

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Nurburgring Preview

What to watch out for at the FIA WEC 6 Hours Nürburgring

The Le Mans hype train may have reached its last stop in 2016, but the FIA WEC’s world tour still has six more rounds to run. Next week the FIA World Endurance Championship runners and riders hit the track for the first time since the Le Mans 24 Hours when the series travels to the Nürburgring for the final European race of the season. Here, our man in the stands, takes a look at some of the main talking points ahead of the fourth round of the 2016 WEC season:

Toyota to Bounce Back
After missing out on winning the race in truly crushing fashion at Le Mans, Toyota Gazoo Racing will be extra motivated to have a strong showing at the Nürburgring as it sets its target to winning the WEC World Championship. The big issue is that the points situation highly favours Porsche in both the manufacturers and drivers championships following Le Mans. Porsche leads the factory points tally by 32 points over Audi and 48 over Toyota, while Le Mans and Silverstone winners Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas control the drivers standings by 39 points. The Japanese outfit has a mountain to climb in the remaining six rounds if it is to challenge for any sort of trophies this year. But you can bet that they will throw the kitchen sink at it if they have to.

Toyota at FIA WEC 6 Hours of Nurburgring

Ford dominance
Ford’s Le Mans victory was a tale of both triumph and anti-climax. Everyone close to the sport should have been impressed by the Blue Oval coming to Le Mans on its first year back and competing for a win; but instead were left disappointed. Anyone who followed the GTE ‘fiasco’ in any level of detail at Le Mans, knows that in the world of Balance of Performance Ford lapping four to five seconds quicker than the other cars in the Pro class on its way to a 1,3,4 at La Sarthe should never have happened.

Ford win at Le Mans

Had Ford showed such prowess from the Prologue onwards, then the ACO would have surely the been more prepared, but instead, Ford failed to reveal the GT’s capabilities until Le Mans week. You can argue that they played the game well, and they did, but at the detriment of good racing. With that in mind, going into the Nürburgring, the powers that be will have to reign the cars in somewhat dramatically to prevent further uproar. Currently Ford is on a streak though, having won both IMSA GTLM races since Le Mans, meaning the round in Germany could prove to be a crucial one for the future of the GTE Pro class if they are able to win again in convincing fashion.

Aston’s Tactical Shakeup
The sheer amount of changes to many of the driver squads ahead of the 6h Nürburgring is astounding, with some big names joining the action and some losing their drives. Aston’s movements have proved to be the most seismic though. In the AMR stable, both Fernando Rees and Jonny Adam have lost their seats in the No.97 Vantage for the rest of the season. Richie Stanaway will instead be paired up with Darren Turner, leaving Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørenesen to drive the No.95. Not only does it give the four drivers more track time at each circuit, but it spreads the points in both cars, meaning Aston can still win the GT Drivers Title with both entries as it has pilots from the No.95 — which had a better start to the season — in both Vantages.

Aston Martin Racing at Le Mans

Merhi on a charge
With the Manor team improving at each race, it’s surely only a matter of time before the ex-F1 outfit takes its first LMP2 win. At Le Mans, arguably the star of the race in LMP2 was Roberto Merhi, who drove incredibly well in his 24-hour debut. He led the class and took the fight to the best drivers in the 23-strong field early on in the race before a string of issues hampered the team’s chances. The Spaniard looks like a true sportscar star in the making, and should be one to watch throughout the second half the season following his coming out party in June.

Manor Racing at Le Mans

Packed stands
Last year when the WEC held a round at the Nürburgring for the first time, the entire paddock left on Sunday night satisfied with its atmosphere and organisation. The event ran smoothly, the racing was good and most importantly the general public showed up in their droves. There was well over 50 thousand fans trackside at the ‘Ring on race day in 2015, which was incredibly promising to see. Hosting the final European round in one of the Meccas of Motorsport, which coincidentally is a home race for two of the three major manufacturers in LMP1 should be applauded. Keeping up the interest in the WEC each season after Le Mans is imperative in its growth and future stability. So If the weather holds out and the local promoters do their jobs, expect there to be more people watching than last year, and therefore even more positivity going into the next rounds.

Crowds at Le Mans

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

FIA WEC

FIA WEC Update: LMP1 Class

The LMP1 class of the 2015 FIA WEC has seen sportscar racing technology skyrocket. But until the Asian flyaways we hadn’t seen what the most technologically advanced racecars in the world could do in the wet – Japan and China gave us a double opportunity to see just that!

Rain is a great leveller and Toyota hoped that the wet conditions at Fuji International raceway might just get them in amongst the Audis and Porsches and from the off they did just that, albeit briefly!

Porsche continued their qualifying whitewash but after 40 minutes under the safety car on a sopping wet track a frantic first few green flag laps saw Mark Webber run way wide, lose ground and then Romain Dumas tangled with Alex Wurz, formation spins saw both rejoin but only after Audi had profited from their competitors misadventures, they ran 1,2.

They fended off the Porsches into the second hour too, Dumas dealing with a fine attack from Nakajima in the #1 Toyota and Webber still fighting back from his early delay.

From there on in it was a matter of the pendulum swinging gradually back to Porsche, and as the track looked set to dry i was Audi that were on the back foot and looking for an edge, an early change to intermediates for the #7 R18 was a disaster, the car losing a full lap on pace as track conditions not only didn’t improve, but worsened again.

At the flag it was a third win on the bounce for the #17 Porsche, a fine fightback, but in reality a late race shuffle under team orders swapped the Porsches around for maximum effect in the Drivers Championship, the Porsche boys taking the lead in that order for the first time in the season.

Audi too shuffled their pair at the end, to restrict the points damage but by the end of the day in Japan it was clear that nothing short of disaster in China would prevent Porsche from taking the all important Manufacturers title.

China had a sense of deja vu about it, Porsche again on pole and the weather on race day again wet, and as in Japan the weather hung around, and worsened, despite forecasting to the contrary!

After just a couple of laps behind the Safety Car the #18 car got away the better of the two 919s.

Within a lap though there was drama as Marc Lieb and Andre Lotterer tangled when the Porsche man gave the team car some racing room. That left the #18 to fight back from the very back of the field as Lotterer tried and failed to get onto terms with Brendon Hartley.

All the weather forecasts had predicted a drying track after an hour, it took WAY longer than that and the race became a tale of when to change rubber and to what.
Audi had to make the braver calls and it almost paid off more than once, a slower drying track than everyone thought though meant that Marcel Fassler simply couldn’t exploit his intermediates vs the Porsche’s full wets sufficiently to close the gap.

Again the Porsches seemed to hold at least three of the Aces, and with the delayed #18 back in the mix after a great fightback.

Audi’s move to slicks briefly again looked like it might make an impact but the Porsche squad’s ability to maintain pace on their worn wets, then an inspired tactical move to get the #18 back on track ahead of both of the Audis at the final stop proved the killer punch, Porsche 1,2 and the #17 crew a 12 point advantage in the driver’s standings to take to the season finale at Bahrain.

More than that though there was history – Porsche claiming the World Manufacturers Championship with a race to spare.

There was a Championship confirmed too in the Privateer stakes as the #12 Rebellion crew of Mathias Beche and Nico Prost fended off the challenge of their team-mates in the #13 R-One and the improving ByKolles CLM.

Written by Graham Goodwin

FIA WEC

FIA WEC Update: LMP2

LMP2 was looking like almost a runaway championship win for KCMG before the Asian flyaways.

Wet weather, controversy, and real drama though gripped the class in Japan with a further turn of the screw in China setting up a grandstand finish to a thrilling season in Bahrain.

Realistically in Japan the championship was already down to just three cars, the points leading #47 Oreca 05 Nissan of KCMG, and the chasing pair of G-Drive Ligier Nissans. The stakes were high, and all too soon it showed.

In Japan, the fight back in the points standings from the #26 car began with a dominant pole position ahead of the sister car, this after an error from Nick Tandy left the championship leaders scrabbling for a time.

In the race though the Oreca came back, but only after Sam Bird had put in a magnificent stint in the poll sitting car.

The middle period of the race though saw a long run from Nick Tandy, handing over to Matt Howson, begin to payoff leaving Richard Bradley to deal with the challenge of Roman Rusinov in the closing stages.

It was hard fought, sometimes wheel banging fight, the two unchallenged from behind with third placed #28 car a lap down.

An ambitious move from Bradley up the inside at Turn 1 to take the lead seemed to anger the Russian, more side to side action eventually ended with substantial contact, front of Ligier to rear of Oreca, Bradley forced to pit for a checkover of the car, the Ligier through to take a lead it wouldn’t cede to the flag.

The drama though wasn’t over, Bradley emerged this time just ahead of the other Ligier, Colombian Gustavo Yucatan still off the lead lap but looking for a way by the #47 to unlap himself from the now second-place car.

Again the fight was hard fought, Both drivers aggressive both in attack and defence but it was the lap down Ligier that made contact, again to the rear of the Oreca, that turned the car around, forcing another pit stop for the #47.

Astonishingly, yet again, Bradley emerged in front of a Ligier, this time though it was Yacaman, now on the same lap, challenging the third place Oreca for the final podium position, the Signatech Alpine having by now put a lap on the pair up into second place.

From here though things would get worse, certainly for the Oreca, the Ligier seeming to have found considerable straightline speed there was wheel banging, and there was driving that seemed more than aggressive, Yacaman forcing the Oreca Man across to the pit wall on the long, full tilt straight with Bradley staying ahead and giving as good as he got until contact to the rear of the £47 pitched it sharply to the right into the barrier.

It was game over almost on the spot for Bradley, the driver mercifully OK but KCMG relegated to a DNF and losing their Championship lead to the #26 in the process.

In the aftermath of the incident packed last hour the Race Stewards were kept busy, eventually determining that the final incident was actually the fault of Bradley, the Oreca driver braking earlier than on previous laps – Their decision stands as one of the more controversial in WEC history!

Fast forward to China and again the #26, now the Championship leader, took pole position.

Again race day was wet and it saw significant incidents that bookended the six hours in Shanghai, the very first racing lap (after 14 minutes behind the Safety Car) saw Nick Tandy lose control of the #47 and lose a lap in the gravel, it was looking like the title was slipping away.

A race long fight back though saw the Oreca forge back up the field, their charge helped by a fine run from the Alpine, their new signing Tom Dillmann eventually sealing a victory, the team’s first in the WEC, by outpacing Roman Rusinov.

The #26 though was on course to score a substantial further advantage over the #47, the Chinese team’s fight back through the field looking set to stall at fourth, Nick Tandy’s late race charge towards the now third placed #28 looking hopeless after a late race full course yellow left the gap too much to cover as the clock ticked down.

That though was reckoning without an extraordinary last lap error from Ricardo Gonzales, putting the #28 into the gravel at T2 – Tandy was through into third, the Ligier a DNF and now out of the Championship race into the bargain!

The Championship finale then sees #26 lead #47 by 16 points, with 26 up for grabs – Realistically that means KCMG need to win, and the #26 needs to hit trouble – Place your bets!

Written by Graham Goodwin

FIA WEC

FIA WEC Update: GTE Classes

The FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) has been racking up the air miles in October with back-to-back six hour races at Fuji International Speedway in Japan and Shanghai International Circuit in the People’s Republic of China.

The two race meetings have seen Close competition, controversy, and the first titles of the 2015 season settled. Both races have also seen, For the first time in 2015, sustained wet weather running. With the season finale fast approaching in Bahrain, It’s time to review where things stand across V four classes.

First up are the GTE classes.

GTE Pro became a two manufacturer race from Le Mans onwards with Aston Martin failing to score a podium since the second round of the championship in Belgium back in May.

Whilst balance of performance was blamed for much of the downturn in their fortunes, the V8 Vantage dealt a swingeing restrictor cut, more recently it seems that a chunk of the gap is accounted for by increased investment in tyre development by Porsche which has also led to a step up for Ferrari, the Front engined Aston meanwhile has taken a step back in relation to the competition.

Japan saw the start of a fightback by the Championship defending #51 AF Corse Ferrari crew. Toni Vilander producing an epic three hour plus run on a single set of Michelin wets that was good enough to see off effective competition from the usually wet weather dominant Porsches.

Japan also saw some astonishing wheel to wheel action between the Porsches and Ferraris with the 71 Ferrari in particular continuing to impress, James Calado and Davide Rigon now regularly showing the kind of form that Ferrari expect from their factory drivers. AF Corse it seems now have two consistently strong pairings in the championship.

That pace was not good enough in Japan to secure Ferrari a 1,2 finish. The #92 Porsche Team Manthey crew coming through the race long war to claim second place, valuable points in the manufacturers championship, though #92 was the wrong car the Porsche to claim the best possible results in the drivers standings with Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen coming home fourth it all tightened up just a little.

Shanghai again saw a mighty performance from Toni Vilander. This time his stint covered the start and then the finish of the race, well over four hours in very challenging conditions. This time though the 91 Porsche did come through to win, Lietz bolstering his championship lead the driver standings but with the minor placings falling beautifully to give us a grandstand finish at the final round in the manufacturers championship, just four points the gap between leaders and defending champions Ferrari, and challengers Porsche.

GTE Am meanwhile looked like a cruise to the title, even as early as Japan, from the SMP Racing Ferrari team, the #72 crew having scored three wins in a row starting with the double points scoring Le Mans 24 hours.

It wasn’t to be though, a puncture in Japan, and a strategic error in China left the championship leader off the podium in Japan and a fighting third in China with the closest challenger, the #83 AF Corse Ferrari closing the gap dramatically, helped in fine style by the team’s first win last time out in Shanghai.

The #72’s Chinese fightback did though eliminate two other possible challenges from the championship race with neither the #98 Aston Martin nor the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche now able to catch the Ferraris.

The crowd pleasing Larbre Corvette meanwhile continues to have a huge amount of luck, all of it bad, in 2015, the team controversially losing pole position in Japan and continuing to hold seemingly magnetic qualities for contact with other cars.

The #96 Aston Martin has been another luckless combatant, there have been moments though to savour, in particular Stuart Hall’s double pass on the battling Ferraris to lead on sopping wet track in Japan.

Through all of that the maths for Bahrain are fairly simple.

If the SMP racing car runs to the finish the Russian team will take the title. Even if they don’t, with 19 points separating them from the chasing #83 458 the AF Corse must win to take the title.

Expect then a battling performance from the evergreen Emmanuel Collard, Rui Aguas, and the fast improving Francois Perrodo as they attempt to wrestle the title from Andrea Bertolini, Aleksey Basov and Viktor Shaytar.

Written by Graham Goodwin

Porsche

Porsche dominate in Austin

The 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship touched down in Austin, Texas for a 6 hours race that was dominated at the front by the Porsche teams. However, with Audi taking the other 2 steps on the podium there is clear evidence that there is no room for error this season.

Start of the 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas

Sunshine and warm weather greeted all the teams on the grid for the Six Hours of the Circuit of the Americas, with the 2 Porsches heading the field. In the early stages the two frontrunners were battling each other with the No 17 car managing to pass its sister for the lead. The Audis and Toyotas were also fighting for the minor places but it appeared the Porsche was the car to have.

Audi at the FIA WEC 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas

As the race continued the spectacle became a little scrappy with mistakes and penalties ruining team strategies and some of the excitement. The No. 2 Toyota driven by Mike Conway was the first to exit the battle after losing control on the kerbs and hitting the barrier quite hard. Audi had an unusual pit stop issue when an airline got entangled with a tyre causing the mechanic to slip; a one minute stop go penalty for the incident delayed their progress. Porsche were not blameless either as the No. 17 car also incurring two stop go penalties, one for just overshooting the garage.

Porsche at the Circuit of the Americas

All these incidents enabled the No. 18 Porsche to extend a big lead and all was looking good for them until electrical issues caused the car to return to the garage (only to return for the final lap). Audi perhaps sensed a chance to take the race and certainly pushed hard, but the No. 17 Porsche managed to avoid any more problems and penalties and ultimately lead the LMP1 cars home by just over 60 seconds. The two Audis gained good points in the overall Championship with their 2nd and 3rd place finishes. On reflection this was perhaps a missed opportunity for the Audi team.

In the privateer LMP1 class victory was taken by the ByKolles CLM car after both the Rebellion cars suffered electrical issues.

G Drive Racing at the Circuit of the Americas
In the LMP2 class the Ligier Nissans of the G-Drive team claimed 1st and 3rd place on the podium with relatively untroubled runs. KCMG claimed a very creditable 2nd place having started at the back of the grid following a penalty from qualifying. Behind them there was a scary incident for the No.31 ESM Ligier when brake failure occurred through turns 19 & 20, which led to hitting the kerb, becoming airbourne and impacting hard with the barriers. Fortunately Ed Brown, who was behind the wheel at the time, was OK; the car, however, was not.

Porsche GTE Pro

Porsche were also the dominant car in the GTE Pro class, with an unchallenged 1-2 on top of the podium. Aston Martin Racing had looked quick early on, but their fight was quickly dampened by the Porsches. The No. 51 Ferrari that has set the standard in this class over recent years, was besieged by technical problems and pit lane penalties and didn’t feature, whilst the sister Ferrari got ahead of the Aston Martins to claim the final step on the podium.

SMP Racing at the Circuit of the Americas

Ferrari fared better in the GTE Am class. The early challenge of Corvette and Aston Martin faded in the Texas heat, leaving a battle between Porsches and Ferraris. Dempsey Racing’s Porsche looked strong and led after a great stint from Patrick Long. The No. 82 AF Corse Ferrari was eventually able to pass them, only to be overtaken themselves by the No.88 Abu Dhabi Proton Porsche that had made up ground from the very back of the grid. However, the eventual winner was the Championship leading SMP Racing Ferrari that waited until the last hour to hit the front and then didn’t look back. They now have a 35 point lead over the chasing pack in this year’s championship.

The FIA World Endurance Championship now changes continents again and moves on to Japan for the 6 hours of Fuji next month.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar.com

Porsche

Mid season for FIA WEC

Graham Goodwin looks back at the last FIA WEC round at the Nurburgring and what we learnt from on the track and in the paddock.

The FIA WEC’s first race at the Nurburgring proved to be a great success. A highly believable 62,000 attendees over the three day weekend at a mainly sunny and slickly organised meeting ensured that when we hear about the 2016 calendar later this month at the Circuit of the Americas we’re likely to see the German track back on the schedule for a second year, though likely a little earlier in the year to reduce the gap after Le Mans.

On track there were dominant performances from Porsche in LMP1, a first ever 1,2 from the Porsche 919s in a 6 hour race with the No.17 of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber taking full advantage of mid race woes for the sister No.18 car which was penalised three times for excessive use of fuel, this after Neel Jani had romped off into the distance at the start.

A combined total of 95 seconds of penalties, Plus a further 90 seconds taken for the three runs down the pit lane to serve those penalties, saw the No.17 gain a lap lead and the No.18 fall back to fourth.

Thereafter though the Porsche fought back hard with some fantastic battling with the pair of defending Audis.

It proved though to be an unequal struggle and in the closing stages the 1/2 for Porsche was confirmed.

LMP 2 saw a dominant performance by KCMG, the Hong Kong based team running away at the front from the start courtesy of a very quick No.47 Oreca 05 Nissan with 2015 overall Le Mans winner Nick Tandy pulling away from the chasing Sam Bird.

The hard fought advantage though disappeared as the car was balked at Tandy’s final stop, the KCMG team needing to push the car back to the fuel rig for service.

Matt Howson though fought back to the lead and then Richard Bradley pulled out a huge advantage for Tandy to defend to the flag. The G Drive Ligiers completed the podium with the SARD Morand Morgan coming home 4th after spending part of the meeting impounded after the team failed to pay an early season catering bill.

In the race though the car went well with regular drivers Oliver Webb and Pierre Ragues joined by young Brit Archie Hamilton.

The GT classes saw trouble for the championship leading No.51 Ferrari, The car stopping in the first hour with electrical problems then suffering a further delay before the AF Corse found a solution.

The pro race ended with another Porsche 1/2, but only after a controversial incident that saw the second No.71 Ferrari suffer damage after substantial contact from the No.92 Porsche as the race went Full course yellow.

The Am class saw another Le Mans winner take the honours, the Russian flagged SMP Racing Ferrari consolidating its points lead in the championship.

The Nurburgring race saw a pair of overall Le Mans winners from this years race competing and, oddly neither of them were racing an LMP1 car as Nick Tandy raced to the win in LMP2, and Earl Bamber joined Abu Dhabi Proton in their Porsche, a move which brought a unique moment during the German race with Porsche factory drivers leading the race in every class.

The WEC moves into its flyaway staged now with the next race later this month at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas.

That race meeting sees the World Championship on the same bill as the US-based Tudor United Sportscar Championship, both races taking place on a Saturday with the American race in the morning and the WEC racing into darkness.

There was more good news for the future of the WEC at the Nurburgring as more details emerged of further commitment to the championship from the existing LMP 1 teams.

All three currently active factory teams look set to bring entirely new cars to the track next season with Porsche confirming commitment through to 2018, Toyota confirming their new car, with a new twin turbo V6 and battery based ERS system and commitment to 2017 ” at a minimum” and Audi, though more diplomatic in stating length of commitment, also confirming a new car, Long rumoured to also adopt a battery ERS system, with paddock sources suggesting they too will be in the WEC until 2018 at the least.

In LMP2 were waiting to see any details of the new cars proposed from Dallara and Riley/ Multimatic. The American car allegedly already has multiple buyers and whilst some sources have suggested that the Italian concern has struggled to come up with a convincing commercial case for their entry into the LMP2 chassis market, Industry insiders have suggested that the effort is well on track.

Next up in the preparation for the new LMP2 scene in 2017 is the announcement, due imminently, of the supplier selected for the standard engine which will power all cars in the WEC, and most, it is planned, in the future ELMS

In the GT ranks the manufacturers are rushing to prepare their 2016 machinery for a mandatory test session at Michelin’s Ladoux test facility in France later this month.

That test will include not only the brand-new Ford GT but also the new Ferrari 488, and revised cars from Porsche, Aston Martin, and Corvette, together with, If plans come together, the USA only BMW M6 GTLM, this an upgraded version of BMW’s forthcoming M6 GT3.

Written by Graham Goodwin

FIA WEC 6 Hours of the Nurburgring

Home win for Porsche

Porsche claimed a 1–2 victory ahead of fellow German rivals Audi in the 4th round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) held at the famous Nurburgring this weekend. A large crowd of more than 62,000 race fans across the weekend witnessed the No. 17 Porsche driven by Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley take the win ahead of their sister car and the No. 7 Audi.

Start of the FIA WEC 6 Hours of the Nurburgring

The Nurburgring’s 3 mile F1 circuit is relatively short and twisty compared to Le Mans, where these cars last went head to head, so traffic management was as much a key as straight line speed for all the prototype teams. At the start of the race the pole position Porsche (no. 18) with Neel Jani at the wheel took advantage of clean air to quickly build a 20 second lead at the front. The No. 17 Porsche pitted early with nose cone damage, that dropped them down the order, but they were quick to regain ground with Audi unable to capitalise.

Problems began for the leader on the 54th lap. A problem with an engine sensor caused the car to consume more fuel than officially allowed, so they were penalised with a series of stop and go penalties until the problem was sorted. Clearly it was not an easy problem to fix as 3 increasingly long penalties were awarded by race control, dropping the No. 18 Porsche down the field.

If evidence were needed that Toyota were a long way of the pace, even after the penalties the No. 18 Porsche rejoined in 4th place, behind the Audis and still ahead of the Toyotas. The battle was then on in the remaining hours for second place, with the two Audis being reeled in by the charging Porsche. Eventually the Audi’s could not defend their positions and with 45 minutes left on the clock Porsche regained their 1-2 al be it with the No. 17 car in the lead. This was how it finished with Porsche celebrating from the top 2 steps of the podium in front of their home crowd.

KCMGat the FIA WEC 6 Hours of the Nurburging

The LMP2 was dominated by the KCMG Oreca of Nick Tandy, Matt Howson and Richard Bradley. The started the race from pole and maintained that position throughout most of the race. A slow pit stop in the first half the race opened the door slightly for the 2 G-Drive Ligiers, but they couldn’t take advantage and eventually settled for second and third position in class.

GTE Pro field at the FIA WEC 6 Hours of the Nurburgring

There were lots of smiling faces on the Porsche fans at the Nurburgring as the German manufacturer secured another 1-2 in the GTE Pro class. The No. 91 car driven by Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz, claimed the win ahead of their No. 92 sister car. The 2 Porsches benefited from electrical troubles suffered by the championship leading AF Corse Ferrari (No. 51), that ground to a halt within 15 minutes of the start of the race. Although the car was recovered to the pits and did rejoin they were always laps down from the leaders. The sister Ferrari (No.71) did keep the fight going and despite some bodywork damage and a puncture managed to hold on and climbed the third spot on the podium.

SMP Racing Ferrari

The No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari managed to build on their Le Mans win with another victory in the GTE Am class at the Nurburgring. They were pushed all the way by the No. 98 Aston Martin that eventually finished only 30 seconds behind in second place. These two cars traded the lead between them as they worked through their different race strategies but they were always ahead of the rest of the field. The No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari claimed third spot, narrowly edging out the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche.

The FIA World Endurance Championship now moves away from Europe with the first stop being the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. That race will take place on the 19th September and we also expect the provisional 2016 calendar to be announced during the event.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

Audi survive late scare to win at Silverstone

Sunshine and gusting winds greeted fans arriving at Silverstone on Sunday for the first round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. After the new team line ups and the national anthems on the grid before the start it was down to business for all the teams eager to start the season on a positive note.

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

Porsche had qualified on the front row and continued to show that pace as both cars pulled away from the chasing group. The opposite happened to the No. 7 Audi as Treluyer struggled to get the car off the line. Not only did he see the rest of the LMP1 grid disappear around the first corner, but he was then engulfed by the LMP2 runners as well. It could have been the surprise of the slow Audi that caused the new Strakka Racing Dome to immediately spin off in to the gravel, sending them to the very back.
Just six minutes in to the race the leading LMP1 cars were in traffic as they caught the back markers in the GTE field. The closing speeds were astonishing. The speed of the whole LMP1 grid was impressive throughout. The lap times were comparable with the middle of the F1 grid last year. Keeping in mind the weight of the cars, the fuel and the distance of the race, this was remarkable. Webber’s Porsche was particularly quick, pulling out a 10 second advantage on his team mate in second place. Behind them the battle between Audi and Toyota for third place saw them trading places in and out of Brooklands.

In the LMP2 field the KCMG car benefitted from a great start to take the lead in class, but within the first hour it was being chased down by the two orange and black G Drive Racing cars. Despite a valiant effort from Tandy at the wheel, he was passed on consecutive laps and the G Drive cars didn’t look back. The stricken Strakka Racing car, was recovering from the back and had a different view as it began to fight its way back through the congested field.
Aston Martin started at the front of the GTE Pro field and started well, initially holding off the challenge of Porsche, with Ferrari staying out of trouble and watching developments unfold in front of them. GTE Am was equally close with the sole Corvette getting ahead of the Porsche and the AF Corse Ferrari, with Aston Martins watching closely.

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

Things were to change beyond the first hour. The leading Porsche, with Webber at the wheel, was called to the pit lane and pushed back in to the garage. Unfortunately it was never to return, as a driveshaft failure curtailed their race, leaving a lone Porsche out front.
Audi’s double challenge was reduced shortly after Porsche. Following impact with a GTE Porsche at Becketts, the No. 8 Audi had to return to the garage for bodywork repairs. Time in the garage cost the car a lap, but the damage appeared a little more than cosmetic. The car never really recovered and continued to look unstable when it returned to the track. Their challenge was over.
At the front the battle was really just beginning. Over the period of more than an hour the remaining Audi and Porsche became locked in a tremendous battle. They were also briefly joined by the No. 1 Toyota as the pit stop strategy panned out. The lead constantly changed between the cars while Neel Jani and Marcel Fassler, expertly weaved their vehicles through the traffic. The Porsche was clearly able to pull away from the Audi along the straights, but it was quickly reeled in again by the Audi under passed under braking in to the corners. The battle continued for lap after lap, neither able to put any distance between themselves and their rival, despite different pit stop & tyre stinting strategies.

Eventually the No. 7 Audi managed to break the stranglehold and a gap appeared. The Porsche had to be careful as the chasing Toyotas double stinted the tyres bringing them back in to the mix. Toyota and Porsche both challenged the leader throughout the rest of the race, but neither could hold the lead for any length of time, and going in to the last hour the Audi continued to lead with a gap of almost 40 seconds.
The LMP2 race became a comfortable 1 -2 for the G-Drive Racing. Once they had passed the KCMG car they built a lead that could never be surpassed. The No. 26 car ahead of the sister Ligier. The battle behind them saw the fluorescent green Extreme Speed HPD car finish in the third podium spot, but they were later disqualified by the stewards for worn bodywork beneath the car. This meant a late promotion for the Strakka Racing Dome that had fought its way back from that initial spin at the first corner. A great effort from the home based team.

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

The GTE Pro race was more difficult to predict. The initial dominance of Aston Martin was undermined by a decision to pit under a full course yellow, setting their strategy off against the Porsche and Ferraris. The Manthey Porsche team looked strong but ultimately it was the experience of Bruni and Vilander that brought the AF Corse Ferrari home for the win.

Aston Martin had greater success in the GTE Am class, with the No. 98 car holding off the challenge of the Ferrari to win the class. The No. 50 Larbre Corvette could have mounted a challenge, but it sustained damage after a collision with an Audi and the resultant run across the gravel.

Audi survive late scare to win at Silverstone

Back at the front it was difficult to call a winner. Audi were ahead of Porsche who were in turn ahead of Toyota; a three way fight to the finish. The Audi built enough of a gap to enable them a splash and dash to the line, but the Porsche and Toyota were closing. Just as the Audi was coming in for that last stop, the stewards gave the Audi a stop/go penalty for overtaking squabbling GTE cars by taking all 4 wheels off the track. The Audi came back to the pitlane on their outlap and served the penalty to emerge just seconds ahead of the chasing Porsche. The gap now much reduced to just 8 seconds with 10 laps remaining.
In the last few laps the Toyota in third was catching the Porsche in second, who in turn was catching the leading Audi. The Porsche closed the gap to less than 8 seconds but just couldn’t catch the Audi. Fassler held on to give Audi the win and start the FIA WEC season on the top of the podium.
This was an incredible race, and sets up the next round at Spa perfectly. All three prototype challengers appear to have improved on last year’s model and there is clearly little to choose between them. This could be the best FIA World Endurance Championship season yet.

You can join us at the next 3 rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship. We have travel, tickets and camping options available for Spa-Francorchamps, Le Mans and the Nurburgring. Call us now on 0844 873 0203 to reserve your place!

Olly Jarvis looks for home advantage

Olly Jarvis looks for home advantage

Olly Jarvis looks for home advantage

This weekend sees the return of the FIA World Endurance Championship, with the Six Hours of Silverstone. Although Audi were victorious at Le Mans, they finished the 2014 FIA WEC behind Toyota. That experience is not something they wish to repeat in 2015.

Much has changed at Audi over the winter season, with a different car and different driver line-ups for 2015. British driver Oliver Jarvis (a friend of Travel Destinations) has effectively taken the seat of Audi hero Tom Kristensen, but says that he is not feeling the pressure before the first race of the season.

Olly Jarvis looks for home advantage

Silverstone is Olly Jarvis’ home circuit. Despite this, much is new in the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC for the 31-year old professional racing driver.

He already knows the Audi R18 e-tron quattro, has contested five FIA WEC races, and has even mounted the podium at Le Mans. Nevertheless, everything will be different from April onwards. “Loïc Duval and Lucas di Grassi are my team mates for the first time and I contest a complete WEC season for Audi,” says Jarvis. “The benchmark for us are our team mates Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer in the number 7 Audi. The three of us want to be just as strong. We will have to complete a learning curve as a driver team. With this in mind, it’s a big advantage that we suit each other and have a similar way of working. During my preparation I work very closely with our race engineer Justin Taylor.”

Of all things, his home track is relatively new to the Briton. “I’ve only ever driven once on the current version of the track. I raced in the Blancpain Endurance Series here two years ago in the Audi R8 LMS ultra,” says Jarvis. “But it’s a big difference whether you drive here in a GT3 sportscar or now in a much faster LMP1 car. There are many fast corners that require a very committed driving style. Silverstone offers a real challenge as the first WEC race of the year.”

The opportunity to fight for a title in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro is also unusual. “Up until now, I had only driven in selected races. Now I have the entire WEC season on my calendar for the first time,” he states. “It’s important to start the season with a good result and to score as many points as possible. I still don’t know what to expect, but I’m confident after the WEC prologue at Le Castellet in March. Being able to contest the entire world championship means that a dream has come true for me.”

The anticipation for Oliver Jarvis’s home race increases daily. “Obviously my relatives and many friends will visit,” says the Briton. “My two team mates and I feel exceptionally well prepared. We see ourselves as a good, close team and want to have a successful weekend.” What exactly does this mean in facts and figures? “It would be fantastic to be on the podium.”
Following this weekend’s race at Silverstone, the FIA WEC moves on to Spa in Belgium, then Le Mans in France and the Nurburgring in Germany. If you would like to view the action live at any of these famous circuits, please call us now to book your travel and tickets.