Category Archives: Motorsports News

WEC

FIA WEC Fuji race report: The rise of LMP2

The second round of the 2019/20 FIA WEC season at the Fuji Speedway last weekend put to bed any doubts from the pre-season about the competitiveness and excitement levels that the LMP2 class could produce.

Looking at the category from afar, it is relatively easy to take shots at the lack of variety in chassis (seven ORECAs and a single Dallara) and the disparity in the driver line-ups (four of the eight featuring a Bronze-rated driver). But the opening two races, and in particular the race in Japan, have shown observers just how competitive this year’s class is, and how it can provide captivating prototype racing while the new ‘success handicap’ system introduced to balance the LMP1 privateers with the factory Toyotas takes shape.

WEC

Winning the race last week was Racing Team Nederland. The Dutch outfit, owned by successful businessman turned driver Frits van Eerd, has turned a corner this year. The switch of chassis from Dallara to ORECA and a change in the team behind the scenes to title-winning crew TDS Racing has made a huge difference. At Silverstone the team bagged its first podium, a feat which Bronze driver van Eerd said before the season opener was “something I only dream of”. 

With the dream then made into reality, the team headed to Japan with renewed confidence, but cautious after van Eerd’s, quite frankly, poor performance at the Fuji circuit in 2018 (and even he would admit it wasn’t his finest hour). 

WEC

The combination of van Eerd, ex-F1 driver Giedo van der Garde and newly-crowned Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries would prove to be deadly. In LMP2, the saying is, “you’re only as good as your amateur driver”, and while that is somewhat true, on Sunday, van Eerd’s performance combined with masterful drives from his teammates, propelled the team to a shock victory.

After the race, the victory seemed rather natural, but prior to the season most would expect that the four teams that feature Silver-rated drivers rather than Bronzes would take all the wins. What made the difference here, in tricky conditions, were three things; van der Garde’s rocket start to the race, de Vries’ mercurial pace in the treacherous conditions and van Eerd’s perseverance during his stints.

Van der Garde put the team on top early with what he described as one of his “trademark starts”, slaloming through the pack in the opening two laps, climbing from seventh to the lead. From there he held station and built a foundation for his co-drivers to work from. With intermittent rain showers preventing the circuit from ever drying out completely, the conditions were arguably at their trickiest, bar perhaps monsoon-like rain which can and does hit Fuji on occasion. 

But van Eerd in his pair of stints, made zero mistakes and didn’t lose as much time to the pro drivers around him during his time in the car as you may expect. This meant that when de Vries took the wheel, and he did for over three hours, over the course of two stints, he was able to fight at the front. 

The young Dutchman was head-turning, producing what was one of the all-time great LMP2 drives. He stormed off into the lead and was lapping, on occasion, a handful of seconds quicker than all the other LMP2 drivers and at one point managed to set times quicker than the Toyotas. 

WEC

It was one of those drives where you knew at the time it was special. And because of van Eerd’s pace, which understandably isn’t the same as some of the younger Silver-rated hot-shoes and pros, de Vries was forced to work for it. In the final hour, he was tasked with fending off a hard-charging Anthony Davidson, but made it look easy and sealed the win.

So, if what we have to look forward to going forward is a team like Racing Team Nederland having to push the envelope during each race in order to have a chance of winning further races and the title, then you won’t want to miss the remaining races this season.

Beyond Racing Team Nederland’s ‘coming out party’, High Class Racing also proved its worth too. The Danish team, new to the FIA WEC, also had a head-turning day. Regular driver Anders Fjordbach and Toyota affiliated driver Kenta Yamashita (also the current Super GT points leader) kept the team in the race for the win throughout the race, and led for an extended period. This is a team that has yet to win a race in LMP2, in part because like Racing Team Nederland, it races with Bronze drivers. 

WEC

Its Bronze in the FIA WEC, Mark Patterson, had to wait until the final 80 minutes to step into the car and defend the team’s lead. Unfortunately he couldn’t hold off the slew of pro drivers behind and finished fourth. That was though, still impressive. 

If Racing Team Nederland and High Class Racing continue to find form, then they, along with Silverstone revelation Cool Racing (another new FIA WEC team) and the known quantities of United Autosports, JOTA, Jackie Chan DC Racing and Signatech Alpine are all battling it out for wins on a regular basis, then we could see seven of the eight cars in the class in the title race. How many forms of motorsport can boast that level of parity and competitiveness?

Onwards to Shanghai….

You can join the Travel Destinations team during the FIA WEC this season. Read more about of offers for the FIA WEC rounds at Sebring, Spa-Francorchamps and of course Le Mans here.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

FIA WEC

Return of the FIA WEC at Silverstone

FIA World Endurance Championship 2019/20 starts at Silverstone

The 2019/20 FIA WEC season is upon us, as we edge closer to the major change coming to the championship in 2021/22, when the new Hypercar Prototype ruleset debuts.It begins at Silverstone, with a four-hour encounter this time, with 31 cars on the entry and plenty of intrigue.

Most eyes will be firmly fixed on the LMP1 class at the opening round. The list is currently six-cars-strong, with changes in terms of teams, drivers and regulations, all with the hope that this season we will see close racing between the hybrid-powered TS050s fielded by Toyota Gazoo Racing and the non-hybrid privateer chassis from Rebellion Racing and Team LNT.

FIA WECTeam LNT is a name that may be familiar to long-time sportscar fans, especially to those that were present at the 2006 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours where it steered Panoz to a class win in GT2. Lawrence Tomlinson, now chairman of Ginetta, has brought the team back to ACO sportscar racing after a few years away and means business. Armed with a pair of updated, AER-powered, G60-LT-P1s, Team LNT hopes to turn heads and take the fight to both Rebellion and Toyota off the bat. That may seem overly optimistic on the face of it, especially after the forgettable outing that CEFC TRSM endured back in June of 2018 at Le Mans when the Ginetta LMP1 challenger made its debut. A lot has changed since that week. The team running the cars is all new, the engine is now from AER rather than Mecachrome (and yes, it’s the AER engine SMP Racing used at Le Mans this year which out qualified a Toyota) and the driver crew (which includes Ginetta factory drivers, ex-DragonSpeed LMP1 man Ben Hanley, Egor Orudzhev formerly from SMP’s LMP1 programme and 2003 Le Mans-winning Bentley Boy Guy Smith).

FIA WECPre-season testing has been overwhelmingly positive for Team LNT. Trips to Paul Ricard, Spa-Francorchamps and Motorland Aragon before the Prologue Test at Barcelona have raised eyebrows in the paddock. The cars have been reliable, minor niggles aside, and crucially, fast. Fast enough that going toe-to-toe with Rebellion’s R-13 Gibson(s) early in the season is an expectation within the team rather than a target. Whether or not challenging Toyota is possible remains to be seen, though there is reason to expect the void between the hybrid and non-hybrid prototypes this year to be less cavernous. The race organisers have introduced a success handicap system, which will slow specific cars each time they win. The disparity in stint lengths and time spent in the pits between Toyota and the rest of the field, which was artificial and favoured the Japanese automotive giant have also been removed. Will this make a noticeable difference at Silverstone? We will have to wait and see. We shouldn’t though, assume Toyota will dominate each race as it did during the ‘Super Season’.

LMP2 meanwhile, should be close and produce on-track action that you won’t be able to look away from. While there are plenty of story-lines to follow, which will be explored here on Travel Destinations’ website throughout the season, it’s worth pointing towards a couple of them for the opening round of the season. The tyre war between Michelin, and Goodyear (which has taken over from Dunlop) could prove pivotal in the title race. Currently High Class Racing (which has stepped up from the ELMS this season) and the two Jota-run ORECAs (one of which will race under the Jackie Chan DC Racing banner) have chosen Goodyear. The other five have declared that Michelin is their supplier of choice.

FIA WECGoodyear is pouring resources into this season as part of a drive to forge a long-term relationship with the FIA WEC, and will hope to poach Michelin teams during the season. Each team, by regulation, can make one switch of supplier each season. Michelin on the other hand will hope to build on the momentum it has created in recent seasons, producing tyres capable of winning races after years of Dunlop domination. Keep an eye on United Autosports, which is set to embark on an ambitious maiden WEC campaign this term, and reigning champion Signatech Alpine. Both outfits bring a wealth of experience to this field, and along with Jota, are likely to be the teams to beat.

FIA WECSteering away from prototypes, there’s a huge field of GTE cars on the entry this year. Six of them are factory efforts in Pro, with another 11 making up the record-grid in Am. GTE Pro, like LMP1, has taken a hit in numerical terms for this season. But that shouldn’t detract too much from the on-track action. Porsche, AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing all return, more eager than ever to win the GTE World Championships. All eyes will be on Porsche, as its stable of factory drivers will debut the brand new Porsche 911 RSR 19 at Silverstone. The updated car replaces the fan-favourite 911 RSR which is still present in GTE Am. Off the back of a title and Le Mans winning WEC campaign in 2018/19 and a five-race win streak earlier this year in IMSA with the now-previous-gen, model, it’s a scary to think that Porsche feels it can still improve!

FIA WECAF Corse and Aston Martin meanwhile, know they need to find consistency to beat Porsche this season. AF Corse, with its Evo-spec 488 GTEs, will be confident after a huge victory at Le Mans in June, while Aston Martin’s crew behind the scenes remain optimistic that they can improve upon the Vantage AMR’s struggles with tyres last season and unlock its true potential.

FIA WECGTE Am also sees a Porsche team defending a title, in Project 1, and the German outfit hopes to get its campaign off to a fast start with its expanded two-car effort. It will be no easy task to win it all once again, and Le Mans for that matter, as the competition has only increased. Aston Martin Racing brings a brand new Vantage AMR chassis for its GTE Am debut and fresh faces in Darren Turner and Ross Gunn to partner Paul Dalla Lana in its #98 car, while Proton Competition will aim to put the drama and disappointment that its 2018/19 produced with its pair of Porsches.

FIA WECFerrari teams are out in force too, from MR Racing, Red River Sport and AF Corse, all with high hopes. Lest we forget that in addition to AMR’s No.98 Vantage, TF Sport is also pushing for a big result on home soil. Team owner Tom Ferrier, will hope that the team’s new chassis will be the catalyst that powers the ever-expanding British team to its first WEC class win.

In addition to the WEC action, fans trackside will, as usual, be treated to a four-hour European Le Mans Series race on Saturday. That’s eight hours of high-level sportscar racing to look forward to in one bumper weekend. The road to Le Mans 2020 starts here!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Join us at the FIA WEC rounds at Sebring, Spa-Francorchamps and of course Le Mans in 2020. Read more about our FIA WEC offers here.

VLN Championship

Introducing the VLN

Imagine the all the intensity, raw power, edginess, drama, unpredictability, beauty and quirks of the Nürburgring 24 Hours (N24), in a more condensed format. Imagine the 25km Nurburgring Nordschleife with a crowd big enough to create an atmosphere, but small enough to make the circuit’s wide variety of spectating opportunities easily accessible. Imagine fan access unparalleled in high-level sports car racing, with free grid walks, and garage access before and during the races and countless vantage points for fans, at no cost beyond the price of admission. Well, it’s not fantasy, what you’re imagining is the VLN championship, which runs throughout the European motorsport season.

The VLN championship, or Veranstaltergemeinschaft Langstreckenpokal Nürburgring if we’re getting technical, does not feature the Nürburgring 24 Hours as part of its calendar, but much of the same teams and drivers compete in both. The drivers have to, to obtain a permit to race in the 24-hours in June, and the teams use the rounds as preparation for the big dance each year.

VLN RacingOver the years the Nürburgring 24 Hours has gained much exposure. It is far more of an international event than it ever has been. It maintains its ‘German’ feel, but has never been more accessible and marketable to the wider motorsport community. It doesn’t feel as much of a hidden gem as it did at the turn of the century. This is in part because the VLN championship, which runs on the full Nordschleife and runs with grids close to 200 cars, has become more professional and important. In recent years the Nürburgring circuit owners have gone to great lengths to ensure that racing on such a vast, unforgiving circuit is as safe as it can be for competitors and spectators alike, and required the competitors to step up their level of professionalism. This has made the racing better, and attracted the attention of the major manufacturers that now do battle with their customer GT3 programmes to win the N24 overall.

But heading to the ‘Ring for a VLN race gives you the best of both worlds. You still get a fleet of world-class teams and drivers racing up front in GT3 machinery, and a mixture of entry-level and mid-tier race cars following on behind. Crucially though, as a fan, it’s as accessible as it ever has been. You can still head onto the track for a grid walk pre-race, access the paddock easily and navigate the forestry surrounding the Nordschleife without the need to utilise the shuttle-bus system that the N24 now relies on. Instead, there’s space and time to drive your own car to the various car parks near the key corners such as Pflazgarten, Hohe Acht and Hatzenbach and come and go as you please.

VLN RacingSpectating at the full ‘Green Hell’ is an old-school experience, which must be savoured, treasured and preserved. Travelling the world, visiting circuits old and new for a living, as this writer does, you become somewhat of a connoisseur of motorsport venues. You can travel to Abu Dhabi for the modern, pristine feel that the Yas Marina circuit has to offer, Bathurst to marvel at Australia’s most celebrated racing amphitheatres, or Sebring to get a snapshot of rural America and its motorsport culture, but no circuit, even rival venues in Germany, matches the Nürburgring if you’re a fan of circuits that are as beautiful as they are steeped in history.

VLN races are either four or six hours long. There is plenty of time to take in the seemingly endless pre-race grid walk, dash to the Mercedes Tribune to watch the cars pile into Turn 1 at the start of the race, before heading out into the forest for an adventure. There’s something special about navigating the Eiffel Forests to find spectator banks and trails during a race. Those who have attended World Rally Championship events will be in their element, taking out a map, driving to a corner, and exploring the surrounding areas to find man-made grandstands, and climbing grass verges to get a glimpse of some of the more stunning backdrops that the ‘Ring has to offer. Why not start at Pflatzgarten and walk the trail that leads past Brünnchen, Eschback, Wipperman, Hohe Acht and all the way to a clearing where you’ll find the world-famous Caracciola Karussell. By taking in that sequence of corners you’ll see the drivers test their mettle in low, medium and high speed corners. It’s narrow, bumpy, with very little run off. The skillset required to win at the ‘Ring becomes far clearer.

VLN NurburgringIf you’re new to the circuit as a fan, a trip to a VLN race isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds, and will prepare you well for a trip to the N24, where the crowds are far bigger and local knowledge is key to getting the most out of the experience. Once you’ve reached the famous horse-shoe, turn around, and return to your car, before heading to Adenau, where with Travel Destinations, you’ll be staying. It’s a friendly town, littered with petrol-heads and homages to motorsport culture. There the walk from Ex-Muhle to Kallenhard is another fan-favourite trail. It’s hilly, but work the trek, is the cars navigate the sharp turns and sudden drops. And that’s just two sections, for there are plenty more fan-friendly areas to touch on in future trips.

Outside of the race itself, there are many more opportunities to explore in region surrounding the circuit. It’s somewhat of a goldmine, full of restaurants, bars, landmarks and museums to visit. So prepare yourself. The Nürburgring is like no other circuit; you don’t just turn up, watch the track action and leave. There’s always something nearby that will either prompt you to stay after dark or return again soon.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

If you would like to experience the best of the VLN then we have something special for you. Take a look at our exclusive special offer for the finale of the 2019 VLN season. Experience hospitality and tours around the garage with our friendly driver David Pittard, currently racing for the Rowe Team. If you want to experience more he can even take you on hot laps around the Nordschleife. Visit our website or call 01707 329988 for details.

Motorsport Events

So much to look forward to

Motorsport Events to look forward to

July is upon us. What a first six months of 2019 we have had. We have completed so many motorsport events. There have been successful visits to the USA for Daytona and “Super-Sebring”, we have ventured even further afield for the Bathurst 12 Hours in Australia. Then closer to home we have already visited Spa-Francochamps twice and survived the incredible double header that was the Le Mans 24 Hours followed by the Nurburgring 24 Hours. Just around the corner we have the Spa 24 Hours too followed by the Nurburgring Oldtimer Grand Prix, but beyond that there is still so many motorsport events to look forward to.

Motorsport events
For classic motorsport fans we have three great events to attend this September. Each is unique and well worth taking a look at. First up is the Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix. At the time of writing we have just a few hotel rooms left available for this event. Historic racing doesn’t get more picturesque than this with the track winding through the Dutch sand dunes. Certainly, one not to be missed.

Motorsport Events
Similarly, we have a last few hotel rooms available for the Circuit des Remparts event in Angouleme. The tight street circuit around, the French town’s walls, not only provides a technical challenge for all the drivers, but it provides exceptional views for spectators too. With other activities such as a fun concours & touristic rally, adding to the weekend’s events, Angouleme really is a worthwhile visit.

Motorsport Events
Rounding out September’s historic racing trilogy is the Spa Six Hours. We describe this weekend of historic racing, as an event organised for drivers, that the public are allowed to gate-crash. Whilst there may be no fair ground, entertainment and off-site events, the Spa Six Hours excels in providing excellent grids with access to all areas for all spectators. If you want to get close to some of your favourite cars from the past, then the Spa Six Hours is perfect for you. Hang out in the garages, wander the paddocks and relax in any grandstand whilst enjoying the on-track action.

Motorsport Events
We have something special lined up for October. If you have yet to experience a VLN race at the Nurburgring, then this is the way to do it. The VLN is the sister series to the Nurburgring 24 Hours & for the deciding race of the season we have teamed up with professional racing driver & driving coach David Pittard, to provide a unique way to enjoy the race. As well as 4-star hotel accommodation, just minutes from the track, our offer includes race-day hospitality with the Walkenhorst Motorsport team and a guided garage visit with David during the race. Not only that, but as David is driving a BMW in the VLN, we have added the option to add passenger laps around the Nordschleife with David as your driver. This will be as close to racing the famous circuit as most of us will ever get. This is an amazing package and one we think you will really enjoy.

Motorsport Events
The Daytona circuit needs no introduction. Watching racing around the famous banking has to be on every motorsport fan’s bucket list. The Rolex 24 at Daytona in January is the perfect excuse to fulfil those ambitions. We make things easy for you with a choice of hotels; one adjacent to the track and one overlooking Daytona beach. We can arrange flights from the Uk and car hire if required to enable you to enjoy your time in Florida.

Motorsport EentsFor those looking to travel the world and enjoy motorsport, then we highly recommend joining us in Bathurst, Australia for the 12 hours at the end of January. We currently have a limited number of rooms available alongside our hospitality offer, so make sure you get your places reserved soon. This race continues to grow in stature and now attracts the top drivers & teams from around the world, so now would be a good time to join the international audience.

Motorsport Events
March 2020 sees the return of “Super-Sebring”. This sees not only the traditional 12 Hours of Sebring IMSA race, but also one of the longer rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship in consecutive days. We love the fun atmosphere and relaxed nature of the Sebring circuit and both races provide on-track competition second to none. Our private condos were hugely appreciated by all our guests this year and we had a great crowd enjoy the racing with us. We will be repeating the Super-Sebring experience again in 2020, but places are limited, so we kindly encourage you to book early to avoid disappointment.

Motorsport EventsThen looking further ahead to next summer we have two fantastic motorsport events. The Le Mans 24 Hours in June needs little explanation, and then the Le Mans Classic returns in July for what is always a great weekend of historic racing around the full Le Mans circuit. We are on sale for both of these events now, so whether you want hotel rooms, camping or glamping then please call us now to secure your place track-side.

Motorsport Events
For more information or to book any of these motorsport events and any other of our offers on our website, please call us on 01707 329988.

Nurburgring 24

Nurburgring 24 Hours 2019 Review

The 2019 Nurburgring 24 Hours

Last weekend’s Nurburgring 24 Hours was ‘old school’, in almost every way. It featured a smattering of factory teams, and twists and turns throughout. Despite the form of the region the circuit sits in weather didn’t play a part this year, but drama certainly did. With almost every contending car finishing the Nurburgring 24 Hours filthy and damaged, and a combination of mechanical issues and incidents mixing up the order at steady intervals, it was an encounter we won’t forget in a hurry. Ultimately it was Audi’s day, after Mercedes and Porsche came achingly close. And it served up some interesting talking points.

Safety changes and smaller entries are not ripping the heart out of this race
Safety is paramount at a circuit like the Nürburgring Nordschleife; it is long, narrow, and features little or no run-off. With such a mixture of machinery permitted to compete in the Nurburgring 24, ensuring that the drivers and fans aren’t in too much danger is important. In recent years so much action has been taken to improve the circuit’s safety, as huge incidents over the years have threatened not just the Nurburgring 24 Hours, but the viability of the circuit in the modern day. But the ongoing work continues to retain the spectacular nature of the historic forest circuit while making necessary the improvements.

This year much of the circuit had been resurfaced, and the SP9 GT3 cars had to run slightly down on power. That, coupled with a smaller entry list of just over 150 cars, on paper, may appear to be tweaks against the spirit of this historic endurance race. But, once the cars got going, it made little difference to the excitement levels. In fact, with a little more space and less traffic, it prompted the top drivers to push even harder. The racing was spectacular and the variety in the field is still very much apparent. Of course, just 10 years ago the N24 used to run with around 250 cars, but in hindsight, that may have been just too much. What we have now, is a better selection of cars, driven by a smaller cabal of drivers that all have to work harder to earn the right to race. It’s making for a better race, and this year’s edition proved that. We still had a huge field of GT3 cars racing on the same track as Opel Mantas, VW Golfs, Opel Astras and an armada of cup cars, on arguably the most spectacular circuit on the planet. Long may this continue.

No rain? No problem!
It has become almost a rite of passage for fans of the Nurburgring 24 Hours to have to spectate in a combination of blazing sunshine, heavy rain and even snow on occasions, sometimes within the same hour. But this year, aside from Free Practice being stopped due to heavy rain, the weather gods were kind to those at the ‘Ring. Some, may complain, as rain only adds to the spectacle this race can deliver, but this year, we had just as many thrills and spills without a drop of water falling on the circuit. There was a battle for the lead, where Kevin Estre in the No.911 Manthey Porsche took to the grass on the Dottinger Hohe at full speed to make a pass, and hours of squabbling for the podium places. That’s not to mention the amount of offs there were on the bone dry circuit. Drivers up and down the order pushed unbelievably hard, and were going to extreme lengths to make passes through traffic. All the cars that made it to the end, and around 50 retired, looked battered, covered in dirt and tank tape. If you tuned in just for the finish you’d have taken some convincing that this was a dry race, as the drivers and cars all looked like they’d fought through rain and shine as well as night and day.

Nurburgring 24BMW’s worst nightmare?
Just a week on from BMW’s disappointing final FIA World Endurance Championship appearance with its GTE Pro M8s, the Bavarian brand had a disastrous outing at the N24. The customer teams, ROWE Racing, Walkenhorst Motorsport, Falken Motorsport and Team Schnitzer, who all received some level of support from the factory had a tough time. The speed of the M6 GT3, which has yet to win the N24, wasn’t there, and neither was the reliability.

Almost the entire fleet of BMWs were out of this one by the quarter race mark. ROWE Racing’s team manager Hans-Peter Naundorf claimed that this year’s N24 was “the worst 24-hour race we’ve ever had”, and he was right. The Falken M6 GT3 was the only one that managed to finish high up the order, but multiple issues meant the team spent almost the entire race fighting back from laps down rather than for a podium. It really was a disaster, especially in a race that features all of its key domestic rival brands, who all had a better showing. This may sound hugely negative, but this should spur on BMW to come back stronger next year. And that will be a sight to see. BMW is the brand with the most overall wins at the Nurburgring 24, it has a proud tradition and history of success. But its last win was a very long time ago now. How long? Back in 2010, when GT2 cars were the top dogs in the field. The SP9 GT3 era hasn’t been kind to BMW M-Power.

Nurburgring 24 HoursAudi has still got it
Audi on the other hand, played a blinder last weekend with its customer teams. The R8 LMS pack didn’t have the outright pace to win this one, but as always, Audi stuck to its longstanding strategy of outlasting its competitors. Rarely has Audi won big endurance races over the years, in GT or prototype racing, with the fastest car. When attrition sets in the ‘Four Rings’ always rises to the top. It wasn’t a perfect race for the teams racing with R8s, as punctures and incidents did put Car Collection and Land Motorsport’s challenges to a premature end. But Phoenix Racing, which has a history of winning the ultimate prize at the ‘Ring, was there to pick up the pieces when other cars hit trouble, and crucially, when the No.911 Manthey Porsche, which led the race for 14 hours, was handed a huge five-minute 32-second stop-hold penalty for speeding in a yellow flag zone. Audi has now won the race five times, and Phoenix has emerged victorious four times. The marque’s main focus may appear to be on Formula E since its LMP1 exit, but it continues to put resources into its customer GT programme, and it is paying off.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

You can join us track-side at the Nurburgring 24 Hours 2020 and we are on sale now. Visit our Nurburgring 24 pages on this website now for more details.

Le Mans 2020

Book now for Le Mans 2020

Make your Le Mans 2020 plans now

As an official Le Mans 2020 ticket agency, Travel Destinations are already planning ahead for next year. Not only does 2020 provide us with the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, but also the Le Mans Classic in July. Both events are always popular so it is important to plan for Le Mans 2020 now.

Le Mans 24 Hours; 13th & 14th June 2020
The Le Mans 24 Hours is always a spectacular event. Le Mans 2020 will also mark the finale of the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship season and the last opportunity to see the LMP1 class race in its current format. Already committed to being there are manufacturers such as Toyota, Porsche, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Ginetta and more will be added to create a 62 car grid. Travel Destinations offer track-side camping, private glamping & a pop-up hotel. Click here to read more about our Le Mans 2020 offers.
Le Mans 2020

Le Mans Classic; 3rd – 5th July 2020
The Le Mans Classic returns in 2020 and it will be bigger and better than ever. Attracting a crowd of more than 130,000 this biennial event is a glorious retrospective of Le Mans on the full circuit. Featuring cars that raced at Le Mans from 1923 through to 2010 there is always something for everyone to enjoy on track & wandering through the paddocks and displays is a joy to behold. Once again Travel Destinations will be at Le Mans 2020 with camping, glamping and hotel offers. Click here to read more about our Le Mans Classic offers.
Le Mans 2020
Both these Le Mans events are very popular and we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment. You can reserve your place now. To book your place at Le Mans 2020 with Travel Destinations, please call our reservations team on +44 (0)1707 329988

Le Mans 2019

Le Mans 2019: Winners and Losers

The Le Mans 24 Hours 2019 created a multitude of stories. There were winners and losers throughout every hour of the race and in each and every class. Here we highlight just a few:

Winner: The No. 8 Toyota 
It is in the history books already. The No. 8 Toyota won the Le Mans 24 Hours 2019. The Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050-Hybrid, driven by Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima & Fernando Alonso, crossed the line first and climbed to the top spot of the podium at the end of the race.
Le Mans 2019
Losers: Toyota
A strange one this. Throughout the race the No. 7 Toyota showed greater speed and performance. It lead through much of the race and was first from 2am until the last hour of the race. Then a puncture and sensor failure relegated the car to 2nd, allowing the more high profile No. 8 car to win. Conspiracy theorists will say that Toyota “engineered” the problem to allow their preferred team to win. Alternatively had Toyota allowed the No. 7 to regain the lead through team orders, they would have been criticized by the same theory. Ultimately Toyota were the only manufacturer in the field and all they could do was lose from there.

Winner: SMP Racing
By finishing 3rd overall and the first non-hybrid, non-manufacturer car, SMP Racing deserve a lot of credit. Their performance was unrecognizable from last year and they were good enough to hold off the never-ending challenge of Rebellion Racing

Winner: Signatech Alpine
The LMP2 class is crowded with excellent teams. By definition of LMP2 rules they all have similar machinery. So by winning the class at Le Mans 2019, Signatech-Alpine showed they are the class in the field. It also helped them to lift the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Le Mans 2019
Winner: AF Corse Ferrari
Prior to Le Mans 2019 there was not much talk about Ferrari. They have been at Le Mans and in the FIA WEC for many years, but in qualifying they were quiet and in a class that featured 5 different manufactures (Porsche, Aston Martin, Ford, Corvette and Ferrari) some with 4 cars each, Ferrari were overlooked. That they came from behind to beat the favourites, shows that you should never overlook the prancing horse.
Le Mans 2019
Loser: Aston Martin
The Le Mans 2019 weekend started so well for Aston Martin. On Thursday they claimed pole position in GTE Pro with an outstanding lap by Nicki Thiim, in the last few minutes, then on Friday following the ACO’s announcement on Hypercars for the 2020/21 season, Aston Martin announced they would be competing with two Aston Martin Valkyries. Then things turned for the worse. First they were hit with a Balance of Performance reduction, that sadly saw them unable to compete at the front, then as the cars dropped down the field, the cars suffered problems and ultimately they crashed out under the cover of darkness.

Winner: Ben Keating
Not many people would have predicted a win for the Purple Ford GT in the GTE Am Class at Le Mans 2019. However, with consistent speed and by avoiding incident, they claimed a well-deserved win. Ben Keating not only manages & brings the finances for the team together, but he drives as well. As the bronze driver (and potential weakest link in the driver line-up) it was the American’s performances behind the wheel that set the foundation for the win.
Le Mans 2019

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

Sebring

Super Sebring – The Perfect Double-Header

After a spectacular Rolex 24, ‘Super Sebring’ beckons!

All of a sudden it is the end of February and the motorsport season continues in the next few weeks with the highly anticipated FIA WEC & IMSA “Super Sebring” double header. After almost two years of planning the time has finally arrived for the FIA WEC and IMSA to share a race meeting for the first time since the 2016 WEC-IMSA double header at CoTA, and the first time at Sebring since the inaugural WEC race back in 2012.

For fans track-side, the ‘Super Sebring’ race week is set to be astonishing, with such a packed programme of events, open paddocks and two marquee races to look forward to over the weekend in what should be, as usual, great weather.

SebringSo what exactly is there to look for at Sebring? Well let’s start with IMSA, as for the WeatherTech runners in the 12 Hours of Sebring on the Saturday is the second round of the season, with the teams and drivers still very much fresh from the historic, rain-soaked Rolex 24 back in January. The Rolex 24 this year may have ended on a slightly subdued note due to the rain, but the action throughout, and the history made during race week (we’re looking at you Mazda, and that astonishing record-breaking lap!) made it an unforgettable edition. And now, still in Florida, it’s time for round two of what’s always a testing season of IMSA racing.

Last month Cadillac took the spoils for a third year in a row at Rolex, the DPi V.R still the car to have on the banking. Don’t be fooled though, the (newly-named) DPi class is closer than ever, as Mazda has hit its stride, Penske’s Acuras are more than capable of winning races on a weekly basis and the CORE Autosport Nissan is a formidable machine and will be in the running for race wins during the season as the team gets up to speed with their new toy.

Sebring
Mazda was always going to be the big unknown going into the season, the Multimatic/Joest-run team the only one in the prototype field having made significant off-season changes to its car. The RT24-P is now in its third iteration and has never been better for it. Updates to the cooling systems, and aero have made a huge difference to the car’s speed and reliability. At Daytona the car broke the all-time circuit lap record during Qualifying, British driver Oliver Jarvis once again the hot shoe, as he was at the pre-event test a few weeks prior. The car’s performance was good, although it ended in vein, with on-track incidents and mechanical niggles putting the team out of the running. But the overall picture was positive, and marked a big step forward for the effort, which has been working tirelessly to score that all-elusive first win for Mazda in prototype racing since the Grand Am-ALMS merger. At Sebring, the team will be hoping that with its car clearly up to the task, that it can leave with a set of winner’s trophies. But of course, the challenge will be to beat the competition as well as the notoriously grueling Sebring circuit. And with so many big names in the DPi driver and team ranks, this will be a clash of the titans.

SebringIt is a similar story in the GT ranks too. GTLM at Daytona was as close as its ever been, with BMW emerging victorious, scoring the M8 GTLM, its biggest victory to date. The Balance of Performance was as perfect as it can be back in January, and it provided fans that braved the weather some of the tightest GTLM racing ever seen in IMSA between all five marques present. GTD was also a lottery throughout, with most of the top teams sitting in top five positions at various fixed points during the race. Then once the rain came down, it became even more unpredictable, with multiple incidents knocking some of the more prominent runners out of the race and prompting some of the world class drivers in the pack to come into their own. Grasser Racing, after a rather quiet run throughout the race, took a second win in a row for Lamborghini, and scored the first for the EVO-spec Huracan GT3.

And that’s just a taste of the IMSA battles to look forward to, as the FIA WEC 1000-mile race on the Friday night is sure to be a hit with the fans too. There is plenty of talking points for the WEC heading into race week, and lots to look forward to, and maybe it’ll come as a surprise to some, but the LMP1 class could well provide the biggest headline of the weekend. While the racing in LMP1 to this point has been lop-sided in favour of the more sophisticated, tried and tested Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 HYBRIDs, they will want put on a show at Sebring. This year is the first time that we’ve seen the current crop of LMP1 machinery tackle “the bumps” so expect some astonishing lap times. The current circuit lap record is a 1:43.886; Marcel Fassler’s pole lap ahead of the 12 Hours race in 2013, driving an Audi R18 e-Tron Quattro.  Since 2013, the performance levels have skyrocketed in LMP1, so expect this time to be destroyed by the TS050 HYBRID during race week if the weather is kind.

Sebring
Elsewhere in the field there is plenty to look forward to, with title battles in three of the four classes now in full swing as the ‘Super Season’ begins to draw to a close. Can Team Project 1 move into an even stronger position in GTE Am? Will a challenger to Porsche emerge in GTE Pro? and can Jackie Chan DC Racing’s No.37 crew fend off the consistent Signatech Alpine crew that’s just 10 points back in the standings? Also, how will Corvette Racing fare on home turf against the other WEC teams? The US factory, which competed in the WEC for the first time since 2014 last year in the race at Shanghai, is back for more, and will look to do more than just make up the numbers on a weekend in which it will run three thundering C7.Rs for what we expect will be for a final time at Sebring across two marquee races.

Sebring
For fans, it’s going to be a real festival of sportscar racing, with the two most prominent series sharing a meeting at one of the most iconic venues in motorsport history. It will be fast, it will be furious, and sure to keep everyone on the infield occupied for the entire week, with two major races over Friday and Saturday, that will run from bright sunshine in the afternoon into the evening and full darkness. We can’t wait.

The Travel Destinations team will be track-side with guests staying in Sebring. We are full for 2019 but you can pre-register your interest for 2020 now. Please call us on 01707 329988 or email your details to info@traveldestinations.co.uk to be the first to learn more about Sebring 2020.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Le Mans Classic

The Le Mans Classic Returns

The next Le Mans Classic will take place from the 3rd – 5th July 2020, it has been announced. At the 2019 Salon Retromobile exhibition, Patrick Peter confirmed the Le Mans Classic news along with details about the other Peter Auto events taking place in 2019.

Le Mans ClassicThe Le Mans Classic has always focused on the cars that raced at Le Mans from 1923 through to 1979, however the perceived success of the introduction of both the Group C cars (1982 – 1993) and the Endurance Racing Legends (1994 – 2010) at the 2018 event, will no doubt see the extension of the Le Mans Classic reach in to the current century.

Le Mans ClassicTravel Destinations are official ticket agents for the Le Mans Classic & continue to offer the widest range of offers for those wishing to attend and spectate at the Le Mans Classic 2020. These offers include exclusive trackside camping, glamping and hotel rooms.

Le Mans ClassicIt is possible to add grandstand seats and hospitality to all bookings, and those arriving in a classic or modern sports car, can even choose to join others on the famous Le Mans track for a couple of laps.

SPECIAL OFFER
For those ready to confirm their Le Mans Classic 2020 with a deposit before the end of February 2019 there is a special incentive. Travel Destinations will be honouring all those bookings at 2018 prices, so not only can you guarantee your attendance at Le Mans Classic 2020, you can also save money by booking now!

To reserve your place at Le Mans Classic 2020, please call our reservations team on 01707 329988.

Daytona

Alonso grabs the Daytona headlines

Wayne Taylor Racing wins the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona

The elements were at work at Daytona this weekend, as the importance of patience and perseverance meshed with the need for speed during a rainy, 57th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, at Daytona International Speedway. It seems history was at work, as well.

Former Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso and his Wayne Taylor Racing teammates emerged from the wet to win the event, which was halted under red-flag conditions due to increasingly heavy rain at 2:25 p.m., 10 minutes short of the scheduled time limit. Alonso becomes the third former Formula 1 champion to also win the Rolex 24. The others on that most illustrious short list: 1964 Rolex 24 champion Phil Hill and 1972 champion Mario Andretti.

DaytonaAlonso, racing in the Rolex 24 for the second-straight year, co-drove the No. 10 Cadillac DPi with Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Kamui Kobayashi. Finishing second was the No. 31 Cadillac DPi of Whelen Engineering Racing, co-driven by Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran and Pipo Derani.

After a cold and windy Saturday, the rains came to the Rolex 24 in the early hours of Sunday morning – and hung around for the balance of the 24-hour sports car endurance classic that opened the season for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Weather worsened to the point of necessitating a red flag at 7:21 a.m., just short of the 17-hour mark. After a one-hour, 45-minute stoppage, racing resumed. Amidst alternating green- and yellow-flag conditions, the second red flag was brought out by heavy rain at 12:39 p.m. It was the first time the race had been red-flagged twice due to wet conditions. Seven minutes earlier, Alonso had gotten by Nasr in Turn 1 and it proved to be the race-winning move. “Very, very proud of the job we achieved today,” said Alonso, who also co-drove to victory in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. “The race itself was very, very difficult. Conditions were changing all the time. But we had perfect execution. We led in night, day, dry and wet.”

DaytonaGrand Marshal and five-time Rolex 24 champion Scott Pruett gave the command to start engines on Saturday afternoon, with 47 cars across four WeatherTech Championship classes negotiating the 3.56-mile road course. The field was led to the green flag by Oliver Jarvis in the pole-sitting No. 77 Mazda DPi. The highly-anticipated runs by the two Mazda Team Joest entries, however, failed to pan out. The pole-sitting Mazda left the race at the seven-hour mark after catching fire, having completed 220 laps. It ended 46th. A short while later, the team’s No. 55 car, which started fourth, developed a fuel leak problem and would finish 42nd.

A significant sidebar to his Rolex 24 morphed into an emotional farewell for three-time and defending Rolex 24 champion Christian Fittipaldi, who has announced he will retire from competition after this weekend. With his team’s No. 5 Cadillac DPi out of contention in the closing hours after battling several mechanical problems on Saturday, Fittipaldi came into the speedway media centre for a final press conference. He was almost immediately overcome with emotion, unable to choke back the tears – much less answer the first question he received, until media members broke into applause, as encouragement. A cardinal rule of journalism impartiality had been broken, or at least bent. In this instance, no one cared. “Racing has played a major role in my life but life is not only about racing … it was a great ride,” said Fittipaldi, a former IndyCar Series standout and the nephew of former Formula 1 and Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi. “I had three goals when I arrived here this year. One was to finish, the second was to finish on the podium and the third goal was the cherry on top of the cake, to get two wins in a row and fourth [overall]. But it didn’t happen. Yeah, I’m sad, happy, relieved … but most of all I’m at peace with myself and I think that’s what’s most important.”

The inspiring Rolex 24 entry of Alex Zanardi ended with a 32nd-place finish in the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE. Zanardi is the former IndyCar driver who lost both legs after an accident in 2001. In years since, he has become one of the world’s top hand-cyclists while occasionally returning to the race track in specially equipped cars.

DaytonaIn addition to the headlining DPi class, three other classes competed in the Rolex 24. Those winners:
• In the LMP2 class, Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra and Ryan Cullen in the No. 18 ORECA LMP2.
• In the GT Le Mans class, Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng and Colton Herta co-driving the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE.
• In GT Daytona, Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bartolotti, Christian Engelhart and Rik Breukers co-driving the No. 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, which also won the GTD class last year.

Travel Destinations guests really enjoyed this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. Despite the wet end to the race, our guests enjoyed getting privileged behind the scenes access with the Radio Le Mans, IMSA radio commentary team as well as hospitality in the Champions Club. Our hotel overlooking Daytona Beach was the perfect location to relax away from the track.

If you would like to join Travel Destinations at next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona you can register your interest now by emailing us via info@traveldestinations.co.uk

Photography by Dailysportscar

 

Daytona

The 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona; Bigger, Faster, Stronger

With the Roar Before the 24 test weekend in the books, the focus of the IMSA paddock shifts to the season-opening Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona at the end of the month. Our man in the stands was track-side at the Roar, to tell as what we can expect to see at the Rolex 24 Hours that takes place 26th – 27th January.

We are in to the third year of the DPi formula, in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and it has really hit its stride, across the board. A healthy top class, with elite drivers and new Michelin tyres, have added up to create a Daytona 24 which will likely be unforgettable. Up front the DPi class is now 11-cars strong, with an influx of Cadillac customer teams to add to the already sterling Acura, Mazda and existing Cadillac efforts. There’s manufacturer interest in IMSA, and it’s stronger than ever, with the big three up front, Mazda, Cadillac and Acura all heading into the season on the front foot.DaytonaMazda is the biggest mover here, the Joest-run effort finally looking world-beating and capable of winning its first race with two heavily revised RT-24Ps, a new set of backroom staff and Olivier Pla and Timo Bernhard added to the driver roster. Last weekend at the Roar test, the RT-24P was the class of the field on pace, so much so that Oliver Jarvis broke the all-time Daytona infield circuit lap record (unofficially) during the session dedicated to decide the pit boxes and garage allocation for race week. Why is this significant? One because the Mazda finally looks pacey on the unique, challenging speedway course, and two, because the record Jarvis broke stood for over two decades. That’s right, the last man to lap Daytona as fast as Jarvis was PJ Jones back in the GTP era in 1993, in an All American Racers-run Toyota.

Why have DPis become so fast? In part because of the development curve that the cars have been on, but mainly because of the tyre change. Out is Continental,and in is Michelin as the IMSA supplier and the difference is huge. The DPis are lapping Daytona a handful of seconds faster than in the past, with tyres that last longer and that are more predictable. It is still early stages, but it looks like Michelin has come out swinging, and will deliver us what should be the fastest Rolex 24 ever at the end of the month!

Cadillac and Acura are not far behind Mazda, at all, so don’t expect an easy win for Joest, who engineered Audi to over a decade of Le Mans success in the 2000s. In fact, come race week, when it matters there is an expectation that the Wayne Taylor and Action Express Cadillacs and the Penske Acura factory team will all  be gunning to break the lap record again, and then the win in the race proper.DaytonaWhile the cars have certainly matured, the drivers racing them have too. 2019 in IMSA is set to run with some superb talent behind the wheel, but the Rolex 24 in particular continuing to attract stars. Fernando Alonso? Yes he’s in a Wayne Taylor Cadillac with his WEC teammate Kamui Kobayashi. Rubens Barichello? Check. Mike Conway? Check. The Taylor brothers? Of course. Juan Pablo Montoya? Certainly. And that’s just a handful of drivers in DPi, as the rest of the field is littered with quick drivers too.

You may remember that Nissan was involved in DPi, with the ESM-run Onroak chassis? Well, ESM has shut its doors, but CORE autosports, which almost won the overall IMSA title last year with an LMP2 ORECA has stepped up and bought one of ESM’s old chariots to campaign this year. So yes, there’s variety and DPi looks stronger than ever.DaytonaElsewhere, GTLM looks as strong as ever too. There are no new cars for 2019, but the same strong set of factory teams are all eager to duke it out. New for 2019 Michelin tyres in the class (which has always been running with the French constructor) mean the lap times are tumbling in GTLM too. That coupled with the armada of Porsche, Ford, Corvette and BMW drivers (plus a Risi Ferrari) means that at times we won’t know where to look on track, as usual.

Alex Zanardi also deserves a mention here, the Italian, who has multiple Paralympic hand cycling gold medals and two CART championships to his name is racing with BMW. The man, who is quite possibly the most positive force ever to grace a paddock, is set to drive in a factory M8 GTLM, which does have a shot at victory.  He’ll race with hand controls, and climb in and out of the car under his own steam at stops. He’s remarkable, and so are BMW for giving both him and the fans an opportunity to witness such greatness first hand. He’s also hinted that this could be his last ever race, so his progress will be one of the big story lines to follow.DaytonaOh, and expect a retro livery or two in GTLM for Rolex – you’re going to want to watch this space!

Then we have GTD, with over 20 cars once again, from a slew of manufacturers. IMSA boasts nearly 20 manufacturers competing in WeatherTech these days, and much of them race in the GT3 contingent. Acura, Lexus, Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, Lamborghini and BMW are all present, with top teams and drivers. It’s impossible to pick a winner here, and there are more question marks than usual as the majority of the field are running 2019 EVO kits. At the Roar Riley Motorsports’ trusty Mercedes AMG GT3 topped the times, but Meyer Shank Racing’s new Acuras and the selection of Ferraris were close behind. In testing, times shouldn’t be read into though, especially in a Balance of Performance-oriented class.DaytonaSo, grab the entry list, marvel at the lengthy list of world-class teams, cars and drivers, sit back and relax. If the weather holds out, this will be the fastest, most hotly contested Rolex 24 of the modern era. And if you find that you now want to be track side for the Rolex 24 at Daytona? You had better call Travel Destinations quick because time is running out!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Martin Spetz 

Circuit des Remparts racing

Circuit des Remparts at Angoulême – The History

In the South-West of France lies this sleepy town on the top of a steep hill. At the end of a late summer’s day, it’s mighty cathedral glows above the hairpin corners that lead into the historic city centre. From up here, on the city walls or “Remparts” in French, one can enjoy the beautiful view over the countryside towards Cognac.

Angouleme Remparts
Angouleme Remparts

From 1939 something changed in the quiet city of Angoulême. During one weekend a year, the fresh air mixed with a scent of petrol, the bird songs drowned out by growling engine noises and the coaches dragging up the hill made way for a flock of galloping race cars. The “Circuit de Remparts d’Angoulême” was born. Just after the second world war, the event grew very popular. Illustrious racers such as Maurice Trintignant and Juan Manuel Fangio added victories to their already impressive ‘palmares’ here. By 1955, the Formula 1 cars and the circuit became incompatible, the city turned silent again.

In 1978 when the city of Angoulême wanted to resurrect the historic race, it was under nothing less than the personal patronage of Juan Manuel Fangio. This event grew to become an exceptional display of classic car culture during the last couple of decades. Not only on the track, but also throughout the city: from pre-war cars to young timers are to be enjoyed on the circuit, during a Concours d’Elegance on the Friday evening, a touristic rally on the Saturday and interesting classics in just every street across town. These days of the year, the town simply breathes classic cars.

The highlight of the program is that one of the most important yearly concentration of Bugatti’s and pre-war race cars. They gather to fight their dominance on the same course that faced the great pilots in the heyday of the circuit. 2018 saw a grid of 26 Bugatti’s racing along the narrow streets and hairpin turns of the ancient town. So close to the spectators that they could almost touch them. Thanks to Mark Jansen for this account and photography.

This magical event has to be experienced, we believe the atmosphere is unique. We have two tours on offer to the event this year.

For those wishing to drive straight down to the event and spectate can follow this five night itinerary

Those wishing to take a bit more time to travel down via some attractive roads with two overnight stays before arriving at Angoulême can select our seven night tour. Or simply give us a call and we can talk you through the event 01707 329 988.

FIA WEC

Seeing through the Spray in Shanghai

Seeing through the spray at the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Shanghai

The 2018 leg of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2018/19 ‘Super Season’ is now over. There are three races left and a whole lot still to play for. The weekend in Shanghai certainly had a different feel to it, with far more positivity across the four classes than we’ve seen all season. The racing was good; albeit in tough conditions, and has left us with plenty to look forward to when the season resumes next March at Sebring.

More poor weather
Once again the FIA WEC had to battle through poor weather conditions in China. Heavy rain and low visibility were the order of the day for the race and that prevented the race from running for the entire six hours. However, the race officials once again excelled themselves in making smart, prompt decisions to keep the race going as long as possible.

FIA WEC
The red flags had to make two appearances in the race, which even started under safety car conditions. But the second half of the race ran smoothly, and actually, produced some memorable action as the weather improved. The only real issue the organisers were left to tackle was the fading light at the end of the race, which saw rain and darkness produce an alarming finish to the race for many of the drivers mid-pack who struggled to fight through the spray.

GTE Pro producing the goods
The best racing was found in the GTE Pro class, once again, and it’s clear that the class is becoming closer between the five marques taking on the full season. Not only was the racing door-to-door, but it produced a historic result too, with Aston Martin Racing’s new Vantage AMR scoring its first ever win. Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen in the No.95 were the victors and were masterful in the tricky conditions, aided by strategy calls from the team. Thiim, in particular, had an impressive run in the second half of the race, storming through the field from fourth in the fifth hour after the safety car for the ByKolles CLM catching fire on the pit straight to take control of the race, before Sorensen kept his cool at the end.

FIA WECBehind the Aston, Richard Lietz steered the No.91 Porsche to second in the class after getting past Tom Blomqvist’s No.82 BMW (which faded away), Davide Rigon’s No.71 Ferrari and Alex Lynn’s No.97 Aston Martin (which fell to fourth) during his stint. The championship-leading No.92 Porsche meanwhile, finished up third, pushing the No.97 to fourth at the very end, when Michael Christensen muscled his way past Maxime Martin in the dash to the flag after the final safety car period.

The key here is that Aston Martin is now very much in the fight. BMW has work to do. Its car is quick in the right conditions, but struggles when things get changeable. While AMR would need a remarkable run through Sebring, Spa and Le Mans next year to get in the title hunt, the British team building up to a title challenge in 2019/20 will be the priority.

It must be mentioned that Corvette ran in China, making its first FIA WEC appearance (Le Mans aside) since CoTA 2014. While Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner enjoyed the challenge of taking on the FIA WEC’s Pro field, on unfamiliar ground, it wasn’t easy. Despite making bold strategy calls during the race in an attempt to gain any sort of advantage, they failed to feature and finished eighth. Neither driver could extract enough pace out of the C7.R to keep up in the mixed conditions.

LMP1 getting closer
LMP1 is tightening up, with Equivalence of Technology changes before the race helping keep the privateers within arm’s length for the first time. The race itself, unfortunately, didn’t give us a true flavour of what’s to come, because Toyota won comfortably again, in part because the race didn’t run for the full six hours, and the weather was poor.

FIA WECHowever, in qualifying, it was tight. The pole-winning car this time was the No.7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID, which went on to win, after Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi combined to set a pole-winning 1:42.931. Between the fastest Toyota and privateer, though, it was as tight as it’s been this season. The No.1 Rebellion R-13 came closest, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna taking third with a 1:42.218s, which put them just over two tenths off pole, and less than a tenth off the No.8 Toyota which ended up second on the grid with a 1:43.159s. The headline time from the duo came from Lotterer, whose last-ditch attempt to take pole saw him reel off a 1:42.869s, which proved to be the second-fastest single lap time of the session. Could we see a privateer take pole of the season, and really challenge for a win? It’s beginning to look that way!

GTE Am turned on its head
GTE Am has seen major change over the past two weeks. The once dominant No.88 Dempsey Proton Porsche has had all of its points stripped after an investigation into data tampering, meaning it’s now a wide-open title race now. Team Project 1 has taken over at the top of the classification now; an impressive feat in its first year, but there are only 20 points between the German outfit and its nearest challenger, the No.98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage. With Sebring and Le Mans worth more than standard points, one slip up could see the points tally have a very different look by the end of the season.

FIA WECAnd that’s exactly what we want, both GTE classes producing close racing and thrilling title battles.
See you in Sebring!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar.com 

FIA WEC

Looking ahead to Fuji

Looking ahead to the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji

The FIA World Endurance Championship “Super-Season” continues this weekend in Japan, with the first non-European flyaway of the year. The race at Fuji Speedway is one of, if not THE, most popular rounds of the season among traveling fans, media and the teams. It is a stunning country, with a lot of character, and a motorsport history and culture many nations aspire to. Fuji Speedway itself is a real test; it’s a circuit with a near-endless pit straight, as well as a mixture of medium and slow speed corners. When rain doesn’t intervene, (we’ll get to that later), it provides thrilling racing. We hope that tradition continues this weekend, as the FIA WEC heads to the sleepy town of Gotemba for the seventh year in a row.

Will the Equivalence of Technology changes give us a race in LMP1?
While the points standings tell a different story, the on-track action in the LMP1 class this year has failed to live up to the extremely high bar set over the past four or so years. Toyota, being the powerhouse it is, has dominated, in every facet, and only really faces a threat from the No.3 Rebellion R-One in the points standings because both its TS050 HYBRIDs were disqualified from the race at Silverstone after finishing first & second.FIA WECIn order to combat that, the ACO and FIA has opted to change the Equivalence of Technology in the class (with the approval from Toyota), to try and give the privateer field a bit more of a chance. Whether or not the difference will be significant though, is still very much up for debate. For this weekend’s race, the Toyotas will run with more ballast, putting weight in the cars the only real way to make a key difference in the disparity on the pace-front over the course of the race. In addition to that, the privateer’s artificial restriction on stint length (lap cap), which was quietly dropped at Silverstone has now been officially thrown out. Before, the non-hybrids were forced to pit more often and for longer than their hybrid counterparts; it was a decision which was originally made to help along the image of the Toyotas being more efficient. Understandably, there was a lot of feedback, and after three dominant showings from Toyota, clearly a change was needed.

Any time a private outfit takes on the resources of a huge corporation like Toyota, it is never going to be a fair fight. Few were under the illusion that the privateer prototypes, of which all but one were brand new at the start of the season, would be able to go toe-to-toe with the impressive, and proven TS050. But a sniff of competition is still needed to keep it at the very least interesting. We will see this weekend if Rebellion can continue to mount a title challenge and beat Toyota without post-race penalties. It will be tough, especially as Toyota has won at Fuji five out of six years. But, if they can, then the rest of the ‘Super Season’ will look far more interesting!

Will this be BMW’s big weekend?
It’s fair to say that so far this season, BMW has had a quiet showing with its new M8 GTE in the FIA WEC competition. The German marque, which has secured strong finishes with its parallel IMSA programme, but in the WEC there’s been little to shout about. A bit of a factor is of course the Balance of Performance that governs the class. This year, the second for the new automated system, it has not quite provided us with the parity seen in 2017. But, with new machinery, comes new challenges, and it appears that the FIA and ACO’s system is going to attempt to rectify that. BMW will benefit from a lighter car, and an increase in boost pressure. The MTEK-run Bavarian crew will hope that this is enough to see them earn a podium for the first time in the WEC.FIA WECElsewhere in GTE Pro, Aston Martin is looking for a similar change in form, though it heads to Japan with no change to its Vantage AMR’s Balance of Performance. That may seem strange, when you consider that like BMW, Aston’s new toy has yet to earn any silverware, but let’s not forget that at Silverstone, early in the race, the signs were there that the car can compete in its current state. If the change isn’t enough, then Ford, Porsche and Ferrari will again be the contenders here, with their proven machinery, that already has experience of Fuji under their belts.

WIll Alpine’s Le Mans news push them towards a big finish in Fuji?
The biggest LMP2 story since Silverstone has been the Le Mans results being confirmed. Alpine now officially has won the LMP2 class after G-Drive Racing/TDS Racing’s failed appeal. Thoughts and feelings about the process and length of time the FIA Court of Appeal’s decision took to be made aside, this is a huge bit of news. This means that the French team has two LMP2 wins at Le Mans in three years to its name, and heads to Fuji with the championship lead.FIA WECAt Silverstone, Jackie Chan DC Racing rediscovered its 2017 form and scored a memorable 1-2, but don’t expect things to come so easy this time round. There will be plenty to play for here, especially with the weather set to be a factor again. Watch out for Racing Team Nederland’s Dallara here, if there is lots of Full Course Yellows and safety cars and the team can burn Frits Van Eerd’s driving time early, then the combination of Guido van der Garde, Nick De Vries and Michelin tyres on the Dallara could be a lethal one, and spring a surprise.

Rain, rain, go away
Due to the time of year the 6 Hours of Fuji is held each season, weather is always a talking point before the weekend, and often proves to be a factor. Last year heavy rain meant much of the race was spent under Safety Car conditions or a red flag, which was a real shame, especially when considering that in the past we had a race that only lasted 16 laps because of the conditions track-side deteriorating so much, so fast.FIA WECThe forecast as it stands doesn’t look good, but it can change quickly. Some members of the paddock will welcome light rain to spice things up, but many will spend the whole meeting praying that it stays completely dry, as Japan is a long way to go to sit under an umbrella.

Can anyone stop Proton?
A win at Le Mans, and at Silverstone has given Christian Ried, Julien Andlauer and Matt Campbell a comfortable lead in GTE Am. The trio, who pilot the No.77 Proton Porsche 911 RSR now hold a 33-point advantage over Clearwater Racing’s crew of Keita Sawa, Matt Griffin and Weng Sun Mok. Project 1 Racing are third, a quiet but encouraging run through the opening races of the season leaves Egidio Perfetti, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey in 35 points back, with a chance to vault themselves into the title race at the halfway point of the season.

Like LMP2, the points are the same in the Drivers and Teams standings. GTE Am’s Balance of Performance changes aren’t as extensive as Pro, with just small weight changes made to the Porsches and Aston Martin Vantage GTEs. The two cars are now due to race with an extra 10 and 5kg respectively. It will be interesting to see how the Ferrari teams benefit, especially an outfit like Clearwater, which should shine at Fuji. Weng Sun Mok has a ton of experience racing there over the years, and Keita Sawa is an instructor at the circuit.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

The FIA World Endurance Championship continues in the 2019 at Sebring, followed by Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans. Travel Destinations will be at all these events and you can join us too. Click on the event name above to learn more.

Zandvoort historic Grand Prix

Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix – our report

To say we were excited about our visit to the Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix would be an understatement, and we were not disappointed. This year would be the seventh edition of the event and the organisers put on a very impressive show.

We chose to travel to the event  via the Harwich to Hook of Holland route with Stena line. It was an extremely comfortable overnight crossing and with the Hook of Holland just over an hour drive to Zandvoort makes it extremely convenient too. We drove to the pretty town of Delft for  a look around and coffee stop. It was then a short distance to the stunning Louwman museum. This is a ‘must do’ visit,  the collection is breath taking and extremely well thought out and put together.

Zandvoort is a seaside town with a long sandy beach. The circuit is a short walk from the town amongst the dunes. We were staying at Centre Parcs  which could not be situated more perfectly, adjacent to the circuit. In fact the noise of the cars practising on track as we arrived only heightened the excitement for the weekend. There is a large selection of bars and restaurants, that evening we elected to eat at a beach club whilst watching the sun set.

Saturday arrived and it was just a short walk through the dunes to the circuit, you are immediately into the paddock housing the Formula Juniors. The Paddocks got better and better as we walked through to the centre of the track. Attracting particular interest was the Porsche exhibition, as you entered the 908 Targa Florio car was the first car of the display. The rest of the exhibition housed some superb cars, notably the 4WD 961 that came 7th at Le Mans.

We made our way to the grandstands to watch some racing. First up a fantastic three way battle with the aforementioned Formula Juniors, made for a good start to the action. Next up were the local boys in their GT and Touring cars. Up the front was a very fast Porsche 935 K3 against a Ferrari Daytona which was doing well to hold its own, however in the end it was a Porsche 1,2 3. It was then Historic F2 and the very fast Matthew Watts in his March 772P, who was untouchable. The last race before the lunch break wasthe Historic Sports cars where Lola T70’s rumbled through for a comfortable 1-2 victory.

A real highlight was the ‘Tourenwagen’ class which mostly comprised of 90’s DTM cars. They put on a real show. This was followed by a very special BMW demonstration, only three cars but what a three! First up a M1 Procar driven by FIA Sportscar champion John Bosch. Next up a Mclaren F1 GTR Long Tail (in the BMW parade because of it’s Bavarian powerplant, of course) driven by BMW works driver Peter Kox. Lastly, local hero Jan Lammers drove the BMW V12 LMR, the car that won Le Mans in 1999.

Other famous drivers we spotted over the weekend were Arturo Mezario (in his iconic cowboy hat) driving a Ferrari 156 sharknose. Plus Le Mans winner Andy Wallace who was demonstrating the Le Mans Jaguar XJR9.

Plenty more fantastic grids raced on throughout the weekend including pre-66 Touring cars, F3-500 single seaters, the Gentleman Drivers 2 hours endurance race, F3 and not forgetting Historic F1, in which Nick Padmore (current Goodwood lap record holder) was mighty.

Another interesting addition to the weekend was the parade through the centre of Zandvoort town on Saturday evening. Lead by Jan Lammers, who is from Zandvoort, so at least he knew his way around! He was followed by 50 plus race cars as they did two laps around the town.

In summary we were really impressed with the event, superb grids, friendly atmosphere and Zandvoort is a lovely destination. Tour details will be published as soon as the dates for the 2019 event are confirmed.

WEC

How it stands in the FIA WEC

The state of the FIA WEC “Super Season” after three rounds

The 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ has been a strange one so far. With a strong grid littered with world-class talent, a good number of entrants in each class and close title races in three categories, it has not been without intrigue in the European races to open the season. There are plenty of talking points up and down the order, as the series looks ahead to the flyaway rounds at Fuji and Shanghai to round off the calendar year.

Toyota dominant, but not in the points standings
Up to this point, Toyota Gazoo Racing, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been far and away the best team in the LMP1 class. With years of running under its belt, and a tried and tested year-old TS050 HYBRID at its disposal, the Japanese marque’s quality has really shown this year against privateer opposition. As many would have predicted, it has been a David v Goliath-type affair. But the Equivalence of Technology debate has raged on from the Paul Ricard Prologue, all the way through to the week after Silverstone, as artificial regulations have left Toyota with the upper hand in both performance terms, and in the sporting regulations. Until Silverstone, the privateers were forced to pit earlier than Toyota in each stint, and spend longer refueling, meaning even if they were on pace with the TS050s, they would still lose precious seconds at multiple points during the race.

FIA WECSo to put it lightly, it has been a rough ride for the privateers. Rebellion’s R-13s have been reliable, and quick, but not enough to challenge, SMP Racing’s BR1s have proven to be fragile, ByKolles’ CLM despite an up-curve in performance is still way off, DragonSpeed’s season has been marred by big incidents at Spa and Le Mans thus far, and CEFC TRSM (due to financial difficulties) has only taken part in one race.

The cars themselves, in isolation, are solid, and with such a high standard of drivers behind the wheel, they are impressive when you consider just how quick the class went from a single entrant to eight; all it took was collective ambition from multiple parties, and just one off-season. Make no mistake, these are the most sophisticated and head-turning bits of LMP1 Privateer machinery in FIA WEC history, but they are no match for the factory cars; at least not yet!

Despite all that though, the title race is extremely tight at the top, after Toyota lost its Silverstone 1-2 after its cars were disqualified for failing post-race technical checks.  That outcome meant that the No. 3 Rebellion R-13 of Gustavo Menezes, Mathias Beche and Thomas Laurent inherited the win and have closed the gap to just two points. Despite its rather disappointing circumstances – no podium celebration for the team to experience – it is still a significant milestone for the championship. The win is not just the first privateer overall win in FIA WEC history, but the first non-hybrid win since 2012. And in terms of drivers, Menezes became the first American to win a FIA WEC race outright, and amazingly, the first American to win the Tourist Trophy – the oldest prize in motorsport.

The question now is, will the title race still be close when the series heads to Sebring next year? It is all down to regulations, as if it continues as it is now Toyota will still stroll to the title. But if the ACO can find a way to balance the hybrid and non-hybrid cars to the point where the privateers, whose cars are less efficient and slower through traffic without hybrid boost have a legitimate shot of winning, then fans will flock to races.

Porsche on top in GTE Pro
No LMP1 programme? No problem for Porsche, who are creating a fine set of headlines in the GTE ranks this year, after a popular GTE Pro win at Le Mans, and a consistent run from its No.92 911 RSR at Spa and Silverstone. Atop the drivers’ standings, are Le Mans winners Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen, who have accumulated 71 points. Their lead is relatively comfortable, as the gap back to Ford’s Silverstone winners Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke is now 14 points. Despite not taking part in Silverstone, Billy Johnson, Pla and Mucke’s teammate for Spa and Le Mans, is third with 48 points, while Silverstone victors Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado are fourth on 43.5. While the gap to the leaders for BMW and Astons best placed drivers may seen cavernous, it must be remembered that there are still five races to go, one of them being the second Le Mans of the season, which hands out 1.5x the standard points.

WECIn the GTE manufacturers race, it’s Porsche leading with 177 points, over Ford with 77. Ferrari is third with 71. But the big talking point here, hasn’t been the spectacular racing, instead it’s the ever-present elephant in the GT racing room: Balance of Performance. The current automated process, is, categorically better than the previous methodology used by the series organisers to create parity, but it is not perfect. This is evident in the results achieved by BMW and Aston Martin. BMW’s new M8 GTE, which has now won a race in IMSA as part of Team RLL’s parallel programme, has struggled for pace, particularly in the races, where it has at times been wildly off. Aston Martin meanwhile, struggled at Spa and Le Mans in a similar fashion, but at Silverstone, with a pre-event BoP change looked stronger. Nevertheless, during the race in the UK, both marques faded away, while Ford, Ferrari and Porsche scrapped for the podium positions. What we don’t have, is one brand running away with it constantly, but work is required to ensure that the racing is a little closer, and produces races similar to last season, which turned out to be memorable.

Alpine vs Jackie Chan DC Racing in LMP2
With three races down, three contenders have emerged in the LMP2 class; Signatech’s Alpine, and the pair of Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECAs. Alpine’s win at Le Mans after G-Drive’s post-race disqualification has left the French team in the driving seat to take the title. But Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet don’t have a comfortable lead, as a 1-2 finish by Jackie Chan DC Racing at Silverstone has put the No.38 ORECA of Gabriel Aubrey, Ho-Pin Tung and Stephane Richelmi in with a real chance.

WECHere’s hoping that the LMP2 title fight turns out to be as enthralling as last year, when after Le Mans, Rebellion Racing and Jackie Chan DC Racing’s top ORECAs slogged it out for the title towards the end of the season.

Proton pulls away in Am
In GTE Am, it is a different story. In the class, which has arguably provided the most entertaining racing this season so far, Proton Competition is running away with the title. A win at Le Mans, and at Silverstone has given Christian Ried, Julien Andlauer and Matt Campbell and comfortable 33-point lead in the class. The trio, who pilot the No.77 Proton Porsche 911 RSR will hope to continue to finish ahead of their rivals at Clearwater Racing; Keita Sawa, Matt Griffin and Weng Sun Mok.

WECProject 1 Racing are third, after a quiet, but encouraging run through the opening races of the season leaving Egidio Perfetti, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey 35 points back. The German team, which is new to the FIA WEC, almost won at Silverstone, and certainly looks as well-oiled of a team as is required to string podium finishes together before the end of the season.

Travel Destinations can help you enjoy some of the FIA WEC races track-side during this “Super Season”. As well as Le Mans 2019, Travel Destinations also have exclusive offers for the rounds at Sebring and Spa-Francorchamps.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Spa 24 Hours

70th anniversary for Spa 24 Hours

This weekend is set to see a landmark for GT racing, with the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Spa. A grid of over 60 GT3 cars, from 13 marques, with plucky privateer teams, factory-backed efforts aplenty, and a Pro class that has the potential to provide those trackside and at home with a thrilling Spa 24 Hours.

Our man in the stands looks forward to four of the things he is most looking forward to seeing during the 2018 Spa 24 Hours.

Endurance Cup title battles
The Blancpain GT Series and Intercontinental GT Challenge has created a plethora of title races across the board, with so many trophies available for teams to gun for now. But, at its core, the Spa 24 Hours is a round of the Blancpain Endurance Cup, and for the majority of European GT3 teams, winning the Endurance Cup titles for Drivers and Teams is the crown jewel they most want.

As it stands, at the head of the field in the teams title is Emil Frey, and it has been a remarkable story so far for the Swiss team and its new Lexus programme. After years of running its Jaguar GT3s (which it is still running this year, but in the Silver Cup), it is now racing with a pair of Lexus RCF GT3s, which already have proven to bring far more to the table than just variety. Emil Frey won last time out at Paul Ricard, and will look to continue that form heading into this weekend’s race. That won’t be easy though, as with it being so tight at the top, it is often a lottery at Spa. Strength in numbers can be a deciding factor between a manufacturer winning or struggling to get a car inside the top twenty. It is close though, as ex-FIA WEC team Strakka Racing (Mercedes) and Team Parker Racing (Bentley) are within 10 points.

Spa 24 Hours
In the Drivers standings meanwhile, it’s WRT’s trio of Alex Riberas, Chris Mies and Dries Vanthoor leading the way, by just two points over Emil Frey’s trio of Marco Seefried, Albert Costa and Christian Klien. The WRT crew’s win at Monza has proven to be the deciding factor here, but with three sets of points on offer during the 24 (at hours 6, 12 and 24), it’s an incredibly important event for the teams, and strategy will be at play to ensure that cars are high up the order at various points during the race to score points. And, if it all falls into place, the conclusion of the Spa 24 will not only provide fans with an incredible finish, but will also see a set of title races that will go down to the wire at the season finale in Barcelona.

The stacked Pro field
The race’s organizing body, SRO, has intentionally capped this year’s Pro class in the Spa 24 Hours, to ensure that the private teams are able to make up the majority of the field. But that is unlikely to detract from the race for overall honours, as instead, it’s forced the factory teams and high-end privateer efforts to concentrate on fewer cars, and stack them with talent. This year’s 30-car entry in Pro for the Spa 24 Hours is stunning, an all-star cast, with no real weak links. And with efforts from Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, McLaren, Mercedes, Nissan and Porsche, there’s no real favourite either.

Spa 24 Hours
There’s plenty of new machinery in amongst the class too.  Bentley brings its new Continental GT3 to Spa for the first time, a car which looks and sounds stunning. Whether or not it is ready for a big win this early in its life though, remains to be seen. As mentioned above, Lexus too, brings spice to the party, with the RCF GT3, which may not be a brand-new car (in fact, it’s been in development for years and raced with customers in 2017), it is new to Blancpain and despite being ahead in the points standings, Emil Frey is still a dark horse here with real potential. The final new beast, is from Nissan, it’s 2018-spec GT-R GT3 a fundamentally different car to the previous model, with the engine placed lower and further back in the chassis, and radically different aero at each corner of the car. The results haven’t shown yet, but with RJN running the new car, and Balance of Performance a factor, there is no reason a signature result can’t be achieved here. Add in existing cars from the other brands, and you’ve got an unmissable battle at the head of the field.

Honda’s return
Outside of the Pro class, the entry which will likely receive the most attention at the Spa 24 Hours is the Castrol Honda Racing NSX GT3. 18 years on from its last Spa 24 Hours appearance, Honda is back with this effort at Spa, which will be run by JAS Motorsport. This weekend’s race is both the NSX GT3’s Blancpain GT and European 24-hour race debut, as part of a push from the brand’s customer programme.

The car will compete in the Pro-Am class, with Bertrand Baguette and Esteban Guerrieri, ex-F1 driver Riccardo Patrese and Loic Depailler. This will be a very interesting entry to follow, and surely a fan favourite with its Castrol-livery. And the NSX GT3 has a real chance to have a clean run to the finish, as badged as an Acura in the USA, it’s had some notable results already with Michael Shank Racing. But, in this environment, and with a relatively inexperienced driver crew, whether or not it will be a contender in its first appearance, remains to be seen…

Spa 24 Hours
Star drivers
This year’s Spa 24 Hours field, as well as featuring a vast selection of machinery, is one of the most incredible list of GT drivers ever assembled. And in among those are some real stars, that aren’t necessarily known for GT3 racing. As mentioned before, Riccardo Patrese is part of the entry, an F1 race-winner. Another F1 race-winner meanwhile, is Rubens Barichello, a man who had a similar career to Patrese, just decades later. Barichello will race with Strakka Racing, for the team’s second attempt at trying to win at Spa, and after competing at Le Mans last year, he is clearly inspired to carve out a small post-F1 career in sportscars.

Spa 24 Hours
Outside of that, Attempto Racing will race with DTM ace Jamie Green, back for his second Spa 24 Hours, again competing in an Audi, to match his touring car commitments. Former Le Mans winners and LMP1 stars Marcel Fassler, Marc Lieb and Timo Bernhard will also be present, racing for WRT, Manthey Racing and Team75 Bernhard respectively, so it’s safe to say they all have a real chance at an overall podium or win.

And finally, slightly out of left field, Top Gear presenter Chris Harris is also back again, this time with Garage 59 in the Am class driving a 650S GT3. Thus far it’s been a hugely successful season for Harris, who with his teammates leads the class standings after winning two races this year. It is safe to say he’ll be more motivated than ever at this years Spa 24 Hours.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Travel Destinations at Concours of Elegance

Travel Destinations at the Concours of Elegance

Join Travel Destinations at the Concours of Elegance

31st August, 1st & 2nd September 2018

Concours of Elegance
Travel Destinations at Concours of Elegance

We have joined forces with the team at the Concours of Elegance, Hampton Court. Together we have arranged a great value Travel Destinations at the Concours of Elegance package, to enhance your visit to this fabulous event. All the essential elements are included – privileged parking close to the Palace entrance, entry tickets to see the some of the rarest cars in the world. Once you have had a chance to look around, you are invited to have a glass of Champagne with us in a private enclosure surrounded by the Concours cars.

Champagne at Concours of Elegance
Travel Destinations Concours Elegance

This fabulous event started off at Windsor Castle in 2012 and has moved to equally stunning locations such as St James Palace before arriving at Hampton Court in 2014, which has been its home since. The Concours of Elegance event is a firm favourite of ours, it’s hard not to be bowled over by the selection of cars that appear at the event. In 2017 we were greeted by no less than six Jaguar D-Types, including all three of the 1957 Le Mans 24 hours podium finishers. Other highlights were the Ex Baillon collection Maserati A6G still in unrestored condition and at the other end of the scale a McLaren P1 GTR in Le Mans Harrods livery.

The exclusive Travel Destinations package is being offered at the following prices:
Friday 31st August                                     £70 per person
Saturday 1st & Sunday 2nd September                                                 £60 per person (£45 for senior citizens*)
*Saturday and Sunday only

What’s included:
• Admission ticket
• Travel Destinations parking
• Glass of Champagne

Concours of Elegance
The Worlds rarest cars at Concours of Elegance

We hope you can join us at this fabulous event, we will be there each day and look forward to seeing you.

To book your space give call us on 0844 873 0203

Button racing Jaguar XJR-9

Jenson Button to race at Le Mans Classic

Exciting news this morning that F1 legend Jenson Button is announced as an entry into this July’s Le Mans Classic. Button will drive the JD Classics iconic Jaguar XJR-9 in the 2018 Le Mans Classic. After a false start earlier in the year with the announcement of Button’s drive, it’s great to see this Jenson Button race Le Mans Classic entry now confirmed. Also announced is his entry for the Goodwood Revival, he is in the fortunate position to choose between a Ford GT40 or Jaguar E-Type for that race meeting, again with JD Classics. Button is busy racing a Nissan in the Super GT championship in Japan this year.

Button racing Jaguar XJR-9
Button to race at Le Mans Classic

We can’t wait to see him go up against some experienced racers including Rob Huff, Chris Ward, Nick Padmore and more. Expect to see Porsche 962’s, Peugeot 905 and many more, in what is likely to be a competitive battle up at the sharp end of the grid. Group C joined the programme at the 2016 racing during the morning ahead of the six existing grids. Due to the popularity it’s returning this year again to race in the morning alongside the two other support grids ‘Porsche Classic Race Le Mans’ & ‘Jaguar Classic Challenge’.  Another spectacle set to wow the crowds is the Global Endurance Legends demonstrations. They will run twice for 40 minutes during the weekend, with McLaren F1 GTR’s, Ferrari 360 and F40’s there are some fabulous cars set to take part.

Group C at Le Mans Classic
Jenson Button racing in Group C grid at Le Mans Classic

Jenson Button race Le Mans Classic
Jenson Button to race Le Mans Classic

Call us on 0844 873 0203 to discuss our range of packages, which start from £299 per person, so you can enjoy the Jenson Button race Le Mans Classic. Get in quick though as ferries are now starting to sell out and cabin space on the overnight sailings becoming sparse.

12 Hours of Sebring

12 Hours of Sebring 2018 – Preview

The 2018 sportscar racing season is heating up again after the big endurance races which populate January and early February. This weekend sees the 66th running of the world-famous 12 Hours of Sebring, and it’s set to be a corker, with a big entry and quality oozing from each class. It has not got the sheer numbers of the Rolex 24, or the same number of F1 talent in the field, but what it has got is intrigue up and down the field and one of the most iconic settings in endurance racing. Once again Travel Destinations customers have travelled to be track-side for the 12 Hours of Sebring for what will be sure to be another action-packed race, with lots of entertainment both on and off the track.

Our man in the stands takes a look at what we we can expect from this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring:

Can Action Express go two out of two?
It’s almost too easy to predict another big win for the Cadillac DPi V.R this weekend. The car, even with its new engine for this season, has both the performance and reliability to topple the other major runners. With the majority of the focus on the Prototype ranks at each IMSA meeting, many will ponder the potential for another team or manufacturer to take a big win. Action Express scored a historic 1-2 at Daytona in January, and did so in distance record shattering fashion. For the 12 Hours of Sebring, there’s surely the potential for a repeat with its two Cadillac DPi V.Rs back with an almost identical set of drivers; the only change being Stuart Middleton departing the team after his (impressive) one off drive as a prize for winning the Sunoco Challenge.

12 Hours of Sebring
So who can challenge? Well, obviously Wayne Taylor Racing will be hoping to first of all get points on the board after retiring from the Rolex 24, and second, take another big 12 Hours of Sebring win. But WTR is another Cadillac team. Outside of the GM brand’s representation, you’d have to point towards Acura Team Penske and or ESM for a potential upset. Acura Team Penske impressed mightily in its return to sportscars at Daytona, its Acura ARX-07s was in the mix throughout. Only small niggles dropped them down the order towards the end of the race. They’ve got what clearly looks like a good base package as well as a high calibre selection of drivers and team personnel to do it.

ESM on the other hand, had a miserable Daytona with its pair of Nissan DPis. But let’s not forget that towards the end of last season, which wasn’t that long ago in the scheme of things, the plucky American privateer outfit hit its stride and won Petit Le Mans. Don’t be surprised if the former FIA WEC outfit features on Florida’s bumpiest circuit!

Is there any hope for Mazda?
When discussing potential winners, it’s easy to forget the Mazda contingent in the Prototype field, and for good reason; it has been another tough start to the season for the Japanese marque.
Mazda Team Joest will be highly motivated for a strong showing at the 12 Hours of Sebring, after both of its updated RT24-Ps failed to impress on pace, and retired from the Rolex 24. If anyone knows how to turn a ship around, and win big is Ralf Juttner and the Joest team, but this may be a tall order.

12 Hours of Sebring
The car, which struggles at higher-speed circuits, just hasn’t been up to the task, even after months of aero, cooling and suspension work in the teams self-imposed long off season. To make matters worse, the Joest team was forced to pack up early after a fire for its No.55 in the pre-event test. Any sort of result would be massive here, as the belief inside camp Mazda is still positive for the future. On Joest’s first run in the event since 2013, a win isn’t expected, though fans in the stands would be overjoyed if the team had a good run.  Will we have to wait until Long Beach, where the track is tight and the race is short, to truly see what the updated RT24-P is made of?

BMW aiming for a better run for the M8
This time round, GTLM could very well be anyone’s game, after Ford’s dominant formation run in Daytona, the rule makers have pledged to tighten the field with the pre-Sebring Balance of Performance. This comes after BMW’s dispute with IMSA at the Rolex 24 (which went public), where its M8 GTLMs struggled on their competitive debut against the other marques on pace. For the 12 Hours of Sebring, BMW has been given a power boost and an extra two litres of fuel, while Ford has had two taken away. Whether or not that will make this a dogfight between all five makes remains to be seen, but it should nevertheless be a step in the right direction. If BMW, and Porsche’s 911 RSRs – which also had a rough Daytona – can fight for the win, it will only add to the spectacle of this year’s once-around-the-clock classic.

12 Hours of Sebring
Corvette looking to break records

Lovers of loud, yellow, GT machinery will be pleased to know that on what is likely to be the final 12 Hours of Sebring for the Corvette C7.R GTE, there is a lot to play for. Corvette Racing, which will of course be in the mix for yet another big title, will hope to mount its challenge on Ford with another big win at Sebring. Chip Ganassi’s Ford crew may be the favourites after dominating at Daytona, but if Corvette takes the fight to the ‘Blue Oval’, and wins, it will be its fourth consecutive Sebring victory.

12 Hours of Sebring
For its drivers there’s some key milestones to keep an eye on. Corvette’s Jan Magnussen is making his 20th 12 Hours of Sebring start, (elsewhere BMW’s Bill Auberlin is making his 25th) and British ace Oliver Gavin, has the most class wins of anyone in the field, and will be gunning for his seventh victory at the historic circuit this year. Corvette Racing meanwhile has the most Sebring class wins of anyone else in the IMSA field, with 11, and will look to add to that tally here.

Can Land get revenge in GTD?
Those who followed GTD at Daytona will remember the controversy surrounding the Land Motorsport penalty. The German team, which was leading the GT3-based class by a healthy margin, got pinged by the organisers for fuelling quicker than the other teams. But, IMSA in this case penalised the team in error, its Audi R8 LMS GT3 and fuel rig passing tech inspections before and after the race. Land Motorsport, which won last year’s Nurburging 24, and has an ADAC GT Masters title to its name in its short time as a premier Audi customer team, will be out for revenge this weekend.

12 Hours of Sebring
Even if it does spend the same amount of time re-fuelling as everyone else this time round, they’ll have a shot at the win. The team has shaken up its driver crew for this one though, Alessio Clemente Picariello joining the team, while Kelvin van der Linde and Jeff Schmidt sit the race out. In response to the Daytona incident, it’s notable that IMSA has announced that it will be implementing minimum refuelling times from Sebring onwards to prevent a repeat of the events. For Sebring, the GTD minimum will be 40 seconds, in GT Le Mans it will be 34, and in Prototype, it’s set at 30.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

For those thinking ahead, the Sebring 2019 promises to be a special event. Not only will the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring take place as usual, but the FIA WEC Super Season will also race on the same weekend. Effectively there will be two 12 hour races taking place in just 26 hours at Sebring 2019. For those wishing to be at the 2019 event, we recommend booking early. Travel Destinations has already contracted some accommodation for Sebring 2019 and provisional bookings are already being made. Call the Travel Destinations team on 0844 873 0203 to find out more and reserve your place at Sebring 2019.

 

Arriving at Porsche curves

Famous Drivers at Le Mans Classic 2018

Amongst the 389 drivers entered into the 2018 Le Mans Classic, there are a few recognisable names, notably: Henri Pescorolo, René Arnoux, Jacques Laffite, Jochen Mass and none other than five times Le Mans winner Derek Bell. Bell will be racing a Porsche 917 LH, which he last raced during the 1971 season with Jo Siffert. Derek has had forays of competing at the Classic in recent years although this is an opportunity to drive a competitive car supported by the highly regarded Porsche engineer Norbert Singer. Singer has had a hand in every one of Porsche’s 16 victories at the 24 hour race. Four out of five of Bell’s Le Mans victories were in Porsche’s. So you could say the Bell/Singer partnership was as important as the famed Bell/Ickx driver pairing. Bell commented about his return that he is feeling fresher than ever and will drive as quickly as he can, but not do anything stupid.

Porsche 935 at Le Mans classic
Porsche 935 on Le Mans start finish straight

BMW M1 at Le Mans Classic
BMW M1 Procar at Le Mans Dunlop Bridge

We for one can’t wait to see the combination of Derek Bell back in a Porsche 917 at Le Mans. If you have yet to book there is still time but be quick. We have a range of camping and hotel options so do give us a call on 0844 873 0203 to discuss.

Porsche and BMW at Le Mans Classic
Porsche 935 and BMW M1 Procar in paddock

The other celebrity drivers mentioned are driving the following cars:
René Arnoux                  BMW M1 Procar
Paul Belmondo             Porsche 935
Jacques Laffite              Lola T70
Jochen Mass                   Porsche 911 RSR
Stéphane Ortelli           Porsche 904
Henri Pescarolo            Inaltera Le Mans 1976
Marko Werner               Lola T212 & Lotus Mark IX

Porsche at Le Mans Classic
Porsche 904 arriving at Porsche Curves

Pescarolo Inaltera Le Mans 1976
Pescarolo Inaltera

You can join these drivers at this year’s Le Mans Classic. We have a number of camping and hotel options available for this year’s event. View the best options on our website here or call us on 0844 873 0203 to find out more.

Bathurst 12 Hours

Bathurst 12 Hours 2018 Preview

Our international racing season continues, as Travel Destinations customers are currently arriving in Bathurst, Australia. The Bathurst 12 hours has gone from strength to strength in recent years and this year’s field looks like it will provide another exciting race. Our guests will be enjoying the race from air conditioned hospitality whilst the drivers brave the heat and the unforgiving Mount Panorama circuit. Here we look at some of the key story-lines for this year’s race:

The Continental GT3’s final ride
This year’s Bathurst 12 Hours may prove to be the last hurrah for Bentley’s current Continental GT3. The car, which has been run by the Crewe-based marque since 2014, has yet to win at Mount Panorama (but came so, so close back in 2015 and 2016, and will have one last try to win it all this time before the new car arrives later in the year.

Bathurst 12 HoursThe two Bentleys on the entry will be run, as ever, by newly crowned WRC champion M-Sport, which brings a slew of factory talent to the Mountain. In the No.17, Steven Kane will race with 2003 Le Mans winner Guy Smith and newcomer Jules Gounon, who moves over from the Callaway Corvette programme which won the 2017 ADAC GT title. And in the No.18, Andy Soucek is back, with Maxime Soulet and Vincent Abril, who is beginning his second season as a ‘Bentley Boy’ this year. It is certainly one of the older cars, out there, which in reliability terms is often a plus, but in just about every other department can be a hindrance. The size, and straight-line speed which the Continental GT3 is known for has always suited Mount Panorama though. A win here would be the car’s perfect send off.

Will this be Audi’s year
Audi, through each generation of its GT and prototype machinery, has kept on winning the big races, so the fact that the current R8 LMS hasn’t taken a Bathurst victory is somewhat of a surprise. The current R8 may well be the best GT3 car out there still in terms of drivability, reliability and speed. And because of that it’s won the Nurburgring 24 Hours, Spa 24 Hours and multiple championships across the globe. It’s big race left to win is therefore Bathurst, so for this year, Audi Sport has gone all out, and will run with the most GT3 cars in the race (six), with three of those in the Pro class.

Bathurst 12 HoursThe big name entries here come from local team Jamec Pem Racing and Belgian ‘Super Team’ WRT. In the former’s two R8s, Supercars fan favourite, and former Bathurst winner Garth Tander will race with the experienced hands of Audi Sport drivers Kelvin Van der Linde and Frederic Vervisch in the No.22, while Chris Mies, Chris Hasse and Markus Winkelhock make for a potential world-beating German trio in the sister No.74. The team knows the circuit, and up against a lot of new teams, that could be key in them finishing high up the order.

WRT meanwhile, will be making its Bathurst debut for the first time this year, and therefore eager to add a Bathurst victory to its enormous trophy cabinet which includes big wins across Europea.. Its No.37 car will run with Formula E driver Robin Frijns, long-time GT3 man Stuart Leonard and Dries Vanthoor, brother of Porsche factory ace Laurens. It’s a pacey combination.

What can we expect from Strakka’s debut?
Of the other marques represented in the 26-car-strong GT3 entry for Bathurst, Mercedes headline entry may be the most interesting. The Stuttgart-based brand will support Strakka Racing at this year’s 12 Hour, the former Le Mans class winner and WEC team, which moves to pastures new after a torrid first year in GT3 racing last year with McLaren. For its new programme with Mercedes, Strakka has reduced its effort from four cars last year, to two, in an effort to put as much focus as possible. It’ll contest the entire Intercontinental GT Challenge with the pair of AMG GT3s – so Bathurst will therefore be a really important race for the season, the Aussie classic the IGTC season opener.

Bathurst 12 HoursIn its two cars, the stronger crew is undoubtedly in the #56 car, which will run with former Spa 24 Hours winners Maxi Buhk, Maxi Gotz and McLaren refugee Alvaro Parente in the cockpit. The other features team owner Nick Leventis, his young partner in crime Lewis Williamson, Cameron Waters and David Fumanelli, who joined the team in Blancpain in 2017.

Strakka’s only issue is its lack of experience with the car. It has been out testing at Silverstone and over in Spain, but has yet to race the AMG GT3. It’ll be a real baptism of fire, Bathurst not being the easiest track to learn, set up a car for and compete on!

M4 GT4’s debut
Anyone who’s watched the race before, will know that Bathurst 12 Hour is not a GT3-only race, the organisers welcoming variety with open arms. Outside of the GT3 ranks this year, there’s three other classes, one reserved for Cup cars, one for GT4s, and an Invitational category for just about anything else. In GT4, a category which worldwide is growing at a stunning rate, there’s a trio of brand new BMW M4 GT4s entered. The car, which raced last year with BMW as a factory as part of its development, is now a full customer car, and will make its debut ‘down under’ at Bathurst.

Bathurst 12 HoursThe big entry here comes from BMW Team SRM (which is factory supported) with Dean Grant, Xavier West and Cameron Hill making up its line-up. However, the other M4 GT4 teams in the running also look strong, MarcGT, Baigent Motorsport and Boat Works Racing eager to show off their new bits of kit.The key drivers among those are Kuno Wittmer racing with MarcGT, Matt Brabham (the third generation driver in his family set to take on the Mountain after grandfather Jack and father Geoff) and Aaron Seton who won the class in 2016, both driving with Boat Works.

Up against Ginettas, KTMs, and a Porsche, it’ll be an intense battle for the class honours, will the M4 GT4 – a flagship GT4 car from the new generation – be up to the task?

A wide open Invitational entry
The Invitational Class for this year’s once-around-the-clock race is stacked with interesting entries. Made up mostly of privately developed Australian MARC Cars – big, beefy V8 Focus’, Mazda’s and new for this year, Mustangs too. And if that doesn’t grab your attention enough, then note that Class I is home to Daytona Sportscars older machinery too.

Bathurst 12 HoursThis year Daytona Sportscars brings a pair, a single Coupe and Viper, the later let’s not forget is both superb to look at and quick, finishing fifth in class last year. Both will be fan favourites, and bring, as always, variety to an already diverse field. What’s fun about the Invitational class, is that it’s fast, furious, and taken very seriously by those involved. The cars all look great, sound great too, and are a big part of what makes the event special.

Keep an eye out. As the sun rises over Mount Panorama the competition will be hot!

Bathurst 12 Hours

If you would like to join Travel Destinations at the Bathurst 12 Hours 2019, you can register by emailing Travel Destinations now.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Rolex 24

Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview

This weekend sees the beginning of the Sports Car season in the USA, with annual curtain raiser; the Rolex 24 at Daytona. For many this event always marks the beginning of the season and the event has always attracted an exceptional grid of cars and drivers. As you would expect, Travel Destinations always has a presence track-side and our travellers are already in Florida, ably supported by our resident Daytona expert, Helen.

Here we look at the key storylines that they will see develop first-hand over the weekend. If this tempts you to see more, then make sure you register with us to be the first to learn of our plans for next year. Maybe you can join us too!

Five key storylines to follow during the 2018 Rolex 24 Hours

Can Cadillac win again?

It has to be said right off the bat that the favourite for the 2018 Rolex 24 has to be Cadillac. Last year, the GM marque’s DPi V.R won its debut at Daytona, and went on to take the overall and NAEC titles up front, led by Wayne Taylor Racing’s effort that at times was unstoppable. This year there has been plenty of changes, but there’s just as good of a chance for Cadillac’s customer outfits to take the win again.

In terms of the car, it’ll race with changes to the front splitter, as part of the ACO’s permitted ‘Joker’ evolutions to Dallara’s P217, which the Caddy is based on. It’ll also utilise a brand new 5.5 litre engine rather than a 6.2 example, in an attempt by Cadillac to streamline its engine philosophy with the rest of the paddock. There are four cars hoping to score Caddy its second win in a row. At Wayne Taylor Racing, its driver line-up has been shuffled, Jordan Taylor returns from last year, but will be joined by Renger Van Der Zande and IndyCar star Ryan Hunter Real for the racing; it’s a trio very much capable of winning it all again.

Rolex 24Action Express’ two cars also have some new drivers in, including ex-F1 driver Felipe Nasr and British GT racer Stuart Middleton. After coming so close last year, can either its Whelen or Mustang Sampling machines reach the top step of the podium in 2018?

The final entrant is a new one, Spirit of Daytona (formally Visit Florida Racing), which switches from running an LMP2 Riley and later a Ligier last year, becoming the only LMP2 team to win an IMSA race overall, with a victory at Laguna Seca. For its new machine, it’s got three new drivers too, Matt McMurry, Tristan Vautier and Eddie Cheever III taking the wheel. Can Spirit of Daytona spring a surprise here?

How will the new DPi efforts fare?

Outside of the Cadillac and the other pre-existing DPi effort from ESM, there’s two new players in town for this season in the form of Team Joest (yes, that Team Joest that ran for almost two decades with Audi) and Team Penske (yes, that Team Penske that won Sebring overall in 2008 with an LMP2 car). Joest will be running the Mazda DPi programme. While the RT-24P is not a new car – it ran for most of the year in 2017 with Speedsource – it certainly has more potential now after an underwhelming first season.

Multimatic and Joest have gone to great lengths to re-design the aspects of the car which proved to be weak, and have signed some new driver talent to add extra punch too. Amongst the newcomers are Ford WEC driver Harry Tincknell and ex-Audi LMP1 drivers Rene Rast and Oliver Jarvis. 2018 will be a really important year, and while few will expect Joest to blow away the field in its first run with the Mazdas, would anybody be surprised if it did with its well documented track record?

Meanwhile, Team Penske is also due to burst onto the scene at Daytona, with a pair of brand new Acura ARX-05. The legendary American outfit is returning to sportscar racing, and in a big way, running the factory programme for the marque in which it spent years racing against back in the American Le Mans days early in the 21st century. The ARX-05 is based on the ORECA 07, which is a very good starting point, as the best LMP2 car top to bottom of the current crop, it’ll also be driven by some stunning drivers. For the big race it’s fate rests on a collection of sportscar talent, ex-F1 talent and IndyCar stars that’s enough to make any racing fan drool. Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron, Simon Pagenaud make up the #6’s crew, while Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Graham Rahal will share the #7. Which of these two VERY high profile new efforts will have the better time in Florida? Time will tell!

All eyes on Alonso

It is safe to say that you can’t pick out the key names in the prototype entry for this year’s Rolex without mentioning Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard, a two-time F1 World champion, seems set on achieving the ‘Triple Crown’ of wins at Monaco, Le Mans and Indy. It’s refreshing to see someone so consumed by the F1 ‘bubble’ take a walk on the wild side and want to race elsewhere in gaps between F1 races.

Rolex 24For the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which will be Alonso’s first sportscar race, he’ll be driving under the very capable supervision of United Autosport, which is co-run by McLaren’s Zak Brown. He’ll drive the evolved Ligier JS P217, with Phil Hanson (an ELMS and WEC starter) and future F1 star Lando Norris. 
That may not sound like a ‘Super Team’, but in reality, that doesn’t necessarily matter. At Daytona, staying on the lead lap will keep you in the fight for the win right up to the flag; it’s that sort of race. Are Norris, Hanson and Alonso capable of doing that? Yes. And even so, this is a trial run of sorts for Alonso, ahead of a potential Le Mans debut this year. He will nevertheless take this seriously, and attract the world’s media to the event, which can only be a good thing for sportscars. This is a big story, and one which the sportscar world is and should welcome with open arms.

BMW M8 GTE

Further down the entry list, the GT classes will, as usual, add spice to an already tantalising prototype field. In among the factory teams in GTLM is BMW Team RLL, tasked with debuting the BMW M8 GTE at Daytona. Now, the car was delayed in its development due to a late re-design forced upon the marque, but it has the potential to turn heads. At the pre-race Roar test, it was the slowest of the GTE cars, but it is new, and GTE is a balanced formula which means it should be able to compete right away during the 24 Hours.

Rolex 24In terms of driving talent, there has been some changes in camp BMW. In its #24 M8, former WTCC ace Augusto Farfus returns (after competing only at Daytona last year), and will drive with brand stalwart John Edwards, Jesse Krohn who’s stepping up from GTD and Nicky Catsburg. And in the #25, Alex Sims returns for another year of GTLM action, along with, veteran driver Bill Auberlen, IMSA debutant (and 2018 BMW DTM driver) Phillip Eng and American BMW newcomer Connor De Phillippi, who moves over from Audi after winning the 2017 N24 and 2016 ADAC GT title. With a set of drivers that strong, the real challenge will likely be staying reliable, up against a field of near-bullet proof machinery from Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche and Ford.

If the M8 GTEs keep going round and round, who knows where they’ll end up come Sunday afternoon?

Battle of the GTD Brands

The other GT class, GTD, is also a battle of the brands, but on a larger scale. With 21 cars on the list, representing eight manufacturers, it’s almost guaranteed to be a thrilling race for the win. This year, there’s no new kit, but there are plenty of big names and big teams on the list; and because last year’s class winner Alegra Motorsports aren’t due to make the trip, there will be a new winner.

Audi will run two R8s, Porsche will have a trio of 911 GT3 Rs, BMW will have an M6 GT3, Lamborghini is set to have three Huracans, Acura meanwhile has three NSX GT3s in addition to three AMG GT3 , two Lexus RCF GT3s and four Ferrari 488s.

At this point, it’s nearly impossible to pick a winner, so instead, just sit back and watch this one unfold.

We hope that you enjoy the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona. It promises to be a fantastic spectacle. Why not join us at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2019? You can register with us now for more information by emailing us here or by calling our office on 0844 873 0203.

Sportscar content written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

FIA WEC Shanghai Review

The 2017  FIA World Endurance Championship held its penultimate round in China last weekend. The FIA WEC 6 Hours of Shanghai provided some thrilling racing and saw some of the titles secured before the final round in Bahrain later this month.  Our man in the stands was track-side once again to watch all the action and bring you this summary:

GTE is awesome (and will only get better)
It is safe to say that the 2017 Six Hours of Shanghai was a thriller throughout, in part because the GTE Pro class produced so much entertainment. The automated Balance of Performance continues to prove time and time again to make the racing close and fair. The differences on track stem from tyre-wear and driver ability, which is how it should be.

FIA WECFord took the win with Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx boosting their title hopes, but Porsche and later Ferrari could have taken the top step of the podium too. The driver line-ups are all world class. The cars are too – the only one looking exposed currently being the older Aston Martin Vantage, in it’s last year – and it’s only going to get better in 2018; Aston Martin will have their new car and BMW will be joining the fray. With action like this on track in GTE, whatever happens to LMP2 and LMP1 for that matter, means the FIA WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours will prove unmissable in the ‘Super Season’.

LMP2 was a dogfight
The LMP2 class was always going to be close with the FIA WEC’s 2017 entry featuring near-identical ORECA 07 Gibsons across the board. However, as the teams have got their heads around the nuances of the new package, three front-runners have emerged. That means that the class competition is very close on track for extended periods of time.

FIA WECAs the championship rolls towards a conclusion, nerves are jangling. The Shanghai race saw swings of fortune of astonishing magnitude. The Jackie Chan DC Racing No.38 car leading at one point, stood to leave China with a mighty 16-point advantage in the standings, but one minor slip by Ho Pin Tung saw that advantage evaporate, together with their championship lead. The Chinese-flagged team now facing the prospect of a four-point deficit, losing their lead for the first time this season. Going into the finale, all of a sudden, it’s Vaillante Rebellion’s title to lose.

Beyond that, at times there was, ill-judgement and ill-temper galore up and down the order, with almost every car involved in one incident or another; In the case of several cars, several incidents. It made for a topsy-turvy competition, which some drivers will hope to forget. As the sign of a maturing ultra-high performance pro/am competition, there was plenty to savor, including for the first time this season outside of Le Mans, the regular sight of LMP2 cars re-passing LMP1 Hybrids on the long-back straight, as the factory monsters went into lift and coast. Make no mistake, these are very quick cars.

GTE Am is ready for a refresh
The spark went out of this class after a perfect storm of misfortune through Turn 1. This effectively accounted for both Ferraris;  the Spirit of Race 488 retiring, and the Clearwater example losing several laps to repairs. The rest of their day was effectively a run to claim as many points as possible.

FIA WECAston Martin dominated, scored the team’s 50th win in competition, and took the lead in the championship, but the reality was that the class lacked a little something for the first time in 2017. The signs are though, that it will all change with a major uplift in the quality and numbers of teams available for selection in 2018/19. New cars, in particular the advent of the class of the 2017-spec mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR, and new teams. Watch this space.

It is too late for Toyota
Toyota’s pace at Shanghai was spell-binding once again. Porsche simply had no answer to the TS050 HYBRID in its evo aero kit. Tellingly, the remaining factory hybrid team is making preparations now for 2018/19. It looked for much of the race, as if Toyota would delay Porsche’s Manufacturers title celebrations until Bahrain, but a fumble for Pechito Lopez as he tried to lap one of the Porsches saw the No.7 car delayed in the final hour, after running in the lead. The required repair put Porsche’s 919s on two steps of the podium; enough to add the Manufacturers Championship to the World Drivers Championship, won for the second time; a unique achievement by Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley (and for the first time, by Earl Bamber.)

FIA WECIn the process, Hartley scored probably a unique achievement in world motorsport, taking part in a Formula One Grand Prix last week and winning a completely different FIA world title on the following weekend. For Toyota, a completely different challenge awaits, the R&D justification for its programme is intact for 2018/19, which will see them with a major target painted on the rear of both TS050s, from a growing gaggle of privateers who no-doubt have sensed the opportunity to add a further dramatic chapter in Toyota’s win-free history at Le Mans

Shanghai is a popular race
There has long been much chatter, about China’s place in the FIA WEC calendar. “Nobody comes”, “nobody cares”, “deserted stands” etc. Whilst it is true to say that it is far from the most popular race in the WEC family, all of the above assertions are increasingly false and entirely incorrect. For at least the third consecutive running of the 6 Hours of Shanghai, the main stand was very well filled for the opening hours of the race at the very least. The car park too was well filled; with large groups of school children also in attendance in the stands and around the paddock.

FIA WECBehind the stands, there was plenty of entertainment available for the assembled masses, with manufacturer stands, sponsor displays and food, all well received by the public. In the fringes of the race meeting, there is a huge amount of commercial activity, and, this year in particular, a lot of local promotion both via the circuit and local heroes Jackie Chan DC Racing. There were special metro tickets, downtown building displays and media activity helping to boost the attendance and global pride; others on the calendar, some of which will not be returning next season, would do well to take a look.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

FIA WEC

FIA WEC Round Up

In the world of ACO sports car racing, the last few weeks have been littered with positive news stories as the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) looks ahead to the new-look winter 2018/19 ‘Super Season’. The main source of positivity is in the top division; The grid in LMP1 is forming quickly, thanks to announcements from ELMS champion DragonSpeed, Manor and an as yet un-named Ginetta customer, who are set to take on the might of Toyota Gazoo Racing (should it opt to stay) and the initial flurry of confirmed privateers (ByKolles and SMP/Dallara).

But there is still plenty to look forward to this year, with drivers racing for contracts, manufacturers improving their machinery, and of course, FIA WEC titles set to be decided. After a rain-soaked 6 Hour contest at Fuji Speedway last month, there’s just races at Shanghai this weekend, and the Bahrain finale later in November to look forward to. Here’s five story lines to follow as the season reaches its conclusion, and the hype-train for 2018 leaves the station:

Porsche’s final LMP1 dance
Prior to the weekend at Fuji, it looked as it the Manufacturers and Drivers World Championships in LMP1 were all but over. However, a Toyota 1-2 and Porsche’s leading protagonists finishing only fourth in the race means the title races are set to continue, at least until this weekend’s trip to Shanghai. The upcoming meetings are, of course, the last time we are set to see LMP1 factory hybrids fight together (for the foreseeable future) with Porsche deciding to park their programme, leaving the door open for the exciting prospect of privateer entries, from a variety of nationalities, with a mix of chassis’ and engines.

FIA WEC
Last chance to see the Porsche LMP1 in action

That is not to say you shouldn’t be making the most of this racing, because it is the end of an era of prototype competition that has seen technology pushed to its limits in the name of sport. Rarely disappointing, and always mind-boggling, the hybrid era as we’ve known it has provided us with some of the most memorable racing in decades, not just in sports car racing, but in motorsport in general. Can Toyota take the drivers title down to the wire, with Sebastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima now 39 points back? There is a real possibility. And that aside, it should be a thrilling conclusion, no matter what the outcome.

Aston Martin saying goodbye to the old Vantage
It has been a strange, but ultimately successful year for Aston Martin Racing, which with an increase in factory funding, won the top Le Mans GT class for the first time since 2008. In the FIA WEC races outside of Le Mans though, it has been a mixed bag of results, with the two pro-class Vantages struggling for pace during the flyaway rounds.

FIA WEC
Out with the old and in with the new for Aston Martin Racing

The British marque though, will be aiming to end 2017 on a high, as it is out with the old  and in with the new for 2018. While the current 2016-spec Vantage is set to continue racing in the FIA WEC’s GTE Am class going forward, these two season-ending FIA WEC bouts will likely be the last time that we see the car run ragged in the Pro class with full-house factory talent behind the wheel.

A tight fight in LMP2
LMP2, despite lacking the usual variety in chassis, has been the class to watch quite often this year. With two races to go it is set to be a guns out fight between Jackie Chan DC Racing, Vaillante Rebellion and Signatech Alpine for the LMP2 title. Initially, Thomas Laurent, Oliver Jarvis and Ho Pin Tung looked destined to take the drivers title, after winning at Silverstone and Le Mans. But since the season headed further afield, their lead has been reduced to just 10 points. Can the leading trio hold on? or will Rebellion and Alpine close the gap and then take over the reins at the top of the shop?

FIA WEC
Vaillante Rebellion are in the mix for the LMP2 title

Too close to call in Am
Like LMP2, the fight in GTE Am for the FIA WEC title is between three teams, but even closer. GTE Am has frequently produced the best, and most unpredictable, racing in the field this year. A remarkable feat considering the class is just five-cars strong.

FIA WEC
It is too close to call in GTE Am

So, take your pick, Singaporean outfit Clearwater Racing; which knows Shanghai particularly well from its former Asian campaigns, Aston Martin Racing; which has the most experienced drivers of the bunch with the longest-standing driver squad (of Mathias Laura, Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy), or Dempsey Proton Racing; which has a line-up made up of veteran Christian Reid and hot shoes Marvin Dienst and Matteo Cairoli. So far this year there has been little to separate them, therefore, betting your mortgage on one of them, isn’t advisable.

The end of the GTE Pro title race
Similar to GTE Am, GTE Pro, has seen multiple teams, manufacturers and drivers go toe-to-toe all year, making for a thrilling title battle. With Aston Martin’s string of tough results putting them out of the title race, and Ford’s hopes dented by the No.67 having a poor run at Fuji, it appears that Ferrari vs Porsche is set to be the deciding duel this year. The Ferrari 488, in the hands of AF Corse, is a formidable force and has won multiple races this year. The new Porsche 911 RSR meanwhile, has snuck into the points race due to consistency, still searching for its maiden FIA WEC win after coming close on multiple occasions since Le Mans.

FIA WEC
The Ferarri 488 is fighting to be top dog in GTE Pro

The selection of drivers is second to none in GT terms. As is the sheer quality of the teams on display. With Aston’s new toy and BMW’s M8 GTE programme on the horizon for 2018, the final two races this year are a good appetizer for what is to come in the next 12 months.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography: Dailysportscar

FIA WEC

Porsche continue to dominate in the FIA WEC

Following on from the FIA WEC Six hours of Mexico, the whole series moved across the border to Austin, Texas for the Six hours of the Circuit of the Americas. Of course our man in the stands went with them and brings you these talking points.

Porsche’s dominance continues
While the LMP1 battle at the head of the field was far more entertaining in Texas than it was in Mexico City, Porsche still had a clear advantage most of the way. Currently on a farewell tour, Porsche LMP1 Team is desperate to dominate and sweep the FIA WEC titles to add to the Le Mans crown once again in 2017. On track, the battles between Toyota and Porsche during the 6 Hours were thrilling, but the end result unfortunately never felt in doubt.

FIA WECIn the second half of the race, Porsche pulled away from Toyota, scoring another 1-2 finish, with the No. 2 crew of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhardt and Earl Bamber taking their fourth straight overall win – the streak dating back to their Le Mans triumph. It was manufactured though, the No. 1 crew since Le Mans has had the pace in the race to win each race, prevented from taking the win by team orders each time. In some ways, it’s understandable, in others, it’s a shame. While Porsche would be deserving champions at the end of the year, the title race’s excitement level has suffered as a consequence. Toyota must get a better result at Fuji, and have luck go its way if it is to have any chance of taking the title fight to Bahrain. Because the points gap, seems pretty insurmountable.

Alpine is back
After dominating much of last season in LMP2, Signatech Alpine finally got back to winning ways in Texas; Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrao proving untouchable at CoTA. While poor luck at times earlier in the season struck, the catalyst for its big performance in the USA appears to have been Negrao. The Brazilian, who joined the No.36 crew in place of Matt Rao at Mexico, has proven to be one of the quicker Silver-graded drivers in the LMP2 field, putting them in good shape going forward.

FIA WECDon’t count out the French team in the final three races of the year, as it looks more than capable of racking up more wins after battles with Jackie Chan DC Racing and Vaillante Rebellion’s ORECA 07 Gibsons.

Porsche’s 2017 911 RSR still searching for its first win
Saturday’s 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas was another near miss for the 2017 Porsche 911 RSR, which looks more and more capable of taking a win with each passing race. The race in Texas though, was its best to date, with the No.92 finishing second in GTE Pro, the highlight coming midway through the race when Kevin Estre fought his way past the two AF Corse Ferraris after the race’s only safety car, to take the lead.

FIA WECIn the end, it was Ferrari’s day, but Estre and teammate Michael Christensen fought hard, almost taking the lead again late in the race when the winning No.51 Ferrari suffered a puncture and had to make an unscheduled stop in the dying minutes. It’s fast, and now reliable, it’s only a matter of time before Porsche finds the top step of the GTE Pro podium for the first time since 2015.

Farewell CoTA
Last weekend’s race at CoTA appears to be the last for the FIA WEC going forward. On the calendar since the 2013 season, the Austin-based circuit has represented the series’ marquee event in North America, and one which has always been popular with the teams and drivers. It failed to take off though, as it was never embraced by the locals and when held as a standalone event this year – without the IMSA WeatherTech Series – it felt more like a club meeting in terms of atmosphere than a real World Championship.

FIA WECThe circuit, which itself is incredible, challenging for the drivers and great to watch for those trackside, was unfortunately never embraced by sportscar fans in the USA. The crowds suffered from the event’s poor timing – always run on a weekend in which the local College Football team was playing – severe September heat, and hefty ticket prices. It’s a shame, because those who did attend over the years are likely to miss the trip to Texas for the FIA WEC. Sebring is back on the calendar as its replacement though, for a 1500-mile race, for a double-header with IMSA, that should prove to be an extremely popular weekend of racing for fans and series stakeholders alike.

AMR back on track in Am
After a shaky start to the season, and another tough run at Le Mans, the No.98 Aston Martin Racing crew is back in the lead of the GTE Am championship after taking its second win at CoTA. Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy have always been arguably the best top to bottom lineup in the class, but have often suffered poor luck when fighting for wins. The trio should have won at Silverstone had the final lap crash with Spirit of Race not occurred, and were poised for a good finish at La Sarthe before a puncture spoiled their chances.

FIA WECNow though, after a win at CoTA, they look like they’ll be the team to beat in the final three rounds of the season. The old Vantage is still a strong package, the drivers are too. The threats though, may be real – Clearwater Racing is competing on ‘home turf’ in Asia for the next two races, and Dempsey Proton (despite a rough time in the USA) is capable of winning races.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

 

FIA WEC

FIA WEC Mexico race round up

Our man in the stands traveled to Mexico for the next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.  Among all the press conferences and announcements about the future of the series, there was also a race. Here is Stephen’s synopsis of what you may have missed.

Toyota’s struggles
Unfortunately for the fans in the stands, and at home watching on TV, the race in LMP1 at Mexico City was very much a non-event. For the first time all season, there were no real on-track battles between the two factory hybrid teams, Porsche taking off and crossing the line 1-2, a lap ahead of the two TS050 Hybrids.

FIA WECPrior to the trip to North America, Toyota took the fight to Porsche at the Nürburgring, before fading late in the race. The team was certain that its performance in Germany was to be expected, due to the medium-speed circuit not suiting the TS050, claiming that for the rest of the season, it would be challenging for wins. But it appears, after the 6 Hours of Mexico, that this may not be the case, with Porsche’s high-downforce aero package appearing to provide the team with a sizable performance gap to Toyota, that wasn’t there at Silverstone and Spa, when it ran its low-drag kit.

In what looks like it could turn into a repeat of the 2015 season – when Porsche debuted a new aero kit at the Nürburgring and were untouchable for the rest of the season – Toyota needs to act fast if it wants to take the title race to the wire. The No.2 crew of Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley are pulling away in the standings, and with just four rounds remaining, and look poised to win the world title in the wake of the team’s LMP1 exit.

GTE Pro continues to be the class of the field
Providing further evidence that the new Automated Balance of Performance system has improved the GTE Pro class’ parity, the race at Mexico was another thriller. It was Ferrari vs Aston Martin out front, with Ford and Porsche close behind fighting for the final podium spot, in a race which went down to the wire, with the No.95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen taking the win after a time penalty was added to the No.71 Ferrari in the race classification after the flag fell.

FIA WECIn the FIA GTE World Championship standings, all four marques are in with a shout still, with just 31 points separating them in the points tally heading into the round at CoTA. It’s been a real success, with Porsche the only brand yet to take a win. New teams are on the horizon for the next few years to join in the party, which is a welcome movement following the recent erosion of numbers at the head of the field. Long may it continue.

Manor shows potential
After what was a really tricky debut season in 2016, the guys at Manor WEC finally hit their stride in Mexico City, almost taking their first win. The team’s new trio of ex-F1 driver Jean Eric Vergne, DragnSpeed’s Ben Hanley and Signatech Alpine emigrant Matt Rao proved to be stellar, after Vergne and Hanley came alive in the second half of the race, climbing the order and eventually chasing down the leader until the final few minutes. While Hanley’s chances of passing Bruno Senna in the No.31 Vaillante Rebellion ORECA were admittedly slim due to the rain holding off, and the lead gap being too large, it was nevertheless a thrilling conclusion to another hard-fought LMP2 race in which most of the cars were in the mix.

FIA WECCEFC Manor TRS Racing’s performance though, was a standout, and with the No.24 trio returning for CoTA this month, they could be the team to beat. The hard-work from the former Formula One outfit, which still considers itself the new kid on the block in prototype racing, is starting to pay off.

The LMP2 title battle has hotted up
While Manor may not be a feature in the LMP2 title race as the second half of the season continues, the scrap at the front could turn into a really thrilling storyline. The leaders in the No.38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA had a rough outing in Mexico, after clutch issues demoted them to the back of the pack in the race. While it was unfortunate to see the Chinese-flagged, British-run crew come away with little for their efforts, it has spiced up the championship.

FIA WECHo Pin Tung, Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent’s lead has been cut to just 23 points by Senna, Julien Canal and Nicolas Prost, who took the win at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodrguez circuit with a performance which left many questioning how they hadn’t won every race so far this season. With 104 points still on offer, it could be a memorable ride for those with skin in the game right the way to Bahrain.

Proton emerges
Despite fielding an older 2015 Porsche 911 RSR, Christian Reid’s Dempsey Proton Racing team have come alive this season, and have now taken the championship lead in GTE Am after winning in Mexico, taking advantage of a rare disastrous outing from Clearwater Racing. Reid, along with Italian Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst were on the pace all weekend long in Mexico, as they were at the Nürburgring. It’s partly due to BoP swinging their way, but more so due to the rise of Cairoli and Dienst as starts.

FIA WECBoth of them were nearly untouchable during the race, and up against talents like Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Miguel Molina and Ben Barker and teams which are all capable of engineering cars to victory. The class as a whole has been quietly the most exciting its ever been, despite having just five entrants. It’s a good sign for the future, in which GTE Am may – along with LMP2 – provide the backbone of the WEC.

The duo are going to be a force for years to come, and even if they do win the GTE Am driver’s championship this season, it feels like this is just the beginning for Porsche’s young professionals.

Look out for our report direct from the Circuit of the Americas next week!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Spa 24 Hours

Audi continue success at the Spa 24 Hours

Spa 24 Hours 2017: Review

Travel Destinations guests at the Spa 24 Hours were blessed with good weather for this year’s race and the action on the track didn’t disappoint either. There was a close run race and plenty of talking points for our man in the stands to discuss afterwards. Here are some of the highlights from that discussion.

Another one in the books for Audi
Team Sainteloc’s victory in last weekend’s Spa 24 Hours was nothing short of spectacular. The team’s trio of Markus Winkelhock, Christopher Haase and Jules Gounon battled through sunshine and the showers, day and night, fending off the best that Bentley, Mercedes, Ferrari and Porsche had to offer to score Audi its fourth Spa 24 Hours win.

Spa 24 HoursAs remarkable as the French factory-blessed team’s win was, what was more impressive, was the performance of the car. The Audi R8 LMS, which to many, will still feel like a new kid on the block, is actually well into its life-cycle, and continues to impress on almost a weekly basis around the world, but consistently in longer races. The win means that the R8 LMS has won both big European 24-hour races in 2017, following Land Motorsport’s emphatic Nurburgring 24 Hours triumph. The R8 LMS almost won the Rolex 24 Hours GTD category too, after a late charge by the aforementioned Land squad at the end of the race.

It’s portfolio continues to pad out, as does Audi Sport customer racing. With BMW already bringing an evo kit to market for the new M6 GT3 this year, and Aston Martin developing a new GT3 model, Audi is sticking to its guns. As the R8 LMS fifth season approaches, it looks just as good as it did on its debut back in 2014, when it stormed to victory at the Nuburgring. It is an incredible car, which will go down as one of the most successful in GT3 history.

Bad luck for Bentley
Another year and another near miss for Bentley. Once again, the British marque finished just shy of the win, but in very different circumstances to last year when weather at the end of the race cost the team its lead. This time around its lead Continental GT3 charged into the fight for the win in the closing stages due to good pit work, and incredible driving for Maxime Soulet, Vincent Abril and Andy Soucek. It was a hard pill to swallow for the M-Sport crew, to again miss out on winning the car its first big endurance race, but nevertheless it was a promising performance.

Spa 24 HoursSoulet at the end of the race piled the pressure on the leading Audi, closing the margin to just seven seconds in the final minutes, but the traffic,  which is always a factor at Spa, played a big part in deciding the final outcome. On raw pace there was really nothing between them. The Continental GT3’s tenure as Bentley’s marquee GT3 is clearly coming to a close, and despite numerous attempts to win the Spa 24 Hours, Nurburgring 24 Hours and Bathurst 12 Hours, it has yet to sit on the top step at any of them.

Maxime Soulet, Vincent Abril and Andy Soucek now lead the Driver’s title race, and the M-Sport team now leads the Team’s Championship in the Endurance Cup. A big championship win in what will likely be its final season is now likely the only chance left of a fond farewell to the Crewe-based marque’s first GT3 project which has been a fan-favourite from the get go.

Team Bernhard has a future
In the Pro class, Porsche had just one team representing it. It wasn’t the usual Manthey, or even Herberth Motorsports for that matter. No, it was Team75 Bernhard making its 24-hour race debut with its 911 GT3 R. Driving the car were works drivers Michael Christensen, Laurens Vanthoor and Kevin Estre, and they were predictably superb. The team though, was an unknown going into the race. Owned by Timo Bernhard (Le Mans winner and all-round top talent) the team had only competed in ADAC GT Masters sprint races in Germany heading into the weekend, but with Porsche’s support they were on fine form, and kept the Stuttgart-based marque in the running for the win all the way to the finish, eventually finishing third overall.

Spa 24 HoursThey genuinely could have won it too, as without a three-minute stop-go penalty for causing a collision in the early stages, they would have been almost a lap ahead of the field. There looks like a real future for Timo’s team, which is aiming to become a full factory squad in the years ahead.

Misery for McLaren
While Porsche, Audi, Mercedes and Bentley all had good to great runs in the Spa 24 Hours, McLaren’s effort was much the opposite. Strakka Racing brought its quartet of 650S GT3s, and last year’s Endurance Cup Champion Garage 59 brought another, to make it a five-pronged attack for the Woking brand. But none of them featured in the running on pace throughout practice and Qualifying, and in the race only briefly looked competitive.

Spa 24 HoursFour of the five failed to make it into the final third of the race; Strakka’s entire fleet retiring for one reason or the other, leaving a delayed Garage 59 650S GT3 in the AM class to bear the flag for the marque. But Chris Harris, Alexander West, Bradley Ellis and Chris Goodwin could only do so much, after a problem in the pits and a collision out on track left them over 10 laps down on the other Am class runners. In the end the quartet came home last in the class and second to last of the classified runners.

It’s been an extremely tough season for Strakka Racing, which is still clearly adapting to GT racing after years in prototypes. It is not the drivers, as it’s stable is littered with McLaren GT’s young guns and factory drivers, instead it has appeared to be a mixture of rotten luck, and a struggle to work with the current Pirelli tyres, which has left the team flailing. Thankfully there is still a couple more chances this season to score a good result. A win, or even a podium before the end of the Blancpain season would go a long way to keeping the morale up.

There is life in the old Aston yet
Leading early, and eventually finishing second, the Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage of Euan Hankey, Le Mans-winner Jonny Adam, Ahmad Al Harthy and Salih Yoluc enjoyed a whirlwind of a week at Spa racing in the Pro-Am division. Much like its GTE brethren, the GT3 version of the Aston Martin Vantage has been around a long time, lacking customers globally now, as the brand prepares for its next GT3 machine to go to market. But with its incredible build, performance, and design, coupled with today’s Balance of Performance, it is still competitive. Scoring Pro-Am Pole and staying in the fight for the Pro-Am victory throughout was a sight to see, the Oman Racing squad run by TF Sport running like clockwork throughout the event.

Spa 24 HoursNot only was the podium a success in itself, but the strong run also sealed the Blancpain GT Series Pro-Am Drivers’ title for Adam and Al Harthy and the Teams’ title win for the Oman Racing Team with TF Sport. A great effort for this retiring Aston.

The Spa 24 Hours will return from the 26th – 29th July 2018. Travel Destinations will have hotel and camping offers available for the race. Please register now via info@traveldestinations.co.uk to receive more information.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

 

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

Le Mans 24 Hours

Le Mans 24 Hours 2017: Race review

The Le Mans 24 Hours 2017 may be most remembered for beautiful weather and surprise results; the race was run under sunshine and cloudless skies with track temperatures in excess of 30 degrees centigrade, and surprise results as most of the LMP1 manufacturer team cars fell by the wayside allowing two LMP2 cars on to the winners podium.

LMP1
Although this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours had a relatively low attrition rate, the opposite could be said of the manufacturers in the LMP1 class. By the end, no car had avoided lengthy time in the garage ore retirement on track & only two LMP1s managed to complete the 24 hours. The writing was perhaps on the wall early when a Toyota sustained damage in the early laps, causing debris to hit the ByKolles Racing team car. Despite it limping back to the pit lane, the car was never able to get going again and the garage door was pulled down early.. With the numeric disadvantage of only 2 cars, Porsche suffered a blow when the No. 2 car had to spend an hour in the garage for a rebuilt front axle, relegating them out of the top 50.

Toyota looked to dominate the first period of the race from pole position. They secured a 1-2 for much of this time but could never really pull away from the lone Porsche during this time. The No. 7 Toyota lead the way and looked particularly fast in the early stages. However it was all going to go wrong for Toyota as darkness fell. One by one, they experienced power problems. Only the No. 8 car managed to return to the race, but after losing more than 2 hours in the garage, they were never in contention for the overall win, despite setting the race’s fastest lap.

The demise of Toyota’s challenge left the No.1 Porsche with a free run at the chequered flag. They managed to survive the night and most of the morning, until, with just four hours to go, oil pressure problems left them limping with just electric power down the Mulsanne straight. Despite Andre Lotterer’s best efforts the car ground to a halt and could not get going again.

Le Mans 24 Hours

The demise of the No. 1 Porsche briefly opened the window for an LMP2 win, as No.38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca-07 Gibson, inherited the lead. However, their hopes were dashed, with the flying return of the No. 2 Porsche. Despite their early delay in the garage, the No. 2 Porsche came flying back through the field. Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber & in particular Timo Bernhard got the best out of the car, and managed to avoid and pass the traffic with ease. They took the lead with almost exactly an hour to go and didn’t look back, eventually crossing the finish line more than half a lap of the second placed car. A remarkable turnaround then from the No.2 Porsche team, who were not even in the top 50 cars after their technical woes.

LMP2
Whilst the top class suffered with a very high attrition rate, the opposite could be said of the biggest field in the race; LMP2. Only four of the twenty-five cars in this class failed to finish. This is all the more remarkable considering there were new regulations for this class this year, and none of the contenders had completed a race of this distance. Despite many expert predictions to the contrary the LMP2 class not only showed the necessary endurance, but also very nearly pulled of the overall win.

For the majority of the race the two cars from Vaillante Rebellion showed their experience and stayed at the front of the pack. Having raced LMP1 cars over the last few year, the Rebellion team clearly know a thing or two about how to race at Le Mans. The G-Drive and CEFC Manor TRS Racing teams, also showed strong performances, but ultimately the story of this class enfolded late on. Having watched the LMP1 cars disappear in front, and finding themselves more than 10 laps behind the leaders, the LMP2 cars started to climb the leader-board as the manufacturer LMP1s began to retire. When the leading No.1 came to a halt on the track, it was the No. 38 Jacki Chan DC Racing car that caught up and inherited the lead of the race. They managed to defend that position from other LMP2 challenges, and for 2 hours they continued at the front. It would have been the most remarkable story. A David vs Goliath type victory, however it was not to be. Despite the best efforts of Thomas Laurent, Oliver Jarvis and ultimately Ho-Pin Tung, behind the wheel, they were unable to compete with the superior speed of the Porsche No. 2 car that reeled them in; hunting them down shark-like and then passing them with only an hour of the race to go.

Despite this the all involved with the No. 38 car should be immensely proud of what they achieved; not only winning the LMP2 class, but finishing second overall at Le Man. The No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion ended second in class, so took the third step on the overall podium which was just reward for the excellent Rebellion team.

GTE Pro
There had been much criticism before the race about the rule makers and the changes made under the balance of performance regulations. It is a complex thing trying to make all cars competitive and in the past, this has been hugely unsuccessful. However, credit where credit is due, they definitely got it right this time and they provided the spectators with a remarkable race. In fact had Hollywood script writers come up with the story they would have probably rejected the idea under grounds of lack of reality.

No one manufacturer was able to dominate this class. Even Ford’s numeric advantage didn’t help them get ahead. Hour after hour, often minute after minute, the lead changed hands. The racing was so close, that as cars peeled off to complete their pit stops, the next car would inherit the lead. Once that car pitted the baton was passed on. And do it went on throughout the race.

Quite unbelievably going in to the last hour of the 24, each manufacturer had a car on the lead lap. Corvette, Aston Martin, Ford, Porsche and Ferrari all had a chance to win. Nobody was able to pull away and seconds separated all five cars. In the end it came down to pit lane strategy and a bit of luck as to when the race was actually going to finish. Aston Martin were leading, but had to have an extra stop for fuel. This opened the door for Corvette. With the other three cars fast catching, Corvette with Jordan Taylor at the wheel, left the pit lane with Aston Martin and Jonny Adam filling its mirrors. It was going to go right down to the wire. The two cars continued to lap just seconds apart as Jonny Adam looked for a place to attack. It looked as though Jordan Taylor had done enough to keep ahead and take the win, when the Aston Martin braked late at Mulsanne and tried to pass. Quite legitimately the Corvette closed the door as they exited and the corner, but there was contact between the two.

The two cars continued around for one more lap, but suddenly the Corvette had an issue and cut one of the chicanes on the Mulsanne straight, skidding across the gravel, but retaining the lead. However, Jonny Adam could sense he might get one more opportunity. It came literally at the start of their last lap. Coming through the Ford chicane on to the start finish straight, the Aston Martin took advantage of the damaged Corvette and powered past. Despite the great skills of Jordan Taylor there was nothing he could do to protect the lead. As the Aston Martin disappeared to take the win, salt was rubbed in to Corvette’s wounds as the No. 67 Ford managed to catch the limping Corvette and demote them to third in Class. Nevertheless all teams involved should take great credit for their efforts. This was a very hard fault battle that really entertained the fans, and should be remembered for a very long time.

GTE Am
The battle in GTE Am was not as close as the Pro class. In the early running, it appeared that the No. 98 Aston Martin would run away with it. However, technical issues dragged them back. The speed shown by the Larbre Competition Corvette in qualifying never reappeared, and it was left to the Ferraris to dominate the class. The No. 84 yellow and black, JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE took the lead in the darkness and was not in the mood to relinquish the position once daylight returned. For hours they remained at the front of the class, often mixing with the back markers of the GTE Pro field. They managed to spend the minimum of time in the pit lane and came home to be quite comfortable winners in the end. The other class podium slots were also filled by Ferraris, clearly the car to have in this class, with Spirit of the Race and Scuderia Corsa coming home second and third.

Overall this was an excellent race, and one that will be much talked about around the trackside barbecues tonight. Porsche were the outright winners, but the plaudits will be taken elsewhere in the classes below. Le Mans 24 Hours 2017 will be remembered for the hot temperatures around the circuit and the amazing racing that took place on it. Roll on Le Mans 24 hours 2018.

Written by Richard Webb
Photos by Dailysportscar

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