Speed Chills - Porsche

  • 'Practice makes Perfect' in Bahrain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans - Race Highlights

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

    Video Credits: FIA WEC

  • 2016 6 Hours of Bahrain

    Audi win their last race in LMP1 for the forseeable future. Neel Jani, Mark Lieb and Romain Dumas are world champions for Porsche!

    Video Credit: FIA WEC

  • 2016 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas

    Another victory for the No. 1 Porsche.

    Video Credit: FIA WEC

  • 2016 6 Hours of Mexico

    Emotional home victory for RGR Sport by Morand in LMP2. Porsche victorious in LMP1.

    Video Credit: FIA WEC

  • 2016 6 Hours of Shanghai

    Another thrilling race that saw Porsche crowned as constructors champions.

    Video Credit: FIA WEC

  • 2016 FIA WEC Season Review

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

    LMP1 Season Review 

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

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

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

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

    LMP2 Season Review

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

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

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

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

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

    GTE-Pro Season Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    GTE-AM Season Review

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

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

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

  • 2017 Le Mans Night Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 2017 Le Mans Qualifying

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

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

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

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

    ORECA Dominates LMP2 Field

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

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

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

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

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

    Aston Martin Pro Battle Closer than Expected

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

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

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

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

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

  • 2017 WEC Season

    We are now quickly approaching the first race of the season. The cars made their first appearance at Monza at the beginning of the month and whilst there has been a lot of changes over the winter, it is shaping up once again to be a fantastic season.

    LMP1

    For the first time in nearly 20 years, we will not see an Audi Prototype fighting at the front of the grid, all good things come to an end however, times change and things move on. From first impressions at Monza, it would appear that both Toyota and Porsche are cable of filling the gap, both teams running redesigned variations of their TSO50 and 919 Hybrids. The future of LMP1 is certainly bright with a number of customer cars due to enter in 2018 with the newly designed Ginetta chassis. Away from the Hybrid factory cars, ByKolles return for the season with a new engine and a newly designed car.

    Porsche return to the championship with a substantially updated 919 Hybrid, comments from Monza indicating that around 70% of the car has been newly developed including new body work and substantial changes to the front aero and head lights. The Porsche driver line up has also seen a number of changes over the winter, beginning with the announcement towards the back of 2016 that Mark Webber would retire at the end of the year. Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb stepped down from the team at the end of the season with Earl Bamber and and Nick Tandy returning to the team after their 2015 Le Mans success. Andre Lotterer also joins the team stepping in to the #1 car alongside Bamber and Neel Jani.

    The 2017 Toyota TS050 Hybrid like the Porsche has been substantially updated, the far has a brand new aero package and a brand new 2.4 litre twin turbo V6 petrol engine. Feedback from members of the team in Monza, confirmed the car had undergone 30,000 KM of testing, including four 30 hour endurance sessions. Toyota will also be running a third car at Spa and Le Mans this year featuring a reshuffled line up. FIA World Touring Car Champion Jose Maria Lopez joins Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi in the #7, the #8 line up stays unchanged. Stephane Sarrazin makes the switch to the #9 car partnering alongside Super Formula Champion Yuji Kunimoto and former Toyota driver Nicolas Lapierre.

    ByKolles return with an updated chassis and a new power plant. The 2016 car suffered with serious overheating issues in 2016 which saw the AER engine blow up on more than one occasion, including Le Mans. The updated car now features the Cosworth designed Nissan LMP1 GT-R LM engine from 2015. The Prologue was a troublesome weekend for ByKolles however, only venturing out of the garage for six laps the whole weekend before the rear wing collapsed. Oliver Webb got the only track time in the car. Robert Kubica was announced as a new driver for 2017 but there is yet to be an official announcement on a third driver. Dominik Kraihamer was due to test the car in Monza but there are no further announcements on his plans for this year. It is unlikely that ByKolles will offer any competition for Toyota and Porsche but it will be an important development year for the team with the Ginetta customer chassis coming in next season.

    It is hard to take any firm conclusions away from the Prologue with teams running various different set ups. Porsche were visibly quicker through the speed traps, topping out at 319.5 KPH in the hands of Earl Bamber. In comparison, Toyota only managed to hit 306.8 KPH in the hands of Nico Lapierre. However at the Prologue last year, Toyota topped the time sheets by over 20 kph and struggled early on in the season.

    LMP2

    LMP2 is very much a one make series this year in the WEC, each team running with the Oreca 07, Alpine running a modified version of the chassis. Le Mans will see a variety of chassis entries though with both Ligier and Dallara to be represented at the 24 Hour in June. The new cars are quick. They have an additional hundred horse power, the Alpine hit 314 KPH through the speed traps in the hands of Romain Dumas, beating the Toyotas in a straight line.

    There has been some big changes in LMP2 this year, Jota have signed to run the Jackie Chan DC Racing cars with Ho-Pin Tung, Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent in the #38 car with David Cheng, Alex Brundle and Tristan Gommendy in the #37.

    TDS Racing have made the step up this year from the European Le Mans Series to the World Endurance Championship. They are partnered with G-Drive Racing, Pierre Thiriet joining Roman Rusinov and Alex Lynn in the #26 car, former GTE-Am runners Francois Perrodo, Mattheiu Vaxiviere and Emmanuel Collard running the #28 TDS entry.

    Manor WEC return with new sponsorship and backing in the form of China Energy and SMP with Vitaly Petrov confirmed as the third driver in the #24. Both cars feature a new look livery for 2017, with a substantial amount of sponsorship coverage in comparison to last year.

    Rebellion made the switch over the winter to LMP2, returning to the class with a new look livery and sponsorship package, the team now officially called Vaillante Rebellion. David Heinemeier Hansson makes his return to prototype racing, partnering up in the #13 with Mathias Beche and Nelson Piquet Jr. The #31 car will be driven by Bruno Senna, Nico Prost and Julien Canal.

    GTE Pro

    The big news in GTE Pro is Porsche making their factory return to the championship having take a year out to develop the new “not mid-engine’d” 911 RSR. Aston Martin return with the next iteration of the Vantage, a fairly old car now in comparison to the Ford and Ferrari entries. The new 911 is a serious piece of kit and certainly a title contender. The engine has been moved closer to the middle of the car, but as per the launch press conference in Monza, it is not a “mid-engined” car. Porsche have admitted that there will be no road going variants of the car. With a number of teams making the mid season switch to two drivers, it is slightly surprising to see Ford and Aston Martin running three drivers in each car. Pipo Derani (of ESM fame) joins the #67 team whilst Billy Johnson joins Mucke and Pla in the #66. Richie Stanaway joins the #95 with Aston Martin development driver Daniel Serra joining Jonny Adam and Darren Turner in the #97. As ever in GT Racing, it is hard to tell just where every body stands with the development of Balance of Performance measures, however, this season will hopefully be better managed with a new automated BOP system. Last years restrictions were often altered on a session by session basis rather than between race weekends.

    GTE Am

    As with the rest of the grid, there have been some big changes to the class. Clearwater Racing join for a full season after a strong debut at Le Mans, they will be racing the ex Gimi Bruni AF Corse 488 with Matt Griffin partnering Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok. Spirit of Race join the championship with Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci and Miguel Molina at the wheel. They will have backing from AF Corse throughout the season.

    Aston Martin return with the loan season entry, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Matthias Laura all returning for the season. The trio missed out on the championship last year despite taking a number of wins. Gulf Racing return with the old shape 911 RSR, Ben Barker joining Michael Wainwright and Nicholas Foster, who steps in to replace Adam Carrol. Dempsey Proton drop down to the Am Class, Christian Reid partnering Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst. It will be a shame not to have a full season Corvette entry registered, however we will once again be joined by an American contingent of Corvettes at Le Mans.

    Audi maybe gone, but 2017 is going to be a fantastic season. There is a chance that LMP1 could be a very one way fight, however, if both cars are on par with each other then it is going to be a fantastic fight at the top. Fuji last year being a prime example where Toyota took their home race win by just over a second. Add into the mix that the LMP2 cars now have an extra 100BHP, there is a very real chance that a P2 car could finish on the overall podium. At Le Mans, if close enough, the LMP2 cars may even stand a chance of passing the LMP1 cars down the Mulsanne Straight, to then lose the ground through the corners.

    Both GTE fields are going to be as varied as always with each class managed by BOP. Traffic management will be incredibly important for each of the four classes, the speed differentiations being so different both through the corners and in a straight line.

    It all kicks off in less than a weeks time at Silverstone, what ever happens, one thing for sure is its going to be a great season!

  • COTA - A Hat-trick for Porsche

    Porsche #1 took their third consecutive win around the Circuit of the Americas, bringing themselves back into a Championship battle they had long looked out of.

    The #8 Audi came home in second in another race weekend that should have been dominated by Audi, whilst the #6 Toyota squad picked up another third-place finish. LMP2 saw Signatech Alpine extending their championship lead with three rounds left, adding another win to their campaign. The RGR Sport #43 made another podium appearance, finishing second, whilst a brilliant recovery drive from the #26 G-Drive took them to the final step of the podium. For the second race in a row, Aston Martin converted pole position to the race win in GTE-Pro, the #95 Aston Martin taking the top step of the podium. They were followed home by the #51 and #71 AF Corse Ferraris in second and third. GTE-Am class honours went to the Aston Martin #98, the #76 KCMG and the #50 Larbe Competition finished off podium.

    It was a race that Audi looked set to win. They dominated in practice and qualifying and completed the second hour of the race with a 40 second advantage. The #7 R18 of Lotterer, Fassler and Treluyer led from pole position but lost out in the pit window at the half way mark, the #8 car took the lead and pushed on. Meanwhile further back, Porsche were under attack from Toyota in what was arguably their most promising race of the season. They frequently out lapped the Porsche’s with stunning drives from Sarrazin and Buemi.

    It was all change however as the sun set over Austin.

    Loic Duval suffered a complete loss of electronics just after the half way mark. A full system re-set saw the car get going again but they lost a lot of time in the process which saw the #7 take the lead and the gap to the #1 Porsche shrink dramatically. Whilst passing back markers though, #7 Audi was clipped by the #66 Ford GT and hit the wall. They car dropped 3 laps before it could be extracted from the gravel.

    Hartley was on a charge and managed to cut the gap to the lead Audi to just 5 seconds before the next full course yellow was launched to recover Stefan Mucke from the gravel trap in the #66 Ford.

    Toyota put up an early fight but were quickly outpaced by the Audis and Porsches as the temperature fell and night closed in. Turbo issues for the #5 took them out of the race early on.

    The #36 Alpine continued its dominant performance with another win after a hard fought battle with Manor early on. The #43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier took second place in the hands of Senna, Gonzalez and Albuquerque with #26 G-Drive taking third after an impressive drive from Brundle, Rast and Rusinov saw the car climb the pack from the back of the grid. The car failed to qualify and started at the very back, Brundle set off like a rocket, calving his way through the field in the opening stint. By the second hour, the car was in contention for the podium.

    It was another lights to flag victory for the #95 Aston, the Dane Train taking a comfortable win over the the two AF Corse Ferraris in second and third, Bruni and Calado crossed the line just 12 seconds down.

    The Am class saw the same sort of dominance for the lead as the #98 Aston Martin collected the second GTE victory. Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, and Paul Dalla Lana finished just over a minute clear of the second-place finishers, KCMG. Lamy did not havae the best start to the race and Dalla Lana had a spin with just over an hour to go, but this just shows how much can be gained from the full-course yellows if they happen at the right time for teams.

    Photograph Marius Hecker - AdrenalMedia.com

  • Incredible Lap Puts Toyota On Pole

    Kamui Kobayashi has set the fastest lap time of the weekend to take pole position for the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing. The lap time was unrivalled throughout the session, and made teammate Mike Conway’s job fairly easy when generating the aggregated lap time for pole position. A close battle in LMP2 saw #26 G-Drive Racing picking up the pole position point this weekend. Ford retained the rapid pace they had shown in the final practice session to clinch LM GTE Pro pole, whilst Aston Martin stole Am pole from Ferrari’s grasp.

    Porsche did not have a chance at challenging for pole position when Toyota’s Kobayashi set a 1:36.793 on his second flying lap. Pole was fairly secure for the car as Kobayashi handed over to teammate Mike Conway. Although there was a moment of concern for the team when Conway’s first lap time was deleted due to exceeding track limits, the car still comfortably took pole in the LMP1 class. Locking out the front row, it will be two Toyotas at the front for the start of the first race of the 2017 WEC season, with Porsche having to settle for the second row.

    The LMP2 times were changing so rapidly throughout the session it was hard to keep track of who was on provisional pole. At the halfway split, it was Alex Lynn leading the field in the #26 G-Drive. But the advantage was not unreachable and the tension was high as the second drivers climbed into the cockpits. Pierre Thiriet did what he needed to make Lynn’s hard work count and secured pole position for G-Drive with an average of 1:44.387. #36 Signatech Alpine’s Nicolas Lapierre did what he had been accomplishing all weekend and put in a fast enough lap as the second driver to place the ORECA/Gibson second in class. He leaped ahead of the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car and the #28 TDS Racing machine with his flying lap. Due to multiple deleted lap times, the #28 fell from its provisional second in class to seventh in class. #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing appeared to have a torrid session and ended slowest of all the LMP2 cars.

    ByKolles made a step up for qualifying but were still off their desired pace. It classified ninth overall, which meant it was slower than four of the LMP2 cars. The average of the car was nine tenths off the average of the pole sitting G-Drive. It was a better performance than they showed in the morning practice session but still the team have some big gains to make.

    LM GTE Pro became a battle between Ford #67, Ferrari #71 and Aston Martin #95. None of the other Pro cars could get close to the top three as the twenty-minute session panned out. Harry Tincknell set the pace to beat in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car but David Rigon was not far behind in the #71 Ferrari. After the first drivers had set laps, it seemed to be a two horse race, but Marco Sorensen put an end to that with a fantastic lap that put the #96 Aston Martin’s average lap time less than a tenth off the pace of the #71 Ferrari. It seemed the second drivers did enough to maintain the position their teammates set before them, with the #67 sitting on the first 2017 WEC LM GTE Pro pole. Porsche suffered a lot throughout the session and could not seem to get the 911 RSRs into optimum running. Both the Pro cars sat at the back of the Pro field over two seconds off the pole-setting pace.

    It was a two car fight in Am, with the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE taking on the #98 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage. After the first drivers got out of the cars, it was the #61 ahead with a small margin. Paul Dalla Lana hopped into the #98 and found the time Pedro Lamy could not out on track, taking the class poll position by six-tenths in average lap times. Porsche were a little bit more competitive in the Am class, taking third place for tomorrow’s grid, but they were nearly a second off of first place. Challenging for anything higher than third was out of reach. The battle at the bottom of the grid was close with each car separated by around three-tenths. The second Ferrari, #54 Spirit of Race, split the two Porsche–running teams, leaving the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR to take the final spot on the grid.

  • Le Mans 2017 6 Hour Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Le Mans Free Practice and Qualifying One

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

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

    LMP2

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

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

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

    GTE Pro

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

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

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

    GTE AM

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

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

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

  • Le Mans Test Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Mexico - Two in a row for Porsche #1

    Bernhard, Hartley and Webber took the inaugural win in the WEC 6 Hours of Mexico at the newly refurbished Autodomo Hermanos Rodriquez in Mexico City.

    Rain midway through the race saw the #7 come in to contention and cut the lead to 30 seconds by the final hour. Lotterer had a big lock up on the run in to the stadium, slamming in to the wall on drivers right.

    Stephane Sarazzin was lapping quick in the #6 Toyota but was too far back to challenge for the win after falling a lap down in the first hour due to a drive through penalty.

    It was a dramatic home win for RGR Sport Ligier, the dominant #26 G-Drive car suffered a catastrophic brake failure late in the race which took them out of contention with just 35 minutes left on the clock. The championship leading #36 Signatech Alpine crossed the line a few seconds down in second place with the #31 ESM continuing their podium form from the Nurburgring. The G-Drive crew had been on track for their first win of the season after a dominant showing in 2015. With a 40 second advantage and 35 minutes left, the front right brake exploded in a a burst of flame and smoke. The car managed to limp back to the pits but with an 8 minute stop, they were well out of contention.

    It was by no means a clean race for the RGR and Signatech teams. Gonzalez (#43) made a big mistake early on, colliding with the G-Drive Oreca early on, spinning off the track. The #36 Signatech car lead the race through the middle stint but there hopes of a win were dashed when the team suffered a drive through penalty. A final hour charge from Nico Lapierre saw the gap to the #43 car close to just 1.9s as they crossed the line.

    In GTE-Pro, the #97 Aston Martin took its first win of the year after taking the lead as the result of an early mistake from Thiim put the car in to the crash barrier at turn 6. Thiim and Sorensen managed to put in a great recovery drive to bring the car home in third place. The two Astons were split by the #51 AF Corse of Calado and Bruni. Both Fords and the Porsche struggled before the rain set of a number of varying strategy calls.

    The Aston Martins never looked at risk though and held off the advances of Ferrari to claim a well deserved win.

    In Am, Abu Dhabi Proton took a great win after a long standing battle with the KCMG Porsche and AF Corse Ferrari. Ferrari struggled for pace throughout the weekend but still managed second place on the podium. The team was running an alternative strategy to the rest of the field and as a result led at multiple stages throughout the race. Crashes for the #98 Aston and #50 Corvette took them out of contention.

    Photograph John Rourke - AdrenalMedia.com

  • Porsche Bow Out of LMP1 with Pole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Porsche Dominate 1-2 Thriller at the 'Ring

    Porsche Team took an emphatic one-two victory today; surviving penalties, dodging traffic and leading from flag to flag to dominate the inaugural FIAWEC 6 Hours of the Nurburgring.

    The German endurance legends continued their steady rise to dominance with a largely unchallenged run to the finish, the #17 of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard eating up the miles and never looking anything other than comfortably best.

    The sister #18 car was the early leader at the hands of Neel Jani, the Swiss driver making the most of being in the form of his life. The gap behind quickly grew towards the minute mark and it seemed as though nothing would get in its way.

    However a faulty engine sensor put paid to the #18’s hopes, causing a recurring overfuelling problem which rewarded the car with three, ever increasing stop and go penalties. First five seconds were spent at a standstill, then another 30s and finally a whole minute in the box.

    While this allowed the #17 to drive off into the sunset it gave the fans a great spectacle as Jani and then Marc Lieb were forced to overtake both Audis on the track. Multi-corner battles came thick and fast with the experienced Audi squads making it as hard as they possibly could.

    It was here that Porsche showed a glimpse of just how dominant they could have been - after having lost a lot of time by changing drivers at every pit stop, a triple stinting Jani demolished the gap. The #18 took second with half an hour to go and stayed there until the end.

    It was telling that, despite running a typically clean and efficient race, Audi couldn’t get anywhere near matching their compatriots’ pace, relying instead on the wide elbows of their drivers.

    The #7 took the chequered flag ahead of the #8, Andre Lotterer and Lucas Di Grassi having to slow down past a mass of cheering Porsche fans and flags. For the previously unbeatable force, the first WEC visit to their homeland must feel like a true lost opportunity.

    Toyota Racing were, as is a common theme in this year's series, the also rans. Never anywhere near the pace of the other two manufacturers the Japanese marque finished over 3 laps down. While having confirmed that they’re now focussing on their 2016 challenger, the atmosphere around the blue and white garage has been one of resignation, and almost depression, all weekend.

    Of the privateers it was a big day for the ByKolles team who took their first win in the LMP1 subclass. It may have been due to mechanical failures on the part of both Rebellion Racing entries, but endurance is a sport which rewards reliability, and the party at the small team’s hotel will nonetheless be long and loud tonight.

    LMP2 gave us another thrilling 6 hours with fights, problems and penalties galore. The Le Mans winning KCMG Oreca 05 took first position in class after a clean drive, while the two G-Drive Ligiers showed their ever present pace to take second and third.

    Sard-Morand were best of the rest followed by Signatech Alpine, with Strakka Racing splitting the two ESMs to complete the field.

    GTE Pro was, as in the prototype ranks, an all Porsche affair. The #91 finished ahead of the #92, a legacy of both the pace of the 911 and issues for AF Corse’s ever strong 458 Italias; the #71 Ferrari finishing third.

    It was a day to forget for Aston Martin Racing, the #95, #97 and #99 V8 Vantages well off the pace and stuck in their own internecine battles throughout the race. It was also an uncharacteristically poor day for the world champion #51 team of Bruni and Vilander, which suffered a failure early in the race and spent the rest of it circulating seven laps down on the leaders.

    GTE Am saw a return to the podium for the Russian SMP Racing team, an outfit that has improved to the point of being a strong force in world class endurance racing. The #98 Aston took second ahead of the third placed #83 Ferrari.

    It was a day of glory for Porsche, who had stamped their return to endurance at Le Mans but couldn’t have dreamed of such a strong performance in front of the 62,000 spectators - a fact and figure which will please greatly the men in suits who approve these programmes.

    It was also an event to be remembered for the FIA World Endurance Championship, who have brought top flight sportscar racing back to Germany with great success. An action packed race on a short, twisty track seems to be the perfect formula for fans of longform motor racing, and it seems inevitable that the series will return again in 2016.

    But overall it was a great day for the people who follow the sport - huge crowds, a glowing buzz around the whole event and a sense that motorsport was back in a place that has been relatively racing-deserted of late, all added up to create a spectacle of which the sport can be proud.

    The FIAWEC returns in three short weeks to the Circuit of the Americas for Lone Star Le Mans. Half way through the season and it’s all to play for, so stay tuned to speedchills.com and @SpeedChillsView to see how the 2015 season will play out.

  • Porsche Dominate 6 Hours of Nurburgring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Porsche Dominate in Spa Quali

    Porsche continued their run of form this afternoon by locking out the front row for the FIAWEC 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps.

    FIA WEC Spa Francorchamps-0058 LORES

    The two 919 Hybrids took just two runs apiece to seal another great qualifying performance with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley steering the #1 to pole ahead of the sister car.

    Behind them it was all to play for with the Toyotas and Audis swapping quickest times throughout the session. It ended with a promising result for the Japanese marque with the #6 TS050 pipping the #8 R18 to third. The second Toyota took fifth ahead of the second Audi; the gap between the four of just 0.2s foretelling a good squabble in the race.

    The LMP2 fight was won by the #26 G-Drive Oreca with Rene Rast and Roman Rusinov setting an unbeatable average despite a late surge from Nico Lapierre in the #36 Alpine. Manor Racing took an impressive third and fifth on the class grid in only their second endurance race, split only by the guest entry of the second G-Drive in their venerable old Gibson chassis.

    AF Corse left it late but managed to edge the GTE qualifying session as the #71 of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon just pipped the #51 to class pole. A much improved showing from Aston Martin saw their #97 car take third but within striking distance of its two Italian competitors.

    The two Fords weren’t far behind taking fourth and fifth while the Pro field was rounded out by the second Aston and, in a somewhat distant seventh, the lone Porsche 911 of Dempsey-Proton Racing.

    Paul Dalla Lana put in an excellent performance to put his #95 Aston Martin on top in GTE Am. Second was taken by the #83 AF Corse and third by the #88 Porsche.

    The FIAWEC 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps kicks off at 1.30pm UK time tomorrow and is shaping up to be a bit of a show. Follow along with @SpeedChillsView on Twitter and join the conversation using #WEC6hSpa.

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