Toyota Gazoo

  • 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!

  • Bumper Le Mans and WEC Grids announced

    This afternoon in Paris, the ACO/FIA unveiled the entrance list for the 2018/2019 FIA World Endurance Championship "Super Season" and the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans.

    The "Super Season" consists of 36 entries across the four categories with teams representing 12 different countries. The grid consists of 10 LMP1 cars, 7 entries in LMP2, 10 entries in GTE Pro with the addition of BMW for this year and 9 entries in GTE Am.

    "It's very satisfying to have 36 competitors including six major manufacturers and a good balance between prototypes and GTEs. This is just the start!" WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said. "Now the show goes on and we are confident the figures will continue to increase as they have done for the last six years. Welcome to the Super Season!"

    After Porsche pulled out of the championship towards the end of 2016, everyone thought LMP1 was done but just six months later, there are 10 full season entries in the class, one of which has Fernando Alonso at the wheel. Toyota recently announced their updated TS050 for the 2018-2019 season and a commitment to the sport and the championship to help them develop further their hybrid technology.

    Toyota will be the only two hybrid cars on the grid this year which features eight privately entered cars. Rebellion make a return to LMP1 with the R13, Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani included in the line-up after making the switch from Porsche.

    ByKolles dropped out of the 2017 season after the European leg to focus on developing the 2018 car. They will make a return to the championship this season in the ENSO CLM P1/01. They will be joined by two CEFC TRSM Racing entries, the new Ginetta G60 LT-P1.

    BR1 LMP1 2018

    BR Engineering unveiled their new car in Bahrain at the end of 201, two of them will be run by SMP Racing who return to the series for the first time since 2016 with an AER engine and the third will be run by Dragon Speed who have established a new driver line up that includes Renger van der Zande and Ben Hanley. In LMP2, there will be seven entries across three different chassis manufacturers, Oreca, Dallara and Ligier. Signatech Alpine Matmut and TDS Racing make a return alongside Jackie Chan DC Racing. Along with their LMP1 entrant, DragonSpeed will also field an LMP2 entry and Racing Team Nederland join the championship with Giedo ven der Garde leading their line up. Making their return to the FIA WEC, Larbre Competition make the switch from the GTE Corvette in to LMP2 having sat out the 2017 season.

    GTE sees the addition of BMW to the grid this year with the M8 GTE, the two cars will line up alongside the all new Aston Martin Vantage AMR, (with two new drivers this year, Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin). AF Corse Ferrari of course return with the latest generation 488GTE whilst Ford return with the two Chip Ganassi Team UK GT's and Porsche return with the latest generation 911 RSR.

    The LM GTE class is the largest it has been this year featuring nine full season entries across three different manufacturers. 2017 champions Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda return for Aston Martin and will be joined by a second Aston entered by TF Sport. Clearwater Racing return to the championship alongside Spirit of Race along with new entry MR Racing. The Aston Martins and Ferrari's will be joined by four Porsche 911 RSRs from Depsey Proton Racing, Gulf Racing and Project 1.

    Start of the Le Mans 24 Hours

    The entry list for the 24 Hours of Le Mans was released shortly after the WEC announcement with a capacity grid of 60 cars announced for the event due to take place on June 16th-17th.

    All 10 LMP1 cars will challenge for the overall win, eight non-hybrid LMP1 cars alongside the two Toyota TS050 Hybrids.

    In LMP2, there will be three chassis manufacturers represented this year with entries from Ligier, Oreca and Dallara. The 7 full season entries will be joined by 13 other LMP2 entries totalling 20 LMP2 prototypes alongside the 10 LMP1.

    17 cars have been entered in the GTE Pro class at Le Mans with Ford also entering the two IMSA GT's along with Porsche who will also field the two American 911's. Corvette return for the French endurance classic whilst Ferrari will also field an additional 488 GTE under the AF Corse team.

    In GTE Am, the 9 full season entrants will be joined by an additional four cars from Ebimotors, JMW Motorsport, Proton Competition and Keating Motorsports. There are nine reserve entries this year including Scuderia Corsa, Krohn Racing and BAR1.

    Alongside the FIA WEC and Le Mans entry release this afternoon, Ginetta confirmed their first two drivers for the G60-LT-P1 which will both be run by CEFC TRSM Racing (Manor Endurance). Formula 2 race winner Oliver Rowland and 2015 European Le Mans Series LMP3 Champion Charlie Robertson will each pilot one of the cars.

    Ginetta LMP1 2018 - Manor Endurance

    Ginetta Chairman Lawrence Tomlinson said; "I'm delighted to confirm that CEFC TRSM Racing will be running a two car effort in the FIA WEC and LE Mans 24 Hours. Our LMP1 project has brought together some of the brightest stars in motorsport design and engineering, and the next chapter will see CEFC TRSM Racing announcing driving talent of equally high measure. Personally, I am delighted to see Charlie Robertson's name on the entry list. We have taken him from a 14 year old experiencing his very first race car in the Ginette Junior Championship, all the way to the pinnacle of international motorsport and that's something we strive to do for every one of our drivers."

    Graeme Lowdon, President and Sporting Director: "We are very happy to welcome Oliver to the team, we have followed him closely over the years and have been very impressed with his performances. Although this will be his first season in sports cars we have every confidence that he will adapt to LMP1 very quickly. It is great to be returning to FIA WEC and we are looking forward to starting the season at the Prologue in April."

    Oliver Rowland, Driver: "I am very excited to be joining TRSM for the LMP1 World Endurance Championship. Endurance racing is a new experience for me and it will create a fresh challenge, but I am really looking forward to working with the team and driving such an amazing car.

    Competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is extremely exciting and it's something that I've always wanted to race in. I can't wait to get started with the team to ensure we get the best out of the package and moving forward seeing if we can challenge for some fantastic results in the championship."

  • 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.

  • Silverstone Qualy - Toyota on top

    Qualifying for the LMP1 class looked, in the end, to be fairly one sided. Porsche did not seem to be able to get close to the rapid pace of the Toyota TS050 Hybrids. Kamui Kobayashi setting the fastest lap of the weekend, a 1:36.793, that Porsche could not get any closer than 1.3 seconds slower than. With the battle of down force packages seeming to be the main talking point in the LMP1 field, it will be interesting to see just how far behind, if at all, Porsche are come race day tomorrow. Speed Chills got a chance to talk to some of the LMP1 drivers after their qualifying session.

    Being one of the drivers to qualify, Anthony Davidson was happy with the set up of the car and the performance of his #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid. He stated that this year’s Toyota is the “Best the car has ever been in Silverstone,” with it “just doing pretty much everything I wanted.” Davidson explained that the impressive time set by Kobayashi was at the result of the two Toyotas running different options of down force in different set ups for the weekend. Even so, Davidson had nothing but praise for the 2017 challenger, claiming the #8 crew is “really confident with our car for the race,” and he is “Really happy to drive such a good car.”

    However, Toyota are under no illusion that tomorrow’s race will be an easy one to take the victory for. Although they have an advantage running the high down force package compared to the low down force aero kit Porsche elected for, Davidson is confident Porsche will be back and closer in the race. “They’re definitely going to be closer in the race than they were in qualifying,” Davidson admitted. “This has never been a strong circuit for us in terms of how we use our hybrid system. Our system is a kinetic system only whereas the Porsche system lends itself a bit better to this kind of track where you don’t get much kinetic recovery. They rely more on their turbo for the heat recovery than we can do round here.

    “We are expecting them to be closer but we’re still unsure about how it’s going to pan out in terms of the double stint. How we’re going to use the tyres compared to them. Normally, under the normal circumstances, you’d say we use the tyres better than them, we’d be able to eek out more life in our tyres than them because running more down force should keep the surface of the tyre in better condition, putting less friction through them, we don’t know. One thing is for sure, they’re going to be closer in the race.”

    Brendon Hartley was keen to echo this sentiment when discussing the benefits and downsides to running the low down force ‘Le Mans’ specification aero package at a track that prefers high down force. Although he stated that “Qualifying wasn’t very important with only four cars,” and that the #2 crew and Porsche were “really focused on the race.” in the free practice sessions, Hartley believes Porsche is not that far off the pace Toyota was setting in their long runs. “Toyota’s pace was awesome in qualifying but we didn’t see the same in free practice.

    “Honestly their time this morning [in qualifying] was really impressive but I think that also there’s a bigger gain for them in qualifying compared to us for a few reasons, with how you manage energies and what not. It was an impressive lap, but I don’t think you’re going to see such differences tomorrow.”

    Hartley revealed that the #2 car never ran any qualifying simulations in free practice, opting to use the 240 minutes of free practice time to fully focus on long runs and making sure the car was set up perfectly for the race whilst collecting as much data about tyre wear. This meant they never got the balance right when they put the qualifying set up on the car for the first time in the qualifying session which is what Hartley suggests is the reason they start at the back of the hybrid field. On average, the lap times the Porsches were setting on their long runs were fairly close to the pace of the Toyotas in the same circumstance.

    Although Neel Jani has been fairly avoidant that Silverstone will be Porsche’s “joker” race, one that he does not expect them to perform well at due to using the low down force aero kit on the Porsches, Hartley is optimistic about his expectations of tomorrow’s race. “I think we can win.” He claimed boldly. “There is gonna be a fight, everyone has to pull together; strategy, pit stops, there could be a bit of weather in play so there is always a challenge. We’re going for the win.”

    The low down force aero package appears to not be as much of a deficit to Porsche this weekend, something the team is pleasantly surprised about. However, qualifying third and fourth ahead of the six-hour race tomorrow was all Jani expected out of the cars today. “P1 and 2 definitely out of reach just due to strategy with the down force package over the season.” Jani explained, using a term he has used a lot this weekend by calling Silverstone Porsche’s ‘joker race’. “We know we give away performance but we hope to gain a lot in the second half [of the season].”

    In terms of the pace Porsche produced in qualifying with all things considered, Jani was ‘positively surprised’. “I think is important to mention. Last year, we did a 39.6 with a high down force package, or a higher down force. This year with the low down force package and we go one second quicker. Even though we lost down force and whatever we still went quicker. So I think that’s actually giving me a positive outlook for the future with that car.”

    Unlike his teammate, though, Jani does not think there is much they can do to catch the Toyotas in tomorrow’s race. “I think the only chance is if we pass them lap one.” He said when asked if there was any possibility they could challenge for a higher position. “2015 I had this big battle with Marcel, with the Audi. Audi was two seconds a lap quicker but because we were so much quicker on the straight they couldn’t overtake us. That worked out nearly until the end with a four second difference at the end. So I’m not sure that would work tomorrow but I would say that is our only big chance on track.

    “But on the other hand, just with racing, you need a bit of luck. Like last year, we won, we were not meant to win but we still won. You know, you never know how a race can turn out.”

    Jani may have written off the first round of the championship but he is nothing but positive about the prospect of round two at Spa-Francorchamps even with the low down force package on the car. Silverstone, in Jani’s opinion, should be the only race that sees Porsche losing performance to Toyota. “We think in Spa we could be not looking too bad. If we look really bad in Spa I think we should get a little worried.

    “I also think at Spa it could help us overall with traffic management because you can only do lap time on the straight line and over take on the straight line. In the middle sector you cannot overtake. So maybe in the race it will be helping us more than it will help us in qualifying. But I think we go with the positive outlook or view to spa after what we felt here.”

  • WEC 6 hours of Silverstone

    For the first race of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, Toyota Gazoo Racing remained on the form they had displayed throughout the weekend to take home victory from the 6 Hours of Silverstone. The #8 crew of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi, and Kazuki Nakajima led most of the six-hour endurance race and only had to fight for position in the closing stages. LMP2 continued to show a mixed field with the pace of all of the cars being very similar throughout the class. It was the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing team that came out on top as the chequered flag fell. After a trouble-filled race that saw them having to pit early, Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx brought a surprise victory to the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car whilst a last lap incident saw the #98 Aston Martin Racing LM GTE Am car lose the class victory to the #61 Clearwater Racing team.

    At the start of the race it looked like it was going to be easy for Toyota to secure a one-two at the chequered flag. Although Porsche was setting consistent lap times to the pace the Toyota duo were setting the Japanese team had managed to pull out a lead from the line that Porsche were struggling to close down. But it was not plain sailing for the Toyota team as mixed weather conditions brought Porsche right into the field of play.

    For the first three hours there was nothing Porsche could do to catch up to the front-runners. Both teams – Porsche and Toyota – had an inter-team order switch within the first few laps with Brendon Hartley passing Neel Jani for third and Buemi getting ahead of his teammates in the sister car. It was around the halfway mark when the rain started to fall that Porsche looked to have an opportunity.

    It first came in the form of pit stops. With timing giving the advantage to Porsche, both the Porsche 919 Hybrids pitted as the rain began to fall, meaning they were in prime position to pass Davidson in the #8 who was struggling on the dry weather tyres. Bernhard and Nick Tandy took on the slicktermediates during their driver change pit stops and passed the struggling Toyota easily on track, dropping Toyota to third on the grid.

    The #7 Toyota had suffered issues during the first half that had seen it travelling slowly and falling to fourth on track, but the day got worse for the second Toyota Hybrid. Losing brakes, Jose Maria Lopez had a fast speed crash going straight into the tyre barriers at Copse Corner. Luckily the driver was alright but the car lost an hour and a half after it limped back to the pits and brought out a Full Course Yellows which eventually turned into a safety car due to the debris Lopez scattered across the track. This took the #7 completely out of contention and the battle for the lead between #8 Toyota and #2 Porsche.

    Race starters Hartley and Buemi were back in the cars for the closing stages of the race. Having double stinted the tyres at the end of the race and completing a short, fuel-only stop at the end, Hartley returned on track with an eight-second lead, something Toyota did not expect. An incredible drive from Buemi on the fresher tyres and lighter fuel load saw the Swiss driver close in on Hartley at a rapid pace. It became more of a matter of when was Buemi going to pass rather than would he catch up enough to make a move. Coming into Village, Buemi lined Hartley up, getting his Toyota TS050 Hybrid on the inside of the Loop Corner and squeezing Hartley out a little. Having a much better exit from the corner, Buemi made the move stick and went on to take the first victory of the season by 6.1 seconds. The #1 Porsche finished off the podium, bringing home an unexpected double podium to the German team.

    The only LMP1-Privateer entrant, #4 ByKolles Racing, was doing much better than many expected during the 6 Hours of Silverstone. After such a poor Prologue, it was assumed that the team would have a difficult first weekend, leading to many assuming this was the reason Robert Kubica dropped out of the team three days before the first event. However, the car was running strong and, besides a couple of short stints in the garage, it was running within the LMP2 field at a competitive level. But it was not meant to be for the #4 team as, with just fifteen minutes to go; the car was parked up in the garage and did not take the chequered flag. This means that the team did not classify for this race.

    Off the start, Nicolas Lapierre was once again the driver to watch. From fourth on the grid Lapierre laid down a blinding pace that saw him take the lead of the class within the first half an hour of racing. But it sadly was not something that was meant to last. Although his teammates fought well there was not enough in the car to get it to cross the line any higher than fourth. The #36 Signatech Alpine crew showed an excellent showcase of teamwork as they fought a tough on track battle with the #28 TDS Racing and #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing teams.

    Pole-sitter Alex Lynn had a tough race in the #26 G-Drive Racing machine. It suffered an early door malfunction that forced the team to pit for an extra stop to complete repairs. With just over an hour complete the team had fallen out of contention and it was too much of a gap to close before the chequered flag.

    The #38 team had been a threat from the start and remained so throughout the six hours of racing. There were at least five different leaders of the LMP2 class through the race showing just how close and competitive this year’s class will be. It was between Oliver Jarvis in the #38 and the TDS Racing #28 for the lead of the class as the race came to an end. An impressive drive from Jarvis saw him take class victory for his first race in the LMP2 class on track. TDS Racing took second whilst the early leader of the race, #31 Vaillante Rebellion, rounded off the LMP2 podium.

    The race was packed with action and drama for the pole sitting #67 Ford Chip Ganassi team. They lead the field off the line and held the advantage competitively until Priaulx suffered a door failure. Whilst speeding down one of the straights the driver’s side door of the Ford GT opened a fraction. This happened a few times and Priaulx looked like he was able to sort out the problem from within the cockpit, but in fear of being forced into the pits by the stewards the team took the decision themselves and pitted about halfway into the race. A big slam of the door seemed to fix the problem but it dropped Tincknell and Priaulx right down the order, handing the lead to the sister #66 Ford car.

    But it did not last long as the #92 Porsche GT Team entrant was soaring through the class. Porsche explained that they had been focused on the race pace of the car, hence why they appeared to be so off the mark in qualifying, and the performance of the team was proving that tactic correct. They lead the field competitively for a small duration of the race. Disaster struck as the mid-engine car caught on fire, with the car pulling to a stop on Stowe corner. This incident brought out the first Full Course Yellow of the race as the team could only look on whilst the car was doused with a fire extinguisher.

    This handed the advantage back to Ford and the rapid lapping #67. As the #67 Ford entrant was out of sync with everyone else’s pit stops they seemed to be making the alternative strategy work for them. Tincknell had made up a lot of ground during his stint in the car and this left him in prime position to inherit the lead of the class. Against all odds the door failure that plagued the beginning of their race returned with just ten minutes on the clock. Tincknell, like his teammate, managed to get a temporary fix on the issue that was enough to see him over the finish line to take the class win. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE finished second in class whilst the #91 Porsche entrant made it three different manufacturers on the podium.

    The #98 Aston Martin Racing team were the ones to beat throughout most of the race in the Am class. For around an hour during the rain shower, the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche had the edge, leading the class, but once the track dried out Aston Martin were back to controlling the pace. It looked like they were set to win even with the multiple spins Paul Dalla Lana suffered during the rainy period of the race that luckily caused no damage to the car.

    But the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari had been on a mission and with a few laps left it was closing in on the Aston. Pedro Lamy was pushing as hard as he could, as the chequered flag got closer. The Ferrari was quick but it looked like it would not be enough before the end of the race.

    Throwing caution to the wind, the #61 through a move up the inside of Lamy, spinning both of them off the track through contact. Due to their lead on the rest of the field being so great, neither of them lost any positions. But as the Ferrari got moving first it stole the chequered flag, taking the first class victory. Lamy struggled home for second with the Aston clearly suffering a lot of damage as it stopped at Farm Corner after taking the chequered flag.

  • WEC 6 Hours of Spa FP1

    30 cars will take the gird this weekend at Spa Francorchamps, an additional entry from Toyota boosting the LMP1 grid whilst the 35 Signatech Alpine returns to the championship after missing Silverstone and Tockwith Motorsport make their WEC debut and the WEC debut of the Ligier JSP217. There is a possibility that more races may be on the horizon later in the season for the team.

    Mike Conway set the pace early on in Free Practice One at Spa Francorchamps, posting a time of 1:57.940 in the #7 Toyota TSO50 Hybrid. Conway will be racing the #7 alongside Kamui Kobayashi this weekend after the FIA Medical Delegate and Toyota’s own doctor agreed that Jose Maria Lopez was not medically fit enough to drive. Lopez suffered minor damage to two vertebrae after crashing in the opening race of the season at Silverstone three weeks ago. Whilst Lopez himself admits he is disappointed to be missing the race, the teams focus is on making sure he is fit enough to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans in just six weeks time.

    “I’m extremely disappointed to miss this weekend’s race as I was really looking forward to driving the TS050 HYBRID at Spa,” said López. “I feel basically fine but we all agree that we should take no chances; the priority is to be absolutely fit for Le Mans. Probably I could race if we were at a different track but a driver’s body experiences extreme forces through Eau Rouge so, after discussions with the FIA Medical Delegate and our team doctor, we decided I should not drive this weekend.”

    The lap times were reassuringly close throughout the first practice session, Mike Conway’s quickest time was just 0.036 seconds quicker than the #2 Porsche and only 0.1 MPH quicker through the speed traps at 213.8 miles an hour. The #8 and #9 Toyotas took fourth and fifth on the timing screens, the #9 car running the low drag Le Mans aero kit posting a time of 1:59.633.

    In LMP2, Gustavo Menezes topped the time sheets in the #36 Signatech Alpine with a time of 2:04.171, the #26 G Drive of Alex Lynn, Roman Rusinov and Piere Thiriet was just a tenth behind.Championship new comer Tockwith Motorsport set a time of 2:06.607 with the Ligier JSP217. The team are making a one off appearance, moving over from the ELMS before competing at Le Mans later in the year.

    In GTE-Pro, the championship leading Ford GT of Priaulx, Tinknall and Derani topped the time sheets, fresh off the back of a win at Silverstone, the trio will be looking to take another victory this weekend at Spa. The competition at the top of GTE-Pro was close however, the top three (#67, #91, #66) were split by just four tenths of a second. Ferrari took fifth and sixth in class, the #71 leading the #51 whilst Aston Martin took seventh and eighth.

    Porsche topped the time sheets in GTE-Am, the Dempsey Proton Racing car going seven tenths quicker than the #86 Gulf Racing car. The Clearwater Ferrari was the best of the rest, finishing third ahead of the Aston Martin and Spirit of Race Ferrari 488.

  • WEC 6 Hours of Spa FP3

    Kazuki Nakajima topped the final practice session with a time of 1:55.233 in a Toyota 1-2-3, the #8 car just edging the #7 by 0.005 seconds. Porsche took fourth and fifth with Andre Lotterer posting the best time in the #1 with a 1:56.404 early on in the session. In LMP2, Alex Lynn topped the times with a 2:01.708 in the #26 G-Drive Oreca 07. Notable incidents in the session included the #13 Rebellion losing a front left wheel and the #38 DR Racing Oreca hitting the #61 Clear Water Racing Ferrari. AF Corse took a 1-2 finish in GTE Pro, the #71 Ferrari of Pier Guidi setting the best time of 2:14.904; Sam Bird and Davide Rigon were just two tenths back with a time of 2:15.1. The #67 Ford took third whilst the #95 Aston Martin which had shown early promise in FP2 came home last. Matteo Carol topped the time sheets in the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche, setting the fourth quickest time overall across both GTE classes. The #98 Aston was second and the #61 Ferrari third.

  • WEC 6 Hours of Spa Race report

    Toyota #8 Take Second Victory in an action-packed race that saw over 61,000 spectators attend Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend for the second round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 driven by Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took a narrow victory ahead of the sister car, scoring the first Toyota one-two since 2014. Two full course yellows played with the luck of the race that gave Toyota #8 the win after what they admitted should have been victory for the #7 crew. LMP2 saw a tight battle throughout the race but it was pole-sitters #26 G-Drive Racing who converted the race victory that they failed to do in Silverstone.

    LM GTE Pro was tightly fought between Ferrari and Ford at the start of the race, but ultimately the 488 GTEs had the pace advantage this weekend. An inter-team battle stemmed between the #71 and #51 AF Corse crews for the majority of the race, ending with advantage going to Sam Bird and Davide Rigon. LM GTE Am was dominated for the duration of the race by the #98 Aston Martin Racing entrant. They had no competition as they drove to an easy victory, even after picking up a time penalty during their pit stop for an infringement on the grid.

    Off the start, Andre Lotterer was pressured to protect his pole position as two of the Toyotas ran side by side with him towards La Source. Locking up his breaks, Nicolas Lapierre shot the #9 Toyota straight off into the run off on the outside of the circuit and took the car out of the lead fight. Porsche #2 benefited the most out of the front-runners at the start as Brendon Hartley managed to get it up to second and start chasing down Toyota #8.

    There were two Full Course Yellows during the six-hour event that played with the fortunes of those up and down the grid. The first one came from the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche pulling up and stopping on the start finish race. The #86 had had a troubled race from the start, with consistent abuses to track limits the team picked up multiple time penalties in their pit stops for their offences. There seemed to be damage on the car already when it bumped the rear of on of the Fords coming through Bus Stop, from what is unknown, but there was some sort of debris on the kerb of the chicane that caused the #86 to spin. After looking like it would be good to get going again it shuddered to a halt next to the pit wall where it retired from the race. The #7 Toyota had just taken their scheduled pit stop when the Full Course Yellow came out, meaning that the other three LMP1 cars gained a time advantage on them when they took their stops under the Full Course Yellows. This unlucky fate also befell the #7 during the second Full Course Yellow. The cause of the second full caution was the #28 TDS Racing LMP2 car going straight on at Courbe Paul Frère and heavily into the tyre barrier. Luckily for the LMP2 team, the car was able to get back to the pits after it was pushed out of the tyre barrier and simply needed a front nose replacement to carry on. However, for Toyota #7, once again the Full Course Yellow came at the wrong point in their pit strategy and lost them time against their competitors.

    It was a close race to the line at the end in LMP1. Kamui Kobayashi was pushing hard in the #7 Toyota to close down a four second gap to the sister car that was leading ahead. All of the LMP1 cars had had to stop for a ‘splash and dash’ in the last fifteen minutes of the race so the victory fight was between Toyota. Kobayashi came so close, but traffic in the final lap saw the Japanese driver almost take himself out of the race. He finished second to the #7 by just under two seconds, when one point in the last couple of laps the gap had been seven tenths. Porsche #2 completed the podium twenty-six seconds down the road after a slow puncture had lost them time earlier on in the race. Hartley had a moment in the final stint where contact was made with the #36 Signatech Alpine LMP2 car that is being investigated after the race. The Kiwi driver was trying to overtake the traffic of the #36 and committed to a move on the inside of the corner. It appeared Hartley noticed he would not be able to make the move as the #36 was not going to leave him enough room, so he hit the brakes, locking them in the process. Unfortunately, the #2 Porsche clipped the back of the #36 Signatech Alpine and spun it around.

    It was a great race for the #4 ByKolles. Making it to the chequered flag and encountering no issues through the race, the team ran competitively above the LMP2 field, lapping about a second a lap quicker. They finished a strong sixth which was not expected after they qualified eleventh. Alex Lynn spent most of the race on board the race-winning #26 G-Drive Racing car. The car was competitively paced throughout the race, and although there were swaps of the lead throughout the race the team always looked to be the strongest on track. Lynn had a comfortable lead advantage at the end of the race that allowed him to know that he would not be under any threat for the lead. Second place was a closer battle as the chequered flag approached as the #31 Vaillante Rebellion and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing cars where split by a few seconds. But as hard as Ho-Pin Tung pushed he could not close the gap to knock the Rebellion out of second place. Sam Bird made the move that spurred the inter-team battle in AF Corse in the Pro class. Whilst the #51 was lining up to pass the struggling #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK for the lead just before the halfway mark, Bird used the tow from the sister car to follow it through when it made the pass on the Ford. Having extra momentum, Bird pulled the #71 Ferrari ahead of the #51. But a Toyota that had been passing through traffic did not leave enough room for Bird to comfortably pull ahead. A few corners of jostling between the two 488 GTE Ferraris saw Bird’s bold move come out victorious as he took the lead of the class. The battling between the two Ferrari continued until the end of the race but with fifteen minutes until chequered flag, Bird had built up a twenty second lead meaning that the #51 had no chance of stealing the win at the line. The #66 Ford finished off the podium in a class that finished two by two through manufacturers. Porsche left Aston Martin to take the last two places in the LM GTE Pro class.

    In a complete reverse fortune; Aston Martin Racing completely dominated the Am class, not once giving up the lead to another car. The team were handed a time penalty to take in their pit stop due to a broken rule during the start procedure. Even after they took this they were still competitively ahead of the rest of the field and cruised to an easy victory. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche also appeared to have a fairly straightforward race. After a little period of battling on track and recovering from time lost in pit stops Christian Reid and Matteo Carioli had an easy race to take second in Am. The #61 Clearwater Ferrari made it three different manufacturers on the Am grid again by securing third. There was a brief fight between the two Ferrari-running teams for third until around the halfway mark of the race but after this the final order seemed to establish itself. The day was warm and sunny at the start of the race, but the potential rain that was predicted did not fall as heavily as it needed to to make a strong impact on the race. The #8 crew had ‘”mixed feelings” about their victory, saying that all the luck had come to them today and that the #7 had had the quicker pace all weekend. This was a sentiment that the Porsche #2 crew echoed; suggesting that the podium all believed it should have been Conway and Kobayashi on the top step. Had there have been a couple of laps more, they very well could have been.

  • WEC Prologue: Day One – 01/04/2017

    The World Endurance Championship Prologue is the first official test of the WEC and the first time that all of the teams race the new cars together on the track. Although it is testing, so lap times and relative pace must be taken with a pinch of salt, it is the first chance to see these cars up against each other and get a sense of where people may be with their cars heading to the first round of the Championship in a fortnight’s time.

    Day one of the Prologue consisted of three track sessions: two of three-hours in durations (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and one of two-hours in duration (the evening session). Taking place for the first time around the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, the cars have been showing a step up in overall pace compared to previous years. Although rain fell in the evening session, reducing the amount of running that took place, the day sessions were filled with a lot of track action and very little incident.

    Only three Full Course Yellows fell upon the track today. The first was due to an LMP2 systems check of the Full Course Yellow system and so lasted around three minutes at the beginning of the morning session. Luckily, there were no mistakes or misfortunate moments in the wet evening run. In fact, due to the rain, very few people took to the track for the evening session, with only 15 of the 27 in attendance of the test taking to the track and 13 setting lap times.

    The other two Full Course Yellows came in the afternoon session. Just after the end of the first hour, the #24 CEFC Manor TDS Racing went off track at Variante Tribune and was unable to recover itself. The session took a turn for the worse as it was later reported, once the #24 had made it back out on track, that the car was losing liquid around the track. It took about an hour for the car to get back on track with whatever issues it had to have been resolved.

    The pace-setting LM GTE Pro Porsche GT Team #92 was the only other car to bring out the Full Course Yellows. Towards the end of the second hour, the car went off at Variante Ascari, getting stuck in the gravel trap on the exit of the corner. The Full Course Yellow soon turned into a red flag to get the truck on track to clear the car, putting a delay of about twenty minutes on the session. Like the Manor, the Porsche #92 was not deterred by the off and finished the afternoon session fastest of the LM GTE Pro cars.

    The LMP1 field, of Porsche and Toyota, is looking very close upon reflecting on the first day of the Prologue. Although in the speed trap, Porsche are recording 319kph whilst Toyota are setting 306kph, all of the data we are gathering is relative. It is unknown exactly what set up, tyres, fuel, or programme teams are running to generate these numbers. For example, at last year’s Prologue, Toyota were setting 20kph faster than any other team in the speed trap, but when it came to the first few races their car could not keep up with Audi or Porsche. The difference in pace could also be down to which aero kit the teams have installed on the cars, which Porsche refuses to confirm as of this moment.

    Toyota took the fastest lap in the afternoon session, whilst it was Porsche on top in the morning and evening session. However, the fastest time set so far this weekend was a 1:31.332, which was set by Mike Conway in the #7 Toyota about halfway through the evening session. All of the LMP1 cars have now set times in the 1m31s bracket, but no one could go faster than Conway’s time. The evening session was heavily rain affected and it was only the LMP1 cars that set respectable times as they took to the track at the very start of the session and set their times before the track got saturated.

    Problems for the #4 ByKOLLES Racing LMP1 privateer held it in the garage for most of the day. The team were waiting for parts to arrive for their Nismo engine and working through some teething problems, meaning they couldn’t get the car out on track. With half an hour of testing left, Robert Kubica took the ENSO CLM P1/01 out for six laps, setting a lap time of 2:17.915 on a rain-soaked track. The hope is that the issues the team were faced with will have been sorted and they can get to their proper testing programme tomorrow when track action gets underway again.

    There was also a rumour of potential issues on the #2 Porsche LMP1 from an electrical stand. In the morning session, the #2 slipped down the pit lane silently, implying that there was no power to the car and it was just rolling to the pit box. No issues have been confirmed by the team, but it will be interesting to see if there is any significant improvement to the Porsche in tomorrow’s running.

    The LMP2 field suggested a very close fight in the class is expected. With all teams having elected to run ORECA 07 chassis (Signatech Alpine run a modified version of the ORECA 07 to give them the Alpine A470) and all having to run the Gibson V8 engine, the class order will be determined more on aero packages and if teams can capitalise on any innovative technology or design features.

    From the testing today, it looks like Vaillante Rebellion may have the best full package. They finished the first session with a one-two and the second session fastest with the #13. The afternoon session was taken by last year’s class champions #36 Signatech Alpine. But most of the time the LMP2 field was covered by just over a second, with the gaps between cars as little as a tenth of a second. It looks like there is not one dominate team in the LMP2 field. Perhaps if a different chassis had been chosen by someone there would have been some more variation, but from the first look at the cars going round the track it looks like LMP2 is going to be closely fought this year.

    The new Porsche 911 RSRs look to be the benchmark for the rest of the LM GTE fields. Of course, the lap times and data must be looked at whilst keeping in mind the teams may have been on different programmes or set ups, but the Porsches were fastest in LM GTE Pro with the #92 Porsche GT Team entrant and in LM GTE Am with the Gulf Racing #86 in all three sessions today.

    Ford look, at the moment, to be Porsche biggest rival in LM GTE Pro. Although Porsche took the fastest lap time of each session, Ford were never more than two-tenths off their pace. Ferrari looked to be getting into the fight in the afternoon session, placing a car in between the two Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK entries to take fourth fastest in class. Unfortunately, it seems that Aston Martin are a little way off the pace of the other GTE manufacturers. The deficit is not massive – on average, around half a second slower on their fastest laps – but they were always at the bottom of the LM GTE Pro class times.

    Aston Martin has a similar situation in LM GTE Am. As of the last chequered flag today, The Am Aston Martin Racing entry #98 was, on average, the slowest LM GTE Am on track. The deficit, like in the Pro class, is not a massive one, but it may be cause for concern for the British manufacturer. There is a potential that the Aston Martins are sandbagging and they could take to the track at Silverstone and be fastest in class. This is the only issue with analysing the data and times that we get from pre-season tests; so much is left unknown and there is a very strong chance that all of the 27 cars have been sandbagging this weekend.

    The #86 Gulf Racing Porsche was the pace setter for the Am class today. Like the LM GTE Pro Porsche, the Porsche 911 RSR (991)s of Gulf Racing and Dempsey-Proton Racing dominated the top of the times for their class, finishing the two dry sessions with a one-two. The Clearwater Racing and Spirit of Race Ferraris were next to line up behind the Porsches. The situation in both GTE classes is very similar; where Ford are just off the pace of Porsche in GTE Pro, it is Ferrari who is just off the pace of the Porsches in GTE Am.

  • WEC Prologue: Day Two – 02/04/2017

    With the pre season testing now complete before the season opener in a few weeks at Silverstone, it is still not clear as to which teams are on top of their respective classes. Both Porsche and Toyota finished the day with a fastest lap, whilst LMP2 still looks to be a mixed field with every team running the same chassis and engine combination. Only in the LM GTE fields do things look a bit clearer, but Balance of Performance could see the predicted order muddled when we get to the first race of the season.

    Today’s running consisted of only two track sessions. Both lasted three hours and one took place in the morning and one in the afternoon. A new fastest lap time was set today, with Nicolas Lapierre putting Toyota on top in the final session of the test with an impressive 1:30.547, nearly a second up on Mike Conway’s faster overall lap time set yesterday.

    Only one incident saw track action halted in today’s sessions. With half an hour left of the afternoon, and final, session, an unexpected rain shower glanced over the track. It did not seem to be too heavy down at Variante Tribune, but at the top end of the track (near the Lesmo corners) there was a lot less grip. Due to this it is assumed that is the direction the rain came from, meaning it hit the Lesmo corners first.

    Matthew Rao was out in last’s year’s LMP2 champion car #36 Signatech Alpine when, going through Lesmo One, the car snapped away from him on the damp track. Caught unaware, Rao was a passenger as the car spun out and into the tyre barrier. As there was a lot of damage to the tyre barrier, the session was red flagged for ten minutes. Rao was surveyed trackside and cleared by the medical doctor, not even needing to go to the medical centre.

    When the track returned to green the rain shower had made what had been a dry track, after last night’s fully wet evening session, damp. This meant that most teams did not risk taking back to the track and the test ended slightly anticlimactically with only Toyota lapping round in short stints.

    Lapierre set the fastest lap of the prologue at the start of the afternoon session. The morning session started a little damp as the track was still wet from last night’s downpour. It was the #1 Porsche crew who took the fastest lap in the morning session with the sister #2 car finishing 0.004 seconds slower than their fastest lap of a 1:32.020.

    But it looked like, in both sessions, the LMP1 Hybrid teams were focusing on mileage rather than fastest laps. In the morning session, Porsche were able to put 212 laps on the Porsche 919s collectively and without fault on the cars. Porsche also elected to run some hybrid tests where they completed a lap or two on only hybrid power. This was to make sure that, if there is an engine failure on the cars during a race, the drivers can get them back to the pits on hybrid power alone for repairs.

    After such a bad first day of the test yesterday, it had looked more positive for #4 ByKOLLES entrant as they managed to get their car out for six laps towards the end of the evening session last night. Sadly, this seemed to be full of false hope. Within an hour of the first session today the team withdrew from the rest of the test without getting the car out for one lap. It does not look like the best start of the year for the team nor the best start to their advantage over Ginetta for the 2018 season. There will be no advantage to gain if they cannot have the car running competitively or, at least, full race distance.

    LMP2 did not disappoint today in promising what looks like a closely fought season. The #28 TDS Racing car took the fastest lap time in the morning session, whilst Oliver Jarvis put the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car fastest in the afternoon in what was effectively his first outing in the car. But the LMP2 field remained close for the entire day, with the field being covered by around 2 seconds.

    In the morning, a few of the LMP2 cars suffered with a few issues, one of those being the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing. The car managed to get out for a few laps towards the end of the session when Jarvis got on board for the first time with his new team. He managed to get eighth fastest in that session and picked up the fastest lap in the afternoon session within the first hour. His pace showed consistency and competitiveness, so hopefully Jarvis will be able to convert his talents from LMP1 to LMP2 for the 2017 season.

    The #31 Variante Rebellion entrant also suffered some issues in the morning session. The team managed to get 25 laps on the board and took to sending the car out for short stints throughout the session. But whatever troubles seemed to ale the car in the first session of the day were resolved when it came to the second one. LMP2 is looking like a strongly competitive field, with not one car breaking away from the pack. Hopefully this will be something that is echoed in the season opener in a fortnight’s time and will lead to some excellent racing in the class over the season.

    The #92 Porsche GT Racing team were not able to take a clean sweep of fastest LM GTE Pro laps for the test as the afternoon test was taken by Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK. Ford have been the closest contenders to Porsche in the Pro class all weekend. They may have been finishing as the third and fourth car for most of the sessions, but the time gap was never over a couple of tenths of a second.

    Aston Martin looked to be struggling the most in class, with their two cars consistently occupying the bottom two spots of the class in every session. Again, the deficit is not massive (around half a second on average) and over the course of a six-hour race they could make up for any lap time disadvantage they have. But they are the slowest of the Pro cars and this should cause some concern for the Aston Martin crews. It looks like they will not be able to push for wins on a pace basis by may need to rely on other cars failing to get onto the podium.

    The second day of testing saw a new manufacturer on top in the GTE Am field. #61 Clearwater Racing took charge in the afternoon whilst the morning had belonged to the other Ferrari 488, the #54 Spirit of Race. Ferrari didn’t run away with it, with the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche only three-tenths off the leading pace in the afternoon in third and two-tenths, in second, off the fastest lap time of the #54.

    Aston Martin were, once again, at the back of this field. The situation here is very similar to the one in LM GTE Pro: the Aston Martins are not significantly slower on pace time but are certainly and consistently the slowest in class. The #98 Aston Martin Racing piloted by Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda, and Pedro Lamy was four-tenths off the fastest lap in the afternoon session, but they did not look like the were possible of closing that gap down as they proved by being consistently slowest in the LM GTE Am class.

    For reasons undisclosed by the team, the Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 Porsche sat out the final three-hour session, not coming out of the garage at all. It joined the #4 ByKOLLES LMP1 privateer car on the sidelines and ended the session early. The car had been running strong in the morning session with no problems seeming to be on the car.

  • Why London ‘ExCels’ for petrolheads

    The capital is the place to be this week for car and racing enthusiasts as the London Classic Car Show returns to the cavernous halls of the ExCel complex.

    If you head to the ExCel (and you really should) be sure to pop by the Speed Chills stand in the Historic Motorsport International Show section (HM133) where you can win a trip for four to Le Mans Classic this summer. Scooping that prize really would make your visit worthwhile.

    Historic Motorsport International 2018

    Highlights of previous shows include curated displays celebrating the careers of F1 design heroes Adrian Newey and Gordon Murray, while six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx made a rare public appearance in Britain last year to celebrate his 70th birthday. He was on great form, as I found out first-hand during a privileged one-on-one interview before the show opened.

    So the 2018 edition has a lot to live up. Thankfully, the line-up looks certain to deliver once again.

    Nigel Mansell is guest of honour this time around and will receive the show's Icon Award. The 1992 F1 World Champion (who, you might remember, also made an ignominious appearance at Le Mans in 2010, crashing out early on) will appear on Sunday afternoon and is bound to draw a crowd. He always does.

    Among the cars from his career that will be on display is the Williams-Renault FW14B in which he claimed his F1 title in emphatic fashion more than 25 years ago. Hard to believe it was that long ago.

    Another draw will be the Getaway Car display curated by TV actor Philip Glenister (he of Ashes to Ashes fame and therefore a man who will always be associated with the Audi Quattro). For me, a Jaguar Mk2 has to be the ultimate getaway car, in real life or fiction, so I was cheered to see Glenister agrees. One is among his collection.

    More motoring personalities will appear on stage at the Supagard Theatre, situated in the sister Historic Motorsport International show taking place in a nearby hall (and open to all Classic Car ticket holders). My old mate Henry Hope-Frost is hosting and will ensure plenty of entertaining chatter to complement the wonderful array of machinery on display.

    The London Classic Car Show, which uniquely includes a Grand Avenue upon which road and racing cars parade each day, opens on Thursday evening with a special preview, then runs through Friday and into the weekend.

    Speaking of Le Mans, you can't have missed the big news for this year's 24 Hours in June. I must admit, I thought it was a long shot for 2018 – but it's confirmed: Fernando Alonso is heading for La Sarthe to make his Le Mans debut in a Toyota hybrid LMP1.

    What a huge boost for the race, particularly in the wake of Porsche's withdrawal. Alonso's status in F1 will make him the headline figure in June and even if one driver can't make up for Porsche's LMP1 absence, his presence will probably draw more attention to the great race this year than we've seen for a while.

    Can he win first time out, as his F1 comrade Nico Nulkenberg did a couple of years ago for Porsche? Well, that's absolutely his intention. And with Toyota bound to be hot favourites in the absence of ‘factory' opposition, the Spaniard knows he has a great chance.

    He should at least get further than Mansell managed... Then again, he'll also be more than aware that he can't take anything for granted, especially give the team he's driving for. Toyota's hoodoo at Le Mans is becoming a heavy weight for the Japanese giant to bear as each year passes. To win the race, Alonso and his team-mates will have to beat the race – and that is something Toyota has famously never achieved, despite a chain of painful close calls.

    What a time to lift the curse. It's going to be unmissable.

    Remember to visit Speed Chills on stand HM133!