Speed Chills - LMGTE Pro

  • Getting Ready for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring

    The World Endurance Championship is back this weekend with more thrilling track action at the Nürburgring. The 24 Hours of Le Mans brought a spectacular race to the blue riband event and the fourth round of the championship promises to be just as gripping. With the championship battles closer than ever throughout all the classes in the WEC, the teams are going to more determined to take class victory as every point counts. As this is the last race before the summer break, the grid will be looking to end the first half of the season on a high and come back in Mexico with a positive mentality.

    The disastrous Le Mans for the LMP1 class has seen the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship already narrowed down to being between two cars. This means that for the rest of the season both Toyota Gazoo Racing and Porsche will probably employ team orders to promote the #2 and #8 entrants to score more points. The closest LMP1 car to the lead battle is last year’s champion car with Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy onboard, 55 points behind.

    Jackie Chan DC Racing had one of the best races of their career out in Le Mans. After the #13 Vaillante rebellion was disqualified for illegal alterations to the car’s bodywork, Jackie Chan DC Racing scored a double overall podium. This puts the overall second-place finishers of the #38 car in a comfortable lead in the LMP2 Drivers’ and Team Championships. However, it is still a battle between Rebellion and Jackie Chan Racing as the #31 team are 38 points of the Le Mans class winners. However, Rebellion’s main concern will be the #36 Signatech Alpine who sit third in the championship, only 10 points off them.

    The last minute second place that #67 Ford Chip Ganassi inherited at the end of Le Mans has kept them ahead in the GT Drivers’ Championship. Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Pipo Derrani lead the Le Mans GT Pro class winners of Jonny Adam, Darren Turner and Daniel Serra for the lead of the championship by nine points. Aston Martin have gained an advantage this weekend as the automated BoP has come into action. They will be running lighter than the other competitors in their classes, which could aid them in taking the Championship lead.

    Due to the amount of non-scoring LM GTE Am entrants at Le Mans, the 24-hour event did not cost the #98 Aston Martin Racing team too much. Although ending eighth in class, Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda were awarded points for fourth position, meaning they have only fallen six points behind the new Am Driver’s Trophy competitors #61 Clearwater Racing. With the BoP advantage that Aston Martin is supposed to have this weekend, the sole Aston Martin Am crew could get back ahead of the Ferrari-run team by the end of the weekend.

  • 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 Lead the Way for Nurburgring Practice

    Both Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber have shown that the Porsche 919-Hybrid has a competitively strong pace ahead of this weekend’s 6 Hours of Nurburgring. The Porsche #2 has led both session at the chequered flag, whilst the #1 gave Porsche a one-two as the day came to a close. Aston Martin may have a BoP advantage this weekend, but so far it is yet to be shown. The GT classes, both in Am and Pro, look close on a pace basis. This will hopefully promise some spectacular racing come the six-hour event on Sunday.

    Toyota Gazoo Racing appeared to be on the back foot in the afternoon session of practice. They kept the competition close in the morning, with just three-tenths of a second separating the four LMP1 Hybrid cars, but in the cooler temperatures of the afternoon they could not keep up with Porsche. They were a clear second off the pace in free practice two, and even when Anthony Davidson climbed aboard with a few minutes left he was unable to close the gap to the Porsches ahead.

    ByKolles had a troubled session in the morning, spending most of it in the garage and only getting six laps on the board, but the second practice session looked to be an improvement for the team. This will be the last race that ByKolles compete in as they are taking the second half of the season to test and develop their car ahead of the 2018 season. This decision was made before Le Mans as ByKolles feel they are not currently prepared enough, nor would they be prepared enough if they completed the full season, to take on the new LMP1 Privateers that are joining the field next year.

    Vaillante Rebellion looked to be strong once again. They set the pace in the first practice session and were only two-tenths off the pace-setting #26 G-Drive Racing in the second practice session. However, at the end of the first practice session, the #31 Rebellion made contact with the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche. Both cars were fastest of their respective classes when the contact happened. With only four minutes left on the clock the red flag brought out a premature chequered flag, not allowing for any late improvements.

    But the incident caused some internal damage to the #31 which meant that they were unable to participate in the second practice session. The two teams were called into the stewards office but no further action will be taken with either team. The left side pod of the #31 was damaged and the front of the #77 was damaged, suggesting that the #77 hit the side of the #31. The #31 was also seen in the barrier at the entrance of the pit lane.

    Although the advantage was predicted to be with Aston Martin due to their lighter BoP, it has been Ferrari and Porsche dominating the Am class. The field is close, with only half a second covering the entire class at the end of Free Practice One, so the racing come Sunday is predicted to be intense. Aston Martin Racing has finished both sessions fourth in class so they will be looking for some improvement during the final practice session before qualifying.

    The BoP advantage that Aston Martin believed to have at the start of the weekend has yet to be discovered by either the Pro or Am team. The first practice session saw the Aston duo at the back of the class field whilst AF Corse and Porsche GT Team battled for fastest lap. It seems that Porsche and Ferrari have an advantage in the GT classes and should be the ones to watch come race day.

  • Toyota take Pole for 6 Hours of Nurburgring

    After Porsche dominated Friday, Saturday belonged to Toyota. Taking the fastest lap in final practice and in qualifying, Jose Maria Lopez helped take the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing car to pole position for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring. The close fights for pole position continued down the field, with the biggest advantage a pole sitter had was 0.4 seconds. Both the #26 G-Drive Racing and the #98 Aston Martin Racing cars continue to have an unbroken streak of pole positions this season, whilst Porsche GT Team made it four different manufacturers on pole in Pro in the first four rounds.

    Lopez was a man on a mission after returning to the #7 car for the first time since his crash at the 6 Hours of Silverstone. He proved to the team why he should be in that car by taking the fastest lap in both free practice three and qualifying. Giving Kamui Kobayashi a two-tenth advantage on the second-placed Porsche #2 at the driver change over, it was a nice simple job for the Japanese driver to set a relative lap time that gave them pole position.

    Timo Bernhard tried his hardest to close the gap on the Toyota team, but traffic meant he could get Brendon Hartley and his average lap time any closer than 0.154 seconds. The advantage for the #2 car is that it was not their championship rival Toyota who took the pole position point today, and tomorrow they have the sister Porsche between them. Hartley stated that he hoped team orders would not come into play with so much of the season left, but it can be assumed that Porsche will not risk their championship-contending car losing points to Toyota if they can manipulate the situation.

    The qualifying session for the #8 Toyota was a messy one which cost them in the fight for pole. Although the car had been set-up with more focus on the race, as Anthony Davidson told Speed Chills, LMP2 traffic hindered the majority of their session. Davidson’s teammate Kazuki Nakajima was nearly driven off the track by #35 Signatech Alpine driver Nelson Panciatici. Exiting Bilstein Curve, the LMP2 driver ran Nakajima wide, looking like he had not seen the LMP1 car before swerving away. The #35 has picked up a 30 second stop/go for the incident.

    The drama did not stop there. Davidson went on to explain to Speed Chills that as he was starting his flying lap another LMP2 car came out of the pits, traveling much slower than Davidson, and drifted onto racing line. This compromised Davidson’s fast lap and contributed to the #8 Toyota only managing a fourth-place start, half a second off the pace. Davidson was not happy about the way the LMP2s had driven in the qualifying session, saying that the drivers needed to learn to “Look in their mirrors.”

    Aside from the incidents with the #8 Toyota, the racing in the LMP2 class for pole position was between #26 G-Drive and the Le Mans-winning #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car. Oliver Jarvis was pushing hard to try and close in on the #26, but the G-Drive team proved once again why they have had four consecutive pole positions. The astounding pace of Pierre Thiriet and Ben Hanley, standing in for Alex Lynn who is in New York for Formula E, gave G-Drive Racing their 20th WEC pole position. However, the #26 G-Drive failed scruteneering after qualifying had finsihed because their front barge board was at too steep of an angle. This means that the car will start at the back of the grid, whilst #38 jackie Chan DC Racing inherits its first class pole position of the season and Vaillante Rebellion hold a strong two-three.

    The GTE Pro Le Mans-winning Aston Martin had a bad qualifying session as the team ended up at the back of the class. Multiple infringements for track limits saw lap time after lap time deleted for the team, meaning they could only get an average 1.3 seconds off the time of the pole-sitting #92 Porsche GT Team. This was a positive thing for GT Drivers’ and Team Championship leaders in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi car. With a small disadvantage due to a heavier BoP, Ford have appeared to be on the back foot all weekend. It was a surprise when Olivier Pla managed to jump the #66 up to fastest in class in the final moments of free practice three this morning. The #67 did not have the best qualifying, but they will start ahead of the #97 Aston Martin tomorrow, meaning they have a track advantage. If they can keep the British team behind them they will extend their championship lead before the summer break.

    It was an impressive performance from Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in the #92 Porsche. The Porsche 911 RSRs have been the cars to beat this weekend and look to be in for a tight fight with the AF Corse Ferraris tomorrow. Their pole position today means that all four of the manufacturers in the GTE Pro class this year have taken pole position this season. Four different pole sitters in four races just proves how close the fight between the GT cars is this year. The pole position is also the first for the new Porsche 911 RSR so a great achievement for the team.

    The sole Aston Marin in GTE Am performed spectacularly in qualifying. Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana are the qualifying duo for the team and did not disappoint as they took to the track to take their fourth consecutive pole position of the season. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche, however, cannot be overlooked ahead of tomorrow’s race. The team pushed hard, keeping the pressure on the Aston Martin to the chequered flag. With the two going wheel-to-wheel in tomorrow’s race, the Am class holds the potential for some fantastic on track battles. The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE has also been very quick so far this weekend. Stating from third, the team could really muscle into the fight for class victory.

    The entire grid was very close on pace today, showing that there should be some tight fights come tomorrow’s six-hour endurance event. Make sure to follow @SpeedChillsView on twitter for live updates from trackside as the race unfolds.

    Lights out for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring is at 13:00 CEST.