Speed Chills - GTE-Pro

  • 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.

  • Toyota win in Bahrain, Porsche fill podium

    Porsche LMP1 Team were hoping to end their final season in the World Endurance Championship with a victory but it was not to be as the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing claimed the win. It was a close battle for the LMP2 championship as pit strategy played a big part in the closing stages. It was the #31 Vaillante Rebellion that took the win, gifting Bruno Senna and Julien Canal the LMP2 Endurance Trophy. GTE Pro and Am had looked to have an exciting race at the start, but by the halfway point it had settled into a fairly static race. The #71 AF Corse took a lights-to-flag victory whilst the sister car took second, securing the GT Drivers’ World Endurance Championship. After four years of trying, Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda finally secured the 2017 Am Endurance Trophy.

    The winning trio of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson were the only LMP1 car to not suffer any incidents during the six-hour race. Toyota had the pace on Porsche, but it should have been a closer battle than it was. Because of the carnage behind them, the #8 was the only car to end up on the lead lap at the chequered flag.

    Porsche had to be happy with a double podium at the end of the race, but with that having been unlikely it was a nice send off for the German team. An incident between the #92 Porsche GT Team and the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing in which the #7 made contact and took the #92 out of the race saw the second Toyota drop out of contention, leaving the path clear for Porsche to take a two-three.

    Championship-winning #2 Porsche were taken out of the victory contention early on when a bollard got wedge under Timo Bernhard in the first few minutes. Due to contact between the #1 and the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche that gave the #1 a puncture, the #2 car were able to make up some lost time and take second with the sister car behind.

    Starting from sixth, the #31 Vaillante Rebellion made a great start in the hands of Senna, getting up to second behind a flying Vitaly Petrov in the #25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing within the first hour of the race. It was exactly where they needed to be to secure the championship.

    As the race progressed, tyre and pit stop strategy began to come into play. With the challenging #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing taking stopped about every 20 minutes, the Rebellion duo countered that with longer stints. It put the #38 ahead in the middle of the race, but come the end there was a big pit stop window available for Senna to use and retain the win.

    With a power steering issue, it was predicted that Senna would use his last stop for new tyres and a driver change, bringing them very close on track to the #38 Jackie Chan car. However, in fear of being caught, Senna soldiered on with the issue and only took fuel in his last stop, leaving him with a 30 second advantage on Oliver Jarvis in the #38 behind.

    A crack in the fuel tank cost the #38 some pace, but Jarvis was pushing hard. They finished behind the #31 Rebellion, with ten seconds being the gap between winning and losing the championship.

    #71 had led the race competitively from the start, but the full course yellows that hit the track to clear the stricken #92 Porsche came at the wrong time for them. Having just had their pit stop, they went from a 20 second lead to a 30 second deficit in one lap. AF Corse tried a different strategy, but it did not pay off.

    As they had used the #71 as a guinea pig for the strategy, they had cost them time on track, meaning the #51 sister car was ahead. With just five minutes to go, AF Corse ordered for a car swap so that the #71 took victory. With both the championship rivals of the #51 behind, it did not matter that the car finished second. James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi took the championship.

    It had looked at one point that Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell could claim the win. They were leading with the #51 in third behind the #71, meaning there was enough points between them for the Ford Chip Ganassi team to steal the victory. A fire up issue in their pit stop lost them too much time to stay in the Ferrari fight, so they had to settle with taking their last podium of the season with third.

    Aston Martin, after a promising start to the weekend, could not give the Vantage the send out they wanted to. They could do no better than sixth and seventh at the chequered flag, with Jonny Adam and Darren Turner’s #97 leading the duo.

    After a fight between the #61 Clearwater Racing and the #98 in the first few hours of the race, the Aston Martin got the edge on the Ferrari and took a pleasant dominant race to class victory by 1m17s, claiming their first AM Endurance Championship. The team have had 12 race victories in their four-year career, with four of those being won this season, all pole to flag.

    The two Ferrari-run Am teams joined them on the podium, with Clearwater ahead of Spirit of Race.

    The championship battle everyone was hoping for never really appeared as the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing was not a threat to the Aston at any point of the weekend.