2016 Favourite Moments

I think we will all agree that 2016 was an epic year for sportscar racing in the FIA WEC. Everyone will have their own standout moments from the season...here are ours. Enjoy!

Race of the year 6 Hours of Fuji

Photograph AdrenalMedia.com

The first hour of the race saw each of the three top manufacturers take the lead, Audi taking the lead at the start before both Toyota and Porsche came through. After 17 laps however, the #7 Audi of Benoit Treluyer was forced to retire with hybrid issues. Audi got the car back out but without the hybrid. The FIA officials told Audi that the car was not compliant with the regulations and so it was withdrawn.

There was a fantastic battle throughout the race in LMP2. At one point, second through to sixth were all stacked up battling with each other. There was a fantastic battle between Richard Bradley (#44) and Gustavo Menezes (#36) which at one point saw Menezes forced wide off the track and airborne over the grass. Luckily, no damage done. Will Stevens took a controversial lead in the final hour, the #26 G-Drive car left the track, crossing the pit exit line to take the lead from the #43 RGR Sports car but was forced to give it back, the #43 went around the outside at 100R. Bruno Senna was unable to hold off the relentless attack of Stevens however who eventually got through with a move down the inside in to turn one.

Aston Martin put on a great show in GTE-Am, dominating the race. Ford took a 1-2 finish in GTE-Pro.

Fuji was Toyota’s first win since Bahrain 2014.

Moments of the year 

There were a number of big moments in 2016, however there are 3 big moments that will stick in everyone’s minds. Heartbreak for Toyota on the final lap of Le Mans, Audi’s decision to retire from the FIA WEC to focus on Formula E and Mark Webber's announcement that he will be retiring from motorsport.

The #5 Toyota with Kazuki Nakajima came to a stop on the start finish straight in front of the main grand stands at Le Mans back in the Summer, an awful site to see given how faultless the team had run to that point. The trio of Nakajima, Davidson and Buemi took the lead during the night but a turbo issue brought the car to a stop with just one lap left to run. The #2 Porsche came charging through to take a hollow victory, no one wants to win a race with the competition falling at the last hurdle. This turn of events however, was crucial for Porsche’s championship hopes with double points on offer.

On October 26th, the shock announcement that Audi were to withdraw from the sport at the end of the season to focus their efforts on Formula E. It marked the end of an 18 year run in Le Mans Endurance Racing in which they have dominated the sport. The announcement was driven by senior management at Volkswagen Auto Group and caused up roar amongst fans.

This is a huge loss for the championship however you look at it and it will be interesting to see how the WEC as a whole, manages with the loss of the biggest name in the sport. How will Porsche and Toyota respond to this and what will LMP1 look like in 2017 and beyond?

The third moment of the year happened on the Thursday before Fuji; Mark Webber announced he was retiring from Motorsport after 25 years of professional racing. Webber arrived on the UK Motorsport scene in 1995 racing Formula Ford. A works drive for Van Diemen Formula Ford quickly followed before moving on through Formula 3, F3000 and GT Racing. This hard work and determination paid off with a 12 year stint in Formula 1 which included 9 wins for Red Bull Racing. Mark Webber’s return to Le Mans in 2014 after a 15 year absence. Many thought he would never return after the incidents in 1999 which saw Webber's CLR get airborne at Indianapolis. Mercedes re-built the car on Friday but Webber got airborne again during warmup and ended up landing on his roof, sliding in to Mulsanne Corner.

With some emergency aero works on the car before the race, Mercedes thought they had fixed the problem; however Peter Dumbreck got airborne down the Mulsanne straight and the car somersaulted in to the trees.

2015 was the closest Webber would get to winning the race with a second place finish.