2015 Le Mans 24 Hours – LMP1 Preview

Hello. This is the last of my Class Previews and I saved the top one until last – the battle for the overall win. Last year’s race was unbelievable, this year’s promises to be just as good! The form book suggests a head-to-head between two German heavyweights.. but Le Mans has no respect for form.

Other class previews:  LMP2, GTE Pro, GTE Am;

Once again the usual disclaimer, this is a fan blog and these are just my impressions having seen the first few races but without having yet read or listened to any previews.

LM P1 Summary:  14 Entries (11 from WEC, 3 one-offs)

Le Mans Prototype cars with professional drivers. This top class is the Big Dog, this will decide the overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A car from another class could win outright, but LMP1 cars are so much faster it’ll take something major to rule them out.

With lap times not far off F1 cars and top speeds on the Mulsanne probably higher than them, these are serious machines. LMP1 today is the opposite of the endurance perception:  now they are full attack, with little to no fuel saving, on full grip tyres. Basically a sprint race that lasts a long time! They do this with more advanced hybrid systems, of a completely different design from each manufacturer – true competition! – with more power than last year and more than F1. I am a life-long F1 fan but this is remarkable technology which makes F1’s new kit look out-dated.

Two privateer entrants carry the flag for the independents and long may they continue to do so. LMP1 must always have independents. Though neither team runs those crucial hybrid systems which make such a difference.

All cars in the class run on Michelins.

WEC note: Le Mans counts for WEC double-points but only among entrants registered for the WEC. Non-registered cars are ignored for points purposes. WEC-registered cars are marked with ( W ) after their name.

The Favourite

#7 Audi Sport Team Joest (W) – Audi R18 e-tron quattro – Marcel Faessler, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer

An immensely tricky choice. This year all three Audis and all three Porsches can be considered almost equally likely to win. Should they falter, the two Toyotas will be right there.

#7 Audi e-tron quattro

#7 Audi e-tron quattro (c) P.Wotton

I’ve chosen this car for two reasons:  Firstly, Joest Audi just knows how to win this race. Secondly, Porsche are faster over a lap but the #7 Audi has beaten them in the opening two rounds of this year’s WEC already.
A few years ago, the likes of Kristensen, McNish and Capello were considered greats even when they were still racing. I consider Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer to be their equals. I don’t know why they aren’t seen that way by others, yet for some reason they haven’t yet reached the same level in the public conciousness. They’ve won Le Mans in 2011, 2012 and 2014 and finished 2nd in 2010! You cannot argue that success rate. They have already etched their name into Le Mans history.

The Contenders

#17 Porsche Team (W) – Porsche 919 Hybrid – Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#18 Porsche Team (W) – Porsche 919 Hybrid – Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
#19 Porsche Team – Porsche 919 Hybrid – Nico Huelkenberg, Earl Bamber, Nick Tandy

#18 Porsche

#18 Porsche at speed (c) P.Wotton

I said Audi would have the advantage over the race.. but I think they’ll only get one car ahead of the Porsches. My podium prediction is Audi-Porsche-Porsche and I think Porsche will hold the lead for much of the race. They’ll claim pole and I think it’ll be a clear 1-2-3 in qualifying! Those 919s are fast. How reliable are they? How many stints on tyres can they do? Will any of the guys make unforced errors?

#18 is the stronger car. The trio seem to have found the sweet spot with the car and they took 2nd in the first two WEC races. #17 isn’t far off but it feels trouble attracts it, or vice versa! Yet when your weakest driver is of the calibre of Mark Webber you know you have a strong team.

#19 isn’t registered for WEC points so there’s a choice: run it as a safe backup behind the other two, or run it at the level of the opposition as a spoiler to get in the way, or run it fast as a hare and chase off into the distance to fool the other teams into chasing after it (and hope they break down in the process)?

After so many years together in so many cars in so many races, I still find it odd that Dumas and Bernhard aren’t sharing a car.

#8 Audi Sport Team Joest (W) – Audi R18 e-tron quattro – Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis
#9 Audi Sport Team Joest – Audi R18 e-tron quattro – Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi, Rene Rast

#7 and #8 Audi e-tron quattro

#7 and #8 Audi e-tron quattro (c) P.Wotton

We already know the talents of Duval and di Grassi, we’re quickly learning Jarvis deserves his place among them.

The non-points #9 car is in the same position as Porsche’s #19. We already know Audi typically let their three cars fight for the win. Points be damned, Le Mans is Le Mans. The trio in the #9 are as good as those in #8. Rene Rast is very fast.

Can they go as far on fuel as the Porsches? Indeed, if they can outperform them on tyres does the fuel matter? Questions, questions! The six cars of Audi and Porsche should be fighting all race long!

#1 Toyota Racing (W) – Toyota TS040 Hybrid – Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima
#2 Toyota Racing (W) – Toyota TS040 Hybrid – Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway

#2 Toyota

#2 Toyota (c) P.Wotton

The 2014 Champions aren’t having such a good 2015, unfortunately the pace just doesn’t seem to be in the car. More accurately, the pace is definitely still there and the car is faster than last year, what’s happened is Audi and Porsche jumped ahead.

Toyota know what they are doing and so do all the drivers, every one of them top drawer, no weak link here. But they’ll have to run reliability – no mistakes, no failures – and take advantage of any problems others may have. If they do this they can score a podium – or win if the others break down, which they really might.

An slightly outside bet then, but a serious one. If the Porsches and Audis have even the tiniest problem the Toyotas will be through.

The Unknown Quantity

#21 Nissan Motorsports – Nissan GT-R LM Nismo – Tsugio Matsuda, Mark Shulzhitsky, Lucas Ordonez
#22 Nissan Motorsports (W) – Nissan GT-R LM Nismo – Harry Tinknell, Michael Krumm, Alex Buncombe
#23 Nissan Motorsports (W) – Nissan GT-R LM Nismo – Olivier Pla, Jann Mardenborough, Max Chilton

NISMO Show Car

#23 Nissan NISMO show cars (c) P.Wotton

Tricky. They are confident and the fans are with them. And yet… And yet. This confidence is based on what the car WILL do once it is fully developed. In 2016. Right now though, it is only halfway there. It is in no position to win this race on pace alone. As for reliability and fuel numbers, well they haven’t raced it yet, so nobody knows!

Full credit for exploiting the rules to create such a unique car. It takes the lessons of the Delta Wing and mates them to the LMP1 regulations. At the Test Day it was clearly the fastest in a straight line, even though the lap times weren’t there at all. It was only a test though.

The team didn’t enter the opening two races, is reportedly running on only one of the two hybrid systems, and they haven’t actually raced as a unit yet. They have less of a budget than the other manufacturers. Add in the difficulty in making a novel design actually work, it wouldn’t surprise me if the thing was totally unreliable at this first attempt. No surprise to read Tincknell is focussing on getting the car to the finish, above all else.

What’s a realistic objective? Get one car to the finish in the top 12. Porsche finished 11th on their return just twelve months ago, behind 6 LMP2 cars, now look where they are. If Nissan can finish top 12 overall, or complete a similar number of laps to the top 6 in LMP2, I’d call that a successful return in Year 1. Year 2 is when the fun will happen.

No surprise that #23 (‘Ni San’ in Japanese) has the higher profile drivers. Pla is stellar, Mardenborough ridiculously quick, Chilton the steady hand on the tiller. #22 isn’t too shabby either – Tincknell is my local driver and was a hot shoe in LMP2 – and #21 is right up there in quality, especially Ordonez. The only one I don’t know is Matsuda. An aggressive line up across all three cars, despite their youth many already have Le Mans experience.

They know exactly where they are. That is why they are being so open with the fans, with social media and PR events, open about the car, all the open access. That’ll change next year if and when they become competitive. The walls will close in, expect it. Still, none of the other teams let us in on their development cycle!

The Independents

#12 Rebellion Racing (W) – Rebellion R-One – AER – Nicolas Prost, Nick Heidfeld, Mattias Beche
#13 Rebellion Racing (W) – Rebellion R-One – AER – Alexandre Imperatori, Dominik Kraihamer, Daniel Abt

Rebellion were forced to skip Silverstone and Spa while they sorted out installations issues with the new AER engines after a late choice to swap from Toyota (not the works Toyota engines, something else).
I like the way they go racing so I hope the delay won’t impact their reliability. They need a good solid run to take advantage of the reliability troubles that’ll surely hit the hybrid runners, just as they did last year which netted them 4th place! So: same again please, just slightly faster! That’s why they put in the AER which is so fast in the CLM.
The solid #12 drivers return and will surely be their lead charge. In the #13 Leimer and Belicchi are out, and Imperatori and Abt are in. Imperatori was good for KCMG in the LMP2 class.

#4 Team ByKolles (W) – CLM P1/01 – AER – Simon Trummer, Pierre Kaffer, Tiago Monteiro

#4 ByKolles CLM

#4 ByKolles CLM in parc ferme (c) P.Wotton

This team is doing all of their development in public. In a difference to last year they do appear to be getting faster. The car is changing appearance. Quick in a straight line just not so good in the corners (good engine, bad chassis). Over a lap the car does just about out-run the LMP2 cars but it still can’t run for very long. It was in and out of the pits at Silverstone and at Spa it only did 46 laps (the winner did 176 laps). This was the only privateer entrant at Silverstone and Spa so it was expected they’d build a big points gap over Rebellion – but failing to finish either round means they’ve failed to score. So excluding crashes from others I have every expectation this will be the first official retirement in any class. Klien and Liuzzi look to have been binned, which for their own careers is probably for the best.

2015 Le Mans 24 Hours – LMP2 Preview

Hi. This is the 3rd of 4 posts previewing each class of the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours. I’ve already written about GTE Pro and GTE Am. Now it is time for the biggest class: LMP2 has a whopping 19 entries. I will try to be brief..

Again, disclaimer, this is a fan blog and these are just my impressions having seen the first few races but without having yet read or listened to any previews.

LM P2 Summary: 19 Entries (9 from WEC, 9 from ELMS, 1 one-off)

Le Mans Prototype cars with a Pro/Am driver line-up, similar to GTE Am but with a slightly different configuration between Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze. The specifics aren’t important, what’s important is the way you choose to deploy your lower-ranked driver/s. Do you get the slower guys out of the way early? Do you have the Pro’s deal with the difficult night? And remember, without the Am’s a lot of these teams wouldn’t even be racing – some may want to take the flag themselves.

Slower than LMP1 but faster around a lap than GTE. They have about the same top speed as GTE, the P2s make up their time through the corners. This isn’t ideal when the P2s come to lap the GTEs as it can make for some dicey, late braking moves.

European Le Mans Series P2 teams are strong. Don’t be fooled by the fact they don’t enter the world championship – the rules for their class of the ELMS are the same as for the WEC. Last year the ELMS guys roundly trounced the WEC teams. This year some of them joined the WEC so the split is now 50:50.

WEC note: Le Mans counts for WEC double-points but only among entrants registered for the WEC. Non-registered cars are ignored for points purposes. WEC-registered cars are marked with (W) after their name.


The Favourite

#38 Jota Sport – Gibson 015S – Nissan – Dunlop – Simon Dolan, Mitch Evans, Oliver Turvey

Jota Sport Gibson-Nissan

#38 Jota Sport Gibson-Nissan (c) P.Wotton

This is another class in which you could easily argue there are 2 or 3 equal favourites! I’m forcing myself to make a pick for each class and I can’t look away from Jota. They are likely the favourites for the ELMS title though a win in that series has eluded them this year, with 2nd and 3rd so far. In between those results they won the WEC round at Spa. Turvey is quick, Evans is hungry, Dolan has become one of the top ‘Am’ drivers in the class. They have some very stiff competition though.


The Contenders

Thiriet by TDS

#46 Thiriet by TDS Oreca-Nissan (c) P.Wotton

#46 Thiriet by TDS Racing – Oreca 05 – Nissan – Dunlop – Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey, Tristan Gommendy

This car is equal favourite to Jota and is only in this section because I made myself pick only one favourite per class. This is a very good ELMS team with a solid line-up, despite this strong field I’d be amazed if it doesn’t make the podium. A win at Imola and 3rd at Silverstone prove they mean business with the coupe Oreca after a year struggling with the Ligier.

#26 G-Drive Racing (W) – Ligier JS P2 – Nissan – Dunlop – Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal, Sam Bird
#28 G-Drive Racing (W) – Ligier JS P2 – Nissan – Dunlop – Gustavo Yacaman, Pipo Derani, Ricardo Gonzalez

G-Drive Ligier-Nissan

#28 G-Drive Ligier-Nissan (c) P.Wotton

A win apiece for this team in the WEC. #26 won at Silverstone. #28 won at Spa and took 2nd at Silverstone meaning they hold a handy points lead – no other WEC P2 car scored two podiums out of the opening rounds. Double points though at Le Mans, all to play for.
Theoretically you’d say the #26 should have the edge in driver line-ups in this team, particularly Bird, but perhaps that #28 should be watched too. Yacaman has been wild in the past in IMSA but seems to be taking to WEC P2 racing rather well.

#41 Greaves Motorsport – Gibson 015S – Nissan – Dunlop – Gary Hirsch, Bjorn Wirdheim, Jon Lancaster

Winners at Silverstone ELMS thanks to Lancaster’s, err, ‘forceful’ GP2-style moves to overtake. That sort of driving won’t last long at Le Mans and what’s more, the team and driver are both fast enough not to need it. Could get a win or podium and will likely finish ahead of many fancied WEC runners.

#36 Signatech Alpine (W) – Alpine A450b – Nissan – Dunlop – Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin, Vincent Capillaire

#36 Signatech

#36 Signatech Alpine-Nissan (c) P.Wotton

PLC is one to watch. Some may say ‘miscategorised’! I like the fight they showed in the ELMS last year, now they’re in the WEC and a DNF and a 4th probably aren’t representative of what this team can do. The Alpine A450b is basically an Oreca 03R under another name: older, but proven. (I say that – it was out after 20 laps at Silverstone after a wheel came off!)

#43 Team SARD-Morand (W) – Morgan LMP2 Evo – SARD – Dunlop – Pierre Ragues, Oliver Webb, Zoel Amberg

A troubled start to the year with sponsors walking away, the team skipping Silverstone and a planned second car not appearing. A strong rebound at Spa saw the lone car finish 2nd! Are they a contender? I’m a little unsure, but to pull off a result like that on merit following such troubles, that’s a good sign.


The Upper Midfield


#48 Murphy Prototypes – Oreca 03R – Nissan – Dunlop – Karun Chandhok, Mark Patterson, Nathanael Berthon

This is an odd one. The team has all the hallmarks of one that should be quick but they never seem to have the luck – mechanicals, crashes, you name it. Scored 2nd in the ELMS at Imola but a retirement at Silverstone. I want to say they’re a Contender and I really hope they have a good solid run but you just know something will happen..

#47 KCMG (W) – Oreca 05 – Nissan – Dunlop – Matt Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre

#47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan

#47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan (c) P.Wotton

Steadily building up over the last few years. You sense this team is a growing force. Took 3 wins in last year’s under-subscribed WEC and now showing well against a bigger field. Two LM24 attempts and two DNFs so far, I think they’ll do much better this year but I don’t think it’ll be a win.. yet. Unlucky not to have a second car on the entry list (it is 1st Reserve), perhaps they can focus on this one without distractions. Also has the best livery in the field!

#34 OAK Racing – Ligier JS P2 – Honda – Dunlop – Chris Cumming, Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre
#35 OAK Racing (W) – Ligier JS P2 – Nissan – Dunlop – Jacques Nicolet, Jean-Marc Merlin, Erik Maris

#35 OAK Racing

#35 OAK Racing Ligier-Nissan (c) P.Wotton

OAK Racing is the competition arm of Onroak who make the Ligier and Morgan chassis. As such they’re running cars here with different engines as a showcase, one with a Nissan and one with a Honda/HPD. With these line-ups the Honda car has the driver advantage, Vanthoor and Estre are great talents in GT racing. Yet so far the Nissan has proven the better engine, that’s why most of the field is using it.
There isn’t any doubt about the quality of the team. #34 could be in the ‘Contender’ category – but OAK previously said they didn’t want to race their customers this year so that makes me pull back and wonder whether they’ll slow it down and run this race as a test with both cars.

#42 Strakka Racing (W) – Dome Strakka S103 – Nissan – Dunlop – Nick Leventis, Danny Watts, Jonny Kane

#42 Strakka Dome Nissan

#42 Strakka Dome Nissan (c) P.Wotton

The new car isn’t as quick as it should be. It was also a year late. Finished 3rd at Silverstone only thanks to the troubles of others, because they were 7 laps down and off the pace throughout. The team hopes a change from Michelin, used in the first two races, to the class-leading Dunlop will help their fortunes. I hope so but right now I have insufficient data to realistically call them a contender. The quality of the team itself and of the driver line-up isn’t in question.

The Lower Midfield

#30 Extreme Speed Motorsports (W) – Ligier JS P2 – Honda – Dunlop – Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, David Heinemeier-Hansson
#31 Extreme Speed Motorsports (W) – Ligier JS P2 – Honda – Dunlop – Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, Jon Fogarty


#30 ESM HPD in the wars at Silverstone (c) P.Wotton

What should be a team running further up will likely just be happy to finish the race, after the six months they’ve had! From the new HPD chassis at the IMSA Daytona 24, to the venerable old HPD at Silverstone – which first got damaged and then got excluded – then to the new Ligiers at Spa. So many car changes in such a short time has left the team spinning! This is the sole reason I place my expectations so low – in any other year they’d be higher.
A very good driver line-up and the team has plenty of experience of racing in the ALMS and IMSA. I’m glad they are in the WEC now but I wish they hadn’t had such a bumpy ride so far. Let’s hope for a smooth Le Mans. Won’t be in their usual Tequila Patron bright green as alcohol sponsorship is banned in France.

The Outsiders

#40 Krohn Racing – Ligier JS P2 – Judd – Michelin – Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson, Joao Barbosa

#40 Krohn Ligier-Judd

#40 Krohn Ligier-Judd (c) P.Wotton

Team took part in IMSA’s Daytona & Sebring before joining the ELMS, finding that series a cheaper / less hectic schedule for them around Krohn’s other interests.
Barbosa is acting as ‘guest driver’ and we all know how good he is. He’s become one of the top drivers in IMSA, but before that do you remember he went like dynamite for Rollcentre Racing at Le Mans? Could take class pole. Interesting choice to use him instead of ELMS driver Ozz Negri. Jonsson is also a quick guy. The fortunes of this team will depend on Krohn, who has experience and on some days can be quick for an ‘Am’, yet on others can spin the car every 10 laps like a rookie. After 24 hours they should be clearly ahead of the cars listed below, but perhaps behind most of those listed above.

#27 SMP Racing – BR Engineering BR01 – Nissan – Michelin – Maurizio Mediani, David Markozov, Nicolas Minassian
#37 SMP Racing – BR Engineering BR01 – Nissan – Michelin – Mikhail Aleshin, Kirill Ladygin, Anton Ladygin

Won the WEC last year (via double points at Le Mans) then stepped back to the ELMS to work on this new car. Suffered new-car-woes at Imola after missing round 1 entirely. We’ll know the true pace of the car when Minassian is aboard. Aleshin was a little guilty of over-driving it to make up time. I think one car will likely retire, the other will also DNF or will come home multiple laps down. They’ll keep trying though, until the thing physically won’t move any more.

#29 Pegasus Racing – Morgan LMP2 – Nissan – Michelin – Leo Roussel, Ho-Pin Tung, David Cheng

They haven’t had a good start to the ELMS. A DNF and a low placing at Imola. Ho-Pin Tung is a known quantity (for better or worse). David Cheng, name rings a bell.. I know he’s been in the PC class in IMSA but I don’t remember much more. I don’t know Roussel. The Morgan is an older open-top car.

#45 Ibanez Racing Oreca-Nissan

#45 Ibanez Racing Oreca-Nissan (c) P.Wotton

#45 Ibanez Racing – Oreca 03R – Nissan – Dunlop – Jose Ibanez, Pierre Perret, Ivan Bellarosa

Running the older open-top Oreca. Didn’t really have the speed in the opening ELMS races, mostly through inexperience from the team and drivers. I like it when new teams appear so I hope they keep running as it’ll encourage them to improve and come back.


2015 Le Mans 24 Hours – GTE Pro Preview

Hello. This is the second of my previews for the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours. See my GTE-Am preview here.

Again, disclaimer, this is a fan blog and these are just my impressions having seen the first few races but without having yet read or listened to any previews.

LM GTE Pro Summary: 9 Entries (7 from WEC and 2 from IMSA)

GT Endurance cars with an all-Pro driver line-up. This makes for a frantic 24-hour sprint race where the tiniest margin matters.

GTE Pro is the GT class where manufacturers go to prove their roadgoing cars. The big battle is between Aston Martin, Ferrari, Corvette and Porsche.

Although this class has the smallest entry in the field, it is the class with the highest average level of quality. You won’t find a car or driver here that you’d scratch your head about, and you can’t say that about the other classes. I’m not joking or exaggerating when I say any car can win. Most drivers here are employed by the car manufacturers themselves, being paid to race, and most are good enough to race in LMP1 or F1 which shows how seriously those companies take this class.

WEC note: Le Mans counts for WEC double-points but only among entrants registered for the WEC. Non-registered cars are ignored for points purposes. WEC-registered cars are marked with (W) after their name.


The Favourite

#51 AF Corse (W) – Ferrari 458 Italia – Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella

AF Corse at Silverstone

AF Corse at Silverstone (c) P.Wotton

Although in GTE Am I said the Aston would hold the advantage, and that car will be strong, I just can’t shake off the feeling AF Corse will win in Pro. The Ferraris are always quick, Bruni and Vilander are nearly unbeatable, and Fisi is really on form as well.

Though I’m forcing myself to pick a favourite, in reality another 3 or 4 cars could be considered joint favourites! It may be the smallest class but it the one with highest quality entry.


The Contenders

#95 Aston Martin Racing (W) – Aston Martin Vantage GTE – Marco Sorensen, Nicki Thiim, Christoffer Nygaard
#97 Aston Martin Racing (W) – Aston Martin Vantage GTE – Darren Turner, Stefan Muecke, Rob Bell
#99 Aston Martin Racing (W) – Aston Martin Vantage GTE – Fernando Rees, Alex MacDowell, Richie Stanaway

Aston Martins at Silverstone

Aston Martins at Silverstone (c) P.Wotton

#97 and #95 (in that order) should be the big contenders for the race win yet they are both at the bottom of the WEC standings. I do think they’ll be fast at Le Mans, they just have to avoid errors.

#99 in theory is the weaker car but nobody told them that – they sit 2nd in WEC team points with a win at Spa! This crew of younger guns is hungry to prove something. Keep an eye on this car.

#71 AF Corse (W) – Ferrari 458 Italia – Davide Rigon, James Calado, Olivier Beretta

I put this a little behind the #51 but not far. I’m not quite sure where to place it versus the Aston Martins. They are at the same level! A podium contender for certain, and possibly also the win.

Porsche at Silverstone

Porsche at Silverstone (c) P.Wotton

#91 Porsche Team Manthey (W) – Porsche 911 RSR – Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen, Joerg Bergmeister
#92 Porsche Team Manthey (W) – Porsche 911 RSR – Patrick Pilet, Fred Makowiecki, Wolf Henzler

As with the Porsche in the Am class, the nature of the LM circuit may count against outright speed at the 24 Hours. The Ferraris and Astons seem either to have something more or they have the better BoP. This is Manthey though so they’ll be in contention, they’ll find a way. The #91 scored 2nd at Silverstone, before the team took 2nd (#92) and 3rd (#91) at Spa.

With a field of this quality it is hard to say which car has the best driver line-up in the Pro class but I think my pick is the #92.

#63 Corvette Racing-GM – Chevrolet Corvette C7.R – Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Ryan Briscoe
#64 Corvette Racing-GM – Chevrolet Corvette C7.R – Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Jordan Taylor

This IMSA team is one of the best GT teams on the planet, but nowadays they only really meet their LM opposition actually at Le Mans, which makes it hard to judge where they’ll place and how fast they’ll be. They prefer to run a conservative race, sticking to a race pace to preserve reliability, and let the others go chasing speed and will pick up the pieces when those fall by the wayside in trying. It hasn’t quite worked as well as it did in the GT1 era but it did get them 2nd place last year. But don’t think they aren’t fast, when they want to be.

And that’s it!

Every car in the field is a contender. There are no ‘midfielders’ or ‘tailenders’ in this class, every car has a legitimate shot to win. This is why you NEED to be watching GTE Pro.

2015 Le Mans 24 Hours – GTE Am Preview

Hello everyone. It was Racing Christmas 2 last week – Monaco, Indy, Charlotte, etc – and what an epic weekend it was. Now we’re into June and that means one thing: Racing Christmas 3 and what could be the best Le Mans in years!

Inspired by Andy The Speedgeek’s Daytona 24 Hours class-by-class previews I thought I’d preview each class of the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours. (Daytona 24 is Racing Christmas 1). This isn’t the first thing of Andy’s I’ve ‘stolen’, I’m hoping this’ll go a little better.

A short bit on each entry, one post per class, in reverse class order with the slowest first. This satisfies my sense of order and also the classes line up in exactly the order of how interesting I find them (LMP1 the most interesting). That’s not to say you should ignore GTE Am though, you must keep an eye on it!

Disclaimer – This is a fan blog. I have no insider information. Due to time constraints I haven’t followed much news from Sunday’s Test Day and I’m deliberately ignoring any previews until after I’ve written my own. I want these posts to be my best guess rather than an echo chamber for the experts you should really be listening to from RLM, DSC, Racer, S365, etc.

I have seen both World Endurance Championship races this year and both European Le Mans Series races, and most of the IMSA Tudor Championship too, however a final word of warning – my memory is abysmal.

LM GTE Am Summary: 14 Entries (7 from WEC, 2 from IMSA, 2 from ELMS, 2 from Asian LMS, 1 one-off)

GT Endurance cars which must have a Pro/Am driver line-up. (Although the class is called ‘Am’ a car can run with one Pro driver).

I like GTE Am. When GT1 died and GT2 got turned into GTE, with a separate Pro class and a Pro/Am class, I thought we’d all focus on the flat-out Pro race and could safely ignore a boring Am race – how wrong I was!

GTE Am is strategic. The strategy comes from the driver line up. It is regulated, you have to decide what combination of Platinum and Gold (Pro), and Silver and Bronze (Am), drivers to run to fit the drive-time rules and when in the race to run them. Do you use your Silver & Bronze time early, or do you put the Pro’s in overnight? Eventually it all equals out because everyone is (in theory) running to the same rules.

WEC note: Le Mans counts for WEC double-points but only among entrants registered for the WEC. Non-registered cars are ignored for points purposes. WEC-registered cars are marked with (W) after their name.


The Favourite

#98 Aston Martin Racing (W) – Aston Martin Vantage GTE – Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda

Won at both Silverstone and Spa. The only things stopping this will be the #83 Ferrari, the BoP at Le Mans, or simply the vagaries of crashes, contact and reliability at the big race. I think the Ferrari will have the speed at this place but the Aston will win in the long run.

The Contenders

#83 AF Corse (W) – Ferrari 458 Italia – Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard, Rui Aguas
#55 AF Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia – Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin, Alex Mortimer

AF Corse Ferrari

#83 AF Corse Ferrari at Silverstone (c) P.Wotton

AF Corse, the Ferrari powerhouse. The #83 is the WEC-scoring car. It was second at both Silverstone and Spa and a very strong contender for the win and Championship. I still think the Aston will edge it but it’ll be a close run thing!

The #55 is AF Corse’s ELMS car. Cameron and Griffin took 3 wins out of 5 in the ELMS last year with this team (and Michele Rugalo) and are a great pairing.

Both cars will be strong.

no.50 Larbre Corvette

#50 Larbre Corvette (c) P.Wotton

#50 Larbre Competition (W) – Corvette C7.R – Gianluca Roda, Paulo Ruberti, Kristian Poulsen

Larbre know how to win this race. Strong contender especially with the new Corvette, the driver line-up is pretty good too… but finished laps down at Silverstone and recorded a DNF at Spa so making the finish is the only question mark. One-car effort up against the might of the Ferraris and the rapid Astons. Want an underdog that has a real chance? Pick this car.

#72 SMP Racing (W) – Ferrari 458 Italia – Viktor Shaitar, Andrea Bertolini, Aleksey Basov

no.72 SMP Ferrari

#72 SMP Ferrari (c) P.Wotton

Bertolini is still rapid. Shaitar and Basov seem reasonable enough. This car finished 3rd in class at both Silverstone and Spa which I suspect surprised a lot of people – it surprised me. I thought the tie-in with AF Corse had ended. Could find itself in stealthy contention while everyone is watching AMR and AF. May not be a fan favourite, yet definitely one to watch.

The Upper Midfield

no.88 Proton Porsche

#88 Proton Porsche (c) P.Wotton

#88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing (W) – Porsche 911 RSR (991) – Christian Ried, Khaled al Qubaisi, Klaus Bachler

Top notch driver line-up in this class and nothing wrong with the team. I’m just not convinced of the pace of the Porsches at Le Mans. If the Balance of Performance is working for it then this’ll be a contender too, no question, but the Aston and Ferrari always seem to have the edge at Le Mans and in the WEC.

#66 JMW Motorsport – Ferrari 458 Italia – Abdulaziz al Faisal, Kuba Giermaziak, Michael Avenatti

I nearly put this in the ‘Contenders’ section and may regret not doing so. One of only two ELMS entrants to make the big race (unless a Reserve gets in). The only car in the combined GT field to run on Dunlop tyres, as everyone else is on Michelins, an advantage or disadvantage? The team usually runs well at Le Mans and has a decent driver line-up. Solid top 6 expected.

#62 Scuderia Corsa – Ferrari 458 Italia – Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Jeff Segal

Quality entrant from the GTD (GT3) class in IMSA in the US with a first rate driver line up but this is the team’s first attempt at Le Mans – although significant team members & drivers have been before. Full credit to them for doing it themselves rather than tying up with a European team. If they figure out Le Mans they could be another contender I’ve underestimated.

The Others

#61 AF Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia – Peter Ashley Mann, Raffaele Gianmaria, Matteo Cressoni

Another of AF’s fleet, this is their one-off LM entry. It’ll be in the mix somewhere but surely not all of their cars can be up front..?

#53 Riley Motorsports – Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R – Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating, Marc Miller

IMSA entrant from the US. Car ran solidly but off pace at Le Mans in 2013, after that they made upgrades to the car which helped it to the 2014 IMSA title before the programme got canned. Back now without factory backing but with those upgrades and a good driver line-up, it will be interesting to see how it fares this year. Bleekemolen is the Pro and is probably the fastest driver entered in the entire class. I can’t classify it anywhere other than here simply due to lack of data.

#77 Dempsey-Proton Racing (W) – Porsche 911 RSR (991) – Patrick Dempsey, Pat Long, Marco Seefried

The second Proton car is the one with the driver who does acting from time to time. Long and Seefried we know are very quick. Dempsey himself led the Am class on merit a year ago until an LMP2 car knocked him into a spin. Hopefully that pace reappears from him this year but it was lacking at Silverstone and Spa so my expectations are low.

#96 Aston Martin Racing

#96 Aston Martin Racing (c) P.Wotton

#96 Aston Martin Racing (W) – Aston Martin Vantage GTE – Roald Goethe, Stuart Hall, Franscesco Castellacci

As above I predict AMR will have the fastest car. but with the #96 the driver lineup lets it down. Goethe blows hot and cold but as he’s the one providing the Gulf funding you can’t really argue if he wants to have a go! I expect a few spins but they should make it home, albeit a few laps down.

The Outsiders

#67 Team AAI – Porsche 911 GTR RSR (997) – Jun-San Chen, Xavier Maassen, Alex Kapadia
#68 Team AAI – Porsche 911 RSR (991) – Han-Chen Chen, Gilles Vannelet, Mike Parisy

Team AAI get the entries from the Asian Le Mans Series. Teaming with Prospeed Competition for Le Mans is smart and should almost guarantee a solid run, but I can’t recommend a team when I’ve never heard of four of the drivers. Maassen is solid, Kapadia was quick the few times I saw him in LMP2 (his website is called wiKapadia.com – good punnery means I support him). Interestingly, the lone old-spec 997 Porsche in the race has been given to the quick guys of this team. It’ll outpace the newer car which I doubt will finish.

Onboard – Laurens Vanthoor’s Pole Lap at the Bathurst 12 Hour

In qualifying for last weekend’s Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, Laurens Vanthoor set a new qualifying record in a time of 2m02.5521s in his Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 car. Vanthoor has uploaded the onboard video of this lap to Facebook and you have to see it!

If you only count race laps for the lap record, his team-mate Markus Winkelhock set a 2m03.3091s in the race and that’s a new record for a tintop, a frankly ridiculous 4 seconds faster than the V8 Supercar record from the Bathurst 1000, and only a little off the 2m02.6701s outright race lap record set by a Formula 3 car in a much shorter race not a 12 hour enduro.

The speed and commitment at the top of the hill is incredible, I have absolutely no idea how these guys do it!

  • Driver:  Laurens Vanthoor
  • Team:  Phoenix Racing
  • Car:  Audi R8 LMS Ultra
  • Track:  Mount Panorama, Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia



Le Mans 2014

Although I didn’t post anything here I did do some Le Mans preview posts for Sidepodcast:

Le Mans Recharged – I did a bit of reading around to explain about the new rules and very different hybrid systems in the top LMP1 class.

Floating Points – the World Endurance Championship points situation before the race.

There is also a live thread here.

It has been a good race so far, lots of incidents and great racing. Let’s hope the rest of the race is just as good!

FIA WEC Silverstone 2014 – Mini Preview

I’m off to Silverstone tomorrow for the FIA World Endurance Championship opener, but who is there and what does it all mean?



Toyota Racing once again rely heavily on former Formula 1 talent for their LMP1 roster; Alex Wurz and Kaz Nakajima join with Stephane Sarrazin in the #7 TS040, with the #8 crew formed by Ant Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Nico Lapierre (A1GP winner).

Over at Audi Sport, former Pirelli tester Lucas di Grassi takes the seat of Allan McNish in the #1 R18 e-tron quattro, alongside Loic Duval and Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen. The #2 car of 2012 LM24 winners Fassler, Lotterer and Treluyer is not to be counted out.

Porsche makes a return to the Prototype ranks with their new 919 Hybrid, Mark Webber is the obvious name to look for in the #20 car and he shares with Brendon Hartley who has impressed for other teams in the LMP2 class and elsewhere, and top sportscar stalwart and Le Mans winner (while loaned from Porsche to Audi) Timo Bernhard. The #14 is shared by top sportscar talent Romain Dumas (another LM-winner when loaned to Audi), Marc Lieb and Neel Jani, the latter you may know from Champ Car and A1GP.

LMP1 is split into two sub-divisions this year and these three heavyweight teams compete in a category called LMP1-H, or ‘Le Mans Prototype 1 – Hybrid’. This features energy recovery and fuel flow regulations similar to, but more open than Formula 1 in 2014. This allows each of the three teams to run a different hybrid solution. The rules are complex but the simplest explanation is to say a team can choose how much energy it can recover with their hybrids, anything from 0-8 MJ per lap of Le Mans (and this is adjusted by a ratio for the other tracks). The more energy you recover in this way, the less fuel flow per lap you are allowed. Toyota and Porsche are at 6MJ and, in a surprise, Audi at just 2MJ at this opening round. Last year’s restrictions on only operating hybrid above 120 km/h and in specific zones, has been removed.

Audi: 4.0 litre turbo V6 running on diesel, with a single hybrid system on the front axle with energy stored by flywheel; Audi elected to run to 2MJ rules, so less hybrid power in exchange for more fuel flow per lap compared to their rivals.
Toyota: 3.7 litre normally-aspirated V8 running on petrol, with a dual hybrid system using front and rear axles with energy stored in supercapacitors; Toyota are running to the 6MJ rules with the ability to use more recovered power, the talk I’ve heard on Radio Le Mans suggests they can do 8MJ easily if they want to, just not necessarily over a full stint.
Porsche: 2.0 litre turbo V4 running on petrol, with a dual hybrid system with F1-style braking recovery on the front axle and exhaust energy recovery on the rear. Porsche are also running to the 6MJ rules.


The other ‘branch’ of the top class is LMP1-L, or ‘Le Mans Prototype 1 – Light’. This is aimed at privateer entries without manufacturer backing who cannot afford all this expensive hybrid stuff. There were due to be three entrants here too, but all three have run into supply difficulties building their new cars – especially with the common motorsport supplier base also having to work around the new F1 rules – so none of those cars are here.
Thankfully one of the teams has very sportingly decided to bring along their Lolas from last year for one last hurrah, and Rebellion Racing must be applauded. Their lead line-up in car #12 features Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost alongside Mathias Beche. The #13 car has the pairing of Dom Kraihamer and Andrea Belicchi and remarkably they are joined by 2013 GP2 Champion Fabio Leimer. What does it say about GP2 (or Leimer?) when the Champ isn’t signed by an F1 team?
Lotus are one of the other teams and when they rejoin the series it will be with ex-Minardi ex-Spyker man Christijan Albers. OAK Racing were also building a car but seem to have put it off to 2015.


The second prototype category is for privateer teams who buy chassis and engines. The dominant powerplant in LMP2 globally is now Nissan and they power the whole WEC LMP2 field, sat in the back of chassis from Oreca, Morgan (OAK), or Dome. The important note here regarding drivers is that this is a Pro-Am category.

Sadly the best and most high-profile teams have all withdrawn from Silverstone either because their new cars aren’t ready (Strakka Racing), or their financial backers are having a bit of difficulty (Millennium / ADR). This is a shame as it costs us the sight of last week’s Long Beach Grand Prix winner Mike Conway, and former F1 drivers Shinji Nakano and Stefan Johansson, as well as rapid drivers Oliver Turvey, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane.

We do still have Nicolas Minassian for SMP Racing although his team-mates across both cars are obscure to me to say the least. An interesting addition is Asian Le Mans Series team KCMG and it’ll be fascinating to see how they get on. Also SMP Racing from Russia, who have cars entered in the ELMS as well.

Hopefully the field bulks out a bit for the next round at Spa. In the meantime, the best LMP2 racing this weekend will be in the supporting ELMS.


Grand Touring Endurance for cars based on road-going sportscars is split into two classes, a Pro class and an Am class. The cars are identical but the latter, like LMP2, runs to a Pro Am format (a mix of some professionals and some.. not) whereas the former is stacked with top professionals throughout.

GTE Pro is the one to watch. It features:

Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander driving the #51 AF Corse Ferrari. Their #71 car will have hot GP2 talent James Calado and former Superleague Formula champion Davide Rigon.
Ram Racing’s #52 Ferrari has Alvaro Parente, who was hot in GP2 and WSR not so long ago, along with Matt Griffin who is very fast.
Then you have two Porsches, you can never count out the likes of Bergmeister, Tandy, Pilet, Holzer, Makowiekci and Lietz.
Finally there are the two Aston Martins. No Bruno Senna at this race, but they do have Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke and I wouldn’t necessarily rule out MacDowall, O’Young and Rees who might struggle against this field but should be there at the end.

GTE Am may be Pro Am but the Ams are quite good these days, and the Pros could race anywhere.
AF Corse signed GP2 man and Mercedes F1 tester Sam Bird for the #81 car at Silverstone and Le Mans.
Ram Racing are another team present in both GT classes, they have Johnny Mowlem and former ‘Stig’ Ben Collins.
Aston Martin are here too, with the all-Danish car likely a contender, programmer David Heinemeier Hansson is no slouch. Their other car has Pedro Lamy who is both an asset and a liability at times, at least when he did LMP1 for Peugeot!

My bets for the wins at Silverstone:
LMP1-H: Toyota #7
LMP1-L: Rebellion #12
LMP2: G-Drive Oak Racing #26
GTE Pro: Porsche #91
GTE Am: Ram Racing Ferrari #53

Full entry list.


The 6 Hours of Silverstone starts at 12:00 on Sunday with coverage on MotorsTV, Eurosport and Eurosport Player, the FIAWEC.com website and app (both subs), and in audio at RadioLeMans.com.

European Le Mans Series

Silverstone also sees the opening round of the ELMS with a 4-hour race at 2.30pm on Saturday again with coverage on MotorsTV, RadioLeMans.com and I think the ELMS website.

The ELMS features the LMP2 class and a much larger field of them than the WEC, and a little more variety in chassis and engine combinations.

Notable names include Christian Klein (#43 Morand Racing) and Karun Chandhok (#48 Murphy Prototypes), but I think it’ll come down to a battle between Jota Sport’s #38 with Filipe Albuquerque (who’ll drive the Audi #3 at Spa and Le Mans) and Harry Tincknell, whose manager is none other than Allan McNish, up against the #41 Greaves Motorsport car of ALMS winner Chris Dyson and ultra-fast Tom Kimber-Smith.

There is only one GTE class in ELMS and it runs to the same rules at WEC GTE Am. There are a whole fleet of Ferraris, 8 of them in a 13-car class. One of them is driven by footballer Fabien Barthez who apparently won the French GT championship last year, so look out for the #58 Team Sofrev-ASP entry. I think AF Corse will win this class, though they could be pushed hard by the Aston Martin and Gulf Racing teams.

The 3rd class here is GTC where the cars run to GT3 rules. A nice big field of 15 cars full of names I’ve never heard of makes it hard to pick a winner, but look out for Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen in the #60 Formula Racing Ferrari. Ultimately though I think it will be hard to look beyond the car of Alex ‘son of Martin’ Brundle and Ricardo Gonzalez in the #99 McLaren of GP2 team ART Grand Prix. Mika Salo was due to race this class but I think their car has been withdrawn.

My winners at Silverstone:
LMP2: Jota Sport #38
GTE: AF Corse #55
GTC: ART Grand Prix #99

Full entry list.

Depending on battery and coverage I will be attempting to tweet from @toomuchracing on Saturday and Sunday, and possibly uploading to my new Instagram accounts either @toomuchracing or @patwotton.