Race Calendars: FIA WEC 2019/20

Race dates for FIA WEC 2019/20

FIA_WEC_logo    24_le_mans_logo_detail

2019 FIA WEC

*As at 26 August 2019*

1 Sep 4 Hours of Silverstone Silverstone with ELMS
6 Oct 6 Hours of Fuji Fuji Speedway
10 Nov 4 Hours of Shanghai Shanghai International
14 Dec 8 Hours of Bahrain Bahrain International
1 Feb 6 Hours of Sao Paulo Autodromo Carlos Pace
20 Mar (Friday) 1000 Miles of Sebring Sebring International with IMSA
25 Apr 6 Hours of Spa Spa-Francorchamps
13-14 Jun 24 Heures du Mans Circuit de la Sarthe

From Autumn to Summer & New Race Lengths

The FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) returns to an annual schedule again, after the transition of the long “Superseason” which included two editions of the Le Mans 24H, with every season now starting in the autumn.

The 2019/20 season will be the first in WEC to run through the Northern Hemisphere’s autumn/winter/spring, with summer being the new off-season.

The other change this season is to vary the race distances following fan survey feedback which asked the series to mix up the race lengths from race to race, rather than have every round being 6 Hours except for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The season opener (this week!) is the 4 Hours of Silverstone. On the one hand it seems a little harsh to chop two hours from one of the most popular rounds of the season and I am disappointed by it. On the other hand, this is the only routine WEC round to feature a further 4 hour race for the European Le Mans series on the Saturday. 8 hours of multi-class racing is quite a good deal. ELMS races are can be quite frantic, I wonder if we’ll see that intensity in WEC again?

Similarly, the other big sports car festival is the successful Sebring event. The WEC joins up for the second time with the popular IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship weekend. IMSA retains the prestigious, decades-old 12 Hours of Sebring, with the WEC running a separate 1000 Mile (8 Hour) race on the Friday evening. It works where COTA didn’t because it is simple: put the sports car racing in front of the sports car fans.

Fuji, Shanghai and Spa all continue on the calendar although Shanghai is reduced to a 4 hour race. Fuji is popular among Japanese fans. I really do think the Asian Le Mans Series should share a weekend with WEC either at Fuji or Shanghai. Then the WEC would pair with all the continental series at least once.

Bahrain returns after a year away and is extended to an 8-hour ‘into-the-night’ race. Interlagos is back after a few years away, this time the race will be on February 1st. These two rounds eliminate the massive gap between Shanghai and Sebring. Indeed Bahrain’s race is just 10 days before Christmas – there is no off-season these days!

And of course Le Mans is on the traditional 13th/14th June weekend.

End Of An Era

And this will be the final season with the current LMP1 cars. Quite what the “hypercar” era will bring us 12 months from now isn’t quite clear, at the moment it looks like two Toyotas, two Aston Martins and a whole lot of unknowns.

“Hypercar” is planned to be some 8-10 seconds slower around Le Mans than a current LMP1 car, a similar pace to a current LMP2 car. That’s probably 3-4 seconds slower at somewhere like Silverstone.

So you can expect both sets of existing prototypes to be slowed down to run behind the new ‘premier class’. GTE cars shouldn’t be affected. Therefore this is the final WEC season where you can watch this generation of LMP1 and LMP2 cars unrestricted.

And I’ve seen that Toyota TS050 live (and the Porsche 919 when it was there). You want to see that acceleration and direction change in person while you can.

Links

Google/iCal Calendar links:   ICAL  -or-  HTML

For more championships click here.

Races Watched (2019 Week 16): WEC COTA 2017

Week 16:  15-21 April 2019

A very quiet weekend in the racing world. The only active series were those I don’t follow closely, but that’s probably my fault for not following British GT as closely I should.

In the UK it was Easter Bank Holiday weekend with Good Friday and Easter Monday off work. The sun was out so I didn’t spend a lot of time indoors watching racing and I opted out of going to Oulton Park’s British GT due to other goings on.

It was a good opportunity to continue my endurance racing catch up which I did on Sunday evening. There’s little point blogging it for an audience because frankly none of you care about a race that happened 18 months ago but I did it anyway because I like the practice of writing weekly.

2017 FIA WEC – R6 – 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas
Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA
Took place 16th September 2017
Watched 21st April 2019

Qualifying:
LMP1:  Porsche, Porsche, Toyota, Toyota;
LMP2:  Signatech, Rebellion, Jackie Chan DC, Rebellion;
GTE Pro:  AF Corse, Ford Ganassi, Aston Martin, AF Corse;
GTE Am:  Aston Martin, Spirit of Race, Clearwater, Dempsey-Proton;

Just four cars in LMP1 for the last few races of the 2017 season and Porsche’s 919 was clearly faster than Toyota’s TS050, just as it was in Mexico. Yet the Toyotas had better low speed boost, the traction off the corner visibly better and they got past the no.2 Porsche in the early laps. Toyota then ran 1-2 by not taking tyres at the first pitstops when the Porsches did. That made a race of it for the next hour! They’d play strategy all race.

LMP2 teams were single-stinting drivers due to the high heat. Really close racing in the class. Signatech Alpine were the class of the field, though in the middle Alex Brundle’s Jackie Chan DC Racing car pulled a big lead for a while. This class was the one most affected by tyre regulations (just 4 sets for a 6 hour race) on a high degradation track, so the order changed a lot based on who was single-stinting and double-stinting tyres.

GTE Pro again had really good close, clean racing this time between the Aston of Nicki Thiim and the two AF Corse Ferraris in the first hour. Thiim had got the lead through the melee of turn one lap one when all the cars spread out wide. In the 2nd hour the Ferraris got clear. Despite qualifying last, the Porsche GTs had great race pace and caught the Ferraris.

GTE Am’s pole-sitting Aston Martin had Paul Dalla Lana driving first so we found him fall behind the Pro drivers early and the two Ferraris pull away. It turned around later when Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy raced through the pack.

A Safety Car just after halfway after the Gulf Porsche spun twice. That allowed the GT Porsche to catch and overtake the Ferraris for the Pro lead. But with 12 minutes to go the leading no. 51 Ferrari had a slow puncture, the pit stop put Ferrari and Porsche side by side for the lead! The Ferrari would just about come out on top.

And within 10 minutes to go the lead Porsche 919s swapped places, team orders, the No. 1 slowing to allow No. 2 to win. That gives the No.2 car its 4th consecutive win including Le Mans and a handy points lead, while No.1 failed to score back at the double-points Le Mans and so is the sacrificial lamb.

As ever in WEC the field spread out in the last couple of hours but there were stories all the way through. I was expecting to be able to F.Fwd through chunks and get the race done in 5 hours or less, I ended up not skipping any of it.

LMP1

  1. No. 2 Porsche 919 – Hartley, Bernhard, Bamber [4th win of the year];
  2. No. 1 Porsche 919 – Lotterer, Tandy, Jani;
  3. No. 8 Toyota TS050 – Buemi, Nakajima, Sarrazin;

LMP2

  1. No. 36 Signatech Alpine – Lapierre, Menezes, Negrao  [1st win of the year];
  2. No. 13 Rebellion – Piquet Jr, Beche, Heinemeier Hansson;
  3. No. 31 Rebellion – Senna, Prost, Canal  [5th podium of the year];

GTE Pro

  1. No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari – Calado, Pier Guidi  [2nd win of the year];
  2. No. 92 Porsche – Christensen, Estre;
  3. No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari – Rigon, Bird;

GTE Am

  1. No. 98 Aston Martin – Dalla Lana, Lamy, Lauda  [2nd win of the year];
  2. No. 61 Clearwater Ferrari – Sun Mok, Sawa, Griffin;
  3. No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari – Castellacci, Flohr, Molina;

The next WEC race was the 6 Hours of Fuji, though the ELMS 4 Hours of Spa is next on my list by calendar date.

Next Week

The weekend of 26th to 28th April, a fairly busy one depending on your interests. My pick of the week is Baku because that race is crazy fun.

  • F1 Azerbaijan GP at Baku (with F2 support);
  • Formula E in Paris;
  • VLN 3 at the Nordschleife;
  • GT Open at Paul Ricard;
  • Blancpain America at VIR;
  • WTCR at Hungaroring;
  • BTCC at Donington Park;
  • WRC in Argentina;
  • NASCAR at Talledega;

I will watch F1 and Formula E. If the weather is terrible Saturday I may stay home and watch VLN. I plan to catch up on BTCC and WTCR at the end of the year as, guess what, I’m two years behind!

Oh and it’s the London Marathon on Sunday morning and that’s often a good watch if you like endurance racing of any type.

COMMENT: 16/17 June 2018 Le Mans

In some 17 years of following the race from afar, the 2018 edition wouldn’t rank in my top ten or fifteen. On the positive side there were some prominent highlights: a worthy winning team, a true test of endurance among the new LMP1 cars, some fascinating F1 visitors with very different approaches, a much better GT race than expected. And I once again enjoyed being a tiny part of the online endurance racing family.

Continue reading “COMMENT: 16/17 June 2018 Le Mans”

Weekend Preview: 16/17 June 2018 Le Mans

It’s the big one, the 24 Hours of Le Mans!

Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.

There are 60 cars with 180 drivers. 60 stories to follow. Three class races other than LMP1. Please do not belittle all of that just because the race for the win might be boring!

Continue reading “Weekend Preview: 16/17 June 2018 Le Mans”

How To Watch A 24 Hour Race (From Home)

It is easy to write a preview for the next big race, but actual journalists already do that.

I thought instead I would write a guide for how to watch a 24 hour endurance race, such as Le Mans or Daytona or Spa, if you are watching from home. You can adapt this strategy for 12 or 10 hour races like Sebring or Petit Le Mans.

Background

Search for the website of the championship or event to find an Entry List, see if you can spot any drivers and teams you’ve heard about. This is your ‘in’, your way in to understanding the race.

Check www.spotterguides.com to see if Andy Blackmore has drawn up the liveries for this race so you can spot the cars – and cross them off in marker pen when they retire.

Have a look at some sports car news sites such as Racer.com, DailySportscar.com and Sportscar365.com, so you can see what’s been going on.

Timing

Live timing helps a lot. TV graphics are okay, but they never show what you want when you want it.

Live timing shows last lap time for each car and the gaps to the cars – so you can see who is gaining on the cars ahead and who is losing time. It shows the number of pit stops made, so you can work out strategy.  It also shows the number of laps done by each car – in this type of racing the gaps can run to multiple laps. If a car falls behind you need to be able to see if it gets a lap back.

When you learn how to read it you almost don’t even need the TV pictures, you can understand and enjoy it from the data feed alone – or data feed and radio coverage.

Commentary

It is important to find a commentary team providing detail to the level needed, without making it dry. The gold standard is RadioLeMans.com and IMSA Radio. Check to see whether these guys & girls are covering the race you’re watching. They do Le Mans, WEC, IMSA and more.

Countless people watch whatever TV or streaming is provided, put it on mute, and listen to RLM instead.

The Eurosport commentary at Le Mans can be good too, depending what shift it is.

Set up

You could just flick on the TV if you like, dipping in and out, which is great if you just want to chill out watching some cool cars racing. And this is a great way to get a taste for this style of racing and just start absorbing who is who without pressure. But you won’t necessarily understand what’s going on with strategy.

A lot of people have at least two screens – which is fairly standard for most motorsport now anyway: many of us tweet during a race for example, and follow live timing. [I usually do both from one PC]

Many more dedicated endurance fans have three or four or more screens. These are showing dedicated onboard videos from their favourite cars. Some might have one tablet/laptop for timing, another for social media, another for omboard, another with a different onboard.

Many fans then have tablets or laptops dedicated to running streams of onboard cameras, which are frequently provided free of charge or as part of a paid streaming service. This is an absolute luxury, though you do see some great car control and some incidents the main broadcast could never catch.

I found this to be overwhelming so I streamlined to this:
Main TV coverage with Radio Le Mans talking (or IMSA Radio);
PC with timing & social media;
Maybe a smaller device with one onboard;

Social media is important, too. I don’t mean just sitting there tweeting from your own account. Look up the championship account, look up your favourite team and driver accounts. Find other fans. Information comes through very quickly, faster than the broadcasts.

Your Focus

Some say sports car racing is boring. At first it looks like cars going round and round, hour after hour. And on the face of it, it is!

Then you think about it. At Le Mans you have 60 cars, 3 per car makes 180 drivers. At Daytona some cars have 5 drivers. At Nurburgring there are 150 cars on a 14 mile track. Add in those team bosses and engineers who have become well-known. Different combinations of teams, chassis, engines and tyres. Different classes of car in each race. Each class with a different rule set,  which may differ between championships.

Every one of those people has a story to tell, every team has a history. It is totally overwhelming. It takes years to learn who they are. It is not possible to follow all of it in real time. [Unless you are Paul Truswell.] The nature of this racing means information doesn’t come to light for half an hour or an hour. Or lots of things happen at once.

To manage this, break it into chunks. Just pick your favourites in each class. And pick the likely winners in each class. Or those whose stories you like. Focus on following those on the screens and on the live timing. Everything else will flow from there. You’ll pick up everything else you need to know as you go along.

Often you get close racing, often there are long periods where are you waiting for it to play out. A strategy call might be made at 6pm, you may not see the payoff until 11pm, when all of a sudden that 6pm decision to triple-stint every driver puts a car into the lead. Be patient, but also pay attention.

Your Fuel Strategy

Eat small, eat regularly.

A great tip is to eat small, eat often. Do stick to your meal times but make it a moderate or small meal. Don’t have a great big meal, it’ll just make you sleepy. It can be fun to gorge on a Chinese takeaway or a big pizza just as you would on a film night, but if you plan to follow the race all night long – or have just a small sleep to resume in the early hours- this is the worst thing to do. Over-eating means you sleep for hours.

Get a supply of snacks. Nuts, fruit, chocolate. Mix it up. First it keeps your energy up, second it gets you up and walking around to the kitchen and back, and third it gives you a break from the screen and the concentration.

And fruit is the best. No, seriously. A banana every few hours, or some grapes by your side, or even strawberries and raspberries with ice cream. You can try all the energy drinks and coffee and chocolate in the world – and I recommend having some – but nothing works better for me than the natural properties of fruit for a pick-me-up. Again don’t rely on it, it’s racing, have a bag of M&Ms too!

Okay this is a tough one. Especially if you are like me and drink several cups of tea or coffee every day in the 9-to-5 at the office. Don’t have too much caffeine. Whether it is tea or energy drinks, just have one every few hours. All of these things work best when you don’t build a resistance to them by having them all the time. If your body is used to a lower level, when you do have one, you get a bigger kick.

Instead, have plenty of bottled water nearby. It really does help. Use the caffeine drinks to give you a kick when you start to flag. But not with less than an hour to go, after all, you want to be able to sleep after the race.

Conclusion

  • Eat small.
  • Get your tools – live timing, video streams, commentary, social media.
  • Pick your faves and follow them, disregard others.

I hope these tips help your experience with endurance racing and that you become a long-time fan!

2018 Calendars: FIA WEC (World Endurance Championship)

2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship

FIA_WEC_logo   24_le_mans_logo_detail

The FIA’s global sports car championship featuring the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a series of 6 hour races in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Although Le Mans is a WEC round, the race attracts many non-championship cars from series such as the IMSA Weathertech Championship, the European Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series. These teams race for the win against the WEC teams but are ‘invisible’ when counting up WEC points.

This season marks the transition to a winter start with the finale being Le Mans itself. To get there they have created the one-off “Super Season”, more details below.

Google/iCal Calendar links:   ICAL  -or-  HTML

For more championships click here.

Continue reading “2018 Calendars: FIA WEC (World Endurance Championship)”