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.

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Photos – ELMS 3 Hours of Silverstone 2013

I was at Silverstone in April for the European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship weekend. I took along a new zoom lens to its first motorsport event, although Saturday was a bit of a washout.

Saturday April 13th – European Le Mans

Saturday was very cold and only got colder, until the rain arrived at which point it got even colder but also very, very wet causing racing to be abandoned for the day. I spent the ELMS and WEC qualifying sessions on the grass bank between Maggotts and Village, before ensconcing myself in the Woodcote stand for the 3-hour ELMS race, trying to stay warm. Thermometers may have read 9 or 10C but with windchill it felt like 5C at best, 1 or 2C by the end.

Formula 3 Europe:

I only saw one Euro F3 race but it was good, lots of passing albeit not much of it near me. Harry Tinknell (blue car) is local to me so I was rooting for him, he was leading for a while but fell back to 3rd I think it was at the end.

ELMS:

 

The ELMS race was good as well. I’d call it a traditional race, not the sort you see very often any more. Everyone had slicks for the start but as the formation lap got under way it started raining! Half the field pitted straight away but mysteriously half of them did not, and it cost them dearly as the Safety Car came out. Big gaps then appeared in the field as the conditions worsened but it wasn’t boring – quite the opposite, over two hours a lot of cars went sliding and spinning off, or had drivers uncomfortable with the conditions, so the order was changing quite a lot despite the gaps.


Eventually the rain got so bad everyone was running around in 2nd-gear to avoid aquaplaning, the Safety Car was called out but even after 20 minutes a lot of the field still hadn’t caught up with it, they were being so cautious! After a good 30 or 40 minutes under SC the red flags came out to end the race half an hour early. At the time, freezing in the stands too stubborn to move while the track was live but so cold I wished it ended, I thought it was a good idea. But looking back I almost wish the SC hadn’t have come out let alone the reds flown, everyone was going slowly for the conditions and it would’ve been interesting to see who made the best of it.

I was sat in the stands with Carole @revs_rule, and after the race was stopped we made a beeline to my car and to Silverstone village for a hot meal and cup of tea in the White Horse pub, which were very nice indeed.

More photos from Saturday are at Picasa. As I say, I was still getting used to the new lens and with the cold and rain it was quite tricky anyway!

My next post is about Sunday’s World Endurance race.

All You Need To Know: 2013 FIA WEC Silverstone 6 Hours

Are you going to Silverstone this weekend for the 6 Hours of Silverstone? I wrote a little guide ahead of last year’s race and I thought I’d do the same again this year.

It should be an interesting change in dynamic with the race having moved to April from a mid-season August, it has now become the opening round of the series. It’ll be our first chance to see the competitiveness of the teams and drivers particularly those that did not make the trip to Sebring in March. The weather and temperature will be other factors to consider, though in fairness they may not be too different to the years the race took place in September.

Racing This Weekend

FIA WEC, ELMS, and FIA European F3.

What Are They?

The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is a world series for the cars and stars of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and 2013 is the second year of the revived championship. Four classes of car compete on the track at the same time, two sets of ‘prototypes’ and two sets of GTs. This weekend features a six hour race on Sunday.

The European Le Mans Series is a regional series also linked to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It also has four classes, two of which are identical to those in the WEC and two are ‘entry level’ in nature. This weekend they’ll race for three hours on Saturday afternoon.

FIA European Formula 3 is a single-seater category for aspiring drivers, if F1 is the top tier of single-seater racing then F3 is the 3rd-tier. In reality the talent from F3 graduates into all types of racing including WEC and the like. They will have two races on Saturday and another one first thing on Sunday.

What To Bring

Tickets! You could get a 3-day weekend ticket for £35 in advance and they should still only be £40 on the gate, obviously single-day tickets would be lower!

Appropriate clothing! It is April – expect a mixture of sun and showers. It also a cold Spring so bring a thick jumper and a coat. It’ll be hard to choose between a heavy coat for warmth or an anorak to stay dry so put both in the car and decide when you get there! Bear in mind Silverstone can feel cold on a warm day so if the day is cool already, be ready. Bring a hat too. And sun cream! Seriously!

Shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Although Silverstone spent a lot of money on path improvements around the start/finish straight, and that area really does look impressive now, they don’t extend around the whole track and in any case you might not want to go where the paths go. With all the rain we’ve had the ground will be muddy.

A radio! When the cars are running you will struggle to hear the PA system around much of the track so you will need a radio tuned to 87.7FM Radio Le Mans, and a supply of batteries.

You might also want a camera, with a supply of batteries.

Andy Blackmore’s Spotter Guides. You might want to print these:  FIA WECELMS  Wait as late as you can as they’re being updated.

Bring food or plenty of money to buy some. I usually buy my lunch on site. Silverstone’s food sellers have markedly improved in quality over the years, unfortunately they can now make a hefty dent in your wallet. At least it isn’t as pricey as Goodwood! Don’t bank on getting anything on your way back to your car though, they’re all packing up by then.

On the plus side, parking is free and very simple. Go along Dadford Road all the way down, past the main entrance until you get to the 2nd roundabout and turn left there signposted Public Parking. You’ll discover you are near the end of the Wing, by Club corner. Follow the people wearing orange or yellow and they’ll have you at a nice spot barely five minutes walk from the gate, which is about a half minute’s walk from the track. Obviously if you have to queue to buy a ticket it’ll be longer, but if you’ve brought your ticket with you, you can be out of your car and trackside within 10 minutes if you want to be. I usually follow my ritual of getting a cup of tea first, maybe a bacon roll!

If you don’t feel like walking the track there are free buses circulating the perimeter road, also visiting the pitlane, so you can still make that journey to Becketts or the Hangar Straight if you want to.

A lot of the grandstands will be open for no extra fee. Not all of them are open all weekend, Sunday is the day with most availability.

WEC teams will be based at the Wing paddock. ELMS and F3 teams will be based at the National paddock (the old pits).

Want To Watch The F1 Race Too?

Greedy so and so, but, me too! And there’s good news – if you can get to Silverstone early enough, the Paddock Diner in the National paddock will be open from 7.30am Sunday and they will be showing the Chinese GP on their TV screens. That race starts at 8am and should run until about 9.30. Racing starts at Silverstone at 9.15am on Sunday with F3, by then you should have a sense of whether it is worth staying for the end of the F1.

Info from the most excellent FIA WEC Twitter feed which you should definitely follow.

Timetable

Friday

  • 9.00am – 10.00am ELMS Practice
  • 10.15am – 10.55am F3 Practice
  • 11am – 11.40am F3 Practice
  • 12.25pm – 1.55pm WEC Practice
  • 2.10pm – 3.10pm ELMS Practice
  • 3.25pm – 4.10pm F3 Qualifying
  • 4.30pm – 6pm WEC Practice

Saturday

  • 9.00am – 10.00am WEC Practice
  • 10.20am – 10.55am F3 Race 1
  • 11.10am – 11.30am – ELMS Qualifying – LMGTE & GTC classes
  • 11.35am – 11.55am – ELMS Qualifying – LMP2 & LMPC classes
  • 12.10pm – 12.30pm – WEC Qualifying – LMGTE Pro & LMGTE Am classes
  • 12.40pm – 1.00pm – WEC Qualifying – LMP1 & LMP2 classes
  • 1.20pm – 1.55pm – F3 Race 2
  • 2.20pm – 2.40pm – ELMS Grid Walk
  • 3.00pm – 6.00pm ELMS Race

Sunday

  • 9.15am – 9.50am – F3 Race 3
  • 10.00am – 10.45am – WEC Pit Walk & Autograph Session
  • 11.10am – 11.40am – WEC Grid Walk
  • 12.00pm – 6.00pm – WEC Race

When you leave I recommend allowing time to watch the podium ceremonies. Each of the four classes gets their own podium ceremony. Not only is it good to show your appreciation to the drivers it is a great way to let the car park empty before you hit the road. All traffic merges together into a single road and that means everything backs up, it takes a long time to get out, so instead of stressing in your car you might as well stick around for 20 minutes to congratulate all of the class winners.

Tweets

I’ll be tweeting from @toomuchracing throughout the weekend for as long as signal and battery allow, unless it is too cold to use it! And do remember to follow @FIAWEC as well.

See you there.

Attending the 2011 6 Hours of Silverstone

ILMC/LMS at Silverstone Wing
Sportscars Race Past Silverstone's New Pitlane (photo by P.Wotton)

Sportscar racing is something of a niche branch of motorsport, you don’t really find many casual fans except at Le Mans itself. It is a difficult form of racing to follow at times. Multiple classes, long races sometimes won or lost over laps not seconds.

I firmly believe it is worth the effort.

This apparent inaccessibility has been improved in recent years by the battle between Audi and Peugeot which has captivated many, especially since they’ve mixed well-known sportscar racers with drivers who made their name in Formula 1 and elsewhere.

Plus they built some really cool cars. That always helps.

The New

I got there late (no surprises) and parked up as the cars were on the grid. The best part of the new pit straight is that it is right next to the main car parks so it is very easy to be in the midst of the action straight away.. as long as there aren’t queues at the ticket desk and attendants who don’t recognise their own discount vouchers. Grr. Still, at least the queues meant there was a fairly good crowd, bigger than previous years, so you can’t complain too loudly.

This was the first time I’d seen the new pit buildings in action. I was at the Renault event just a few weeks ago and this area of the track was deserted and unused with all the action at the old pitlane. This time it was a living, breathing pitlane and the atmopshere was transformed. It looked soulless the other week but seeing it in action it just clicked, it works.

Continue reading “Attending the 2011 6 Hours of Silverstone”

The Various Le Mans Series

Sportscar racing has always been a confusing branch of motorsport to follow. There are many fans of racing who could be potential sportscar fans but may be a bit bewildered by the variety. When discussing the Peugeot launch on Thursday,Christine and Mr C at Sidepodcast asked exactly what the ILMC actually is, and where it fits into the sportscar world. I thought I would answer that question with this blog post, but first let’s set the scene.

Here follows a fairly rough guide to sportscar racing and the collection under the ‘Le Mans’ label in particular.

Continue reading “The Various Le Mans Series”

Off to Silverstone

I am going to the Autosport Silverstone 1000km today, the final round of the Le Mans Series and the first qualifier for what I suppose you could call the ‘trial’ Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, which this year is a series of 3 races comprising Silverstone, Petit Le Mans and a race at Zhuhai in China. The ILMC will be expanding substantially next season and could become the de facto ‘world championship’ in all but name for Le Mans-style racing, something that has been missing for many years.

The reason I am going is because it sees the first battle between Audi and Peugeot since Le Mans, it’ll surely be epic. I’m also going because I’ve never been to a race like it before and also because I need to see more live racing.

I’m not doing this to make a point. Unlike many other fans of sportscar racing I am not one of these snooty types who hold their nose up at Formula 1, there seem to be plenty in that community who take great pleasure in making their distaste of F1 known to all and sundry and making snidey sarcastic comments as if everyone agrees with them. In the 1990s it was cool for F1 fans to act this way about all other forms of racing. Thankfully I’ve noticed over the last couple of years this attitude has largely disappeared. It is a shame to see it rearing it’s ugly head amongst sportscar fans, a group I consider to be among the most ardent of motorsport fans and so a group I expect to have an appreciation of all forms of racing (even if they don’t like some of it). Unfortunately it seems some among RLM are guilty of this and I’m going to be very annoyed if I have to listen to that kind of diatribe all day on the tannoy or the radio (if I can find a radio).

I’m actually quite annoyed to be missing the Italian Grand Prix particularly with the grid the way it is and I’ve been agonising over whether I’m making the right choice. For the last two years I’ve bottled out in favour of watching Monza, this year after coming back from Spa I’ve got the trackside buzz back again and I want to get one more fix in before the winter arrives, so off I go.

It’ll be interesting to see how easy the race is to follow, I’ve heard multi-class racing is very difficult to follow in person. It should last about five and a half hours so I’m hoping to see the cars from many vantage points. I want to see the start from somewhere cool, either Becketts or Stowe, whichever I have time to get to. After that I’ll be wandering around the circuit trying out different stands, perhaps finding my way into the paddock at some point.

If you see me, I’ll probably be wearing a blue raincoat and a Goodwood hat, a bit like in this photo. In the unlikely event it is as warm and sunny as Saturday has been I guess you’ll have to just look for the hat.

I’ll be tweeting as much as I can during the day but I’m conscious of how much of my stupidly small data plan I’ll be using up, particularly after the continental trip. Since it is a little more than 3 hours from home each way you won’t see a wrap-up post until late evening or Monday, and I’ll probably save the full details until I’ve posted my Belgium wrap-ups.

Enjoy the GP and if you’re able to follow the LMS on Eurosport, RLM and live timing, enjoy that too.