Photos: 2012 FIA WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone

I’ve attended the 6 Hours of Silverstone (and previously the 1000km) annually since 2009, last year was no exception. I’d meant to put up a few photos of the day and although I uploaded the album it seems I never linked to it here, so I hope you enjoy this little taster.

Silverstone is very open and windswept so it can be tricky to get good shots but I think I did a reasonable job. This year I should get some good ones as I’ll be bringing another lens.

Last year the race was held in late August, the best time it has ever been held. Previously it has been a chilly, windswept September. This year it has moved to a chilly, windswept April – just next weekend on April 14th. This was done to help the costs of the teams and to make the race more important in the run-up to the big one at Le Mans. Speaking purely as a trackside spectator it was far better in August.

I’ll be there next weekend to see the WEC on Sunday and the ELMS and F3 on Saturday – a weekend ticket booked in advance costs a mere £35 and that gives you access to multiple grandstands so it is an absolute bargain. That’s for a combined 9 hours of sportscar racing plus three F3 races! If you’re unsure whether to come, and you should come for the WEC at least, have a look at these photos to see if it appeals to you.

I may write a little something during the week, just some tips for those attending.

Click here to jump straight to the full Picasa album.

The grid:

 

Olympic Gold-winning canoeist green flaggers:

Side by side.. wait.. wait.. Go!

Audi vs Toyota:

 

Prototypes and GTs both racing at the same time:

Ferrari vs Porsche (vs Aston vs Corvette)

 

You can get a nice bit of exercise as you wander the track perimeter:

And back for the Chequered Flag;

And the podium!

All photos are clickable for a higher resolution. There are a lot more where that came from in the full album: 119 photos in all!

I hope you come along to this year’s race next weekend.

2013 FIA WEC Schedule

I took a look at the F1 and IndyCar schedules the other week, I meant to follow them up straight away with this post but it slipped back.

On the same day the F1 calendar was announced the FIA World Motorsport Council also confirmed the schedule for the 2013 World Endurance Championship.

The 2012 season has proven to be a good start for the new series, taking the ILMC concept and expanding it with a proper identity and FIA backing. It is good to see the ACO and FIA working closely together and I hope it continues like this.

Good

Stability. Any new championship with a successful start will find it very tempting to add races here, there and everywhere in the 2nd and 3rd years. The FIA and ACO have avoided this temptation in order to continue to build the existing races and keep costs reigned in during the current economic climate. Choosing not to add races helps the teams and hopefully attracts some new ones, both of which have to be priorities right now. Sensible choice.

Rearranged race order. Silverstone becomes the opening round, Sao Paulo moves a month earlier to August, Bahrain becomes the final round. This is all part and parcel of a series finding a footing and trying events at different times. Some will work and some won’t. The race order has also been arranged such that the travel costs for the teams is a lot lower and sea freight can be utilised for some journeys, compared with using air freight all this year. The season is arranged into three blocks: Europe, the Americas, Asia.

US round retained. Keeping the merged ALMS/GrandAm racing with the WEC at the 12 Hours of Sebring was never going to work, so WEC had to look elsewhere. The one new event on the 2013 calendar is the 6 Hours of Austin at the Circuit of the Americas. I do think it is a positive for the WEC to have its own branded event in the US. That brings us on to a related point.

Double-headers. The WEC will tie-up with related series twice in the year. The opening round will see the ELMS race on Saturday at Silverstone with WEC on Sunday. Then in September, the ALMS will race on Saturday in Austin with the WEC following up the next day.
From a fan perspective this is a great idea to bring together the local flavours of LM racing with the world championship. While ELMS/ALMS race lengths aren’t confirmed, the WEC will race for 6 hours at each. Two days of racing for two sets of the most die-hard sportscar fans.

Race dates are more spread out. This year saw a lot of gaps until September when a long run of events began. This works in other series but you just can’t run 6-hour races on a week on / week off format, which we’re pretty much in the middle of right now. Teams don’t have the budget of F1 teams who do it for shorter races (remember these are Asian flyaways and most WEC teams are still European for now). Next year we will see one race per month, skipping July to recover from the 24 Hour, and finishing with two in November which are 20 days apart. Good scheduling.

Bad

Sebring. No getting around the loss of Sebring, even though it was for perfectly understandable reasons. Clearly combining the WEC and ALMS grids into one race was never going to be a long-term option, especially when the unified North American series begins in 2014 and their resulting changes to class structure. Even without that factor, the grid sizes and complexities of running two distinct races in one were too difficult to maintain. (Personally I’d have dropped the PC and GTC classes for that race.) But with the GrandAm/ALMS merger including ownership of Sebring it will clearly be a key race on their calendar from 2014 onwards.
There is an agreement between ALMS and WEC to allow a month before the first WEC round, to allow any WEC teams to compete at Sebring. Unsure how many will take up this offer as they won’t be scoring any points but some might like to go pot-hunting – I hope so.

Double-headers. I don’t know how likely it would’ve been, but running ALMS and ELMS at the same events as the WEC prevents the teams from those series entering as ‘wildcards’ into the WEC race. As negatives go it isn’t a big one as it would only affect one or two cars, but it did occur to me.
Actually on a personal level the only downside is having to find a hotel near Silverstone or having to do the 3 hour each way journey twice in two days. I may end up skipping ELMS but we’ll see what the entry list is like.
Oh and I don’t like the name ‘Super Endurance Weekend’. Hm. But this is something in common with the WEC which needs to have Le Mans in the title so people realise it isn’t Ironman triathlon or something.

Silverstone in April. As much as I love that the UK gets the first round, this is possibly the rainiest month in a country that gets a hell of a lot of rain. F1 raced at Silverstone in April one year and the place got waterlogged. Besides that I really enjoyed the warmth of a race into an August evening, can we do that every year instead?

Summary

A good solid progression from the first year of the WEC and the preliminary ILMC which preceded it. Spreading the series across a race per month is a great idea which walks the line between keeping it in the public eye against the needs of the teams to recover and repair after each round. I think it’ll work really well.

2013 World Endurance Championship Schedule

14 April – Silverstone, UK  [6 Hours] (with ELMS on Sat)
4 May – Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium [6 Hours] (Saturday)
22-23 June – Le Mans, France [24 Hours]
24 August – Sao Paulo, Brazil [6 Hours] (Saturday)
22 September – Austin, USA [6 Hours] (with ALMS on Sat)
20 October – Mt.Fuji, Japan [6 Hours]
10 November – Shanghai, China [6 Hours]
30 November – Bahrain [6 Hours] (Saturday)

Le Mans will offer double-points.

Next year the drivers in each class will be awarded titles. This year only overall results counted for the Drivers Championship so it was effectively an LMP1-only title. GTE Pro drivers will get a World Cup, LMP2 and GTE Am drivers will get a FIA Endurance Trophy. Personally I feel each class should win a World Championship, to do otherwise is confusing.

I’ve added these dates to my TMR Google/iCal calendars which you can import for your own use. If you subscribed earlier in the year these should be visible to you already.

All You Need to Know For The Silverstone Six Hours

Will you be attending the Silverstone Six Hours this Sunday? If you’re still considering it here are some things to look out for, a brief field run-down and some pointers for what to bring with you. If you’ve been to any race track before some of these will be obvious, if you are used to F1 or BTCC some things are different.

What is this race?

Everyone knows the Le Mans 24 Hours, right? Many of those cars and drivers compete in a year-long series. This race is the Silverstone 6 Hours and is a points-paying round of the series.

Why you should go

Silverstone throw open most of the grandstands for no extra fee. You get to wander between them whenever you like and nobody will stop you! Only a couple of stands are reserved for sponsors or are closed. Most are open to all!

You get four races on the track at once, for six hours!

If you get there early enough Sunday, or are there Saturday, you get to see Formula Renault 3.5 as well.

Up front you have the height of technology with almost-F1-pace rapid prototypes silently gliding by. In the middle is a closer race for less-advanced prototypes.

At the other end of the scale you have big noisy Corvettes and Astons and Ferraris and Porsches fighting tooth and nail for their class wins just as much as the others.

There are so many drivers and nuances among teams that I can’t hope to cover them all here. For more detail I recommend reading DailySportscar.com – some of their WEC coverage is supported by Nissan so you don’t need a subscription.

LMP1

The 3-car overall fight isn’t just Audi vs Toyota, since Audi have entered two types of technology:

1 x R18 e-tron quattro (hybrid diesel) for Le Mans winners Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler.
1 x R18 ultra (non-hybrid diesel) for the ‘legends’ of Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen racing as a duo following Dindo Capello’s retirement. (Lucas di Grassi will join McNish and Kristensen at the Interlagos round).

Toyota entered one (hybrid petrol) car for Alex Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Nicolas Lapierre. They were quick at Le Mans but both their cars retired there. No questions of their speed but can they finish the race?

Privateers – Behind these there are 4 privateer LMP1 cars battling for a podium should the top 3 falter. We’ll see two Lotus-livered Rebellion Lolas versus two Hondas (HPDs) from two different teams, Strakka and JRM. Karun Chandhok, David Brabham, Danny Watts, Jonny Kane, Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani… the line-ups in these cars is pretty good. Sadly OAK and Pescarolo withdrew their LMP1 cars for competitive and sponsorship reasons respectively.

LMP2

In the second tier you have 15 cars in the most unpredicable class in the field. Although Starworks with Stephane Sarrazin among their line-up start as favourites you cannot pick a winner and you certainly can’t pick a top 3! Nissan power most of the field but you’ll find competition from Judd, Honda and Lotus. Likewise most cars are split between Lola and Zytek. This all means the field is very tight.

Bertrand Baguette is with OAK, Nic Minassian has a guest drive at JOTA, F1-tester Brendon Hartley is back with Murphy Prototypes along with Warren Hughes, Tonio Liuzzi puts in a surprise appearance at Lotus (yes two more Lotus liveries here in this team run by Colin Kolles), and the Brundle father/son partnership from the ELMS has entered to back up Greaves’ WEC points-scoring car.

GT

The GTE Pro class (GT cars for Professional drivers) is sparse this season with just five cars but the quality is there – there isn’t a bad car, team or driver in the bunch. Fisichella, Bruni, Bertolini and Beretta make up the two-car AF Corse Ferrari charge, and JMW are bringing their yellow example too for Cocker and Walker. They’re up against the fast Aston of Mucke, Turner and Fernandez and the potent Porsche pairing of Lietz and Lieb in the blue Felbermayr car.

At the back you’ll find GTE Am (GT cars for Amateurs/Gentleman drivers plus one Pro if you like). In fairness some of these cars are quick and mix it up with the GTE Pros. Things seem to work in pairs in GTE Am: we’ll see two Ferraris, two Corvettes, two Porsches and two Aston Martins. The Pro drivers are all good so this’ll likely come down to who has the best gentleman drivers. So far that seems to be the Larbre Corvettes.

2011 Silverstone 6 Hours (photo: P.Wotton)

You will need..

– An advance ticket (deadline Thursday). This isn’t strictly necessary but if you book in advance they are £30 for Sunday versus £35 on the day.

– An FM radio. I’ve made the mistake at this event before. Make sure you bring either a radio or a phone which can access the Tune In Radio app at a former aerodrome miles from anywhere. You will need to be able to hear John Hindhaugh and the Radio Le Mans crew tell you what is going on because you sure as hell can’t hear the circuit tannoy in the stands unless you position yourself right next to a speaker, and being a long multi-class race you’ll easily lose track of positions if you try following by sight alone (unless you lap-chart..). On Tune In Radio you will need Radio Le Mans and/or Radio Silverstone. I don’t know the exact FM frequency but it should be somewhere near 97 MHz.

– Suncream and an anorak. It’s August so if the sun’s out it’ll be warm, but long-range forecasts shows rain.. I won’t be using an umbrella as they’re too cumbersome and annoying for everyone else. If it is raining I’ll wear a hat. Hopefully we’ll be in t-shirts and shorts!

– Money. The food concessions at Silverstone are expensive. I’ve moaned about this in this space before! At least there are better and healthier options than there were 10 years ago I suppose.

– Walking shoes. You can stay in the same place if you like, I prefer to walk around. Many of the grandstands are thrown open for you to wander between at your heart’s content.

– Patience in traffic. Getting in is relatively painless with waits of no more than half an hour. Getting out can be testing which is why I usually sit around to watch the podium ceremonies. Let everyone else get stressed. I don’t try to leave early, I didn’t spend all this time and money getting here to miss who wins.

Details

Race date: Sunday 26th August

Formula Renault 3.5 race: 9:40am – 10:30am (timed race)

WEC Pit walkabout: 10:30am – 11:00am

WEC Grid walk: 11.25am – 11:40am

WEC Race start time: Midday – 6pm (timed race)

Spotters Guide: Here

Not at the track? You can watch on MotorsTV in the UK/France/other places, and on various websites including fiawec.com. In previous races the website (eventually, a little while after the race started) gave you various different audio options including Radio Le Mans.
I have no idea how you watch this race in North America, I think it might be on the website Speed2 or ESPN3 or something? Pretty sure they geoblock fiawec.com to channel people to one of those sites but try it. If that fails you could try audi.tv.

My Plan

I have a 3.5-hour drive from home and am notoriously bad at getting up. I plan to leave home between 7 and 7.30am which ought to get me there for say 11am. I’ll miss the pit walkabout but I don’t know if a general ticket gets me into that anyway.

I plan to watch the start from the front straight so I can hear engines fire up and see cars leave the grid, and may stay there until the first round of LMP stops at about 40-45 minutes. After that I will head around anti-clockwise (always track walk against the flow of traffic), stopping at Club, Stowe and the Hangar Straight before probably heading to the bit of viewing area between Maggots and the Village Loop so I can see cars both sides of me!

The outside of Becketts doesn’t really do it for me, too far away. I may not bother with the old start/finish area, it looks pitiful nowadays with all the grandstands gone, and I don’t want to be wandering the FR3.5 garages while the main race is in progress. (No offence, FR3.5 guys). Perhaps I’ll go to Luffield via the infield route. I’d like to watch the last hour or so from Club or start/finish. Will I stay for the podium? Unsure. I’ve done so for the last two years but this time I’d like to get on the road to try to see the IndyCar race at Sonoma. But that depends on the traffic getting out.

Let me know if you’re going!

Reaction: WEC/ALMS 12 Hours of Sebring 2012

The 60th Anniversary 12 Hours of Sebring promised much but only partly satisfied our need for answers. If anything it only got me looking forward even more to the coming season!

The Race

The first half of the race felt quite flat and I’m sure that’s as a result of the lack of action at the ultimate sharp end combined with the difficulties in actually trying to watch the race. I remember saying the race needed to improve.

The second half was much better, the coverage improved, and despite some big gaps the races tightened up as reliability struck. Could the repairs be made before the slower chasers made up the deficit? Could the fast delayed cars make up lost ground? Then you had both LMP2 and GT with cars on the same lap even after 11 hours! Aside from the outright win you couldn’t pick any class winner at any stage.

The race as a whole must have been a good one because the 12 hours flew by!

Continue reading “Reaction: WEC/ALMS 12 Hours of Sebring 2012”

2012 FIA WEC Preview

This year’s endurance racing calendar is something special, for the first time in 20 years we have a world championship for long-distance sportscar racing and it promises to develop into something big over the coming years.

It is a shame that one of the main instigators of the FIA World Endurance Championship, Peugeot, was forced to withdraw before the season. Audi vs Peugeot would’ve been even more fraught than we’ve seen in the past with a world title on the line! Toyota had already planned to join midseason. They, the FIA and the ACO should be applauded for working to have then enter more races than was originally planned and for adjusting the points system to allow dropped scores, so the LMP1 championship is mathematically still on the line even if Audi will surely win it comfortably.

Calendar

The centrepiece is of course Le Mans, with a calendar featuring some of the best events of the international endurance racing calendar of the past few years, added to new events in Brazil, Japan and controversially, Bahrain.

A curious and notable absence is Petit Le Mans which will revert to being ALMS-only this year, not a popular decision and even worse when Bahrain was originally scheduled for the same weekend. That madness has been avoided but PLM still falls between two Asian WEC events on weekends either side of it, so it’ll be very difficult indeed for any WEC teams to compete in Georgia.

March 17th – 12 Hours of Sebring (with ALMS)
May 5th – 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
June 3rd – Le Mans Test Day
June 16th – 24 Hours of Le Mans (with other invitiationals)
August 26th – 6 Hours of Silverstone
September 16th – 6 Hours of Sao Paulo
September 30th – 6 Hours of Bahrain
October 14th – 6 Hours of Fuji
Novmeber 11th – 6 Hours of Shanghai

Prototypes

In LMP1, the fight between the HPD teams Strakka, JRM and at Sebring, Muscle Milk should be tight and they’ll be up against the Lolas of Rebellion, and OAK and Pescarolo with their eponymous chassis. Throw in a mix of engines from HPD (Honda) to Toyota to Judd and at Sebring a Mazda as well. All the runners are on Michelins except for the Dunlops on the OAK and Dyson cars. Familiar names include Brabham, Prost, Chandhok, Heidfeld, Bleekemolen, Watts, Kane, Collard and Boullion.

LMP1 isn’t the only interest, there is a strong field in the petrol half of LMP1, and in LMP2 and the two GTE categories. At Sebring we have the added excitement of the ALMS contenders joining the fun, and at Le Mans we’ll see some of the best teams from the ALMS and ELMS join the WEC for the classic 24 Hours. Also at Le Mans we will see the race debut of the Delta Wing which promises to be very exciting – I hope it is reliable!

LMP2 is worth watching for once. No longer is it a collection of underfunded teams with cars which break down easily. There are solid entries from Signatech, OAK (again), Greaves, PeCom and even the GrandAm team Starworks are entering the WEC. Cars range from Lolas to Orecas to Zyteks to HPDs to Morgans (rebadged OAK) and engines from Nissan, Judd, HPD and Lotus. All cars are on Dunlops. The drivers may be less familiar but Starworks signed a coup with Stephane Sarrazin for the longer races.

GT

GTE Pro features Fisichella and Bruni with AF Corse, in their other car Olivier Beretta switches from Corvette. They’re up against the similar car of Luxury Racing with Vernay, Melo and Makowiecki. Aston Martin rejoin the field after their LMP stints and they have Mucke, Turner and Fernandez. Felbermayr’s line-up of Lieb and Lietz is not to be doubted either. At Sebring of course they are joined by the very strong ALMS teams of Corvette, BMW and various Porsche teams.

GTE Am is for year-old cars and they must run at least one (or two?) amateur drivers. Larbre Competition have a couple of Corvettes and Pedro Lamy, AF Corse and Luxury also entered Ferraris here (including one for Michael Waltrip at least for Sebring), Felbermayr have another Porsche and don’t count out Krohn’s green Ferrari.

Others

There are 35 cars signed up for the full season. These will be joined by ‘wild card’ entries through the year, though we don’t know the details yet.

At Sebring we add in the Prototype and GT Challenge classes for spec Orecas and Porsches respectively. 64 cars at Sebring, and 56 at Le Mans including the Delta Wing.

Even if Audi does win it all, the other classes should be interesting. Perhaps more interesting is this is the first ‘building’ year of the series, taking a step up from last year’s ILMC. After showing what it can do this year, who else might enter in 2013 and 2014? There are exciting years ahead!