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
#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.

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!

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.

A Preview of the Le Mans 24 Hours 2012

I have written a preview of this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours in which I spend a couple or three paragraphs on each of the four classes, plus the LMP1 non-manfacturers and the Delta Wing. I’ve also included a selection of useful links.

You can find the preview at Sidepodcast.com as part of their build up to live commenting the race. They’ve done a great job adding some nice photos to the post.

I’ll also be tweeting copiously throughout the race weekend, I offer apologies now as sometimes I get carried away with it. I’ve been putting together a Twitter list for sportscar racing including many of the people at Le Mans this weekend, feel free to follow it if you think you’ll find it useful.

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!