Photos – FIA WEC 6 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, and by Sunday I think I was getting the hang of it!

I’ve attended the 6 Hours (and predecessor 1000km) for the last few years, this year it was moved from Autumn to Spring with the expected change in conditions. Saturday’s ELMS was run in torrential rain. Thankfully Sunday was much brighter and was mostly free of rain, but again the thermometers flattered to deceive, and while it was warmer than the day before it still felt much colder than readings indicated. In previous years I did it as a day trip but with the addition of ELMS I decided to stay in Northampton to see both races, and also to attend Sunday’s pit walk.

Saturday – See my post about Saturday’s European Le Mans Series race here.

Sunday April 14th – FIA World Endurance Championship

The first order of business was to get to the pitwalk. This was easier said than done. The free shuttle buses were few and far between and it took a good 30 or 40 minutes to walk from the Abbey/ex-Bridge area to the new Wing paddock complex, as there is no crossing point nearby. All this walking meant I missed the day’s Formula 3 race which happened at the same time, though I did bump into these guys. Was it worth the effort? Definitely.

Continue reading “Photos – FIA WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone 2013”

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.

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.

The Reveal – United SportsCar Racing

I’ve posted a lot about the merger of the US sportscar series ALMS and GrandAm so it is only right I comment on Thursday’s big reveal.

In summary – I approve!

The new name of the series is United SportsCar Racing.

United-SportsCar-Racing-Logo-031413-mainYes it is a little bit of a wishy-washy name, and it does seem to have ties to the name of the ALMS before it was the ALMS, which was Professional SportsCar Racing. Those are minor gripes. On the other hand, how many people actually know PSCR? The important thing is that it is a clean break from the current ALMS and Grand-Am names and doesn’t borrow anything from either of them. It allows them to move forward cleanly. It also reinforces the point they’ve been trying to get across since the Autumn – this is not a takeover, this is a true merger.

Okay so the actual helmet design I would say is a weak point but that’s not important, things like that can be tweaked over time.

You can watch the full half-hour reveal presentation with Q&A on the Grand-Am site.

Or you can see this short promo video:

In broader terms, the name of the sanctioning body is equally important and this was the first announcement. It pleases me, and just about everybody I think, to say the famous IMSA name is retained as the name of the sanctioning body. As they very clearly pointed out during the press conference, everybody told them this was the way to go! It makes so much sense with the old connections IMSA had with NASCAR, the renewed ties it has with that group, as well as the more modern association with the ALMS. Bringing it all together, it just makes so much sense to use that name now.

They have completely dropped the intermediary ‘ISCAR’ name as they always said they would, that’s good, that was a terrible name.

These are very positive developments.

Official Class Names

The 2014 class structure was loosely defined without names back in January. Now those plans have been firmed up and they are pretty much as-announced, now we have class names and confirmation of the fate of GX. There will be five classes.

P – Prototype – the ALMS P2 class joins the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype class, along with cars running to the DeltaWing concept. Technical information on how this tricky balance will be achieved should be revealed ‘within the next 90 days’, according to Scott Atherton. The P2 cars will be able to go to Le Mans.

PC – Prototype Challenge – the ALMS PC class as it is this year.

GTLM – GT Le Mans – the ALMS GT class as it presently is, unchanged and retaining the links to Le Mans including the ability to race there.

GTD – GT Daytona – the Grand-Am Rolex GT class plus the ALMS GTC class.

GX – the experimental GT class introduced to Grand-Am this season remains as a separate class.

P2 cars will be similar to ACO (WEC/ELMS) cars but tweaked to suit United SportsCar’s needs. It apparently will be possible to convert between specs to go to Le Mans, and similarly the European or Asian teams will be able to go to Daytona, Sebring and Petit. Unsaid, but much rumoured, is the possibility the rest of this class will also one day be able to go to Le Mans, including DPs or whatever they morph into. Will that happen in 2014? I doubt it. 2015? I think that’s a strong possibility. Let the merger bed-in then invite the merged class to play at La Sarthe.

They actually did the complete opposite with the GT classes that I had suggested! I said it would be best to avoid comparisons between Le Mans GTs and Daytona GTs, you’ll inevitably attract complaints from the small subset of fans who insist that America be faster (most American sportscar fans aren’t at all like that by the way, most would patriotically celebrate a home win whilst appreciating everyone else’s performance at the same time). But I can see their thinking: The cars with LM in their name go to Le Mans. The cars with D in their name came from Daytona. Nice and simple in a year in which it could be hard to explain the differences between two GT classes with potentially big grids.

Le Mans & ACO

Confirmation came today, Friday, that the ACO and IMSA have agreed to continue the relationship started by the ALMS, namely that IMSA teams and drivers remain eligible to enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans and that the Road Atlanta round shall continue to be called Petit Le Mans. Celebrate! I was genuinely worried that PLM was dead – worry no longer, the race is safe.
This line from the release was quite interesting:  “The second part is a Strategic Alliance agreement between the ACO and United SportsCar Racing to explore and develop new avenues and horizons for endurance racing together in North America“. What could this mean? Is this simply their way of saying that P2 and GTLM (or their future replacements) will remain valid in USCR competition?

Future

Looking forward I think 2014 will see growing pains but it’ll also be very exciting. Even more exciting than that though is the potential for what we might see in the future, let’s say 2015-2020. Those years could prove to be a new golden era of this style of racing in North America, and globally, too.

Grand-Am & ALMS Merger: Cars & Tracks

This is a follow-up to my opinion piece on the merger itself and in this post I focus in on the potential race classes as well as my choice of schedule for the 2014 season and beyond.

Class Structure

This part is phenomenally difficult. Trying to merge two series, one with five classes and the other with two when all have different speeds, different strengths and weaknesses not just in performance but in cost. Add in a whole set of team owner agendas as well as the desire to liaise with the ACO to retain a link to Le Mans and you have one big headache!

This is how they are now, and what I would do with them.

Continue reading “Grand-Am & ALMS Merger: Cars & Tracks”

On The Merger of Grand-Am and ALMS

Exciting things are happening in sportscar racing at the moment. A succession of changes in outlo0ks is reshaping top line series everywhere.

Globally this is no better seen than in the reintroduction of a long-overdue World Championship for those competing at the Le Mans 24 Hours. On a regional scale the Blancpain Endurance Series is going from strength to strength in Europe, and although sadly FIA World GT1 had to be scaled back and relaunched next year as a Europe-only GT Sprint series perhaps that is the best format for it.

The biggest change at a regional level, and one which may have far-reaching implications, was the announcement that IMSA’s American Le Mans Series by Tequila Patron, and Grand-Am’s Rolex Series would be merging by means of a buyout. At long last!

The Reaction

The unexpected news was greeted with universal praise – just four and a bit years after Indy unity, ‘the other’ two warring American series were coming together. It was as if a big weight had been lifted from everyone’s shoulders. Just one thing.. how DID they keep it a secret?

Almost immediately after that came the worries. Grand-Am was making a purchase and Grand-Am is owned by NASCAR – does that mean the independent spirit of the ALMS will be lost? Are we going to get yellow flags for light debris, lucky dogs and green/white/checker finishes? Will they cut the link to Le Mans and lose those cars?

We are told repeatedly that this is NOT a takeover. We’re told this is definitely and defiantly not the same as the IndyCar purchase of ChampCar, in which anything related to the latter was mostly rubbed out, where just a few teams, drivers and events remained, and very few series staff and other assets. Some would later find their way in and others headed elsewhere (particularly to either sportscar series) but altogether it was a messy business.

Positivity

This time it is very much an integration. The companies have ALREADY merged. They call themselves ‘ISCAR’. No, me neither, but they can change it later. ISCAR has both Grand-Am and IMSA/ALMS figureheads at the helm, with equal say, and a mantra of ‘open dialogue’ being the order of business: They are listening. To fans. To teams. To drivers. To manufacturers. And to each other.

We’ve witnessed the united approach for some months now and do you know what? I believe them. They really are considering the best – and worst – of both existing series and organisations. The biggest card in their favour is time. There is no rush for 2014.
IndyCar’s hand was forced by having to get it all done in a matter of weeks. Had the IndyCar deal happened a year ahead of the actual series merge it would’ve come out of it very differently indeed. Lessons have been learned that experience (and some now in sportscar racing were involved in the IndyCar ‘merger’ – they know what they are talking about), it isn’t an experience anyone wants to see repeated.

That said, there is a hell of a lot of work to do to merge two different organisations and philosophies. A year isn’t very long in that context. Indeed the teams and drivers need to have an idea of class structure fairly swiftly – and I mean very, very soon – so they can make their purchasing decisions for 2013, if they buy now can they keep their cars for the new series or will they have to buy again?

ISCAR also specifically state they want to keep the link to Le Mans. I’d like to see how that manifests itself. I reckon that means keeping at least two ACO-compliant categories and leaving a gap in the calendar for teams to go over, or allowing them to skip a round.

Continue reading “On The Merger of Grand-Am and ALMS”

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.