Tag Archives: Porsche

Toyota at Le Mans 2017

Le Mans 2017 Entry List Revealed

After much anticipation the provisional entry list for the Le Mans 24 Hours 2017 & the FIA World Endurance Championship was announced today. Le Mans 2017 will be the first season without Audi so the initial look of the grid is very different from previous years.

You can download a full copy of the entry list here: Entry List 2017

LMP1 Class
Not only is this class missing the headline act of Audi, but with Rebellion switching classes, the field was always going to be a little light this year. Just six cars will be making up the top tier at Le Mans 2017 with more teams promised to bolster the ranks in 2018. However, for 2017 Toyota have chosen to add a third car to their FIA WEC cars giving them the numerical advantage. The reigning champions Porsche will be fighting to retain the Le Mans trophy with 2 cars. The class is made up by the single privateer in ByKolles, with Robert Kubica their lead driver. They will be looking for a better performance than last year, but realistically they would be more than happy with a sixth place finish behind the big guns. LMP1 may not be what it was, but if Porsche and Toyota give us a finish like last year, nobody will be complaining about the missing Audis.

LMP2 Class
The biggest field by far is here with 25 entries. Most of these cars are stepping up from the European Le Mans Series and there are only 9 competing in the FIA WEC this year. It is new start for the regulations in LMP2 so this is a healthy number to see on the list. The split between Europe and the USA is clear to see with only Ben Keating making the entry list from the IMSA stable. With such a large field it will certainly be difficult to predict the outcome, which will make things exciting for everyone involved.

GTE Pro Class
Some of the most anticipated racing will no doubt be from this class. 13 cars and 5 manufacturers could actually make this class the headline act in 2017. Ford look like they could be the ones to beat, with a 4 car entry on the back of an impressive performance last week in Daytona. Porsche could be the challengers after returning to the fray with the new 911 RSRs. Aston Martin, Corvette and Ferrari won’t just be making up the numbers either, so this could well be a fight right to the finish.

GTE Am Class
There is a good mix of cars in the GTE AM class as well as good numbers. 16 cars have been invited with a spread across the FIA WEC, European Le Mans Series, Asian Le Mans Series and IMSA. From a British perspective it is great to see the experienced JMW Motorsports team back after missing out last year & the Gulf Racing team Porsche makes a welcome return after an underrated turn in 2017. Aston Martin will also be flying the flag for the UK with 3 cars, but Ferrari has the numbers again with 8 cars in the field. Last mention in the class should go to Labre Competition’s sole Corvette, that has new Rolex 24 at Daytona winner Ricky Taylor named as lead driver.

So there you have it with 2 cars in reserve, could this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours prove the doom mongers wrong and actually turn out to be a classic. Certainly the potential is there, so all you need to do is be at Le Mans 2017. If you haven’t already booked then time is running out, call Travel Destinations now to book your place.

Written by Richard Webb

Le Mans 24 Hours

Post Le Mans talking points

Barely a week has passed since Le Mans 2016.; not even a chance for the dust to settle (or the mud). Whilst memories are still vivid, Stephen Kilbey reviews the five main talking points you have all been discussing this week.

Toyota is back
Let’s get the end of the race out of the way first. Le Mans was a bitter disappointment for everyone involved with the Toyota Gazoo effort. Having Kazuki Nakajima retire, grinding to a halt on the final lap, from the lead, minutes away from the marque’s first Le Mans win, in front of thousands of fans on the pit straight. It was heart-breaking to watch. 30 years after its first attempt, it seems that Toyota ran out of luck, yet again.  But the positive is that the TS050 is most definitely competitive – a far cry from its 2015 showing – and the team will be more motivated than ever to bounce back not only in the rest of this season, but at Le Mans 2017. Toyota is clearly capable of winning the big race, and it certainly deserves to as well. If Porsche, Toyota and Audi all continue to be there or thereabouts with each other on pace, then the remainder of the FIA WEC season should be an absolute corker!

Toyota at Le Mans 2016
Ford won big, but just how big?
There are so many question marks surrounding GTE racing as a whole after last week. Ford was clearly desperate to win, coming in with its GT which had had a myriad of testing, and money thrown at it from all angles. The result; a 1,3,4 at the race, with only one of its cars having issues. It is now more apparent than ever that the Ford GT is so advanced that even the ACO and FIA couldn’t reign it in. After very quiet outings at Silverstone, Spa and the Le Mans Test Day, the Fords suddenly lapping four to five seconds quicker in race week was conspicuous to say the least. Most personalities within the paddock genuinely believe that the car can go even faster; into the 3:40s at La Sarthe, had there not been the potential for further uproar, which is remarkable in terms of engineering but worrying in terms of the future of the class. Unless the ACO and FIA get their heads together and make some serious changes to the way that Balance of Performance is calculated, then the arms race is on, and it is unlikely to last long. GTE stalwarts Corvette, Aston Martin and Porsche deserved better.

Ford GT at Le Mans
Notable newcomers
Ford aside, there were many new names on the grid at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours who impressed all week long. In LMP2 Eurasia Motorsport bagged a top five finish with its Oreca 05, becoming a successful ELMS convert, along with Panis Barthez Competition’s Ligier which crossed the line eighth. Both teams ran their cars well, and managed front running pace with their star drivers. Tristan Gommendy in the Oreca and Paul Loup Chatin in the Ligier really showed their abilities during the race.

And in GTE Am, Clearwater, which loaned a Ferrari 458 after winning the GT class in the Asian Le Mans Series using a GT3 McLaren, managed to nab fourth in its class. It was an absolutely incredible result for the team on its first trip, with McLaren GT factory driver Rob Bell putting the car on pole, before having a reliable run to the finish. It is safe to say that the entire crew enjoyed themselves. One can only hope that we see another ‘chrome’ GTE car in the field next year.

Clearwater Racing
More bad luck for the champs
After such an incredible second half to last season, the current World Champions in the No.1 Porsche 919 just can’t catch a break in 2016. Brendon Hartley’s incident at Silverstone whilst running in the lead, followed by mechanical troubles at both Spa and Le Mans, has left the trio practically out of the running for the Drivers World Championship this year before the halfway point of the season.
With just 3.5 points apiece, Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Hartley sit 19th in the overall standings, and in desperate need of a positive outing. After such disappointment this year’s French classic, expect both the No.1 Porsche and No.5 Toyota to come out swinging at the Nürburgring.

Porsche at Le Mans
A flourishing feeder system
If Saturday morning’s Road To Le Mans LMP3-GT3 race told us anything, it is that there are plenty of teams and drivers with aspirations of racing at Le Mans in the future. The driving standards in the 40+ car field were overall pretty promising, and the numerical split between prototype and GT3 numbers shows that there is interest in both formulas. Martin Brundle headlines aside, what the Road To Le Mans showed us is that it is a worthy part of the Le Mans 24 Hours support bill going forward, and is a necessary step on the ladder to La Sarthe. Expect it to come back bigger and better in 2017.

Road to Le Mans

Don’t forget that if you want to be at Le Mans 2017 you make a provisional booking now by calling Travel Destinations staff on 0844 873 0203.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Porsche at Le Mans 2016

Le Mans 2016: Reaction

Le Mans 2016: Instant Reaction

It may be a 24 hours race, but Le Mans 2016 will only really be remembered for the last five minutes. It is incredible that a round the clock endurance race can come down to such small moments in time, but Le Mans 2016 is the absolute proof of the old saying that “to finish first, you first have to finish”.

The start of this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours was memorable for all the wrong reasons, as the torrential rain that had made the campsites so muddy over race week, continued for the first hour. This meant that, for the first time, the race began behind the safety car. The cars paraded around the track in the wet for 50 minutes before the safety car came in and the real racing began.

Porsche were on pole and avoiding the spray were able to build a small lead, but Toyota were keeping them honest, as were Audi who were able to move up from starting 5th & 6th on the grid. It will be forgotten now, but each of the 6 factory LMP1 hybrid prototypes were leading the race at some point over the next few hours. It was quite a race.

Audi at Le Mans

Elsewhere, the superior power of the Ford GTs returning to Le Mans in the GTE Pro class was clear. With 4 cars entered, their superior numbers were also an advantage. Only the Ferraris could keep pace. Many would argue that the Balance of Performance gave Ford an unfair advantage, but that was not their choice and they could only race the teams around them.

The LMP2 class saw some exceptional battles. With the majority of cars powered by Nissan engines, this was always going to be close, but retirements and accidents throughout the 24 hours whittled the numbers down until Signatech Alpine, G-Drive Racing and SMP Racing were left to fight for the win.

Despite all the great racing, none of it will probably be remembered, because the headlines will be all about the finish. For more than the last hour, it had become a straight fight for the win between the Number 5 Toyota, and the No. 2 Porsche. The Toyota had a small advantage of about 30 seconds that ebbed and flowed with pit stops. The result seemed to be guaranteed when the chasing Porsche was called in to the pit lane with 5 minutes to go for fuel & tyres. There wasn’t enough time for them to catch the Toyota even if they wanted to.

Toyota at Le Mans

With 3 minutes left on the clock and the crowds all gathered to anoint a new winner in Toyota, disaster struck for the Japanese team. Initially the number 5 car slowed, almost as if waiting for the clock to tick around to 24 hours. But time seemed to slow down. It became apparent that as the Toyota came through Indianapolis, Arnage and then the Porsche Curves that something wasn’t right. The car was slowing all the time. The car was crawling through the Ford Chicane and barely made it across the start-finish line for what would have been the final lap, when it lost power and came to a complete halt.

Shock went through the pit lane. The No. 2 Porsche was more than half a lap back, but was closing rapidly as it scythed through the traffic. One can only imagine what was going through the mind of Toyota driver Kazuki Nakajima as he tried in vain to restart the Toyota hybrid. His efforts were in vain, as everyone watched the Porsche 919 Hybrid enter the straight and pass the stricken Toyota in front of the main stands. Joy turned to despair and despair turned to joy in that second. Everyone at Toyota was heartbroken. Everyone at Porsche was elated.

Porsche at Le Mans

Just over three minutes later the No. 2 Porsche of Neel Jani, Roman Dumas & Marc Lieb completed the final lap & were crowned the winners of the Le Mans 24 hours 2016. The number 5 Toyota Nakajima, Ant Davidson & Sebastien Buemi, was only able to complete the final lap under hybrid power, and as they took more than 6 minutes to do so, were cruelly unclassified from the overall result.
The Number 6 Toyota did pick up a consolation 2nd place, and the Audi Number 8, finished an embarrassed third, clearly not feeling they deserved to be on the podium at all.

In the LMP2 class, the Number 36 Signatech Alpine car was able to cruise to the win, whilst the Number 68 Ford GT of Chip Ganassi, were victorious in the GTE Pro class. In GT Am the Ferrari of Scuderia Corsa took the trophy having driven a brilliant race.

The result is already in the record books, but the emotional ending will be talked about by many. Especially those who were there and witness what was a quite unbelievable ending to the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

If you would like to be trackside for the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2017, then you will be able to make a provisional booking & reserve your space with Travel Destinations from Monday 19th June. Please call 0844 873 0203 to confirm your details & requirements.

Porsche at Le Mans 2016

Countdown to Le Mans: GTE Pro Preview

10 Things To Watch For In GTE Pro At Le Mans 2016

The 2016 GTE Pro class at Le Mans, consists of a 14 high-quality entries, with a wealth of manufacturer efforts including the return of Ford on the 50th anniversary of its maiden win. Five marques are represented in the field, with the seven full-season WEC entries being joined by two Ford entries from IMSA, two factory Porsches, an IMSA Ferrari from Risi Competitizione the two factory Corvettes.

Make no mistakes about it, this is going to be a dogfight, one we may well remember for a very long time to come. Here’s 10 key storylines to follow in this year’s Pro battle:

1. Ford’s return
It’s becoming ever more clear that Ford is desperate to win this race. The team – run by Chip Ganassi – already stated its intentions last year when it announced it would bring four cars to France, but since then the reception and sheer amount of of exposure of the car from the ‘Blue Oval’ has put this programme on another level. The car has won a race heading into June, after a magnificent fuel-saving run provided a surprise victory from one of its IMSA cars at Laguna Seca, which was a big moment for the programme. Prior to the big race the car has been handed a weight reduction too, which should up its pace on race week. By how much? Few people know, but it could put the Fords into contention after very quiet outings at Silverstone and Spa in the WEC.

Ford GT at Le Mans 2016
2. Balance of performance blues
It’s dull, but sometimes it has to be spoken about. The BoP changes appear to have aided Aston Martin and Ford and kept Ferrari, Corvette and Porsche at bay. The issue isn’t whether or not BoP should be enforced, it’s how it will play out. After receiving a significant weight reduction, the gap from Ferrari and Corvette to Ford was much the same at the Le Mans Test Day, which means Ford were either playing games or are extremely disappointed. It could be a very interesting final qualifying on Thursday night, as the pace of the GTE cars could be off the charts.

3. The champs return!
2015 Le Mans winners Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy, while unable to defend their title, will be in the race with Porsche, and likely eager to make an impression. Both drivers had a rough outing at the Nürburgring 24 Hours last month, with their co-driver Kevin Estre crashing in Top 30 Qualifying and Tandy also having a shunt in the race’s opening laps. The expectation of the 2016 Porsche 911 RSR is unclear because Porsche as a factory has opted to only compete at Le Mans in GTE in order to focus on LMP1 and the development of the 2017 GT challenger. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t count them out, especially with so much brand new machinery and technology in the class.

Porsche at Le Mans 2016
4. Magnussen tooking to bounce back
After his hefty shunt at the Porsche Curves during Qualifying last year, forcing the #63 Corvette to withdraw from the event before the race, Dane Jan Magnussen will be looking to move on and score a good result. A real fan favourite over the years, 2016 is Magnussen’s 18th start. Along with Spaniard Antonio Garcia and Ricky Taylor, he has a real chance to get a fifth class win too. Corvette should never be counted out, and the trio all have enough experience at the circuit and in the car to be right up there.

5. The 488’s grand debut
The Ferrari 488 GTE is the first turbo-charged Ferrari to race at Le Mans since the F40, and it has the potential to do damage in the first year of its development cycle. It’s no secret that the 458 and 430 before it evolved into race-winning machines very quickly, and the 488 GTE looks to be no different. Reliability issues aside the #71 from AF Corse has dominated in the WEC this year, controlling the race at Silverstone and inheriing the win at Spa after the #51 had mechanical issues with 10 mintues remaining. The real worry is reliability here, as the #51 has had issues all year, but the pace of it isn’t. If Davide Rigon, Sam Bird and Allessandro Pier Guidi have a faultless run to the finish, then look out! And if they win, they’ll take a very controlling lead in the WEC points standings too.

Ferrari at Le Mans 2016
6. Brits galore!
For all Brits travelling to the race looking to support the locals, look no further than the GTE class, which is packed with drivers sporting union flags on their overalls. All of them are factory drivers too.
Marino Franchitti, Richard Westbrook, Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx are driving a Ford GT, Darren Turner and Jonny Adam are in Astons, James Calado and Sam Bird are piloting Ferraris, and Nick Tandy and Oliver Gavin will be in a Porsche and Corvette respectively.

7. Risi’s return
For the first time since 2010, a red Risi Competizione Ferrari will be competing at the French classic. The American squad is looking for its fourth class win at the race, after most recently winning the with the 430 at the turn of the decade. With ex-F1 star Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari GTE stalwart Toni Vilander and Matteo Mallucelli aboard the car should be quick too. It’s good to see them back!

8. Aero makeover
Anyone standing trackside at the race who hasn’t studied the new crop of GTE machinery could well be in with a shock. The aggressiveness of the cars has been ramped up to 11, with the Ford GT and Aston Vantages in particular looking like birth childs of DTM and LMP1 cars. One glance at the rear of the new Aston will tell you one thing: downforce is key now. Nobody knows just where this class will end up in the future, but right now, if you look over at one and squint your eyes, it’s like we’re back in the GT1 days again.

Aston Martin Racing at Le Mans 2016
9. Factory stars in factory cars
As was eluded to in the British driver paragraphs, the amount of factory drivers in the race is staggering. Every car in the 14-car field is packed with top class factory talent, with only Phillip Eng and the aforementioned Pier Guidi and Malucelli being exceptions; though even they are factory nominees. The quality of teams and drivers has literally never been higher at the top end of GT racing at Le Mans, so soak it in, sit back and enjoy. This is a golden era.

10. Tyre war
It’s been a while since GTE Pro at Le Mans has seen a tyre war, but it looks like competition between rubber manufacturers is back, and here to stay. Aston Martin has signed a technical partnership with Dunlop, and 2016 is the first year. While the tyres being used this year are pretty much an unknown quantity, both Aston and Dunlop will be looking to make the most out of running in mixed conditions – if there is any. Michelin vs Dunlop could be interesting in 2016, especially if the weather becomes a real factor. And it most definitely will in the coming years after further development of bespoke compounds for Prodrive’s machines.

Corvette at Le Mans 2016

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photos by Dailysportscar

FIA WEC Silverstone

Countdown to Le Mans; Part 1

Countdown to Le Mans: Five Post-Silverstone Storylines

The FIA World Endurance Championship – which includes the Le Mans 24 Hours – had its opening race last weekend at Silverstone, and provided a few hints as to what we can expect from this year’s twice-round-the-clock classic at La Sarthe.

Dailysportscar.com’s lead WEC reporter Stephen Kilbey looks back five of the key topics as the dust (& snow) settles on the 6 Hours of Silverstone:

1. Audi is back to winning ways… Well, sort of.

Audi R18

With so many question marks surrounding both Audi and Toyota, who enter the 2016 season with brand new cars, Silverstone was always going to be fascinating from an LMP1 point of view.

While Toyota were once again lacking pace, throughout the weekend, Audi and its brand new R18 looked like it may have the pace to challenge Porsche’s formidable 919 which won both Le Mans and the WEC title last season. Qualifying was held on a drying track after snowfall early Saturday morning, and Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler managed to stick their #7 Audi on pole for the first time since the 2013 6 Hours of Fuji.

In the race, the reigning WEC champion #1 Porsche of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard managed to snatch the lead off the Audi and race off into the distance. Hartley though, crashed out in dramatic fashion just before the halfway mark, almost rolling the prototype after tagging a GTE Porsche running through Farm curve.

The incident handed Audi its lead back, and triple Le Mans champions managed to hold off the other Porsche until the finish. However, a post-race technical check of the winning R18 revealed that the front plank was too worn, and therefore prompted the organisers to disqualify the car from the race. The #2 Porsche of Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani therefore claimed the victory.

While it’s way too early to tell if Porsche will win Le Mans again or not this year, all signs point to the 24 Hours being another close-fought affair.

2. The pace of the Hybrid prototypes is still astonishing

Porsche 919 Hybrid

The current era of P1 cars really do need to be seen to be believed. Last year, the factory prototypes took an enormous step in regard to raw performance, especially towards the end of the WEC season when Porsche turned up at the Nürburgring fresh from its 17th Le Mans win with a new aero package.

Going into 2016 the ACO has tried to peg back the top cars, forcing them to use 30% less fuel per lap. But intelligent engineers at Toyota, Porsche and Audi seem to have managed to gain the previous level of performance back that and a little bit more by improving other areas.

At Silverstone the P1 cars were going faster than 2016, producing lap-times comparable to that of a mid-pack Formula One car, but with a weightier chassis and more traffic to deal with. If the form continues on a low-drag circuit like Le Mans, then expect the lap-record to be broken once again in Qualifying if the weather holds out.

3. Ford could well have a good run at Le Mans

Ford GT

There’s a lot of pressure on GM’s finest going into this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, it being the 50th anniversary since Ford’s historic first win. Nevertheless, the new GTE programme continues to impress. The new Ford GT’s first outing at Daytona back in January was problematic, but fast forward a few months and it looks far more capable of a head-turning debut at the big one in eight weeks time.

Both of Ford Performance’s new cars ran faultlessly during the race at Silverstone, finishing up fourth and fifth in the GTE Pro class. On pace they weren’t able to challenge the might of AF Corse’s Ferraris, but the raw speed should come with its new found reliability.

With four factory-entered Fords due to compete at Le Mans, don’t be surprised if the GTE newcomers leave with an impressive result.

4. Aston Martin Racing looks far more competitive this year

Aston Martin Racing

2015 was tough for the British factory team run by Prodrive. Its Vantages were often far off front-running pace throughout the year and failed once again to win the GTE Pro class at Le Mans.

If the first round of 2016 is anything to go by though, Aston Martin looks in a lot better shape than was predicted. With brand new Dunlop tyres that will only get better with further development, a return to a green paint scheme and an aggressive aerodynamic overhaual to its Vantages, it should be able to build on the solid podium finish on home soil and win its class for the first time at Le Mans in eight years.

5. The WEC continues to build on its extremely positive foundation

Gulf Racing UK

While the Le Mans 24 Hours will always be the jewel in the WEC’s crown, the exceptional racing, interest from more blue-chip manufacturers and a very stable calendar is paying off big time for the FIA’s youngest World Championship.

Crowds at European rounds like Silverstone and Spa have been growing year on year, and that’s only a good thing for the future of sportscar racing as well as the Le Mans 24 Hours. Last year, a record crowd of 263,000 people turned up to La Sarthe in June to witness history, and with momentum continuing to build don’t be surprised if that record is shattered once again.

If you would like to attend the Le Mans 24 Hours 2016 then Travel Destinations have a selection of travel, ticket and camping packages available.

If you would like to attend the FIA WEC 6 Hours of the Nurburgring in July, then Travel Destinations also have an exclusive travel, ticket and trackside camping option available.

If you would like more information on either of these offers please click on the links above or call our reservations team on 0844 873 0203.

FIA WEC 2016

Introducing the FIA WEC 2016

The official prologue for the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship took place over Easter weekend. This was the first chance for the public to see the new teams and cars in the flesh. Although little can be concluded from lap times at this stage, Stephen Kilbey from Dailysportscar, was trackside at Paul Ricard to give Travel Destinations a briefing on what to expect in the FIA WEC and at Le Mans 2016.

LMP1
Porsche, Audi and Toyota are all back for another season which is posed to be just as enthralling as last year. Each team will be entering 2 cars each in 2016, so there is a level playing field at the front of the grid.

Porsche 919 Hybrid

Porsche has opted to tweak its 919 Hybrid for the new season and take lots of small steps in an attempt to improve on performance, and nullify the ACO’s new restrictions on fuel-flow imposed to slow all the LMP1 cars down.

Audi R18 e-tron quattro

Audi and Toyota meanwhile enter 2016 with entirely new packages. Both the new Audi R18 and the Toyota TS050 are very different to what the teams ran last year, and that’s very apparent not just aesthetically, with new liveries and noticeable aero developments, but also under the covers too. The gamble here is whether the new technology will be as reliable as the tweaked tried and tested formula adopted by Porsche. Porsche topped the time sheets at Paul Ricard, but both Audi and Toyota showed quick sector times, without needing to put them all together. Ultimately the first race at Silverstone will really show us what each car is capable of.

Toyota TS050

In the privateer subdivision, one of the two teams present – Rebellion Racing – makes a return with two R-Ones, in a very similar package to last season, but a very shiny new livery which up-close is extremely detailed and in some ways mesmerising. The ACO have promised to review this class to try and enable them to be more competitive moving forward. Perhaps Rebellion’s efforts and consistency over the last few years deserves more.

Rebellion Racing

LMP2
There are plenty of new faces in the LMP2 class this year. This is probably the most difficult grid to predict with many similarly powered cars lining up alongside each other. G-Drive Racing, after winning the LMP2 Championship last season, have partnered up with Jota Sport to run a brand new Oreca 05, sporting the team’s standard eye-catching livery.

Manor

Aside from that, both Signatech Alpine and ex-F1 outfit Manor have also purchased Orecas for the new season. Alpine’s blue and orange looks just as good on a prototype with a roof, and Manor’s fresh look – conceived by team principal Graeme Lowdon – will certainly stand out in what promises to be a very competitive field.

RGR Morand

RGR Morand’s very patriotic livery representing the re-branded team’s Mexican ties on the new Ligier is also one to look out for.
GTE Pro
Much like LMP1 class the GTE Pro grid is oozing manufacturer interest, and the addition of Ford is a testament to the class’ relevancy in global GT racing.

Ford GT

On the subject of Ford, Chip Ganassi Team UK’s pair of GTs look astonishing up close, and with some more development should be in the running for some results throughout the season having already run at Daytona and Sebring in the States this year.

Ferrari 488

Outside of the Ford’s new car on the grid, the well-established AF Corse squad are back with two brand new Ferrari 488 GTEs which promise to be in contention for the title right away. When has a Ferrari not been in the mix over the last few years?

Aston Martin Racing

Aston Martin Racing and Dempsey Proton Racing – Porsche’s only Pro representative this year – meanwhile have revised cars for the season. Aston martin’s Vantages are substantially more meaty in the rear diffuser department, and livery wise, after sporting Gulf colours since 2008, Aston Martin return to the team’s roots by running in a very smart (and British) green.

GTE Am
Although the Aston Martin’s will no longer be carrying the Gulf Oil branding, the famous colours won’t be missing from the grid, as European Le Mans Series graduates Gulf Racing UK are participating in the full FIA WEC season this year with their Porsche. It is certainly a striking car and sure to be a fan favourite.

Gulf Racing UK

Top to bottom, GTE Am’s foundations remain unchanged, although 2015 LMP2 runner-up KCMG are also set to run a Porsche in the 2016 FIA WEC championship.

As the clock ticks down to the start of the season at Silverstone from the 15th – 17th April, the work behind the scenes will be ramped up. The official prologue has certainly whetted the appetite for what is going to be another great endurance racing season.

 

The Le Mans 24 Hours remains the pinnacle in the endurance racing calendar and the jewel in the crown of the FIA World Endurance Championship. For those wishing to watch the racing live, travel, ticket and camping packages are still available from Official Agent Travel Destinations. Availability restrictions for certain areas apply, but it is still possible to reserve your place Le Mans 2016.

Travel Destinations also have exclusive offers to attend the FIA World Endurance Championship  rounds at both Spa-Francorchamps and the Nurburgring. Visit our dedicated site for more information and the best prices or call Travel Destinations direct now on 0844 873 0203.

 

Le Mans 24 Hours

The Fastest Le Mans

The 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours was a classic.

 History making speed, not just over single laps but over full stints, and indeed the whole race, a depth of quality that few other years have managed to match, and close racing between fierce rivals in every class all combined to give us one of THE best Le Mans’ ever.

So how fast was the 2015 race?

Look at it this way – more than one car was faster over a full stint, throughout the race, than the pole time set over a single lap last year, and the cars used less fuel year on year in doing so! That’s an astounding step forward.

Better still it wasn’t a race dominated by a single car, or a single make with Audi looking like real contenders as the race bludgeoned its way into the night.

audi-500

Audi’s all too rare failure to secure the top spot came down to four issues: a freak accident for Loic Duval in the No.8 car, other cars confused by conflicting flag and light signals causing a knock-on effect with faster cars approaching from behind, a hybrid issue for the No.9 car which had been in real contention, bodywork issues for all three Audis that saw the No.7 car drop out of contention after losing part of the rear deck and, blinding speed from the Porsches, Nick Tandy in particular doing major damage to Audi’s aspirations during a mammoth three hour turn overnight that saw the No.19 car take control of the race.

A podium for the No.7 crew and an historic fastest race lap from Andre Lotterer were just consolation prizes for a team that seldom fails to find perfection.

toyota-lmp1

Toyota were just plain off the pace, whatever sums were done in Cologne over the winter break seem to have come up with the wrong answers, and there are rumblings of major changes to come for the programme.

Nissan arrived with their extraordinary GT-R LM NISMO having mounted a rearguard action to reduce expectation levels. There was huge interest in the new cars, a major fan favourite effort, but the pace simply wasn’t there yet. No hybrid boost from a system that has proved troublesome throughout its gestation left the Nissans both struggling for pace and in major braking difficulties, the car having been designed to harvest braking energy, with that not available the knock-on effect left the team changing brakes regularly.

nissan-500

That said the team got a car home, albeit unclassified, and nearly made it two with the No.23 car out only as the final hour approached.

Porsche though deserved their first overall win since 1998. Sustained pace from all three cars, and almost problem-free running for the leading pair put them on top of the endurance racing world.

The headlines went to the drivers, current F1 man Nico Hulkenburg, young Kiwi Earl Bamber and Brit Nick Tandy, with the 1,2 completed by the No.17 car of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber.

The real stars though were the people that came up with the extraordinary 919 Hybrid, the first 4 cylinder powered car to win at Le Mans in over 80 years and a step forward in technology that, despite it’s huge leap in performance and efficiency, still produced rock solid reliability to allow pace of a quite extraordinary nature.

Who knows what they’ll produce for 2016?

Don’t forget to reserve your place at Le Mans 2016 with Travel Destinations now!

Written by Graham Goodwin
Photos by Dailysportscar

Porsche are champions at Le Mans 2015

Porsche are champions at Le Mans 2015

Porsche have won the 83rd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. It is a record 17th overall win for the German manufacturer, but their first since 1998. The No. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid, driven by Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenberg came home first after 24 hours of intense racing, sparking huge celebrations in the pit lane and amongst a crowd of more than 263,000 enthralled spectators.

Le Mans 2015 always looked like it would be a head to head between Audi and Porsche. Audi were the reigning champions and had won 9 out of the last 10 Le Mans races. Porsche only returned to the top flight of endurance racing last year. They had shown their pace in the first two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) but had been let down by reliability problems.

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In practice and qualifying Porsche showed that they had the faster car. They set records in qualifying for pole position and claiming a 1-2-3 for the start. Audi were never slow, but sat ominously behind the Porsches like a stalking predator. The other factory teams, Toyota and Nissan were never able to keep up with the leading cars.

In reality the race didn’t go as everyone expected. The Porsches got away well but didn’t have the pace to pull away from the Audis. In fact regular safety cars meant that as early as the second hour the No. 7 Audi was able to catch and pass the Porsches to take the overall lead. Indeed it was Andre Lotterer in that Audi that set the overall quickest lap of the race; another Le Mans record.

So Porsche weren’t the fastest and it turned out the Audi weren’t the most reliable either. Shortly after taking the lead the No. 7 Audi had to pit out of sequence with a puncture and the lead was handed back. Worse was to befall the No. 8 Audi, when it didn’t brake entering a slow zone (due to signal confusion) and had to swerve to avoid slowing vehicles in front. As a result Duval lost control of the car and the Audi crashed head on in to an Armco barrier. It is a credit to Audi that not only was Duval not injured, but that he was able to return the damaged car to the pits, and that in less than 5 minutes it had rejoined the race under the safety car still fixing the barriers it had damaged. However the advantage had been handed back to Porsche.

As darkness fell, the action continued and there was a fascinating interchange between Audi and Porsche, with neither being able to break free from the other. As one car pitted, the other took the lead, only to give the lead back at the next pit stop. It wasn’t until daylight was returning that Porsche started to gain an advantage. The No. 7 Audi had always been the quickest of the Audis, but they dropped back when inexplicably they lost their engine cover on the track and had to return to the garage for bodywork repairs. Although the car rejoined this was a problem that was never really resolved and continued to cause concern in to the latter part of the race. It was crucial time lost.

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The No. 19 Porsche managed to grow a gap at around 8am when a safety car split the LMP1 pack. This enabled Hulkenberg to gain a lap on its nearest rivals. The No. 9 Audi was hanging on, but Webber in the No. 17 Porsche was with them and managed to take second, proving another barrier between Audi and the lead.

Pressure was building on Audi to break the Porsche stranglehold, but mistakes began to be made. Fassler caught the wrath of the stewards after trying to unlap himself under yellow flags. It was a desperate move caused by frustration but it only gained a drive through penalty and any gains the car had made were instantly lost.

As the race entered its final stages the No. 19 Porsche continued to lap in the 3 minutes 20 seconds area and it was the Audis that broke under the strain. Each of the Audis in turn suffered issues, including a return of the loose engine cover for the No. 7 car and their challenge was done. It was left for the No. 19 Porsche to lead home the sister No. 17 car relatively untroubled with a laps margin between them to enable the Porsche team to enjoy a memorable victory.

Despite having 2 rookie drivers and one parachuted in from Formula 1, the No. 19 car fully deserved the win. In fact it was the British driver Nick Tandy and New Zealander Earl Bamber who should take the plaudits, because although Nico Hulkenberg brought the car across the line, it was the impressive times set by his teammates through the night that set up this impressive win.

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In the LMP2 class the victory went to the Nissan powered Oreca of KCMG. They were challenged at various times by G-Drive racing and a late charge by Jota Sport, but in truth they lead the field for 90% of the race and fully deserved their win.

The GTE Pro battle was intense throughout. Whilst the Porsches never had the speed in this class, there was a great three way battle between Aston Martin, Ferrari and Corvette that at times saw cars three abreast across the track. Aston Martin looked to have the power, but accidents and reliability issues curtailed their challenge. Going in to the morning the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari was slugging it out with the sole remaining No. 64 Corvette. It looked like the Italian team would hold off the American challenge, when disaster struck and the experienced Vilander had to bring the Ferrari back in to the garage with gearbox issues. It was heartbreak for the AF Corse team, but it meant that the Corvette team that saw their sister car crash out in qualifying, stayed the distance to take a memorable win. All the more important as their major rivals Ford have taken the chance to announce a return to Le Mans for 2016.

Even more heartbreaking was the story of the GTE Am race. The No. 98 Aston Martin had qualified quickest and had led the race by some distance going in to the last hour. Then, with Paul Dalla Lana at the wheel and the podium step seemingly guaranteed, the car inexplicably careered into the barriers at the Ford Chicane. It was the only mistake made by the team all week but it ended their race immediately. It was left then to the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari to almost apologetically take the class win. They had overcome their own battles to cross the line, but even they must have felt sorry for the Aston Martin Racing team.

The Le Mans 24 Hours 2015 was a great race. Full of twists and turns, broken records and broken hearts. Porsche were deserved winners breaking the dominance of Audi over recent years.

A more detailed report of the race incidents will appear on this website later in the week. In the mean time….

The dates for the Le Mans 24 Hours 2016 have already been confirmed as the 18th & 19th June 2016. You can be trackside to see all the action with Travel Destinations. Reservations for Le Mans 2016 open from Monday 15th June and you can reserve your place by calling 0844 873 0203. We hope you can join us.

Written by Richard Webb
Photos: Porsche AG

Porsche start on pole for Le Mans 2015

Porsche start on pole for Le Mans 2015

On Wednesday night the No. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid, driven by Neel  Jani, set a record breaking qualifying lap (for this Le Mans circuit configuration) of 3 minutes, 16.887 seconds. Thursday’s two qualifying sessions proved to be stop-start affairs in warm and humid conditions, that meant the this incredible time could not be challenged. This means the Porsche driven by Jani, Dumas and Lieb, will start the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours from pole position. They will be joined on the front row by the sister No.17 car and followed in third by the other sibling, the No. 18 Porsche 919 hybrid.

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The second qualifying session began in overcast, stormy weather at 19:00hrs on a dry track, but it was upset by several incidents. Four stoppages upset the original planned schedule for all the teams. Among the improvements early on was the No. 19 Porsche, as it beat its Wednesday’s time with a lap in 3m18.862sec, but this did not change the previous day’s hierarchy.

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The first stoppage was at 19:40hrs because of the of the No. 13 Rebellion R-One continuing straight at the first chicane on Les Hunaudières. This was followed by a mechanical failure on the No. 47 Oreca 05 between Mulsanne and Indianapolis as well as a trip into the gravel trap by the No. 55 Ferrari in the Porsche Curves

The session restarted at 19:57hrs, but was stopped again at 20:30hrs when experienced Jan Magnussen had a big shunt in the No. 63 works Chevrolet Corvette C7.R just after the virage du Pont on the exit from the Porsche Curves. The car slammed into the guardrail and the session was red-flagged. The session did not restart.

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Magnussen was conscious and he was carefully extricated from the C7.R and taken to the circuit medical centre for medical checks. Unfortunately the Corvette will now not start the race on Saturday as it cannot be repaired in time. For the first time in its history Corvette Racing has been forced to withdraw one of its cars from the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The third and final qualifying session began early at 21:30hrs, but the record times set the previous day by Porsche, were not tested by their main rivals Audi and Toyota. The Audis did improve their times to move within less than three seconds behind the Porsches. However, the final stoppage came at 23:05hrs when the No. 67 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Alex Kapadia, caught fire and stopped between Tertre Rouge and the first chicane. The session did go live again at 23:25hrs, but the final 35 minutes of running did not influence the starting grid order.

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The Oreca of KCMG celebrated in their garage as they headed the LMP2 times and will start ahead of the No. 26 Ligier of G-Drive racing on the grid. However the biggest smiles were to be found at Aston Martin Racing who managed to clinch poles in both the GTE Pro and Am categories. The No. 99 car held of the Ferrari challenge to take pole in the Pro class, whilst the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 continued to dominate the Am field.

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The Le Mans 24 Hours 2015 will start on Saturday at 15:00hrs (local time) and it promises to be another fascinating race.

Photos by Dailysportscar

Porsche set the pace in Le Mans qualifying

Porsche set the pace in Le Mans qualifying

Following a disrupted and damp last practice session, all cars took to the track for Wednesday night’s first qualifying session, keen to impress. With the weather forecast for Thursday’s two qualifying sessions uncertain, all the teams wanted to claim a provisional pole. Porsche managed to do this in some style and set a new qualifying record for this Le Mans circuit in the process.

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With a strong performance, the three Porsche 919 Hybrids finished first, second and third in the first of three qualifying sessions for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The best overall lap time for the field of 56 cars was achieved by Neel Jani, who lapped the 13.629 kilometre long circuit in 3:16.887 minutes. The Swiss has now established a new qualifying record for the current track length by beating Peugeot’s pole position time from 2008 (3:18.513 min). Jani shares car number 18 with Romain Dumas (FR) and Marc Lieb (GER). Timo Bernhard (GER) achieved the second fastest time today, which was also good enough to beat the old record. Just like Jani, he was in the car as soon as qualifying began before his teammates Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AUS) took over the number 17 prototype later in the session. For the third trio, with the Le Mans rookies Earl Bamber (NZ) and Nico Hülkenberg (GER) sharing car number 19 with Nick Tandy (GB), it was the Britain who did their fastest lap with the around 1,000 HP hybrid race car in 3:19.297 minutes to come third.

The three Audi cars followed on from the Porsches, with the 2 Toyotas behind the Audis. The other factory team, Nissan, struggled for pace and were swallowed up by the LMP2 field.

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Le Mans has three qualifying sessions that are held with each of them lasting for two hours. The best lap time achieved in these six hours is the one that decides each car’s grid position. Because the weather conditions are currently tending to be changeable, it is not clear what Wednesday’s time sheets from the dry session may be worth in terms of grid positions.

It is clear from this one session that Porsche have the quickest car at Le Mans in these conditions. The times set in qualifying may indeed be enough to secure pole position for Saturday’s race. However, Le Mans is an endurance race and not a sprint. Having the fastest car is not enough at Le Mans. You only have to look to last year’s result, where the Toyota qualified on pole, yet Audi secured the victory.

If nothing else, the results form the qualifying session on Wednesday show that the race is going to be another good one.

The second qualifying session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans will take place on Thursday from 19:00-21:00 hrs, with the third and final qualifying following in the dark from 22:00-24:00 hrs (local times).