Tag Archives: Toyota

Le Mans 2017

Records fall in qualifying for Le Mans 2017

Toyota announced a strong statement of intent during qualifying on Thursday evening, as they locked out the front row of the grid and set a new circuit lap time in the process of claiming pole position. Porsche had to settle for the second row as the Japanese manufacturer grabbed the Le Mans 2017 headlines.

Toyota at Le Mans
The first qualifying session on Thursday evening was curtailed following an accident by the Eurasia Motorsport Ligier, that caused damage to the barriers. This meant all eyes were on the second and final qualifying session and the drivers didn’t disappoint in any of the classes. Kamui Kibayashi, at the wheel of the No.7 Toyota, was out early in the session and took full advantage. With a relatively clear track, new tyres & favourable breezes down the straight, the Japanese driver astonished everyone (possibly including himself) setting a new qualifying lap record (13:14.791) by more than two seconds. It was a quite remarkable lap that nobody else was able to get close to throughout the rest of the session. Porsche rallied and improved their times, but the new record was never really under threat as darkness fell at Le Mans.

G-Drive Racing at Le Mans
The new LMP2 cars have already proven to be extremely quick. In fact, they have been clocked faster than the LMP1 cars down parts of the Mulsanne straight. Lack of downforce elsewhere in the circuit means their fastest lap (3:25.549) was more than 10 seconds behind the LMP1 pole. Make no mistake though this is quick and some 7 seconds ahead of the previous LMP2 class record. With so many similar powered cars in LMP2 this class is going to be hugely difficult to predict, and all through qualifying the provisional pole kept changing hands. In the end, the fastest time in the class was set by the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca, with Alex Lynn getting the best from the car. Not far behind were the No. 25 CEFC Manor TDS Racing Oreca and the No. 38 Jackie Chan Racing Oreca. The Gibson powered Oreca appears to be the car to have this year.

Aston Martin Racing
Another close battle for pole took place in the LMGTE Pro class and another qualifying lap record fell in the final session. British driver Darren Turner brought the No. 97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage around in 3:50:837 to claim pole and cue the back slapping in the garage. There has been much criticism of the Balance of Performance regulations in this class, but judging from the qualification alone, they seem to have got most things right. Provisional pole changed a number of times throughout the session, with Ferrari, Corvette and Ford all having a shot at provisional pole. In the end it was the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari that pushed Aston Martin the most with James Calado, making it good evening for the Brits.

Larbre Competition
Not to be outdone the GTE AM battle was equally close and once again the qualifying lap record fell (3:52:843). This time however, it was the No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette that took the honours and class pole for the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours. Fernando Rees was the driver to get the best from the Corvette, although he was pushed all the way by the No. 98 Aston Martin and the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.

As the chequered flag fell to signal the end of the session, all participating cars had set qualifying times less than 4 minutes (another record) indicating that the Le Mans 24 Hours 2017 will probably go down in the history books again once the race gets going this weekend. One not to miss!

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

LMP1

Le Mans 2017: LMP Preview

This time next week the wait will nearly be over for the Le Mans 24 Hours 2017. Anticipation for the on track action will be at its peak and all the cars will be being prepared for action. Here we look at the talking points from a new look prototype field and what we can expect to see during Le Mans 2017.

Toyota vs Porsche
It is the clash of the titans we’ve all been waiting for. This year it is slightly different too, with Toyota, for the first time, bringing three cars to Le Mans. Toyota will be out to right the wrongs of last year, and try out some new talent too. The No. 9 car features returnee Nicolas Lapierre, Japanese Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto and WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez (who was in the No.7, but has been moved to the third car after his shunt at Silverstone cost him a race at Spa, and the experience to go with it).

Le Mans 24 Hours
Whilst the picture at Toyota has been of wholesale changes to technical parts and personnel, at Porsche, the car has taken a much more evolutionary approach, but the driver squad has had a thorough shake up. Out is the retiring Mark Webber, and last year’s Le Mans winners Roman Dumas (here in an Alpine LMP2) and Marc Lieb who is here as a reserve. In has come ex-Audi LMP1 star Andre Lotterer, and returning Le Mans winners from 2015, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.

So far it’s been advantage Toyota, winning at Silverstone & Spa and setting the fastest times at the Le Mans Test Day. However, Porsche shouldn’t be counted out, the new (for 2017) 919 has proved quick, using an aero package which wasn’t designed for use at Silverstone and Spa, and its driver set is both experienced and youthful. Who will come out on top? At this point it’s too early to say. One thing’s for sure though, it will be a historic result whatever happens. It’ll either be Toyota’s first victory, or Porsche’s 19th!

Le Mans 2017

ByKolles
Without competition, but still with interest, the ByKolles Racing Team has kept the LMP1 privateer on life-support this year. The Austrian team, with its Nissan-powered CLM P1/01 has the potential to mix in with the new and high powered LMP2s. It may not sound like much, but the car will be fast in a straight line, and should be competing with the top-end LMP2 teams. This year in particular, filling the gap between LMP1-H and LMP2 is not necessary, instead, the team will be excited about the prospect of seeing just how high up the order it can finish.

Le Mans 2017

Oreca vs everyone else in LMP2
The non-Oreca 07 runners could very well be in trouble. At the Le Mans Test Day, with their new low-downforce kits, the Orecas were seconds ahead of the competition, that without even being fastest in a straight line! In the end they finished 1 to 13 in the LMP2 running order, leaving frightened faces at Ligier, Dallara and Riley in their wake. Will this domination continue during race week? It’s distinctly possible. There are contingencies in the rules, to re-balance performance, but it’s by no means clear whether at this point the race officials intend to act. Certainly Ligier, has publicly accepted that its low-drag kit, is not working, with it becoming clear that Dallara has gone far too far down the blindingly fast route, and not nearly far enough on the goes round corners quickly aspect. The commercial future, for this brand new class, could well hinge on what, if anything, emerges in the coming days.

Le Mans 24 Hours 2017
World Endurance Championship vs European Le Mans Series
There has been plenty of discussions over the past couple of years about a perceived gap in standard between the FIA WEC and ELMS LMP2 teams. This will be put to the test next week, as the entire WEC field (all Orecas!) and all but one of the ELMS LMP2 teams are on the entry list. There are entries from the likes of Signatech Alpine, Rebellion, United Autosports, DragonSpeed and G-Drive Racing, some of the best teams in sports car racing. Which series will emerge with the winning, or highest placed car? Time will tell. It’s time to settle the debate!

Riley
While there’s strength in numbers for Oreca, Ligier and Dallara at Le Mans, the fourth LMP2 constructor, Riley, has just one bullet in its gun. There are some very good aspects to this programme, mainly Keating Motorsports fielding Jordan Taylor – who has won every IMSA WeatherTech race this year – and ultra-fast Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen alongside team owner Ben Keating. The problem though, is that the car has had little testing, particularly with its Le Mans aero set up. The Keating outfit only received the car six weeks ago, but it will receive support from Bill Riley himself and Multimatic at the race week, as Keating is their only customer racing in Europe. They will be desperate to show off what the car can do too, as a good result next week could well boost future sales.

Le Mans 2017
Reliability
We don’t talk as much about reliability in sports car racing now, because modern machinery is almost bullet proof at times. But this year in LMP2 there is cause for concern when it comes to niggles, serviceability and durability. While the new breed of LMP2 cars have been surprisingly durable, there have been signs that over the course of Le Mans there could be some issues which affect the race.
The electronic systems have had the problems that are the most widespread, with compatibility issues that have caused many teams to lose functions on their steering wheel. Gearboxes, and in particular, gear-shift actuators, have also played up, particularly on the Ligiers. While a race of attrition shouldn’t be expected, the age of the LMP2 cars must be taken into consideration. Expect at least some of the contenders to fall by the wayside, spending unscheduled time in the garage.

High speeds
One of the more spectacular aspects of this year’s 24 hours is going to be the speed of the new LMP2s. The new Gibson engine, and Le Mans aero has relegated the quickest LMP1 car to 13th on the speed trap in a straight line. The fastest of the bunch is the Dallara P217, which managed 341kph (about 205mph) down the straights during the Test Day. That can be bettered during race week too, when the track gets worn in. The new cars are seriously quick, and will breeze past the GTE cars in a straight line, which should dazzle the spectators on hand, who are used to seeing LMP2s have to fight traffic solely through corners.

Le Mans 2017
Tyres
It is not quite the GTE tyre war, but LMP2 does have a handful of Michelin and Dunlop runners in the race this year. It is fair to say that not only does Dunlop have the better rubber in ideal conditions, but also the customer base behind it, as there’s only three Michelin-shod cars in the 25-car field. If the conditions take a turn for the worst though, it may throw a spanner in the works, as neither tyre manufacturer has raced in the wet this year.

Noteworthy names
LMP2’s continued growth has led to many of the world’s best drivers, or most aspirant, wanting to give racing in LMP2 a go. In the field this year are former F1 star Rubens Barichello, Le Mans winner Jan Lammers, ex-F1 drivers Karun Chandhok & Jean-Eric Vergne, LMP1 Audi star Oliver Jarvis, GP2 race-winner Alex Lynn, Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jnr and Bruno Senna among others.
It is an incredible 75-driver pool this year, and up front should make for a fierce battle for the win!

Rubens Barichello at Le MansRecord times
It is hard to believe that the LMP2 Le Mans lap record is held by Jos Verstappen, in a 2008 Porsche RS Spyder. Since then certain cars have flirted with breaking it but the 3mins:32secs barrier is proving a tough one to break. This year though, it will be shattered, with drivers predicting 3mins:25secs during qualifying. The new LMP2s were lapping quicker than the Pole-time set by the Audi R10 less than a decade ago. It is staggering how far they have come. They are fast down the straights, grippy through the corners, and punchy on exits. They are so fast, that it is going to be like having 31 LMP1 cars on the grid for Le Mans 2017.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Test Day

Le Mans 2017; Test Day Results

The annual curtain raiser for the Le Mans 24 Hours race week is test day. This is chance for teams and drivers to experience the unique Le Mans track before the racing starts in earnest. Although many of the sixty cars have been running in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Le Mans test enables teams to practice in the new environment of Le Mans and try different aero packages and set ups before race week and the race itself on the 17th & 18th June.

Toyota at Le Mans
The Le Mans test has become an event in itself and more than 20,000 spectators were in attendance to watch the cars take to the full 13.6km circuit. It is often difficult to deduce much from the results of Test day, after all the laps are not competitive and it is unclear what fuel and tyres are being used during a particular session. However, Toyota will no doubt be pleased with their day’s work as not only did they set the best time of the day; a rapid 3 minutes & 18.132 seconds, but they also registered a 1-2-3 at the top of the time sheets at the end of the day.

Porsche at Le Mans
Porsche will be relatively pleased with their efforts, having had to perform an engine between the two practice sessions. This reduced the track time available to them and they managed 32 less laps in their No. 2 car compared to Toyota’s No. 9. Porsche will rather sort out those gremlins during test than have to do something similar in race week. The difference between the quickest Porsche and the slowest Toyota was just over half a second, so we can expect a close battle at the front of grid come race weekend.

Le Mans test
The speed of the new LMP2 cars was there for all to see. The fastest of which was the No. 35 Signatech Alpine which clocked 3 minutes, 28.146 seconds. There was a flurry of quick times towards the end of Le Mans test day, that saw second in class taken by the No. 24 Manor Racing Oreca and then third by No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing. Interestingly all of the top 13 cars were Gibson powered Oreca chassis.

Corvette Racing
Another engine change was required by the Corvette Racing team in GTE Pro. They performed a remarkably quick 90 minute turnaround on the No.64 car, mid-session, before setting the fastest time in the class at 3 minutes, 54.996 seconds. The two new Porsche 911 RSRs had previously dominated the timing screens and they ended the day second and third ahead of the second Corvette. Perhaps surprisingly the Ferraris and Fords weren’t able to compete with this pace, although they both could have been leaving their best times for race week.

Aston Martin Racing

Just a 10th of a second separated the first two cars in the GTE Am class. Aston Martin Racing secured top spot on the timing sheets with a 3 minute, 58.250 seconds lap ahead of the Labre Corvette. The No. 77 Proton Porsche rounded out the quickest 3 place GTE Am.

Race week will begin on the 11th June, when scrutineering for the Le Mans 24 Hours will begin. The cars will return to the track on Wednesday & Thursday 14th & 15th June, before the race itself on the 17th & 18th June 2017.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Dailysportscar

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.

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.

 

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

Audi survive late scare to take win at Silverstone

Desceptive spring sunshine with a gusting cold wind welcomed race fans to Silverstone yesterday for the 1st round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. After the new “Le Mans style” team line ups and national anthem on the grid before the green flag it was down to business for all the teams keen to start the season with a class win.

Porsche had locked out the front row from Saturday’s qualifying and they continued to show that speed as both cars accelerated away from the chasing pack. The opposite happened to the No. 7 Audi as it struggled to get off the line straight away. Not only did the driver, Treluyer, see the rest of the LMP1 grid continue around the first corner, but he was then passed by most of the LMP2 runners as well. It may have been the surprise of the slow running Audi that caused the new Strakka Racing Dome (LMP2) to immediately spin off in to the gravel, sending them to the very back of the grid.

Within 6 minutes of the start the leaders were in traffic as they caught up with the back markers in the GTE field. The closing speeds between the two classes were amazing. The speeds of the whole LMP1 grid werte impressive throughout. The lap times were comparable with the middle runners of the F1 grid last year. Bearing in mind the weight of the cars, the fuel and the distance of the race, this was quite amazing. Mark Webber’s Porsche was particularly quick, pulling out a 10 second advantage on his team mate in second place. Behind them the battle between Audi and Toyota for third place saw them trading places in and out of various corners.

Just behind the leaders in the LMP2 field the KCMG Racing prototype benefitted from a great start to take the lead in class, but within the first hour it was being chased down by the two orange and black G Drive cars. Despite a valiant effort from Tandy behind the wheel, he was passed on consecutive laps and the G Drive cars didn’t look back. The returning Strakka Racing car, was recovering from the spin at the back of the class and had a difficult view as it began to fight its way back through the congested field of cars.

Aston Martin began at the front of the GTE Pro field and started well, initially holding off the challenge of Porsche, with Ferrari staying out of trouble and watching developments unfold in front of them. GTE Am was equally close with the sole Corvette getting ahead of the Porsche and the AF Corse Ferrari, with Aston Martin waiting behind.

The running order was to change just in to the second hour. The leading Porsche, with Mark Webber at the wheel, was recalled to the pits and wheeled back in to the garage. Unfortunately it was never able to return to the race, as a driveshaft failure curtailed their race, leaving a lone Porsche out at the front.

Audi’s double challenge was reduced in force shortly after Porsche. Following an impact with a GTE Porsche at Becketts, the No. 8 Audi had to return to the pits for bodywork repair. Time in the garage cost the car a lap to the leaders, but the damage appeared a little more than cosmetic as the car never really recovered and continued to look unstable when it returned to the track. The car had a spin later with Olly jarvis at the wheel and their challenge was all but over.

At the front the battle was really just getting interesting. Over the period of more than an hour the remaining Audi and Porsche became locked in a tremendous battle. They were also briefly joined by the No. 1 Toyota as the pit stop strategy panned out. The lead constantly changed between the cars while Neel Jani and Marcel Fassler, expertly weaved their cars through the traffic. The Porsche was clearly able to pull away from the Audi along the straights, but it was quickly reeled in again by the Audi under passed under braking in to the corners. The battle continued for lap after lap, neither able to put any distance between themselves and their rival, despite different pit stop & tyre stinting strategies.

 

Eventually the No. 7 Audi managed to build a small gap and the Porsche had to be careful as the chasing Toyotas double stinted the tyres bringing them back in to the mix. Toyota and Porsche both challenged the leader throughout the rest of the race, but neither could hold the lead for any length of time, and going in to the last hour the Audi continued to lead with a gap of almost 40 seconds.

The LMP2 race became a comfortable 1 -2 for the G-Drive Racing. Once they had passed the KCMG car they built a lead that could never be surpassed. The No. 26 car finished ahead of the sister Ligier. The battle behind them saw the fluorescent green Extreme Speed HPD car finish in the third podium spot, but they were later disqualified by the stewards for worn planks beneath the car. This meant a late promotion for the Strakka Racing Dome that had fought its way back from that initial spin at the first corner. A great effort from the British based team.

The GTE Pro race was much tighter. The initial dominance of Aston Martin was undermined by a pit strategy mistake under a full course yellow, that set their pit stops off against the Porsche and Ferraris who ended up making less stops. The Manthey Porsche team looked strong but ultimately it was the vast experience of Bruni and Vilander that brought the ever-reliable AF Corse Ferrari home in front for the win.

Aston Martin had greater success in the GTE Am class, with the No. 98 car holding off the challenge from Ferrari to win the class. The No. 50 Larbre competition Corvette would probably have mounted a real challenge, but it sustained damage after a collision with a speeding Audi and the resultant run across the gravel.

Back in the top class it was difficult to call a winner right up until the end. Audi continued ahead of Porsche who were in turn still ahead of Toyota; a three way fight to the finish. The Audi had built enough of a gap to enable them to pit for a splash and dash to the line, but the Porsche and Toyota were closing. Just as the Audi was coming in for that last stop, the stewards gave the Audi a stop/go penalty for overtaking GTE cars by pulling off the track. The Audi came back to the pitlane following their outlap and served their penalty to emerge again just seconds ahead of the closing Porsche. The gap was now much reduced to just 8 seconds with only 10 laps remaining.

In the last few laps the Toyota in third continued to catch the Porsche in second, who in turn was catching the leading Audi. The Porsche closed the gap to less than 8 seconds but couldn’t quite catch the Audi. Marcel Fassler held on to give the No. 7 Audi the win and start the 2015 FIA WEC season on the top of the podium.

This was an incredible endurance race, and sets up the rest of the season perfectly. All three prototype challengers appear to have improved on last year’s models and there is clearly little to choose between them. Nissan (who were displaying their cars at Silverstone) will be added to the cocktail at Le Mans. This could be the best FIA World Endurance Championship season yet.

You can join us at the next 3 rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship. We have travel, tickets and camping options available for Spa-FrancorchampsLe Mans and the Nurburgring. Call us now on 0844 873 0203 to reserve your place!