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Toyota Drivers Are World Endurance Champions

Toyota Drivers Are World Endurance Champions

Although the No. 7 Toyota of Alexander Wurz, Mike Conway and Stéphane Sarrazin took their first win of the season in Bahrain, at the end of a thrilling FIA WEC Six Hours of Bahrain, it was their teammates in the No. 8 Toyota who claimed the overall FIA World Endurance Championship crown. Anthony Davidson and Sébastian Buemi can now call themselves “World Champions”.

Although technical issues prevented a top step finish for the Toyota pair, the ongoing issues for Audi’s challenge helped seal the championship for the Davidson & Buemi. “We were really unlucky with alternator issues at this race. If we didn’t have the problem we would have also been fighting at the front,” said a relieved Buemi. “It is not the best way to win it, but we are really happy! We have to focus on the manufacturer title now in Brazil.”

It was Porsche who made the best start to the race in Bahrain. The No. 14 car led from pole position with Romain Dumas at the wheel. Brendon Hartley in the No. 20 sister Porsche joined Dumas at the front by climbing to second place at the first corner to make it a Porsche 1-2.

The Porsche lead would be short-lived, as the pair of Toyotas soon battled to the front. Indeed the pace of the Toyotas was so good that Buemi not only took the lead, but stretched the gap considerably in a relatively short space of time. All changed again with an early full course caution for debris on the track & so the relative strategies of the leading LMP1 teams were altered. Toyota’s cars came in for early stops, whilst Porsche gambled by staying out. This decision was one the Porsche would later regret as they could never get back on terms with the Toyotas after they eventually pitted.

It seemed like the No. 8 Toyota would once again take a commanding victory in what has been a dominant season, but just under two hours into the race the car was brought in to the garage to fix a mechanical issue which cost the team more than half an hour. This enforced stop meant that they could finish only 11th overall, but lucky for them, the No. 2 Audi title challenger didn’t have the pace to profit from the Toyota’s issues, handing them the title anyway. Le Mans champions Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benôit Tréluyer could only manage fourth in Bahrain.

With the championship contending Toyota out of the picture, the lead of the race was taken over by the No. 7 Toyota crew, who fought off both Porsches until the end of the race. Both the No. 14 and No.20 Porsches had a chance to catch Davidson during the final two hours, but Mark Webber and Neel Jani couldn’t find the pace required. Jani complained of a lack of hybrid power, and Webber was struggling for grip towards the end of his stint. In the end the winning margin was under a minute, but it seemed like an eternity for the Porsche squad, who in their best all-round performance of the season, still couldn’t claim that elusive first FIA WEC victory.

Rebellion Racing won the LMP1 L class once again, with the No. 13 car coming home ahead of the No. 12 after late race electrical issue curtailed another excellent run. Their only rivals from the Lotus team retired on lap 2 with a gearbox issue.

The LMP2 class was won by KCMG for the second time this year. Matt Howson, Alex Imperatori and Richard Bradley fought hard against the two SMP Orecas throughout, after the G-Drive Ligier suffered a wishbone failure after contact with the No. 37 SMP entry of Kyril Ladygin on lap 1. The Ligier never recovered, hurting their chances of winning the championship going into the final round.

The FIA WEC GTE Pro and Am titles were also decided in Bahrain. Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander won the 2014 GT Drivers’ World Cup in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, while David Heinemeier Hansson, Nicki Thiim and Kristian Poulsen in the No. 95 Aston Martin won the GTE Am title with their class victory.


Bruni and Vilander won GTE Pro class in Bahrain, but only just! A great battle for almost the entire race with the No.97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke went down to the wire with Turner catching Vilander at a rate of knots, reducing a gap of over 20 seconds down to just over 2 in his final stint. The pair ran bumper-to-bumper for a long time, but the No. 97 needed to make one more stop than the AF Corse, which created the gap at the end. It was frustrating for the British team, who given just another couple of laps would have had a chance to snatch the win in what was clearly the faster car.

AF Corse’s No. 71 Ferrari of James Calado and Davide Rigon came home third. Whilst the Porsche challenge continued struggle for pace, meaning they were unable to challenge for a podium as the race wore on.


There was some consolation for Aston Martin as they did win the Am class once again, clinching the title in the process. The No.95 was untouchable, coming home a lap ahead of the No. 81 AF Corse Ferrari and the No. 98 Aston Martin which recovered well from an early penalty. A well deserved title was handed to the Danish trio who have been the best of the Am competitors all-season long.

The final round of the season will see the teams head to Sao Paulo at the end of the month, where the remainder of the titles will be decided.

The dates for the FIA World Endurance Championship 2015 have already been confirmed. As well as the Le Mans 24 Hours in June you can also join us at two other European rounds. The Six Hours of Spa will take place on the 2nd May 2015 and the Six Hours of the Nurburgring will take place on the 30th August 2015. We have camping and hotel options available for both. Secure your place by calling us now on 0844 873 0203.

Report & photos by Dailysportscar

Audi beat the rain to take victory at Austin, Texas

Ultimately it was the contrasting weather and the teams’ choice of tyres at crucial moments during this race that decided the outcome. After a long summer since the Le Mans 24 Hours, all FIA World Endurance Championship teams reconvened at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for round 4 of this ongoing battle.


From the start the Toyotas took the lead. In particular Sebastien Buemi was flying in the No. 8 car before a spin undid his earlier good work. The sister Toyota car closed the gap closely followed by the Audis that seemed to have a power advantage over the chasing Porsches early in the race.
It was the interruption of the weather that changed everything. Austin had been suffering from storms all week and race day was no exception. The dark clouds threatened and then delivered a deluge of rain. Audi called in both cars to change to wet tyres. Porsche called in their cars as well but changed only to new slick tyres. Toyota chose to stay out on their existing slicks, gambling on a brief period of rain.


The problem for Toyota and Porsche was that the rain continued for some time, leading to a few incidents where drivers were no longer in control of their vehicles. The No 7 Toyota was caught out at the Esses and slid through sideways, whilst the No 20 Porsche bounced through the gravel and into the barriers. Six other cars including the No. 8 Toyota were caught out by standing water at turn 11 that led to more cars becoming beached in the gravel.
With Audi the only prototypes seemingly able to stay on the track, & no safety car in sight, the race was red flagged. Even then wrong decisions were made as some cars erroneously returned to the pit lane, whilst others correctly stopped on the grid. The race was stopped for more than an hour as the rain continued to pour.


The race ultimately restarted behind the safety car with all the cars on new tyres & those rejoining from the pit lane behind those that had stopped on track. The race now had the Audis ahead of the No. 14 Porsche on the lead lap. The spins in the wet had left the Toyotas a way behind.
The No. 14 Porsche did manage to take the lead from the Audis during this latter part of the race as the night descended but engine issues ultimately ruined their challenge. The second Porsche and both Toyotas put in some quick laps in an attempt to catch the Audis, but ultimately it was to no avail as Audi claimed another 1-2 to match their Le Mans result. Those 2 results combined enabled Audi to take the lead in the FIA WEC Manufacturers Championship.

A brief mention here should also be made to the LMP1 L class, where Lotus joined Rebellion Racing for the first time this year. The No. 12 Rebellion Racing ultimately took the honours ahead of the Lotus with the sister Rebellion car unable to finish.


With the addition of the Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD car there were 5 LMP2 cars that took to the starting grid in Austin. The G-Drive Ligier Nissan started on pole but couldn’t hold the position, whilst early leader KCMG Oreca were ultimately overtaken by Extreme Speed.


All three cars lost out during the downpour as SMP Racing benefited and took the class lead. The No. 37 SMP Oreca succumbed to damage resulting from contact in traffic, whilst Extreme Speed’s challenge was dented quite literally from contact to the rear. The No. 30 car would ultimately recover to claim third position. The G-Drive Ligier mounted a challenge to the remaining No. 27 SMP Oreca, but suffered after mounting Austin’s kerbs too many times.
A similar fate befell the No. 47 KCMG Oreca Nissan, who was sent spinning into a tyre barrier. However, the car did recover & eventually chased down the leading No. 27 SMP Oreca. It was a close battle between the two as they approached the chequered flag, but it was the Chinese car that managed to take the win, thus reducing the gap to the No. 27 SMP Oreca in the Championship.

Aston Martin Racing will be very pleased to record a win at Austin, after a hard fought battle with the factory Porsches. The inevitable strong challenge from the Ferraris of AF Corse for once faded in the wet although they recovered in the dark to take a podium spot.


During the middle hours of the race, the Porsches looked comfortable. Having taken the lead from the Ferraris, the 2 Porsches looked to be unchallenged. However, as the race progressed so the Aston Martins began their attack. Initially Sefan Mucke lead the challenge, but after an electrical issue curtailed their challenge it was Darren Turner who pushed the Aston Martin challenge home in the No. 97 car. The Leading Porsche was only able to defend the position for so long.


Further back the Corvette and the Ferraris were left on the back foot after the rain stoppage and failed to register a challenge. The Corvette’s race on home soil was particularly disappointing for the local crowd.


Aston Martin Racing claimed a double GTE victory as the rain put an end to the Proton Porsche challenge. Both Prospeed Porsche set the initial pace but mechanical issues & dropping a lap behind the safety car left them out of contention.



All three AF Corse Ferraris suffered issues as well as being on the wrong side of the safety car when the rain came, whilst the 8Star Ferrari spun in the wet and at turn 20 and was lucky not to collect the traffic behind. The No. 57 Krohn Racing Ferrari also suffered damage in a collision with the No. 99 Aston Martin.


As everyone else faltered the two Aston Martins continued trouble free at the front with the No. 95 car taking the win and extending the crew’s lead in the GTE Am class.

The FIA World Endurance Championship now moves on to Fuji, Japan from the 10 – 13th October.

Written by Richard Webb
Photos by Dailysportscar

The return of the FIA WEC

The return of the FIA WEC

It seems a very long time since Le Mans, but the FIA World Endurance Championship gets back underway in just under a month’s time after a summer break extended by the shift of the Brazilian round to the very end of the season to avoid the Football World Cup. Round four then sees the teams head to the United States for the ‘Lone Star Le Mans’ meeting, the cars set to race into darkness at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

The factory LMP1-H teams will be out in force once again, Audi on the crest of a Le Mans winning wave, Toyota looking to reinforce their status as the season’s pacemakers, their TS040s having won at both Silverstone and Spa. Mike Conway will be substituting for Kazuki Nakajima in Austin, the Japanese is otherwise engaged with racing commitments in Japan.

Porsche meanwhile have been testing the higher downforce aero package on their 919 Hybrid since Le Mans and will come into the second half of the season buoyed up by a performance over the 24 Hours that exceeded most peoples expectations on both pace and reliability.

In the LMP1-L category Rebellion Racing too will be in good spirits after an excellent fourth position overall at Le Mans for their #12 R-One. Better news still though is that they will have competition in the sub-class for the very first time as the AER twin turbo V6 powered Lotus T129 makes its season debut.

Christophe Bouchut, James Rossiter and talented Austrian single seater racer Lucas Auer will pedal the Lotus, it rounds out a 9 car LMP1 field.
LMP2 also sees an additional runner as the first of three ‘local’ entries takes a bow.

Extreme Speed Motorsports are entering one of their HPD ARX03b cars in the WEC event, with their other car in the Tudor United Sportscar Championship race that takes place on the same morning.

The HPD have team owners Ed Brown and Scott Sharp joined by Scottish hotshoe Ryan Dalziel, the team keen to see how they match up to the WEC regulars as they assess their racing options for 2015.

They’ll be up against the G-Drive Racing team’s brand new Nissan engined Ligier coupe, the very pretty new car went very well indeed at Le Mans and will no replace the previous open topped Morgan LMP2 chassis for the remainder of the World Championship.

KCMG are back again with their Oreca Nissan whilst Russian outfit SMP Racing return to their pre-Le Mans driver line-ups for their pair of similar machines.

In an odd quirk of the WEC points system the LMP2 points advantage is now held by Sergei Zlobin, this despite the fact that the SMP drivers form has been less than impressive thus far in 2014. The lead has been gained though as the SMP Oreca that he was driving at Le Mans was the only full season LMP2 car to finish the race, albeit down in 12th place in the class – As first to finish in the Championship standings though he gained maximum points – indeed DOUBLE maximum points!

There’s no running yet for the delayed Strakka Dome Nissan, the car now set to debut at the season finale in Brazil.

In GTE we’ve lost the popular Ram Racing team from both the Pro and Am entry, their Ferraris withdrawn, and the team having closed its doors.
The factory teams in LM GTE Pro from Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche are joined on home ground by an additional entry though, Corvette Racing fielding a singleton Corvette C7.R for an all American driver line-up of Tommy Milner and brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor.

LM GTE Am sees a local addition too as Krohn Racing enter their familiar green Ferrari 458 Italia for the team owner Tracy Krohn, his regular team-mate Nic Jonsson and ex Ram Racing man, ex Stig and current James Bond stunt driver Ben Collins.

Elsewhere in the list the Belgian Prospeed Competition squad have replaced their older Porsche with a 214 spec 911 RSR whilst American Jeff Segal replaces Enzo Potolicchio in the #90 8Star Ferrari.


Whatever happens at the Circuit of the Americas, it is a welcome return to action for the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Written by Graham Goodwin
Photography by

Where are we now in the FIA WEC?

Where are we now in the FIA WEC?

In the wake of a simply epic 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours fans and teams get a while now to take a breath. It is mid September before we see the FIA World Endurance Championship & it’s teams gather again for the newly redubbed ‘Lone Star Le Mans’ at the Circuit of the Americas.

For the LMP1 field there’s much to look forward to:

Audi’s 1-2 at Le Mans puts them right back into the Championship hunt after an uncharacteristically off colour start to the year. Toyota meanwhile faltered at Le Mans and will now be looking for a World Championship win to hang their hope on.


In the points standings for the Manufacturers title Toyota lead Audi by just a single point though theres a 10 point margin in the drivers order between the trio in the No. 8 Toyota and the No. 2 Audi.

Porsche must have come home from France much encouraged with reliability from the 919 Hybrid that was far in excess of most observers expectations (and from many within their own camp too!). They are a good result way from the hunt but who would count them out now?

In the privateer LMP1 stakes Rebellion Racing had a great Le Mans, just off the podium with the newly lightened Toyota engined R-One. Better news still though was the unveiling in Le Mans week of the much delayed Lotus LMP1, the AER turbo engined machine has been out testing since then and a race debut in Texas looks ever more likely, though some of the parties involved in the initial project are now involved with the F1 team formerly owned by Caterham.

LMP2’s disjointed start to the season continues to cause concern – though the racing at the front of the pack has been good between the G-Drive Morgan Nissan and KCMG’s similarly powered Oreca the Russian entered SMP Orecas have been off colour from the beginning, though one of them was actually the only full season WEC entered LMP2 car to finish at Le Mans!


Bizarrely that means that despite the No. 27 car finishing 12th in the class standings at Le Mans, and 53 laps down on the class winning Jota Zytek, the team scored maximum points – DOUBLED! They lead the Championship as a result.

We’re waiting to see whether the promised addition of the G-Drive Ligier Nissan coupe to the Championship comes to fruition, and we are waiting too to find out when the Strakka Dome coupe will make its racing debut after a torrid time for the team in the early part of the year. If and when the pair of new coupe LMP2s arrive they’ll be a very welcome addition.

Strakka’s debut has been delayed, but the team will race this season after a public apology from Dome for the design issues – someone got their sums wrong. Either way the aggressive looking S103 is on the way.


The GT classes put on their traditionally good show at Le Mans – Ferrari and AF Corse came out the victors this year in LMGTE Pro and now lead the standings in the Teams, Manufacturers and drivers Championships as they attempt to defend all three titles.

Porsche though are lurking, and it’s again a tale of a single good or bad race making a massive difference from here on in. Aston Martin meanwhile have ground to make up – But that’s not so very different to the situation last year!


Three teams had a difficult Le Mans, the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari had a monster shunt with James Calado at the wheel that left the Brit in hospital (now thankfully much recovered), and the car a wreck. A new chassis was built up for the race but the sparkle had gone for that weekend.

The No. 99 Aston Martin was similarly wrecked in a practice accident for Fernando Rees, the Brazilian was basically OK, the Aston rather less so, the car missed the race.

Ram Racing’s campaign at Le Mans was a disjointed one too, the Pro car suffered a fire earlier in the week and a shunt thereafter left them out of contention, out of the points, and in the days that followed, out of business – They’ll be missed, a valuable privateer effort on the world stage with cars in bot LMGTE classes.

The LMGTE Am battle had a fairytale result as the No. 95 ‘Dane Train’ Aston Martin won the big one with some quiet commemoration of their fallen colleague undertaken during Le Mans week. That is a result that will do everyone involve a power of good. The result also puts the No.95 squad atop the FIA WEC class points table.

The double points score from Le Mans gives the Aston Martin a comfortable margin ahead of the No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari, the No. 88 Proton Porsche and the sister No. 98 Aston Martin with the No. 90 8Star Ferrari next up, though the future of that campaign looks set not to involve the owner of the nominal entrant, Enzo Potolicchio.


There’s the prospect of guest appearances too from a couple of additional cars for some of the remaining rounds in the Championship, perhaps as early as Austin. So watch this space.

So three races down, five flyaway races to go – and almost everything still to play for in a season that has already dealt out controversy, new stars, new cars and some world class racing – Sportscar racing 2014 style is about to go global.

Written by Graham Goodwin

Toyota take a second win at Spa

Round 2 of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship saw the series visit the historic Spa Francorchamps circuit deep in the Ardenne forests of Belgium. This was the last competitive race before the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.

There was a different look to the field with Audi fielding a third R18 etron quattro. This car was in full Le Mans ‘long tail’ aero trim. Both Porsche and Toyota chose to race both of their factory cars in low drag trim too, to better to prepare for next month’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

View at Eau Rouge during the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa

There was a new car on the grid in LMP1 too, as a pair of Rebellion Racing’s new Oreca designed and built R-One Toyota engined cars were here in extended test mode!

It was a tale throughout of the very different strengths of the main contenders; The Porsches blindingly fast in a straight line, over 20 km/h the difference through the speed traps between the polesetting Porsche and the slowest of the three Audis.

Through the more tight and technical second sector though the Audi dominated, grabbing back all the time lost in the first phase of the lap, and often more! Once again we were reminded that the rulebook has allowed some very different solutions, but ultimately remarkably comparable lap times.

In the race it was a contest of speed versus reliability and consistency.

Porsche were caught by Audi in the curves at Spa

Porsche lost a car from overall contention early on as the #20 car suffered a succession of suspension problems that left Mark Webber and co little to fight for.

The sister car looked set for a podium finish at worst until Romain Dumas slowed dramatically; the #14 car suffered electrical woes. The Frenchman though stayed calm, stayed out of the pits and, after several attempts to reboot the car’s systems had failed, finally found the solution, the delays on track though had cost the car over a lap and the car would finish just off the podium as a result.

Audi’s Le Mans trimmed car was curiously off the pace. But was the game here one of pace, or efficiency? Whilst the opposition were lapping very, very quickly, the #3 car was busily saving fuel, and that, when we get to France next month, might be a major plus!

As the Porsches stumbled it seemed that it might end up as a Toyota walkover, the new TS040 looking fast and reliable. As the temperature cooled though the Audis kept their race long pace, whilst the Toyotas, and the Porsches, struggled to maintain their previous dominance.

Toyota managed to hold off the Audi challenge

The #8 Toyota though, in the hands of Sebastien Buemi, who had led convincingly in the early running, Nicholas Lapierre and Anthony Davidson, by then had enough in hand to stave off the defending World Champions, the #1 Audi managed to keep the #7 car at bay, Alex Wurz complaining of oversteer in the car that eventually came home third.

Rebellion meanwhile were learning fast about their new cars, and whilst the #13 car suffered race long problems before the car was finally retired, the #12 car ran beautifully throughout, it lacked pace, with the team having had no chance to get even the most basic set-up work done before travelling to Spa, but it had a her faultless 6 hours – A huge boost to the privateers.

LMP2 saw Jota Sport join in the fun with a race to prepare for the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Jota Sport prepared for the Le Mans 2014 at Spa

The team though would not repeat their previous triumph in this fixture and had to settle for second place despite the pace of Marc Gene. Harry Tincknell meanwhile had a frustrating race debut in the car, bottled up behind Nick Heidfeld in the Rebellion he wasn’t able to pass the faster LMP1 on the straights but would have been far faster in the twisty stuff if the #12 had let him by.

SMP rebuilt their #37 car overnight after a practice shunt but both Russian entered Orecas faded. KCMG meanwhile were well in the hunt for the overall win until the car was hit by debris thrown up by a passing Toyota, the Oreca losing a front dive-plane and hampering the handling thereafter, a later puncture put the car behind the Jota car in the running.

SMP & G-Drive Racing battled in the LMP2 Class

Up front though, and eventually relatively unchallenged, was the sole Morgan chassised entry, the #26 G-Drive Racing car had enough in hand to see off the competition, Olivier Pla as fast as always, new boy Julien Canal proving a tough nut to crack too.

In the GT classes it seemed again to focus on balance of performance, little to choose on pace between the sextet of factory backed cars but the Aston Martins having to pit earlier because of their recently reduced fuel load.

AF Corse Ferrari finished ahead of Porsche at Spa

With an hour to go the whole class field was separated by less than 90 seconds, the only major delay hitting the #92 Porsche which suffered a power steering issue.

Whilst Bruno Senna and later Darren Turner pushed hard to get back on terms in the faster of the Astons the #51 Ferrari was pretty well untouchable, Gimmi Bruni and Toni Vilander as good a two man crew as you’ll find, whilst the #91 Porsche was able to deal with its AF Corse team mate in the battle for second.

Aston Martin’s performance was restricted at Spa

The GTE Am fight went the way of an AF Corse Ferrari too, the #61 car hitting the front midway through the race and staying there, the Marco Cioci/ Mirko Venturi and Luis Perez Companc crew able to fend off a pair of chasing Aston Martins.

The Vantages though were having their own battle as Christoffer Nygaard in the #98 looked to fend off the ever closer attentions of the #95 car. The pace of the Kiwi applied just the right level of pressure and as the two started the last lap of the race Nygaard had to pit for a splash of fuel, the #95 storming through for second, the sister car third.

The LMGTE Am battle was always close at Spa

Everyone now moves on to the big one. The Le Mans 24 Hours 2014.

Written by Graham Goodwin
Photos by Dailysportscar

For Le Mans tickets please call 0844 873 0203 or visit our Le Mans 24 Hours pages here.

Audi Dominates at Spa in the latest round of the FIA World Endurance Championship

Stephen Errity of rounds up the all action from the second round of the World Endurance Championship at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and looks at the trends that have emerged from the race as we get ever-closer to Le Mans in June.

Audi debutante Marc Gene, along with 2012 newcomer Loic Duval and team stalwart Romain Dumas, drove their #3 Audi R18 Ultra TDI to victory in the second round of the World Endurance Championship at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend.

Much of the attention at the event was focused on the debut of Audi’s new hybrid ‘e-tron quattro’ car, but the R18 Ultra diesel was also running its first race, as it represents a significant revision of the 2011-model R18 that won in Sebring back in March.

Start of the FIA WEC Race at Spa

Heavy rainfall on race morning ensured the early stages of the six-hour race would be run on a wet track, but the expected race-long downpour did not materialise and the rapidly drying track proved crucial to the final outcome. Polesitter Tom Kristensen in the #2 hybrid Audi lost the lead to a fast-starting Andre Lotterer in the #1 sister car, which rose from third to lead a hybrid 1-2 by the end of the first hour.

But Lotterer and his fellow 2011 Le Mans winners Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler could only bring the hybrid R18 home in second on its debut, after the advantage of part-time four-wheel-drive in the wet gave way to the diesel R18’s superior pace on a dry track in the third hour. It was Gene, initially bringing up the rear of the Audi train in fourth place at the wheel of the #3 car, who had the foresight to maximise that advantage by changing to dry tyres before any of his team-mates.

Audi vs Audi at Spa

Sebring winners and Spa polesitters Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello had a poor race. They were at a disadvantage from the first pitstops, when the car’s front bodywork had to be changed to fix a faulty headlight, but also looked to struggle even more than the #1 car’s drivers with the understeer that seems characteristic to the hybrid R18. This allowed Audi young guns Marco Bonanomi and Oliver Jarvis to overhaul them for the final podium position in the #4 diesel.

The result sets up a fascinating battle at Le Mans, as it seems the hybrid Audis do not enjoy the clear advantage over the diesel cars they were expected to have. Whether it’s a fundamental issue with the design of the car, or simply a matter of the hybrid crews needing to refine their set-up, remains to be seen – but La Sarthe should provide the answer.

Fans were robbed of the chance to get an idea of Toyota’s form ahead of the big race, as the Cologne-based team were forced to miss the Spa WEC round due to a testing crash that destroyed their one available chassis. But the rebuilt car has been testing this week at Magny Cours in France and Motorland Aragon in Spain. Word got around the paddock in Spa that Toyota are bullish about the sheer pace of their TS030 petrol hybrid car, but less confident in their ability to beat Audi over a full 24-hour race. Could we see a blisteringly fast pole position, a couple of hours in the lead, then an early retirement? Or will it be a steadier development run? Perhaps the magic of La Sarthe will be too much to opt for the sensible strategy and Toyota will really let its drivers off the leash…

Rebellion Racing at Spa FIA WEC

Elsewhere, Rebellion Racing’s fifth and sixth place overall – a clean sweep of the unofficial ‘petrol class’ – does not tell the full story of what was a very eventful Spa race for the Anglo-Swiss team, who were running the 2012 version of the Lola LMP1 coupe for the first time. The #13 entry, driven by Andrea Belicchi and Harold Primat, was the quicker of the two cars in the early stages, but a mix-up that saw them drive straight through the pitlane, when they had in fact been given a stop-go penalty for jumping the start, wiped out their advantage.

In the #12 car, Neel Jani initially fell back due to staying on wet tyres for too long after the track began to dry, before handing over to ex-F1 driver Nick Heidfeld. The German had an entertaining battle with his fellow former Grand Prix pilot Sebastien Bourdais in the Pescarolo-Dome, before third driver Nicolas Prost had a trouble-free run to the flag in his stint.

The aformentioned Pescarolo had looked like a challenger for fastest petrol when the track was drying out, but suffered electrical trouble in the closing stages that required a 30-minute stay in the garage to repair. Although this car was an undoubted fan favourite at Spa, and will be cheered at every corner by Henri Pescarolo’s army of green-clad fans at Le Mans, it seems that the Pescarolo team’s limited resources will once again stymie any efforts to challenge for best petrol, or indeed an overall podium. As manufacturer spending on advanced hybrid systems goes through the roof, could Henri have lost what slim chance he had of clinching his sought-after first Le Mans win as a team owner, to go with all his successes as a driver?

JRM Racing at Spa FIA WEC

The expected challenge from the HPD teams failed to materialise, with the exception of a very strong early stint from Danny Watts in the Strakka Racing car, which eventually finished seventh in the LMP1 class. The second HPD in the race had a more chequered afternoon, as Karun Chandhok spun the JRM Racing car while driving to the grid, putting them on the back foot all race. Solid recovery drives from veterans David Brabham and Peter Dumbreck got the car back into the class top 10 at the end of the race. Both Strakka and JRM will be hoping to be nearer the sharp end, mixing it with the Rebellions and maybe even a struggling Audi or two come Le Mans.

In LMP2, guest teams from the European Le Mans Series (ELMS), racing in the WEC at Spa after their championships’ second round at Zolder was cancelled, were right in the mix. The eventual class winners were Britons Sam Hancock and Simon Dolan in their Jota Sport Zytek Nissan. A 30-second stop/go penalty in the closing stages made their win less certain than it would otherwise have been, but a late splash-and-dash fuel stop demoted polesitters and long-time class leaders ADR-Delta to second.

Third in class went to Jota’s fellow ELMS team Murphy Prototypes, who also suffered a penalty during the race, but the pace and consistency of Kiwi hotshoe Brendon Hartley and experienced Brit Warren Hughes in particular kept them in the hunt right the way through. Fourth-place LMP2 finishers Bas Leinders and David Heinemeir Hanssen had run as high as second during the race in their Morgan-badged OAK car – testament to just how competitive the most closely-fought class of the day was. Company boss Charles Morgan was there to see the car fighting at the front, and he seems determined to make a big splash for the iconic British manufacturer at Le Mans.

Felbermayr Porshe at Spa FIA WEC

Even with a modest five-car field, the GT Pro class provided its customary entertainment at Spa. First, polesitter Fred Makowiecki spun the #59 Luxury Racing Ferrari 458 on the formation lap, setting himself up for an aggressive recovery drive that saw him fighting hard with the AF Corse 458 of Italian duo Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella by the third hour.

But in the meantime, fourth-place qualifier Marc Lieb had used the Team Felbermayr Porsche 911’s superior traction in the wet to pull out an impressive lead before handing over to co-driver Richard Lietz for the second half of race. Yet the result would not be settled until the final corner, as the AF Corse Ferrari’s strategy meant it needed one fewer pit stop than the Porsche. There has now been a nail-biting, down-to-the-wire finish in this class at both the 12 Hours of Sebring and Six Hours of Spa – so fans should expect more of the same at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

British interest in this class at Le Mans will centre around the works Aston Martin team, back in GTs after a troubled foray into the prototype ranks last year. The team were on a roll after a very promising debut for the new V8 Vantage was cut short by a loose wheel in Sebring, and star driver Darren Turner fought his way into the class lead at Spa. But reliability problems struck again, and the car had to retire early with a gearbox problem. Can the niggles be fixed in time for La Sarthe so the Aston’s potential can be realised at the most important race of the season?

Ferrari battle at Spa FIA WEC

Like LMP2, the GT Amateur class at Spa was dominated by guest teams from the ELMS. The French IMSA Performance Matmut squad’s Porsche 911 led from start to finish as they got all-important mileage under their belt in preparation for Le Mans. Nicolas Armindo was particularly impressive in the wet first stint, but consistent mistake-free running from gentlemen drivers Raymond Narac and Anthony Pons was just as important to the overall victory.

Gianluca Roda, Christian Ried and Paolo Ruberti underlined the supremacy of the Porsche in damp conditons with second place in the #88 Felbermayr car, ahead of Matt Griffin, Marco Cioci and Piergiuseppe Perazzini, driving the first Ferrari home in this class in third place. Their AF Corse car is also an ELMS entry, and the full-season WEC teams in the class, such as Larbre Competition (Chevrolet Corvette) and the American Waltrip and Krohn Ferrari outfits, will be looking to get back on terms at Le Mans.

Despite the changeable conditions and challenging track, the Spa WEC race was free of major incidents – with one exception: Phillipe Haezebrouck crashed the #43 Extreme Limite Norma-Judd heavily at Eau Rouge, bringing the safety car out for several laps. The car was badly damaged and must now be considered doubtful for Le Mans 24, opening up the possibility that the #32 Lotus LMP2 car that raced at Spa will be moved up from its place on the reserve list.

IMSA Performance Matmut at Spa FIA WEC

Overall, Spa gives us lots to look forward to at Le Mans: a fascinating intra-team battle at Audi as established and new driver lineups and diesel and hybrid cars jostle for supremacy, the unknown quantity of Toyota, a high-quality petrol LMP1 field that will fight hard right behind the Audis, an extremely competitive LMP2 category with at least six cars in contention for the class win – not to mention the fan-pleasing, too-close-to-call racing of the GT classes that we’ve all come to love over the past few years. Yes, the overall winner come Sunday will in all likelihood be an Audi, but most of the other positions down the field are anything but a foregone conclusion.

Interested in coming to Le Mans this June? We have a last few places available in our private campsite at the Porsche Curves. Call us now on 0844 873 0203 for more information.

All photos courtesy of Jake Yorath at l’Endurance.


Britain’s triple Le Mans 24 Hour race winner bows out on top after ultra-successful 32-year motorsport career

Allan -Mc Nish -1

Britain’s Allan McNish will not defend his world sportscar title or bid for a fourth Le Mans 24 Hour race victory next year after deciding to conclude his sports-prototype racing career.

Triple Le Mans 24 Hour race winner McNish won the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship after scoring three wins, three second and one third placing in the eight race series in his hybrid-diesel Audi.

Dumfries-born McNish steps down from a race driving role with Audi Sport with immediate effect but will comprehensively assist the “factory” team that has won Le Mans 12 times since 1999 in various roles next year.

“I’ve had fantastically successful time with Audi and feel it’s the right time to step back from Le Mans sports-prototype racing and to look at other opportunities,” commented McNish. “As a racing driver it’s important to stop [racing] at the right time when I’m still fast and capable of doing the job and the timing feels right after winning Le Mans for a third time this year and claiming the World title.

“This year especially was mega successful, teaming up with Loïc (Duval) for the first time and obviously with long-time co-driver Tom (Kristensen). We’ve ticked all of the boxes and I ticked my personal ones too but now the time is right to hand over to the young guys. “I’ve won the championships and races I wanted to win and frankly there’s no better way to end my Audi sportscar race career than going out as a World Champion.

“My fellow Scot and mentor Jackie Stewart knew when to get into things but also knew when to get out and he has taught me that lesson.” McNish has contested 89 races since making his Audi sportscar debut in 2000 scoring 66 top-three “podiums” – including 29 outright race wins – for “factory” or “customer” Audi teams that also netted three American Le Mans Series titles.

WEC-Champions -2013

“We appreciate and respect Allan’s decision to retire at the pinnacle of his career,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “At the same time, this is a parting that is particularly difficult for us. All of us are well aware of Allan’s racing successes. “We should not forget, though, how valuable he has been in the development of our race cars, how great a team player he has always been and how he has consistently applied himself to achieve Audi’s aims far beyond motorsport with professionalism, loyalty and commitment. We regret that Allan will no longer be contesting any races for us but are happy that he will continue to be associated with Audi Sport and the Audi brand.”

Heralded as the world’s greatest sportscar driver in recent years, Monaco-based McNish won the Le Mans 24 Hour races in 1998, 2008 and this year – scoring a further six top-three “podiums” in his 14 attempts in the legendary French “marathon”. He won the North American-based ALMS sportscar endurance title in 2000 – his debut season with Audi – and again in 2006 & ‘07. Other notable victories include four wins in both the Sebring 12 Hours and Petit Le Mans races plus second place in the Daytona 24 Hours on three occasions.

Allan continued: “I joined Audi in 2000 and immediately found that we each worked in the same way: you either won or lost. If we lost, then we solved the problem. “Over the years I won three American Le Mans Series titles, four race wins at Sebring and at Petit Le Mans, scored two wins of my three Le Mans wins with Audi and have now won the World title. “My success is not just down to me but comes as a result of a huge effort by Audi Sport who gave me the tools and my co-drivers to do the job right.

“There are some great new drivers coming through and they need an opportunity just like I did. I’m looking forward to being part of Audi Sport in the future to ensure that these young drivers have the same level of fun and success that I have enjoyed over the years. I celebrate my 44th birthday later this month and I’ve only ever been involved in racing to win. Winning is the sole reason I went racing and the investment of time, energy, mental and physical attention plus the sacrifices for my family can now be adjusted.”

Allan’s 33-year motor racing career has netted almost 80 wins – over 125 top-three “podiums” – and began in karting, winning three British and six Scottish championship titles between 1982-86, finishing third in the World Championship in 1985. He won the 1988 Formula Vauxhall Lotus Championship and finished second in the 1989 British Formula Three Championship by a mere three points.

In Formula One, Allan had testing contracts with McLaren and Benetton (1990-96), Toyota (2000-02) – including a full F1 World Championship race season in 2002 – and Renault (2003).

McNish is a former winner of the Royal Automobile Club’s Segrave and Tourist Trophies while other awards include the British Racing Drivers’ Club’s ACO Plate (seven times), BRDC Silverstone-Le Mans Challenge (twice), Scottish Motor Racing Club’s Callands Trophy (twice), SMRC William Lyons Trophy (five times), SMRC John Romanes “Swift” Trophy (twice), SMRC Stewart Medal and SMRC Ecurie Ecosse “Hub Cap”. Allan, who celebrates his 44th birthday later this month (29 Dec), has been Honorary President of the Scottish Motor Racing Club since December 2007.

Everyone at Travel Destinations & the Radio Le Mans Travel Club would like to thank Allan for all the enjoyment that he has given us at Le Mans.

2013 FIA WEC season concludes with late drama in Bahrain

All but the most hardened Audi fans were pleased to see a first race win of the season for Toyota in Bahrain this weekend. In an attritional race that saw only 2 LMP1 cars reach the finish line, the No. 8 TS030 Toyota claimed the win with Ant Davidson, Stephane Sarrazin & Sebastien Buemi bringing their car home ahead of the Audi No. 1 car with Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler completing the class field. Engine failures and drive train issues saw early ends for the other Toyota and Audi cars as well as the usually reliable Rebellion Racing team. Despite the No. 2 Audi being retired before the halfway point in this race, they were still crowned World Endurance Champions for 2013 and will claim the No 1 car for 2014.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Bahrain 5

In LMP2 the Bahrain race win went to G-Drive Racing’s No. 26 Oreca Nissan. This was their fourth win of an impressive season. However, a second place finish in Bahrain for the No. 24 Oak Racing Morgan Nissan of Pla, Brundle and Heinemeier-Hansson was enough to give the well prepared French team the LMP2 teams title. The No. 35 Oak Racing car drove a conservative race on this occasion, but they knew fourth place here would be enough to claim the LMP2 world driver’s title for Plowman, Baguette and Gonzalez to add to their success at Le Mans.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Bahrain 2

There was further late drama in the GTE Pro class in Bahrain. A final hour retirement for the unfortunate No. 99 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage enabled the No. 51 AF Corse F458 Italia Ferrari to retain the LMGTE Pro manufacturers and drivers titles for 2014. The 2014 season has seen wins for Porsche & Aston Martin at various times throughout the year (including Porsche’s win at Le Mans) but the consistency of the AF Corse team & Gianmaria Bruni eventually enabled them to retain their titles.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Bahrain 3

There was a Bahrain race win for Aston Martin in the GTE AM class. A first win of the year in fact for the No. 95 car of Nygaard, Poulsen and Thiim that had previously retired from the lead on 3 different occasions. The 2014 season driver’s title also went to an Aston Martin crew, this time for Stuart Hall and Jamie Campbell-Walter who have had a memorable year. Second in GTE AM at Bahrain was the bright orange Ferrari of 8Star Motorsport. This result was enough to give the LMGTE Am team’s title to the American team after claiming an impressive 5 podiums and a 100% finishing record in the FIA WEC this year.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Bahrain 1

So with the FIA World Endurance Championship for 2013 concluded, thoughts and plans for teams, drivers and race fans turn to the 2014 season, where rules and regulations changes mean new cars for Audi and Toyota and new challenges in the form of Porsche returning to the LMP1 class.

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Bahrain 4

Report: Richard Webb

Audi clinch FIA WEC Drivers’ Championship

Three weeks on from the deluge that curtailed the race in Japan, the FIA World Endurance Championship moved on to China for the 6 Hours of Shanghai last weekend for what turned out to be an exciting race. Nearly 30,000 Chinese race fans added to the atmosphere during the race that proved to be significant in the 2013 championship.

2013-Shanghai -start -straigh

The eventual winning car was the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro with Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer & Marcel Fassler at the wheel, but it had looked like the No. 7 Toyota was going to take the race, but they eventually finished 15 seconds back in second place. Significantly third place was taken by the No. 2 Audi of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval giving them an unassailable lead in the FIA World Endurance Drivers Championship.

2013-Shanghai -Champions

The No. 7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid started the race from pole and set the early pace, but eventually allowed the No. 8 sister car with a flying Anthony Davidson behind the wheel to lead from the front. The 2 Toyotas then continued to dominate the rival Audis for the fast half of the race. In fact it was on 90 minutes from the end of the race when the momentum changed.

2013-Shanghai -start

First the No. 8 Toyota was forced to retire after suffering from a suspension failure whilst at the front. The No. 7 Toyota was then leading going in to the final hour. Critically though, the Toyota had to stop for fuel. After a “splash and dash” the Toyota did manage to emerge from the pit lane ahead the No. 1 Audi, but they were now on older tyres. The No. 1 Audi was finally able to make a pass as Alex Wurz in the Toyota struggled for grip and couldn’t defend his lead. It was a pass that ultimately gave the No. 1 Audi victory. Behind the 3 factory cars the No. 12 Rebellion Racing Lola Toyota once again proved reliable and came home in fourth overall.

G-Drive Racing (Oreca 03 Nissan) took their win tally to three in the LMP2 class this year. They finished ahead of the No. 24 Oak Racing Morgan Nissan after a close battle. The No. 35 Oak Racing car finished third retaining the lead for drivers Baguette, Plowman & Gonzalez in the Drivers and Teams Championship points table (ahead of their sister car). Elsewhere in the class the No. 49 Pecom Racing team suffered from electrical problems, which meant a long stay in the pits and eventual retirement. The No.31 Lotus also retired from the LMP2 field following damage sustained in a collision out on track.

2013-Shanghai -Oak -Racing

In the GTE-Pro class Aston Martin Racing claimed an impressive 1-2 with Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke bringing home the No. 97 car from pole position. The win also gives them the lead in the GT drivers championship. The second placed No. 99 Aston Martin Vantage was only 0.6 seconds behind its sister car as they crossed the line, helping Aston Martin Racing to top spot in the GT manufacturers championship. The No. 91 Porsche finished third after they inherited the position from the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari which suffered brake issues late in the race.

2013-Shanghai -8-Star

As usual there was plenty of action in the GTE-Am category in Shanghai. All looked good for the No.95 Aston Martin in the first half of the race, before electrical issues ended their race. The baton was picked up by the No. 81 8 StarMotorsports Ferrari with 2 hours to go and continued on to win a whole lap ahead of the rest of the field. The No. 76 IMSA Matmut Porsche took the second step on the podium edging out the other Aston Martin (No. 96). The result means that the Aston Martin crew of Cambpell-Walter, Hall and Adam retain their lead in the GTE Am Drivers and teams championship table.

2013-Shanghai -IMSA-porsche

A serious fuel rig fire in the pit lane looked to be disastrous for the No. 50 Larbre Competition team as their Corvette and pit crew were engulfed in flames. Quick action by the team & their neighbours meant that the fire was quickly extinguished and although a medical team was called no further action was deemed necessary. This was a big thumbs up for the safety requirements maintained in the FIA WEC.

So there is still much to play for in the FIA World Endurance Championship as the 2014 season moves on the final round in Bahrain at the end of the month.

Words: Richard Webb

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Sao Paulo; Audi remain unbeaten in Brazil

Bright sunshine and warm track temperatures greeted the grid at Interlagos for the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo; the 4th round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

It was an Audi 1-2 at the front of the grid but a slow start by the No. 1 Audi allowed the quick Allan McNish to take advantage and lead after the first corner in the No. 2 Audi. The single Toyota followed in third ahead of the single Rebellion Racing car completing LMP1.

The G-Drive Oreca Nissan lead away the LMP2 field, but there were position changes in the GTE ranks as a Manthey Porsche briefly took the lead before sustaining damage. Aston Martin then took over before one of the AF Corse Ferraris took up the challenge to lead the GTE Pro class by the 7th lap. Initially the Ferraris kept ahead of the Aston Martins and then the Porsches. The No. 95 Aston Martin had a great start to lead the GTE Am field.

Just after half an hour in to the race a collision between the No. 32 Lotus and the third placed Toyota sent both off in a heavy collision with the tyre wall. Despite the best efforts of Sarrazin, including some impromptu removal of bodywork, this was an early race end for Toyota. The safety car bunched up the remaining cars for the most of the next hour as both cars were removed and repairs made to the damaged tyre walls and barriers.

There were numerous pit stops behind the safety car before it came in about 90 minutes in to the race. The Audi No. 1 benefitted from the pit stops and took the lead from its sister car. The safety car also benefitted the leaders in LMP2 with G-Drive and Pecom Racing now almost a lap ahead of the others.

The GTE Pro battle was now closer than ever and the GTE AM class saw the No. 95 Aston Martin ahead of the orange 8 Star Ferrari and the No.96 Aston Martin. A further safety car was called upon for a dramatic incident involving the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari. A fuel line break caused a major fire to engulf the Ferrari and saw Tony Vilander bale out of the car and hurry over the barriers fearing an explosion. Despite the best efforts of the marshalls and the fire staff at the circuit the burnt out remains of the car was a sorry sight. The safety car again brought the GTE Pro field together with the surviving AF Corese Ferrari ahead of Aston Martin ahead of Porsche.

There was disappointment for the many Bruno Senna fans at the circuit as the No. 99 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage was forced to retire with suspension damage.

By now the 2 Audis were 45 seconds ahead of the Rebellion Racing Toyota in LMP1. In LMP2, G-Drive extended their lead in LMP2 to 24 seconds to Pecom Racing. In turn Pecom were more than 30 seconds ahead of its nearest rival. The ADR-Delta car succumbed to engine problems meaning that one third of the field had retired before the halfway point of the race.

It wasn’t long after Loic Duval had taken over from Tom Kristensen at the wheel of the No 2 Audi when it struck problems. Leaving the pit lane the Audi lost a wheel & it bounced in to the tyre wall. Remarkably as the Audi came to rest, so did the errant wheel on the back of the car. Duval then showed remarkable skill in getting the car back to the pit lane on 3 wheels with the 4th balanced on the bodywork. However, although the No.2 Audi just retained 2nd place it was now a lap down on the No 1 car.

The GTE Pro battle continued to be close with 2 seconds separating the AF Corse Ferrari with Giancarlo Fisichella behind the wheel, from the Stefan Mucke’s Aston Martin.

As the race entered its penultimate hour & with G-Drive dominating the LMP2 race, the Oak Racing cars began to make their move, taking 2nd and third from Pecom Racing. In GTE Am the Danish Young Drivers of Aston Martin were doing so well they found themselves amongst the GTE Pro field but also in traffic.

The Audi No. 2 car was penalised by the stewards twice. Once for the unsafe release of the car with the wheel not secure, and second for speeding in the pit lane. Not the usual Audi systematic performance, however they were fortunate that the earlier retirement of the Toyota meant that they could soon regain second place from the faultless Rebellion Racing.

Disaster befell the Young Driver Aston Martin team when all was looking so good. They too lost a wheel out on the track, however, unlike the Audi, they could not recover the situation. This left the British team of Stuart Hall and Jamie Campbell-Walter to inherit the GTE Am lead in the remaining Aston Martin.

In to the last hour, the sun began to set, sending elongated shadows across the circuit. The race at the front was done but the battle in GTE Pro continued. For nearly 90 minutes Gianmaria Bruni’s mirrors were filled with Darren Turner as the AF Corse Ferrari held off the Aston Martin Vantage. The AF Corse team thought they had won it, only to realise that the No 1. Audi had crossed the line before the end of 6 hours, so another lap was required.

As the chequered flag eventually fell (as had the sun) Marcel Fassler brought the No. 1 Audi home with Allan McNish in the sister car keeping formation for a 1-2 win for Audi. Audi remain unbeaten in the FIA WEC but the points gap between the two cars is now reduced. Rebellion Racing continued their consistent year with a podium place.

The G-Drive Oreca-Nissan dominated the LMP2 class and deserved the win. A very light on fuel No. 35 Oak Racing Morgan Nissan held on for second ahead of Pecom Racing in third.

The GTE Pro battle remained close but Turner could just not get by Bruni, and he held on for an AF Corse Ferrari win ahead of the Aston Martin with Manthey Porsche taking the third place

The No. 96 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage won in GTE Am ahead of the Ferrari of 8Star Motorsport. The Proton Porsche managed to clinch third place by just 3 hundredths of a second from the unlucky IMSA Porsche team.

The FIA World Endurance Championship now moves on to Austin, Texas for the 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas, which promises another fascinating race on another spectacular circuit.  

Written by Richard Webb