Sports Car News Round Up
In the first of a new series of articles exclusively for Travel Destinations, our man in the media centre, Graham Goodwin, keeps you up to date with all the news on and off track in the sports car world. With the first round of the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series taking place next weekend at Silverstone, Graham looks at what has been happening in the build up over the last month.
March was one heck of a busy month in the world of Sportscar racing.
We’ve had the pre-season tests for both the European Le Mans Series and the FIA World Endurance Championship; New cars, new drivers, new teams and a pair of very healthy grids.
That was followed up with a London launch for the opening round of the FIA WEC with cars and drivers on parade, and some unexpected news from Championship Boss Gerard Neveu.
European Le Mans Series
The European Le Mans Series will get under way next weekend with the first of five, four hour races for LMP2, the new LMP3, GTE and GTC cars.
More than 30 cars are billed to take the start with an excellent LMP2 grid – Jota Sport will be looking to take a win at the start of their campaign with the team featuring a pair of factory LMP1 drivers from different teams on their line-up, Simon Dolan joined by Audi’s Filipe Albuquerque and Nissan’s Harry Tincknell.
Look out too for the Orecas from Murphy Prototypes and AF Corse, the latter a renamed SMP Racing who have decided to delay the debut of their new in-house designed Coupe until round two – Both teams have very quick drivers on the roster and the older Oreca car still has fire in its belly.
Thiriet by TDS Racing do have the new Oreca 05 Coupe, and a good driver line up too. The car is fast, and a stunning good looker. If it is reliable too then it will be one to watch.
There will be huge interest too in the ‘junior’ LMP3 class, a world first for Silverstone as the new class makes its racing debut. Several manufacturers have made their intentions to build cars clear but they have all been beaten to the punch by Yorkshire-based Ginetta who plan to bring up to five of their new LMP3 coupes to the opening round.
It is early days yet for the pretty little coupe but with clever aero and a powerful, and under stressed Nissan V8, these cars might be nipping at the heels of the LMP2s before very long!
Team GB Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy makes his LMP racing debut alongside fellow Scot Charlie Robertson in one of a pair of cars entered by Ginetta factory based Team LNT.
FIA World Endurance Championship
Neither the brand new Nissan GTR LM LMP1 nor the newly re-engined Rebellions will make the opening round (Though a Nissan will be on display in the paddock with all of the team’s drivers planned to be present too).
That won’t be too much of an issue for great racing though with all three of the other factory LMP1 teams bringing heavily updated versions of their stunning hybrid racers to the grid.
Porsche ended 2014 with a race win in Brazil and arrive in the UK with their 2015 919 Hybrid now punching out more than 1000bhp between it’s turbo four pot engine and its pair of hybrid systems. The car is the very first to enter the maximum 8 megajoules bracket, a bold step forward that the Porsche boys hope will give them an edge.
Defending World Drivers, and Manufacturers, Champions Toyota bring an updated version of their TS040 Hybrid to the fight – the team have confirmed a three year commitment to the FIA WEC and whilst they stick with last years 6 megajoule package alongside their howling V8, their acknowledged aero expertise might well play a part.
Audi found themselves breathless in the wake of the opposition at times last year and have responded. They stick with diesel power but have produced a massively enhanced evolution on last year’s car with a doubling of their hybrid boost (up to 4MJ) and huge attention to detail on the weight management and aerodynamic front. A confident looking Audi is a worrying prospect for the opposition and whilst Porsche grabbed the pre-season headlines with astonishing pace at the Prologue test last month the Audis were faster over a full stint (and Toyota are reputed to have lapped quicker at Paul Ricard in their pre-season tests!)
In LMP2 the rather disappointing grid of last season is history – replaced by a full season entry that has more than doubled to 10 cars. There is plenty of variety too:
G-Drive double their effort to a pair of Ligier Nissans in an eye catching new Orange and black livery – Brit start Sam Bird replaces Olivier Pla in the lead #26 car but look out for the all South American crewed #28 too.
Tequila Patron ESM arrive as full season entrants from the USA but not with the new HPD Coupes they planned to field, issues with the new cars have seen the team dust off their older Hondas ahead of a pair of Ligiers arriving in time for Round 2. Watch for Scot Ryan Dalziel to star here.
Team Sard Morand bring a pair of revised Morgan Evos with SARD badged Judd V8s – Another quick young Brit, Oliver Webb is one to watch in #43
The only all British effort on the grid comes from the locally based Strakka Racing, the team making a belated comeback after almost a year’s delay to their new car – The Strakka Dome S103 Coupe looks like Darth Vader to the Ligier’s Princess leia – It will be quick, especially in the hands of the team’s two top pros Jonny Kane and Danny Watts.
The ELMS Champions from 2014 arrive in the WEC with their French Blue weapon from last season – Signatech Alpine looking to climb the ladder in the WEC.
If anything even more ‘blue’ though is the stunning new Oreca 05 Coupe of Hong Kong based KCMG, the team investing in the future after race winning success last season – The car’s astonishing electric blue livery is going to be a crowd pleaser for sure and with an all- British driver line up for Silverstone it will be one to watch!
The GT ranks will see the factory backed Ferraris defending their crown from a pair of factory Porsches and a trio of Aston Martins in the Pro class whilst the Am class too sees all three marques going head to head with the additional V8 powered spice of a new Corvette C7.R into the mix.
There will be a different look to the race start this year too – No grid girls, a specific decision from the WEC and the cars will leave the grid from an ‘ear of corn’ formation after a pre grid that will see all the teams line-up with their cars, it should make for quite a sight from the pit straight grandstands!
Nurburgring 24 Hours
Sadly we end this month’s round up with some bad news.
A tragic accident at the Nurburgring last weekend with a spectator killed in a freak incident has left questions to be answered before plans for the 2015 Nurburgring 24 Hours can be confirmed.
At present the fastest GT cars are under a temporary ban but moves are underway to confirm plans for the race proper in May – We’ll bring an update to these pages as soon as we can confirm what those plans entail.