Wednesday 24 February 2016

WEC 2016 : Who's racing in GTE

After both LMP classes, let's take a quick look at the GTE classes in the 2016 World Endurance Championship.  2016 marks the return of Ford into endurance racing and the introduction of the brand new, turbo engined Ferrari 488.

The GTE-Pro class is all about Ford's return to endurance racing with their stunning new Ford GT. At Daytona last month the GT already showed some impressive pace, but suffered from a few reliability issues. With an impressive driver line-up including Marino Franchitti, Stefan Mücke, Olivier Pla and Andy Priaulx, Ford seems ready to plays its role in the GTE-Pro class this season. 

Not only Ford will enter a completely new car, with the arrival of the turbo charged Ferrari 488 GTE, AF Corse also has a new weapon to tackle the GTE class.    The #51 car will be driven by Gianmari Bruni who will be joined by James Calado, making the switch from the #71 car.  Sam Bird, who won the 2015 LMP2 championship with G-Drive Racing has been recruted by Ferrari as factory driver and will race in the #71 together with Davide Rigon.

Aston Martin Racing launched their GTE challenger last week, a revised V8 Vantage with a fully revised aerodynamic package. In its 12th year of competition, they will field 2 cars in the GTE-Pro class on Dunlop tyres. Darren Turner joins the #95 "Dane Train" this season and will share the car with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen.  The second V8 Vantage #97 will be occupied by Richie Stanaway; Jonny Adam and Fernando Rees.  

No official Porsche team this year in GTE, as they are focussing on the development of the new 911 RSR which will make its debut in 2017.  Dempsey-Proton Racing will however field a 911 RSR for Richard Lietz, and will have Porsche factory support during the season.

#51 AF Corse - Ferrari 488 GTE - Bruni/Calado
#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK - Ford GT - Franchitti/Mücke
#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK - Ford GT - Pla/Priaulx
#71 AF Corse - Ferrari 458 GTE - Rigon/Bird
#77 Dempsey-Proton Racing - Porsche 911 RSR (2016) - Lietz
#95 Aston Martin Racing - Aston Martin V8 Vantage - Turner/Thiim/Sorensen
#97 Aston Martin Racing - Aston Martin V8 Vantage - Stanaway/Adam/Rees

A very competitive field, but we're still missing the Corvettes in the World Endurance Championship. Having the Corvettes in this class would be a true showcase of the best GT teams racing around the world.  Larbre has been working on an entry in GTE-Pro this year, but at the end it didn't come together. 

In GTE-Am we're about to see e a battle between 4 constructors with Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin at the start. 

Larbre Competition returns with its Corvette C7, in what will might be their last season in the Am category.  Plans to enter an car in the Pro class this season came to an end when the team couldn't get a new C7R, but Jacques Leconte and his team are already working hard to be able to enter a Corvette in GTE-Pro next season.  Paolo Ruberti, Pierre Ragues and Yukata Yamagishi have already  been confirmed as drivers for this year.

Aston Martin Racing provides one V8 Vantage for Paul Dalla Lana who teams up again with Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda. 

Hong Kong based KCMG opted not to race in the LMP2 category this season, except for Le Mans where they will defend their title.  They will be in the GTE-Am class however, with a single Porsche 911 RSR, with Porsche support from Proton Racing.  Only one driver confirmed so far : Christian Ried.  Gulf Racing UK will step up from the ELMS championship and field their Porsche 911 RSR, driven by Michael Wainwright, Adam Caroll and Ben Barker.  The third team racing with a 911 RSR is Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing, entering a car for Khaled Al Qubaisi, David Henemeier Hanssen and Pat Long.  No sign of Patrick Dempsey so far this season (too busy with his acting career), although it's not completely ruled out that he might be at one or more race(s) this season. 

AF Corse returns to the Am category with the #83 Ferrari 458 Italia, driven by the same drivers as last year : Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Riu Aguas.

#50 Larbre Competition - Corvette C7 - Ragues/Ruberti/Yamagishi
#78 KCMG - Porsche 911 RSR - Ried
#83 AF Corse - Ferrari 458 Italia - Perrodo/Collard/Aguas
#86 Gulf Racing - Porsche 911 RSR - Wainwright/Caroll/Barker
#88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing - Porsche 911 RSR - Al Qubaisi/Henemeier Hansen/Long
#98 Aston Martin Racing - Aston Martin V8 Vantage - Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda

Kristof Vermeulen.