Friday 28 August 2015

Endurance racing returns to the Nürburgring

10 weeks after Le Mans, the WEC championship continues its season with the fourth round at the famous Nürburgring in the German Eiffel region. 

A new track on the schedule, one that bursts of endurance history, and is the home race for Audi and Porsche, even so for Toyota who have their headquarters about an hour from the track.  We're not racing on the Nordschleife, but on the GP Strecke which is 5.148 meters long with 15 turns and several elevation changes and should give us some proper racing on Sunday.  For the return of sportscar endurance racing in Germany, no less than 40.000 spectators are expected over the weekend, a great crowd for a new race on the WEC schedule.

Audi defends its first place in the championship and will be out for revenge after their defeat at Le Mans last June.  At the race presentation last month, Dr. Ullrich said it out loud : "we want to get back what belongs to us, first place".  The R18's will keep their Le Mans high donwforce setup for the remainder of the season, and proved to be efficient at the 2 day test last month, where they were faster than anyone else.  At Porsche, Mark Webber who celebrated his 39th birthday on Thursday surely has great memories at the Nurbürgring as he won his first Formula 1 race at this track in 2009.  The Porsche 919 has had a big aero update, and seems ready to take on the battle with Audi. Yesterday, Porsche announced their commitment in WEC up untill the end of 2018.

Toyota also announced their future plans and will stay in the WEC for at least 2 more years. They are developing a new car with a whole new developed engine.  No more big V8 in the rear of the car, but a small turbo engine and possibly an 8 megajoule hybrid system.  Unfortunately, this will affect the developent of the current car, so we won't see any more significant updates there. After Le Mans, Rebellion racing is ready to compete the rest of the WEC season with their 2 cars that raced in the Sarthe for the first time.  Nissan shines in absence, after withdrawing their cars for the rest of the season, focussing on their test programme and should return in 2016.  ByKolles is competing in Germany, hoping to up their pace after a succesful test in July.

In LMP2 all eyes will be on Strakka Racing, making its debut with the Gibson-Nissan in which they were blimingly fast during the test session last month.  The OAK Racing Ligier won't compete in Germany, but will be back during the rest of the season.  KCMG is defending their lead in the championship with Le Mans winner Nick Tandy back on board of the Ligier-Nissan.  After Le Mans, EMS is racing in its traditional green Tequila Patron livery again.

SMP Racing defends its top spot in GTE-Am, but will have to deal with the speed of the Aston Martins, particulary the #98 which will be eager to win after their late crash at Le Mans.  Larbre competition has got its Corvette back from the States where it was used by Corvette Racing after Magnussens crash in France.  Le Mans winner Earl Bamber will be at the wheel of the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche.  Hulkenberg is the only 2015 Le Mans winner who won't drive this weekend, but he's expected to make an appearance in the paddock on Sunday.

Thursday was wet, very wet sometimes but the weather is improving during the weekend. The sun might be out later this afternoon, predictions for Saturday and Sunday are warm and sunny.  But as we're in the Eiffel region, anything can happen around here, so don't be surprised if the weather changes instantly during the weekend. 

Practice starts today at 12pm & 4.30pm and Saturday 9.30am.   Qualifying will be on Saturday afternoon, starting at 2pm.  The 6 hour race will be held on Sunday, starting at 12pm.  TV coverage on MotorsTV (full race), Eurosport and Fox Sports.

Useful links :

Thursday pictures

Kristof Vermeulen