Wednesday 16 September 2015

WEC races into the night at COTA this weekend

Time for the fifth round of the World Endurance Championship 2015, this time at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

The Lone Star Le Mans weekend is all about endurance racing with not only WEC on the menu but also the IMSA Tudor United Sportscar Championship.  Including support races with the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup USA and Lamborghini Trofeo, the weekend will be packed with exciting races.

The Circuit of the Americas, built in 2011-2012 is the only FIA certified grade 1 track in the USA.  It's  5.5 km long and runs counterclockwise.  20 turns in total with a steep run uphill into Turn 1 and some very fast sweeping sections all over the track.  Turns 12-15 have a real stadion atmosphere, twisting in front of the grandstands.  The 77 meter high observation tower gives amazing views of the track and its surroundings.

Audi has won all three previous races at COTA, and actually hasn't been beaten on US soil in WEC as they also won the opening race at Sebring in 2012.  Aston Martin has the same unbeaten record at COTA after winning both GTE classes in 2013 and 2014.  

31 cars will race in Texas this weekend, home race for the US based Extreme Speed Motorsports team in LMP2.  9 entries in LMP1 with Porsche on a high after winning back to back at Le Mans and the Nüburgring last month, and eager to score their third win in a row.  KCMG also won the last 3 races in LMP2 but will face tough competition from G-Drive racing, ESM and the other teams on the 8-car grid.  The winning Le Mans crew is reunited at KCMG with Nicolas Lapierre taking his seat again in the Oreca05.  Seven entries in LMGTE-Pro, with works teams of Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin.    No Stefan Mucke at Aston Martin as he has to race in Germany this weekend, Jonathan Adam will take his seat in the #97.  Last minute change in the #96 Aston Martin with Benny Simonsen taking Roald Goethe's place.  IN GTE it's the Larbre Corvette against Aston Martin, Porsche and Ferrari once more, with a seven car grid.  Aston Martin changed a few liveries on their cars, the #97 Vantage will race in the yellow/red Hanergy livery; the #99 returns to its blue/yellow Valero livery.

Jim Hall has been named Grand Marshal for the 2015 Lone Star Le Mans event.  Hall has built and created the concept of the iconic Chaparral racecars in the 60's, introducing aerodynamics into the racing world. Chaparral cars were most known in endurance racing, Can Am and later on made the switch to Indycar.

On Monday, the announcement was made that Gibson Technology has been selected as the sole supplier for LMP2 engines in 2017 when the new LMP2 regulations come into force.  This applies to WEC, ELMS, Asian LMS and the IMSA championship (in IMSA teams will though be allowed to use other engines).  At the same time Cosworth Electronics has been selected as the supplier for electronics in all LMP2 championships.  The new engine will be a 4 liter V8, with approximately 600 hp, about 50 hp more than now in LMP2.  After the announcement of the 4 manufacturers in July (Onroak Automotive, Oreca, Rileytech/Multimatic and Dallara), the renewed championship for 2017 seems to be right on schedule.

It will be hot in Texas this weekend.  The forecast for Saturday afternoon goes up to 38° Celsius.  Free practice sets off (local times) on Thursday at 2.45 pm and 8 pm, final practice Friday morning at 10.30 am with qualifying Friday afternoon at 5.45 pm.   The green flag for the 6 hours of the Americas will be given on Saturday afternoon 5 pm.

Check out the Club Arnage blog, facebook group and forum for regular updates and pictures during the weekend !

Useful links :

Entry list
Spotters guide by Andy Blackmore
TV Schedule

Kristof Vermeulen.