Friday 14 October 2016

FIA WEC news roundup

2017 FIA World Endurance Championship calendar confirmed

The FIA WEC 2017 calendar has been approved by the FIA World Motorsport Council this week. As expected, the 24 Hours of Le Mans will clash again with the European GP F1 at Baku. 2 more raceweekends will run on the same time as F1: 6 Hours of the Americas & F1 Malaysia and 6 Hours of Shangai & F1 Mexico city.

Another, and more important “date clash” could be the one between the 6 Hours of the Nürburgring and the Formula E race in New York on 15th and 16th July. Several WEC drivers are active in both championships, it will be interesting to see which race they will be allowed to race. Loic Duval, Lucas Di Grassi, Stéphane Sarrazin, Sam Bird ... all are factory drivers in the WEC. The clash between FIA WEC and Formula E was inevitable as the 6 Hours of the Nürburgring couldn't be scheduled on another date (at least 4 weeks after Le Mans, and ahead of the preparations for the GP F1 two weeks later). 

Rebellion ends LMP1 privateer program

After withdrawing the #12 car from the FIA WEC earlier in the season, Swiss team Rebellion Racing has announced they will end their LMP1 privateer program at the end of 2016 and switch to the LMP2 class in 2017. 

With the new and more powerful LMP2 cars arriving next season, the gap with the privateer LMP1 class will be much closer than this season. Rebellion decided tot stop delevoping their R-One prototype and concentrate on 2017. No decision has been made yet about which chassis the team will use, but it's known that their current Oreca built R-One can be upgraded to the 2017 Oreca LMP2.

It's not clear in which championship the team will race next season.  Both WEC and ELMS (maybe in a joint venture with Thiriet by TDS racing) could be in the mix. There's also a possibility to return to the States next season, knowing that Rebellion loved to race there. Especially after winning Petit Le Mans in 2012 and 2013. 

Manor returns with second Oreca05
Manor will race with 2 cars again from this weekend on. The #45 Oreca05/Nissan will be back on the grid for the first time since the Nürburgring. Tor Graves, who already raced the car in the beginning of the season wil be behind the wheel again. He will be joined by Japanese driver Shinji Nakano who has raced in Asian LMS and this years 24 Hours of Le Mans (with Race Performance). The third driver is Alex Lynn, a young British driver active in  GP2 and Williams testdriver since 2015. 

© Gabi Tomescu -

New livery & driver squad for ESM Ligier #30
Tequila Patron Extreme Speeds Motorsports has announced its return to the IMSA series next season, and won't start in the FIA WEC in 2017. For the final three races of the season, the #30 Ligier JSP2 of the American team will feature a whole new livery and driver line-up. There will be no changes in the #31 car.

Ed Brown, Johannes Van Overbeek & Scott Sharp will be replaced by Antonio Giovanizzi, Giedo van der Garde and Sean Gelael. The livery of the #30 will also change significantly, now with Jagonya Ayam, KFC's Indonesian branch as the main sponsor. It looks a lot like the second SMP BR01 which raced at Silverstone at the beginning of the season. 

Driver changes in LMP2
Besides the changes above, there are a few other driver changes to be noted in the LMP2 class this weekend. Will Stevens returns to G-Drive Racing in the #26 Oreca05, replacing Rene Rast who has to race in the German DTM championship at Hockenheim this weekend. 

At Strakka Racing, Nick Leventis won't race in Japan this weekend. Leventis is suffering from a severe lung infection and has already returned to the UK earlier this week. Jonny Kane and Lewis Williamson will share driving duties between them both this weekend.  Paul Loup Chatin returns to the WEC championship in the #35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine. He will replace Nelson Panciatice for the remaining 3 races of the season.

New Balance of Performance & driver changes in GTE
The GTE Pro Aston Martins who dominated the last races get a 0.4 mm air restrictor reduction and will have to run a 30 mm rear wing gurney. The #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche now gets a 20 kg weight reduction for the race in Japan. No adjustments were applied to the Ferrari 488 and Ford GT. In GTE-Am the only change in BoP is for the F458 Ferrari's who have been given a 15 kg weight reduction.  

Ford Performance has altered the driver line-up for the #67 Ford GT. Marino Franchitti won't race the Ford GT in the final three rounds of the championship. Franchitti won't be replaced by another driver, so Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell will complete the season. This means the whole GTE-Pro field now has two drivers in their cars. 

Richie Stanaway takes his seat back in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage. Stanaway was replaced by Fernando Rees in Texas last month. After the race at COTA, Ricky Taylor has been confirmed in the #50 Larbre Corvette for the three final races of the season. He will be joined by team regulars Yutaka Yamagishi and Pierre Ragues.

Kristof Vermeulen.