Thursday 28 December 2017

FIA WEC: TDS Racing returns to the "super season" with Loïc Duval

French Team TDS Racing will return to the FIA WEC in the upcoming super season with a full French line-up, lead by Loïc Duval who returns to the FIA WEC paddock since Audi's departure at the end of 2016.  The LMP2 class for next season is starting to take shape now with confirmation of the first two teams and more expected in the upcoming weeks. 

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In their second season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Xavier Combet and Jacques Morello's team will be joined by Loïc Duval.  The Frenchman replaces Emmanuel Collard who has been racing with François Perrodo in the past years.  Duval shortly returned to the FIA WEC at Bahrain this year, where he raced alongside Roman Rusinov and Léo Roussel in the G-Drive Oreca.

After his first year in prototype racing, François Perrodo has shown improvement race after race and is very motivated to build on his 2017 LMP2 experience. Matthieu Vaxivière, who showed some quality racing last season, is now eager to carry on his experience of the WEC and hopes to score some strong results. The third member of TDS Racing will be French driver Loïc Duval. Winner of the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans and WEC Champion that same year, Loïc has a strong and valuable endurance racing experience (most notably on the Peugeot 908 HDi and the Audi R18), and will be team captain and an example to follow for François and Matthieu.

So far there is no word or confirmation about TDS Racing running a second car again for Roman Rusinov and G-Drive Racing as they did this season.

Xavier Combet, Team Manager: “During our 2017 WEC season, François and Matthieu have shown continuous improvements in LMP2 racing, they have consolidated their driving skills and race craft in what has proved to be an extremely competitive environment. Building on this experience, we have decided to go on and to take a new step by entering an LMP2 car in the 2018/2019 WEC Super Season. Teamed with Loïc Duval, who has a very strong experience in endurance, this second WEC season for us promises to be very exciting. We can’t wait to get back on the World Endurance Championship circuits, and challenge the other LMP2 teams and drivers.”

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François Perrodo: “The 2017 season was very exciting, but to be honest, it was also difficult. I not only discovered prototype driving but also a very strong competition, the challenge was huge and definitely up to my expectations. At the end of the season, I considered seriously ELMS or even a return to GT racing, but after the ACO decisions regarding the new WEC and considering the pleasure I’ve had driving these wonderful cars, I decided to stay in WEC for another season. And what a season we will have! To race twice the Le Mans 24 Hours and discover Sebring in just over a year’s time is the stuff of dream for a gentleman driver. In addition, I will have Matthieu and Loïc on my side. Not only Matthieu is a very fast driver, but he is also one of my best friends. Loïc has a solid endurance racing experience; he is a great race driver who shares our values: cohesion and team spirit which to us, are the keys to pleasure and competitiveness. My objective is clear: Improve my LMP2 racing skills, have fun, and hopefully score a few podiums.”

Matthieu Vaxivière
: “I have known François since we started motorsports and we experienced some great moments together, including two WEC seasons. It will be a pleasure and an honour to share this new project together as well as with Loïc and TDS Racing. The Super Season promises to be a milestone in the history of motorsports, and I will do all I can to achieve good results. I can’t wait to work and learn from Loïc’s experience, and I already feel that this human adventure will be very special.”

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Loïc Duval: “I am very happy to come back to the WEC and the 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside my Audi program, and more over I am very excited about the environment in which I will compete. TDS Racing is a very professional race team, but with strong family values, not only is this season going to be great fun, I am looking forward to help Francois improve and be Matthieu’s wing man. I would like to thank both of them for this great opportunity. I can’t wait to race in the LMP2 category which has shown some classic fights last season.”

Kristof Vermeulen.
Pictures: JellyBaby.Media

Friday 22 December 2017

FIA WEC: Racing Team Nederland enters 2018/2019 Super season

Racing Team Nederland announced they will enter the FIA World Endurance Championship, making it the first Dutch team to compete in the world championship for sportscars since its inception in 2012.

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Racing Team Nederland debuted in this year’s European Le Mans Series, running a Gibson powered Dallara P217 in the LMP2 class, driven by team owner Frits Van Eerd and Le Mans legend Jan Lammers.  The team also made its debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Rubens Barichello joined the 2 Dutchmen behind the wheel of their Dallara, finishing in 13th place overall, 11th in its LMP2 class. 

The team has now submitted its entry for the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship "super season", including 2 times the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  They will hold on to their Dallara P217 which makes them the first team to enter the FIA WEC with another chassis than Oreca in the LMP2 class.  

More information about the team's entry and the announcement of the two drivers joining Frits Van Eerd behind the wheel of the Jumbo sponsored car will be given early February 2018. 

Frits van Eerd, founder and one of the drivers of Racing Team Nederland: “I am truly proud that following our debut year we will be making such a significant and ambitious step. With our participation in the FIA World Endurance Championship, The Netherlands will be represented at the highest level of sportscar racing.”

The coming weeks, Racing Team Nederland will orientate itself regarding the drivers who will race its LMP2 Dallara P217 alongside Frits. Subsequently, the team will present all details of its FIA World Endurance Championship 2018/19 during its official press launch next year.

Kristof Vermeulen.
Picture: JellyBaby.Media

Tuesday 19 December 2017

FIA WEC: Toyota confirms commitment to FIA WEC and Le Mans

Toyota Gazoo Racing officially confirmed their commitment to endurance racing today, ahead of its entries for the FIA WEC Super Season and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  The Japanese manfacturer will compete in the 2018/2019 FIA World Endurance Championship after reaffirming its commitment to the development of hybrid powertrain technology through motorsport.

Following the publication of the LMP1 regulations for next season, which Toyota has played an active part in defining, the team can commit to enter its TS050 HYBRID race cars for at least the 2018-19 season.

The WEC project has contributed to Toyota’s global target of making ever-better cars, particularly in the development of hybrid powertrains which has benefited from regulations which give manufacturers the freedom to innovate. For example, the fundamental technology behind a 35% fuel consumption improvement since 2012 for Toyota LMP1 cars is contributing to the continuous improvement of Toyota road cars.

As well as technology, the WEC project has also contributed to Toyota’s ever-better cars target by enhancing the knowledge and experience of road car powertrain engineers. Since the project began road car engineers have been seconded to the WEC team to learn new processes and working methods in a high-pressure environment.

More details of the team's plans for 2018/2019 and its driver line-up is expected early next year. 

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Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation: “More than 100 years have passed since the birth of the automobile. As we approach times of tremendous change represented by electrification, automation and other developments, I am strongly determined to make sure that cars will be fun for the next 100 years.

"Since 2012, we have taken up the challenge of the FIA World Endurance Championship, including the Le Mans 24 Hours, with race cars equipped with hybrid technologies. Of course, we have always approached this challenge with a desire to drive faster than any other car and to win. Yet our cars carried our desire for more than just that.Not only did we want to heighten environmental performance in terms of fuel efficiency and such, we also had a very strong desire to create hybrid cars that made drivers feel that driving is fun, and that made them want to keep at it and want to let the cars keep on going."

"This year, I went to Le Mans for the first time and heard people cheering for Toyota. I also heard many people saying that they would like to see Toyota come out with a hybrid sports car like our cars in the race. I, too, would like us to produce just such a car, and I think it would be one that would help make cars fun for the next 100 years."

"This year, our cars were extremely fast on the roads of Le Mans. But they were not able to combine speed with the strength needed to keep at it for 24 hours. While wanting to provide cars that our customers will want to ride in and drive, I keenly realized that we have a long way to go."

"It is highly regrettable that our rival in honing technologies on the roads of Le Mans has left. Yet the World Endurance Championship, in which cars of different categories race at the same time, and particularly Le Mans, where the battle goes on for 24 hours, including on public roads, still represents the optimal proving ground for achieving the goal of making cars fun for the next 100 years."

"TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will continue to race in this competition again next season. And, from here on as well, so that we will be able to provide our customers with cars that are fun to drive and cars that they want to let keep on going, we will continue to build on our skills and technology gained thus far. We would be happy to receive everyone’s continued support. Thank you very much."

Kristof Vermeulen.

Le Mans 2018: the entries are open !

As from yesterday, the entries for the 86th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans are open.  Teams wanting to compete in the legendary race at La Sarthe can send in their entry forms until the 5th of February 2018. The final entry list to be revealed on February 9th. 

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Not only the entries for Le Mans are open, also competitors for the FIA World Endurance Series and the European Le Mans Series have to field their entry by 5 February 2018.  

So far, nine teams have already been granted an invitation to take part in qualifying for the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours. These invitations have been awarded following the 2017 results in the Le Mans 24 Hours, European Le Mans Series, Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, together with 2 teams that have been selected by 

  • Jackie Chan DC Racing: winners of the 2017 LMP2 category in the 24 Hours of Le Mans; 
  • G-Drive Racing: winners of the 2017 European Le Mans Series title in LMP2; 
  • United Autosports: champions in the 2017 European Le Mans Series LMP3 category;
  • JDC-Miller Motorsports: selected by IMSA for the Weathertech SportsCar Championship.

  • Aston Martin Racing (Pro): victory in the LM GTE Pro category at the Le Mans 24 Hours;
  • JMW Motorsport (Pro or Am) has received two invitations, following their win in the LM GTE Am category at Le Mans this year and their title in the European Le Mans Series. Their invitations are valid for the LM GTE Am of Pro category. 
  • TF Sport (Pro or Am): runner up in the 2017 European Le Mans Series in GTE;
  • Ebimotors (Am): champions in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup (GT class).
  • Keating Motorsport (Am): selected by IMSA for the Weathertech SportsCar Championship.

The remaining four auto-entries for next season's 24 Hours of Le Mans will be appointed at the end of the 2017/18 Asian Le Mans Series. The winning teams in LMP2, LMP3 and GT plus the runner up in GT will be offered a place on the grid of next years Le Mans. There's no invite in the LMP1 class next year as Porsche has withdrawn their 919 Hybrid from Le Mans and the FIA WEC. 

Each invitation can be awarded only if the car in question is entered for one of the following three championships in 2018: Asian Le Mans Series, European Le Mans Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The complete list of the 60 cars entered for the Le Mans 24 Hours on 16-17 June 2018 will be revealed on 9th February.  

Kristof Vermeulen.

Sunday 10 December 2017

FIA WEC: Four Porsche 911 RSR at Le Mans in 2018 and a 919 Hybrid farewell tour

Yesterday evening, Porsche paid tribute to the worldwide achievements of teams and drivers during the 2017 season at its annual “Night of Champions” in Weissach. The huge expansion of Porsche's worldwide GT programme was announced yesterday, including a 4 car assault on the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours. 

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Porsche plans its largest ever GT factory mission at the 86th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with 4 works cars to be entered in the GTE Pro class. Both Porsche GT teams form the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA Weathertech Championship will field two 911 RSR's each.    

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The #91 car will be driven by Gianmaria Bruni (returning to the FIA WEC and Le Mans after leaving Ferrari at the end of 2016), Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki. The #92 will be manned by Kévin Estre, Michael Chistensen and Laurens Vanthoor. In the #93 it's Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber behind the wheel, while the #94 will be in the hands of Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Sven Müller. 

Porsche remains in the FIA WEC with 2 factory cars in the GTE-Pro class, driven by Gianmaria Bruno and Richard Lietz in the #91 and Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre in the #92. In the IMSA championship Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet will drive the #911 while Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor are behind the wheel of the #912 Porsche 911 RSR.

The German manufacturer also announced an impressive program in GT3 for 2018 with a Manthey run factory effort in the Blancpain GT Series & International GT Challenge, Timo Bernhard with his team in the ADAC GT Masters and no less than nine Porsches at the Nürburgring 24 Hours with  an all star line-up in the Manthey factory cars.  

Preparations for Formula E

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There's no sign of Neel Jani and André Lotterer in Porsche's driving rosters for 2018 so far.  Both drivers are active in the Formula E championship: Jani with Dragon Racing, Lotterer with Techeetah. Lotterer is also believed to chase after a drive at Le Mans in 2018, linked to Rebellion if they might step up to LMP1 again.  

Porsche's LMP1 team is already working on their transition for Formula E in which they will enter in 2019.  Until then, the team will design, develop and test a complete powertrain. The first steps were already taken in 2017, with the concrete implementation of the concept taking place next year. The first test drives with the finished Formula E race car from Porsche are scheduled for early 2019. 

Farewell tour for the 919 Hybrid

Despite leaving the FIA WEC at the end of last season, the 919 Hybrid will still make a few outings on track in 2018. Porsche is planning a farewell tour for the three-time Le Mans winning prototype. Outside the events of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and thus outside the regulations of usable energy amounts, the 919 Hybrid will be campaigned at many individual events throughout the year. A precise programme will be announced early in 2018. At the end of 2018, the era of the ca. 900 hp hybrid prototype will come to a close. The 919 will then make its last trip to the Porsche Museum.

Christian Ried most succesful private driver of 2017

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This year’s winner of the Porsche Cup, the trophy for the world’s most successful private Porsche driver, went to Christian Ried (38). The racing driver/owner of the Dempsey Proton Racing squad was awarded the coveted trophy by Dr Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Porsche AG. Thanks to his successes in the FIA WEC and the European Le Mans Series, Ried earned 8,700 points over the past season at the wheel of the Porsche 911 RSR.

Kristof Vermeulen

Thursday 30 November 2017

ELMS: Some changes to the Sporting Regulations for 2018

After an exciting and close 2017 European Le Mans Series, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has made several small changes to the ELMS sporting regulations for the 2018 season which starts at Le Castellet in April.

New LMP2 Trophy for Bronze and Silver Crews
To recognise the gentlemen drivers taking part in LMP2 a new trophy will be introduced at each of the six rounds in the LMP2 category for the first crew in the general classification comprising of one bronze and one silver or two bronze drivers.

Additional Joker Tyres in LMP3
LMP3 competitors will have access to four additional ‘joker’ tyres which can be used at any time during the season. The number of sets of tyres per event remains unchanged at three, with no limit on the number of wet tyres that can be used.

Promoter Organised Private Test Before Each ELMS Event
In addition to the official pre-season test at Le Castellet, the promoter will organise a private test on the Wednesday before the start of the event at some of the 2018 ELMS rounds. The tests will be organised at Monza, Red Bull Ring, Spa-Francorchamps and Portimão. 

Pitstop Changes
Competitors will be allowed to bring a maximum of two wheel guns into the working area in 2018 and wheel change operations will be allowed during refuelling. 

Drive Time
Changes have been made to the minimum and maximum drive times in all three categories. In LMP2 the minimum driving time for bronze or silver drivers in two drivers’ crews has been reduced from 2h20 to 2h15. If the LMP2 crew comprises of three drivers the minimum driving time for the bronze or silver driver has been reduced to 1h10 (from 1h30) and the maximum driving time for a gold or platinium driver has been increased from 30 minutes to 40 minutes. 

In LMP3 if a two drivers crew consists of two bronze drivers they must drive for a minimum of 50 minutes each. In three drivers crews that consist of two or three bronze drivers, the bronze driver must also drive for a minimum of 50 minutes (down from one hour previously). 

In LMGTE a bronze driver in a three drivers crew must drive for a minimum of 1h30 (previously it was 45 minutes).

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Thursday 23 November 2017

FIA WEC 2017: Porsche's final qualifying session

Last week was Porsche's final qualifying session with the 919 Hybrid at the 6 Hours of Bahrain, scoring pole position with the #1 of Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy.  We've had Erik Junius in the pitlane focusing on the Porsche team during those final 20 minutes of qualifying for the 919 Hybrid and the 2017 season.  

More pictures of Erik can be found on his instagram page or website.

Kristof Vermeulen.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

FIA WEC: New Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE revealed tonight

Aston Martin Racing revealed its new weapon for the FIA World Endurance Championship today in London: the all new Vantage GTE.  The new challenger will take on the competition on the 2018/19 super season all around the world, with highlights at Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans; 

Built to comply with the FIA’s strict GTE class regulations, the new Vantage GTE takes the road car’s core design and dynamic capabilities to a whole new level through extensive optimisation of the powertrain, chassis and aerodynamics. The car has been designed and engineered in-house at AMR’s headquarters in Banbury, and led by Technical Director Dan Sayers, who also led the design and development of the current V8 Vantage GTE - the car credited with 36 of the team’s 50 international race victories, including two Le Mans 24 Hour class wins.

Before the launch of the all new Vantage, the development has been long going already and is well advanced, with up until now more than 13.000 km of testing completed. A 30 hour endurance test in Navarra and a very intense test programme at Sebring have been the highlights in the testing programme so far. Reliability has been reported to be exceptional straight out of the box, while the drivers have reported the car is easier to control on the limit than its predecessor. The engine in the new Vantage GTE is also brand new, and no longer normally aspirated.  The new powerhouse of the Vantage is based on the turbocharged Mercedes AMG 4.0 litre V8 engine which also features in the new road car Vantage, and has been developed for use in the Vantage GTE application by Aston Martin Racing.

With a new car to develop, Aston Martin Racing has kept its highly experienced and successful  driver line-up. This year’s Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro class winners Darren Turner and Jonny Adam have been retained, as have the Danish duo and 2016 FIA WEC GTE Pro world champions, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen. In addition, AMR has recruited ex-GP2 race winner and now Formula E racer Alex Lynn. Further driver announcements will be forthcoming.

Aston Martin Racing has also announced a few new technical partners who have been involved in the development of the new Vantage and will be working with the team: Alcon for the braking system, Öhlins for the suspension and the return Michelin for a bespoke tyre programme, after racing with Dunlop for the past few years. Also, the in-house Aston Martin Design team, led by Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman have taken their intimate knowledge of the road Vantage styling and amplified it for the WEC version. 

Aston Martin Racing Technical Director, Dan Sayers: “Designing and developing this new car has been an extremely satisfying process. We’ve collaborated closely with the Aston Martin’s Gaydon headquarters to develop the road and race cars in parallel. Attention to detail has been a priority at every step of this process and we’ve made big improvements in each area of the car. We’ve spent every second optimising the design right until the build of our test car, which has paid dividends during our current testing schedule. This project has been one of the most intensive but also rewarding of my career so far”.

Managing Director, Aston Martin Racing John Gaw: “It’s terrific to be involved in this exciting new chapter for Aston Martin Racing. The increasingly tough competition in the GTE class and the prospect of two visits to Le Mans and a return to Sebring within the 2018/19 super-season is thoroughly tantalising. To conduct the development process of this car so closely with Aston Martin’s design and engineering teams was essential for both road and race car to retain the same underlying DNA. We believe the Vantage GTE will bring further success worldwide to Aston Martin Racing in the coming years”.

President of Aston Martin Racing, David King: “Motorsport is fundamental to the DNA of Aston Martin and our commitment to the FIA World Endurance Championship is stronger than ever. This is a golden era for GT racing and today’s launch of the new Vantage GTE will ensure that Aston Martin Racing remains at the forefront of the world’s greatest endurance series. The team has enjoyed incredible success over recent years with the outgoing V8 Vantage GTE and while this will hold fond memories for me, I can’t wait to see the new car race in anger at Spa next year and continue to write motorsport history”.

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Saturday 18 November 2017

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Bahrain: GTE Finale – Desert Dash Decider

This year has seen a transition of the Balance of Performance (BoP) in the GTE categories from a manual to automated process.  The result is a beautifully poised battle in both Pro and Am, and the Technical Team led by Vincent Beaumesnil should be commended for what they have achieved. You will always hear complaints and whingeing, but once again in conjunction with our new partners @ TheBPillar we hope to shed some light here on the battles in GTE and the prospects for top step in each category.

GTE-Pro is the primary example, we have a category top-three in Bahrain of Ferrari #71, Aston Martin #97 and Ford GT #67, but only the third of these cars is in the running for the championship, although it could be contended that the #71 Ferrari of Bird & Rigon could continue to play a pivotal role in securing a world championship victory for its sister car #51 of Calado & Pier Guidi. 

That is correct, today we could crown Ferrari FIA World Champions in a road relevant category for both Drivers and Manufacturer, any wonder they are questioning spending and rattling the Formula 1 quitting cages…

As a slight aside here, spare a thought for Gianmaria Bruni who chose to take the Porsche contract, presumably hopeful of progression to an LMP1 919 Hybrid drive, was contractually blocked from 2017 WEC participation and now sees his former team inching onto the top step of a GT World Championship. Decisions, Decisions…

Turning to the B-Pillar Data Analysis (click it to enlarge), and in the knowledge that the cars are very balanced it is possible to see that driver performance and consistency as a team is in our opinion a key factor to success. 

Analysis Kindly Prepared by Matt Griffin @thebpillar

The lower variances on faster averages all seem to reflect the top contenders this year. The one anomally that stands out is the pole sitting #71 of Bird/Rigon, which has not reached the heights of its win at Spa, but has served its sister car well by taking significant points from competitors.  

The championship deciders are predominantly across two awards. The GT Pro FIA World Endurance Teams Trophy, led by #51 (146pts) Ferrari of Calado/Pier Guidi, from the #91 (133pts) Porsche of (Makoweicki/Lietz) and third currently the #67 (131pts) Ford GT of Priaulx/Tincknell. The same contenders are in the running for the Drivers Championship, but the tally of points is calculated in such a way as to make that even closer – 

#51 Calado/Pier Guidi  135pts
#91 Mako / Lietz         133pts
#67 Priaulx / Tincknell 127.5pts

Not since the 1984 F1 World Championship could half of one point prove so vital…  With 25points for the win everything is still to play for in this Desert Decider! 

By no means least we come to the GTE-Am category which is set to expand in 2018.

We have followed for some time now the progress of the #98 Aston Martin enjoying victories previously with Paul/Pedro/Mathias at Spa and experiencing the commiserations of getting so close at Le Mans. Things have really clicked this year, and much of that has been down to Paul Dalla Lana and his pace as the Gent (we can’t refer to him as Am) in the car. It is not normally our way to pick out one driver, they are a team, as above at Spa they win together, and at Le Mans they all felt the pain together.  But the graphic analysis below from The B-Pillar shows why Paul Dalla Lana and the #98 crew are in the dominant leading position in this category. 

Analysis Kindly Prepared by Matt Griffin @thebpillar

Paul Dalla Lana is THE King of Bronze’s he tops the pack consistently and we hope he does not mind us pointing out (and I am the last to point fingers) he is no jockey like driver! 🙂

The standings in GTE-Am are as follows – 

                                                Drivers    Team
#98  Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda      167pts     173pts  Aston Martin Racing
#77  Deinst/Reid/Cairoli             156pts     162pts  Dempsey Proton Racing (Porsche)
#61  Sawa/Griffin/Mok               147pts     161pts  Clearwater Racing (Ferrari)

The #98 took the category Pole, with the #61 Clearwater jumping the #77 Porsche for second on the -Am grid.

One little gem (to see who stuck with this to the end!) – We understand from our new colleagues (@thebpillar) that Christian Ried holds a quite unique record… He has completed a racing lap in EVERY Round of the WEC (apart from the heavily curtailed, did that even happen, race at Fuji in 2013)!  Not a lot of people know that 🙂 

So that is the set-up, the preview of the finale at Bahrain, a fabulous circuit well worth a visit. It drops from the 2018-19 ‘Super’ Season but its understood to be a firm favourite to return to the future winter calendar.  Certainly looking out on a chilly, grey British scene brightened only by the colours of autumn, we look forward to its return, and are starting the fund-raising for a trip now!  Lets hope Bahrain delivers the championship finale that across the categories this World Championship deserves. 

Enjoy the coverage on TV, Radio, Twitter or by write-up.  See you at the track. 

This article has originally been contributed by Nick Holland for Sportscarglobal.
Give him a follow on his twitter account @Nick Holland for more news and insights about the world of endurance racing !