Thursday 2 February 2017

FIA WEC 2017: 28 cars on the grid for the World Endurance Championship

28 cars will make up the full season FIA World Endurance Championship entry list for the 2017 season. 11 different nations will be on the grid, offering proof that the WEC continues to attract teams from across the globe wishing to compete at the highest level in endurance racing.  A well balanced, stable calendar is one of the keys to this magnetic appeal for manufacturers and teams, as are regulations which promote strong technological competition and innovation, at the same time as controlling any escalation of expenditure. 

In LMP1, Toyota will challenge Porsche again in the battle of hybrid technology.  Two-time World Champion Porsche returns with revised 919 Hybrid's and will be more than prepared for the battle ahead with Toyota in 2017. Toyota will also run 2 cars during the championship, except for Spa and Le Mans where a third TS050 will be on the grid. After their misfortune at Le Mans last year, the Japanese team will do everything possible to cross the line first after 24 hours. 

ByKolles is the only privateer team in LMP1 this season. A further development of their ENSO CLM P1/01 and the switch to Nismo powered engines should give them better prospects after a challenging 2016. Robert Kubica will race the entire WEC championship and make his debut at Le Mans.

10 Oreca 07's will dispute the LMP2 championship this season. 4 manufacturers have been selected to build the new LMP2 prototypes, but all teams present in the World Endurance Championship have chosen to race the Oreca07.

Signatech Alpine Matmut will defend its 2016 title with 2 rebadged Alpine A460's, with Nicolas Lapierre and Stéphane Richelmi as lead drivers. Manor also returns under the flag of CEFC Manor TRS Racing and wil race 2 cars, Tor Graves and Roberto Gonzalez have been appointed als their leading drivers. Jackie Chan DC Racing enforces its appearance in the World Endurance Championship and will field 2 cars, supported by Jota Sport. David Cheng and Ho-Pin Tung will be the lead drivers in one car each. G-Drive Racing is the final team returning to the WEC, with Roman Rusinov and technical support of TDS Racing. 

LMP2 will also see a few new teams arriving in the class this year. First up is Swiss team Rebellion which makes the switch from LMP1-L to LMP2. 2 Vaillante Rebellions will be on the starting grid, both with a stellar driver line-up. Stepping up from the European Le Mans Series is French Team TDS Racing who will make their debut in the FIA WEC with the Oreca07 and will be supporting G-Drive Racing also. 

Porsche GT returns to the GTE-Pro ranks with two new Porsche 911 RSR and will battle with Ferrari, Ford and Aston Martin. Boosted by the creation of the FIA World Endurance Championship for GTE Drivers and Manufacturers, the competition in the LMGTE Pro class will be hotter and tighter than ever.  

Challenging Porsche for the championship will be two Ferrari 488 GTEs from AF Corse, looking to repeat the Italian manufacturer’s success of recent years, two of the Ford GTs from Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK which were introduced in 2016 and immediately won Le Mans, and two Aston Martin Vantages from the British manufacturer for the model’s final year before a new one is introduced in 2018.  

In the LMGTE-Am class, 3 different marques along 5 entries will race in the World Endurance Championship. 

Clearwater Racing from Signapore is a new team, emerging from the Asian Le Mans Series after their debut at Le Mans last year. They will run a Ferrari F488 for Weng Sun Mok. Paul Dalla Lana returns to the Am class with his Aston Martin Vantage V8. Another new team in class is Swiss Spirit of Race who will be running a Ferrari F488, supported by AF Corse. Finally 2 Porsches 911 RSR will complete the 2017 grid with Dempsey-Proton Racing and Gulf Racing UK who will run their second season in FIA WEC. 

The WEC calendar features nine rounds across five continents, with the third round being the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the jewel in the crown of international endurance racing.  The season opens with the 6 Hours of Silverstone on 16 April, moves on to Spa-Francorchamps (6 May), Le Mans (17-18 June) and the Nürburgring (16 July) in Europe before heading overseas to Mexico (3 September), Circuit of The Americas, Austin (16 September), Fuji (15 October), Shanghai (5 November) and Bahrain (18 November) for the second half of the season.

Jean Todt, President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile: “The 2017 season will be the sixth of the successful partnership between the FIA and the ACO which has seen the FIA World Endurance Championship grow to the prominent position it holds today in world motor sport.  The strong grid announced today will strengthen this position further and will undoubtedly be the focus of some intense battles and drama over the coming nine races.

“In LMP1 Porsche will defend their world and 24 Hours of Le Mans titles, while Toyota is looking to build on the successes of 2016.  In addition, four manufacturers will be competing for the new FIA World Endurance Championship for GTE and LMP2 is revitalised with the new technical regulations coming into effect this season.

“I would like to thank Pierre Fillon, Lindsay Owen-Jones and Gérard Neveu for their continued hard work. The great cooperation of the teams at the FIA and the ACO is what makes the FIA World Endurance Championship the success it is today. I am looking forward to what is sure to be another exciting season.”

Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: “Endurance is in very good health and the 2017 season looks full of promise. Today, we discovered the three great entry lists for the ELMS, the FIA WEC and of course the Le Mans 24 Hours. The on-track spectacle will be absolutely fantastic with duels among top-class drivers and all-out rivalry between the competitors. All the ingredients that make up the DNA of endurance have been combined for 2017. The field for the Le Mans 24 Hours is particularly rich with 16 nationalities from the four corners of the world and a host of teams, most of which race in our continental series in Europe, the United States and Asia thanks to the Asian Le Mans Series, which has really taken off! It is all proof of the success of the endurance pyramid so dear to the ACO. The 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours promise us a great spectacle on the track as well as a week’s festivities to be enjoyed to the full!”  

Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, President of the FIA Endurance Commission: “As the FIA World Endurance Championship begins another exciting season the announcement of another large grid is testament to the job the regulations are doing in attracting the best teams and drivers to compete in a championship that encourages the advancement of new technologies, promotes safety in all areas and controls costs. There is a new world championship for GTE with Porsche competing with the new 911 to take on Aston Martin, Ferrari and Ford and BMW has announced its participation in 2018. This season we will see the implementation of the new LMP2 technical regulations, with four chassis manufacturers and one single engine suppler that will increase performance and intensify competition between the teams.”

Gérard Neveu, CEO of the World Endurance Championship: “We approach our sixth WEC season in a very good position, with a solid base of manufacturer and stakeholder support, world-class partners and teams, and the best sportscar drivers in the world.  The stability of our calendar offers relevance to the manufacturers in terms of their key markets outside Europe, such as North and Central America, China, Japan and the Middle East.  It also allows us to continue growing our fan base around the world, as witnessed already by the number of fans who have already purchased tickets in advance of the season. Motorsport enthusiasts know there will be entertainment for the whole family, great access to the cars and drivers and that, no matter where in the world they are, they will witness non-stop drama and competition on track.”

Download here the provisional FIA World Endurance Championship entry list

Kristof Vermeulen