Thursday 2 February 2017

FIA WEC 2017: Kubica, Derani and new numbers for Toyota

ByKolles signs Robert Kubica and Oliver Webb for the 2017 World Endurance Championship. 

ByKOLLES Racing will start the 2017 World Endurance Championship season with ex-Formula One driver Robert Kubica driving the CLM P1/01 Nismo together with Brit Oliver Webb. The third driver for the FIA WEC races, including the Le Mans 24 Hours 2017, will be announced at a later stage. Oliver Webb is known to the private LMP1 team ByKOLLES Racing from his commitments during last season. After many good results in Formula One and several years in Rally, Robert Kubica will return to circuit racing and make his debut in Le Mans in June.

„After my time in Rally I’ve been looking for something as close to F1 as possible. This is exactly what I’ve found in LMP1“, says Robert Kubica. „At the end of last year’s WEC-Season, I was able to do my first laps behind the wheel of the CLM P1/01. I felt comfortable in the car very quickly and was able to increase my pace accordingly. With even more experience I’m sure I will be able to extract more performance. I’m already very much looking forward to the Prologue in Monza and the season start in Silverstone. The professional team of ByKOLLES Racing will continue to make important improvements to the car during the season. I’m happy to be a part of it. The FIA WEC is racing on circuits that I know well from my time in F1, with the exception of Le Mans. I’ve heard so many good things about the event at the Sarthe. I’m very excited about my first start at this 24-Hour race.”

"I’m very happy that I will be once again competing in the FIA WEC in LMP1, together with the ByKOLLES crew and F1 legend Robert Kubica“, explains Oliver Webb. „It’s great that we have the Nismo engine in our car from now on. For 2018 it looks like it will be a good and intense competition in the LMP1 category. This year, the field of LMP1 privateers will be very modest but we will use the season to optimise our car to the new engine and improve numerous other things. To be competing at Le Mans once again, with Robert along-side us is going to be fantastic – it’s a dream come true!“

New season, new numbers for Toyota Gazoo Racing

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s TS050 Hybrids will wear some familiar numbers in the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López will race the #7 TS050 Hybrid. That number, which recalls memories of legendary Toyota 7 sportscar, was on the TS030 Hybrid when it won the team’s first WEC race in 2012.

Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima will compete with the #8 car. Sébastien and Anthony have a strong association with that number, having won the 2014 drivers’ World Championship at the wheel of the #8 TS040 Hybrid. The numbers seven and eight are traditionally associated with Toyota at Le Mans. Toyota cars have featured those numbers, often as #37 and #38, in 13 of the manufacturers’ 18 years of Le Mans competition.

At Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, a third car, led by Stéphane Sarrazin, will wear #9. A number Toyota has never races at Le Mans, although in 1998 Thierry Boutsen, Ralf Kelleners & Geoff Lees drove the #29 TS020.

Pipo Derani joins Ford GT programme

After last years win in the LMGTE-Pro class, Ford returns with 4 GT's to Le Mans in June.  The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team’s 2016 victory came 50 years after an historic 1-2-3 finish for Ford at the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours. Ford also won the race in 1967 when Dan Gurney (US) and A. J. Foyt (US) piloted the Ford GT40 to victory, giving the team another target to hit this time around.

The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team will again field a strong team of drivers to defend its 2016 LM GTE Pro class win.  New to the team for 2017 is young Brazilian, Luis Felipe "Pipo" Derani, who will join Andy Priaulx (GB) and Harry Tincknell (GB) in the #67 Ford GT for the FIA World Endurance Championship races at Silverstone, Spa and Le Mans. The 23 year-old came to Ford’s attention in 2016 when he won the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Sebring 12 Hours on his debut, marking himself as one to watch.

“I am delighted and proud to have been chosen to represent such a successful and respected manufacturer like Ford. To compete for a team like Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has been one of my aims since starting in racing and to be recognised and selected by them is a big deal for me. I especially want to thank George-Howard Chappell for his trust and belief in order to give me this opportunity", said Derani. “The way that the Ford GT has performed in endurance racing over the last 12 months has been exceptional and I am very much looking forward to working with the team to try and bring more success in the FIA World Endurance Championship and to defend the Le Mans LM GTE Pro title.”

The other driver line-ups will remain unchanged. Olivier Pla and Stefan Mücke will race the #66 and joined by Billy Johnson in Silverstone, Spa and Le Mans. The #68 Le Mans winning car will be driven again by Seb Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller. Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe will be at the wheel of the #69.

Kristof Vermeulen.