Saturday 11 March 2017

FIA WEC: 27 cars for the prologue at Monza & driver line-ups

In three weeks time, 27 cars will be on track for the 2-day prologue at the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza, Italy. After five years at Paul Ricard, the FIA World Endurance Championship will visit the Autodromo Nazionale Monza  for the first time. All but one full season entries have been confirmed, but there are still some drivers who haven't been announced yet.

In LMP1 both Porsche and Toyota will arrive in Monza with two cars, plus the sole privateer entry of ByKolles.

© Porsche

Porsche recently had a successful tests at Aragon in Spain, where the 919 Hybrid in 2017 spec has been tested for the first time. All six drivers were present at the test, and managed 7200 km over 7 days. André Lotterer will make his official debut in the #1 Porsche 919, teaming up with Neel Jani and Nick Tandy. The #2 car will be driven by Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber. Tandy and Bamber return to the LMP1 team after their win at Le Mans in 2015. 

© Toyota
Toyota hasn't reveiled much about their upgraded TS050 Hybrid for the new season, but already ran a very intensive testing program. The Japanese team will be in Monza with 2 cars, and 4 drivers lined up for testing duties. Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi will drive the #7 car, behind the wheel of the #8 car will be Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima. Newcomer, and WTCC champion Jose Maria "Pechito" Lopez and Sebastian Buemi won't be able to test the cars in Monza as they have to race with Formula E in Mexico the same weekend. Buemi is expected though to be in Monza for the presentation of the new car on Friday.  Stéphane Sarrazin has moved from the full season WEC squad to be the lead driver in the third car at Le Mans. 

ByKolles is the only privateer team in the LMP1 class this season. The CLMP1/01 will get some major upgrades for this new season. First and foremost is the engine. As from this season ByKolles will use the Nismo V6 Turbo engine which was used in the Nissan GTR-LM in 2015. As a result of the changes in regulations for 2017, the car will get lots of aero updates on the front and the rear too. As announced earlier Oliver James Webb returns to the Austrian team, and will be joined by former F1 ace Robert Kubica. Kubica tested the car already during the rookie test at Bahrain last season. The third driver still has to be announced. 

All five teams in LMP2 will be present at Monza too. Just 1 car will be missing in the pitlane, as CEFC Manor TRS Racing will only bring 1 Oreca07 to Italy.

Defending LMP2 champions Signatech Alpine Matmut will have their 2 rebadged Alpine A470's on track. At this time, only Nicolas Lapierre has been confirmed by the French team, with 5 driver still to be named in the upcoming weeks. 

© Rebellion Racing

Rebellion Racing steps down form the LMP1 privateer class into LMP2, with a stellar driver line-up and their cars in a Vaillant-Rebellion livery. Mathias Beche and David Henemeier Hansson will drive the #13 Vaillante Rebellion, the #31 will be driven by Julien Canal and Bruno Senna. Nelson Piquet Jr and Nicolas Prost won't be in Monza, due to their commitments in Formula E the same weekend. 

© G-Drive Racing

TDS Racing is the new kid on the block in LMP2, heading into the FIA WEC after several succesful seasons in the European Le Mans Series. The French team will also run the 2017 G-Drive car, who are making the switch from Jota Sport. The #28 TDS Oreca will be driven by last years GTE-Am champions François Perrodo & Emmanuel Collard, joined by Matthieu Vaxivière.  Roman Rusinov teams up with Pierre Thiriet in the #26 G-Drive, the third driver to be named shortly. Rusinov has already hinted a few times for an experienced F1 driver, but given the last test of the team in Aragon, it seems like Alex Lynn has the best cards in hands right now to join the team. 

© Jota Sport

Jota Sport returns to the FIA World Endurance Championship with 2 cars this season. The British squad will run both Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca's. The #37 will be driven by team owner David Cheng, together with Alex Brundle and Tristan Gommendy. Brundle already raced with Jota last year, Gommendy is making the move from Eurasia Racing. Ho Pin Tung moves up from the European Le Mans Series last season, and will race the #38 together with Audi ace Oliver Jarvis and Frenchman Thomas Laurent. 

CEFC Manor TRS Racing is the only team in LMP2 that will bring only one car to the Monza prologue. 4 drivers have been announced on the provisional entry list: Roberto Gonzalez, Tor Graves, Jonathan Hirschi and Simon Trummer. Gonzalez and Graves raced with Manor last season in the FIA WEC, both Swiss drivers Hirschi and Trummer are new faces to the team. Jonathan Hirschi returns to sportscar racing and the FIA WEC after competing four times at Le Mans. Simon Trummer has raced with Rebellion in the LMP1 privateer class in the past 2 seasons. 

2 more driver still have to be announced before the start of the season. 


In both LMGTE Pro and Am, all full season entries will be on track in Monza. 8 cars in the Pro class and 6 cars in the Am class.

Leading the GTE Pro entries is the #95 Aston Martin Vantage of last years champions Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen. Both Danish drivers will be joined by Richie Stanaway, who will probably be the third driver for the car at Le Mans. The #97 Aston will have Darren Turner and Johnny Adam behind the wheel. Earlier this week, at the Geneva motor show, Aston Martin confirmed its commitment for another five years. 

Ford returns to the FIA World Endurance Championship with 2 Ford GT's and after winning the 24 hours of Daytona in January. No driver changes at the blue oval with Stefan Mücke & Olivier Pla in the #66 and Andy Priaulx & Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT.  Billy Johnson will join Mücke & Pla in the #66 car  for the races at Spa and Le Mans, as will Pipo Derani in the #67.

The new Porsche 911 RSR will make its European debut on track with the driver pairings who have been announced earlier this week by Porsche. Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki will drive the #91 (red Porsche lettering on a black windscreen banner and on the rear wing as well as red wing mirrors), the #92 will be driven by Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre (white background on the windscreen and the rear wing as well as white wing mirrors). 

Alessandro Pier Guidi will make his debut as Ferrari factory driver in the  #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE, replacing Gianmaria Bruni who has left the Prancing horse for Porsche. Pier Guidi teams up with James Calado. The #71 AF Corse will be in the hands of Davide Rigon. Sam Bird is on the entry list, but is on of the driver who is racing Formula E in Mexico.

2 Ferrari's will race in the Am class this year. The first one is a new team in the FIAWEC: Spirit of Race from Switzerland. 2 drivers have been confirmed so far: Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci, with a third one still to be named. For Castellacci this is a return to the World Endurance Championship after racing with Aston Martin in 2015. The second Ferrari in the Am class is the F488 of Signapore based Clearwater Racing. Matt Griffin, Weng Sun Mok & Keita Sawa will be behind the wheel of this car.  Both cars of Spirit of Race and Clearwater racing will be run by AF Corse in the championship. 

Next to both Ferrari's, 2 Porsches will be at Monza.  Dempsey-Proton Racing returns with their #77 911 RSR. Team co-owner Christian Ried is leading the driver line-up again and will je joined by youngsters Matteo Cairoli & Marvin Dienst. Porsche junior driver Cairoli is the 2016 Porsche Supercup vice champion, and already raced with the team in ELMS last year and will do so again this season. Marvin Dienst is a young German driver who made his GT debut last year in the ADAC GT masters. UK team Gulf Racing is in for its second season in the FIA WEC with their orange & blue livered #86 Porsche 911. Michael Wainwright and Ben Barker are already confirmed for this season, the third driver should be announced ahead of the prologue.

The final entry in the Am class is the #98 Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda. Dalla Lana's car will be upgraded to the 2016 spec, to ensure good competition against the Ferrari F488's which are eligible for the Am class as from this year. 

Access to the prologue is free on both days, with an autograph session for the fans planned on Sunday.

Provisional entry list

Provisional timetable:
Saturday 01 April
09:00 – 12:00    Session 1
14:00 - 17:00     Session 2
19:00 – 21:00    Session 3 (night testing)

Sunday 02 April
09:00 – 12:00    Session 4
13:15 – 13:45    Driver Autograph Session
14:00 – 17:00    Session 5

Kristof Vermeulen.