Friday, 28 July 2017

FIA WEC: Porsche announces end of LMP1 involvement

This morning, Porsche has confirmed the end of its involvement in the LMP1-H class of the FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the end of the 2017 season, ending the speculation of the last weeks about a possible exit. 

From 2019 on, the German manufacturer will compete in the Formula E championship with a Porsche works team.  Porsche maintains its focus on international GT racing, and will also concentrate its motorsport strategy on using the 911 RSR in the GT class of the FIA WEC and the American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship & other long-distance classics.  This realignment of motorsport is derived from the direction set out for the company in Porsche Strategy 2025, which will see Porsche develop a combination of pure GT vehicles and fully electric sports cars, such as the first fully battery-powered Mission E road car. 

“Entering Formula E and achieving success in this category are the logical outcomes of our Mission E. The growing freedom for in-house technology developments makes Formula E attractive to us”, says Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board for Research and Development at Porsche AG. “Porsche is working with alternative, innovative drive concepts. For us, Formula E is the ultimate competitive environment for driving forward the development of high-performance vehicles in areas such as environmental friendliness, efficiency and sustainability”. Porsche has already taken the first steps towards developing its own Formula E racing car this year. 

At the same time, Porsche is increasing its commitment in the GT class. “A diversity of manufacturers and the quality of both WEC and IMSA have led us to strengthen our commitment and concentrate our energies on using the 911 RSR”, says Steiner. “We want to be number one. To do that, we must invest accordingly”. 

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1 and a central figure in the return of Porsche to top-level motorsport in 2014, says: “Building up the Le Mans team from scratch was a huge challenge. Over the years, we have developed an incredibly successful and professional team. This will be our basis going forward. I am certain that we will maintain our high level in Formula E. Confidence is high, and we are excited to get started”. Porsche will keep the successful LMP1 team fully intact, including the factory drivers. 

Since the announcement of Porsche this morning, the ACO and FIA WEC have issued the following statement:

The manufacturer Porsche, which recently confirmed its participation in the FIA ​​LMP1-H World Endurance Championship up to the end of the 2018 season, and which has been actively involved in the development of the technical regulations that will come into force in 2020, has just announced the withdrawal of its LMP1 hybrids from the end of the 2017 season.

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest, promoter of the WEC and organiser of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, regrets this precipitous departure, as it does the abruptness of the decision from one of endurance racing’s most successful and lauded manufacturers.

However, the ACO and the FIA, guardians of the existence and quality of the FIA World Endurance championship, have immediately set to work to put forward to everyone involved in endurance racing the outline of the 2018 season – a season which promises to be quite exceptional thanks to the introduction of new innovations.

Clearly, the reduction of costs and stability, but also inventiveness and audacity, will be vital in making it possible to stage an increasingly spectacular and attractive championship with the sport of endurance racing at the forefront.

This unprecedented 2018 World Championship will, without doubt, excite and enthuse competitors, partners and fans of endurance racing alike. 

We look forward to seeing you in Mexico City on September 2 and 3 for the next WEC event when further information will be given.

Kristof Vermeulen.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Michelin Le Mans Cup: DKR Engineering dominates in Austria

Alex Toril and Jean Glorieux extended their Le Mans Cup championship lead on Saturday when they crossed the line first at Austria’s Red Bull Ring in their #3 DKR Engineering Norma M30 Nissan LMP3. 

SPV Motorsport started from pole position in their Ligier JSP3, edging out the eventual race winners with just 0,01 seconds in the final lap op qualifying. Jean Glorieux didn't wait too long to take the lead in his Norma M30 and passed Alvaro Fontes in the second lap of the race, immediately building up a gap to the rest of the field. 

When Alain Costa spins into the gravel at T4, the first full course yellow of the race is being waived. At the restart Alex Kapadia in the #14 RLR Msport Ligier - who started on 18th position - dives into second place and starts to close the gap with the leading Norma, down to 3,4 seconds. 

Fuel, tyres and new drivers in the pitstop window, after which Alex Toril in the #3 Norma now leads Ross Warburton in the #14 Ligier. The RLR M-Sport team didn't comply with the minimum pitstop time, so had to take a stop & go penalty, crushing down their chances for a victory or a podium finish. The #79 Nielsen Racing Ligier of  Colin Noble now got up to second, with the #65 Graff Ligier of Emilien Carde behind in third position.

Alexander Toril held on to his lead in the final part of the race to cross the line first with a 13,5 second margin on the #79 Ligier and the #65 Graff Ligier. This is the second win for the team after their success at the Road to Le Mans race last month. In the championship, DKR Engineering (61 points) now has a 17 point lead over Nielsen Racing (44 points).  

In the GT3 class the honours went to the #46 Ebimotors Lamborghini Huracan where Emanuele Busnelli and Fabio Babini took a lights to flag win from pole position. The #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 Italia which had been fast all weekend in the hands of Italian Maurizio Mediani and Swiss Christoph Ulrich finished second 15.746 behind the Lamborghini. Flick Haigh and Joe Osborne brought Optimum Motorsport’s #75 Audi R8 LMS home for the final step on the podium in 1:59:37.233, 24.6 seconds adrift of the winners. 

The #5 Ram Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 of Remon Vos and Tom Onslow-Cole failed to finish after an incident in the second hour at Turn 1. Contact with an LMP3 (#33) left the right rear wheel of the Mercedes smashed as Vos spun at the end of the T1 kerbs. Although the Mercedes made it back to the pits the car was retired after 1:11:26.907 and 44 laps. 

Kristof Vermeulen
Part of this article first was published at 

Monday, 24 July 2017

ELMS 2017 - 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring: Race report

Arriving at the track yesterday morning, it seemed like we were in for a wet - if not very wet - ELMS race in the afternoon.  With an ever changing weather forecast, going from rain all race to rain in the final hour, teams faced a tough decision going for a wet or dry setup. When the sun came trough right before the pitwalk and autograph session, the sky cleared out, temperatures went up and it seemed like we might stay dry out there.  Apart from a few raindrops in the final half hour of the session, the weather stayed dry until a few hours after the race, giving us a highly entertaining 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring.

Léo Roussel held on to the lead into the first corner, holding off Nicolas Lapierre in the #21 Dragonspeed and Hugo de Sadeleer in the #32 United Autosport. Lapierre would eventually fall back to fourth position in the first hour of the race, under pressure of Timothé Buret in the Panis-Barthez Competition Ligier. It was the start of an intriguing battle between the G-Drive racing Oreca an the United Autosport Ligier for the next four hours. 

1 hour into the race, Hugo de Sadeleer was in the lead in the #32 Ligier, with Nicolas Lapierre in the #21 Dragonspeed right on his tail. The #27 SMP Racing Dallara started strong in its first ELMS race of the season, Egor Orudzhev now up to third place & eventually leading the race after 66 laps. An early - extra - pitstop in the second hour, hydraulic problems and a post-race one minute penalty for not respecting the driving time of Orudhzev (0.525 seconds short !!) would drop them down the order by the end of the race.

After the second round of pitstops Will Owen took over the wheel of the leading #32 Oreca, but now had Nicolas Minassian in his mirrors.  Minassian drove a fantastic stint, getting the #26 Oreca back into the lead two thirds into the race. He got held up though by Matt McMurry in the #27 Algarve Pro Racing, losing him at least 15 seconds Mnassian declared after the race. McMurry got a drive through penalty for not respecting the blue flags during the race. That delay got the #32 back in contention, closing up the gap again. Meanwhile both Graff Oreca's slipped into third and fourth position. James Allen tird in the #40 ahead of the #39.  

3 hours into the race and Roussel was back in the lead again in the G-Drive Oreca 07 with the United Autosports Ligier just above 10 seconds behind him. Filipe Albuquerque was in the #32, trying to chase down the Frenchman.  Henrik Hedman got back into fourth place in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca, but saw its chances for a podium finish vanish away when he ran out of fuel. Hedman tried to crawl back in the pitlane, but stranded 2 corners before the end of the lap, causing the sole full course yellow of the race. 

The ultimate round of pitstops would again decide about winning or losing the race. United Autosport didn't change their, giving them a huge time advantage over the G-Drive, and more importantly getting back into the lead. Filipe Albuquerque brought the car home, able to fight of a late charge of Léo Roussel who came back up to 4 seconds by the checquered flag.  After 4 hours, the #39 Graff Oreca crossed the line in third place, a well deserved podium for Eric Trouillet, Paul Petit and Enzo Gibbert. The second Graff Oreca held on to fourth place, Panis-Barthez competition rounding out the top 5 after the post-race time penalty for SMP Racing.  Racing Team Nederland with Jan Lammers and Frits Van Eerd scored their best ELMS finish yet, crossing the line in seventh position. 

Victory in LMP2 but drama for United Autosport in the LMP3 class yesterday. John Falb & Sean Rayhall crossed the line in first place after 4 hours of racing, but got a 25 second penalty after the race for not reducing their speed fast enough under full course yellow during the race. This gave the crew of the #11 Eurointernational their first victory in the ELMS for Giorgio Mondini and Davide Uboldi. 

Mikkel Jensen in the #9 AT Racing Ligier had the best start in class, ahead of Sean Rayhall in the #2 United Autosport Ligier. Jensen held on to the lead after the first pitstops, but dropped down the order after the second round of stops. In the second hour of the race, the #11 Eurointernational Ligier of Giorgio Mondini took command of the race, trailed by the #7 Duquieine Norma who started from pole and - after falling back in the start - worked its way up the order again. 

Nicholas Schatz took the lead in the fast Norma but didn't enjoy it for a long time. Schatz spun off the track and lost valuable time, dropping down the order again. Mondini took charge again of the LMP3 field with the #2 United Autosport trailing behind. The Norma would lead again in the array of pitstops, but spun again and fell out of contention, eventually losing 3 laps at the end of the race. 

After the last round of pitstops, Uboldi in the #11 Ligier was into the lead but just six seconds ahead of John Falb in the #2 United Autosport. When Uboldi was involved in a contact with 2 other cars, the door was wide open for Falb to take the lead and immediately build up a comfortable gap. The #2 Ligier now seemed on its way to their second victory of the season. A drive through penalty for abusing track limits melted down Falbs lead, but he managed to get out again with just a few seconds in the lead and get on the top spot of the podium .... until 3,5 hours later the racestewards decided differently. Behind both contenders for the top spot, the #18 M.Racing-YMR completed the podium. 

Ferrari remains unbeaten in the GTE class at the Red Bull Ring.  For the fifth consecutive year a Ferrari was on the top step of the podium after a frantic 4 hour race. Christian Ried had the best start in his #77 Proton Competition Porsche, going from third to first place in the first lap. After three laps Aaron Scott in the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari got into the lead with the #66 JMW Ferrari close behind him. It was the start of an exciting battle between the 2 Ferrari's, both leading the race several times. 

After the final round of stops, the gap between both cars was down to just a few seconds, Jody Fannin in the #66 now leading the #55 of Matt Griffin. Managing his tyres perfectly, Griffin slowly closed the gap to the leading Ferrari, to make his move in lap 131 and take the lead again. By the end of the race, the #55 of Griffin, Cameron and Scott had a gap of 17 seconds to the JMW Ferrari. 

Behind both leading cars, the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari seemed to give Ferrari a clean sweep on the podium, but Nicki Thiim spoiled the Italian party. Thiim was charging hard in his #90 TF Sport Aston Martin in the final part of the race with some frantic door to door racing against Giorgio Roda in the #51. The Dane found a gap in the last lap of the race and speared off to the final podium spot. Roda finished 4th ahead of the #77 Proton Porsche and the #90 Beechdean Aston. All GTE cars finished in the same lap, except the #90 Beechdean Aston Martin who came in one lap behind. 

The next race in the European Le Mans Series is the 4 Hours of Le Castellet in the south of France on August 27th. 

Race Results

Text & pictures: Kristof Vermeulen.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

ELMS 2017 - 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring: Leo Roussel & G-Drive on pole position

Despite weather forecasts which looked pretty wet for the weekend, the Red Bull Ring was bathing in the sun again today, with the occasional cloud brining some welcome moments of shadow over and around the track. Ideal conditions for the second free practice session this morning and qualifying in the afternoon. 

After a frantic qualifying session, Leo Roussel scored his first ever pole position in the European Le Mans Series. With a laptime of 1.18.435 he was merely faster than the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca. Lapierre did everything he could to snatch pole away from Roussel but came just 5 thousands of a second short. In fact one of Lapierre's laps was 0.005 seconds faster than Roussel, but several of his laps were deleted due to track limit abuse.  Filipe Albuquerque was third fastest in the #32 United Autosports Ligier, just under 0.4 seconds behind the leading Oreca, despite a spin at the exit of turn 2. Nathanael Berthon qualified fourth in the #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier, ahead of the fastest Dallara of Egor Orudhzev in the #27 SMP Racing.

LMP3 saw a fierce battle again in qualifying, the session red flagged after a few minutes when Ross Kaiser's 360 Racing Ligier lost a wheel and had to be retrieved. Eventually it was David Droux who took pole position in the #7 Duqueine Engineering Norma M30 (1.25.756). This is only the second race for the team with the Norma, and the first in ELMS (they raced in VdeV last week), they couldn't dream of a better start with a new car.  Mikkel Jensen confirmed his good form in the #9 AT Racing Ligier, taking second place 0.197 seconds behind Droux. The Norma's showed some outright speed again, with the #19 M. Racing-YMR on third place on the grid.

Bertolini went on like he did this morning in the second free practice session and was fastest in the GTE class this afternoon. Bertolini topped the sheets in 1.28.297, which was 0.179 seconds ahead of the second Spirit of Race Ferrari F488, the #55 of Matt Griffin. Third fastest in GTE was Matteo Cairoli in the #77 Proton Competition Porsche in 1.28.606. The #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari was fourth fastest, ahead of both Aston Martins.

The second 90 minute free practice session started this morning at 9.25h. The session was briefly red flagged early on when the #2 United Autosport Ligier LMP3 went off, damaging the front of the car.  There were several other incidents within the LMP3 class. The #15 RLR MSport went straight into the kitty litter at turn 3, other cars spotted off track were the #9 AT Racing, #10 Norma and the #18 YMR-M.Racing Ligier.

Nicolas Lapierre was outright fastest again in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca 07, with a lap of 1.19.082, almost 1,5 seconds faster than yesterday afternoon. The #22 sister car in G-Drive colors was second quickest again, now with Leo Roussel behind the wheel, putting a 1.19.492 on the scoreboard. Filipe Albuquerque was the fastest man in a Ligier, coming in third fastest, but already 0.729 seconds behind Lapierre. The #49 High Class Racing was the fastest Dallara this morning, with Anders Fjordbach behind the wheel. 

Home team AT Racing got at the top of the timetable in LMP3 this morning, Mikkel Jensen setting a 1.26.507 in the #9 Ligier JSP3. Simon Gachet in the #16 Panis-Barthez Competition was second fastest, 0.132 seconds slower. Dario Capitano who was quickest yesterday now had to settle for third, just (0.024 seconds) behind Gachet.  

Andrea Bertolini was quickest of the GTE contenders, putting in a 1.28.407, improving his time from yesterday with 1,4 seconds. Yesterday's fastest man Matteo Cairoli in the #77 Proton Porsche was second this morning in 1.28.721. Darren Turner was a very close third in the #99 Beechdean Aston, only 0.093 seconds behind Cairoli.

Unlike in LMP2 and GTE, the top times didn't improve in the LMP3 class this morning. Several cars lost some of their laptimes due to crossing the white line at the exit of the pitlane during the session.

The green flag for the 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring will be waived at 13.00h tomorrow. Will the rain stay away again, or are we in for a real wet race ?  As always, there is live streaming of the whole race on the series website:

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Friday, 21 July 2017

ELMS 2017 - 4 Hours of the Red Bull RIng: Friday practice gallery

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ELMS 2017 - 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring: Friday practice report

Sunny skies and a few clouds this afternoon at the Red Bull Ring for the first practice session of the 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring.  A quiet and uneventful session, with just a short full course yellow when an LMP3 got off track at the Schlossgold Kurve (Turn 3). 

Dragonspeed dominated this afternoons session with both cars on top of the timetable after 90 minutes.  Nicolas Lapierre was the quickest, going up and down the Austrian track in 1.20.558 in his #21 Dragonspeed Oreca 07. Fellow Frenchman Nicolas Minassian didn't miss his return behind the racing wheel, immediately going second fastest in todays session.  Minassian got around in 1.20.856, 0.277 seconds behind Lapierre, in the #22 G-Drive Racing Oreca. Three Frenchmen and the Oreca's on the top spots this afternoon, with Enzo Guibbert third fastest in his #39 Graff (1.21.219). 

Olivier Pla was the fastest Ligier driver today in his Gibson powered #28 IDEC Sport JSP217, only 0.030 seconds behind third place. Fastest in the Dallara's was the Cetilar Villorba Corse team with Andrea Belicchi behind the wheel. Tockwith Motorsports who are racing back to back weekends with the FIA WEC at the Nürburgring were 7th fastest today.  

The Norma M30 showed its speed again in the LMP3 class, the #10 Oregon team on top of the leaderboard again with Dario Capitano behind the wheel.  Capitone drove around the track in 1.26.376, 0.314 seconds faster than Wayne Boyd in the #3 United Autosport Ligier JSP3. Third fastest was Mikkel Jensen in the #9 AT Racing Ligier, a nice result in the first practice session of the teams homerace.  Championship leaders Ultimate didn't get higher than 8th place today in 1.27.806, almost 1.5 seconds behind the leading Norma.

Giorgio Roda didn't have his best afternoon of the season in the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari. He saw his best laptime cancelled due to not respecting track limits after a black and white flag and had to sit out a 10 (ten !!) minute stop & go penalty. That didn't stop Andrea Bertolini to put be third fastest in class, with a 1.29.815.  

Second fastest in the LMGTE class was Nicki Thiim in the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin (1.29.753), who came just 0.025 seconds short to beat Matteo Cairoli. The young Italian set the fastest time this afternoon in his #77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR, clocking a 1.29.728. 

The second 90 minute free practice session is scheduled for tomorrow morning, 9.25h local time.  Qualifying for the 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring will kick off at 12.50h. 

Kristof Vermeulen.