Thursday 29 November 2018

Le Mans: 2019 Entry list to be announced in two stages

Next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the grand finale of the FIA WEC 2018-19 Super Season and the culmination of the championship from now on. The names of the teams to line up on the grid – sixty slots plus ten reserves –will be announced in two stages, on 11th February and 1st March 2019. 

The Super Season is the reason for the change in announcement of entries for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2019, the culmination of the 2018-2019 season which started this May in Spa, paid a first visit to Le Mans on 16/17th June before races at Silverstone, Fuji and Shanghai in 2018. As the calendar turns to 2019, the championship will also be visiting Sebring and Spa once again, before concluding in the Sarthe region of France.

Among the 60 competitors will be the full-season entrants of the WEC, plus the traditional recipients of invitations given to reward championship results in the European Le Mans Series (4), the Michelin Le Mans Cup (1), the Asian Le Mans Series (4), the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (2), and of course at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2018.

Teams wishing to take up one of the remaining places on the 2019 Le Mans grid will be able to apply from 20th December until 31st January 2019. 

The ACO will announce first fifty teams on 11th February, followed by another ten teams on the grid and ten reserve teams on 1st March. 

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Asian LMS: Spirit of Race wins 4 Hours of Shanghai

The 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series opener has delivered a thrilling race, with the win being fought for right up until the chequered flag.  Ultimately it was polesitter Pipo Derani in the Spirit of Race Ligier JS P2 that crossed the line first to claim victory alongside his teammates Côme Ledogar and Alexander West. 

Series newcomers United Autosports finished 2nd with Paul Di Resta behind the wheel of the #22 Ligier JS P2 he shared with Phil Hanson. Both teams did it the hard way after they made light contact on the opening lap causing both to drop back down the order. 

Another front runner to hit trouble early was the #24 Ligier JS P2 Algarve Pro Racing being driven by Andrea Pizzitola. While leading the race, Pizzitola pulled off the track with a terminal engine issue.

Having a more successful day was the second LMP2 car from United Autosports, the #23 Ligier JS P2 raced by Guy Cosmo, Patrick Byrne and Salih Yoluc finished 3rdoutright, also claiming the win in the LMP2 AM Trophy class. ARC Bratislava finished 4th outright and 2nd in the LMP2 AM Trophy class with team owner Miro Konopka joined by Ling King and Darren Burke in their #4 Ligier JS P2. The third LMP2 AM entry, the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan driven by Mark Patterson, Anders Fjordbach and Christopher McMurry finished 5th outright and third in class.

© Inter Europol Competition

In LMP3, pole sitters Inter Europol claimed the victory in their first Asian Le Mans Series race with Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe sharing duties in the #13 Ligier JS P3. The first of the two United Autosports Ligier JS P3s, piloted by Chris Buncombe, Garret Grist and Wayne Boyd finished 2nd. Eurasia Motorsport claimed the final place on the podium thanks to a solid drive from Aidan Read and Nobuya Yamanaka in the #36 Ligier JS P3.

The battle for the race victory in GT was drama filled. The race was won by Japanese newcomers Car Guy in the team’s first race in their new Ferrari 488 GT3. The #11 Ferrari was raced by Takeshi Kimura, Kei Cozzolino and James Calado. Making it a Ferrari 1-2, the Spirit of Race #51 Ferrari 488 GT3 piloted by Alessandro Pier Guidi, Francesco Piovanetti and Oswaldo Negri Jr. finished the race in 2ndplace in the GT class. In 3rdplace in the GT class was the TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 of Johnny Mowlem and Bonamy Grimes. 

After pulling away comfortably in the early stages of the race the class pole sitting #88 TianShi Racing Team, Audi R8 LMS had a difficult race that eventually ended with retirement.

At the end of a very tough weekend though, the TianShi Racing Team finished the race on top in the the GT AM Trophy with their #66 Mercedes AMG GT3. Prior to the race, the only track time the drivers Max Wiser and Xu Wei had was in qualifying after a problem with their original entry. 

In Porsche Endurance Trophy, it was polesitter, Benny Simonsen and Philippe Descombe in the #16 Modena Motorsports, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup that dominated the race to take a comfortable victory. 

It is now just under two weeks until the second round of the Asian Le Mans Series, this time coming from Fuji Speedway in Japan on 7-9 December.

Race Results

Friday 16 November 2018

FIA WEC: Toyota quickest in a wet Shanghai

Toyota set the pace today on a wet and slippery track in Shanghai.  Where as the morning session was run on a damp and drying track, conditions in the afternoon session got worse. This caused two full course yellows that briefly interrupted the 90 minute session. The first one after James Calado went for a trip outside turn 2, the second FCY was called when the TDS Oreca lost a wheel. 

© Toyota Motorsport gmbh

The morning practice started in damp conditions with a drying track by the end of the session.  It started well for the non hybrid LMP1 cars with both SMP Racing and Rebellion on top of the class. Jenson Button in the #11 SMP Racing set the pace early in the wet session with a best time of 2.00.369, holding off Neel Jani in the #1 Rebellion who was 0.2 seconds slower.

By the end of the session, on a drying track, both Toyota’s emerged to the top of the leaderboard. Sebastien Buemi set the fastest time with his #8 TS050 Hybrid in 1.54.768. Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 Toyota was second fastest, just over 1.5 seconds slower. 

Matevos Isaakyan was quickest of the non-hybrid cars in 1.58.880, ahead of the surprising #4 ByKolles of Tom Dillman. Dragonspeed struggled with some electronical issues on their BR1, only managing a handful of laps throughout the session and not being able to set a real reference time. 

© Jackie Chan DC Racing

Jackie Chan DC Racing was fastest in the LMP2 class with Jazzeman Jafaar putting the #37 Oreca 07 op top with a time of 2.02.923. A surprising second was Nyck De Vries in the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara, the best result so far for the Dutch team in any practice session this season. His time of 2.03.551 was just over 0.6 seconds slower than Jaafar but 0.7 seconds faster than Loïc Duval in the #28 TDS Racing Oreca. 

Gabriel Aubry in the second Jackie Chan DC Oreca and Enzo Guibbert in the #50 Larbre Competition Ligier completed the top 5 in the morning session. 

© TF Sport/Andrew Lofthouse

BMW Team MTEK was on top of the LMGTE Pro leaderboard after a lap in the final minutes of the session of 2.38.830 by Martin Tomczyck in the #81 BMW M8 GTE. Richard Lietz in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR went second fastest, just under 2.4 seconds behing Tomczyck. Third fastest was Maxime Martin in the #97 Aston Martin. In his first visit to the Shanghai circuit, the Belgian set a best time of 2.12.568. 

In the GTE AM class, TF Sport led the way in their #90 Aston Martin Vantage.  Charlie Eastwood posted the fastest lap in 2.11.764, 1.7 seconds ahead of Matt Campbell in the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche of Matt Campbell. Keita Sawa in the #61 Clearwater Ferrari was third quickest, just 0.1 second shy of Campbell. 


Conditions got worse during the afternoon session, now on a fully wet and slippery track. As a result no teams were able to set faster times than in the morning session.  Toyota continued to dominate the LMP1 class with another 1-2 after 90 minutes, but the gap to Rebellion went down to 0.414 seconds. 

Jose Maria Lopez was the fastest man in the wet, setting the fastest time late in the session in 2.02.259, ahead of Kazuki Nakajima in the second Toyota.  Thomas Laurent in the #3 Rebellion stayed closest to both Hybrids, in a 2.02.673, ahead of André Lotterer in the second Rebellion which was 0.2 seconds further down.  

© SMP Racing

Jenson Button was the fastest SMP Racing driver in his #11 BR1.  The Dragonspeed BR1 had a decent run in the afternoon, managing 29 laps and finishing in seventh position behind both SMP Racing cars. ByKolls, which were fourth fastest in the morning session, now closed off the LP1 ranking. 

In LMP2 it’s Jazeman Jafaar again who topped the timetable in the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca07 (2.10.869). André Negrao was just behind him in the championship leading #36 Signatech Alpine with a best time of 2.10.869. Third fastest, and third Oreca, was Matthieu Vaxiviere in the #28 TDS Racing.  

© TDS Racing

Racing Team Nederland’s Dallara seems to be adapting well to the damp and wet conditions in Shanghai, Giedo van der Garde setting the fourth fastest time in the second session with a 2.12.156.  Rounding out the top 5 was Gabriel Aubry in the second Jackie Chan Oreca. 

3 different manufacturers make out the top 3 of the LMGTE Pro class with James Calado on top in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE.  Calado set a best time of 2.14.315, 0.649 seconds ahead of Antonio Felix Da Costa in the #82 BMW M8 GTE. Maxime Martin again was the fastest Aston Martin driver in third place, only 0.019 seconds behind Da Costa. 

© Aston Martin Racing

Nicky Thiim put the second Aston Martin on fourth place, with Oliver Gavin behind him in the #64 Corvette C7.R. Gavin’s quickest lap was just under 2 seconds off the pace of the leading Ferrari. The first Porsche in the afternoon session was the #92 of Kevin Estre, followed by the #66 Ford GT driven by Olivier Pla.  

Giancarlo Fisichella was the quickest man in the LMGTE Am class this afternoon with a 2.16.835 in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. Matt Griffin set the second fastest time in the Clearwater Ferrari, 0.043 seconds slower than the Italian. Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche completed the top 3. 

Thursday 15 November 2018

FIA WEC: 35 cars for the 6 Hours of Shanghai

35 cars will be on the grid this Sunday for the final race of the FIA World Endurance Championship of 2018.  After the 6 Hours of Shanghai, the season will restart in Sebring mid March.  A nice addition to the grid in LMGTE Pro is the #64 Corvette, which makes its return in the class for the first time since 2014.  Will Toyota keep on dominating in China, or will the privateers close the gap after a few more adjustments in the EoT ? 

© Toyota Gazoo Racing

Toyota arrives in China with a comfortable lead in the championship.  After finishing second at Fuji last month, Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso have collected 84 points in 4 races with their #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid. The #7 sister car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez is second, with a total of 71 points so far. 

© Rebellion Racing/MPS Agency

After crashing out of the 6 Hours of Fuji, the #3 Rebellion R13 of Gustavo Menezes, Mathias Beche and Thomas Laurent now has to make up 21 points to the leading Toyota.  The #1 Rebellion lays fourth in the championship with 63 points.  After an encouraging race in Fuji, with a fourth place finish, SMP Racing might be at the heels of Rebellion this weekend. The AER powered BR1’s are becoming faster and more reliable every race.  Dragonspeed struggled with their BR1 in Fuji last month, with another DNF as a result. They will also be out for a good result in Shanghai, with Renger Van der Zande returning after having to miss out Fuji due to clashing with Petit Le Mans. James Rossiter in the #4 ByKolles is also in for his second race of the season, joining Oliver Webb and Tom Dillman in the ENSO CLMP1/01.

There’s no sign of Ginetta anymore on the entry list and the question remains whether we will see their LMP1 back in the championship next year in Sebring. Although the team claims the car to be ready to race with the new AER engine since Silverstone, they haven’t return to the championship.  

There has been a new EOT adjustment ahead of this weekends race for the non hybrid teams, whether this well decrease the gap between the Toyota’s and the competition still has to be seen.  After the adjustments for the Fuji race, the gap was still up to four laps by the end of the race. 


© FIA WEC/Joao Felipe - Adrenal Media

In LMP2 all eyes will be on the Jackie Chan DC Racing team for which the 6 hours of Shanghai is their home race.  After two 1-2 finishes in Silverstone and Fuji, they seem to be the team to beat in this stage of the championship. Both Oreca’s have scored 86 points so far, putting then on a shared second place in the championship. Gabriel Aubry, Ho-Pin Tung and Stéphane Richelmi won the 6 Hours of Silverstone in the #38, ahead of the sister car. Jazeman Jaar, Nabil Jeffri and Weiron Tan did the same in the #37 in Fuji. 

Signatech Alpine is still leading the championship though with just 1 point over both Jackie Chan Oreca’s.  Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet have a total of 87 points, also after inheriting the Le Mans win due to the G-Drive disqualification. The fourth place, with 55 points so far, is for the Dragonspeed Oreca of Pastor Maldonado and Roberto Gonzalez. Anthony Davidson scored just 21 points, due to missing out the first 2 races of the season.  


After another cracking race in Fuji, Porsche leads the manufacturers championship in the Pro class with 152 points, already giving them a big lead of 56 points over Ford in second (96 points) and 68 points over Ferrari (84 points) in third. 

© Porsche

Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen are the leading drivers in their #92 Porsche with 96 points after 4 consecutive podium finishes and their win in Fuji last month. The #66 Porsche of Olivier Pla and Stefan Mücke lost quite a lot ground to the Porsche after 2 minor results in Silverstone and Fuji.  They still stand second in the championship so far with 61 points.  Third place is for the #51 Ferrari of Silverstone winners Allesandro Pier Guidi and James Calado with 55,5 points. 

© BMW Motorsport
Further down the order we find the first Aston Martin (#98) with 30,5 points and BMW (#82) with 28 points. The latest BoP adjustments seem to have levelled the field, with all manufacturers able to fight for victory at a certain point in Fuji.  Aston Martin took pole in Fuji, while BMW finished second behind the winning Porsche.  There have been a few further adjustments in the Balance of Performance ahead of this weekend’s race, so this class should be in for some more exciting door to door battles over 6 hours. 

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media

Corvette returns to the FIA World Endurance Championship this weekend with a one off appearance for the C7.R in the GTE Pro category.  Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner will be at the wheel of the silver “Redline” livery Corvette.  For the American team, it’s the first race in the FIA WEC outside Le Mans since the 6 Hours of the Americas in Austin back in 2014.


© Porsche

Dempsey-Proton competition leads the LMGTE Am championship with the #77 of Christian Ried, Julien Andlauer and Matt Campbell. Despite their dramatic race in Fuji and all the post race controversy, Ried & co have a total of 80 points, giving them a lead of 14 points over the Team Project 1 Porsche. The German team that debuts in the FIA WEC has moved up the standings quietly since Le Mans. Podium finishes at Le Mans and Silverstone and winning in Japan put them halfway the championship on second place. Egidio Perfetti, Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey managed to collect 66 points so far. 

© TF Sport/Andrew Lofthouse

The #90 Aston Martin Vantage of TF Sport is third halfway the championship with Salih Yoluc and Charles Eastwood on 54 points. 2 points down is the second Aston (#98) in the class of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda with 52 points.  The first Ferrari is the #61 Clearwater Racing who are in for an emotional weekend in their home race. The 6 Hours of Shanghai will be the final race of Wen Sun Mok, who has decided to end his racing career on Sunday.  The team will continue to race in the Super season with Matt Griffin and Keita Sawa, no news has emerged yet about a new third driver. 

The #88 Dempsey-Proton Competition Porsche has 2 “new” drivers on board with Khaled Al Qubaisi and Ricardo Pera who will join Matteo Cairoli for the weekend. 

The first free practice session is scheduled for 11h on Friday morning, the second 90 minute session at 15h30 in the afternoon.  

Track action in China will however start at 8h00 in the morning with an LMP1 exclusive Michelin tire test for 1h45’. Only LMP1 cars are eligible for this session, and it’s not likely that all cars will come out. 

Thursday 8 November 2018

ELMS: United Autosports wins final race in Portugal

The #22 United Autosports Ligier/Gibson of Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson took a second consecutive ELMS victory with a hard fought win on the twist and turns of the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal.  

Local hero Albuquerque crossed the line just 0.5 seconds ahead of Will Stevens in the #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier. The #32 United Autosports Ligier of Will Owen took the final podium position after the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca, which had crossed the line in 3rd place, was given a 10 second penalty for an earlier track limits infringement.

The LMP3 category was won by the #13 Inter Europol Comptition Ligier of Martin Hippe and Jakub Smiechowski, a debut win for the Polish team.  However it was all smiles at RLR MSport when the crew of the #15 Ligier – Job Van Uitert, John Farano and Rob Garofall finished in 5th place to clinch the 2018 LMP3 Driver and Team titles.

History was made in LMGTE when Gianluca and Giorgio Roda became the first Father and Son driver pairing to win an ELMS title.  They brought home the #88 Proton Competition Porsche with their Italian teammate Matteo Cairoli in third place to secure the Team and Driver titles, with Cairoli, who had missed the race in Monza, securing the Vice Champions position in the Drivers Championship.  It was all smiles in the Proton Competition garage when the no77 911 took the chequered flag to take the first win of the 2018 season for Christian Ried, Dennis Olsen and Marvin Dienst.

The race started under sunny skies but air temperature was a low 15 degrees, especially in the strong wind blowing across the circuit.

Pierre Ragues in the #29 Duqueine Engineering Oreca led the 39 car grid across the line to begin the 4 Hours of Portimao but Timothe Buret in the #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier got alongside the pole car and took the lead.  The #9 AT Racing Ligier of Mikkel Jensen also got ahead of the LMP3 pole sitter Lucas Legeret in the #19 M Racing YMR Norma at the start, while in LMGTE Nic Jönsson in the #83 Krohn Racing Ferrari was leading the class by the end of the opening lap from the back of the grid.

There was a couple of incidents on the opening few laps with the #17 Ultimate Ligier heading to the pits with a puncture after contact with an LMP2 competitor and the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca of Roman Rusinov being clipped into a spin by the #28 IDEC Sport Oreca of Memo Rojas, Rojas receiving a drive through penalty for causing the collision. The #88 Proton Competition Porsche of Gianluca Roda was clipped into a spin with the rear diffuser of the car coming away and spreading debris across the track.  The Race Director called the first Full Course Yellow of the race.

At the restart Pierre Ragues got a better run into the first corner, passing the #23 Ligier of Buret for the lead.  The #88 Porsche was missing the rear part of the car but Roda was still able to make progress through the field, catching and passing Jönsson’s Ferrari for the lead of the LMGTE class.

Felipe Nasr was pushing his way through the field towards the leaders and after one hour of racing was closing on the top two cars in the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara.  The Brazilian passed Buret for second and then closed up and passed Ragues for the lead after 1 hour and 18 minutes of racing.  

Pierre Ragues headed to the pits to hand the Duqueine Engineering Oreca over to Nelson Panciatici but on the out lap the rear left suspension collapsed and Panciatici was forced to head back to the pits for a long stop for repairs. The #6 360 Racing Ligier was also another retirement after a exhaust manifold cracked, melting a wiring loom.  The car that was lying in second place in the LMP3 championship was out of the running. Filipe Nasr headed to the pits from the head of the LMP2 field but cut right across the front of the #77 Proton Competition Porsche and was given a stop and go penalty for causing a collision.  The woes for the #47 Dallara continued when the car was pushed back into the garage for repairs, dropping the Italian team down the order even further.

Meanwhile in LMGTE the #80 Ebimotors Porsche of Fabio Babini was leading the class from the #77 Proton Competition Porsche of Christian Ried.  Babini handed over to Gianluca Giraldi but the Italian collided with an LMP3 car and the Porsche was left stranded with broken suspension.  The Safety Car was deployed to allow the Ebimotors Porsche to be moved to safety. At the restart the #77 Porsche was nearly a lap ahead of the chasing #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Alex MacDowall and the #88 Proton Porsche of Gianluca Roda.

In LMP3 the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier of Martin Hippe was out in front, with the #7 Ecurie Ecosse/ Nielsen Ligier of Colin Noble 15 seconds up the road.  The German kept his cool and maintained the gap with Noble keeping the #2 United Autosports Ligier of 2017 champion John Falb behind him.  The #3 United Autosports Ligier of Tony Wells was ahead of the championship rival Rob Garofall in the #15 RLR MSport Ligier but a drive through penalty for Wells for exceeding Full Course Yellow speeds put the destination of the 2018 titles beyond doubt.

Back at the front and the #22 United Autosports Ligier of Filipe Albuquerque, the #26 G Drive Racing Oreca of Jean-Eric Vergne, the #32 United Autosports Ligier of Will Owen and the #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier of Will Owen were separated by just 2.5 seconds with an hour to go. Vergne passed Albuquerque for the lead after several attempts but ran wide on the exit of the corner.  The French driver was judged to have gained an advantage by exceeding track limits and the #26 Oreca had to add 10 seconds to its race time at the chequered flag.

Vergne handed the car over to Andrea Pizzitola to finish the race.  After the final round of pitstops Albuquerque was leading by three seconds from Stevens, with Pizzitola holding a five second advantage over Owen.  The racing was edge of the seat stuff and the teams held their breath as the clock counted down to zero and the chequered flag was waved.

Filipe Albuquerque took a home victory in the #22 United Autosports Ligier, just 0.520 seconds ahead of Will Stevens’ #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier.  Andrea Pizzitola finished third, 4.6 seconds behind Stevens but, crucially, 9.462s in front of the #32 United Autosports Ligier of Will Owen. When the 10 second penalty was applied the #32 Ligier moved up to the final podium spot ahead of the #26 Oreca.

Text: Jeff Carter/