Thursday, 21 March 2019

Le Mans: Duqueine Engineering joins LMP2 field after Spirit of Race withdrawal

One month after celebrating its 50th anniversary, Team Duqueine has probably received their most beautiful present by getting an invite for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.  Spirit of Race has withdrawn their entry with the #55 Ferrari of Duncan Cameron in the GTE Am class, so Duqueine will take their place as first reserve team on the list.   

Since 2014 the French team has worked its way up in endurance racing up until now with an entry for the most prestigious endurance race in the world. For Le Mans, the #30 LMP2 Gibson powered Oreca 07 will be driven by Pierre Ragues and Nicolas Jamin who will be joined by Romain Dumas.  Dumas will be in for his 19th 24 hour race at Le Mans this year. 

"Im very happy to join Team Duqueine for my 19th 24 Hours of Le Mans" said Romain Dumas. "We are neighbours in Alès and I know Yann Belhomme very well.  The idea to join the team was very pleasing to me. I know Pierre (Ragues), but haven't had the chance to meet or race with Nicolas (Jamin), but I've heard a lot about him already. We have a good package and now have 3 months to work on it for Le Mans.  I've won it in LMP1 and GT but not yet in LMP2 ... 

Yann Belhomme, team manager of Duqueine Engineering said: "Racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been a dream in my whole professional career since 20 years. It couldn't be any better with Pierre and Nicolas and Romain who will be joining the team. I'm very excited to have Romain (Dumas) on board; he's a person I have much respect for and he will bring a load of experience into the team. 

Check out the new entry list here

Saturday, 16 March 2019

FIA WEC: Easy win for Toyota, rain causes late race drama in LMP2 and GTE

In a masterclass of speed and despite a late downpour causing chaos, Toyota Gazoo Racing scored a dominant victory at yesterday’s return of the FIA WEC to Sebring. The #8 TS050 of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took the flag after eight hours and seemed te be on course to complete the entire 1000 mile distance despite multiple Full Course Yellow (FCY) periods eating into the race time and the rain pouring down at the end of the final hour. 

Starting on pole in front of of the #7 sister car (driven by Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway), Sébastien Buemi rocketed ahead to pull clear of the field. After just four laps, the pair of Toyotas had the measure of Sebring’s infamous bumps and begun to lap the back markers. As night arrived the #8 car had opened up a comfortable lead over the #7. 

What looked to be a faultless display by both of the Toyota crews was brought to a swift end when, with just over three hours remaining, Lopez hit the kerb hard at turn 15 in an effort to avoid the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage. The Argentinian had to make an unscheduled stop while the car was checked, eating up four minutes of their lead over the remainder of the LMP1 field.

With less than 15 minutes to run Nakajima took a large slide off the track despite having changed to wet tyres. Although the Japanese ace lost only a handful of seconds before regaining control, the close call could have ended their race.  “It was interesting but tough for me in the end. We knew we had a gap so I didn’t take any risks,” said Nakajima after the race. “The track was so slippy, like ice! On the start straight I couldn’t even go flat. I’m so happy to finish without damage on the car.”

The final 12 minutes of the race were run behind the safety car following Loic Duval’s #28 TDS Racing Oreca LMP2 going straight on into a tyre wall at low-speed – guaranteeing the #8 crew their fourth win of the 2018-2019 Super Season and leaving them favourite to win the World Drivers’ title with two races, Spa and Le Mans, remaining. 


Thanks again to the somewhat confusing EoT regulations, the privateer LMP1 teams were again racing for scraps as the disparity between the hybrid and non-hybrid machines was glaringly displayed. WEC returnee and fan favourite Brendon Hartley claimed a podium finish for the #11 SMP Racing BR1 which survived an early explosive tyre failure to ultimately finish third.

It was a race to forget for the Rebellion Racing team. The #1 R13 had initially looked on target to claim the last of the class silverware until, with three hours to go, the car hit issues sending it to the garage. The sister #3 Rebellion also suffered a number of mechanical issues throughout the race which relegated it to a distant fourth in LMP1 and behind the top three LMP2 cars overall. 

The #17 SMP machine was fast from the start of the race but Egor Orudzhev crashed into the barriers at turn one just before the two-hour mark ending the car’s race; the Russian was running third at the time, having pulled clear of the #3 Rebellion in the opening quarter of the race. Also failing to finish was the DragonSpeed BR1 Gibson, which was pushed into the garage with a mechanical issue with two hours and 40 minutes still on the clock.


A bold move on the opening lap of the race proved to be decisive for the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing crew of David Heinemeier-Hansson, Jordan King and Will Stevens. Passing their sister #38 car at turn one on the opening lap, the trio then displayed a masterclass in the LMP2 category and remained unchallenged for the entire race taking the class victory by more than 50 seconds.  What better way to enter the WEC championship for this new driver trio in the #37 Oreca ?

It was not joy throughout the Jackie Chan DC Racing team however as their pole-sitting #38 Oreca 07 endured a frustrating race loosing almost an hour in the pits with a gearbox selector fault (an issue originally seen by multiple teams when the current LMP2 chassis was first released). Perhaps adding insult to injury for the #38 crew they lost further time after a bizarre issue with the door failing to open during a driver change. The car eventually finished 30th, last of the classified runners.

The #36 Signatech Alpine A470 of Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet ran a clean race but could not match the pace of DC Racing, the all-French team finishing a solid second in class. DragonSpeed picked up the last of the class silverware as the #31 Oreca of ex-Toyota driver Anthony Davidson, Pastor Maldonado and Ricardo Gonzalez fought to overcome two unscheduled pitstops to replace the rear-wing – once for a failure on the bumps and once after Maldonado swiped the barriers on the exit of turn 17. 

Despite a massive effort to get the car from last on the grid to P2 in class after an hour of frantic driving by Nyck De Vries, the Racing Team Nederland Dallara ultimately finished fifth in class.  De Vries had been quick all week, from the testdays ahead of the race to his final stint, showing the rwa pace that's in the Dallara chassis.  A problem with one of the FIA telemetry cables cost the team a 12 minute pitstop for repairs and probably their first podium finish.  


GTE Pro again proved to be the stand-out category of the race with 2 laps separating the first 10 of the eleven runners and almost every entry in the 11-car class enjoying a spell in the lead. 

Despite the back-and-forth between the teams, it was the heavy rain with less than 20 minutes of the race remaining that made the decisive difference; until this point the top 8 cars were all on the same lap. With teams scrambling to swap their slicks for wets, Gianmaria Bruni – in the #91 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR – jumped the #81 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE (which had been the standout performer in class) in the pits and with the late safety car to recover the #28 TDS Racing Oreca, the Italian held on to secure the victory for Porsche.

The #81 BMW M8 GTE finished second, the best result of the season for Martin Tomczyk, Nicky Catsburg and Alexander Sims, with the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT claiming the final spot on the podium; the Ford had led for the majority of the opening four hours, but faded as the race went on. 

James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Davide Rigon ensured four manufacturers were represented in the top four as the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo finished ahead of the #92 Porsche of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen, Estre losing time late on with a stop & go penalty for rear-ending the #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Darren Turner. The Aston was running in second at the time, but the contact, which sent turner spinning across the grass, dropped the car down the order, ultimately finishing 10th in class. 


The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing secured top honours in GTE Am to make it a Porsche clean sweep of the GTE classes with Matt Campbell, Christian Ried and Julien Andlauer snatching the win from the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari which received a penalty for side-to-side contact which sent the Team Project 1 Porsche into the barriers early on in the race. 

Thankfully for the Project 1 team, who suffered an engine fire in testing which destroyed their original car, the damage proved to only be minor and thanks to a strong charge from Egidio Perfetti, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey, the team recovered to the third step of the podium. 

Gulf Racing took advantage of a black and orange flag for the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin – after the rear diffuser on the ageing V8 Vantage broke apart on track – to finish fourth. The TF Sport car crossed the line sixth after hasty repairs – behind the MR Racing Ferrari with the #98 Aston Martin or Paul Dalla Lana, Pedrom Lamy and Mathias Lauda rounding out the class 2 laps down. 

The FIA World Endurance Championship now heads back to Europe for the penultimate round of the 18 month Super-Season with its second visit to Spa-Francorchamps this season on May 4th. 

Friday, 15 March 2019

FIA WEC: Lap record and pole for Toyota, Perez Companc crashes out of qualifying

A new lap record and pole position for Toyota yesterday evening as Fernando Alonso put in a staggering 1.40.124 at the end of the session.  Alonso even claimed being able to go faster and a 1.39 could have been possible. The previous qualifying record at Sebring was held by Marco Werner in the Audi R10 back in 2007 in 1.44.974. The quickest race lap so far has been set by Sebastien Bourdais in a Peugeot 908 in 2009.  The Toyota TS050 Hybrid literally trashed both records, shaving off almost 4 seconds from the previous qualifying record.

The #3 Rebellion R13 of Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes was “best of the rest”, claiming third place on the grid ahead of the #17 SMP Racing  of Egor Orudzhev and Stéphane Sarrazin. Orudzhev was the quickest of the non-hybrid drivers, his best time of 1.41919 also remarkable faster than the previous record of the Audi’s.

In LMP2 Jackie Chan DC Racing swept out the front row, putting the competition almost a second behind them. Stephane Richelmi continued his strong performance and clinched pole position with Ho Pin Tung in an average time of 1.47.558.  The #37 Oreca of Will Stevens and David Heinemeier Hansson was 0.650 seconds behind. Nico Lapierre and Andre Negrao secured third spot on the grid with the #36 Signatech Alpine.

The GTE session was red flagged with 7 minutes and 40 seconds to go when Luis Perez-Companc went hard into the barriers at the braking zone of Turn 7.  His #61 Clearw ater Ferrari suddenly broke out to the left under braking, going hard into the barriers and sliding down the track.  Perez Companc got out of the car by himself, but the damage to the car seems severe so it’s unclear whether the Ferrari will be repairable to appear on the grid tomorrow morning.

With 2 minutes to go, the #63 Corvette of Andy Garcia and Jan Magnussen appeared on top of the timetable, but it eventually fell back to fifth place.  Garcia however set the quickest time of all GTE drivers.  Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen secured pole in the #92 Porsche, beating both Ford GT’s.  The #67 of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell will start from seconds position (+ 0.115s), followed by the #66 of Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla.

Matt Campbell and Christian Ried secured pole position in the Am class with their #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche in a combined time of 1.59.790. Egidio Perfetti and Jorg Bergmeister made it a front row lockout for Porsche, a great result for Team Project 1 after their misfortune last Sunday. Another great recovery from the #98 Aston Martin which got fixed by the mechanics after Dalla Lana’s hefty crash at turn 17 and took third place in qualifying.

The final 1 hour practice session yesterday afternoon was run in (very) hot conditions, which are also expected for tomorrow during the 1000 miles of Sebring. Although temperatures drop a little at night, it tends to get very humid after sunset, not really improving driving conditions.

The 1 hour session saw quite some incidents with the Toyota #8 and #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari have a short excursion into the grass and the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca spinning round at the exit of turn 5 halfway the session.  Paul Dalla Lana had a big accident in his #98 Aston Martin, when he was caught by surprise by one of the Ford GT’s and crashed into the barriers in turn 17. Dalla Lana stepped out unharmed but the car’s left side was heavily damaged.  The Aston Martin mechanics however managed to get the car back in order for the evening qualifying session. 

Jose Maria Lopez went quickest in the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid in 1.41.448, with Kazuki Nakajima on second place in the #8 sister car.  The gap with the non-hybrid cars was just over 1.5 seconds, Stéphane Sarrazin setting the third fastest time in his #17 SMP Racing BR1. In LMP2 it was Stéphane Richelmi who put the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca back on top again with a time of 1.47.716    Despite their problems in last nights session, Nick de Vries was very quick again in the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara, putting it on second place, just 0.119 seconds behind Richelmi. No change in the top 3 compared to yesterday’s night session with Nico Lapierre back in third place on the Signatech Alpine Matmut.

The LMGTE Pro class was very competitive again, all cars setting a fastest time within 0.635 seconds.  Andy Priaulx got quickest in the #67 Ford GT with a fastest time of 1.57.730. Alex Lynn followed closely in the #97 Aston Martin (+ 0.062), with Harry Tincknell in the second Ford GT right on his heels.  Dempsey-Proton Racing dominated the LMGTE Am class with both Porsches; Matt Campbell going quickest in the #77 (1.58.554) with Matteo Cairoli 0.706 seconds behind him in the #88 in second place.  Rounding out the top 3 was Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche.  

The start of the 1000 Miles of Sebring (or maximum 8 hours) will be given this afternoon at 16h local time here in Florida, which is 20h UK time and 21h in Central Europe. You will find coverage on Radio Le Mans globally and the WEC has done a great job in getting race coverage scheduled in most geographies (check local listings) as well as removing geo-blocking to its app in the United States.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

FIA WEC: First practice reports for the 1000 Miles of Sebring

As expected with the new EOT for Sebring, the Toyota’s gained a bigger advantage over the non-hybrids again. Both Toyota’s dominated the LMP1 class in both sessions, over a second clear of the non-hybrid privateer LMP1’s.  LMP2 and GTE however were very close so far, with almost all cars setting laptimes within a second, promising us some good racing into the night tomorrow. 

Kazuki Nakajima was the fastest man in Florida yesterday afternoon’s first practice session with a 1.41.957, just over half a second ahead of Jose Maria Lopez in the sister car.  The Rebellions were the quickest non-hybrids, 1.5 seconds behind the Toyota’s. Mathias Beche in the #1 Rebellion R13 (1.43.552) beating Gustavo Menezes in the #3 with just over tenth of a second. Both SMP Racing BR1’s followed the Rebellions, with Dragonspeed closing the LMP1 line-up. 

Nyck de Vries put the #29 Racing Team Nederland on top of the LMP2 sheets with a 1.47.835.  De Vries was also the quickest LMP2 driver over the test weekend ahead of race week in Sebring. Andre Negrao in the #36 Signatech Alpine was second fastest, just under half a second behind the Dutchman. Matthieu Vaxiviere in the #28 TDS Racing Oreca with both Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca’s behind him. 

LMGTE Pro was tight with all cars within one second except for the #71 AF Corse. Maxime Martin set the benchmark in his #97 Aston Martin Vantage with a laptime of 1.58.044. The #67 Ford GT of  came in second fastest after setting the quickest time early in the session, just ahead of Richard Lietz in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR. 

No Project 1 Porsche in the first session yet, having received a new car after a hefty fire on Sunday’s test session destroying the back of their 911. Pedro Lamy got round the track in just over 2 minutes (2.00.043), and pipped Matteo Cairoli with 9 thousands of a second in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche. Matt Campbell put the second Proton Porsche on third place, 36 thousands behind Cairoli.  The first five cars in the class were separated by only 0.045 seconds, it doesn’t get any closer than that !  

Times dropped during the second practice session in the evening which almost immediately went into Full Course Yellow when Anthony Davidson lost a wheel of his Dragonspeed LMP2.  It was the other way round now for the Toyota’s when Jose Maria Lopez put the #7 TS050 Hybrid on top (1.41.730), ahead of Kazuki Nakajima in the #8.  SMP Racing emerged in the non-hybrid class with Stéphane Sarrazin (1.43.009) and Brendon Hartley - who celebrates his return to LMP1 this weekend, replacing Jenson Button - in third and fourth place. 

Stéphane Richelmi was fastest in the dark in LMP2, setting a 1.47.716 in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca.  Despite a suspension failure, the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara claimed the second fastest time again, Nick de Vries just 0.119 seconds behind Richelmi.  The car suffered a suspension failure though,  and despite Frits Van Eerd making it back into pitlane, it didn’t come out anymore for the rest of the session, only managing 10 laps.  Nico Lapierre in the #36 Signatech Alpine was third fastest, the first six cars finishing within one second. 

If you thought LMP2 was close, all cars in the GTE Pro class managed to finish within a one second margin, except for the Corvette being 1.003 seconds off the pace of the Alexander Lynn’s Aston Martin.  Lynn set a fastest time of 1.57.792, 0.033 seconds ahead of Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT. The second Ford of Stefan Mücke was third quickest. 

A similar story in the GTE Am class, with all cars bar one (TF Sport) also within a second. Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche got under the 2 minute mark in 1.59.327.  Giancarlo Fisichella in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari was second fastest (1.59.407), just ahead of Matteo Cairoli in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche. 

The third and final practice session and night qualifying will be run later today. 

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Le Mans: Final 60 car grid announced for the 87th 24 Hours of Le Mans

Yesterday, the ACO announced the final list of 60 invited teams of 10 reserve cars for the 87th running if the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  There’s a few surprises on this list, and even more disappointments, as is always the case when 75 cars apply for 60 available spots.

In previous years, the ACO strived to have a 50/50 balance between prototypes and GTE cars, this time we’ll see 25 cars in the prototype classes and 35 in GTE.  Especially the GTE Am class is booming this season with no less than 17 entries.  There’s no more sign of the Ginetta’s in the top class. LMP2 has 17 cars with 16 different teams, never has this class been so varied with that many teams.  GTE Pro also has 17 cars on the grid, with 4 cars for Porsche and Ford and the addition of the Risi Ferrari. The Am class is the biggest on the grid with 17 cars with 9 Ferrari’s and the first ever Ford GT in a private team. 


As expected there are no additional entries in the LMP1 class, the Ginetta’s now seemingly completely off the ACO’s radar.  A fair decision in our point of view, after all the problems the team has gone through, failing to enter any race except for Le Mans last year. This leaves 8 cars in the class, with all crews already announced except for the #4 ByKolles which has only Tom Dillman on the entry list so far.   


In LMP2 five additional cars have passed the ACO’s selection committee, making it a 17 car strong field consisting of 10 Oreca 07, 5 Ligier JSP217 and 2 Dallara P217’s.  So far there’s only one team which will have two cars on the grid for the 24 hours: Jackie Chan DC Racing with both Oreca’s from the FIA WEC.  All five new selected entries are teams with a history in the European Le Mans Series of which 2 secured their entry winning the Asian LMS titles. 

Asian Le Mans Series champions United Autosports received one invitation for their #22 Ligier, driven by Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque.  A second entry was widely expected but didn’t get through the selection committee. Inter Europol Competition will make its debut in the French classic after clinching the LMP3 title in Asian Le Mans Series last week. Kuba Smiechowski & co have already been testing in their green/yellow Ligier JSP217 which will debut in the European Le Mans Series next month.  Smiechowski is a certainty for Le Mans with Martin Hippe is also expected in the #34, the name of the third driver still te be confirmed.  The third car securing its entry through the Asian Le Mans Series are Am champions ARC Bratislava.  A return to Le Mans for Miro Konopka after only making it to the back of the reserve list last season, much to his reluctance.  

Panis Barthez Competition’s #23 Ligier also has been invited.  Rene Binder has been appointed as their designated driver, he should be joined by his ELMS co-drivers Will Stevens and Julien Canal.  Algarve Pro Racing also secured a spot in pitlane with the #15 Oreca for Mark Patterson, Andrea Pizzitola and John Falb.  Fifth and final team is Cetilar Racing who are back for their third go at Le Mans. Although not racing in the ELMS this season, they will enter the 2019/2020 FIA WEC season with their Dallara P217.  Giorgio Sernagiotto and Roberto Lacorte will be joined by Andrea Belicchi again who had to miss the final part of last season due to back problems. 

After the announcement yesterday, there has been a lot of commotion about the (non) selection of a number of teams.  Richard Dean from United Autosports and Jackie Heinricher of Meyer Shank Racing have already expressed their disappointment.  While there is certainly something to say for their disappointment, it’s a fine line on which the ACO has to balance when selecting all invited teams for Le Mans.  With 75 applications for 60 available slots (plus 10 reserves), it was obvious some would be (heavily) disappointed.  At the presentation of the final list, Pierre Fillon - president of the ACO - explained how they went about drawing up the list of 60 competitors: “It was tricky in that all applicants were top class and we had to find criteria on which to separate them. We examined the applications with a fine-tooth comb. Our choice was based on the appeal of the team in terms of sport and technology and in terms of spectator and media attention. Loyalty was also a factor. Of course, there were several heartbreaking moments. Several reserve teams would have made the grid in previous years. Year after year, it gets more and more difficult to choose between so many top-flight teams, across the board. Which goes to show that the endurance racing ladder that we introduced is fulfilling its promises. It produces experienced teams, drivers who have risen through the ranks, series after series, class by class and come to us with an already glittering record. A place on the Le Mans 24 Hours grid is the culmination of a carefully constructed project, built up step by step, based on solid foundations.”

We’ll come back on this “issue”, with our thoughts and amendments in a later post on the blog.   


The LMGTE Pro class also has 17 entrants in total, equal to the LMP2 class this year.  7 additional cars join the full season World Endurance Championship entrants. 

Both Corvettes return to Le Mans for the 20th consecutive year; the longest run a team has ever had with the same car.  The #63 will be driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller while the #64 will be in the hands of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler. Porsche already announced their 4 car entry earlier with the addition of both IMSA 911 RSR’s.  A strong line-up in the #93 with Patrick Pilet, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy, while the #94 will be driven by youngsters Sven Müller, Mathieu Jaminet and Dennis Olsen.  Ford also returns to La Sarthe with a 4 car armada, in what might be the final year of the GT programme.  The #68 will be driven by Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais; the #69 is reserved for Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon. 

A bit surprising for some might be the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 for Stephane Ortelli and Pierre Kaffer with the third driver still to be announced. Risi isn’t racing full season in any ACO or ACO related championship but has always performed strong at Le Mans, and finished second in the GTLM class at Daytona in January. 


With an additional 3 cars, the LMGTE Am class is now the largest on the grid with a total of no less than 18 entries.  

Car Guy Racing earned their entry after a clean run in the Asian Le Mans Series.  Winning al four races sealed the championship and their auto entry.  The team already confirmed their intention to take up the entry with a car that will be run by AF Corse.  2 drivers have been confirmed so far: team regulars Takeshi Kimura and Kei Cozzolino.  

Spirit of Race received a second entry for the #55 Ferrari of Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott, a regular entrant and race winner in the European Le Mans Series.  A more surprising additional entry is the second Kessel Racing Ferrari with the full female line-up of Manueal Gostner, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting. Backed by the FIA’s “Woman in Motorsport” programme, all three ladies will make their debut in the European Le Mans Series this season and at Le Mans in June. 

Reserve list

10 cars are listed on the reserve list, including some highly experienced teams.  The first 6 spots are reserved for LMP2 teams, so we might still see an increase in the prototype field.  

1. Duquiene Engineering - LMP2 - Oreca 07
2. High Class Racing - LMP2 - Oreca 07
3. United Autosports ) LMP2 - Ligier JSP217 
4. Eurasia Motorsport - LMP2 - Ligier JSP217 
5. Panis-Barthez Competition - LMP2 - Ligier JSP217
6. IDEC Sport - LMP2 - Ligier JSP217
7. Ebimotors - LMGTE Am - Porsche 911 RSR
8. Team Project 1 - LMGTE Am - Porsche 911 RSR
9. Meyer Shank Racing - LMP2 - Oreca 07
10.TF Sport Red River Sport - LM GTE Am - Aston Martin Vantage

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

ELMS: Tomothé Buret leads second Panis-Barthez Competition line-up.

Following  the previous Stevens/Canal/Binder line-up announcement for the Ligier  JSP217 #23, Panis-Barthez Competition is now ready to run a two-car effort in the upcoming European Le Mans Series season.

© Panis-Barthez Competition
Aboard the additional  sister car, the first official driver revealed is Timothé Buret, 23 years old, who is extending his career in LMP2 for a 4th consecutive season with Panis-Barthez Competition. The winner of the  2016 Jean Rondeau Prize is more than ever in a position to reap the benefits of continuity with troops of team principal Olivier Panis and  team managers Sarah and Simon Abadie. 
His two teammates will be announced soon. 

Olivier Panis - Team Principal :  "We - Simon, Sarah (Abadie) and I -, shared the common desire to carry  on working with Timothé Buret. He has been with us since the team  establishment whose initial aim was to find and develop young talents.  Tim is the perfect illustration of our commitment. He has shown his  determination, his team spirit and a host of skills on track. We are  convinced he will emphasise his talent even more this year. He will play  an important role among his new teammates by transmitting his  experience and backgrounds with PBC."

Timothé Buret - Ligier JS P217 #24 driver:  "Finalizing my commitment in ELMS for another season was the absolute  goal. I am happy that PBC, I consider as a second family, still had  faith in me. Driving with a team with whom I have already shared so much  since my endurance debut is clearly a huge plus. Close to the sister  car driven by Stevens/Canal/Binder, we will share all the data and push  both of us close to the edge. I had an incredible complicity with Will  (Stevens) and Julien (Canal) last year, and it will remain the same.  From my side, I will do all I can to replicate the same relations with  my new teammates."

Monday, 25 February 2019

Asian LMS: Algarve Pro Racing wins in Sepang, United Autosports champions

Algarve Pro Racing win the 4 Hours of Sepang and United Autosports win the 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series!  Le Mans entries for United Autosports, ARC Bratislava & Inter Europol Competition (LMP2) and Car Guy (LMGTE Am).

Second place in the 4 Hours of Sepang was good enough for the #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Phil Hanson and Paul De Resta to win the outright Championship in the 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series. The #24 Algarve Pro Racing team of Andrea Pizzitola, Harrison Newey and Ate Dirk De Jong gave it their all, winning the race and finishing second in the Championship.

In the LMP2 Am Trophy, ARC Bratislava finished 4thoverall and 1stin class in the 4 Hours of Sepang to claim the Championship win. Driving the ARC Bratislava entry were Miro Konopka, Ling Kang and Darren Burke.  Their main title rivals, the #23 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 Nissan suffered a gear box problem that saw them retire from the race. The #25 Algarve Pro Racing entry also retired from the race, securing the championship for ARC Bratislava.

The fight for the LMP3 battle was intense throughout the race, but ultimately it was the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 driven Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe that won the race in dominant style to claim the LMP3 Championship title. In 2ndplace was the #7 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Racing Ligier JS P3 and third was the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3. Third place was good enough for the team to secure 2ndplace in the Championship for Chris Buncombe, Garett Grist and Wayne Boyd.

In GT Japanese team Car Guy of Takeshi Kimura, Kei Cozzolino and James Calado capped off a fantastic season by making it four race wins from four starts in their #11 Ferrari 488 GT3 to win the GT Championship! It was not a simple exercise as they were forced to withstand significant pressure from the pole sitting #88 TianShi Racing Team Audi R8 LMS. The #88, raced by Xu Wei, Chen Wei An and Dries Vanthoor finished the race second and the #51 Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Ozzy Negri Jr and Francesco Piovanetti finished 3rd, and claimed 2ndplace in the Championship.

The GT Am title went to the second TianShi Racing Team Audi R8 LMS, the #66. Their race unfortunately finished in the garage with a DNF.

On top of the added pressure of it being the Championship decider, the race was run in very high temperatures and humidity making for one of the toughest races of the season. This made the success of the winning teams all the more sweet.

Race results
Championship results

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Asian LMS: New 2019/2020 schedule presented

A trip to Australia, night racing in Malaysia, and a return to China and Thailand; that's the new Asian Le Mans Series calendar in a nutshell.  The 4 hour race format will be kept for the upcoming season, but there's a few significant changes to look forward to next winter. 

The 2018/2019 season has been a great success so far for the series with a grid that has grown strongly in depth and quality, and a significant increased audience as well on track as online.  The Asian Le Mans Series is cementing its position not only in Asia, but now also globally. As from next season the current LMP2 prototypes will also be eligible to race in the series which might attract more (new) teams to the winter series.  

Just as it did this season, the 2019/20 Asian Le Mans Series will feature four races each of four hours in length, and will start in China again on the final weekend of November at the Shanghai International Circuit. The opening race will continue to be run in conjunction with the China Touring Car Championship (CTCC).

As previously announced, 2020 will see the Series’ first visit to Australia. The second round of the Championship will be held on the 12th of January 2020 at The Bend. The Bend is Australia’s newest permanent circuit and is located approximately 100 km from Adelaide in South Australia. The Asian Le Mans Series will be the first series to use the full 7.77km configuration of the circuit, which is - apart from Le Mans - the longest track in any ACO supported series.

In a change to their traditional season ending date, the third round of the Championship will be held at the Sepang International Circuit. The race will be held on Saturday the 15th February in 2020.  Also new is that the 4 Hours of Sepang will finish into the night, with the second half of the race to be run after sunset. 

The final round of the 2019/20 Asian Le Mans Series will be held at the Buriram International Circuit on the 23rd of February 2020. Moving away from the traditional mid January date on Children's day, the Thai circuit will instead host the final 4 hour race of the Championship.

The 2019/20 Asian Le Mans Series calendar has been designed to ensure it avoids clashes with other Asian series and major events in the region, whilst also allowing for transport times for those teams from around the world wishing join the Series. The opening round at the end of November now also gives (more) teams who race in the European Le Mans Series the time to prepare for the Asian series.

2019/20 Asian Le Mans Series Calendar details

Round 1: Shanghai International Circuit, China • 22 – 24 November 2019
Round 2: The Bend, South Australia • 10 – 12 January 2020
Round 3: Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia • 14 – 15 February 2020
Round 4: Buriram Chang International Circuit, Thailand • 21 – 23 February 2020

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Asian LMS: Title showdown at the 4 Hours of Sepang this weekend

It's title showdown for the Asian Le Mans Series this weekend, with the final race of the 2018/2019 season to be held at the Sepang International Circuit. After a season full of close and exciting racing, all four championships are still up for grabs! 22 cars will be on the grid for the title deciding race in Malaysia on Sunday. 

The final four invitations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans are also at stake this weekend.  All class champions will reveive an invitation for the French classic in June; an invite for the LMP2 class for the champions in LMP2 and LMP3 and an invite for the LMGTE Am class for the GT3 champion.  Additionally there will be an added recognition for the LMP2 amateur entries. They will also fight not only for the championship but for an extra invite to Le Mans. 


After missing the previous round in Thailand, the #8 Spirit of Race Ligier JS P2 will be back with Côme Ledogar, Alexander West, and Pipo Deranifor the 4 Hours of Sepang. While the #8 is expected to be fighting for the race win, the Championship battle is now down to just three teams, series debutants, United Autosports, 2016/17 Champions Algarve Pro Racing and ARC Bratislava.

 4 Hours of Buriram race winners, Phil Hanson and Paul di Resta in the United Autosports #22 Ligier JS P2 Nissanhold a commanding lead of 18 points in the 2018/19 season. Currently second are the 4 Hours of Fuji winners, Harrison Newey and Andrea Pizzitola in the #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd. For the final round they will again be joined by Ate Dirk De Jong.  The #4 ARC Bratislava Ligier JS P2 Nissan being driven by Miro Konopka, Kang Ling and Darren Burke are also still in with a chance. To win, they must win the race, the #22 DNF, and the #24 finishes 2ndor worse.
LMP2 Am Trophy 

The ARC Bratislava #4 Ligier JS P2 Nissanalso comes into the final round of season with a 9-point lead in the LMP2 Am Trophy class. Their closest rivals are the #23 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 Nissan, Guy Cosmo, Patrick Byrne and Salih Yoluc who are 9 points behind them.


The LMP3 Championship has been intense this year and going into the final round there are four entire still in contention for the win. 

With a race win and two second place finishes the Class, LMP3 Championships leaders, Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe inthe #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 have an 8-point lead.  In second place is the United Autosports #2 Ligier JS P3 Nissan, driven by Chris Buncombe, Garett Grist and Wayne Boyd, and 9 points behind them is the sister United Autosports, Ligier JS P3 Nissan, the #3 driven by Matthew Bell, and Kay van Berlo. While it is a long shot, the #79 Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen Racing Ligier JS P3 Nissanis 20 points behind the Class leaders. With 26 points on offer for pole and the race win, it is still possible. 

The 4 Hours of Sepang will see the welcome return of the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing entry. Racing for the team will be Rick Yoon, Jake Parsons and James Winslow. As previously announced, the line-up of the R24 entry will feature Katherine Legge, Margot Laffite, and Michelle Gatting for the 4 Hours of Sepang. 


Series new comers, Japanese team Car Guy have dominated the GT class this season winning every race in the 2018/19 Season, with their #11 Ferrari 488 GT3.  In the 4 Hours of Sepang, drivers Takeshi Kimura, Kei Cozzolino and James Calado will again come under intense pressure from the Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 being driven by Alessadro Pier Guidi, Ozzy Negri Jr and Francesco Piovanetti. The #51 can still win the Championship, but they must win and the #11 not score any points.  

Official Audi Sport driver Dries Vanthoor will return with the TianShi Racing Team (TSRT) in the #88 Audi R8 LMS GT3. He will be racing with Xu Wei and (David) Chen Wei An. Joining the #66 entry will be new driver Qi Peiwen (Aven) who has previously race in the teams SEAT TCR entry.  He will join Zhang Yaqi (Dennis), and Max Wiser.

Entry List
Championship standings

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

ELMS: Alex Brundle and Ryan Cullen to race for United Autosports in 2019

United Autosports has confirmed that Alex Brundle and Ryan Cullen will join their LMP2 team for the 2019 European Le Mans Series and pending entry confirmation, the Le Mans 24 Hours.

© United Autosports

Alex Brundle first raced for the team in 2016 when they made their European Le Mans Series debut. After scoring three wins and two further podiums, Alex was crowned 2016 ELMS LMP3 Champion alongside other LMP3 team returnees Mike Guasch and Christian England. Alex also joined the team for their Sebring 12 Hours debut last year, standing in for Bruno Senna and finishing fifth in the Ligier JS P217 with Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta.

Ryan Cullen is new to the team but has previously tested a Ligier JS P217 prior to joining them. Last year he raced in the European Le Mans Series for the APR – Rebellion Racing team and has previously raced in the Porsche Supercup and the GP3 Series. Most recently Ryan won the LMP2 class of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Cullen has already totalled four days of testing with United Autosports, most recently attending their Barcelona pre-season test last week alongside Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson. 

© United Autosports

Ryan Cullen, driver, United Autosports:
“I’m delighted to be joining United Autosports for 2019. It’s a team with great structure and experience and the perfect place for me to grow and be competitive in ELMS.  So far everybody has been superb and very welcoming and I’m looking forward to having Alex as a teammate. Le Mans also excites me and pending an entry of course, this year will be my first time racing at Le Mans. After experiencing success last month at Daytona, the prospect of being with a front running team in my second 24-hour race is a fantastic position to be in.”

Alex Brundle, driver, United Autosports:
“I’m very excited and motivated to be racing with United Autosports in LMP2 for 2019, re-joining the team who took me to the championship title in LMP3. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of a Ligier once more, representing a world-class outfit and my longstanding sponsors and friends at Richard Mille.”

Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports:
“Alex and Ryan will be a good combination for our LMP2 team. They are both quick and experienced drivers in the ELMS and in the LMP2 class. The competition looks set to be higher than ever in the ELMS this year but I think we have two good line ups so far. Just one more seat left to fill.”

Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“Alex is no stranger to the team and it is good to welcome him back for the 2019 season. He is a previous champion of ours so hopefully he can replicate his season in 2016 once again. Ryan has impressed us in the four days testing he has done with us so far so I am hopeful of good things from him throughout the season. I think him and Alex will make a good line up with their third as yet undecided team mate.”

ELMS: Capacity grid of 41 cars for the 2019 season

No less than 41 cars have been announced by the ACO for the 2019 European Le Mans Series, a championship that seems healthier than ever with this capacity grid.  Lots of new faces, the addition of some very experienced and talented new drivers and several new teams in the championship set the bar high for what should be a very exciting 2019 ! 

No less than 18 LMP2 cars feature on the list, a record amount of full season entries. We’ve already seen 18 (Monza, Red Bull Ring) and 19 (Le Castellet) LMP2 cars on the grid last season, but never before 18 LMP2’s have been committed to a full season entry. The LMGTE class also increases from 6 to 9 cars with the addition of 3 new teams in the class.  The addition of entries in both LMP2 and LMGTE has its effect on the LMP3 class, which loses a few entries and now has 14 cars.  Less cars but several teams with a 2 car effort and what seems an increase in quality for this season. 


Last year’s champions G-Drive racing lead the LMP2 field with a single Oreca 07 for Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne and LMP3 champion Job Van Uitert. No second entry this year for the Russian team which was run by Graff last year.  United Autosports return with 2 Ligier JSP217’s.  The #22 will be driven by Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque who also step up to the FIA WEC in the 2019/2020 season. The #32 has a new driver line-up with Alex Brundle who returns to team and Ryan Cullen.

Algarve Pro Racing is also set for a two car effort again, although this season without support of Rebellion Racing on the second car. The Portuguese based team now fields 2 Oreca 07’s with 2 new driver line-ups.  Mark Patterson returns to the #25 Oreca and will be joined by 2018 champion Andrea Pizzitola and John Falb, the 2017 LMP3 champion who will make his debut in the LMP2 class. The #31 Oreca has a promising line-up with young and talented drivers Henning Enqvist, James French and Tacksung Kim.     

IDEC Sport returns with 2 cars, an Oreca 07 and a Ligier JSP217. The trio of Oreca drivers  (#28) remains unchanged with Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin and Memo Rojas. In the #27 Ligier, Patrice Lafargue and Erik Maris will be joined by Stéphane Adler who has been racing in the French Porsche 911 Cup.  

The third team with a 2 car effort is Panis Barthez Compétition with the addition of a second Ligier. The crew of the #23 has already been announced with Rene Binder, Will Stevens and Julien Canal. Timothé Buret is the only driver confirmed in the #24 so far. 

Dragonspeed  is back with the #21 Oreca.  So far only Henrik Hedman has been confirmed as driver, it’s unclear if Ben Hanley will return for another season in ELMS with his debut in the Indycar series this year.  Nicolas Lapierre won’t return to the team, switching to Cool Racing. Duqueine Engineering is set for its second season in the ELMS top class with their Oreca 07. Pierre Ragues and Nicolas Jamin are still part of the team and will be joined by Richard Bradley in 2019. 

High Class Racing is set for its third season in the championship but changed from Dallara to an Oreca 07 during the winter.  Anders Fjordbach and Dennis Andersen are expected to be back in the #20, and set for a debut at Le Mans, depending on confirmation by the ACO.  Graff Racing are also back in the LMP2 class but down to one car after running the second G-Drive car back in 2018.  No change in the driver line-up for the French team with Alexandre Cougnaud, Jonathan Hirschi and Tristan Gommendy. 

4 teams are moving up the endurance ladder, and are set to make their debut in the LMP2 class, some of them with highly rated drivers. Cool Racing were one of the first to announce their intentions at the end of last season, and immediately announced Nicolas Lapierre as their lead driver. The highly experienced Lapierre will be joined by Cool Racing’s regulars Alexandre Coigny and Antonin Borga in the #37 Oreca. Inter Europol Competition is set for a busy season in the European Le Mans Series, entering not only both LMP3 cars, but for the first time also a Ligier JSP217 in the top class. Jakub Smiechowski has been announced as lead driver for the #34.

Another big name to be seen in the paddock this year is Bruno Senna who has been signed by RLR MSport for their return to the LMP2 class.  Senna will share the #43 Oreca with John Farano and Indian GP2 driver Arjun Maini.  BHK Motorsport is a rather surprising addition to the class, moving up from LMP3 with a new Oreca 07. Francesco Dracone has been announced as lead driver, with Jacopo Barratto also expected at the wheel of the Oreca.  The final team to enter this years championship is Carlin.  A well known name and big player in the motorsport world in single seaters from F4 to Indycar who will field the single Dallara on the grid. A single driver has been confirmed so far: Jack Manchester who has previous experience in Radicals and the Blancpain GT Cup. 

A few teams from last season are missing on the list.  Racing Engineering, who started the season with a win at Le Castellet last year and finished second in the championship decided not to return to the series. They have been testing at Barcelona in January with their Oreca, but seem to shift their focus to a new GT3 program. SMP Racing doesn’t return also, focussing on their LMP1 program in the World Endurance Championship, after already missing out the final 2 races of last season. Spanish team AVF by Adrian Valles also didn’t apply for an entry, after a fairly disappointing first season.  Finally there’s Cetilar Villorba Corse who will race in the FIA WEC as from next season. The Italians will race their Dallara at Monza however, on a single race entry. 


The growth of LMP2 and GTE has its reflection on the amount of entries in the LMP3 class this season. The class is down to 14 cars this year, compared to 18 last year. Less cars and also less teams in the paddock, since several teams have doubled up their efforts with a second car. Similar to last season, it’s a battle of Ligier (10 cars) vs Norma (4 cars). 

United Autosports is set for another 2 car entry with the #2 and #3 Ligiers.  The #2 sees the return of 2016 LMP3 champions Mike Guasch and Christian England. In the #3 Canadian Garett Grist is the first confirmed driver so far. 360 Racing expands to a 2 car effort this season. James Dayson, who raced with Eurointernational last year, has been assigned to the #5 car, Terrence Woodward returns to his #6 Ligier. 

Another team doubling up is Nielsen Racing, who also races in the Asian Le Mans Series this winter, now adding a second Ligier to its garage.  The #7 for Anthony Wells and Colin Noble,  the #8 for Nobuya Yamanaka and James Littlejohn.  The fourth and final team with 2 cars on the LMP3 grid is Inter Europol Competition.  It’s going to a busy season, with a Ligier in LMP2 and two in LMP3 and the Asian LMS campaign. Martin Hippe (#13) and Paul Scheuschner (#14) are two familiar faces by now in the ELMS paddock.  

6 teams will have one car on the grid for the first race in April at Le Castellet.  RLR MSport defends its title with a complete new line-up in the #15 (Rich/Olsen/Vedel). Swiss Realteam Racing is new with a Norma (#9), but will be run by Graff Racing don’t have any cars in class under their own banner. 2 drivers have been announced for Realteam: Esteban Garcia and David Droux. Also back is the colourful Norma of Oregon Team (#10) for Damiano Fiorivanti.  

The family-run Ultimate returns with its #17 Norma, which should be driven by Mathieu and Baptiste Lahaye and Francois Heriau again. Yvan Müller’s M.Racing enters just 1 Norma this season (#19), reserved for Laurent Millara and Lucas Légeret, the third driver still to be confirmed.  Another team with 1 car less than last year is Eurointernational which now will have 1 Ligier at the start (#11) for Andrea Dromedari.  

Several teams who were expected do not appear on the list, meaning we’ll probably find them in the Michelin Le Mans Cup this year.  DKR Engineering already announced they would focus on the MLMC again. Cetilar Racing was expected in the ELMS but apparently didn’t make the cut, as Spanish SPV Racing.  Another ELMS regular from the past years which surprisingly isn’t on the list is Austrian AT Racing.   


Not only the LMP2 class increases in numbers, but - and this is a bit of a surprise - the LMGTE class also expands up to 9 cars. It’s a Porsche vs Ferrari battle again with the addition of a few new, but highly experienced teams in the mix the season.  

Last year’s champions Proton Competition are back with two Porsche 911 RSR’s. The #77 under the Dempsey-Proton Racing flag with Porsche factory driver Richard Lietz as designated driver and the #88 under Proton Competition for rising star Matteo Cairoli. They will be joined by 2 other Porsche teams: the #80 Ebimotors of Fabio Babini, now and Project 1 with Egidio Perfetti.  The German team expands its endurance program to the ELMS after a succesful start in their maiden season in the FIA WEC. 

5 Ferrari’s will face the competition against the Porsches. Kessel Racing won last season’s GT3 class in the Michelin Le Mans Cup and steps up to the ELMS with a 2 car effort.  The first Ferrari F488 GTE (#60) has been reserved for MLMC champion Claudio Schiavoni. The #83 will be the first ever full female driver line-up in the ELMS with Manuela Gostner, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting. 

Another newcomer is Luzich Racing. A young team that debuted in the GT Open championship last season, and immediately won it with Mikkel Mac. No drivers have been appointed yet, but the return of Mikkel Mac to the ELMS wouldn’t be surprising. 

The 2 remaining Ferrari’s are familiar faces in the ELMS paddock with the #55 Spirit of Race of Duncan Cameron and the #66 JMW Ferrari who was runner-up last season. The designated driver for the #66 is American Jeff Segal who has been racing in the IMSA Weathertech and Pirelli World Challenge in the past years, raced at Le Mans with JMW last season and won the GTE Am class in 2016 with Scuderia Corsa.  

Just one team from 2018 is missing on this year’s entry list: the bright green Ferrari of Krohn Racing.