Wednesday, 16 January 2019

ELMS: Bruno Senna joins John Farano at RLR MSport in LMP2

RLR MSport has signed Bruno Senna and John Farano for its return to the LMP2 class in the 2019 European Le Mans Series.

The 35 year old Brazilian, who started his career in endurance racing in 2010 with Oreca, will share the Bolton-based team’s newly-acquired ORECA 07 with reigning ELMS LMP3 Champion John Farano and a third unnamed driver.  Senna will drive all rounds in the European Le Mans Series at all-but-one: the 4 Hours of Silverstone.  If the team gets an invite for Le Mans, the team will also need to replace Senna as both races conflict with his drive at Rebellion Racing in the FIA WEC.

The 2017 FIA WEC LMP2 champion said he is very excited to take on this new challenge and to be joining the European Le Mans Series’ highly competitive LMP2 field with RLR MSport. The team has had great success in the past, most recently winning the ELMS LMP3 Teams’ and Drivers’ titles, and I’m sure the LMP2 step will be another successful one. Our experiences combined should make us a strong contender for the races and I’m really looking forward to kicking things off.”

Farano, meanwhile, began with select appearances in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and Ferrari Challenge, before winning the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Drivers’ title during his first full season of competition in 2012.

However, the 59-year old Am has become something of an RLR MSport stalwart. His long-standing association with the Bolton-based team has been a successful one and, having magnanimously sealed the 2018 ELMS LMP3 titles, Farano will remain within the RLR fold as he takes the next step of his motorsport career in LMP2. Farano was first to sample the RLR MSport-prepared Oreca 07 during a test at Silverstone in August, but countless more miles will be covered during a test and development programme that will only intensify on the approach to the season-opening ELMS 4 Hours of Le Castellet mid-April.

“I am super excited to be rejoining the RLR MSport team and to be part of its return to the LMP2 category in the European Le Mans Series,” said Farano. “I am also extremely happy to welcome Bruno Senna to the RLR MSport family; he will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the team’s success and play a major role as a mentor to me and other drivers to follow. I can’t wait to be back on track with the gang at RLR MSport whose dedication and hard work helped bring us the 2018 ELMS LMP3 championship. I’m looking forward to another great season and sharing new experiences with everyone at RLR MSport.”

Asian Le Mans Series goes Down under !

2019/20 Asian Le Mans Series to feature a round at The Bend!

The Automobile Club de l'Ouest and the Asian Le Mans Series today announced their first trip to Australia in 2020, bringing the thrill of international endurance racing to the South Australian public at Australia's newest track: The Bend. 

Located approximately 100km from Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, The Bend is Australia’s newest permanent circuit. The Asian Le Mans Series will be the first series to use the full 7.77 km configuration. This configuration makes it the second longest permanent race track in the world, second only to the Nordschleife, Nurburgring. With tight, technical corners, fast flowing sections, and a rise and fall of 85 metres, exciting racing is guaranteed.
With a top speed of 343.4 km/h recorded in the LMP2 class in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, it is safe to say the lap record at The Bend will be broken. Outside the Formula 1 cars, the LMP2 cars at the front of the Asian Le Mans Series will be the fastest to compete in Australia in 2020.

The Asian Le Mans Series is run during the Australian summer (November to February), outside the normal Australian motorsport season. This will allow teams and drivers to compete in both the domestic championships and the Asian Le Mans Series if they wish. 

South Australia had a taste of prototype racing when American Le Mans Series teams participated in the once-off Race of a Thousand Years on the Adelaide street circuit on 31st December 2000. This time, 20 years later, the event will be a part of an international Championship, and it promises to deliver thrilling racing. 

Cyrille Taesch Wahlen, Managing Director of the Asian Le Mans Series:   
“We had been considering an expansion into Australia for quite some time, but we needed to find the right opportunity. I visited the Bend last year and was blown away by the high standard of the track and the facilities. This, along with the enthusiasm being shown by the circuit management team, made it an easy decision. 
“The feedback from our teams and drivers about the possibility of a trip to Australia was also widely positive - we already have many drivers, engineers and other support crews from Australia!  Not only it is a very exciting project, it also has the potential to be a really great event and it will be a very nice addition to the Asian Le Mans Series calendar.’’
Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: 
“Australia has an exceptional reputation for delivering world class motorsport events, so we are really looking forward to visiting The Bend with the Asian Le Mans Series. We are used to seeing Australian drivers such as Mark Webber race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Racing with the Asian Le Mans Series will give Australian drivers and teams the opportunity to progress to the highest level in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"The ACO endurance racing formula, combined with what is rapidly becoming one of the top race tracks in the region, should be an exciting prospect for both professional and amateur drivers, as well as the Australian audience.”
Sam Shahin, Managing Director of The Bend Motorsport Park:
“The Asian Le Mans Series is the pinnacle of international endurance racing, and we are very excited and proud to bring the event to Australia and to continue to showcase Tailem Bend and the surrounding region to the world. The vision for The Bend Motorsport Park, is to be a world-class facility which hosts international standard events of the highest calibre. Last year with 40,000+ fans attending the inaugural Supercars event, we took a big step forward in establishing our credentials. To be hosting this event in our third year of operation is a testament to the project, and an indication that our ambition has no boundaries.” 

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Asian LMS: Doube win for United Autosports in Thailand

The Asian Le Mans Series once again delivered an action packed race up and down the grid. With tens of thousands fans in the grandstands, and in what was easily the hottest race of the season with ambient temperatures reaching 34 degrees, the battles on track were fierce!  

At the start of the race it was an Algavre Pro Racing 1-2 after a fantastic getaway from both of the team’s Bronze drivers, Ate Dirk De Jong (#24) and Christopher McMurry (#25). Phil Hanson in the Championship leading #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 Nissan was though able to pass them and take the lead early in the race. 

It was Hanson and his team mate Paul Di Resta that led most of the race before claiming their first Asian Le Mans Series race win, extending their Championship lead to 18 points. Whilst a perfectly timed pitstop when a full course yellow was called helped cement their position, the team ran without fault all weekend.  The #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd of Harrison Newey and Andrea Pizzitola came home second, followed by Matthieu Lahaye, Jean-Baptiste Lahaye, and Francois Hériau in the #35 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JS P2 Judd. The French team picking up its first Asian Le Mans Series podium.  

Nursing home the #4 ARC Bratislava Ligier JS P2 in to 4th position was Darren Burke. Due to an engine issue, Burke slowed significantly and lost third position overall to the Panis Barthez Ligier, He was though able to hold on to finish the race. The team also picking up the LMP2 AM Trophy win taking the Class Championship lead by 9 points. 

© United Autosports

In LMP3 the battle was intense from the start. Once again it was Nigel Moore in the #65 Viper Niza Racing Ligier JS P3 that made a storming start to be up to 4thoutright on the opening lap. His run was cut short after hitting debris and having to hit for new tyres. This left Matt Bell in the #3 United Autosports Ligier JS P3 to pull away at the front of the LMP3 field. As the race went on, it became a battle between the sister United Autosports car, the polesitting Ligier JS P3 of Chris Buncombe, Garett Grist and Wayne Boyd and the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 of Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe.

© Inter Europol Competition

After being forced to pit for loose body work, the #13 dropped out of contention for the win, but fought hard to secure second position and retain the LMP3 Championship lead. They now lead the LMP3 class by 8 points. In third place after the #3 suffered a broken exhaust and got stuck in 4thgear was the #79 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Racing Ligier JS P3 of Tony Wells and Colin Noble. 

In GT it was the #66 TianShi Racing Team Audi R8 LMS with Max Wiser that had a stunning start yet again to be comfortable leading the GT Class and running ahead of a number of the LMP3 entries early in the race. Class pole sitter, the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 dropped back to be 4th in Class in the early running.

1.5 hours into the race and there was a full course yellow after the #5 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage had a power steering and brake failure with Johnny Mowlem behind the wheel. The failure caused a scary moment for the Aston driver, but Mowlem did well to scrub off speed through the gravel trap making only light contact with the barrier. He would make it back to the pits where the team opted to retire the car.

After the first driver changes, it was GT Class Championship leader, Car Guy that continued their dominant run in the 2018/19 Season, with series newcomer and highly experienced racer, Jean Karl Vernay chasing hard in the #88 TianShi Racing Team Audi R8 LMS.

Once James Calado got in the #11 Car Guy Ferrari, he pulled away from Vernay in the #88 TianShi Racing Team Audi R8, and pole sitter, Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3. Despite a number of driving infringements that saw Calado receive multiple penalties, he pushed hard and ensured the Japanese team won their third race of the season to extend their lead in the Championship to 24 points.

Click here for the race results

Next up is the season finale, in 4 Hours of Sepang on Sunday, 24th of February. 

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Asian LMS: Round 3 at Buriram (Thailand) this weekend

After two thrilling races, and with all Championship Class battles incredibly tight, the Series makes the trip to the Chang International Circuit in Buriram this weekend. One of the most popular and well attended races of the 2017/18 Asian Le Mans Series, the race in Thailand is set to be just as popular this year!

The round will again be held on Children’s Day in Thailand, with the race forming an important part of the celebrations occurring in Buriram. The circuit will be open to everyone as a part of the celebrations, with children under 15 getting access to the grandstand for free if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.  Children’s Day has been celebrated in Thailand on the second Saturday of January every year since 1955 and is designed to celebrate the role children play in the development of the Country. It is a day for family fun and adventure – and the Asian Le Mans Series offers them exactly that! 

Fresh from taking the win in Round 2, the #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd driven by Harrison Newey and Andrea Pizzitola, are aiming to close the gap to the Championship leaders. Last round in Japan, the battle between the #24 and the current leaders, Phil Hanson and Paul di Resta in the #22 Ligier JS P2 Nissan was incredibly close and the battle is expected to pick up where it was left off. Unfortunately, due to family commitments the #8 Spirit of Race entry will not be on the grid in Buriram, however they will be back for the final round in Sepang.

LMP2 Am Trophy 
Miro Konopka, Kang Ling and Darren Burke in the ARC Bratislava #4 Ligier JS P2 Nissan not only won the LMP2 Am Trophy class in the 4 Hours of Fuji, they also claimed an outright podium position. This saw them close the gap to Class leaders in the #23 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 Nissan, Guy Cosmo, Patrick Byrne and Salih Yoluc. With just two points between them, the battle is set to be intense in Buriram! 

With the biggest lead of all the Class Championships, Jakub Smiechowshi and Martin Hippe in the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 have an 11-point lead in the LMP3 class. Behind them are 4 Hours of Fuji Class winners, Matthew Bell, Kay van Berlo and Christian England in the #3 United Autosports, Ligier JS P3 Nissan. Just 5 points behind them is the sister United Autosports #2 Ligier JS P3 Nissan, driven by Chris Buncombe, Garett Grist and Wayne Boyd.

As the only entry to have two race wins in the 2018/19 Season, Japanese team Car Guy with their Ferrari 488 GT3 are aiming to make it three from three in Thailand. Drivers Takeshi Kimura, Kei Cozzolino and James Calado will not have it all their own way, with the Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 being driven by Alessadro Pier Guidi, Ozzy Negri Jr and Francesco Piovanetti will be aiming to cut their lead. 

Both of the TRST Audi R8 LMS’ will have slight changes to their driver line ups. In the #66 GT Am entry will be Lo Kai Fung, Max Wiser and Zhang Ya Qi. In the #88 will be Alex Au, Chen Wei An and new driver Jean Karl Vernay. The 2017 TCR International Champion was also the highest finishing Audi Sport driver in last season’s WTCR.   

The entry list is available here: 4 Hours of Buriram entry list

Friday, 11 January 2019
08:40 - 10:10 Free Practice 1
12:40 - 14:00 Free Practice 2
16:35 - 16:50 GT Qualifying
17:00 - 17:15 LMP2 & LMP3 Qualifying

Saturday, 12 January 2019
09:20 - 09:50 Autograph Session 
11:45 - 15:45 4 Hours of Buriram

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

FIA WEC: Brabham plans return to Le Mans in GTE

Brabham Automotive announced yesterday their intention to return to endurance racing and the 24 Hours of Le Mans during the 2021/22 World Endurance Championship season. 

With the target set at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2022 and the 2021/22 FIA WEC season, the Adelaide based automotive manufacturer says it has already committed to a factory racing team and a multi-year motorsport programme with development work already under way. Fans will be able to follow the journey as it’s shared openly on social media under the hashtag #brabhamroadtolemans. 

Taking the road back to Le Mans has always been a desire of Brabham Automotive. The entry will be run and funded in-house by Brabham Automotive and commercial partners and sponsors. It will be directly linked to the Brabham BT62 Driver Development Programme, making early owners of the modern Brabham track car part of the test team for Le Mans and providing top level Pro-Am racing opportunities to owners. 

An extensive testing schedule aimed at developing the BT62 for high-performance endurance racing has been underway for a number of months. It is being led by Brabham Automotive managing director, lead test driver and 2009 Le Mans winner David Brabham, who said: “Returning the Brabham name to Le Mans is something I have been working on for years, so it’s fantastic to make this announcement today. Brabham Automotive only launched its first car, the BT62, in May 2018 so we have a long road to travel to earn the right to return to compete at Le Mans. That work starts now with a long-term racing commitment. We look forward to developing the BT62 and future products while building a world-class competitive race team around the leading engineering and manufacturing talent we have in the business.” 

Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), promoters of the 24 Hours of Le Mans: “At Le Mans, the legendary Brabham name instantly conjures up memories of an outstanding family success story. It all began in July 1967 at the only French Grand Prix to be held at the Bugatti Circuit, when three-time Formula One world champion Sir Jack Brabham took the honours in a car sporting the Brabham name. Sir Jack’s sons, Geoff and David, perpetuated the family tradition by winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1993 and 2009 respectively, both with Peugeot.  For the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the return of the Brabham name to endurance racing is therefore much more than symbolic. It demonstrates remarkable loyalty and an extraordinary competitive spirit."

More details on the Brabham Automotive sports car programme, personnel and the GTE vehicle that will eventually be homologated will be released nearer the time, pending final confirmation of regulations and entries. The manufacturer confirms it will be an original Brabham based on developing the BT62 chassis, which has already been designed and built to comply with modern FIA safety standards. Brabham Automotive also intends to compete in lower level series and provide customer racing opportunities as it takes the road back to Le Mans, with more information to be made available in due course. 

Commenting on the development, Dan Marks, Commercial Director Brabham Automotive said: “Brabham Automotive is a racing brand so since inception we’ve always had competitive motorsport in mind. Our plan to go on the Journey Back to Le Mans is a statement of intent that Brabham Automotive is back and here to stay. In the BT62, we have already built an outstanding, unrestricted track car now with a road legal option. We will develop this car to make its mark in motor racing, along with new vehicles. Today is great news for us and will help put the Australian car industry back on the world stage.” 

ELMS: Canal, Stevens an Binder in the N°23 Panis-Barthez Competition Ligier

Panis-Barthez competition has completed their driver line-up for the #23 Ligier LMP2 in the upcoming ELMS season.  

Julien Canal and Will Stevens will be joined by Rene Binder in the 2019 European Le Mans Series and their bid for an entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A strong and experienced line-up for the French team, which goes into its third season in the LMP2 class with a clear goal: win races and compete for the overall championship.  

Binder is the new face in the team, making his debut in prototype and endurance racing. The 26 year old silver driver has vast experience in Indycar (6 races in 2018), GP2 Series and Formula V8 3.5 (2 polo positions & 4 wins).  The Austrian will also be racing in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup starting with the 24 Hours of Daytona later this month. He will drive the Juncos Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Will Stevens returns to the team after a succesfull first season in the LMP2 class. The former Formula 1 driver has shown all his talent on track throughout the past season by climbing twice on the podium and signing a pole position on the wet in Spa. 

Julien Canal is the final driver to be announced in the #23 Ligier JSP2, now also in his second season for the team.  The Frenchman has an impressive track record with 3 wins at 24H of Le Mans, GTE AM and LMP2 World Champion in WEC with Rebellion. 

A second Ligier will be entered in the European Le Mans Series. An announcement with the identity of the drivers for the second car is expected in due course. 

Rene Binder - #23 Ligier JS P217 driver :"It’s a huge pleasure and honour for me to race for Panis Barthez Competition in the 2019 season and I want  to thank Olivier Panis, Fabien Barthez, Sarah et Simon Abadie and the  entire team for their faith in me. It’s going to be really special to go  into the European Le Mans Series and 24 Hours at Le Mans with the team of a former Monaco Grand Prix winner and I can’t wait to take the Ligier LMP2  out for our first test. As said before it will be a very important and   special experience for me to compete in the most important endurance events  next year combining IMSA with ELMS. I can only say thanks again to our  sponsors, partners, family and to everyone who believes in our success.“

Will Stevens - #23 Ligier JS P217 driver : “I’m very happy to stay with Panis-Barthez Competition next season. We showed in 2018 how strong we are together, and the great results we had at the end of the season motivated me to stay: we have a job to continue and to finish. After a pole position and two podiums last year, we will be doing all we can to win our first race in 2019 – and then another one. And if we are consistent enough, why not fight for the 2019 championship?

Of course, I have Le Mans in mind, as we were the closest competitors to G-Drive last year. I can’t wait to race there again with Olivier, Simon, Sarah and all the team who have faith in me and give me so much confidence. It’s time to pay them back for what they bring to me. I don’t know Rene Binder, my new teammate, but I can see that he has always been competitive wherever he raced: in F3, in Renault 3.5, GP2 or IndyCar. He has quite a lot of experience as well and I have no doubt we will get along well and be a very strong line-up in 2019.”

Julien Canal - #23 Ligier JS P217 driver: "After a two-month winter break, I was in touch with some endurance actors in order to find the most suitable sporting program in parallel with my professional activities. But looking at what we achieved last year with the team of Olivier Panis and Simon Abadie, taking into account the progress we made through the end, it was obvious that carrying on with PBC was the best option. So I'm very happy to be back with the Panis-Barthez Competition. My motivation and my desire to give my best for the guys, for my teammates and for the brand are very strong. With Will and Rene we have only one goal: winning."

Olivier Panis - Team Principal: "Sarah, Simon and I are  delighted to welcome Rene at Panis Barthez Compétition. Rene already has a strong background in different  series and we are ready to write a new page of our history with him. Thanks  to the hard work of the team and our 2018 drivers, we are in a good     position to fight at the front. Welcome in the family Rene !"

“Keeping Will Stevens aboard was a top priority. I have been so impressed by him, his speed and his implication. I have rarely seen a professional driver sharing so many informations with his teammates. He spends hours in front of the datas to improve the car. It’s true he grumbles quite a lot but always in a positive way. First of all it makes me laugh but above all it pushes us continuously to make our proto faster and faster. We have made a big step forward with him. That’s why Fabien Barthez, Simon Abadie, Sarah Abadie and I did everything we could to make him stay at PBC and we have found partners to achieve this priority."

"Keeping Julien Canal among us is very good news for the whole team. His maturity and his experience are well proven, and last year it united us around new strong goals. His close relation with Will Stevens is now strengthened by the determination of Rene Binder. All together, they are going to do wonderful things on track. That’s clearly a high-powered line-up, ready to fight at the top of the LMP2 category.” 

FIA WEC: United Autosports with Ligier in the 2019/2020 WEC season

United Autosports have confirmed that they will enter the 2019/2020 FIA World Endurance Championship. The Anglo American team will enter the world-wide race series for the first time with Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque behind the wheel of the team’s Ligier JS P217. 

Phil Hanson joined the team at the end of 2017 and has raced in the 2018 European Le Mans Series alongside Filipe Albuquerque, winning the final two races of the year. Phil also raced in selected rounds of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen. He is currently racing for United Autosports in the Asian Le Mans Series and scored his maiden pole position at Fuji in only his second LMP2 qualifying attempt. Phil is leading the championship with two rounds to go. 

Filipe Albuquerque joined the team for their LMP2 debut at the start of 2017, finishing second in the championship. This year, he raced alongside Phil Hanson in the #22 Ligier JS P217. Filipe has previously raced in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2016 finishing second in the championship.

United Autosports will be strengthening their relationship with Ligier Automotive by fielding a Ligier JS P217 in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The relationship with the French manufacturer began in 2016 as they entered the European Le Mans Series with a pair of Ligier JS P3s. Since then, the UK based team have become exclusive UK agents for Ligier Automotive and expanded into the LMP2 class with the new generation of Ligier LMP2 sports car – the Ligier JS P217. Further cementing their relationship with Ligier, they also chose to race the first generation Ligier LMP2 car in the 2018/2019 Asian Le Mans Series, as well as remaining committed to the French manufacturer during their debut IMSA season in 2018.

© United Autosports

Phil Hanson, driver, United Autosports: “I’m really excited to be doing FIA WEC. I think it’s the obvious next step for us, having done the ELMS, Asian Le Mans Series and selected rounds of IMSA, including Daytona. I’m looking forward to continuing with United too. They have nurtured me and helped my development as a driver significantly in the last year so I’m looking forward to continuing with the team in a very professional environment. I’m excited to be driving on new circuits too such as Sao Paulo and Bahrain. They have definitely been on my radar of circuits I’ve wanted to race at. Sao Paulo has a lot of history and I’ve never been to Brazil so it will be exciting. I’m really looking forward to racing on a truly global platform.”

Filipe Albuquerque, driver, United Autosports: “I’m super happy to be back in the FIA WEC, I feel I have unfinished business there. I finished P2 in 2016 in LMP2 so now with Phil Hanson and United I think we really have the package to win. It’s two years almost to the day that I met Zak and Richard and I could never believe our partnership would have got to this point. I’m excited to be racing in the 2019 ELMS and then going into the FIA WEC with them. It’s a good relationship we have together and we have been winning some races so why not continue and let’s see where we end up.”

Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports: “We are pleased to be able to announce our entry into the 2019/2020 FIA World Endurance Championship. It has been the aim for United Autosports to enter the world championship for a while, but everything needed to fall into place so we could do it at the right time. We feel that now is the right time. We have developed a great relationship with Phil and Filipe and they make a fantastic pairing. We are still working on the third driver but for now, we are excited for what 2019 brings.”

Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports: “It’s been no secret that we have been trying to put a deal together to race in the FIA World Endurance Championship for some time now. It has relied on a lot of factors fitting together but I think it is the perfect time for United Autosports to make the next step in sports car racing. We have two great drivers in Phil and Filipe. Filipe really has brought Phil on in only one year of working with him, so I’m confident that will only continue into the coming years. We have ultimate belief in Ligier Automotive and relish this opportunity to take on a world championship with their full support. The championship visits some fantastic circuits too – some we have been to before and some will be new to us, but I’m looking forward to the new challenge ahead.”

Gérard Neveu, CEO WEC: “This is a very good way to start 2019. We are really delighted to welcome a team of the calibre of United Autosports to the WEC, and are confident they will make a very positive contribution to the LMP2 category and to the championship as a whole. We know the team well from the European Le Mans Series and of course at Le Mans, and it’s very rewarding to see the progression they have made – and success they have attained – over the past few years. I am certain the whole WEC paddock will join me in welcoming United Autosports for the 2019-20 season.”