Sunday 31 March 2019

Historics: Mercedes-Benz 540K and Ferrari 335 S best in show at the Amelia Concours

The 24th Amelia Island Concours d’élegance was held March 7-10th at the Amelia Island Golf Club and the Ritz-Carlton in Florida. With a packed program that stretches now on over four days, the Amelia Concours has grown into one the world most anticipated and best organised concours te be found. Auctions, seminars, cars & coffee on Saturday morning up to the concours itself on Sunday, Amelia has become an event not to be missed for the (classic) car enthousiast.

This year’s honoree was Belgian Jacky Ickx, “Monsieur Le Mans” was reunited with 12 extraordinary racecars, spanning the whole of his career from Le Mans over to Can Am, Formula 1 and Paris-Dakar.  More about the cars of Jacky Ickx at the Amelia concours and the 300+ other stunning cars on display on Sunday is to follow in another write up.  But first we take a closer look to both 2019 award winners in the Best of show and Best of show concours de sport class.

At the Amelia Concours, 2 cars receive the best in show award every year: the Best in Show Concours d’Elegance and the Best in Show Concours de Sport award. Two extraordinary cars received the awards on March 10th: the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahnkurier and the 1957 Ferrari 335 S. 

The 540 K “Autobahnkurier”

Mercedes debuted a new car at the 1934 Berlin Car Show: the Typ 500K “Autobahnkurier”.  Only one model existed and the brochures informed the public that the car was designed for incredibly high speeds on the Autobahn. It was built on the outstanding W29 chassis and immediately stood out with its elegant design, long hood, gentle curves and specially designed tail end. It set a new design benchmark with its appearance, even so that Jean Bugatti went back home after his first encounter with the 540K and apparently designed the infamous Atlantic. 

Only six 540K Autobahnkuriers were built, this particular car is the only one believed to survive. Out of these six cars, only two 540K’s have been built to this specification with the 5.4 Liter supercharged engine, which makes it - if possible - even more exclusive. With a top speed of 115 mph, the 540K was one of the fastest cars available at the time, but also one of the most expensive ones.  

This car is the second (and final) one that went into production has originally been bought by Dr. Ignacio Barraquer, a doctor from Barcelona. He undertook journeys with it from Libya to Egypt prior to World War II, and later through Austria and Switzerland. It remained in the family’s possession until 2004 when it was sold to Arturo Keller who had it restored completely.  Since then it has won several concours titles at Pebble Beach, Villa d’Este and now also Amelia Island. The first car has been gifted by Mercedes to the shah of Iran, and was last seen in the 1960s.  Up until now it’s unclear if that car still exists or not.   

The Ferrari 335 S Scaglietti

For the second year in a row, a Ferrari wins the best in show concours de Sport award. The 1957 Ferrari 335S Spider Scaglietti is only one of four built and carries an impressive racing history with it. With its breathtaking race results, continuous history and prestigious provenance, this Ferrari symbolises the myth and masterpiece from the 1950’s motorsport era. 

The Scuderia Ferrari factory car started its life as a 290 MM, was upgraded to a 315 S and later transformed into a 335 S.  The 335 S was the most technologically advanced Ferrari in 1957. With a 60-degree V12 engine with 24 plugs, two valves per cylinder and twin overhead camshafts it produced 360 hp.  In Le Mans trim, the engine was tuned up to 400 hp, and got to top steeds at Le Mans up to 300 km/h. 

This particular car has an impressive racing history and was driven by some of the greatest pilots in its era. Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignant drove it at the 1957 Sebring 12 Hours, Wolfgang von Trips in the Mille Miglia and Mike Hawthorn and Luigi Musso competed at Le Mans later that year.  Hawthorn set the first 200 km/h lap record at Le Mans with this car (203.015 km/h), but couldn’t finish the race due to mechanical problems. Other drivers racing this car were Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill, Olivier Gendebien, Stirling Moss ….

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Saturday 30 March 2019

ELMS: Pre-season news round-up

In just over a weeks time, the European Le Mans Series kick off the 2019 season at Le Castellet in the south of France.  With two testdays on Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th of April and the 4 Hours of Le Castellet in the following weekend, the start of what promises to be another great season is arriving quickly now.

Time for a news round-up with new and returning drivers, a few new teams on the entry lists and some new liveries for the upcoming season. 

Owen completes United Autosports line-ups in LMP2

United Autosports completed their LMP2 and LMP3 driving roster for the European Le Mans Series with the return of Will Owen to the team. Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque will race the #22 Ligier JS P217, with Will Owen, Alex Brundle and Ryan Cullen racing the #32. 2016 ELMS Champions Mike Guasch and Christian England will return to the LMP3 team in the #3 Ligier JS P3, while Tommy Erdos makes a return to racing, alongside Garett Grist and Wayne Boyd in the #2 Ligier JS P3.

© United Autosports

The American racer returns to United Autosports for his third season, racing alongside Alex Brundle and Ryan Cullen in a Ligier JS P217. Will first joined the team in 2017 as they made their LMP2 debut in the European series. After scoring two wins and three podiums Will, along with Hugo de Sadeleer and Filipe Albuquerque, finished second in the championship. Will also made his Le Mans 24 Hours debut the same year, finishing fourth in the LMP2 class. In 2018, Will raced once again for United Autosports in the ELMS and at Le Mans. After a difficult start to their 2018 ELMS campaign, he finished the season on a high with a podium at the final round. He was also part of United Autosports’ 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours podium finishing team, racing alongside Hugo de Sadeleer and former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya.

Will Owen’s 2019 ELMS programme with United Autosports will run alongside his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship duties with Juncos Racing, where he has already raced at the Rolex 24 At Daytona – a race he contested with United Autosports in 2018 – and the Sebring 12 Hours. Due to Will’s IMSA racing commitments, he will be unable to race at the opening ELMS round at Paul Ricard.

Roussel returns to ELMS with Inter Europol Competition

Inter Europol Competition completed their line-up for its debut in LMP2 in the European Le Mans Series and Le Mans.  Jakub Smiechowksi will be joined by Léo Roussel and Dani Clos in the Ligier JSP2.  For Roussel, who won the ELMS championship in 2017, it’s a return to racing in almost a year after being sidelined for 8 months due to the failure of the Manor/Ginetta project in LMP1.  30 year old Spanish driver Dani Clos has raced in Formula Renault to GP2, and was test driver for Williams in 2008 and HRT in 2012

© Inter Europol Competition

Léo Roussel: “I’m very happy to join the team and come back in ELMS after eight months without driving. I had a warm welcome at Barcelona from all of the team and I would like to say thanks to Kuba (Smiechowski) and the whole team for the opportunity they give me. I’m very hungry to start this new adventure.”

Dani Clos: "I'm really happy to be part of this team. Everything went really quick and I'd like to thank the team to make me part of this exciting project. I needed an opportunity like this to show what I can do and they trusted me to include me in their new LMP2 program.”

Sascha Fassbender (team manager): “We are pleased to have Léo with us this year. It’s a pleasure to work with such a professional and generous driver. And his knowledge of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will make a big difference in our understanding of this race.  With Dani, Kuba and Léo, we have put together a strong team, which should be good for a couple of surprises, even if it is our first season in the LMP2. We are looking forward to the kick-off of the season at Paul Ricard.”

The driver line-ups for the LMP3 cars will be announced ahead of the Test days at Paul Ricard in just over a weeks time. 

New season, new livery for IDEC Sport

IDEC Sport presented the new livery for both their Ligier JSP217 and Oreca 07 in the European Le Mans Series. 

A first successful pre-season test at Barcelona saw the team getting up to 1700 kms of testing over 4 days, with all drivers present: Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin and Memo Rojas in the #28 Oreca and Patrice Lafargue, Eric Maris and Stéphane Adler in the #27 Ligier. 

Racing 1700 kilometers on a race track is quite something. The cars and all the parts were put under pressure, including the tyres. “We tried out various types of Michelin tyre and they all perform well. Over the four days we went through more than twenty sets of tyres. That allowed us to train for the pit-stops, even if part of the team was in Sebring (for the WEC). We’ll really test things when in race mode for the prologue,” explained Fred Ducastel before concluding: “The most important thing is that the cars showed that they were reliable. But there was one other thing that was important. The Ligier proved herself to be competitive against the Oreca.”

New driver line-up for JMW Motorsport 

JMW Motorsport brings a seasoned trio of drivers to the European Le Mans Series with Matteo Cressoni (ITA), Wei Lu (CAN) and Jeff Segal (USA), teaming up with Ferrari of Vancouver. All three drivers boast enviable experience with Ferrari and notably the Ferrari 488.

© Bob Ten Kley for Club Arnage

This line up reunites Wei Lu and Jeff Segal who raced the Ferrari 488 GT3 in 2018 in the Pirelli World Challenge Sprint-X Championship, which marked the move into the professional racing scene for Lu after making his mark from 2013, culminating in no less than five victories and seven poles on his way to second in the 2017 Ferrari Challenge. For Segal, whose 15 years of experience include such highlights as winning the 2016 Le Mans 24Hrs LM GTE-AM class, 2016 12Hrs of Sebring GTD and the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona GTD, 2018 further embedded his fervour for being behind the wheel of a Ferrari 488 GT3. Matteo Cressoni has also been under the spell of the Ferrari 488 GT3 having raced the model in a wide range of endurance events and series since 2016 including impressive 2nd places in the 2016 24Hrs of Spa and 2017 12hrs of Sebring.

Jim McWhirter, JMW Motorsport Team Principal:
“We are really looking forward to the 2019 ELMS Championship with a renewed vigour after missing out in 2018. We have a new exciting driver line up who all have Ferrari experience in a variety of competitive championships. Jeff Segal who we worked with at Le Mans 2018 and the Spa test brings a wealth of committed competitive experience to the Team.  Matteo Cressoni who is a well-respected peddler with a strong Ferrari heritage will be a real asset to the Team. Wei Lu who we met at the Spa 2018 test is also really committed to the programme – starting on a new adventure with great ambition and enthusiasm. 

Realteam Racing unveils livery

A new addition to the LMP3 grid of the ELMS is Swiss Realteam Racing. With support from Graff Racing, the team fields a Norma M30 with a Swiss driver line-up by Esteban Garcia and David Droux. 

Luzich Racing Ferrari with Alessandro Pier Guidi

Luzich Racing announced their full-season campaign for the 2019 European Le Mans Series and Michelin Le Mans Cup earlier this week.  The American team, owned by Michael Luzich, will compete in both championships with Ferrari on the hunt for new titles following the Mikkel Mac’s victory in the 2018 International GT Open. FIA WEC champion Alessandro Pier Guidi will lead the team’s Ferrari F488 GTE in the European Le Mans Series, together with Niklas Nielsen (Ferrari Challenge World Champion in 2018) and Fabien Lavergne. 

© Luzich Racing

The team will also have a Ferrari 488 GT3 in the Michelin Le Mans Cup.  Mikkel Mac, race winner in the ELMS with Formula Racing, continues his racing career with Luzich Racing after winning the 2018 GT-Open drivers title.  He will be joined by Fabien Lavergne, who will race in both the ELMS and MLMC this season. 

2 cars and new drivers for 360 Racing

British team 360 Racing will field a two car line-up for the first time in the European Le Mans Series.  The #6 Ligier JSP3 will be driven by team regulars Ross Kaiser and Terrence Woodward, who will be joined by Canadian racer James “Jimbo” Dayson.  Dayson raced with Eurointernational in the series last season. 

The second Ligier will be carrying #5 and is driven by John Corbett, Andreas Laskaratos and professional driver James Winslow.

Racing manager, Mark Owen, said: “I’m super excited about this year’s line-up. It’s great to fill two cars in the ELMS as it’s something we’ve been aspiring to for a while. We have two great driver line-ups and we’re aiming to be at the front end of the grid for 2019.”

Panis Barthez Compétition switches to Dunlop with new livery. 

Led by Olivier Panis, Sarah, and Simon Abadie, Panis-Barthez Competition has signed an agreement with Dunlop with immediate effect. The British manufacturer, the most successful in the 24 Hours of Le Mans history, will supply tyres to the two Ligier JS P217 LMP2 prototypes engaged in ELMS and to the one to be run for the 87th edition of Le Mans.

Olivier Panis - Panis-Barthez Competition Team Principal: "We are delighted to start this new partnership with Dunlop. It’s a new challenge we will undertake together. Their great experience and many successes at the highest level of endurance will motivate and guide our team towards new directions.  We would like to thank Michelin for their dedication to us in the past three seasons. By our joint work we have achieved many great performances. We are very grateful to all of them.

Florent Gouin - Panis-Barthez Competition Head of Engineering: "This alliance with Dunlop will allow us to take another step forward. Synergy between tyres and chassis will be strengthened as the degradation becomes a major challenge regarding new ELMS regulations.

Mathias KIPP - Dunlop Motorsport Manager EMEA: “It’s a real pleasure to have signed a partnership with Panis-Barthez Competition in the LMP2 category in ELMS and le Mans 24H going forward. The team has always demonstrated since their arrival in ELMS in 2016 how fast and professional they are and adding a Ligier chassis back in to our pool for development will be perfect.

Panis-Barthez competition also showed a new livery on the Ligier JSP217 during a private test at Magny Cours last week.  No more red/black colours on both cars, but a more lively look this season with blue, white and red. 

Kristof Vermeulen.

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