Wednesday 22 May 2019

FIA WEC: 2019/2020 season entry list updates

With the final race of the FIA WEC "Super Season" right around the corner, more news and updates about the forthcoming 2019/2020 season is being released in the past days/hours.  Some teams will leave the championship unfortunately others return or will make their debut on the world stage of endurance racing. 

Ginetta files request for 2 cars in LMP1

Ginetta Chairman Lawrence Tomlinson has confirmed that, following an intensive development and testing programme with the Ginetta LMP1 car, the Yorkshire, UK-based company has submitted a request for two entries with the intent to rejoin the FIA World Endurance Championship next season in the premier LMP1 class.

“I’m pleased to confirm that two entry requests have been submitted to the FIA WEC for our Ginetta G60-LT-P1 cars to contest the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship. If the entries are accepted, both cars will be powered by the AER P60B turbocharged V6 engine that we have been testing in recent months in a developed version of the Ginetta. Details of the team, drivers and other parts of the package will be released in due course.”

Ginetta has been testing at Spa-Francorchamps this week, as did Toyota and other teams preparing for Le Mans.  Following the statement made by the team, they have filed an entry request for 2 cars but haven’t found any customer to enter the cars for them so far.  If Ginetta would run the cars under their own flag, they actually would be a factory team and not eligible to run in the non-hybrid class.

Dragonspeed ends LMP1 program, returns to LMP2 on race-by-race basis

Dragonspeed decided to cut down on their sportscar efforts, confirming the ‘retirement’ of their LMP1 program after next months 24 Hours of Le Mans and a reduced LMP2 presence in the World Endurance Championship.

Elton Julian said “The Le Mans 24 Hours next month will be our final LMP1 and regular WEC outing, allowing us to ramp up our IndyCar efforts on both the technical and marketing fronts. We’re not leaving the WEC entirely, as we plan to enter our #21 LMP2 ORECA O7-Gibson in individual rounds, including Spa, Brazil, and Le Mans, with Le Mans, of course, subject to us earning or being granted an invitation. We’re also considering running Daytona and Sebring with IMSA again.”

The team will however stay active in the European Le Mans Series, which for Julian offers the best sportscar racing on the planet: “We’ll definitely continue in the ELMS, which we think offers the best sportscar racing on the planet and remains the ideal series for the top gentleman drivers. With the kind of competition you get from 19 regular LMP2 entries, we take pride in the fact that the last two ELMS victories with a Bronze driver, in 2016 and 2019, have been ours.”

The American team had a successful attempt to qualify for the Indy 500 last weekend, Ben Hanley securing 27th place on the grid for Sundays race.

Signatech Alpine Matmut continues in WEC

Current championship leaders in LMP2 Signatech Alpine Matmut have confirmed their entry in the 2019/2020 FIA World Endurance Championship.  Present in sportscar racing since 2013, the team will announce its driver line-up after the Le Mans 24 Hours next month.

“We are very proud to represent the sports programme of Alpine” said Régis Fricotté, commercial director of the Alpine competition division. “Our engagement in LMP2 gives us a global visibility , with great results since 2013.  The Alpine community supports our approach, and it’s just by going to Le Mans to realize what endurance racing means for Alpine and vice versa”.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to work with a constructor which is active on track and in rally” added Philippe Sinault, manager of Signatech. We are proud to be representing Alpine in the FIA World Endurance Championship, working towards podiums, victories and world titles”.

Racing Team Nederland switches to Oreca next season 

Dutch Racing Team Nederland presented their 2019 Le Mans livery last week, a tribute to the Minardi F1 team which used to be Frits Van Eerd’s favorite team. Giancarlo Minardi, founder of the late F1 team attended the unveiling of the car.  The team also announced that Le Mans will be its last race with the Dallara P217 and Davytec.  As from next season they will switch to an Oreca 07 which will be run by French team TDS Racing.  Frits Van Eerd, Giedo van der Garde and Nyck De Vries will continue to race in the World Endurance Championship. 

Team owner and driver Frits Van Eerd explained why they will change to the Oreca next season: “We’ve been racing with the Dallara since our debut in 2017.  First in the European Le Mans Series, now in the FIA WEC. The Davytec crew has worked day and night for 2 years to improve the Dallara, and I’m very grateful for that as they have done a terrific job: we’ve been at the finish for 14 consecutive races.  The Oreca however has been the dominant car in the LMP2 class, which is why we decided to race an Oreca 07 in the world championship as from next season. This also implies we had to choose for a new technical partner which has experience with the car. With TDS we’ve managed to sign one of the best Oreca teams in the paddock.  But first we will focus fully on the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans where we’ll be out to give it our best and end our cooperation with Davytech in the best possible way. 

“I’ve got a special friendship with Frits Van Eerd” said Giancarlo Minardi “and I’m very honoured the Minardi team has always inspired him. It’s fantastic to see the colours of my Formula 1 cars back on the Racing Team Nederland car.  Frits and I will continue to see how we can intensify the connection with Minardi, and it will be a pleasure for me to keep guiding him - as a kind of godfather - with his raceteam, new talents and new projects”. 

Nyck De Vries added: “This will be my first 24 Hours of Le Mans, so I’m very curious about it. I really like to be able to combine my F2 programme with the races of Racing Team Nederland, of which Le Mans will definitely be a highlight. Continuing to race in 2019/2020 is also fantastic, since we’ve only grown stronger as a team in the past year. 

BMW ends WEC program

BMW announced this morning that they will bid farewell to the WEC at the end of the Super Season.  The upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the final race of the BMW M8 GTE in the championship.

BMW Group Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt talks about the strategy going forward of BMW’s Motorsport division. “Motorsport has always been an important pacesetter for the BMW Group, and a relevant testing ground for future development in the automobile industry as a whole – and that will remain the case.

“We will not compete in WEC going forward. Therefore, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June will be another highlight for us in drawing to a close – just like in 2018, when we celebrated the successful world premiere of the BMW 8 Series Coupe there. But in light of us sharpening our focus as part of our strategy for the future, continuing our WEC involvement in the coming years does not fit with our direction. 

The global presence of BMW M Motorsport is safeguarded by customer racing and the DTM in Asia and Europe, as well as the IMSA series in North America, even without competing in a world championship. We would like to thank BMW Team MTEK for its dedication over recent years and we wish WEC all the best and hope that it makes good progress.”

The Munich based manufacturer will however keep on racing in the IMSA series:  “The IMSA series plays a central role for us in North America and is developing well. The USA is the most important market for BMW M cars, so it is very fitting to build a direct bridge to our production models there with the BMW M8 GTE.” Said Jens Marquardt.

TF Sport to continue their effort WEC in GTE Am

TF Sport confirmed today they have submitted its entry for the forthcoming WEC season which gets underway at Silverstone in September.  The British team intends to enter the championship in the new Aston Martin Vantage GTE, which would be the first in the GTE Am class.

The 2018/19 Super Season is the team’s first in the Championship, having moved through the sportscar ranks with title-winning success in the Michelin Le Mans Cup and then the European Le Mans Series, before stepping up to the World Endurance Championship.

The Super Season has also been a successful one for TF Sport, with podiums in the #90 Aston Martin Vantage GTE at Spa Francorchamps, Silverstone, Fuji and again in Belgium heading to the conclusion of the current championship at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Further details of the programme and the driver line-up will be announced in due course. 

Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director said:  “It has always been our intention to continue in the FIA World Endurance Championship and we have worked hard behind the scenes to ensure that we remain at the highest level of GT racing. We have high hopes that our entry will be accepted and that we can return to Silverstone in the new Aston Martin Vantage GTE.”

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Saturday 11 May 2019

ELMS: First pole for Cool Racing in Monza, Légeret outstanding in LMP3

Nico Lapierre scored Cool Racing’s first pole position in the ELMS this afternoon in a qualifying session that was red flagged with just seconds to go. Lucas Legeret emerged on top of a very exciting LMP3 session, taking pole in his final lap, while Matteo Cairoli was outstanding in the LMGTE Class. 


Nicolas Lapierre gave Cool Racing their first pole position in the European Le Mans Series this afternoon.  The Frenchman’s mid session best time of 1.34.967 was enough to start from the lead in tomorrow’s 4 Hours of Monza.  

Paul Loup Chatin set the first benchmark with his #28 IDEC Sport Oreca in 1.35.214. 6 minutes into the session Lapierre did his quickest lap of 1.34.967, taking over provisional pole in the Cool Racing Oreca.  Chatin wasn’t able to further improve his time, so it was up to Norman Nato in the G-Drive to challenge Lapierre for pole.


With 2,5 minutes left in the session, Norman Nato set a 1.35.213, taking up the second spot on the grid with just 1 thousand of a second.  The Frenchman was “en route” for another flyer - and a possible pole position - when Nicolas Jamin went off at Ascari, straight into the safety barriers.  The session was almost immediately red flagged, denying Nato to finish his second flyer and his chance for a third flying lap. Jamin did get out of his #30 Oreca, but the car seems to be heavily damaged in the front, giving the mechanics perhabs an overnight job to get it race ready tomorrow. 

An all French top 3 then, with the Oreca’s dominating again up to P8 in qualifying with all cars within one second. Filipe Albuquerque was ninth fastest in the #22 United Autosports Ligier (1.35.984), after locking up at the brake zone of the second chicane early in the session. The Portuguese only setting his best time just before the red flag was being waived. Alex Brundle in the second United Autosports Ligier will start next to Albuquerque on the fifth row of the grid. Both Dallara’s follow further down the order with the #45 Carlin in P11 and the #47 Cetilar Racing in P15. 

All cars made it out for qualifying, including the #34 Inter Europol Competition which had a big crash this morning in the Parabolica. 


It was obvious after both practice sessions that the Norma’s would be on top to fight for pole position this afternoon, but no one expected such a tantalizing 10 minutes of qualifying.  All five Norma drivers had claimed provisional pole at a certain time, but in the end it was Lucas Légeret in the #19 M.Racing Norma who took pole position with a gap of 0.207 seconds over Colin Noble in the #7 Nielsen Racing. 

Noble looked set for pole position when Légeret saw his penultimate lap deleted due to track limits.  The Swiss youngster who turned 18 yesterday didn’t seem to care and squeezed out an impressive 1.44.017 out of his Norma in the dying minutes of the session, scoring his second pole position in the series after Portimao last year and an improvement of yesterday’s lap record with almost 0.9 seconds. 

Damiano Fioravanti was third fastest in the #10 Oregon Team Norma (1.44.377), followed by Le Castellet winner Matthieu Lahaye in the #17 Ultimate and David Droux in the #9 Realteam Racing. Wayne Boyd in the #6 United Autosports Ligier was the quickest non-Norma driver in P6. 

2 cars didn’t make it out on track during qualifying: the #11 Eurointernational and the #5 360 Racing Ligiers. 


Matteo Cairoli was unbeatable in the LMGTE class, taking pole position 0.4 seconds clear from the rest of the field in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche with a time of 1.46.351.  “I’m over the moon with pole position on my home track said the Italian who lives nearby in Como.  My first lap wasn’t that good, but I got 2 clear laps after that, enough to take pole position.  We’re ready to finish the job tomorrow” said a very happy Matteo Cairoli straight after qualifying. 

Jörg Bergmeister was the only driver who found a pace within a second from Cairoli, but his best lap of 1.46.773 was still 0.422 seconds off pace. The second row of the grid will be reserved for the Ferrari’s of Spirit of Race (#55, Matt Griffin in 1.47.395) and Kessel Racing (#60, Andrea Piccini in 1.47.468).  The #80 Ebimotors Porsche of Fabio Babini will start from fifth position. 

Free Practice 2

An eventful session this morning with several Full Course Yellows and a long red flag interruption when Leo Roussel in the #34 Inter Europol Ligier went off at Parabolica and hard into the barriers. Roussel got out of the car on his own but was brought to the medical centre and hospital for some precautionary checks.  The session was ended a few minutes before the 90 minute mark when the #11 Eurointernational Ligier got off at Ascari. 


Paul Loup Chatin put the #28 Idec Sport Oreca on top, with a new lap record of 1.35.701, beating Ben Hanley’s record from qualifying last year (1.35.837).  A strong run from Arjun Maini in the #43 RLR Msport put him into second place, 0.114 seconds behind the leading Oreca. The #26 G-Drive Aurus 01 completed the top 3 with Norman Nato quickest in 1.36.035.  The Oreca’s 07 occupied the top 5 this morning, series debutant Renger Van Der Zande on fourth place in the #21 Dragonspeed and Andrea Pizzitola in the #25 Algarve Pro Racing fifth fastest. 

Best of the rest were both Gibson powered Dallara P217’s. Ben Barnicoat (1.36.795) in the #45 Carlin beating Giorgio Sernagiotto in the #47 Cetilar Racing machine with 0.346 seconds. United Autosports had the fastest Ligier with them, Filipe Albuquerque finishing on P11 with the #22 Ligier, 1.6 seconds off the leader’s pace.


2 Norma’s were on top again in LMP3, with this time the #9 Realteam Racing M30 of David Droux on top of the timesheets.  His best time of 1.46.531 was 0.036 seconds faster than the inevitable Damiano Fioravanti in the #10 Oregon Team Norma. The #11 Eurointernational Ligier of Mikkel Jensen was the quickest non-Norma chassis again in 1.46.962. Wayne Boyd in the #2 United Autosports Ligier and Lucas Légeret in the #19 M.Racing Norma rounded out the top 5. 


In LMGTE Matteo Cairoli was the fastest man on track this morning. The Italian was really in the mix with the LMP3 cars, setting a best laptime of 1.47.098 in his #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche.  Another track record on this session, and just over 0.4 seconds faster than last year’s track record set by Ricardo Pera in the Ebimotors Porsche (1.4.493). Cairoli set the 25th overall time, with only 5 LMP3 cars faster than his Porsche. 

Jörg Bergmeister was quick again in the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche, finishing the session in P2, 0.346 seconds behind Cairoli. Alessandro Pier Guidi set the third time this morning in the #51 Luzich Racing Ferrari, followed by Matt Griffin in the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari and Fabio Babini in the #80 Ebimotors Porsche. 

Free Practice 2 results 

The 4 Hours of Monza are set to start tomorrow at noon local time.

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Friday 10 May 2019

ELMS: G-Drive quickest on the first day in Monza

Sunshine this morning in Monza, when the first practice session for the 4 Hour race later this weekend got underway.  A few incidents were to be noted in the first 90 minute session of the weekend, all without major damage. 3 Full course yellows had to be brought out when the Highclass Oreca and Cetilar Dallara stopped out on track, and the 360 Racing Ligier lost a wheel.  The session was red flagged just before the end when the #35 BHK Motorsport and the #26 G-Drive of Job Van Uitert collided and had to be recovered.  Damiano Fioravanti in the #10 Oregon Team Norma set a new track record in the LMP3 class. 


Norman Nato set the pace this morning with the #26 G-Drive Aurus 01 in 1.36.243, an average speed of 216,7 km/h around the 5.793 meter long track in Monza. Nato beat Paul Loup Chatin in the #28 IDEC Sport Oreca with 0.276 seconds.  Nico Lapierre made it an all French and Oreca top three in his #37 Cool Racing Oreca, going round in 1.36.884.  

Quickest of the non Oreca cars was Ben Barnicoat in the #45 Carlin Dallara P217, just under a second slower than the leading Aurus 01 (1.37.156).  No real surprise there as the high speed Monza track suits the Dallara’s very well, as the Norma’s in LMP3.  Barnicoat was followed by 2 more Oreca’s; the #21 Dragonspeed of Renger Van Der Zande and the #30 Duqueine Engineering driven by Nicolas Jamin.  Alex Brundle was the fastest Ligier driver, putting his #32 United Autosports on seventh place in 1.37.173.  

The #47 Cetilar Racing Dallara, which makes its sole appearance in the ELMS the season before moving over to the FIA WEC, finished 14th fastest, it’s quickest lap set by Andrea Belicchi.  Belicchi did the most laps in the session, setting up the car for the rest of the weekend, Roberto Lacorte only managing 3 laps this morning, and Giorgio Sernagiotto not completing one single lap in the Dallara. 

In the aftermath of the collision between BHK and G-Drive, Francesco Dracone saw his laptimes from this morning's session cancelled by the race stewards and got a through penalty which has been suspended until a similar infringement.  


As expected on the high speed Monza track, the Norma’s dominated the morning session, taking up the first 4 spots after 90 minutes of practice. Damiano Fioravanti - who was quickest all weekend at Le Castellet - put his #10 Oregon Team Norma M30 on top again with a time of 1.44.908, a new lap record in the LMP3 class.  Colin Noble followed swiftly in the #7 Nielsen Racing, only 0.080 seconds slower than the Italian.  Rounding out the top thee was Swiss driver Lucas Legeret in the #19 M.Racing, 0.134 seconds behind the leading car.  

David Droux in the #9 Realteam Racing completed Norma’s top 4 sweep, just under half a second slower than Fioravanti. Mikkel Jensen was the best of the Ligier drivers, finishing fifth fastest in the #11 Eurointernational, followed by the #17 Ultimate Norma of Matthieu Lahaye. 


Jörg Bergmeister set the pace in the LMGTE class, with a 1.48.075 in the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche.  Matteo Cressoni in the #66 JMW Ferrari was second quickest (1.48.290), just ahead of Matteo Cairoli in the single Dempsey Proton Porsche which will be on the grid this weekend.  Rounding out the top 5 were Andrea Piccini in the #60 Kessel Racing Ferrari and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 Luzich Racing Ferrari who carries 30kg of succes ballast with him. 


In the bronze driver session this afternoon it was Alexander Coigny in the #37 Cool Racing Oreca who was fastest in 1.38.630.  Henrik Hedman in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca (1.38.836) and John Farano in the #43 RLR Sport (1.39.813) completed the top 3.  Roberto Lacorte in the #47 Cetilar Dallara was the quickest non Oreca in fourth place, Erik Maris in the #27 IDEC Sport the fastest Ligier in 8th position. 

Oregon Team topped the LMP3 time sheets again, now with Lorenzo Bontempelli behind the wheel, with a personal best of 1.46.963. Another Norma was second fastest: the #17 Ultimate of François Heriau (1.48.103), followed by Jens Petersen in the #11 Eurointernational Ligier.  James Dayson (360 Racing) and Anthony Wells (Nielsen Racing) completed the top 5. 

Egidio Perfetti was the fastest bronze driver in GTE, putting his #56 Team Project 1 on top (1.49.119).  Fabien Lavergne followed close in the #51 Luzich Racing Ferrari (+ 0.080 seconds), with the #60 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Sergio Pianezzola behind him. 

On track action for the 4 Hours of Monza will resume tomorrow morning at 09.00h for the second practice session.  Qualifying will be run from 13.40h onwards. 

Free Practice 1 results
Bronze driver test results

Kristof Vermeulen.

ELMS: 42 cars in Monza this weekend for the second race of the season

The European Le Mans Series set up camp in Monza this weekend for the second race of the season.  After an exciting opening race at Paul Ricard, with 4 hours of uninterrupted racing, 42 cars will be on the grid for Sunday’s 4 Hours of Monza. 

Dragonspeed arrives in Monza as championship leaders after winning in France last month, with Renger Van Der Zande making his debut in the series. In LMP3 Ultimate will want to build further on their success from last month while the LMGTE sees the introduction of success ballast for the first time in the championship. It will be interesting to see how this will affect laptimes and race strategy over the weekend.   


19 cars are on the entry list for the LMP2 class, one up from last month at Le Castellet.  Cetilar Racing Villorba Corse joins the LMP2 class for a one-off race in the series this season before heading to Le Mans and the FIA WEC next season. The now blue and green Dallara will be driven by the team’s regular drivers Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Andrea Belicchi.  

Harry Tincknell returns to the series this weekend taking up his seat in the #45 Carlin Dallara after missing out the first race last month due to a clash with the IMSA race at Long Beach. Tincknell will race the remainder of the season with the British team.  Another new face in the LMP2 paddock is Will Owen in the #32 United Autosports Ligier.  Owen also missed Le Castellet due to the IMSA race and will now join Alex Brundle and Ryan Cullen for the rest of the season. 

No Ben Hanley at Dragonspeed this weekend.  The winner of last months race will be replaced by Dutchman Renger Van Der Zande, who will make his debut in the European Le Mans Series.  Henrik Hedman and James Allen will join him in the #21 Oreca. 

Unfortunately Mark Patterson won’t be able to race in the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca.  Patterson had a big accident during testing on Thursday at the first chicane in Monza. Breaking away at the rear, his Oreca spun across the track into the second Algarve Pro car of Tacksung Kim. A huge impact, writing off Patterson’s chassis and causing some heavy damage to the #31 car.  Both cars will run at the 4 hours though, the team getting an ex Graff chassis and having repaired the #31. Patterson is reported to suffer from a broken pelvis and will also miss Le Mans next month, Kim lucky got away from the incident with some bruises.  


The LMP3 grid for Monza remains unchanged, with just one driver change compared to last months race in the south of France. 

Inter Europol Competition added Belgian driver Sam Dejonghe to the crew of the #14 Ligier JSP3.  Dejonghe, who is currently development driver for Mahindra Racing in the Formula E championship and races in the Belcar championship, will share the #14 with Paul Scheuschner for the rest ion the season. Dejonghe said to be happy to be back in the paddock, and to do so with a team like Inter Europol Competition. “I love my role with the Mahindra team, where I spend most of my time doing development and in the simulator, but am aware that I need to race to keep my competitive edge, and the ELMS feels like the perfect environment for my ambition to climb up the prototype ladder. The LMP3 is a very good-looking car, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!”


According to the new regulations for the 2019 season, the LMGTE class will see the addition of succes ballast for the first time this season. The amount of ballast is based on the result of the previous race and championship standings and will be calculated in three stages: 

  • Table A is the result from the previous race, with 15kg for the winning car, 10kg for second place and 5kg for third.
  • Table B is the result from the race preceding the previous event with the same ballast of 15kg, 10kg and 5kg.
  • Table C is the current championship positions, with 15kg for the championship leaders, 10kg for the second placed car in the championship and 5kg for third.
For the Monza race, the success ballast is calculated by adding the three tables together. The no51 Luzich Racing Ferrari, which won the 4 Hours of Le Castellet, will receive 30kg of success ballast for the 4 Hours of Monza (15kg for winning the race (Table A) and 15kg for leading the championship).  As there was no event prior to Le Castellet then the ballast for Table B is 0kg. The no83 Kessel Racing Ferrari will have 20kg of ballast for the 4 Hours of Monza (10kg + 10kg) and the no77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche will have 10kg (5kg + 5kg) for this weekend.

The #88 Proton Porsche won’t be in action this weekend in Monza.  Although present at the track, only Thomas Preining has been listed as driver. Apparently the other two seats couldn’t be filled for this race. The car has also been rebadged, not longer featuring the Felbermayr livery from Paul Ricard last month. 

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Saturday 4 May 2019

FIA WEC: 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps Qualifying report

A dry session with some sunshine turned to rain by the time the Le Mans Prototypes drew close to the end of their session.  As has become the norm it was Toyota leading the way in the top category the #7 of Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway, the former setting a 1:53.812 which Conway proceeded to beat with a Spa WEC qualifying record of 1:53.683. The #8 Toyota almost half a second adrift on a combined average (1:54.243) secured the front row.   

“Nice lap, Kamui was quick in FP3 and again in Qualifying so the pressure was on, it was all looking good and the car was pretty hooked up so I was happy to cross the line a little bit quicker.” Conway said. “A good gap to the sister car. All credit to the guys on car#7 all weekend. Tomorrow is going to with conditions so its good to start in the right position. “

Toyota confirmed to SCG that the two cars/6 drivers are free to race each other as long as there is no contact with each other. Given the changeable conditions forecast for tomorrow we could well see some drama.

Third on the grid goes to the #17 SMP Racing BR / AER, boosted by its turbos and without restriction they were closer to Toyota pace but still half a second down (1:54.711) on the second place car.  Fourth is the normally aspirated Gibson Tech powered Rebellion #3 a further nine-tenths behind the SMP #17.  So despite the numbers in LMP1 there is still the prospect  of some good inter-team battles going on. 

#4 ByKolles effectively brought an early end to the session with a roll to a stop on pit straight, with the session Red Flagged with 5mins remaining.  The session did re-start, but as track conditions had deteriorated only the #50 Larbre Competition Ligier of Nick Boulle ventured out to no effect.


The non-championship entry of G-Drive Racing #26 took the category pole with the Aurus 01 version of the Oreca 07. Jean-Eric Vergne clocked a lap within 3-thousands of a sec of breaking the 2-minute  barrier and Job Van Uitert (2:01.346) combined to set the average, a 2:00.674, breaking the previous LMP2 lap record.

“The car was absolutely amazing out there today. I felt that it was one of the best laps I ever drove in my life,” claimed Vergne. “Breaking the 2-minute barrier would have been nice, but it was more the gap we pulled on the other guys thanks to the lap that Job, all in all a very good qualifying.”

Without the non-championship interloper, we would have had a  Jackie Chan DC Racing category front row, with the might of #38 conquering its sister car the Fortune Cat #37. They were respectively six and nine-tenths behind the average of #26.  Speaking with Sam Hignett (Team Principal at JCDC Racing) he was content that they as championship would still get the pole point and suggested that the wet FP2 had indicated good pace for teams like them running the Dunlop wet weather tyres (#26, 28, 37 & 38). We ran it past our colleagues @theBPillar, and nothing indicative on pure pace, but perhaps we are looking at wear and sustainability over an extended wet duration.. Time (and race conditions) will likely tell us more.. 

Lets just hope they don’t need snow chains! 

A brief note of commendation to the squad in the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07.  Following the loss of sponsorship for their Malaysian predecessors, David Heinemeier-Hansson, Jordan King and Will Stevens have shown themselves to be a strong and competitive trio from the get-go. Lets hope they stay out of trouble and achieve further success this weekend.

GTE-Pro – Priaulx and Tincknell Fly!

The #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK team took pole in GTE Pro as Andy Priaulx and Harry Ticknell set a combined time of 2:12.885 record GTE-PRO pace once more, but it was Andy Priaulx who demonstrated that hooking up a lap was very much a trick for the old dog and not just the young pups like ‘H’!  The #97 Aston Martin Racing AMR crew of Maxime Martin and Alexander Lynn looked to be on for pole but were beaten out by a mere 0.067sec around the 7-kilometre Spa countryside.

Talking about his lap of 2:12.797 Andy Priaulx said “When you get to my age you can’t remember what happened yesterday! It was a nice special experience, Harry nailed a fantastic 12.9, I got back in the car, I knew I had to be on my A game to try and better that, it just came together really well… Those moments when you find that sweet spot in your driving and you give everything and it works, I’m just enjoying every moment, I look in the mirror and ask myself when am I going to stop racing and moments like that, I just want to carry on. Its still in me and I’m really enjoying it.”  

The BoP calculator is clearly at the top of its game around Spa as it is the #82 Team BMW MTEK BMW M8 GTE of da Costa/Farfus in third just 0.092 from pole themselves. As mentioned in our GTE Free Practice Report, it is good to see the men from Munich getting some pace under their belt, and it will hopefully bode well for a fascinating and variety packed race on Saturday.

Porsche and Ferrari seem to have gone off the boil, though wet weather conditions could certainly make the RSRs a strong proposition on raceday. Of course the cynic in the paddock may see this as gamesmanship a month prior to the double-points season finale, but we could never suggest that was a motivation to hold back flat out pace at this time, oh no never…  Both were some 1.2 seconds off the pole time, enough said. Lets see what the race brings.


The sole casualty of the session was a lurid spin at Raidillon for the #70 MR Racing Ferrari 488 GTE. Ishikawa-san was exceptionally lucky to not do considerably more damage than he did, all of which is understood to be repairable. Indeed he recovered the car under its own power to the pit garage where we suspect a man with a coal shovel and bucket was required to empty the cockpit! The car took no further part in the session.

Pole for the very first time went to TF Sport #90 Aston Martin Vantage with a last lap effort from Salih Yoluc pipping the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR. Yoluc and team-mate Charlie Eastwood set an average time 2:16.061 just 0.110 ahead of Cairoli/Roda in the RSR. 

“It was really amazing, its the first time I have been able to do a qualifying in WEC, so to go out and get pole was great,” said Eastwood. “In terms of the lap again it was one of the best I have done in the GTE car… We have been very close to it a lot of times this year, and Salih at the end to go quickest -AM driver to give us pole overall.” 

Third in category was #56 Project 1 Porsche RSR with a time of 2:16.390. The remainder were all in the 2:17 with the exclusion of the #86 Gulf Racing RSR (2:19.225) and the aforementioned #70 MR Racing Ferrari which failed to set a time.

Thursday 2 May 2019

FIA WEC: Rain and sunshine on day 1 at Spa-Francorchamps

Spa-Francorchamps showed a few of its many faces yesterday during both 90 minute practice sessions for the 6 Hour race on Saturday. While the first practice session around noon managed to stay dry and was run in rather sunny and enjoyable conditions, the afternoon session was just the opposite. 

Rain started to come down just before the start of the session, and never really stopped falling down.  Conditions improved a little bit just over mid session, only to get worse again by the end of the session when the rain was really pouring down. SMP Racing dominated the dry morning session, but when the rain started to fall down in the afternoon it was business as usual with both Toyota’s on top of the timesheets.
The tricky conditions in the afternoon brought out a few red flags, SMP Racing the most unlucky team when Stephane Sarrazin lost control of his BR1 in Blanchimont and went hard into the barriers.  The car was brought back to the pits with what looked like some expensive damage both at the front and the back.

Sergey Sirotkin was the fastest in the dry and sunny midday session yesterday, setting the pace in the #17 SMP Racing BR1 with a best time of 1.56.264.  Sirotkin was just under 2 seconds faster than sportscar debutant and home driver Stoffel Vandoorne who had a quickest laptime of 1.58.236, putting both SMP Racing cars on top of the timesheets for the first time.  Both Toyota’s followed about half a second behind the SMP’s, with Sebastien Buemi in the #8 TS050 slightly quicker than Mike Conway in the #8.
Gustavo Menezes was the fastest Rebellion driver in 1.59.106.  The Bykolles Enso CLMP1/01 ran for the first time with its new Gibson engine, but was 7 seconds off the pace, with only Oliver Webb and Tom Dillman running in the first session of the day.
© Erik Junius -

It’s the first time the non hybrid LMP’s are allowed to race without any fuel restrictions per lap, and Sirotkin managed a lap time which was only 0.1 seconds slower than Toyota’s fastest time in last year’s free practice sessions. Qualifying times dropped significantly last year, but the SMP pace of yesterday morning gives a nice idea about the raw speed that is inside those privateer prototypes. 

Nico Lapierre was once again the fastest man in the LMP2 class, leading the way in his #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut in 2.03.441.  Jean Eric Vergne followed close in the #26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01, 0.236 seconds behind Lapierre. Giedo van der Garde was quick in the Racing Team Nederland Dallara, setting the third fastest time, 0.9 seconds off the Alpine’s pace.  Pastor Maldonado in the #31 Dragonspeed Oreca and Gabriel Aubry in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca completed the top five.

GTE Pro couldn’t be any closer between the two leading cars. Maxime Martin in the #97 Aston Martin and Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT setting exactly the same time of 2.15.290; not even a thousand of a second difference between both cars. Antonio Felix Da Costa was thid quickest in the #82 BMW M8 at 0.116 seconds. The 66 Ford GT of Olivier Pla and Nicki Thiim in the first Aston Martin both followed within a second of the leading Aston and Ford. Both Ferrari’s were at the back of the LMGTE Pro pack yesterday morning, although only 1.2 and 1.4 seconds slower than both leaders.

GTE Am was a close one too, with the first six cars within 0.9 seconds from each other.  Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche lead the dance in 2.17.068, just 0.070 seconds ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella in the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari. Matt Campbell in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche, Charlie Eastwood in the TF Sport Aston Martin and Jörg Bergmeister in the Project 1 Porsche (please bring your ELMS livery to the WEC), rounded out the top 5 in class. 

Fernando Alonso was outright fastest in the afternoon session; his best time of 2.19.483 was over 1.3 seconds quicker than Mike Conway in the second Toyota TS050 Hybrid. Vitaly Petrov in the #11 SMP Racing BR1 set the third quickest time (2.21.429), followed by Neil Jani in the #1 Rebellion R13.

In LMP2 Pastor Maldonado set a dominant pace of 2.27.682 in the #31 Dragonspeed Oreca.  The former F1 driver was 1.6 seconds faster than Matthieu Vaxiviere in the #28 TDS Racing Oreca and 1.7 seconds than Gabriel Aubry in the #38 Jackie Chan. Nicolas Boulle spun in the #50 Larbre Competition at La Source mid-session, without any damage to the car. 

The Aston Martins stayed quick in the Ardennes, Marco Sorensen now quickest in the #95 AMR Vantage in 2.32.648, just 0.025 seconds ahead of Gimmi Bruni in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR. Alexander Lynn put the second Aston Martin on third place, followed by Sam Bird in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari.

Porsche stayed on top in the GTE Am class, this time with the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing 911 of Matt Campbell who put himself right inbetween the Pro drivers with a laptime of 2.34.093. Oliver Beretta in the #70 MR Racing Ferrari and Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche completed the top 3 for the afternoon session.