Friday 30 August 2019

FIA WEC 2019/2020: LMP1 season preview

Season 8 of the FIA World Endurance Championship kicks off this weekend with the 4 Hours of Silverstone.  This will be the final season for the (non) Hybrid LMP1 cars as we know them, before the arrival of the Hypercars in the 2020/2021 season.  

One of the major changes this season is the variation in length of the races.  Silverstone and Shanghai are now down to 4 hour races, while returnees Bahrain and Interlagos will be an 8 hour race into the dark and a classic 6 hour race. Bahrain wasn’t featured on teh Super season schedule, while Interlagos makes its return for the first time since 2016 after renovation works to the track.  This year’s Silverstone race is the first of the WEC’s modern era to be held over four hours, during which the leading cars can expect to complete close to 800km on the 5.901km circuit. They will be fighting to earn the Royal Automobile Club International Tourist Trophy, first awarded in 1905 and won by motorsport legends such as Tazio Nuvolaro, Stirling Moss and Graham Hill. 

LMP1 preview

Toyota arrives as favourite again, being the only Hybrid powered cars in the championship. They might face a bigger challenge though from the non-hybrid rivals Rebellion and Ginetta (Team LNT), boosted by revised regulations which enhance their performance. At Silverstone, the Toyota’s will be 94 kg heavier than the non-turbo Rebellion and 85 kg heavier than the turbo-charged Ginetta. Meanwhile, the Rebellion is permitted 61% more fuel per stint than the TS050 HYBRID, with the Ginetta’s turbo engine allowed 50% more.   

Rebellion returns with two strong driver line-ups despite losing Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer who both will focus on their Formula E season with Porsche.  Whether both cars will race in all 8 races is still to be seen though with just the #1 car really confirmed for a full season effort and the #3 likely to be entered on a race by race basis. 

Ginetta completes the grid with both of their AER powered G60-LT-P1’s which seemed to make a good impression at Barcelona after a difficult start in the first sessions of the prologue. 

The question that no one seems to ask (or is willing to ask) is whether Team LNT/Ginetta should be recognised as a factory team, and as such would have to run a hybrid system in their cars.  Given that both Ginetta and LNT are from the same stable you might say there’s an obvious link between them.  When the entries for the WEC were filed, the assumption was to find a team/client that would run the car under their own name, apparently that search turned out to nothing. Mike Simpson and Charlie Robertson are consistently being announced as factory drivers too, which might get you thinking again.  The ACO doesn’t really seem to bother however.  Not that they have much choice at the moment or the LMP1 class would have been down to 3 or 4 cars. 

Losing out SMP Racing just weeks ahead of the prologue in Barcelona, was and still remains a big hit for the championship and the LMP1 class in particular. If one team was ready to challenge Toyota this season - if the new regulations and EOT do favour the non-hybrid cars as the organisers want us to believe - it would have certainly been the Russians.  Their AER powered BR1 had seen some very impressive development over the past season and with 2 strong driver line-ups, they seemed ready to take on the challenge in LMP1.

“For us it was a difficult season,” Boris Rotenberg, founder and leader of SMP Racing, said. “We worked a lot on our BR1 prototype. As a result, we were able to show and prove to everyone that the Russian team, Russian drivers and the Russian car are capable of achieving the highest results in the most difficult world championships and in such a prestigious race as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is a well-deserved success of everyone who participated in this ambitious project - drivers, SMP Racing and ART GP, BR Engineering and Dallara. Our goal has always been only a victory, and we believe that we achieved this victory with the highest possible result in the given circumstances. After the final race at Le Mans we decided that SMP Racing will leave the FIA WEC. Our team will not race in 2019-2020 season”.

As expected, ByKolles is taking a sabattical from LP1 this season, switching their focus on a possible Hypercar program next season.  It might still be possible however to see them on a race by race basis, Spa and Le Mans being the most obvious. 

Rebellion Racing

Initially announced as a 2 car effort, then down to a single car, but after long negotiations, Rebellion is back with two cars in Silverstone. 

#1 Rebellion R13/Gibson

The #1 car is the only full season confirmed R13 and will see the return of Bruno Senna and Gustavo Menezes to the R13.  They will be joined by Frenchman Norman Nato.  Nato will make his debut in the LMP1 class after a succesful test at the Prologue and some impressive outings in LMP2 in the past 2 seasons.  He impressed in his debut year with Racing Engineering in the ELMS, successfully subbed for Vergne with G-drive and drove Le Mans with RLR Msport in June.  

On paper this should be the “best of the rest” in the LMP1 class, possibly the one car who might be able to get close to the Toyota’s (EOT permitting that is). 

#3 Rebellion R13/Gibson

The #3 is some kind of a last-minute addition to the LMP1 grid as it had been retracted first and then reappeared “at the end of many negotiations”.  Despite being a last-minute addition, Rebellion managed to build another strong line-up for their second car with Nathanaël Berthon, Pipo Derani and Loïc Duval. 

Derani has been fast in almost anything he’s been driving in endurance racing, as well in GTE as in LMP.  He won Sebring three times in the past 4 years and Daytona in 2016.  Loïc Duval doesn’t need much introduction either.  The Audi factory driver won Le Mans and the FIA WEC championship in 2013. Duval did a few races with TDS last season including Le Mans and currently races in DTM.  Nathanaël Berthon is no stranger to Rebellion Racing, having raced with them a few times in the WEC and at Le Mans. 

At this point it’s still unclear if we’ll see this car for the whole season or at select rounds.  The team keeps on working to have two cars on the grid of every round in the WEC although priority will be given to Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans.  

Team LNT/Ginetta

Ginetta makes its “return” to the LMP1 class after the Manor debacle at the start of the superseason last year which ended at Le Mans 2018.  Since then, the British team broke its contract with Mecachrome and now uses the AER engines which have also been used by SMP Racing last season.  A change for the better as it seems, given the laptimes and top speeds both Ginetta’s set at last months prologue in Barcelona.  We’ll have to see how viable Ginetta’s two car entry will be over the season. Apart from Charlie Robertson and Mike Simpson, all other drivers have only been confirmed for the race in Silverstone.  

Team LNT has set up a unique partnership with some of the biggest online fan communities, featuring their logo’s on the back of the cars. The team will offer the chance for a number of race-going fans to win ‘Orange Ticket’ access, entirely free of charge at every one of the races for the season.  They’ll be welcomed by Team LNT for a guided tour of the garage and car, with goody bags, and even the chance of a mug of Yorkshire tea whilst they watch the team going through their paces.  The WEC subreddit (r/WEC), Sportscarworldwide group and the FIA World Endurance Championship fans page on facebook are Ginetta’s “partners” this season.  

#5 Ginetta G60-LT-P1/AER

The #5 crew is being lead by Charlie Robertson, who won the inaugural LMP3 championship with LNT/Ginetta in 2015, at the side of Sir Chris Hoy.  Robertson has a long history with Ginetta, from his days as a junior driver, and was heavily involved in the development of the G60.  In Silverstone he will be joined by Russian driver Egor Orudhzev and Ben Hanley. 

Orudhzev raced with SMP Racing in the LMP1 class last season with the AER powered BR1 chassis.  He has the most experience with the engine of all drivers and played a key role in the development last season.  SMP and AER made impressive progress over the season, being the quickest non hybrid team around by Spa and Le Mans.  Ben Hanley arrives with the back-up of Dragonspeed, also having raced in a BR1 prototype last season with the Gibson engine. Their season didn’t go as well as planned though, with the big crash of Fittipaldi at the Raidillon and technical gremlins over the rest of the season.  Both Orudhzev and Hanley are fast though, it will be interesting to see how they match up to the experienced Rebellion crews. 

#6 Ginetta G60-LT-P1/AER

Ginetta’s second factory driver Michael Simpson leads the line-up of the second G60-LT-P1.  He will be joined by Chris Dyson and Guy Smith.  Dyson is linked to the Ginetta effort through their engine supplier and is one of the most experienced racers on the grid. The two time ALMS champion makes his comeback to prototype racing for the first time since 2014.  He is currently also racing in the American Trans Am Championship.

Dyson won’t be able to race in the season opener in Silverstone this weekend, due to a wrist injury he suffered at the Trans Am race at Road America last weekend.  With Jarvis as a replacement driver, the team gets a lot of LMP1 experience from the former Audi factory driver who now races with Team Joest in the IMSA championship. 

Guy Smith “retired” from racing last season after the first two races with Bentley in the Blancpain GT Endurance series.  He tested the Ginetta in Barcelona last month, the first time he drove a P1 again since 2013 in the American Le Mans Series. Smith won Le Mans in 2003 and the ALMS championship together with Dyson back in 2011. Being given the opportunity to race with Dyson again in the final season of the current LMP1 machinery was an opportunity too good to be missed for the 44 year old. 

Toyota Gazoo Racing

It’s year 1 after the Alonso era for the Japanese manufacturer who remains the only team with a Hybrid car in the FIA WEC. They won all races bar Silverstone last season, where failing the post-race technical checks due to floor damage after hitting the kerbs saw both cars excluded, handing over victory to Rebellion Racing.  Will it be a different story this year ? Probably not.  Despite all EOT adjustment and promises 

The final version of the TS050 Hybrid has seen some serious development over the short summer break, especially at the front of the car with a completely redesigned nose section and mirrors that are now fully incorporated in the chassis.  The 2019-2020 car has changed little mechanically and uses the same monocoque design introduced in 2016. The new high downforce configuration was shown for the first time at the prologue. 

#7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid

Home favourite Mike Conway leads the #7 TS050 HYBRID line-up alongside Kamui Kobayashi and José María López. Silverstone was the only race which TOYOTA GAZOO Racing did not win last season; following a one-two victory both cars were excluded after failing post-race technical checks due to floor damage after hitting kerbs. That disappointment means the team is even more determined to earn another victory at the historic English circuit, where it won six-hour races in 2014 and 2017.

“Silverstone is a special place for me, not only as my home race but because the track itself is really cool, with fast and flowing corners. When you put together a fast lap there, it is very rewarding because it is so quick. It’s a really fun track, although traffic can be difficult there and you have to get your timing right. There’s always a big crowd and I have family and friends supporting me, so I would love to finally win my home race; I’ve been close a few times but I hope this is the year.” Said Mike Conway.

#8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid

World Champions Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima are joined by Brendon Hartley, who will make his Toyota Gazoo Racing debut at Silverstone this weekend.  Hartley made himself familiar with the car in Barcelona, stating that it’s a surprisingly different car from his previous cars in the WEC. “There’s always a lot to learn with a new car but I’m happy with the progress and I feel up to speed. It was helpful to adjust to driving with traffic again and it also felt good to work together with my new team; the engineers, the mechanics and the other drivers have all been very welcoming.

FIA WEC 2019/2020: LMP2 season preview

The LMP2 class will have 8 cars on the grid this season:  7 Oreca’s and one single Dallara for newcomers Cetilar Racing.  The late change to Oreca by United Autosports makes it almost a single make cup for season 8.   2 teams don’t return to the championship, Dragonspeed and Larbre Competition while Jackie Chan DC Racing will only race one car this time.   TDS Racing now runs the Racing Team Nederland Oreca while the Dragonspeed run Oreca now races under the Jota flag.  4 teams move up from the European Le Mans Series to the World Championship: United Autosports, High Class Racing, Cool Racing and Cetilar Racing.   

There’s a lot of familiar names and faces in the class, which should give us some good racing over the season. Signatech Alpine is here to defend its title, but won’t face an easy task.  United Autosports and JOTA are expected to be their main contenders for the championship, but race by race it will be an open battle for all three podium spots.  The only real question mark is how far the Cetilar Dallara will be able to keep up with the pace of the Oreca’s. 

#22 United Autosports - Oreca 07/Gibson

A bit of a surprise at the time, United Autosports decided to bin the Ligier LMP2 and make a last-minute switch to the Oreca 07 chassis for their maiden season in the World Endurance Championship. The team acquired three chassis’ from USA based PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports.  After an almost faultless Le Mans 24 Hours, the team didn’t manage to do better than fourth position in the LMP2 class. Moving over to the Oreca chassis should enable them to fight for the win in the upcoming WEC season. 

A switch with consequences, as Ligier promptly announced the end of their collaboration with United Autosports as distributors for the English market. The team remains with their Ligiers in the ELMS this season and has already committed to run several Ligier LMP3’s in next year’s ELMS and Michelin Le Mans Cup. 

The #22 will have a strong driver line-up with Filipe Albuquerque, Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta. Oliver Jarvis will replace Paul Di Resta for the second race in Japan, who has a date clash with the DTM championship. 

# 29 Racing Team Nederland - Oreca 07/Gibson

The Dutch are back for their second season in the FIA WEC and have a clear ambition to fight for the podium.  Despite a perfect run with Dallara I which they finished every race in their ELMS and WEC campaigns, the decision was made to end the collaboration with the Italian manufacturer and Davytech who ran the car since 2017.  Frits Van Eerd & co decided to switch to a brand new Oreca 07 chassis which now will be run by TDS Racing. The team also changes to Michelin tyres, after testing both the Michelin and new Goodyear compounds during the Prologue in Barcelona last month.

Frits Van Eerd will once again be joined by Giedo Van der Garde and Nyck De Vries.  Due to 2 date clashes with the F2 championship, De Vries won’t be able to race in Silverstone and Shanghai.  He will be replaced by silver rated Job Van Uitert who is making a blitz career in protoype racing since his debut in 2018.  

During the Prologue, Nick De Vries was the fastest driver in the LMP2 class.  With 2 fast & experienced pro drivers and Van Eerd who seems to be well at home in the Oreca 07, Racing Team Nederland might will be one of the teams to watch in the upcoming season. 

# 33 High Class Racing - Oreca 07/Gibson

Danish team High Class Racing has been racing in the European Le Mans Series since 2017 and made its debut in this years’ 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing 11th in the LMP2 class.  The team owned by Anders Fjordbach also went from a Dallara P217 to an Oreca 07 at the start of the 2019 ELMS.   

Anders Fjordbach will be joined by 67 year old Mark Patterson who has recovered from his crash at Monza earlier this year at the ELMS test day.  The third driver for the Danish squad is Kenta Yamashita. This 24 year-old Japanese driver is part of Toyota’s Young Driver Programme and will make his debut in prototype racing at Silverstone. Yamashita has won the Japanese Formula 3 title in 2016 and is currently leading the Super GT championship.  Toyota will follow his progress from close by, so expect this youngster to be one of the candidates for a seat in the upcoming Hypercar next season. 

#36 Signatech Alpine Elf - Alpine A470/Gibson

Last seasons’ champions Signatech Alpine return to the WEC, with the rebadged Alpine A470 but a slightly different driver line-up.  There will be 2 new faces in the team’s garage since Nicolas Lapierre moved over to Cool Racing and Pierre Thiriet decided to focus on his professional commitments.  This leaves Andre Negrao as the only driver at the team that won last seasons title and the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018 and 2019. 

Negrao is in for his third season with the team and will be joined by Thomas Laurent and Pierre Ragues.  Thomas Laurent, who is also reserve driver for Toyota, went from LMP3 to LMP1 in 3 years time and race with the Rebellion R13 last season. It’s a bit of a return for the young Frenchman who did his first rookie test with Signatech in 2016.  Pierre Ragues is no stranger to the team as he was one of their drivers who won the 2013 ELMS title in LMP2. Since then he raced with the Alpine for a part of the 2017 season, finishing on the podium at Le Mans. Ragues is currently also active in the ELMS with Duqueine engineering and is one of the drivers on double duty in Silverstone. 

Replacing Lapierre, who has been widely recognised as one of the best LMP2 drivers around, won’t be easy for Signatech Alpine.  But the experience of Ragues and the speed of Laurent should make them once again one of the top runners for the championship. 

#37 Jackie Chan DC Racing - Oreca 07/Gibson

Jackie Chan DC Racing’s effort is down to one car this season, which was expected after the Malaysian backing of the second car fell short at the start of this year.  With a win at Sebring (#38) and second place at Le Mans (#37), the team did end the super season on a high. 

Ho Pin Tung and Gabriel Aubry return at the wheel of the #37 Oreca and will be joined by Will Stevens this season.  Stevens is no stranger to the team as he raced with them at the 1000 miles of Sebring.  The former F1 driver made a successful switch to endurance racing with 2 Le Mans podiums (including a win in GTE Am), full season drives with Panis-Barthez Competition in the ELMS and winning Sebring in LMP2. 

#38 JOTA - Oreca 07/Gibson

For the first time since 2015, JOTA will racing again under its own banner in an endurance championship.  With the Jackie Chan effort down to one car and Dragonspeed suspending its WEC efforts, Roberto Gonzalez turned to JOTA to run his Oreca 07 in the 2019/2020 season. The car will run on Goodyear rubber and feature a new blue/yellow inspired Goodyear livery.

Initially last season’s driver line-up would have been retained, and was on the initial entry list for season 8.  Until Pastor Maldonado announced last week that he won’t participate in the season due to “not reaching a balance agreement between the parties”.  Exit Maldonado, enter Antonio Felix Da Costa.  Da Costa is no stranger to the team as he raced with JOTA at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2018.  The BMW factory driver who raced with Team MTek last season is also active in the Formula E championship, so it’s still to be seen whether he will be able to do a full season campaign with JOTA.   

The other two drivers remain the same a last season in the Dragonspeed run car. Roberto Gonzalez, one of the most consistent and fastest silver rated gentleman drivers and Anthony Davidson who joined the team last year after Le Mans after 6 years as a factory driver at Toyota. They won the 6 Hour race at Spa “Winter Wonderland” earlier this year, and with the addition of Felix Da Costa, this trio should be able to fight for podiums again. 

#42 Cool Racing - Oreca 07/Gibson

Swiss team Cool Racing is growing quickly, from several seasons in the LMP3 class of the European Le Mans Series to their debut in LMP2 at Paul Ricard in April and now straight into the FIA WEC. After scoring their first podium in Barcelona, the team now looks forward to their debut in the World Championship. 

Probably the biggest news about the team was adding Nicolas Lapierre to their driver line-up.  Lapierre, an ex Toyota factory driver, has been regarded as one of the - if not the - fastest drivers in the LMP2 class.  His experience with the Oreca and in the championship will be a serious asset for the team.  Joining Lapierre are team owner Antonin Borga and Alexandre Coigny who have been racing together since LMP3 in the ELMS.  The team will have a busy weekend in Silverstone, racing in both the ELMS as the WEC.  

#47 Cetilar Racing - Dallara P217/Gibson

The single non-Oreca chassis this season will be entered by Italian team Cetilar Racing.  Another team that has its roots in the LMP3 class of the European Le Mans Series. After two seasons in the top class of the ELMS and 2 consecutive Le Mans appearances, Roberto Lacorte & co now leap into the WEC. 

Cetilar stays loyal to the Dallara chassis in an all Italian entry, but has now joined forces with AF Corse to run their car instead of Villorba Corse who had been running their ELMS entries for the 4 past seasons.  Roberto Lacorte will be joined again by Giorgio Sernagiotto and Andrea Belicchi.  Belicchi is the most experienced driver of the team with 8 Le Mans starts under his belt. It will be interesting to see how they will cope with the sole Dallara agains the Oreca armada.    

FIA WEC 2019/2020: LMGTE Pro season preview

The GTE Pro class lost 2 manufacturers and is down to six cars for season 8 of the World Endurance Championship.  With Ford ending its program as predicted, and BMW pulling out of the championship after just 1 (and a half) season, this leaves Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin with 2 cars each on the grid. 

It should be another interesting season though, with the “new” Aston now in his second season after a promising first one with two wins and pole position at Le Mans (although the BoP prevented them from being competitive during the race). Porsche arrives with an almost completely (95%) 911 RSR and will be eager to defend their Super Season title.  Ferrari returns with the 488 EVO which will also have some improvements to stand up against the 2 other manufacturers. 

AF Corse
#51 & #71 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO

Ferrari is back with 2 488 EVO’s but with a slightly changed driver line-up where Miguel Molina replaces Sam Bird.  There have been no significant announcements made about any changes to the car, but the 488 showed its strength and reliability last season, winning the race in Silverstone and Le Mans. 

Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado return to the #51 Ferrari, after winning the driver’s and team title in 2017 and this years’ 24 Hours of Le Mans together with Daniel Serra.  Davide Rigon will be joined by Miguel Molina in the #71, the Spanish driver taking over Sam Bird’s seat in the championship.  Molina has been racing with Ferrari since 2017 and has been active in the WEC as the third driver at Le Mans and the ELMS where he raced with the JMW Ferrari last season.  The uncertainty about the Formula E calendar, which clashes a few times with the WEC may have been the reason that Bird lost his seat for the season. It is most likely however that the British driver will return to the squad for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

Porsche GT Team
#91 & #92 Porsche 911 RSR - 19

Porsche arrives well prepared in Silverstone with a brand new 911 RSR.  The new nine-eleven received several improvements over the former car in areas such as driveability, efficiency, ergonomics and ease of servicing. 95% of the car is new, the only components that have been kept unchanged from the predecessor are the headlights, brake system, clutch, driver’s seat and parts of the suspension. It’s powered by a 6-cylinder boxer engine with a 4.2-litre displacement.  From the outside, the most visual updates are the redesigned exhausts which now has side pipes and the whole back of the car with new fenders and a new (larger) diffuser. 

No changes in Porsche’s driver line-ups for the new season.  Reigning champions Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen will defend their title with the #92 car, while Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni are back in the #91. 

Aston Martin Racing
#95 & #97 Aston Martin Vantage AMR

Aston Martin’s pro-line-up hasn’t changed for the new season.  The #95 “Dane Train” will be driven by Nicky Thiim and Marco Sorenson, while Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin once again occupy the #97 Vantage GTE. 

In its first season, the new Vantage scored 2 victories and pole position at Le Mans.  The stakes are high in the 2019/2020 season as the car has been optimized and they are challenging for the championship, both in the Pro and Am class. Could this be the final season for AMR in the GTE Pro class when they move up to the Hypercars in 2020?  Let’s hope not, or this might well be the swansong of a class that gave us some of the best racing in the past 7 seasons. 

"We are coming into Silverstone far better prepared and with a better package than last year," said Martin. "It’s going to be a really tough fight with our rivals as they are really competitive, and as a team we will have to put everything together to be able to win and be at the front consistently. The target for everybody is to try and win the championship this year with the Vantage GTE.”

Nicky Thiim added: "The car is only one season old, and because the season was so long, sometimes people forget that it has only done eight races! We are really proud of what it has achieved already. Now we want to attack the championship and I really want to bring it back to the 'Dane Train' along with Marco and the rest of the team."

FIA WEC 2019/2020: LMGTE Am season preview

For the first time in the FIA WEC, the GTE Am class has a double-figure entry with no less than 11 cars.  3 manufacturers are represented this season: Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche. There could have been a fourth one with Ben Keating’s Ford GT, but his application apparently has been denied, by not making the initial deadline in May.  A shame really, but Keating now appears in one of the Project 1 Porsches. 

Racing wise, this will be the class to watch with a few strong and (very) experienced driver line-ups on the starting grid.  Aston Martin already vowed their ambitions to win both the GTE Pro and Am titles and shook up the #98 driver line-up for that.  Project 1 will do everything to defend their title from last season and brings 2 very strong and ambitious line-ups. François Perrodo is back in the GTE Class with Emmanuel Collard and will only have become better in his 2 seasons in LMP2, eager to win the championship again.  And then there’s the Dempsey-Proton Porsches, always fighting at the front of the field with strong and consistent line-ups. Salih Yoluc and TF Sport are also racing a new Aston Vantage, they might be one of the outsiders this season. 

A 4, 6, or 8-hour race in this class? Nailbiting stuff from start to finish if you ask us!

AF Corse
#54 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO

The silver/red “Vistajet” Ferrari is back for another season in the WEC.  No changes in the driver line-up with Thomas Flohr, Giancarlo Fisichella and Francesco Castellacci in control of the Ferrari.  Expect these guys in the middle of the AM class, and a possible podium contender when everything goes their way in the race. 

Team Project 1

#56 Porsche 911 RSR

#57 Porsche 911 RSR

Team Project 1 made quite an entry in the WEC last season, immediately going for the title in the AM class with Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lyndsey and Egidio Perfetti and a win at Le Mans.  Racing with Porsche for 25 years makes this one of the most experienced teams in the paddock, giving them the opportunity to adapt really quickly to the GTE cars and championship and growing stronger race by race. 

In June, the team announced it would enter a second car for the WEC, targetting another strong line-up that would also be able to challenge for the championship. The team is expanding its efforts even more, with another 911 RSR on its way to and a possible three-car entry at Le Mans next June. The parallel program in the ELMS is also believed to keep on going in 2020.

Egidio Perfetti will defend his title in the #56 Porsche 911 RSR, but will do so with two new co-drivers. Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Lyndsey won’t return to the team for the 2019/2020 season.  Porsche factory driver Bergmeister was one of the architects of last seasons title, he will now be replaced by Italian Matteo Cairoli who used to race with Dempsey-Proton Racing. Cairoli is a Porsche Young Driver and one of the quickest & most consistent guys around in a 911. David Heinemeier Hansson is a well-known face in the WEC paddocks, having raced in GTE as well as in the LMP2 class (with a win in Sebring past March). The Danish silver rated driver won the GTE-Am championship back in 2014 and will be poised to do that all over again this season. 

The #57 is one of the big stories in the Am class this season and should be one of the title favourites in season 8. Ben Keating won the Am class at Le Mans in June with his newly acquired Ford GT, only to be disqualified after scrutineering, promoting Project 1 to the top step of the podium.  The Texan had submitted an entry request to run in the WEC this season with his Ford GT, which was rejected by the ACO because it has been submitted past the deadline of May 21st. A bit of a strange decision, knowing that the same deadline might have been postponed for other teams who were looking at a possible WEC program. 

Why the organisers turned down an entry with a car that would have brought them a massive amount of publicity - as it did at Le Mans - we’ll never know. Keating then turned to Project 1 who announced a second car for the WEC and were looking at a driver line-up capable of fighting for the championship together with the #56 Porsche.   Joining Keating the Porsche will be his long-time co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga who raced with them in IMSA last season and at Le Mans. 

Red River Sport/Spirit of Race
#62 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO

Red River Sport, a motorsport mentoring and management agency, run by Johnny Mowlem is a new name in the WEC and has teamed up with Spirit of Race/AF Corse for their debut season.  

Bonamy Grimes is the principal driver in the 8-race campaign with the rest of the team built around him.  Grimes is a gentleman driver who competed in a huge amount of events in a wide variety of GT and LMP machinery ranging from Britcar and GT Cup, to the Asian Le Mans Series, and he is ready for this next challenge. He will be joined by Johnny Mowlem and Charlie Hollings. 

“It will be a new season with a new partnership and challenges in which we will try to gain other successes", Amato Ferrari said.  "The FIA WEC is the most competitive endurance championship in the world with the highest level of drivers: The victories are possible only thanks to hard work. Everyone in Spirit of Race team will pour so much effort and commitment into this new adventure with Red River Sport, Bonamy Grimes, and it is nice for me to be able to welcome Johnny Mowlem back into the Ferrari family. We are excited to finally fight on track from September".

MR Racing
#70 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO

MR Racing returns for its second season in the championship, with the technical support of AF Corse.  Their best result last season was fifth place in the 1000 miles of Sebring. 

Bronze rated Japanese driver Motoaki Ishikawa will again be joined by Olivier Beretta. Eddie Cheever III won’t race for the team this season and is replaced by Kei Cozzolino.  Cozzolino is a Japanese born Italian racing driver who raced successfully in the Asian Le Mans Series last season.  Together with James Calado and Takeshi Kimura he won all four races in the Car Guy Ferrari and made his debut at Le Mans in June. 

AF Corse
#83 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO

After 2 seasons in the LMP2 class with TDS Racing, François Perrodo returns to the GTE Am class. Despite a few good results over the past 2,5 years, the Frenchman decided to return to the GTE where he will be able to race again with several other bronze drivers. The lack of Bronze rated drivers in the LMP2 class and very fast Silver drives makes it (very) tough for the real gentlemen drivers to be competitive.  

2016 GTE AM champion Perrodo will be joined again by Emmanuel Collard who he has been racing with for a long time before he moved to the prototype class.  The two Frenchmen will be joined by 22-year-old Nicklas Nielsen from Denmark. Nielsen is no stranger to the Ferrari 488 as he won the 2018 Ferrari Challenge Championship.  He also races in the European Le Mans Series with Luzich Racing, where he leads the championship after winning the opening race at Le Castellet and the 4 Hours of Barcelona last month. 

Dempsey-Proton Racing
#77 Porsche 911 RSR
#88 Porsche 911 RSR

Dempsey-Proton Racing had a strong start in the super season but got into the middle of a storm when at post-race scrutineering Japan, irregularities were found in the data logging of the fuel system in both cars. Additional coding was added to the data logging system resulting in false reading in the fueling times. Both Porsches had their points taken away after the 6 Hours of Fuji in November, dropping them out on contention for the title in the Super Season. 

Christian Ried is now the only driver left in the WEC who has raced in every race since its inception. He will drive the #77 Porsche 911 RSR together with Matt Campbell and Ricardo Pera. Campbell is a 24-year-old Australian Porsche Junior Driver who started racing with Dempsey-Proton in 2018, winning the Le Mans Am class that year.  Later in the season, they were victorious in the 1000 miles of Sebring.  Italian Ricardo Pera raced with Ebimotors in the Michelin Le Mans Cup and European Le Mans Series before joining Dempsey-Proton in the ELMS this season. He will now also race alongside Ried and Campbell in the WEC. 

The #88 Porsche will be driven by Porsche junior driver Thomas Preining, Ricardo Sanchez and Gianluca Giraudi.

Young Austrian Thomas Preining converted an impressive, growing maturity into great success in 2018. The youngster claimed a remarkable ten race victories on his way to the title in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland. Preining also impressed in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. The Austrian was still in contention for the title right up to the season finale in Mexico City. Together with champion Michael Ammermüller, he won the Team Championship for the Lechner Racing team. In 2019, Preining drove the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche customer team Gulf Racing UK. 

Ricardo Sanchez is a 29-year-old Mexican driver who got into racing through karting and the GT Academy competition which he won in 2014.  Since then he made his race debut in the 2015 Dubai 24 hours where he finished an impressive second in class with a Nissan GT-R Nismo. Since then his racing career has only gone upwards, now racing with Team Rocket RJN in the Blancpain Endurance Series with a Honda NSX. The 4 Hours of Silverstone will be his debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship, as well as for his new teammate Gianluca Giraudi. 

50-year-old Gianluca Giraudi has been racing with Porsche in the Carrera Cup Italia, where he finished third in the championship in 2013 and 2014.  Since 2018 he drove in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo with Antonelli Motorsport and also in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, including the 24 Hours of Spa with the same team.  

Gulf Racing UK
#86 Porsche 911 RSR

Michael Wainwright is back for his fourth season in the FIA WEC, once again with the blue and orange Gulf Porsche 911 RSR. 

Wainwright will be joined again by Benjamin Barker, who has been with Gulf Racing since the beginning of their WEC journey.  Andrew Watson will feature as the third driver this season. The 24-year-old, Belfast born will make his debut in the FIA WEC in Silverstone.  The former Aston Martin Young Driver is also active in the Blancpain Endurance Series with one of the Garage 59 Aston Martins.

Andrew Watson: “Racing in the World Endurance Championship is honestly a dream come true for me. If you said that I would be on the grid, even a few months ago, I would have never believed it. I’m still pinching myself at the fact that I’ll be taking part in so many iconic races around the world. I'm really grateful for this opportunity on many fronts. Thank you to everyone at Gulf Racing for putting their trust in me, it’s a real confidence boost! The team and brand are so iconic and that just makes it extra special. I'm really excited about continuing to work with all the great people that I’ve met there already.”

TF Sport
#90 Aston Martin Vantage AMR

TF Sport is another team that returns to the FIA WEC for its second campaign.  After winning the Michelin Le Mans Cup (2016) and finishing second in the ELMS (2017), going for gold in the WEC is obviously one of the goals of Salih Yoluc and his crew. 

Yoluc will once again be joined by Aston Martin junior driver Charlie Eastwood. They both also race in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup with Oman Racing, where they won their class in last month’s Spa 24 Hours. Aston Martin Racing works driver Jonny Adam, who competed with the team in four rounds of the Super Season joins them as the third driver for season 8. Together the trio secured two podiums at Silverstone and Fuji and the Scotsman has previously enjoyed notable title success with TF Sport in the British GT and Blancpain GT Championships

The car made its first public outing at the Prologue in Barcelona last month, shedding off its blue livery and looking rather striking in red. 

Aston Martin Racing
#98 Aston Martin Vantage AMR

Aston Martin is chasing down both titles in the WEC this season, in the Pro class as well in the Am class. Now in its second season, the new Vantage V8 will make his debut in the Am category, with a totally different driver line-up.  

No more Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda next to Paul Dalla Lana after five successful seasons in the FIA WEC and the Am class title in 2017.  The Canadian gentleman driver will be joined by factory drivers Darren Turner and Ross Gunn.  For Ross Gunn It will be his first full season in the FIA WEC, Turner returns to a full WEC campaign after racing only in a part of the Super season. 

Paul Dalla Lana: “I’ve been looking across the garage with envy for the past 18 months at the new Aston Martin Vantage GTE and now I finally get to race it myself in the GTE Am class. We are coming into the new season with a fresh look and a new driver line-up determined not only to regain the championship title we won in 2017 with the #98 but also to try and finally take that class win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I would like to pay tribute to my old team-mates Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, who have been brilliant throughout the years. They have helped us win so much as a team and the 2017 title is the highlight of my career. But looking to the future, Darren is the most decorated GT driver in the team and has the pace and experience to guide us forward, while Ross is super-fast and very talented. I’m very excited about our new line-up and what we can achieve together."