Friday 30 August 2019

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."