WEC – 2017 Preview

(c) Alexis Goure (ACO)

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Matthew Pigg

 

What can we expect from the WEC this year?

One thing is for sure that we are going to see close racing throughout the four different classes this year. with different cars suiting different tracks and different weather conditions it is set up for a very exciting season.

There have been changes in every class for this year new. Updated cars from Porsche & Toyota in LMP1, new engine for ByKolles, the departure of Audi & Rebellion from LMP1. New cars, drivers, teams & engines in LMP2 and new, updated cars in both GTE-PRO & GTE-AM along with new teams and drivers.

The 2017 World Endurance Championship promises to be yet another fantastic year of sportscar racing.

First action for the WEC entries will be the prologue which this year takes place at Monza over the weekend of the 1st & 2nd April with 27 of the 28 season entries take part.

Below is a link to the prologue entries.

http://www.fiawec.com/wpphpFichiers/1/1/ressources/Pdf/2017/FIAWEC2017_provisional_Monza_Prologue_entry_list_090317.pdf

First race of the season is set to take place at Silverstone on 16th April with the entry list just announced, below is a link to the entries for Silverstone.

http://www.fiawec.com/wpphpFichiers/1/1/ressources/Pdf/2017/FIAWEC2017_provisional_6_hours_of_Silverstone_entry_list_150317.pdf

After Silverstone the WEC moves onto Spa on the 6th May then onto the BIGGEST & one of the oldest events on the motorsport calendar. The LE MANS 24 HOURS over the weekend of 17th & 18th June, Nurburgring on 16th July, Mexico on the 3rd September, Austin 16th September, Fuji 15th October, Shanghai 5th November with the end of season being in Bahrain on the 18th November.

(c) FIA WEC

LMP1

Unfortunately LMP1 is going to be a bit thin on the ground this year with the departure of Audi from the WEC & Rebellion going to LMP2 for 2017. This leaves just Porsche & Toyota (both running two cars each for the full season with Toyota running third car at Spa & Le Mans) as the only entries into LMP1 – H and one entry into LMP1 – L which is the ByKolles CLM with Nissan power this year.

Hopefully we will see some good battles this season between Porsche & Toyota. But it’s hard to see beyond the #1 Porsche for the world Championship with Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer & Nick Tandy onboard, although I am sure Toyota & the #2 Porsche will do their be to keep them honest.

Porsche see changes in both cars this year with Andre Lotterer & Nick Tandy replacing Romain Dumas & Marc Lieb in the #1 car & Earl Bamber replaces the now retired Mark Webber in the #2 car.

#1

Porsche 919 Hybrid

Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy

#2

Porsche 919 Hybrid

Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley

Toyota also see a slight change in there driver line up with Stephane Sarrazin stepping down (although he will race the third car at Spa & Le Mans) to be replaced by Jose Maria Lopez whilst the line up of Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima & Sebastien Buemi remains unchanged.

#7

Toyota TS050 Hybrid

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

#8

Toyota TS050 Hybrid

Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi

Not to be out done by Porsche & Toyota the ByKolles team also sees a change in the driver line up with Robert Kubica making a welcome return to circuit racing joining Oliver Webb in the #4 car and powered by the Nissan V6 turbo engine which was installed in the Nissan GT-R LM in 2015.

#4

ByKolles CLM Nismo

Robert Kubica & Oliver Webb

(c) @ManorWEC

LMP2

LMP2 see some major changes this year. gone is the option to run an open topped car, along with the choice of engines, and in comes a new for 2017 “spec” engine from Gibson. The new Gibson engine is a 4.2 litre V8 producing around 600bhp which will power all LMP2 cars this season. There is also now a choice of four chassis (ORECA, Onroak/Ligier, Dallara & Riley), unlike last year where chassis choice was open. There are ten cars entered for the full season, all teams have gone for the ORECA chassis this year (although two of them will be entered as Alpine A470). There are two cars each from Rebellion Racing (stepping down from LMP1 this year), CEFC Manor Racing, Signatech Alpine Matmut & Jackie Chan DC Racing (run by Jota). Single entries for G-Drive racing & TDS Racing.

Racing should be close in LMP2 this season with a lot resting on the shoulders of the “silver” rated driver and how they will cope with the increase in power & performance of the new generation of LMP2 cars.

Signatech Alpine will be out to retain their hard earned title from last year but will be pushed all the way to the chequered flag of the last race. Reliability could also play a major part in the outcome of this the LMP2 title with the Gibson being a new engine, although it has done plenty of bench testing and has been already used in this year’s Daytona 24 hours and Sebring 12 hours.

Trying to predict a championship winner in this class is pretty difficult, but I think it will come down to a battle between Signatech & Rebellion.

#13

Rebellion Racing

Matias Beche, David Heninemeier Hanson, Nelson Piquet Jr

#24

Manor Racing

Tor Graves, TBA, TBA

#25

Manor Racing

Roberto Gonzalez, TBA, TBA

#26

G-Drive Racing

Roman Rusinov, Pierre Thiriet, Alex Lynn

#28

TDS Racing

Francois Perrodo, Matthieu Vaxiviere, Emmanuel Collard

#31

Rebellion Racing

Julien Canal, Nicolas Prost, Bruno Senna

#35

Signatech Alpine

All Drivers TBA

#36

Signatech Alpine

Nicolas Lapierre, TBA, TBA

#37

DC Racing

David Cheng, Alex Brundle, Tristan Gommendy

#38

DC Racing

Ho-Pin Tung, Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent

(c) Ford Performance

GTE- PRO

For me this is probably the most exciting of all the classes with two cars each from Aston Martin Racing, Ford, Ferrari & Porsche and all with star driver line ups.

Porsche make a welcome return to the WEC GTE-PRO class with the new 911-RSR whilst Aston Martin, Ford & Ferrari all return with updated versions of last year’s cars and we also have a tyre war in both GTE classes this season with Dunlop & Michelin providing rubber to teams. Dunlop on the Aston Martins & Michelin on the Ford’s, Ferrari’s & Porsche’s.

Can Aston Martin retain their world championship from last year with Nicki Thiim & Marco Sorensen? Well this one is even closer to call than LMP2, with any of the eight cars more than capable of lifting the crown at the seasons end. Who will it be? Well your guess is as good as mine, I for one would like to see the Aston Martin of Darren Turner & Jonny Adams take the crown this year but they will have their work cut out.

One of the other big questions for both GTE classes is how much the dreaded “balance of performance” (Bop) affects things this year, let’s hope that Bop doesn’t get in the way of hopefully another fantastic wheel to wheel racing this season.

There are a few driver changes this year in GTE-PRO with Gianmaria Bruni departing from Ferrari & heading towards Porsche (not in WEC). He is being replaced by Alessandro Pier Guidi. Both Ford’s see the addition of a third driver this year. Along side Stefan Mucke & Oliver Pla will be Billy Johnson and teaming up with Andy Priaulx & Harry Tinknell will be Luis Felipe Derani.

#51

Ferrari

James Calado & Alessandro Pier Guidi

#66

Ford

Stefan Mucke, Oliver Pla, Billy Johnson

#67

Ford

Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell, Luis Felipe Derani

#71

Ferrari

Davide Rigon & Sam Bird

#91

Porsche

Richard Lietz & Frederic Makowiecki

#92

Porsche

Michel Christensen & Kevin Estre

#95

Aston Martin

Nicki Thiim & Marco Sorensen

#97

Aston Martin

Darren Turner & Jonathan Adam

GTE – AM

GTE – AM sees a five car entry for 2017 with the arrival of two Ferrari 488, two Porsche & one Aston Martin. The favourite for this class must surely be the #98 Aston Martin with the departure of last year’s winning Ferrari. Once again we see a tyre war with GTE – AM with Dunlop & Michelin providing rubber. Dunlop’s on both Porsche’s and Michelin on the Aston Martin & Ferrari’s.

#54

Ferrari

Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci, TBA

#61

Ferrari

Weng Sun Mok, Keita Sawa, Matthew Griffin

#77

Porsche

Christian Ried, Matteo Cairoli, Marvin Dienst

#86

Porsche

Michael Wainwright, Benjamin Barker, TBA

#98

Aston Martin

Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda

The 2017 WEC season is upon us. It is going to be fantastic. Hold on tight.

Matthew Pigg

Twitter: @photopigg

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