Friday, 21 October 2016

European Le Mans Series - 4 Hours of Estoril: Thursday & Friday pictures

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European Le Mans Series - 4 Hours of Estoril: Beche fastest after an eventful first practice session

After an eventful first practice session this afternoon in an overcast Estoril, Mathias Beche put the #46 Thiriet by TDS Ligier on top of the timesheets.

Most of the quickest times of the day were set in the early stages of the session. Beche almost immediately drove a 1.31.647, a time that would stand 'till the end of the session. Olivier Pla in the #40 Krohn Racing Ligier answered with a 1.32.306 which gave him second place but already 0.668 seconds behind the #46 Thiriet by TDS Oreca. Nathanael Berthon went third fastest in the #41 Greaves Motorsport Ligier, only 0.090 seconds slower than Pla. 

With just over 10 minutes of running in the session Simon Dolan got into a graveltrap at turn 6, causing the first full course yellow of the afternoon. The #38 G-Drive Gibson didn't get higher than seventh place in the class at the end of the session.  

A second full course yellow was deployed when the #2 United Autosports Ligier went into the gravel at turn 2 and almost at the same time the #12 Eurointernational LMP3 exiting turn 3. 

With about 20 minutes to go, the #17 Ulitmate Ligier JSP3 of Jean-Baptiste Lahaye went hard into the barriers at the first corner after a spin, severely damaging the nose of the car. Lahaye got out of the car unharmed, but repairs lasted too long to get the session going again. 

Yann Erlacher set the fastest time in LMP3 with the #18 M-Racing - Yvan Muller Racing Ligier/Nissan. Sean Rayhall was a close second in the #10 Ligier, only 0.049 seconds behind. Completing the top 3 was LMP3 champion Alex Brundle in the #2 United Autosports.

In GTE Matt Griffin opened the debates, setting the fastest time in the first part of the session in his #55 AF Corse Ferrari. After the first interruption, another Ferrari got on top of the leaderboard when Marco Cioci outpaced Griffins time in the #51 AF Corse F458 Italia. At the end of the session though it was Wolf Henzler in the #77 Proton Competition Porsche who was fastest. Henzler drove a 1.40.165, 0.039 seconds faster than Talkanitsa Jr in the #56 AT Racing Ferrari. The #51 Ferrari completing the top 3, 0.080 seconds behind Talkanitsa.

The second free practice session is scheduled for Saturday morning at 8.00h local time. Weather permitting that is, as this morning the first sessions had to be postponed for a while due to heavy fog over the track. Weather forecasts for the remainder of the weekend are looking rather dull and wet.

Kristof Vermeulen. 

European Le Mans Series - 4 Hours of Estoril: packed grid for the season finale

The 2016 European Le Mans Series comes to a close this weekend, with the 4 hours of Estoril in Portugal. 37 cars will be on the grid for the final race of the season in which 2 titles in LMP2 and GTE are to be decided. 

10 cars will feature on the LMP2 grid. With three teams still able to clinch the 2016 title, Estoril will once again be a cracking race. Thiriet by TDS Racing leads the championship after 5 rounds with 92 points. They have a 14 point lead over the #38 G-Drive Racing with the #32 SMP Racing BR01 in third place, 24 points behind the leaders (with 26 to win). Mathias Beche & Pierre Thiriet lead the drivers championship also 14 points in front of Harry Tincknell, Giedo van der Garde and Simon Dolan. 

Dragonspeed Racing arrives in Estoril on a high after winning the race in Spa-Francorchamps last month. Nicolas Lapierre, Ben Hanley & Eric Hedman will do everything possible to get the same result here in Estoril. They have been pretty quick all season, so their win in Spa didn't come as a surprise. If they can split up both championship contenders, the result of Dragonspeed might as well have some influence on the championship outcome.

A different driver line-up at Eurasia this weekend. Tristan Gommendy remains behind the wheel of the #33 Oreca05 and will be joined by Belgian racer Frederic Vervisch and Michael Lyons. They will replace Pu Jun Jin and Nick De Bruijn. Vervisch is no stranger to the team as he won the 2008 Asian Formula 3 title with Eurasia, but this will be his first experience in LMP2 machinery. Michael Lyons is no stranger in the ELMS paddock as he raced with Murphy Prototypes earlier in the season.  One more driver change to note in the class at Pegasus Racing where Julien Schell replaces Remi Striebig.

Another team to watch on Sunday will be Greaves Motorsport. They always have been strong in the Portuguese track and will want to end the season with a good result after struggling a bit over the past year.  3 of the regular LMP2 teams are not in Estoril.  Race Performance and Algarve Pro Racing are already in full preparation for the first race of the Asian Le Mans Series next week. Also absent is the Murphy Prototypes team. After their crash at Spa last month, they didn't have time enough to fully repair the car and get it ready for this weekends race.

18 cars in the LMP3 class this weekend, again all Nissan powered Ligier JSP3's. Although French constructor Norma had planned to race their new prototype at Estoril for the first time, there's no sign of the car here in Portugal. Missing also on the grid is British team Tockwith Motorsport, which made an impressive debut in the past two races at Le Castellet & Spa. They are racing in the Asian Le Mans Series next week, and should return to the ELMS next season in a brand new Ligier/Gibson LMP2.

United Autosports clinched the title last month in Belgium after an impressive season so far. The Anglo-American team wants to finish off the season like it began back in April with a dominating one-two result. Alex Brundle, Christian England and Mike Guash won the title with 5 podium finishes on a row, including three wins. 

Back on the grid is Italian team Eurointernational with 2 cars. One of their drivers is Portuguese driver Miguel Faísca, the 2013 European Nissan GT Academy champion. It will be Faisca's second appearance in the ELMS, after racing on Estoril in 2014 in the Greaves Motorsport Zytek. This will be his first race in an LMP3 car. 

A few more driver changes to be noted for the weekend. The most important ones are the return of Jean Marc Merlin to the #4 OAK Racing Ligier and Nicolas Leutwiler replacing Marcello Marateotto in the #8 Race Performance Ligier. Spanish team BySpeed Factory announced a new driver line-up for their car, but ultimately withdrew from the race.

The 8 usual suspects will race in GTE, with just one driver change. Ben Barker replaces Matteo Cairoli in the #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 GTE. A return to the ELMS for the British driver who stepped up the FIA WEC this season with Gulf Motorsport.

JMW Motorsports leads the championship in their Ferrari F458 Italia. Andrea Bertolini, Rob Smith and Rory Butcher scored three wins in a row and lead the championship with an advantage of 20 points over the #99 Aston Martin. 

JMW is already assured of their entry for Le Mans next year as they can't finish lower than second in the championship. The battle for the second entry is still open between the #99 Beachdean Aston Martin with 73 points, the #56 AT Racing Ferrari with 51 points and the #77 Proton Competition Porsche which has 58 points so far. 

The GTE class has given some top notch racing all season long, the 4 hours of Estoril won't be different with the title and the second entry for the big one at Le Mans at stake. 

Track action for the final round of the European Le Mans Series is scheduled to start this morning at 9.30h (if the fog disappears).  The first 90 minute free practice session will be run this afternoon at 14.50h local time.

Kristof Vermeulen.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Fuji: Qualifying report

After an entertaining and hard fought qualifying session this morning, Audi took pole position for the 6 Hours of Fuji tomorrow. 

© Gabi Tomescu -

Loic Duval and Lucas Di Grassi scored pole position in the #8 Audi R18 with an average laptime of 1.23.570. Mark Webber & Timo Bernhard came in second fastest in the #1 Porsche 919, just 0.025 short of the Audi. The Toyota's qualified third and fourth in their home race. Sébastien Buemi & Kazuki Nakajima had an average time of 1.23.739, just 0.042 seconds ahead of the #6 of Kobayashi and Sarrazin. Kamui Kobayashi was the fastest driver around the track this afternoon, showing that they have the pace to go for the win tomorrow. The Audi #7 and Porsche #2 rounded out the top 6. 

Rebellion Racing took pole again in the privateer class with an average time of 1.28.837, almost a second faster than byKolles. 

© Gabi Tomescu -
In LMP2 G-Drive Racing took their fifth pole of the season. Roman Rusinov and Will Stevens drove an average time of 1.31.698 around the Japanese track in their Oreca05/Nissan. Championship leaders Nicolas Lapierre & Gustavo Menezes in the #36 Signatech Alpine clocked an average time of 1.31.919 which puts them second on the LMP2 grid tomorrow. Third fastest was the #30 Extreme Speed Motorsports of Abtonio Giovanazzi and Sean Gelael. Jonny Kane and Lewis Williamson just missed the top three (again), putting their #42 Strakka Gibson on fourth position ahead of the #43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier.

© Gabi Tomescu -

Ford continued to dominate the GTE-Pro class today. Olivier Pla & Stefan Mücke claimed pole position in the #66 Ford GT with an average time of 1.37.817. The #67 Ford with Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell at the wheel was second fastest, just 0.044 seconds behind. Both Ferrari's followed in the qualifying order; Davide Rigon & Sam Bird third quickest in the #71 AF Corse and Gianmaria Bruni & James Calado fourth in the #51 Ferrari F488. Aston Martin took fifth and sixth ahead of the #77 Demsey-Proton Porsche. 

© Gabi Tomescu -

Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana took pole position again in GTE-Am. With an average time of 1.38.982 the #98 Aston Martin Vantage was 0.373 seconds faster than Rui Aguas and François Perrodo in the #83 AF Corse Ferrari. Ricky Taylor and Yataka Yamagishi were third fastest in the #50 Larbre Corvette. 


© Gabi Tomescu -

Earlier this morning Toyota was fastest in the third and final practice session. Kazuki Nakajima topped the timesheets in his #5 TS050 (1.24.078). Lucas Di Grassi was second fastest in the #8 Audi R18, Neel Jani the fastest Porsche driver putting the #2 919 Hybrid on third place. G-Drive showed a strong pace again in LMP2. Will Stevens set the fastest time in 1.31.474. Second fastest was the all new crew in the #30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier with Antonio Giovinazzi at the wheel. The Strakka Gibson was third fastest in the hands of Jonny Kane. 

© Gabi Tomescu -

Like the first two practice sessions yesterday, Ford outpaced the competition again in GTE-Pro. Andy Priaulx now fastest in the #67 Ford GT (1.38.092) ahead of Marco Sorenson in the #95 Aston Martin Vantage and Stefan Mücke in the second Ford GT. Aston Martin was the fastest car in the GTE-Am class again. Pedro Lamy setting the fastest time in 1.39.492. Behind him, Ben Barker put the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche on second place ahead of Rui Aguas in the #83 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia.

The 6 Hours of Fuji will start tomorrow at 11 am local time, and can be followed live with the WEC app and Motorstv.

Free Practice 3 results
Qualifying LMP1 & LMP2
Qualifying GTE

Kristof Vermeulen.