Wednesday, 24 February 2016

WEC 2016 : Who's racing in GTE

After both LMP classes, let's take a quick look at the GTE classes in the 2016 World Endurance Championship.  2016 marks the return of Ford into endurance racing and the introduction of the brand new, turbo engined Ferrari 488.

The GTE-Pro class is all about Ford's return to endurance racing with their stunning new Ford GT. At Daytona last month the GT already showed some impressive pace, but suffered from a few reliability issues. With an impressive driver line-up including Marino Franchitti, Stefan Mücke, Olivier Pla and Andy Priaulx, Ford seems ready to plays its role in the GTE-Pro class this season. 

Not only Ford will enter a completely new car, with the arrival of the turbo charged Ferrari 488 GTE, AF Corse also has a new weapon to tackle the GTE class.    The #51 car will be driven by Gianmari Bruni who will be joined by James Calado, making the switch from the #71 car.  Sam Bird, who won the 2015 LMP2 championship with G-Drive Racing has been recruted by Ferrari as factory driver and will race in the #71 together with Davide Rigon.

Aston Martin Racing launched their GTE challenger last week, a revised V8 Vantage with a fully revised aerodynamic package. In its 12th year of competition, they will field 2 cars in the GTE-Pro class on Dunlop tyres. Darren Turner joins the #95 "Dane Train" this season and will share the car with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen.  The second V8 Vantage #97 will be occupied by Richie Stanaway; Jonny Adam and Fernando Rees.  

No official Porsche team this year in GTE, as they are focussing on the development of the new 911 RSR which will make its debut in 2017.  Dempsey-Proton Racing will however field a 911 RSR for Richard Lietz, and will have Porsche factory support during the season.

#51 AF Corse - Ferrari 488 GTE - Bruni/Calado
#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK - Ford GT - Franchitti/Mücke
#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK - Ford GT - Pla/Priaulx
#71 AF Corse - Ferrari 458 GTE - Rigon/Bird
#77 Dempsey-Proton Racing - Porsche 911 RSR (2016) - Lietz
#95 Aston Martin Racing - Aston Martin V8 Vantage - Turner/Thiim/Sorensen
#97 Aston Martin Racing - Aston Martin V8 Vantage - Stanaway/Adam/Rees

A very competitive field, but we're still missing the Corvettes in the World Endurance Championship. Having the Corvettes in this class would be a true showcase of the best GT teams racing around the world.  Larbre has been working on an entry in GTE-Pro this year, but at the end it didn't come together. 

In GTE-Am we're about to see e a battle between 4 constructors with Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin at the start. 

Larbre Competition returns with its Corvette C7, in what will might be their last season in the Am category.  Plans to enter an car in the Pro class this season came to an end when the team couldn't get a new C7R, but Jacques Leconte and his team are already working hard to be able to enter a Corvette in GTE-Pro next season.  Paolo Ruberti, Pierre Ragues and Yukata Yamagishi have already  been confirmed as drivers for this year.

Aston Martin Racing provides one V8 Vantage for Paul Dalla Lana who teams up again with Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda. 

Hong Kong based KCMG opted not to race in the LMP2 category this season, except for Le Mans where they will defend their title.  They will be in the GTE-Am class however, with a single Porsche 911 RSR, with Porsche support from Proton Racing.  Only one driver confirmed so far : Christian Ried.  Gulf Racing UK will step up from the ELMS championship and field their Porsche 911 RSR, driven by Michael Wainwright, Adam Caroll and Ben Barker.  The third team racing with a 911 RSR is Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing, entering a car for Khaled Al Qubaisi, David Henemeier Hanssen and Pat Long.  No sign of Patrick Dempsey so far this season (too busy with his acting career), although it's not completely ruled out that he might be at one or more race(s) this season. 

AF Corse returns to the Am category with the #83 Ferrari 458 Italia, driven by the same drivers as last year : Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Riu Aguas.

#50 Larbre Competition - Corvette C7 - Ragues/Ruberti/Yamagishi
#78 KCMG - Porsche 911 RSR - Ried
#83 AF Corse - Ferrari 458 Italia - Perrodo/Collard/Aguas
#86 Gulf Racing - Porsche 911 RSR - Wainwright/Caroll/Barker
#88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing - Porsche 911 RSR - Al Qubaisi/Henemeier Hansen/Long
#98 Aston Martin Racing - Aston Martin V8 Vantage - Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda

Kristof Vermeulen.

WEC 2016 : A look into the LMP1 and LMP2 class

Almost three weeks ago, the entry list for the 2016 World Endurance Championship has been revealed at a press conference in Paris.  With more and more teams presenting their cars and driver line-ups in the past days and weeks, the entry list is now almost complete and ready for the WEC prologue next month at the Paul Ricard track at Le Castellet.

So far, this is what we know about teams and drivers in both prototype classes; LMP1 and LMP2.  Not all drivers have been announced at this moment, and a few cars still have to be revealed,  most of them scheduled at the prologue.

After the withdrawal of Nissans's LMP1 project, there will be no changes to the LMP1 field compared to last year.   At Le Mans however, none of the 3 major manufacturers will field a third car (as Audi and Porsche did last year).

Porsche returns to defend its 2015 title with the 919 Hybrid and retains both of their 2015 driver line-ups : defending champions Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber & Brendon Hartley in the #1 and Romain Dumas, Neel Jani & Mark Lieb in the #2. The introduction of the new 919 Hybrid last year was a big success for Porsche winning Le Mans and the WEC title, showing some really fast pace over the season.  The revised and upgraded version of the 919 has already been tested since the end of last season. Expect some major aerodynamic upgrades and a revised engine for 2016. As last year, Porsche will compete in the 8 MJ hybrid class.

Challengers Audi and Toyota both will bring a brand new car on track, hoping to close the gap with Porsche this season. The new Audi R18 was presented last november and has been tested thouroughly since then.  The new LMP1 sees a radical design change with a much more agressive front and what appears to be gullwing doors.  Audi stays faithfull to a diesel powered engine but introduces a new hybrid system, abandoning the flywheel energy storage system in favour of a lithium-ion battery, the technology that's also been used by Porsche last season.  They will also step up to the 6 MJ class instead of the 4 MJ class last year.  No changes in the driver line-ups at Audi for 2016 with Marcel Fässler, Benoit Tréluyer and Andre Lotterer in the #7 and Lucas Di Grassi, Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis in the #8. 

Toyota Gazoo Racing enters 2 new TS050 Hybrids this year. A brand new car, with new engine and hybrid system.  No more big naturally aspirated V8 in the back of the TS050 but a smaller sized turbo charged engine (V4 or V6 ?). With the introduction of the new engine and a battery energy storage hybrid system, Toyota will also compete in the 8 MJ hybrid class. After the retirement of Alex Wurz (a rather short one, as he raced at the Daytona 24 Hours last month), Kamui Kobayashi will take his place at the #6 car together with Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway.  The line-up of the #5 car will stay the same with Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.

As last year, we will see 2 privateers entering in LMP1 with Rebellion Racing and byKolles. Rebellion enters 2 R-One's again, powered by the revised AER P60 V6 twin turbo engine.  Rebellion switches from Michelin to Dunlop rubber this year, which sees Dunlop coming back into to the LMP1 class for the first time since 2012.  No change in the driver line-up for 2016; the #12 will be driven by Nicolas Prost, Mathias Beche and Nick Heidfeld; the #13 by Mathéo Tuscher, Dominik Kraihamer and Alexandre Imperatori.

The second team in the privateer class is the Austrian ByKolles Racing, fielding one CLM P1/01 again, also powered by the AER engine.  A new aero package, suspension upgrades and several performance upgrades should make the CLM P1/01 a competitive car for the new season. The #4 entry will be driven by Simon Trummer and Pierre Kaffer.

#1 Porsche Team - Porsche 919 Hybrid - Bernhard/Webber/Hartley
#2 Porsche Team - Porsche 919 Hybrid - Dumas/Jani/Lieb
#4 ByKolles Racing Team - CLMP 1/01 AER - Trummer/Kaffer
#5 Toyota Gazoo Racing - Toyota TS050 Hybrid - Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima
#6 Toyota Gazoo Racing - Toyota TS050 Hybrid - Stéphane Sarrazin/Conway/Kobayashi
#7 Audi Sport Team Joest - Audi R18 - Marcel Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer
#8 Audi Sport Team Joest - Audi R18 - Lucas Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis
#12 Rebellion Racing - Rebellion R-One - AER - Prost/Beche/Heidfeld
#13 Rebellion Racing - Rebellion R-One - AER - Tuscher/Kraihamer/Imperatori

The second prototype class, LMP2 has 10 entries for the full WEC season.
Defending champions G-Drive Racing return with an Oreca 05, driven by Roman Rusinov, Nathanaël Berthon and a third to be announced driver (Harry Tincknell ?).  The car will be managed by Jota Sport, which will also run their Gibson 015S in ELMS under G-Drive Racing.  Le Mans winners KCMG will not return to LMP2 in the WEC this season, except for Le Mans. 

After racing in Bahrein in the last race of 2015, SMP Racing returns to the WEC and will field two of their gorgeous BR01/Nissan's, one of them with Nicolas Minassian & Kirill Ladygin in the #27 and former F1 driver Vitaly Petrov with Viktor Shaytar in the #37.  The other two drivers still remain to be announced.

Extreme Speeds Motorsports head into their second season with a Ligier JSP2 in the WEC. After their win at Daytona last month, they might well be big contenders this year.  The ESM headquarters in Europe moved to the OAK facilities at Le Mans this season. 2 new faces in the ESM line-up : Filipe "Pipo" Derani who made an impressive debut at G-Drive Racing last year (and won the Rolex24 this year), and American Christopher Cumming. 

WEC regulars Strakka Racing return with their Gibson 015S, probably with the same driver line-up as last season.  At a certain point it seemed like they might step up to LMP1 in a revised Dome chassis, but it's LMP2 again this season. 

The final team returning to the WEC for its second season in Signatech Alpine, switching their rebadged Oreca 03 chassis for a new Oreca 05 Nissan, rebadged to Alpine A460.  Signatech will also run the Baxi DC Racing entry with a similar car.  2 drivers confirmed so far : Nicolas Lapierre & newcomer Gustavo Menezes who succesfully raced in Formula 3. 

Three new LMP2 teams will enter the WEC this season.  Mexican Ricardo Gonzalez's new founded RGR Sport by Morand will field a Ligier JS/P2 with a stellar driver line-up : Ricardo Gonzalez himself, Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque.  A very ambitious new entry who immediatly wants to fight for the championship and victory at Le Mans.  After John Boot and Graeme Lowdon left the Manor F1 team, their interest went on to the WEC in which they will field an Oreca 05. Their full line-up will be announced ahead of the prologue next month, with right now only Tor Graves confirmed.  The third newcomer in the WEC is Asian Le Mans Series champion DC Racing who will team up with Signatech Alpine and enter an Oreca 05, rebadged to Alpine A460. 2 drivers are already confirmed :  David Cheng and Ho Pin-Tung; the third driver still to be announced.

#26 G-Drive Racing - Oreca 05/Nissan - Rusinov/Berthon
#27 SMP Racing - BR01/Nissan - Nicolas Minassian/Ladygin
#30 Extreme Speed Motorsports - Ligier JSP2/Nissan - Sharp/Brown/Van Overbeek
#31 Extreme Speed Motorsports - Ligier JSP2/Nissan - Dalziel/Derani/Cumming
#35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine - Alpine A460/Nissan - Cheng/Pin-Tung
#36 Signatech Alpine - Alpine A460/Nissan - Menezes/Lapierre
#37 SMP Racing - BR01/Nissan - Petrov/Shaytar
#42 Strakka Racing - Gibson 015S/Nissan - Leventis/Kane/Watts
#43 RGR Sport by Morand - Ligier JSP2/Nissan - Gonzalez/Senna/Albuquerque
#44 Manor - Oreca 05/Nissan - Tor Graves

No sign of Greaves Motorsport unfortunately, who had plans (and were highly expected) to step up to the WEC again with a new Oreca 05, but will stay in the ELMS championship this season with both the Oreca and their Gibson 015S.

Kristof Vermeulen

Friday, 5 February 2016

ELMS grid expands to an impressive 44 cars in 2016

Everyone expected the grid of the European Le Mans Series to boost in 2015, but no one expected a whopping amount of 44 cars. LMP3 takes the major part of entries with 20 cars, but the LMP2 grid also grows to a more than healthy 15 cars.

Photo © Adrenal Media/John Rourke
ELMS Website
The ELMS top category, LMP2, consists of 15 entries this season. Greaves Motorsport at the head of the field, defending their 2015 title with the Gibson 015S and adding a second car, the newly acquiered Oreca05. Greaves will defend their title against all time rivals Jota Sport, now racing under the G-Drive banner with the Gibson 015S and Thiriet by TDS Racings Oreca05. Other teams returning this year are Algarve Pro Racing, Pegasus Racing, Eurasia, Krohn Racing and Murphy Prototypes.

Of the new teams arriving in LMP2, Yves Courage is a name that pops out immediately. Absent from the endurance platform since 2007, Courage returns with a BR01. Race Performance also returns after a sabattical last year and will field their Oreca03 again. Other new teams are American Dragonspeed (Oreca05), SO24!, Panis-Barthez Competition and IDEC Sport Racing (Ligier).

We'll have 5 manufacturers (Oreca, Ligier, Gibson, Morgan and BR01), 2 engine suppliers (Nissan & Judd) and 2 tyre manufacturers (Dunlop & Michelin).  The 15-car field couldn't be more diverse than this.

LMP3 expands beyond expectation in its second season.  Where last year we saw an average of 5 cars, in 2016 no less than 20 LMP3 prototypes will be at the grid for the first race at Silverstone. Rather surprisingly, there's no sign anymore of the Ginetta-Juno car. Team LNT already confirmed not to return to the series, but one or two cars were still expected on the grid. Instead, Ligier provides almost all teams (all but one) with the Ligier JSP3. Only will race another chassis, being the factory backed team with a Riley-Ave2.

Lots of new teams and names in LMP3 and several teams listing a car in LMP2 and LMP3. Panis-Barthez Competition, Race Perfomance, Murphy Prototypes will run a double program in 2016. Onroak, who stopped their LMP2 program in WEC last year to concentrate on the production of their cars, will field 2 Ligiers, one of them for Mr. Nicolet himself. Another new team is American United Autosports that will field to cars, as will Italian team Eurointernational and French teams Graff Racing & Duquiene Engineering. A few big driver names on the entry list too, with Alex Brundle & Mike Patterson (United Autosports), Nicolas Leutwiler (Race Performance/Asian LMS champion), Jacques Nicolet (OAK Racing) and David Hallyday (Duqueine Engineering).

LMGTE, the only GT class remaining in the European Le Mans Series has 9 entries. Danish Formula Racing will defend their title and pulled Christina Nielsen onboard, the second female driver in ELMS this year. They will race agains 4 other Ferrari's, 2 Aston Martins and 2 Porsches. All familiar faces compared to last season, except for Thiriet by TDS Racing who switched their BMW Z4 for an Aston Martin Vantage V8.  The Beachdean AMR team is a great addition to the field, after their succesfull race at Estoril last year.

There's no GTC category anymore this season in ELMS. The former GTC teams will be able to race in the brand new Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, for which the entry list will be unveiled at the end of March.

44 cars, 34 teams, 14 nationalities, 3 categories ... what more do you need for an exciting racing season ? After the suprise 60-car entry list at Le Mans, a 44 car entry list in ELMS was a second pleasant surprise today.

The provisional entry list for the 2016 European Le Mans Series can be found here.

Kristof Vermeulen.

60 cars on the grid at Le Mans in June

At a press conference in Paris this afternoon, the ACO announced the list of competitors invited for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Probably the biggest surprise was that not 58 - as expected -  but no less than 60 cars will be able to take the start of the legendary 24 hour race at La Sarthe. Given the high amount and the quality of entry requests, the selection committee decided to invite 2 extra cars on the startgrid. Together with the 10 cars on the reserve list, this means no less than 70 cars have passed the selection committee in 2016.

The startgrid will be divided in 4 categories : 9 LMP1, 22 LMP2, 14 LM GTE-Pro and 14 GTE-Am. Garage 56 has been allocated to SRT by OAK Racing with the Morgan/Nissan LMP2 of Frédéric Sausset, full of technologies devoted into helping disabled people.

In the LMP1 class, Porsche will defend its 2015 title with an evolution of last years 919 Hybrid. Audi and Toyota are the two main challengers, both fielding a completely new car in 2016. Rebellion Racing returns with 2 cars and the ByKolles team completes the LMP1 grid with 1 car. So there will be 9 LMP1 cars on the grid of which 3 privates. 

LMP2 takes the biggest portion of the grid, with 22 entries in 2016. KCMG will be back to defend their title against a a big bunch of challengers, eager to take victory at La Sarthe. The class will see 6 different manufacturers battling it out for the podium spots. Ligier heads the field with 8 JSP2 cars, ahead of Oreca with 7 cars (five Oreca05 and two Oreca03), 3 BR01's, 2 Gibsons, 2 Alpines and 1 Morgan. Several new teams are invited in LMP2 as Panis-Barthez Competition, SO24! and Manor (Ligier), RGR Sport (Oreca) and Baxi DC Racing (Alpine)   

In GTE-Pro, after 50 years, Ford returns to Le Mans and they do it in style with no less than 4 cars on the grid. They will face fierce competition from Daytona winners Corvette (2 cars), Ferrari (3 new 488's), 3 Porsches (of which 2 are being entered by Porsche Motorsport) and 2 official Aston Martin Vantage V8's. The Dempsey-Proton racing is the only car which isn't an "official" entry, but with factory support from Porsche. 

Ferrari gets the upper hand in GTE-Am with with five 458 Italia's ahead of 4 Porsches, 3 Aston Martins (TDS racing a new team with Aston) and 2 Corvettes C6R. 

10 cars are on the reserve list, with the Greaves Gibson in pole position to take up a spot if someone drops out, ahead of Algarve Pro Racing and JMW Motorsport.  6 LMP2 cars and 4 GTE AM's complete the list. 

Alexander Wurz has been named Grand Marshall of the 24 Hours and felt very honoured to be asked. "I love Le Mans, and especially because over the years it's a race that never really changed and stayed true to itself. Le Mans is an iconic event, with probably the most authentic form of motor racing". 

Quotes : 
Vincent Beaumesnil, Automobile Club de l’Ouest Sport Manager: “Each year the selection committee is finding it increasingly difficult to establish the list of entries for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Thirty-two prototypes and twenty-eight GTs will be on the grid on 18th June for what already looks like being a first-class race. There will be a closely-fought battle in LM P1 and there is even more diversity in LM P2. The appeal of the LM GTE Pro category is greater than ever and more sporting with the introduction of the new regulations and Ford’s return. As always, LM GTE Am will be the theatre of fantastic battles. From both a technical and sporting point of view all the ingredients are in place for a unique 84th Le Mans 24 Hours.”

4 extra cars on the grid compared to last year, Audi and Toyota fielding a new car to get into battle with Porsche, 22 LMP2's, a fierce competition in GTE-Pro and 4 great marques battling it out in GTE-AM ... We're in for a real treat in June ! 

The list of competitors invited for the Le Mans 24 Hours can be found here.

Kristof Vermeulen

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Large grid expected for ELMS in 2016

With the announcement of the 2016 European Le Mans Series at the ACO press conference tomorrow, let's take a look at the cars and teams that might be expected on the grid this year. 

After yet another thrilling season in 2015, the European Le Mans Series is healthier than ever and keeps on growing.  With several new teams entering in the LMP2 class and the incredible boost in LMP3 (at least 22 cars predicted), startgrids will probably exceed 35 cars and give us some great racing during the season.

Greaves Motorsport defends its 2015 title and will field their Gibson 015S again. Runner up French team TDS Racing returns with their Oreca05/Nissan. Jota Sport and G-Drive Racing announced their plans yesterday and will field a Gibson 015S under the G-Drive banner, run by Jota. Krohn racing also returns to Europe this year with their Judd powered Ligier JSP2, with a team which will be runned by and based at Greaves Motorsport this season. 

Pegasus Racing will race at least one of their Morgans in 2016. A second car is possible, yet undecided. Eurasia is also expected to return to the series, either with their existing Oreca03 or with a new Oreca05. Portuguese team Algarve Pro Racing will field their Ligier JSP2 again this year. Whether Ibanez racing will return in 2016 is still unclear, as is a possible entry by David Cheng Racing who might team up with Pegasus. 

2016 will also see several new teams into LMP2 and other teams return to prototype racing. After a year absence in ELMS, and clinching the Asian Le Mans Series title last month, Swiss team Race Performance returns to the LMP2 class in their Oreca03/Judd.  

At this moment, 4 or 5 new teams will enter the European Le Mans Series in its top class. Panis-Barthez Competition is a new team set up by former F1 driver Olivier Panis & Fabian Barthez and will run a very ambitious program with Ligier in LMP2 and LMP3 this year. Also new is the SO24! By Lombard Racing who will also run a double program with Ligier in both prototype classes.  Yves Courage is set to return to endurance racing and will field a BR01/Nissan in the series.  American based Dragonspeed Racing is the fourth new team in LMP2 and will enter an Oreca05/Nissan.  IDEC Sport is another French team racing in the VdeV series that might step up to ELMS.

The LMP3 class is exploding in 2016, and will probably only continue to grow during the season. Last year, LMP3 was Ginetta's exclusive playground (except for the last race at Estoril), this year it's Ligier who takes the upper hand with the majority of cars being a Ligier JSP3.  As far as we know  no less than 22 cars (and this list is probably far from complete) are set to enter the class, of which 17 Ligier JSP3. The question remains how many will effectively run a full season campaign and will be announced tomorrow.

Ginetta Juno
Team LNT won't defend their title in 2016 as they focus on their new G57 prototype which isn't eligible in ELMS. Right now it seems only Lanan Racing will retain their Ginetta Juno and will run their car with Ginetta factory support.

Ligier JSP3
© RLR MSport
Graff Racing who already raced at Estoril during the last race in 2015 returns this season with 2 cars  and leads the impressive Ligier armada who will be at the start in Silverstone.  Villorba Corse makes the switch from Ginetta to Ligier and will field one car this season.  RLR Msport (University of Bolton) also traded in their Ginetta for a Ligier, as will Spanish team SVK by Speed Factory  

Panis-Barthez competition enters the ELMS in both prototype classes, with a Ligier in LMP3, as will SO24! By Lombard Racing.  Another new French team is Yvan Muller Racing, the team of four time WTCC champion Yvan Muller who is set to field one or two Ligiers. Team Ultimate, currently active in the VdeV series have bought a JSP3 and will be another French team coming into the LMP3 class.  Team Extrème Limite and Duquiene Engineering are the final two French teams, both set to field the Ligier prototype. 

United Autosports also steps up to prototype racing and will be at the grid with 2 Ligiers.  Italian based Eurointernational has confirmed their intention to race in LMP3 and is expected to field 2 cars. Spanish SPV targets to be on the Le Mans grid in 2019, and starts their chase for an invitation in LMP3 this year with Ligier as will BE Motorsport, another Spanish team making its debut in the ELMS. Dutch team Davytec, known from their Corvette's and Volvo's in the Dutch Supercar Challenge also joins the Ligier family.  Swiss based Race Performance returns to the series with a double effort, of which one is a JSP3. 

Riley-Ave AR-2
Murphy Prototypes will expand their activities into the LMP3 class and run a Riley-Ave AR-2 LMP3 with factory support. Testing of this new car should start imminently. 

The German G-Private Racing is believed to enter 2 Adess-03 cars in the championship with extensive factory support. CPB Sport, run by Sylvain Bouley also bought an Adess chassis and is expected to enter the car this season. It's been pretty quiet though in the Adess corner, so we're not sure wether these cars will be on the grid at the start of the season. 

Last year's champions Formula Racing return to ELMS and will race their Ferrari 458 again with Christina Nielsen added to their line-up. Other teams entering one or more Ferrar's are AF Corse (at least 2), JMW Racing (1) and Austrian AT Racing (1). 

Thiriet by TDS, champions in GTC step up to the GTE class, but still have to announce which car they have chosen. Aston Martin, Ferrari and BMW are believed to be in the mix. Rumours were going round about Belgian Prospeed entering a Corvette C7R in the GTE class, supporting AAI Motorsports, this could be a mighty addition to the GTE grid. 

After their succesfull entry at Estoril last October, Beachdean AMR return to the ELMS for a full season campaign in their Aston Martin Vantage.  Proton Competition will probably return with the Porsche 911, Gulf racing UK is expected to step up to the WEC this year. 

No more GTC cars in 2016, but they will race in newly founded Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup. The final date to enter in this championship is March 14th. 

With more news about teams and entries streaming in, this list is far from complete but gives a first sight at what promises to be one of the championships to follow in 2016.  For more updates, visit the Club Arnage facebook page, which will be updated regularly.

Who will be racing in 2016 ?  We'll know it tomorrow afternoon at the press conference for the 24 hours of Le Mans, FIA WEC and European Le Mans Series.  The press conference will be streamed live on the WEC and ELMS websites. Club Arnage will be there to cover all the news. 

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

WEC 2016 - a look at the possible entry list

At the end of the week, the entry list of the 2016 World Endurance Championship will be presented in Paris, together with the Le Mans 24 Hours invités and the European Le Mans Series entry list. 

Ahead of the press conference, we'll take a look at the possible 2016 entry list.  This is certainly not a complete list, as we're still waiting on the 2016 plans of several teams and some new teams are rumoured to race in the WEC.  Here's what we know at this time : 

LMP1 won't change much compared to 2015.  Both Porsche and Audi already confirmed not to run 3 cars at Le Mans, it's believed that Toyota also won't run a third car at Le Mans.  Title defenders Porsche will enter 2 revised 919's for their 2016 campaign. They will be joined by Audi (2 new R18's) and Toyota with 2 new TS050's.

Rebellion racing already confirmed their return to the LMP1 privateer class, retaining the R-One with AER engine.  No confirmation yet of Kolles' plans for this season, although a return to the WEC looks quite sure.  It's just not clear whether they will enter one or two cars. 

Porsche held the advantage last year with a completely new car, will Audi and Toyota be able to close the gap with their all new prototypes ? 

The LMP2 class might look a bit different this year with Le Mans winners KCMG not returning to the series and it's still unclear whether  G-Drive Racing will defend their title (although it seems likely they will; an announcement should be made ahead of the presentation on Friday). 

Tequila Patron ESM Racing will continue their WEC effort with their two Ligier JSP2's. Signafield Alpine will also return and switch their Oreca03 for a brand new Oreca05. It is believed Strakka racing should also return and run the Gibson 015S again in 2016. 

Stepping up from the European Le Mans Series are Greaves Motorsport (Ligier JSP2) and Jota Sport (Oreca05) who will run a program in both championships.  SMP Racing (AF Racing) will field 2 new BR01's in the WEC (and discontinue their program in ELMS). 

Team Sard Morand sold both Morgans, and is believed to have bought a Ligier JSP2. Will they team up with Ricardo Gonzalez who is about to enter a Mexican backed team in the WEC ? 

There are rumours going on about new team(s) heading into LMP2, but we'll have to wait untill Friday to know more about that. 

The 2016 season will be all about the return of Ford in endurance racing.  At Daytona last weekend they already showed to have the pace, but missed the reliability to be really competitive. 

Ford joins the GTE-Pro class with 2 new Ford GT's.  They will face fierce competition from AF Corse with 2 new Ferrari F488 and 2 revised Aston Martin Vantage entered by Aston Martin Racing.  Porsche is having a sabattical in GTE-Pro this year but Proton/abu Dhabu racing will field one 911 RSR with factory support.  

AF Corse will return to the GTE-Am class with 2 Ferrari F458 Italia's.  As SMP racing is focussing on the BR01 entries in LMP2, they probably won't field any cars in the GTE classes.  Aston Martin Racing will have one car with Paul Dalla Lana.  Larbre Competition will also return with their Corvette C7.  Gulf UK could make the switch from ELMS to WEC, which hasn't been confirmed yet. Proton Competition has a car ready for the Am-class, but it's still unsure if they will enter it for a full season. 

More news on Friday, when we know the definite entry list for the 2016 World Endurance Championship.

Kristof Vermeulen.