Wednesday, 21 March 2018

FIA WEC: BMW Motorsport designer Michael Scully on the new BMW M8 GTE: “It’s the most elemental, determined race car we have ever built.”

When the BMW M8 GTE broke cover last year, it was celebrated for its innovative design that embraced both the motorsport and road car heritage of BMW, while making a clear statement of modernity. Speaking in an interview, Michael Scully, Head of Design BMW Motorsport, and the man behind the aesthetics of the latest Le Mans challenger, explains how the BMW M8 GTE’s looks came to life.

© BMW Motorsport

Mr. Scully, the BMW M8 GTE has been built to compete in the toughest endurance races around the globe. Why do you think the look of the car is important?
Michael Scully: “When a car like the BMW M8 GTE debuts publically before a flagship production car such as the BMW 8 Series, the continuity of performance and design character are of heightened importance because the race car plays such an active role in helping to shape and communicate the essence of the new BMW 8 Series.

Race cars are typically known to be functionally-driven objects, and I love when a vehicle is so focused: they have an innate, authentic expression of what they do. That visual communication is more subjective than a stopwatch however, and as a designer, I’m interested in both the absolute performance of the vehicle, and what character its shape and graphics communicate. Having synergies between those elements is sometimes highly challenging, but it’s also what I find most rewarding in design.”

As a designer, does this balance of function and emotion bring compromise or structure?
“It’s a two-way street. The criteria of functional requirements help structure the design process and give us something to respond to. Trying to find innovative, clever solutions in response to that framework is, for me, what being a designer is all about. Without those constraints, the creative process could be considered to be solely an artistic thing: essentially producing sculpture, for example. Uniting the essential BMW design DNA with the functional and regulatory requirements in the development process is for me, where the creative dynamic really begins.”

In which way does design show the character of a car? And what is the character of the BMW M8 GTE?
“I think we have created a focused, determined expression with the BMW M8 GTE. The car has a formidable presence, and this is partly due to its essential proportions sourced from the production car: It has the classic two-box proportion with long hood, and visual emphasis of mass on the rear wheels which make it, fundamentally, a sports car. As we added nearly 100mm to each side of the car, and with its explicit aerodynamic elements, the car overtly conveys its intent to win races.

At the front of the car, we’ve taken the opportunity to pronounce the internal ducting of the kidneys with a bold colour application, and celebrate the purpose-driven aerodynamic shapes. Combined with the intense, forward-focused headlights and endurance racing-specific corner lights, the car has a highly determined expression… something that I feel is relevant to the purpose of the car.”

Your grandfather was an influential architecture historian. Do you think this is a co-incidence or do you believe you can inherit the language of shape and design?
Scully: “My Granddad taught me that there is added significance when a building or an object acknowledges its context, and that designing in a situational vacuum is fruitless. An object can add positively to the human experience if conceived with an awareness of its surroundings. Sometimes this connection can be accomplished by directly referencing that environment; for example a house on a mountain range with the roofline gesturing to the mountains’ specific slopes, or sometimes by blatantly disavowing the existing surroundings to provoke a larger dialog. Both can be valuable depending on the specific instance, but making those deeper connections is a designer’s onus. I think that’s where I learned about finding relevance, meaning, and impact in an object or image.”

So, if the mountain range is the context for the building, the circuit is the context for the race car?
Scully: “Exactly. The context of a race car is the competitive arena. I’m captivated by objects that are built for competition use because they look, and are, so purposeful. As a result, they happen to send a very clear, visceral message of their intent.  For the BMW M8 GTE to be relevant in this context, modern, bold, and impactful shapes and graphics were in order, and I think the car succeeds in carrying those attributes forward to the world’s stage.”

What are the other challenges for a car race designer? 
Scully: “At BMW Design we use precise lines in conjunction with nuanced surfaces to achieve an interplay between the two, and lend a visual structure to the shape of the car. The regulations for the BMW M8 GTE however, forbid any kind of crisp lines being added to the surfaces; in fact, they require a minimum of a 50mm radius to any surface addition in many areas. This tends to necessitate very clunky, albeit legal shapes. With this project we were continuously looking for ways of maintaining the integrity, richness, and precision of the BMW 8 Series production car design, while also abiding by the regulations, and achieving our aerodynamic and packaging targets. One of the ways we have accomplished this is with inlets and outlets for the air in the bodywork: they perform critical functions, and also give a precision and structure back to the shape that could otherwise get a bit heavy.”

How did the relationship with your BMW 8 Series colleagues work?
“BMW Design’s leadership has obviously had a very active hand in the BMW 8 Series, and that also includes the GTE variant. Additionally, the exterior designer of the BMW Concept 8 Series is a good friend and co-worker of mine: understanding where he was coming from thematically was really helpful in maintaining continuity between the cars. We also had the chance to directly exchange ideas for the GTE, so in that sense it was a natural extension of the BMW 8 Series lineage.

I see race cars and production cars at the BMW Group as having a two-way relationship: A lot of manufacturers promote how their race cars inform their production cars, and we do that too, but at BMW our production and concept cars also inform our race cars. And I think that’s what gives an authenticity to each of them.”

Do you have an example of that two-way relationship?
Scully: “On the mirrors of the BMW M8 GTE, I was striving throughout the development process to get the iconic BMW ‘M hook’ that points back towards the centreline of the car integrated into the main housing of the mirror. It’s an element of our M production cars that really resonates with BMW purists. From my initial sketch with an underslung, cantilevered support, and in iterative collaboration with the aerodynamicists, we found some notable functional benefits from the shape of the mirror, particularly in the highly sculpted base: it’s something that really does positively affect the aerodynamic flow regime down the side of the car.  So with the mirrors we have a relationship where the race car’s functionality is improved, but the fundamental design vocabulary and direction is inspired from the production cars.”

What are your favourite parts of the BMW M8 GTE and why?
“As I mentioned, I’m proud of the mirrors because they have an embedded aerodynamic function, carry the M iconography, and have a modern, purposeful expression. I also really like the front kidneys with their exposed interior surfaces for the specific care and feeding requirements of the race car. The kidneys evoke the history of BMW with the forward-leaning shark nose, and by opening them up with exposed internals, we reference that heritage in an entirely modern way.”

To sum it all up: Where does the BMW M8 GTE rank compared to the other BMW race cars you have worked on?
“The BMW M8 GTE is truly distilled down to its essence. It is an efficient, competitive machine. It has a highly defined purpose, and a distinct, dynamic persona. For me, it’s the most elemental, determined car that we have ever built.”

Source: BMW press release

FIA WEC: Dragonspeed adds Maldonado to LMP2 line-up

Dragonspeed has confirmed former Formula 1 driver Pastor Maldonado as its second driver for their LMP2 car in the 2018/2019 FIA WEC Super Season. Maldonado will join Roberto Gonzalez behind the wheel of the #31 Gibson powered Oreca 07. The third driver for the car is still to be announced after a deal with Esteban Guttierez fell through earlier this month.

The 33 year old Venezuelan will make his sportscar debut at the Prologue in a few weeks, after a two year break from competition. Maldonado raced in Formula 1 for Williams and Lotus between 2011 and 2015. In 96 starts he won the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona in 2012.

Roberto Gonzalez who was announced as designated driver at the presentation of the FIA WEC entry list, already built up some experience in prototype racing.  The Mexican drove for Manor in the World Endurance Championship last season and competed with AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (Ligier JSP217) in the Daytona 24 hours this January. 

The driver line-up for the teams BR1 in the top class of the FIA WEC has been announced before with Renger Van der Zande, Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman. Van der Zander will be replaced by Pietro Fittipaldi - grandson of two-time Emerson - in two rounds for which he is unavailable due to a clash with the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship. 

Kristof Vermeulen.

Friday, 16 March 2018

IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring: Pole position for Cadillac (P), BMW (GTLM) and Ferrari (GTD)

Tristan Vautier has secured pole position this afternoon in his #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac DPi for tomorrow's Sebring 12 Hours.  

It's the first pole position for the team in its new DPi prototype, and the first pole for the Frenchman in the WeatherTech SportsCar Series.  Vautier held off fellow Frenchman Olivier Pla in the #2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Dpi with 0.160 seconds after an exciting duel. Third fastest was Ricky Taylor in the #7 Acura Team Penske Dpi, 0.341 seconds behind pole position. 

After a disappointing 24 Hours of Daytona where the brand new M8 GTE showed its reliability but a lack of pace, BMW now dominated the LMGTE class, scoring pole and third position at the end of the qualifying session. Both BMW were in top of the timetable, until James Calado managed to squeeze in its #62 Ferrari 488 GTE. Connor de Philippi was the fastest man on track, clocking in a record breaking 1.55.893 for the GTLM class with his #25 BMW M8 GTE. Calado was a (very) close second, just 0.058 seconds behind the BMW. The #24 BMW of Jesse Krohn set the third fastest time. 

Spirit of Race took pole position in the GTD class with Daniel Serra behind the wheel of the #51 Ferrari 488 GT3. Serra also set a record qualifying lap in 1.58.710. Chistopher Mies in the #29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 GT3 was second fastest, over half a second behind Serra. Just 0.022 seconds slower was Jack Hawksworth in the #15 Lexus RCF GT3.  The #93 Michael Shank Lexus is still undergoing repair works after yesterday's crash and didn't take part in qualifying. 

The 66th annual 12 Hours of Sebring will start on Saturday at 10h40 local time (14h40 UK time, 15h40 CET).

Saturday's (very) cold and foggy morning practice saw Helio Castrovenes fastest in the #7 Penske Acura in 1.47.076 in the Prototype class, both BMW's setting the pace in GTLM and the Land Motorsport R8 fastest in GTD. 

Mazda dominated yesterday's night practice, putting both Joest run Mazda DPi's on top of the timetable.  Oliver Jarvis in the #77 beating Jonathan Bomarito in the #55 with 0.457 seconds. The Ford GT of Joey Hand was fastest in the dark, ahead of the #25 BMW and the #911 Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor.  In the GTD class the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW was fastest. 

Kristof Vermeulen. 
All pictures © JellyBaby.Media

Thursday, 15 March 2018

IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring: Penske Acura fastest in first two practice sessions

Action started today for the 66th annual 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida.  43 cars went out for today's first two practice sessions under sunny skies, but with bitter cold temperatures in the morning.

The #7 Penske Acura DPI's was fastest overall so far, Helio Castrovenes topping the timetables in the first session, Ricky Taylor in the second session.  The Joest Mazda seem to like the track at Sebring better than Daytona in January, setting second and fourth best times in the second session of the day.

In GTLM its's Ford vs Ferrari so far, the Risi Ferrari sandwiched inbetween both Fords today. The #66 Ford set the fastest time in the first session, #67 in the afternoon.  The #93 Michael Shank Acura set the quickest time in GTD during the morning session, in the afternoon it was the #15 3GT Racing Lexus who was fastest.

The second session was red flagged early when Justin Marks went hard into the tyre wall at turn 13, even moving the concrete wall a few foot behind.  Marks got out of his #93 Michael Shank Acura but with heavy damage to the car it's unsure whether they will be able to participate in the night practice session.



Sunday, 11 March 2018

Amelia Island Concours d'élégeance: 1929 Duesenberg and 1963 Ferrari win best of show

A 1929 Duesenberg J.SJ Convertible and 1963 Ferrari 250/275P have won the best of show awards on Saturday at  the 23rd annual Amelia Island Concours d'Ă©lĂ©geance. 

© JellyBaby.Media

As in 2017, the Amelia Island Concours d'Ă©lĂ©gance was moved one day earlier, due to bad weather forecasts for Sunday. That late day change didn't scare off any visitors, with thousands of car enthousiasts attending the concours under sunny skies. 

Guest of honour this year was Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, double Formula 1 World Champion and two-time winner of the Indy 500. The concours showcased some impressive racecars of Fittipaldi, including a 1970 Lotus 72/5, 1974 McLaren M23/5, 1974 Porsche 911 RSR IROC, Renault Dauphine "Gordini"and 1977 Chevrolet IROC Camaro Z28.


More than 300 cars and motorcycles, split up into 35 classes were presented at the Amelia golf club. Highlights next to Fittipaldi's race cars was an impressive line-up of "Martini race cars", N.A.R.T Ferrari's, several one-off and unique automobiles, Steve McQueens original "Bullit" Mustang and an almost complete collection of Auburns. 

© JellyBaby.Media
The highly valuated Best in Show Concours d’Elegance Trophy was presented to a 1929 Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible owned by Harry Yeaggy from Cincinnati, Ohio. This Duesenberg J/SJ Convertible has Murphy roadster-style coachwork that was restyled in period by Bohman & Schwartz of Pasadena, California. Styling changes included a lengthened hood, slotted fenders and more modern bumpers. One of the early owners of this car was Edward Beale McLean, who owned the Hope Diamond and whose family owned The Washington Post.

© JellyBaby.Media

A 1963 Ferrari 250/275P from The JSL Motorsports Collection in Redwood City, California, took home the prestigious Best in Show Concours de Sport Trophy. The winning Ferrari 250/275P won the overall at the 1963 ADAC Nurburgring 1,000Kms with John Surtees and Willy Mairesse and the 1964 Sebring 12 Hours with Mike Parkes and Umberto Maglioli driving.  This car finished second at the 1963 Sebring event and won the first race at Mont Tremblant as a NART entry with Pedro Rodriguez driving. The car was campaigned as a NART entry in 1964 and 1965.

“I could not be more pleased with the judges’ decisions for the 2018 Amelia Island Concours winners,” said Bill Warner, Chairman and Founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “We are overjoyed to present the Duesenberg and Ferrari with these honors. These cars are prime examples of automotive prestige and we are proud to recognize them.”

© JellyBaby.Media

In the power-driven age, a special class of electric horseless carriages highlighted the renewed enthusiasm for the 120 year old technology.  IMSA GTP celebrated its GTP -- Grand Touring Prototype -- racers from the 1981 through the 1993 IMSA Championships. A quarter century has passed since IMSA’s GTPs last raced in anger. They were the spiritual descendants of the mighty, unlimited Can-Am racers of the 1960s and 1970s and the vanguard of a new generation of automotive performance and technology. By the end of the GTP era in 1993 they had eclipsed every major record the fabled Can-Am racers set.  Another spectacular display was the collection of Martini race cars, including 2 Porsche 917's. 

A few further impressions of this years concours at Amelia and an overview of some class winners and a rundown of Le Mans cars will be published in the upcoming days. 

Kristof Vermeulen.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Michelin Le Mans Cup expands to 29 car grid

The Michelin Le Mans Cup continues to grow with another big increase in the number of full season entries for the 2018 season. No less than 29 cars will be on the grid for the first race at Le Castellet in April. 23 LMP3's and 6 GT3's will battle it out for this years title.

© Michelin Le Mans Cup

The LMP3 class grows up to a massive 23 cars this season, showing the success and importance the class has reached in the endurance racing ladder. Several teams are returning for their second season in the championship, many of them with multi-car entries. Other new teams are also joining the championship for six races around Europe, including the season highlight at Le Mans. For the first time, three manufacturers will be present in the Michelin Le Mans Cup with Ligier, Norma and the return of one Ginetta.

DKR Engineering returns to defend its 2017 title, although with a new driver line-up. Last years champions Jean Glorieux and Alexander Toril are moving up to the European Le Mans Series this year, chasing down the European title. They will be replaced by Dutchman LĂ©onard Hoogenboom and Jens Petersen from Germany. 2017 Vice Champions Tony Wells and Colin Noble return for a second shot at the title, in a 2-car effort by Nielsen Racing. 

United Autosports also returns and will lead the field with no less than three Ligier JSP3's. Matt Bell and Wayne Boyd will be joined by American James McGuire and Briton Richard Meins, with American Najaf Husain and Colin Braun in the third entry. French team Graff will also enter three cars, split between two Ligiers and one Norma. Swiss outfit Cool Racing is stepping up their efforts with a two-car entry. Motorsport 98 and Spirit of Race are both returning with an unchanged line-up. RLR M Sport also expands to two cars this season. Ross Warburton and Alex Kapadia will be joined by John Farano & Job Van Uitert.

A new face on the grid will be Japanese team TKS, which was invited for the Road to Le Mans race in 2017, and now enters the Michelin Le Mans Cup, bringing in the only Ginetta P3-15 on the 2018 grid for Shinyo Shano. Also new on the grid will be British teams Brookspeed International (Ligier) and Lanan Racing (Norma), both teams with on single car. There are also two new French teams: DB Autosport and CD Sport who are both racing Normas M30/Nissans. French teams Duqueine Engineering, N’Race and Spanish team SPV Racing complete the LMP3 grid for this season.

Despite the growth in LMP3, the GT3 grid stays on the same level with 6 cars confirmed for a full season campaign. Last season saw 4 manufacturers on the grid, in 2018 it's a battle of a lonely Porsche against 5 Ferrari's. 2017 champions Ebimotors return to defend their title but will switch their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 for a brand new Porsche 911 GT3 R. A return for the team to Stuttgart's finest after racing with Porsche in the past. Paolo Venerosi and Alessandro Baccani will share the wheel of the 911. Kessel Racing arrives with 3 Ferrari F488 GT3's, with two Italian and one British driver crews. Spirit of Race are back for a third season in the Michelin Le Mans Cup with Christoph Ulrich and Maurizio Mediani in the #51 Ferrari. AF Corse complete the six-car line up with Marco Cioci and Piergiuseppe Perazzini sharing the #71 F488.

Pierre Fillon, President of the ACO: “Three years after announcing the Michelin Le Mans Cup I am very happy to see the grid significantly increase in size once again. The 2018 Michelin Le Mans Cup will feature some of the top teams and drivers from the world of endurance. The series also gives bronze drivers the maximum amount of track time on some of the best circuits in Europe and the fact the grid has increased by nearly 50% in 2018 is testament to appeal of the Michelin Le Mans Cup. The Road to Le Mans also attracts drivers and teams looking to compete on the full circuit at La Sarthe, giving them the opportunity to showcase their talents.”

GĂ©rard Neveu, CEO of the Michelin Le Mans Cup: “The Michelin Le Mans Cup continues to grow stronger and we are extremely pleased to see a healthy 29 car grid for the 2018 season. The LMP3 class is the endurance racing success story and with 18 cars in the European Le Mans Series there will be 41 LMP3 cars from three different manufacturers at each of the race meetings in 2018, which will be a phenomenal sight. More than ever the Michelin Le Mans Cup turns out to be a great platform to move up the Endurance ladder; to compete in the European Le Mans Series and, for the best, race in the WEC and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There promises to be some great racing in the Michelin Le Mans Cup this season.” The 2018 Michelin Le Mans Cup will start at the Circuit Paul Ricard with the collective test on 11 April followed by round one at the same venue on the 14 April.

Download the 2018 entry list here !

Kristof Vermeulen.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

FIA WEC: A closer look into the heart of the BMW M8 GTE

In less than two months, BMW returns to the FIA World Endurance Championship with their all new M8 GTE. After the cars debut at Daytona, it will race at Sebring next month before the M8 will make its debut on Europe at the WEC prologue at Le Castellet in April.  BMW developed a new engine for the M8 which already showed its reliabilty at Daytona.  Let's take a closer look at the M8's powerhouse. 

© BMW Motorsport

Every successful race car needs a powerful and reliable engine to accelerate to top speed. In the case of the new BMW M8 GTE, this is the BMW P63/1. The story of this special powerhouse began back in February 2016. With the start of the conception phase for the new GTE engine, the engine designers at BMW Motorsport embarked on their most comprehensive project since the development of the power unit for the DTM comeback in 2012. In total, more than 500 engine design drawings – and another 500 drawings for the powertrain – were created in the following months. The result of that work is the most efficient engine that BMW Motorsport has ever developed, delivering between 500 and more than 600 hp (depending on the specifications of the sporting authorities).

The P63/1 passed its first performance test at the modern BMW Motorsport test rig in Munich on the 20th January 2017 with flying colours. That was a special moment for the engineers – as was the roll-out of the car on 1st July 2017 and the race debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona (USA) on 27th January 2018. The goal during development was as clear as it was ambitious: to develop the most efficient engine ever to power a BMW race car. To achieve this, it was initially very important to decide upon a base engine ideally suited to the high demands encountered in motor racing. Working closely with the developers at BMW M GmbH, the decision was made to use the BMW S63T4, a V8 engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo Technology, which was first used in the new BMW M5. 

As stipulated in the regulations, the cast parts in the engine block and cylinder head were adopted without modification from the production power unit. Both components were made in the light-alloy foundry at BMW Group Plant. Here, innovative and sustainable manufacturing methods are used to make technologically-sophisticated engine components from light-alloy casting. Aside from the regulated cast parts, the engine in the BMW M8 GTE – containing approximately 2,300 further components, including 985 unique parts – required comprehensive modifications. Of these parts, 181 were derived from series projects, while more than 700 were specifically developed for the P63/1 or added from other BMW Motorsport racing engines.

The engineers reduced the capacity from 4.4 to 4 litres, in line with regulations for the GTE class. The new design of the crank drive involved the implementation of a flat crankshaft, which brings with it the advantage of a regular firing order and gives the engine an even sportier sound. The geometry of the combustion chambers, including the inlet and outlet ports, was also modified to ensure that the P63/1 is ideally designed for the demands of racing. Comprehensive modifications to the intake and exhaust system, and the complete redesign of the turbocharger, have also helped to improve efficiency. Among other things, this results in the fuel burning very quickly and comprehensively at the optimal time, at a maximum temperature of over 2,100 degrees Celsius. This
allows the P63/1 to achieve efficiency levels well above 40 per cent. This makes it the most efficient BMW racing engine ever in sports car and touring car racing.

© BMW Motorsport

This efficiency gives teams far greater flexibility with regard to race strategy. As well as being efficient, driveability is another outstanding feature of the P63/1. This helps the drivers get the most out of the BMW M8 GTE on the track. A completely new approach to engine control made it possible to achieve instant throttle response and linear power delivery from the engine.

Technical data for the P63/1 engine for the BMW M8 GTE.

Model:                         V8 engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo Technology

Capacity:                     3,981 cc

Output:                       500 to over 600 hp (depending on the specifications of the sporting authorities)

Number of cylinders:  8

V angle:                      90°

Bore:                           89 mm

Stroke:                        80 mm

Cylinder spacing:      98 mm

Engine speed:            approx. 7,000 rpm

Kristof Vermeulen
Source: BMW Motorsport press release

FIA WEC: Gibson confirms engine deal with Rebellion Racing & Oreca

Gibson Technology confirmed today their new contract with Rebellion Racing and manufacturer Oreca to supply LMP1 engines for the 2018/19 World Endurance Championship Super Season. The 2017 WEC LMP2 Champions have confirmed their intention to contest LMP1 in FIA WEC in 2018, running a two car team with an Oreca chassis and Gibson GL458 engine. This is a return to the top category of WEC for Rebellion and will include competing in the grueling Le Mans 24 hours.

The new LMP1 engine supplied by Gibson will be based upon their successful LMP2 engine. Design, development and production of the new GL458 are taking place at Gibson’s state-of-the-art Repton facility, with the first engine being scheduled for delivery to Rebellion next month.

All LMP2 teams in WEC, ELMS, Le Mans 24 Hour and IMSA in the USA are currently powered by Gibson engines, with over 600,000kms covered so far with the GK428 engines. The new LMP1 contract with Rebellion Racing is a natural progression for Gibson’s highly motivated engineers to prove their reliability and success at the top level of endurance racing.

Hugues de Chaunac, CEO, ORECA Group: “ORECA has a great and successful relationship with Gibson Technology on the LMP2 program. So when we had to investigate the different options for an LMP1 engine, it made sense to talk about this project with Gibson and at the end it was an obvious choice. They have shown their abilities in sportscars for many years. We need a strong, reliable and competitive engine for the Rebellion R13 and we are confident we will have it with the Gibson V8. We will have a strong package and we are looking forward to it.”

Calim Bouhadra, Vice President of the REBELLION Group: “We are excited to make our come-back in LMP1 and to do this project with both ORECA and Gibson Technology. We had an excellent package in 2017 with the ORECA 07 chassis and the V8 Gibson engine and we made it successful by winning the FIA WEC title. We are really happy to continue this partnership. It was the natural step for REBELLION Racing and it will be for sure a great challenge. We all share the same motivation.”

John Manchester, Gibson Technology’s Operations Director: “Everyone at Gibson Technology is delighted that our engines have been chosen by yet another top-flight team and sportscar constructor to compete at the highest level of world endurance racing. The new LMP1 engine contract with Rebellion Racing and Oreca is a natural progression for our company and we are extremely pleased to continue with the successful partnership that we formed with them during 2017, which will further enable us to develop our engine technology to compete against some of the top sportscar and engine manufacturers at the pinnacle of world sportscar racing. We are all very much looking forward to the exciting challenge ahead.”

Friday, 9 February 2018

Capacity grid for the FIA WEC super season with 36 full season entries

The 2018/2019 FIA WEC "Super Season" really lives up to all expectations with a record breaking grid of 36 cars; 17 prototypes and 19 GTE cars over 4 different classes.  After a booming grid for the European Le Mans Series on Thursday, a maximum capacity grid for the WEC shows endurance racing at the highest level is alive and kicking. 

No less than 10 cars will feature in LMP1, the highest number since Le Mans in 2015 when 4 manufacturers were competing. This time though it's Toyota versus 5 privateer teams, all with brand new non-hybrid LMP1's. LMP2 saw a slight setback in entries, mainly because several teams stepped up (again) to LMP1. A small grid of 7 cars this season but for the first time with 3 different manufacturers.  BMW joins the LMGTE Pro ranks with the big and brutal M8, facing stiff competition from all 4 returning manufacturers.  In LMGTE Am, there's an increase to 9 cars  with 3 new teams in the championship.

As expected (or feared), the date of the 6 Hours of Fuji has been changed again to accomodate Toyota so Fernando Alonso can race in Toyota's home race.  This means the third round of the FIA WEC now clashes again with the final race of the IMSA/NAEC championship, Petit Le Mans.  A controversial clash as several drivers have contracts in both championships, especially in the North American Endurance Cup.  Olivier Pla, Harry Tincknell, Augusto Farfus and Renger van der Zande are a few of the drivers who would be on double duty that weekend. For van der Zande, who drives with Wayne Taylor Racing in IMSA, this could leave him out of the WEC in Spa and Fuji.  It's unclear whether a change of date for the Petit would still be possible with a very cramped schedule in that time of the year. 

LMP1 - 10 cars

Rebellion Racing will enter two Gibson powered, Oreca built R13 prototypes.  The leading driver in the #1 is AndrĂ© Lotterer, Thomas Laurent who climbed from LMP3 to LMP1 in just 3 seasons time has been appointed as the leading driver in the #2 R13.  Other drivers for Rebellion are Neel Jani, Bruno Senna, Mathias Beche and Gustavo Menezes. The exact driver pairings are still to be announced. 

Next up is ByKolles Racing which returns with its updated Nismo powered Enso CLM P1/01. The Austrian team stepped out the FIA WEC after the race at the NĂĽrburgring last year to prepare itself for the super season. An intensive test program already saw several updates on the car. Oliver James Webb is the first confirmed driver. 

CEFC TRSM Racing, also known as Manor, is now confirmed with not one but two Ginetta G60-LT-P1 proto's, both powered by the new Mechachrome engine. It's been rumoured for some weeks, but it was only 'till this afternoon that the second car has been confirmed. The driver line-up of the #5 will be led by Ginetta factory driver and ELMS LMP3 champion Charlie Robertson, Oliver Rowland who made his way up in Formula racing is named as first driver in the #6 Ginetta. 

Toyota Gazoo Racing is the only OEM manufacturer left in the World Endurance Championship and the sole entry in the LMP1 Hybrid class. The Japenese team returns with two cars for the WEC and their chase to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As previously confirmed, the #7 car will be driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, the #8 will be in the hands of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Formula 1 ace Fernando Alonso. 

Dragonspeed is the first customer team with a BR Engineering BR1 which will be powered by the Gibson LMP1 engine. Drivers are Hendrik Hedman, Ben Hanley and Renger van der Zande.  Van der Zande will make his debut at Le Mans, but might have to miss the 6 hours of Spa and Fuji because the clash with IMSA dates where he's one of the drivers in the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi. Hedman has gotten a waiver from the ACO to race in the LMP1 class as bronze driver. 

The final team in the LMP1 class is SMP Racing which fields 2 BR Engineering BR 1's. SMP's cars will use an AER engine, opposite to the Gibson in the Dragonspeed car. 2 Russian drivers have been confirmed so far: Mikhail Aleshin in the #11, Vitaly Petrov in the #17. BR Engineering has been testing the car intensively since November last season, this team might be the biggest challengers of Toyota.  A full Russian line-up is expected in at least one car, with several Russian drivers part of the test program. 

LMP2 - 7 cars

The growth in LMP1 and several LMP2 teams stepping up to the top class of the championship reflects on the amount of cars in LMP2.  Just 7 cars have applied for a full season entry this time. However, for the first time since the unification of the class, 3 different manufacturers will be present for the super season. Oreca still has the upper hand with 5 cars, compared to 1 Dallara and 1 Ligier. 

TDS Racing is first up, François Perrodo returning for his second season in the World Endurance Championship in their Oreca 07. He will be joined by Matthieu Vaxivière and ex Audi factory driver LoĂŻc Duval. Racing Team Nederland will field the only Dallara P217, stepping up from the European Le Mans Series last season. Team owner and gentleman driver Frits Van Eerd leads the driver-line up and will be joined by Giedo van der Garde and "good old" Jan Lammers.  Lammers will race at Spa and Le Mans (his 24th race at La Sarthe), but might be replaced for the remainder of the season. 

Dragonspeed not only fields a car in the LMP1 class, but will also race in LMP2 with a Gibson powered Oreca. Mexican Roberto Gonzalez is the sole driver confirmed so far in the #31. Next up is Signatech Alpine Matmut, back with their #36 Alpine A470 rebranded Oreca for Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet. Thiriet raced with G-Drive last season until Fuji and now returns to the championship with Alpine. No second car for Alpine as they had last season. 

Jackie Chan DC Racing is the only team with 2 cars on the grid this year. Again opting for the Oreca 07, the Fortunecat 37 will be driven by Jazeman Jafaar, the Mighty 38 by Ho-Pin Tung. More driver announcements are forthcoming for the Japanese team. 

A new - and rather surprising - face in the prototype paddock is Larbre Competition. Jack Leconte's team coming into the LMP2 class for the first time since 2014, celebrating their 25th participation in the 24 hours of Le Mans with a full season campaign. Larbre will be the sole team to enter a Ligier JSP217. All drivers have been announced today for the #50: Erwin Creed, Romano Ricci and Fernando Rees will be behind the wheel of the Ligier. 

LMGTE Pro - 10 cars

The usual suspects arrive in the LMGTE Pro class for the super season.  2 new cars on the grid with the arrival of BMW and their M8 GTE and the all new Aston Martin Vantage AMR. A few changes to be noted in the driver line-ups too at Porsche and Aston Martin. 

AF Corse defends last year's title with the updated Ferrari 488 GTE Evo. No change in the driver line-ups here with Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado in the #51 and reigning champions Davide Rigon and Sam Bird in the #71.  Ford returns in what might be the final cycle of the Ford GT with the #67 for Stefan MĂĽcke and Olivier Pla and the #68 for Andy Priaulx & Harry Tincknell. 

BMW returns to the FIA World Endurance Championship with BWM Team Mtek, running 2 M8 GTE's. BMW is the only team running three drivers all season. Martin Tomczyk, Nicky Catsburg and Philipp Eng will be driving in the #81; Augusto Farfus, Antonio Felix Da Costa & Alexander Sims are on duty in the #82. 

The second season for the Porsche 911 RSR marks the return of Gianmaria Bruno to the FIA WEC after moving over from Ferrari to the Stuttgart based manufacturer.  Bruno will share the #91 with Richard Lietz, replacing Fred Makowiecki who moves back to IMSA for a full season drive. No changes in the #92 where Michael Kristensen and Kevin Estre are back in the cockpit.

Aston Martin arrives for the super season with its all new "poison green" Vantage AMR. 2016 GTE champions Marco Sorensen & Nicky Thiim ara back in the #95, the #97 will feature a complete new driver line-up. New signings Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin will replace Darren Turner and Jonny Adam. 

As in the past season, this will be the class with the most close racing in the whole field.  BMW arrives with a new car, but already showed some good reliability at Daytona in January.  If they are able to pick up the pace by the first race in Spa, they might be in the mix from the beginning of the season.  Like Priaulx said at the press conference this afternoon: LMGTE Pro will be a titanic dog fight all season long. 

LMGTE Am - 9 cars

The future of the LMGTE Am class seemed uncertain for a while with the increase in LMP1 teams and the uncertainty about the numbers in the LMP2 class, even with stories emerging teams would be led off to the European Le Mans Series instead.  An unexpected increase to 9 cars in the class however with 3 new teams, makes the Am class a very healthy one for the super season.  Combined with the Pro class, 19 GTE's will feature on the 2018/2019 grid, an all time record for the World Endurance Championship. 

AF Corse will have its hands full next season, not only fielding their own 2 factory Ferrari's in the LMGTE Pro class, but also running 3 Ferrari's in the Am class.  Spirit of Race and Clearwater return to the championship, while MR Racing is new to the WEC. 

Thomas Flohr is back in his silver #54 Spirit of Race 488 GTE, now joined by Giancarlo Fisichella who returns to the FIA WEC after racing in IMSA and Blancpain series in the past seasons. Francesco Castellacci returns to the team, while Miguel Molina is being replaced by Fisichella.  Also returning for their second season is Clearwater Racing in the #61 F488 with an unchanged driver line-up: Weng Sun Mok joined again by Keita Sawa and Matt Griffin. 

New in the WEC is Japanese team MR Racing, who will also race a Ferrari 488 GTE. Ishikawa Motojaki and Olivier Beretta tested the Clearwater Ferrari at the rookie test in Bahrain last year after which the team confirmed its intention to race in the championship. They will be joined by 3 time Le Mans veteran Eddie Cheever III in the #70 Ferrari.


The second new team in the Am class is Team Project 1, a successful German team in GT3 and Carrera Cup racing, winning last seasons Carrera Cup Germany and racing in several GT3 championships. The team acquiered a new Porsche 911 RSR and will make its debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The #56 will be driven by Porsche works driver Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti. 

Dempsey Proton Racing is the second team racing with Porsche, and brings back 2 cars to the Am field.  Matteo Cairoli is already confirmed on the #77 (expect team owner Christian Ried also on this one), Matt Campbell will lead the #88 entry.  The fourth and final Porsche in class will be entered by Gulf UK Racing, now in its second season in the WEC. Michael Wainwright is confirmed as the lead driver in the #86, Ben Barker also almost certain to join in again. 

The first Aston Martin in the Am class is the #90 TF Sport Vantage of Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey and Charles Eastwood. The 2017 runner-up of the European Le Mans Series quickly announced its move up to the WEC after the end of last season. Yoluc and Hankey already drove together in the ELMS with Nicki Thiim last season.  Last, but not least, are last years champions Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda in the #98 Aston Martin. Their entry was unsure for a long time, as they won't be able to race with the new Vantage and all other competitors will race much more recent machinery.  With a BoP in favour of the "older" Aston, they still might have a chance to fight for victory this season.  

The provisional entry list for the 2018/2019 "Super Season" can be downloaded here

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

ELMS: An impressive 41 car grid for the 2018 season

An impressive 41 car grid has been announced today for this years European Le Mans Series.  17 cars will feature in the LMP2 class, the highest number ever in the championship. The arrival of 3 new teams in the class, the return of G-Drive with a 2 car effort and a Rebellion Junior team with a few (very) strong driver line-ups will make up for another thrilling season the championship's top class. 

18 cars are on the LMP3 grid, about the same number as last season but with a few noteable newcomers coming over from the Michelin Le Mans Cup. As expected it's Norma vs Ligier again in this class.  GTE has 6 entries this season, equally divided by Porsche and Ferrari, unfortunately no Aston Martins will be on the grid this season. 

Looking into the LMP2 entry list, let's start with Oreca, which won last years' championship with G-Drive and now has 7 cars on the grid. 

G-Drive Racing returns to the ELMS to defend last years title. Not with one car like in the past years, but with a 2-car effort although run by different teams.  The first car, run by TDS Racing, the #26 Oreca 07 will be driven by Roman Rusinov, Matthieu Vaxivière and Jean-Eric Vergne.  The second car (#40) will be managed by Graff and have James Allen, Enzo Guibbert and Jose Guttierez behind the wheel. Whether this means G-Drive won't compete in the FIA WEC Super season is unclear at this time, although it's believed that Rusinov might do a partial super season. Next to the second G-Drive, Graff also fields their own Oreca for Alexandre Cougnaud,  Jonathan Hirschi and Tristan Gommendy.

Dragonspeed who ran the championship winning G-Drive last season returns with one Oreca for Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley and Nicolas Lapierre, the same driver line-up as last season. Busy times ahead for Hedman and Hanley as they both will race with the all new BR1 in the FIA WEC too.

New in the LMP2 class with a Gibson powered Oreca 07 is Duqueine Engineering.  After adding Norma to their Automotive division, they announced to move up a class so they wouldn' race agains their customers. Just 1 driver confirmed so far for the #29 is Frencham Marvin Klein.  Another new team is Spanish Racing Engineering, here also only 1 driver on the provisional entry list: Norman Nato. 

Algarve Pro Racing will run an Oreca as second car under the flag of Rebellion Racing, as a junior team for the Swiss outfit.  With a driver line-up consisting of Harrison Newey, Thomas Laurent and presumably Richard Bradley doesn't seem that "junior" though.  Running the Rebellion Oreca 07 also means APR will stage 2 different cars on the grid, as their own entry is a Ligier JSP217. Mark Patterson who drove for United Autosports in LMP3 last year and Ate De Jong are the first drivers confirmed for the Ligier. 

Ligier will have 6 cars on the grid, entered by 5 different teams. Championship challengers United Autosports add a second Ligier in the LMP2 class this year.  The #2 will be driven by Philip Hanson & Filipe Albuquerque while William Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer will be in the #32 again.

IDEC Sport already announced moving up to two cars last December, and will have two Ligiers on the grid.  The French team leaving no doubt about their ambitions this year with Nicolas Minassian joining the team as racing director and Paul Loup Chatin as lead driver.  Chatin will share the #28 Ligier with Paul Lafargue, Patrice Lafargue will be in the #27. 

Panis-Barthez Competition focuses on the LMP2 class this season with their #23 Ligier for Timothé Buret. Fabien Barthez is also expected for driving duties again, the identity of the third driver still unknown. The team won't enter a car in the LMP3 class this season.

4 Dallara's will race in the ELMS this season, 3 teams returning after last season and the addition of 1 new car.  SMP Racing, who won the 4 Hours of Le Castellet last season return with the #35 Dallara P217, one driver confirmed so far: Victor Shaitar.  Other returnees are Italians Cetilar Villorba Corse with the #47 Dallara driven by the same crew as last season: Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Andrea Belicchi. Danish team High Class racing is also back in the LMP2 class with Dennis Andersen and Anders Fjordbach in the #49.  As reported earlier, Spanish team AVF by Adrian Valles joins the ELMS for the first time with the #30 Dallara driven by Konstantin Tereschenko and Henrique Chaves. 

The LMP3 class has 18 entries this season, of which 3 teams are new to the championship.  3 Norma's will face 15 Ligiers this season but with a few fast drivers in the Norma's, it's going to be an interesting season again. 

United Autosports leads the pack with 2 Ligiers JSP3's.  Americans John Falb and Sean Rayhall return to defend their title and will be joined by Anthony Wells and Matthew Bell in the #3 Ligier.  Other teams returning with the Ligier are Cool Racing with Alexandre Coigny, Iradj Alexander and Antonin Borga; BySpeed Factory (now C NEFIS by Speed Factory) and 360 Racing.  

The first new team, moving up from the Michelin Le Mans Cup is British Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen, bringing another Ligier to the championship. The #7 will be driven by Colin Noble, Alex Kapadia and Christian Stubbe Olsen. Last years Michelin Le Mans Cup champions DKR Engineering also step up to the ELMS with their fast and reliable Norma M30. Jean Glorieux and Alexander Toril will on driving duties again.  Two new teams, but two teams to watch out for in the new season !  The third newcomer is British BHK Motorsport with another Ligier JSP3, Francesco Dracone and Jacopo Baratto are announced as their drivers. 

AT Racing is set for its second season in prototype racing, so far with father and son Talkanitsa confirmed in the #9. The colourful Oregon Team Norma will also be back on the grid with Andres Mendez.  Eurointernational fields two cars again, the #11 for the returning Ricky Capo and prototype debutant Kay Van Berlo; the #12 for Andrea Dromedari and Maxwell Hanratty.  Inter Europol will also be on the grid with two Ligiers, expanding their effort in the championship. The #13 will be driven by Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe again, the new #13 is manned by Paul Scheusner and Hendrik Still. 

RLR Msport has a new line-up in their #15 Ligier since Kapadia moved over to Ecurie Ecosse. John Farano, Rob Van Uitert and Robert Garofall will be driving for the team this season. Ultimate returns with Mathieu & Jean-Baptiste Lahaye and François Heriau in their red/white #17 Ligier.  Yvan MĂĽller's M Racing-YMR is the final team in the LMP3 class, and will race with last years cars again: the #18 Ligier JSP3 for Laurent Millara and Nathan Bihel and the #19 Norma for Nicolas Ferrer. 

The GTE Class will be a battle Porsche vs Ferrari this season.  6 cars will be on the grid, equally divided between Porsche and Ferrari.  No Aston Martins this season in the ELMS, TF Sport moving up to the FIA WEC and Beechdean seem to focus on British GT (or will they step up to the WEC too ?). 

JMW Motorsport is back after clinching the 2017 title and leads the Ferrari entries with the #66 F488 GTE. Only one driver is confirmed so far: Liam Griffin.  Also back in 2018 is Duncan Cameron with his Spirit of Race Ferrari, sharing his car again with Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott like last year.  The third Ferrari sees Tracy Krohn returning to the championship after being absent for a year.  Krohn Racing raced with a Ligier in LMP2 back in 2016 but now gets back in a Ferrari in the GTE class. Tracy Krohn will be joined by Niclass Jonsson and Andrea Bertolini. 

Proton Competition will race with 2 new - not to be called mid-engined - Porsche 911 RSR's. The #77 has Matteo Cairoli listed as designated driver, the #88 sees Matt Campell on the entry list so far.  The third Porsche is for Italian Ebimotors, the 2017 Michelin Le Mans Cup champions. For their step up to the ELMS, the team switched their Lamborghini for a Porsche, with Fabio Babini behind the wheel. 

Download the 2018 entry list here !!

Kristof Vermeulen.