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2017 Rolex 24 GTLM Preview

The third part of my Rolex 24 preview looks at the ultra competitive GTLM class. The premier GT class for GTE spec cars are filled with high level manufactures and some of the highest quality GT driving talent in the world.

With five different makes competing for glory, we may well see a repeat of last years climatic finish where the two factory Chevrolet Corvette’s were separated by less than a second at the flag. Of all of the classes this may well be the hardest class to predict a winner, such is the closeness of the different cars thanks to the balance of performance within the series. Let’s preview the relative merits of each of the contenders in this class.

#3 Pratt @ Miller Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen/Mike Rockenfeller

This #3 entry was the crew which narrowly missed out last year, losing by less than a second to their team mates after 24 hours of flat out racing. The highly experienced and successful team proved they were the class of the field, something that with a winter of updates they hope to replicate this weekend.

After a 1-2 finish last year they have retained their usual bevy of factory drivers, keeping their existing line up of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller. The full season pairing of Garcia and Magnussen are both highly experienced with this GTE spec C7.R, but have retained their consistent speed over a stint which is  so crucial in Sportscar racing. On loan Audi factory driver Mike Rockenfeller is hugely experienced and the perfect driver to complement Magnussen and Garcia. He has experience of the Corvette from last year so should need little time to readjust back to the American muscle car.

You can count on the Pratt @ Miller team being highly organised as every other team in the class will be thanks to their factory links. Winning this class against such quality opposition will come down to strategy and ensuring no mistakes are made throughout this race. Whilst it would be impossible to predict a repeat of last years perfect result, if the team can stay out of trouble expect them to be right at the front in the final hours battling it out for victory.

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#4 Pratt @ Miller Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Marcel Fassler

For this #4 Corvette Racing entry 2016 proved a near perfect season. Full season drivers Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner were victorious at both the Rolex 24 and Sebring 12 Hours, on route to the GTLM class title. Whilst these kind of seasons are usually once in a career, why should they not go into this season hoping for the same success?

Gavin and Milner are a formidable partnership with both well versed with the C7.R. They, much like many other in this class, are very good GT drivers who are very unlikely to make mistakes or put in a risky passing move. Marcel Fassler completes the line-up, and is the perfect team mate for them to have. The ultimate team player and hugely talented Swiss driver has experience of the Corvette from last year and the on-loan factory driver will be hoping for another Rolex watch come Sunday afternoon.

With such professional teams and drivers the race will come down to the best strategy calls and staying out of trouble. Purely based on last season this entry could be considered the favourites going into the race, but almost anything could happen in this class once the race gets going.

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#19 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM: Bill Auberlen/Alexander Sims/Augusto Farfus/Bruno Spengler

After a learning year with the new M6  GTLM machine in 2016, the long established BMW Team RLL will be hoping for at the very least a class podium this year. This was the entry that finished fifth in class last year, although with a further year of development they will be looking for more than this for their weeks effort.

The importance of this race is clear from the fact BMW has assembled it’s premier GT drivers from across the world to take part in this race. Joining the newly paired Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims, both very good GT drivers in their own right, are BMW DTM factory drivers Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler.

Both Farfus and Spengler are regulars at this race and therefore will need little time to adjust to the car, especially when their talent is also factored in. All four drivers in this car are very quick and experienced GT racers and whilst some may question Sims considering this is his first race in the GTLM spec M6,  his recent success with the GT3 version shows he has considerable talent and may well prove the surprise of the weekend in this class.

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#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM: John Edwards/Martin Tomczyk/Nick Catsburg/Kuno Wittmer

The other of the two car BMW RLL effort is this #24 car, which will be hoping to improve on a poor showing last year. They retired in a scary manner when one of the front wheels dislodged just at the braking point for turn one. Of course they will hoping they can remain reliable this year with a years worth of experience with the car, however more than that, they will hoping to be right in the thick of the battle for the class lead throughout the race.

Existing BMW GT driver John Edwards is partnered this year by factory driver and recent GT convert Martin Tomczyk, a driver whose pedigree has been forged into the ultra competitive German DTM championship, therefore it will likely not take him long to start posting fast times in the car. Nick Catsburg and Kuno Wittmer are great additions to the line up as both are very quick GT drivers. Catsburg is another driver who has excelled with the GT3 spec M6  and Wittmer is a former GTLM champion and will be no slouch with the M6.

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#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE: Giancarlo Fisichella/Toni Vilander/James Calado

The sole Ferrari in the GTLM class this year is the stalwart Risi Competizione entry. Whilst they are only competing with one car they have proved themselves one of the quickest and most consistent teams in this class over the previous few years.

With so much experience on this team it’s rare to see them make a mistake, one of their keys to success. The new 488 GTE has proved very competitive in the World Endurance Championship and this success should filter over to the U.S if this team can have a clean run.

Full season Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander are well versed with IMSA racing and are two of the fastest Ferrari GT drivers in the world. Completing the factory driver line-up is Brit James Calado, a recent convert to GT racing who came on leaps and bounds in his second season last year. If he can keep improving he will be this teams secret weapon throughout the race.

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#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Joey Hand/Dirk Muller/Sebastien Bourdais

A lot changed in the space of a year for this Ford GT programme. This time last year they were making their debut on their return to international Sportscar racing, unsure of their true potential in comparison with their rivals. The Rolex 24 presented itself with the inevitable teething issues for the team, however six months later they were celebrating success at the Le Mans 24 hours.

A year on and after their Le Mans success they will be hoping to secure another prestigious title with the Rolex 24 trophy. The Chip Ganassi team have a tremendous record of success with this race, and have retained their stellar driver line up to further enhance the team. All three drivers in this car are experienced GT racers who can produce consistently quick stints throughout the race. Joey Hand and Dirk Muller have good working relationship after being team mates last year, whilst Indycar racer Sebastien Bourdais is very quick and has great experience of Sportscar racing, both here and at Le Mans.

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#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook/Scott Dixon

The second of four Ford GT’s entered this year is this #67 entry, which shares the burden of expectation with the other three Ford’s entered. The team improved rapidly throughout 2016 and many would rank them as the likely closest challenger to a repeat of a Corvette 1-2 this year.

The car has proved remarkably fast, although balance of performance tweaks after the test day may not suit the car on the Daytona circuit. With the very professional Chip Ganassi team running the cars they have one of the best teams in the paddock behind them, and the three drivers in this car are highly professional racers.

Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook are the full season pairing, being joined by long term Indycar racer Scott Dixon. Westbrook has a wealth of experience both in Europe and America, whilst still retaining his outright speed.

Briscoe has recently transitioned from Indycar to Sportscar racing, and has adapted well in recent seasons, especially to the new Ford GT. Having a driver the calibre of Dixon to complete the line-up is a huge plus for this team over its rivals. He is a multiple Indycar champion and despite being a Sportscar novice, adapted well to GT racing last year. With a year of experience behind him anything is possible for both him and this team.

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#68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT: Billy Johnson/Stefan Mucke/Olivier Pla

Along with their usual two car IMSA series effort, the Chip Ganassi team have been joined for this marquee event by their counterparts competing in the WEC. The teams are the same barring personnel, although the IMSA team may have a very slight edge simply because of their expanded experience within the series, although this is unlikely to have an effect on the overall result.

This team struggled to adapt to the WEC in their first season, with a best result of fourth at Le Mans the Nurburgring. This season everyone linked with the programme will be hoping for improvements, so for this entry a podium would likely prove a good result for this team depending on the circumstances in the race.

The trio is the same as last year, making things easier in comparison to teams with new driver line-up’s for this weekend. Both Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke are world renowned established Sportscar racers so expect them to be on top form for the race, whilst American racer Billy Johnson has adjusted well to international GT racing and will only make improvements with every passing season in the car.

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#69 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT: Tony Kanaan/Andy Priaulx/Harry Tincknell

The #69 team are the second of the WEC entries guesting at Daytona, hoping to claim class victory for the Ford GT programme. Despite not being regulars on the IMSA scene, with a car as quick as the Ford GT and a team like Ganassi running the outfit, this team should have a very good chance of victory.

The notion is only further enhanced by the driver line-up assembled. Tony Kanaan is the third driver, although to have a driver of his talents join the outfit is only a massive positive for this car. He has prior experience with this programme from last year and will always put in fast times no matter what car he is driving.

The full season WEC line-up is the two Brits, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell, both at different stages of their Sportscar careers. Priaulx is vastly experienced and is now a proven commodity in GT racing and is showing why he was a multiple world champion touring car racer previously. Harry Tincknell has recently established himself as a major young Sportscar prospect after his showings with first the Jota LMP2 team and now this Ford GT programme. He adjusted very quickly to GT racing last year and despite lacking major experience of this race, don’t expect that to stop him from impressing all weekend.

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#911 CORE Autosport Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR: Patrick Pilet/Dirk Werner/Richard Lietz

2017 has seen a renewed effort from Porsche with their international GT programmes, with widescale change for this coming season. They have developed a new 2017 spec 911 RSR, with for the first time in history a mid engine 911. Whilst this may anger purists they clearly feel this is their best route to victory at the ultra competitive GTE platform.

Along with a new spec 911 they have also significantly changed their GT driver roster. Both Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy have been promoted to the LMP1 programme after their impressive performances over the past few years, with several top quality drivers coming in. For this #911 entry the sizeable change is somewhat lessened, with the same CORE Autosport team running the Porsche North America operation, along with several long term factory drivers in the line-up.

Both Patrick Pilet and Richard Leitz are long term Porsche factory GT drivers, and have consistently proven their talent at this level. With these calibre of factory drivers it’s very rare to see them make a mistake or post anything other than quick laptimes throughout stints. The only other new element aside from the car is the teams third driver, the recently signed Dirk Werner.

He has been a consistent thorn in the side of Porsche with the factory BMW Team RLL programme these past few years, but has now switched allegiance to the Porsche marque. He will have had plenty of testing to adjust to the newer 911, although the mid-engine concept should make it easier to learn in comparison with the previous rear-engine format I expect.

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#912 CORE Autosport Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR: Kevin Estre/Laurens Vanthoor/Frederic Makowiecki

The second Porsche entry is very similar to its sister car, with two experienced Porsche GT drivers joined by a newly signed one. Porsche only employ the very best as factory drivers, something that is consistent with both their LMP1 and GT programme. They have retained Frenchmen Kevin Estre and Frederic Makowiecki, both of whom are supremely talented racers who can be relied upon to perform at the highest level for 24 hours.

These two are joined by new signing Laurens Vanthoor, a supremely talented rising star of GT racing, having established himself as arguably the fastest GT3 driver in the world with parent group stablemate Audi. With the withdrawal of their LMP1 programme Vanthoor has switched over to Porsche, a brand at the moment with greater chance of promotion. Adjusting to different cars are never usually an issue for drivers of immense talent, so getting up to speed during the week should not be difficult for Vanthoor. Learning the intricacies of the Daytona circuit may take longer, with this being his first time competing at this race.

Porsche are always contenders in sportscar racing,  the only question mark may surround the new spec 911. Although it will have been tested extensively, testing cannot replicate the rigours of a 24 hour race, and the team may encounter issues they had never previously seen. If they can stay reliable they will be in contention for the victory, but will they be able to stay out of trouble?

That wraps up my preview of the GTLM class, one that should provide plenty of excitement and intrigue for the entire 24 hours. It will be hard to top the close racing and drama of last year, however don’t discount similar action. Predicting a winner in this class is impossible it will simply come down to who executes and reacts with their strategy the best with so many variables.

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I would like to say a huge thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it, any comments would be hugely appreciated. I have to also give thanks to the brilliant Motorsport.com for their high quality photos in this article, everyone should visit their site for the latest news and photos from across the globe. Follow me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

 

 

 

2016 Sebring 12 Hours GTLM Preview

After looking at the two prototype classes in the past few days, now it’s the turn of the GT classes to be previewed with the iconic Sebring 12 Hours coming up very soon on Saturday. This GTLM class is arguably the most competitive class in the field, filled with factory run efforts piloted by some of the best GT drivers in the world.  But can anyone distance themselves from the pack? Let’s look at the contenders in this class.

#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Antonio Garcia/Mike Rockenfeller/Jan Magnussen

The #3 Corvette racing were merely inches away from being the winners of their intra-Corvette battle at the Rolex 24. After 24 hours of flat out racing this must of been heart breaking for the #3 team, but than can be confident that the Chevrolet Corvette is the stand out car in this class, based on their showing at Daytona.

This weekend however, is a very different prospect as the Sebring circuit is very different from Daytona. This airfield circuit favors aerodynamic grip over outright straight line speed, although this is unlikely to serious worry the Corvette racing team.

They have over a decade’s worth of experience of racing here, and will know every secret and tip which are needed to win. Predicting a winner is this class is impossible, but if you had to choose you would be hard pressed to find a better contender than the Corvette racing team.

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#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Marcel Fassler/Tommy Milner

The #4 car ended it’s previous barren spell with the closest possible victory after 24 hours of racing at Daytona, and will be hoping to continue their good form this weekend.

No one in this class has more experience than this Corvette racing team, and both cars have the highest quality drivers in both cars. The team pulled off a huge fillip with the loaning of Audi factory drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Marcel Fassler for these opening two long distance races. The #4 team has a slight advantage going into the weekend thanks to their victory last time out, although it’s unlikely that advantage will last long.

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#25 IHG Rewards Club BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM: Bill Auberlen/Bruno Spengler/Dirk Werner

The BMW team had a solid if not spectacular debut with their new M6 GTLM contender, with this #25 having the better of the reliability issues within the team.  The car was a contender for most of the race but ultimately slipped away in the final hours.

For this weekend the team may be slightly concerned with the usual reliability issues associated with this hugely demanding race. They have plenty of testing miles with the much larger M6 however, and also have everything gained from racing at Daytona to help them. The M6 will likely suit Sebring better than Daytona, therefore this team may well spring a surprise and end up standing on the top step of the podium come Saturday evening.

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#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE: Giancarlo Fisichella/Davide Rigon/Toni Vilander

Ferrari are another manufacture with a new car for this year, and the new 488 GTE showed plenty of potential at Daytona. The car lacked significant testing but was battling at the front of the class when reliability issues struck around halfway through and derailed their race.

The car was still able to finish however, and this amazing result is one they will look to improve on this weekend. With some more testing of the car the factory backed Risi team will be understanding this car better with every passing day, and this will bring them to the front of the class on a consistent basis this year.

With a driver line up of all Ferrari factory drivers, this team is a formidable proposition and it appears only reliability issues can hinder this team from being right in the mix for the class victory throughout the 12 Hours.

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#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Joey Hand/Sebastien Bourdais/Dirk Muller

The new factory Ford GT race programmed suffered a baptism of fire in Daytona, where both cars struggled with reliability issues at various points across the 24 hours. After extensive pre-race testing this was something the team hoped to avoid.

When running the car showed it has the pace to match their competitors. This is encouraging for everyone connected with the Chip Ganassi racing effort, and with further testing the team can feel more confident going into this weekend. The rough nature of the track will be a stern test for the new GT, and if this car can survive Sebring it can survive any race.

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#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Ryan Briscoe/Scott Dixon/Richard Westbrook

The #67 car was similarly afflicted with reliability issues at Daytona, although this was no great surprise considering it was the cars debut. The ferocious GTLM pace would have also played a factor.

Everyone on this programme will have been working hard since Daytona to improve the car for this weekend’s race. It will be a very tough test for both cars, but with the experience and talent around this team don’t expect this team to be struggling for long. Once this car is fully sorted expect this team to be fighting right at the front of this highly competitive class.

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#68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE: Alessandro Pier Guidi/Andrea Bertolini/Daniel Serra

The only non-factory effort in this class is this #68 Scuderia Corsa entry. The team ordered the new 488 GTE and stepped up from the GTD class for this year, and were impressive on their debut at Daytona.

The team were fighting for the class victory almost until the end, and put everyone in no doubt they can hold their own against the multitude of works entries. They have assembled a very good driver line up with two very experienced GT racers in Pier Guidi and Bertolini, who will looking to mix it at the front of the class once again this weekend.

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#100 IHG Rewards Club BMW M6 GTLM: John Edwards/Kuno Wittmer/Lucas Luhr

The #100 suffered from a spectacular exit at the Rolex 24, when brake failure heading into turn one plunged the car into the wall and out of the race during the night. Until this moment the new M6 GTLM was in contention for victory, and this is potential is something the team will be hoping to fully realise this weekend.

On the driving front the team have assembled a factory line up mixed with youth and experience, and who will be very eager to make up for their Daytona retirement and earn some decent points towards their championship campaign. This team will be hoping for at least a class podium this weekend.

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#911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR: Patrick Pilet/Kevin Estre/Nick Tandy

The US  factory Porsche effort is their only works GT programme this year, ensuring they will be 100% focused on this GT effort. The team have quickly established a enviable record in the series, and for this team anything less than a class podium will be considered a disappointment.

Whilst a solid haul of points towards the championship will be a good result, in reality if the team are not fighting for the class victory there will be cause for concern for this team. The driver line up is top notch as always and with the experience Porsche has in sportscar racing they have everything needed to win this class this weekend.

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#912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR: Earl Bamber/Michael Christensen/Frederic Makowiecki 

The #912 car is in a similar position to the #911 entry, in that the team has everything at it’s disposable to succeed in this GTLM class. The team have stand out factory driver Earl Bamber to support his two fellow factory racers.

The team were at the pre-race test and will feel confident with the reliability of their 911 on the notorious bumps of Sebring. Choosing which Porsche is most likely to be fighting for the win is impossible, either one or both could very well find themselves fighting for the class lead in the final hours come Saturday evening. Never discount a factory Porsche effort in sportscar racing.

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That wraps up my preview of this GTLM class. The competition between the different manufactures is ferocious, and will provide an entertaining battle for the lead throughout the entire 12 Hours.  Every car in this class has a realistic chance of victory, the winner will likely only be decided by good strategy and a dose of good luck in this race. It should be thrilling to watch.

As a final comment I would like to give thanks to IMSA.com and Motorsport.com for their information and high quality photos which grace this article. For any information regarding the race I urge everyone to visit both sites. I would like to say a final thank you for reading this preview and any comments would be hugely appreciated. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

 

 

 

 

Nico Hulkenberg: A future World Champion

November 7th 2010. Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace. Interlagos,Brazil. Round eighteen of the 2010 Formula One World Championship. Rookie Nico Hulkenberg has just taken pole position by over a second in the unfancied Williams-Cosworth. At this moment it seemed inevitable Hulkenberg would go on to a highly successful career with poles,wins and several world titles.

December 2015. Nico Hulkenberg is still a highly rated F1 driver. That is the only part of his career that many would have correctly predicted in 2010. Instead of moving on up the F1 grid Hulkenberg has remained trapped in the midfield, bouncing between Sahara-Force India and Sauber. Whilst he is rightly seen as one of the top drivers outside the top three teams, he is now 28 and time seems to be running out for him to get the top F1 seat his talent deserves. So why has he not yet progressed to a top team?

That is a question something plenty of F1 pundits are still trying to answer. Hulkenberg continues to produce giant killing results, yet every year he remains stuck in the midfield. The biggest factor against him is simply his height and weight. In a world where shaving every kilogram is crucial, having a driver like Hulkenberg at 1.84m tall behind the wheel is problematic.

Brazilian Grand PrixNico Hulkenberg in his Williams on the Friday before his giant killing Saturday qualifying performance in Brazil. Photo Credit LAT photographic/Andrew Ferraro.

He also cannot bring a huge sponsorship package to teams, something that is becoming increasingly important as teams continue to struggle in the current financial climate. This is why he was forced to drop out of F1 at the end of his impressive rookie campaign in 2010, being replaced by Pastor Maldonado and his Venezuelan petrol dollars. He was forced to spend a year on the sidelines as the Sahara-Force India reserve driver.

After once again showing his talents after being promoted to a race deal with Sahara-Force India for 2012, he returned to his previous heroics and almost took the midfield Sahara-Force India to victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix, only to collide with leader Lewis Hamilton when trying to overtake him. He was heavily linked with the vacant seat at McLaren for the 2013 season, although he was overlooked for fellow up and coming talent Sergio Perez.

Taking the drive Perez vacated at Sauber produced similar giant killing performances, and the historic close links between Sauber and Ferrari should have put him in the perfect position to join Ferrari, ye inexplicably he was overlooked to replace Felipe Massa for the veteran Kimi Raikkonen.

saub-hulk-melb-2013-4Nico Hulkenberg in his first race for Sauber. 2013 would prove to be a season of two halves for the young German. Photo copyright Sauber F1. Sourced from F1Fanatic.co.uk .

With the progress that the team made in 2015, it would of been very interesting to watch Hulkenberg behind the wheel. Since this snub the closest he came to a top seat was a likely move to Lotus for 2014, although the collapse of a investment package curtailed that move.

Hulkenberg continues to star in the very close F1 midfield battle, although in the second half of this season he appeared to struggle slightly against Mexican team mate Sergio Perez. With his Sahara-Force India team strongly rumored to have signed a partnership deal with Aston Martin, perhaps his fortunes in F1 are about to take a upward turn.

Arguably his biggest achievement in 2015 came outside of Formula One, as he harked back to the past by tackling the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours alongside his F1 commitments. With the Porsche team he managed to do the impossible and win with an all- rookie line up of himself along with Porsche factory GT drivers Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.

lemans-24-hours-of-le-mans-2015-lmp1-podium-class-and-overall-winners-porsche-team-nico-huHulkenberg celebrating victory with team mates Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber. Their victory was a deserved but a shock at the highly competitive Le Mans 24 Hours. Photo credit Motorsport.com .

This win was yet another reminder to the F1 paddock that surely Hulkenberg is deserving of a top line seat in the future. With the likes of Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa coming to the end of their careers, it seems there will be plenty of drives available amongst the big teams. Hulkenberg has been overlooked by the top teams before, surely it won’t happen a second time. The German has too much talent for that to be the case.

What are your thoughts on this article? Please feel free to comment below.

Le Mans once again a classic

After catching up on the much needed sleep that was missed during the race, it’s now time to reflect on another magnificent Le Mans 24 Hours, which frenetic action on track and feel good stories throughout the paddock. With initial talk of a titanic battle between the four manufactures Toyota,Audi,Porsche and debutants Nissan, it quickly became clear during the race week that the race for victory would be an all German affair between Audi and Porsche.

Porsche stole the first march by claiming a track record pole, with a scintillating 3m16.887 time, a full three seconds quicker than the fastest Audi could produce. With the reliability and success record of Audi however, they still went into the race as slight favourites. From the moment the lights went out it was a frantic battle between the might of Porsche and Audi, with Audi seemingly taking a slight early advantage in the hotter mid-afternoon conditions. After the first few hours things seemed to change for Audi, with niggly issues which the team was previously avoid began affecting them. Firstly the team’s lead No 7 entry suffered a puncture, before the sister No 8 entry was involved with a collision with some GTE traffic, dropping the car to 8th overall after a few minutes in the pits for repairs. No 8 Audi returning to the pits after it’s crash in the early hours of the race. Thanks to Motorsport.com for this high quality photo. Porsche kept running at the front with metronomic pace from their No 17 and No 19 entries, with their No 18 entry affected by two off’s at Mulsanne corner, putting them laps down from the opening six hours.

Going into the nightfall hours no body was any closer to predicting an eventual winner, such was the unpredictability of the leading fight. The No 17 Porsche was content at the front, until in the very early hours of night time Mark Webber was hit with a 1 minute stop/go penalty after Brendan Hartley overtook under yellow flags, promoting a see-saw battle between the No 7 and No 19 Porsche to the front, as both swapped the lead due to their differing pit schedules.

During the cool of night Porsche came into their own, as they regularly lapped several seconds per lap quicker than Audi could manage. This battle continued all night and into the early hours of daylight running on Sunday morning. It was clear that Porsche had an advantage of roughly 1 minute 30 seconds over the leading No 7 Audi, although as temperatures would rise as the day wore on, Audi were likely to strike back at Porsche.

The leading battle was effectively over the moment the No 7 Audi was forced into the pits on Sunday morning, for repairs that would put the car two laps down on the leading No 19 Porsche. From here the lone Audi left in the hunt was their additional third No 9 entry, although once both this car and the No 8 car also needed repairs in the early hours of Sunday morning, victory was virtually assured for Porsche. The leading No 19 Porsche which ran faultlessly throughout the race. Thanks once again to Motorsport.com for this high quality photo.With only mechanical or driver incidents between Porsche and a 17th victory at Le Mans, both the No 19 and No 17 entry were able to take their foot off the gas slightly, despite a desperate charge by Audi superstar Andre Lotterer in the No 7 Audi, including setting the fastest race lap in his mid-morning charge.

The final few hours were all about brining their cars home to victory, and after 24 hours of racing the No 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid was greeted with the chequered flag. A fairy tale had been created, with a highly coveted victory on their debut for both Earl Bamber and F1 star Nico Hulkenberg, alongside the Brit Nick Tandy. No one could begrudge victory for the trio and Porsche, with a 1-2 showing it had truly returned to Le Mans after 18 months back in the LMP1 category. Whilst the second place crew of Brendan Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard may be slightly disappointed with second, they can take a lot of heart from their performance all race. A photo that perfectly encapsulates what it means to win Le Mans for Porsche drivers Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenberg. Thanks to Motorsport.com for this high quality photo.

In the LMP2 class it was a nice class win for the Asian based KCMG team, who took their new Oreca 05 to victory in the hands of a very impressive Richard Bradley and Matt Howson, who were partnered by on-loan former Toyota factory driver Nicolas Lapierre. They fought off the charging Jota sport team, winners last year, and the G-Drive Ligier led by Brit Sam Bird.

For Corvette racing it was a week of both ecstasy and despair, as the team first lost one of it’s two factory Chevrolet Corvette C7.R cars to a qualifying accident in the Porsche curves on Thursday. From this the team rallied behind their No 64 Corvette, which was brilliantly driven to a very hard fought GTE Pro victory in the hands of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor. The victorious No 64 Corvette racing C7.R takes the flag after 24 hours fought hours for their GTE Pro victory. Thanks to Motorsport.com for this high quality photo.

In the GTE Am class there was despair for the dominant No 98 Aston Martin racing team, as their Vantage GTE was only just over an hour from a dominant class victory. Sadly for the team their car was shunted by the team’s amateur driver Paul Dalla Lana at the final Ford chicanes, although a mechanical fault looked to have caused the crash. This was of little consolation to the team however, as they were forced to watch the SMP racing No 72 Ferrari F458 Italia, driven admirably by works Ferrari GT driver Andrea Bertolini, supported by Russian drivers Viktor Shaitar and Aleksey Basov.

To even finish at Le Mans is an achievement, therefore everyone deserves applause for their efforts this week, along with a huge round of applause for all the marshals who helped keep the race on track for all 24 hours. Whilst the race was a disappointment for the likes of Nissan and Toyota, they will all be back next year hungry for a better result.

This great race once again showed the very best of the World Endurance Championship, and sportscar racing in general. If you want a glimpse at what Le Mans means to everyone involved, look at the joyous reaction of successful actor and GT racer Patrick Dempsey as his No 77 Porsche 911 RSR finished 2nd in the GTE Am class yesterday.

For me, sportscar racing and the WEC are the most competitive and best form of top line motorsport in the world, with more overtaking between the leaders in the opening hour than an entire half season of F1. As F1 seemingly looks to destroy itself at the moment with cars that don’t appeal to fans, constant on-fighting on all key issues between the teams, and a lack of genuine overtaking which have left plenty wondering whether it’s even worth watching anymore.

I very much look forward to watching the rest of the WEC season, and with many manufactures seriously considering joining Ford in announcing a sportscar programme in the next few years, the series looks to have earned it’s status as the most attractive series in the world right now for manufactures, thanks to the WEC open rule book based on fuel limits, with plenty of technical scope for different engines and hybrid power systems. Roll on the rest of the WEC season and especially Le Mans next year.  A final thanks has to go to Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality photos which can only be found on their site http://www.Motorsport.com A glimpse into the future with a photo of the newly announced Ford GT race programme which will see them return to Le Mans next year in the GTE Pro class. Thanks to Motorsport.com for this high quality photo.

2015 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Preview Part 2

After part 1 previewing the GTE Pro class at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, part 2 looks at the remaining contenders in this fiercely competitive GTE Pro class. With four manufactures and their hord of professional factory drivers set to compete flat out for 24 Hours, their battle for class victory will be scintillating to watch throughout the race.

#92 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Pilet/Frederic Makowiecki/Wolf Henzler The second Porsche Team Manthey entry is much like every other GTE Pro car in that it has a great chance at a class victory, with a top line Porsche factory team and a full line up of factory drivers in this car.

This entry has been fighting with Aston Martin and Ferrari all season so far in the World Endurance Championship, and will be looking to continue this fight at Le Mans. On the driving front this entry has one of the best GT drivers in the world in Frenchman Frederic Makowiecki. Partnering him are long time Porsche factory drivers Patrick Pilet and Wolf Henzler, with all three highly professional drivers who will be delivering consistently quick stints throughout the race.

Amongst the very close GTE Pro field, separating a favourite is too hard to predict. Therefore the winner of this class will be the one who can keep out of trouble during the race, as every entry has the potential to be contending for class honours in the final hours of the race. #95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Marco Sorensen/Nicki Thiim/Christoffer Nygaard

The all-Danish “Dane train” Aston Martin which dominated the GTE Am class last year, has this year stepped up to the cut and thrust of the GTE Pro field. So far the team has shown it can handle the step up, with solid top six placings in the opening two WEC rounds.

Nicki Thiim is the only driver who remains from the Danish trio from last year, with new team mates Marco Sorensen and Christoffer Nygaard for this year. Nygaard has moved across from the sister #98 entry for this year, with the young Dane and GP2 racer Marco Sorensen completing the line up.

Thiim and Nygaard will provide good pace and experience behind the wheel, with the young charger Sorensen balancing his GP2 season with a switch to GT racing. All three will be looking to impress at Le Mans, although in this hugely competitive class, it may be difficult for this team to move up to GTE Pro and win Le Mans in their first year. A class podium would be a great result for the “Dane Train 2.0”. 

#97 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke/Rob Bell

This number 97 Aston Martin will be the one that stands out throughout the race week, as this car will have a very distinctive ‘art car’ livery by artists Tobias Rehberger. As well as standing out for it’s art car livery, it will also stand out as this car will likely be the one that leads the Aston Martin charge for class victory in the race.

The Aston Martin team are regulars now in the highest level of GT racing, and have come very close to winning the GTE Pro class the past two years. This year the team will be aiming for a class victory, and this car is the one most likely to deliver it.

Experience is the name of the game with this driver line up, with Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Rob Bell all being long term factory drivers for Aston Martin. Their speed and experience will be a potent combination in the race, and if the team can avoid misfortune this car will be fighting for victory going into the final hours of the race for sure.

#99 Aston Martin Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Fernando Rees/Alex MacDowall/Richie Stanaway

The third and final works Aston Martin racing entry at Le Mans is the Number 99 car, which goes into the 24 hours on great form after taking the class win at the most recent WEC round at Spa a month ago. This car is very much in the hunt for the WEC drivers title after two rounds, and with Le Mans being a double points round this weekend will have a big outcome on the championship.

Both Fernando Rees and Alex MacDowall will be hoping for much better luck this year, after a huge practice crash for Rees last year forced the team to withdraw from the race on the opening day of running. This year they both have a new team mate in young New Zealand hotshot Richie Stanaway. He has shown well in GP3 and especially GP2 this season, and his fresh injection of pace will only add further strength to this car’s chances of a class win.

If all three drivers have a close to perfect race, their talent and this Aston Martin Vantage will have more than enough pace to take an unexpected GTE Pro class win, although if the car suffers any misfortune in the race it will be difficult to see them being able recover enough to claim the victory. A podium will be a very good result for this team, although a class win is a definite possibility.

That wraps up my look at a very competitive GTE Pro class, hope you enjoy this article and any comments would be appreciate both good and bad. I have to add thanks to Motorsport.com for their amazing, high quality photos which you see in this article. I urge you to go and visit their website http://www.Motorsport.com for all the latest news and photos from the motorsport world. Next up will be a preview of the LMP2 class.

Iconic Racer Porsche 911-50 RSR (Type 991) IBook Review

After the success of the first book from co-authors Stefan Lewyckyj and Ian Doughty on the McLaren MP4-12C, their latest offering centres on the iconic Porsche 911, and it’s latest 991 model. The opening chapters are dedicated to the history and heritage of the Porsche 911, both on the road and the race track. The opening chapters are very informative for the reader with high quality photos being used for perfectly complement the interesting text, setting a standard of quality which carries over throughout the book.

Throughout the book there are peppering’s of interactive features which add another dimension to this book. The video’s and added text material such as press releases are well laid out and subsequently are very easy to use. The chapters centring on the new 991 model Porsche 911 are well presented and guide the reader through the entire development process from start to finished product, through the use of informative text and highly detailed photos.

Whilst the early chapters switch between the road car and race car the later chapters focus more on the race car, something which make the book interesting for anyone as the photos are captioned in expert detail on areas such as the outside bodywork, internal cockpit and the engine. Both the factory and customer teams and drivers racing the new Porsche 991 911 on both sides of the Atlantic from both 2013 and this season are detailed to a similar level, giving the reader a clear understanding of everyone racing the new Porsche 911.

The more anyone will read this book, it will become more evident how well researched this book is as the extraordinary detail to which this book goes to sets it apart from any competitor books on the new Porsche 911. The book also contains complete stats from the 2013 and 2014 season so far. The biggest plus with this interactive book is that anyone can download updates for it which will update results from future races this season and beyond. In conclusion, this is a very well researched and detailed book which will interest anyone who’s interested in cars or motorsport.

In particular, for fans of the Porsche 911 this is a must have book, with a £4.99 price tag making this a very affordable book for anyone interested in cars. Put simply, you won’t get a more informative book on the Porsche 911 with the £4.99 price tag simply even more of a reason to buy this incredible book.

Here’s a link to the book on ITunes and the Iconic racer series Twitter page, which will keep you updated with all the latest in this book series.
Link to the book with ITunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/porsche-911-rsr-type-991-50/id882287325?mt=11
Iconic Racer Twitter page – https://twitter.com/IconicRacer

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Review

After reviewing the two prototype class at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, now it’s time to focus some attention on the two GT classes that competed in the 24 Hours. First up is the GTE Pro category, a class aimed at professional drivers and manufactures, something this class contained in abundance.

AF Corse:

#51 Ferrari F458 Italia: Gianmaria Bruni/Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella
After a difficult 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours for Ferrari, some Balance of Performance breaks and renewed commitment to re-claim their 2012 GTE Pro category win conspired to ensure both AF Corse factory assisted entries were competitive from the moment the green lights switched on to start free practice on Wednesday.The team gave a statement of intent with class pole for this #51 entry, and from the start of the race they proved difficult to move from the top spot.

All 3 drivers drove like the experienced, professional and seriously quick GT drivers that they all are, therefore based on their qualifying pace it appeared only driver error or mechanical problems were going to stop this team claiming the GTE Pro honours. The team experienced a relatively clear run throughout the race, as they sauntered to a one lap victory over the #73 factory Corvette entry. This team had a truly outstanding race and will be hoping the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours is as comfortable as this victory.

#71 Ferrari F458 Italia: Davide Rigon/Olivier Beretta/Pierre Kaffer/James Calado
For the other AF Corse entry, things didn’t quite go as smoothly for them as their sister #51 entry as they were forced to overcome a big drama before the 24 Hours had even begun on Saturday. In the Thursday evening qualifying session Le Mans rookie James Calado suffered a big accident, with the impact enough to give him concussion and force him out of the race. Therefore the team set to work with building a new car and drafted in experienced Ferrari GT racer Pierre Kaffer to replace Calado.

From here their lowly qualifying position mattered little to the team, as they hoped a clean run in the 24 Hours would bring them back into contention. Alas, this car’s bad luck continued into the race as it unfortunately became and early retirement after only completing 28 laps. This team was understandably gutted that they couldn’t show their tremendous potential in the race and will be keen to show their pace in the remaining round of the World Endurance Championship this year.

RAM Racing:

#52 Ferrari F458 Italia:Matt Griffin/Alvaro Parente/Federico Leo
This team was hoping to inflict a shock in the GTE Pro class as they hoped to score a decent result against the hordes of factory GT teams and drivers. Their privateer Ferrari had an all star cast of drivers to help with this and in qualifying they almost showed their potential as McLaren factory GT driver Alvaro Parente was on course for the 2nd fastest time in GTE Pro in Thursday evening’s qualifying session, before he spun off and struck the wall at the first Ford Chicane.

The car was extensively damaged and whilst they sat out the rest of qualifying, the car was ready for the race. The team was making good progress with the Ferrari in the opening few hours, and appeared on course for a comfortable top 6 finish in class as they emerged unscathed from the opening few hours of the race. Things were not to last for the team however as they were forced to retire after completing 140 laps. For this team they showed potential during the week, yet will need much better luck in 2015 if they are to seriously challenge the factory entries in this GTE Pro class.

Corvette Racing:

#73 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Jordan Taylor
For both factory Chevrolet Corvette entries, the Le Mans 24 Hours week got better as it went along, as the Corvette’s looked off the pace slightly on the opening day on Wednesday. Come Thursday they began to show their speed with this entry claiming 2nd in class once qualifying was completed on Thursday night. From it’s 2nd grid spot the #73 entry then proved the most consistent challenger to the leading #51 Ferrari, despite the #92 Porsche holding 2nd in class for a while.

Yet the Ferrari always seemed to have the a slight edge on speed over the rest of the class, therefore despite the Corvette cars throwing everything at Ferrari they had to eventually settle for 2nd in class and 16th overall, a lap behind the victorious AF Corse Ferrari #51 entry. Nevertheless, a close 2nd in class in the new shape Corvette C7.R’S first Le Mans 24 Hours is very promising and you can never discount the factory Corvette entries at Le Mans.

#74 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Richard Westbrook
For the #74 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, they proved very evenly matched with the #73 entry in terms of pace, yet the #74 entry seemed to suffer slightly more issues during the 24 Hours than it’s sister entry, which explains their 4th place in class and 20th overall once the chequered flag came out on Sunday afternoon.

For the all star line up of drivers for the #74 car the result must of been slightly disappointing considering the pace this car had, although the team will be hoping to fully show their pace in the remaining United Sportscar Championship rounds, and will be hoping to come back much stronger to Le Mans in 2015.

Prospeed Competition:

#79 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Jeroen Bleekemolen/Cooper MacNeil/Bret Curtis

This #79 Prospeed entry would have easily won any Ironman award at the 24 Hours if such a thing existed, as they suffered huge misfortune during the week. The team initially entered the GTE Am class, yet in Thursday evening’s qualifying session Am driver Bret Curtis hit the tyres at the Dunlop chicance, and whacked his head on the roll cage, giving himself concussion and ruling himself out of the race. The team frantically searched for an available Am driver, yet the one they lined up was refused by the governing ACO, forcing the team to complete the 24 Hours with only pro drivers Bleekemolen and MacNeil.

Considering these circumstances and their move to the GTE Pro category, the fact the team finished the race is an incredible achievement which in my opinion was highlighted enough post-race. Both drivers must have been satisfied to simply finish and will be hoping next years 24 Hours is a lot less hectic for them. A truly incredible performance.

Porsche Team Manthey:

#91 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Patrick Pilet/Jorg Bergmeister/Nick Tandy
For the two factory Porsche GT entries, they were hoping to continue the success they achieved at the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours, where they took class victory after a hard fought battle. Frustratingly for Porsche it seemed in 2014 the rest of the GTE Pro class had caught up with Porsche as both factory entries were mired in the GTE Pro midfield after qualifying.

From the start of the race the two Porsche’s were hoping to make up ground, yet for this #91 entry this proved very hard as the team was beset by a few problems during the race, which left them well behind the GTE Pro pacesetters. Despite a very impressive line-up of factory Porsche drivers the obstacles were too much to overcome and this car eventually finished 7th in class and 36th overall. The team and especially this #91 entry will be hoping for much better next year.

#92 Porsche 911 991 RSR: Frederic Makowiecki/Marco Holzer/Richard Leitz
Of the two Porsche entries in GTE Pro, it was this #92 car that had the more comfortable run in the 24 Hours as they ran largely problem free until the later stages of the race. The stellar cast of drivers in this car were therefore able to exploit the pace of the Porsche 911 as they held 2nd in class for a long period of the race. Just as the team began to think of a possible 2nd in class however, a engine problem left the team lacking power for the final few hours of the race.

Whilst the car was able to continue running, the reduced pace meant the #73 Corvette was able to pass them in the final few hours, relegating the #92 Porsche to the final GTE Pro podium spot. Whilst anything other than victory at Le Mans for Porsche is a disappointment, the team can at least be satisfied they scored decent points for the WEC and will be hoping to challenge for class honours in the remaining WEC races.

Aston Martin Racing:

#97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke/Bruno Senna
Worries from Aston Martin that their poor showings in the two previous WEC races would carry over to Le Mans, proved unfounded as they returned to their usual position in GTE Pro of fighting to class victory. This #97 car qualified 3rd in class and remained in podium and victory contention through the first half of the race. After battling the #51 Ferrari for class honours through the first half of the 24 Hours, their challenge wilted during the night as the car suffered a similar power steering failure to the team’s other entries.

From here the car soldiered on to the final chequered flag, eventually coming home 6th in class in class and 35th overall. For the very quick professional drivers in this car this result is a disappointment, yet the team can take massive positives in the fact they returned to the competitiveness and will be hoping to carry this over into the final round of the WEC.

#99 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Fernando Rees/Darryl O’Young/Alex MacDowall
For this #99 Craft-Bamboo/Aston Martin team the Le Mans 24 Hours provided the ultimate heart break, as the team’s Aston Martin looked strong in GTE Pro after Wednesday’s qualifying session. In the most cruel fashion however, for the #99 entry this is a far as their race week got after Fernando Rees suffered a big accident at the Porsche curves in Wednesday night’s qualifying session.

The car suffered substantial damage and despite the team trying everything to find a new chassis they were unable to locate one and get it to the track, forcing the team to make a late withdrawal just days before the 24 Hours. For the team and drivers it was the ultimate heart break, although they can take solace from their promising showing on the first day. The team will be hoping to carry over this promise into the final WEC rounds now.

That’s my review of the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours according to the GTE Pro class. Next up is a two part review of the highly competitive GTE Am category, so stay tuned in the next few days. Finally once again huge credit goes to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing, high quality photos, they really are worth a look for anyone interested in racing. Enjoy!