GT

What now for Jean Eric Vergne?

First of all, Jean Eric Vergne deserves to be on the grid at the next years Australian Grand Prix. Vergne has shown more than enough potential and results over the past three seasons to warrant a place on the grid in 2015. Vergne has simply become a casualty of the ruthless Red Bull young driver scheme.

Whilst Red Bull have backed him from a young age and gave him a shot in F1 for three seasons, if you don’t show the necessary progress you will quickly be replaced with the next young hot shoe product from the Red Bull line up. With the news last Friday that Red Bull junior F1 team Scuderia Toro Rosso would replace Vergne with their latest prospect Carlos Sainz Jr. For now it seems Vergne has few options to remain in F1 next year, so what options does he have to remain racing next year?

The most likely option it seems for Vergne to remain within Formula One next year appears to be with the Williams team. Rumors began during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend as Vergne was spotted spending a fair amount of time in the Williams hospitality area. Whilst both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa are confirmed to 2015 their reserve driver role is vacant as Felipe Nasr joins Sauber for next year. If this move comes to fruition it’s likely Vergne will get some Free Practice runs next year, and would be well placed to impress as Williams will be looking to replace Felipe Massa in several years time.

It seems the Williams role seems the most likely option to stay in F1 next year, with the only other likely reserve driver role would be with the Red Bull team, although this is unlikely to interest Vergne as there will be very little chance of being promoted to a race drive.

Vergne can be heartened by the thought that he will likely find plenty of offers from other disciplines of motorsport, and can take heart from the example of fellow Red Bull refugee Sebastien Buemi. Vergne was one of the drivers who replaced Buemi at Toro Rosso for the 2012 season, and Buemi became the Red Bull reserve driver before rebuilding his career with Toyota in the World Endurance Championship, where he has shown his tremendous speed to claim the drivers title in the WEC alongside Anthony Davidson.

The World Endurance Championship is growing in significance every year with Nissan joining Audi, Porsche and Toyota in competing for wins next year. Vergne would be able to retain a reserve driver role in F1 with a WEC campaign with a manufacture or privateer team.

Another option for Vergne could be the new Formula E championship. The series has a prestigious line up of drivers and teams and is growing with every race in it’s debut season and would be an attractive option for next year. Formula E would be another series which could inter link with his reserve driver commitments should he find a drive within F1.

Other much less likely options would be for Vergne to swap F1 for Indycar, with his single seater skills would be clearly evident as he would likely become a household name in the series. Vergne once adjusted to the Dallara DW12 Indycar could become a multiple series champion such is his skill. Another option could be a top line career in GT racing with prominent series such as the Blancpain Endurance Series or GT classes within the WEC would be a great chance to rebuild his career after F1.

From here it’s not known where Jean Eric Vergne will be racing in 2015, with several options for him it’s up to him and his agent to decide which is his best option for next year. For me the best option would be a reserve driver role in F1 to keep his face known within the F1 community, with a sportscar campaign the perfect chance to show his considerable talent such as Sebastien Buemi has done this year. It would be a shame if Vergne isn’t racing at all next year, as he’s shown in his 3 years at Toro Rosso he deserves to remain at the top line of motorsport, where his talents belong.

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am Review Part 1

The final review of mine for this year’s scintillating Le Mans 24 Hours comes from the GTE Am class. Although considered by many to the slowest of the four classes competing, this class provided some very entertaining battles throughout the 24 Hours. The cars this year were the same spec as the GTE Pro field, therefore with the professional drivers in the cars this class was troubling the more established GTE Pro runners.

RAM Racing:

#53 Ferrari F458 Italia: Johnny Mowlem/Mark Patterson/Archie Hamilton
For the RAM Racing team, the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours proved to be a solid if unspectacular week for them. The team’s driver line up was a contender for the best in class, yet some funding issues prevented the team from updating their Ferrari F458 to 2013 spec like many others in the class. The funding issues hurt more as they prevented the teaming entering the Spa 6 hours World Endurance Championship, a traditional warm-up for Le Mans.

In terms of results the team qualified in the midfield and the #53 entry was running solidly before some small problems hampered the team slightly as the race wore on. From here the drivers ran strong until the flag to come home 12th in a very competitive class, and 32nd overall. For most teams the minimum target is to finish the race, therefore this RAM entry can be proud of that, although they will be hoping to eliminate some of their problems for next year’s 24 Hours. A decent effort all round from the RAM Racing team.

Krohn Racing:

#57 Ferrari F458 Italia: Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Ben Collins
The Krohn racing team came into Le Mans as the most under-prepared team, through no fault of their own, as they received a very late call up to the race only a few weeks before the 24 Hours. From this perspective the team performed admirably therefore to finish the race, finally coming home a remarkable 10th in class. The team suffered very few problems and the driving talent drove brilliantly to secure the finish for this American privateer team. Krohn have become a mainstay of the Le Mans GT classes, and many hope they will return once again in 2015.

Team Sofrev ASP:

#58 Ferrari F458 Italia: Fabien Barthez/Anthony Pons/Soheil Ayari
A lot of French media attention was centred on this new team and in particular it’s driver line-up pre-race, although the presence of a French World Cup winning Goalkeeper amongst the driving talent may have had something to do with that. This relatively new start up French GT team made a good first impression on the 24 Hours, as they performed a solid race and solidified a eventual 9th place finish in GTE Am by the finish, and 29th overall.

For this team, like many, a finish was probably the minimum expectation therefore to complete your first Le Mans 24 Hours is no mean feat. The driver line-up all had a stellar race too as they avoided all the action to secure the finish they so wanted. Many French fans will be hoping this team returns with the same line-up in 2015, as they all proved a hit this time around.

AF Corse:

#60 Ferrari F458 Italia: Peter Mann/Lorenzo Case/Raffaele Giammaria
The #60 AF Corse entry was the first of four Ferrari F458 Italia’s that they were running in the GTE Am class alone. The team is the best European Ferrari GT team in the business, therefore it came down to the driver line-up to ensure a clean and fast run in the 24 Hours. The car qualified in the midfield and appeared to be holding a steady upper midfield spot in the race over the first few hours.

Unfortunately for the team, as the evening and night time drew in this car faltered, and was forced to retire after completing 115 laps. This was a disappointing end to what had been a good run so far for the #60 car. The team looked more than likely to have been fighting for a top 6 in class had it carried on going into the final hours. The AF Corse team will surely be back in GTE Am at Le Mans next year, hopefully they’ll retain this driver line-up for the #60 car too, so they can deliver on the promise they showed last weekend.

#61 Ferrari F458 Italia: Luis Perez Companc/Marco Cioci/Mirko Venturi
I predicted that of the four AF Corse GTE Am entries, this was the most likely to challenge for class honours, and that’s how it played out as the team had a reliable race, complimented by some very fast driving from all 3 drivers. The end result of this was a superb 3rd in class and 22nd overall, only 3 laps down on the winning #95 Aston Martin.

The team delivered on the results it’s shown in the WEC so far this year and will now be hoping they can continue their title winning credentials into the final few races of the WEC season. A definite challenger for GTE Am honours at Le Mans if this team returns unchanged in 2015.

#62 Ferrari F458 Italia: Howard Blank/Yannick Mallegol/Jean-Marc Bachelier
For this #62 AF Corse entry it seemed a reliable run to the finish would be the main target for the relatively inexperienced driver line-up as they learnt the track all week. The team lacked the ultimate pace to challenge for a top 6 in class, yet the team achieved their target as they completed the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Like I’ve said earlier, finishing Le Mans is no mean feat therefore the team can all be satisfied with their race, with their overall finishing position of 38th being of much less importance. It will be interesting to see the improvement in this team if they return in 2015, with many hoping they will come back for more.

#81 Ferrari F458 Italia: Sam Bird/Steve Wyatt/Michele Rugolo
This #81 entry have proven a huge contender for GTE Am victories in the opening WEC races, and it stole the early headlines in qualifying with a scintillating lap from Brit Sam Bird. The recent single seater convert defied his Am class status to set the pole lap in GTE Am, which was only bettered by a lap from the superstar #51 AF Corse GTE Pro line-up. This lap has surely now put him on the map in terms of a long term Sportscar career as I’m sure many teams sat up and took notice of his talents after qualifying.

After such a high with the class pole the race was continuing in a similar fashion as they battled for the class lead early on. From here things quickly went downhill for the team as Le Mans rookie Sam Bird was caught out in changeable conditions and ran into the back of a slow No3 Audi R18. The damage was extensive enough to force both cars into retirement early on, in what was hugely disappointing for both cars and they looked to challenge for their class victories. Nevertheless, the team showing amazing potential which will surely be fully utilized in the remaining WEC rounds this year.

JMW Motorsport:

#66 Ferrari F458 Italia: Spencer Pumpelly/Seth Neiman/Abdulaziz Al-Faisal
For this team, the link up with experienced American GT outfit Flying Lizard provided even more experience to this GT mainstay team. The team was hoping to make all this experience count pre-race. After qualifying in the midfield, the team went into the race still maintaining their hopes of a podium or top 5 finish in class. After a relatively trouble free run the team was able to count on it’s driver line-up to provide quick and consistent laps throughout the race.

This approach usually works at Le Mans and this year proved no different, as whilst the team lacked the last edge of pace to challenge for class victory, they were able to comfortably finish 7th in class and 27th overall. This team appears likely to return next year, and it would be nice to see Flying Lizard return as an outright team again next year too.

IMSA Performance Matmut:

#67 Porsche 911 997 RSR: Eric Helary/Erik Maris/Jean Marc-Merlin
For the highly experienced IMSA Performance Matmut team, this entry was targeting a clean and reliable run in the 24 Hours. Whilst the driver line-up contained hugely fast and experienced Sportscar racer Eric Helary, the other two drivers were unable to match his pace, probably due to their lack of experience at Le Mans in comparison to Helary.

Like many GTE Am team finishing appeared the first priority, something the team can be proud to say they accomplished, with a 13th in class and 34th overall. The IMSA team seems to return to Le Mans every year, and similarly to the #62 AF Corse Ferrari, it would be interesting to see the same line-up to return as I’m sure the improvement would be large from the 2 drivers alongside Eric Helary.

That’s it for the first half of my 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am review, Part 2 will be posted soon so stay tuned for it later today. I hope you enjoyed reading this and please feel free to comment, even if you think it’s terrible. All my contact details are in the contacts section of my blog so feel free to browse. Finally a huge thank you again to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality Le Mans photos, they truly are worth a browse for any motorsport fan. For now, Enjoy!

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Am Preview Part 1

After previewing the three other classes racing in the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, the time has come to look at the final class racing this year, the GTE Am class. Similarly to LMP2, the GTE Am class is based on amateur drivers with a minimum of one silver rated amateur driver and a limit of only one pro rated driver. This is aimed to ensure the amateur ethos of this class. The entry this year is huge with 19 entries in the GTE Am class, ensuring a enthralling race is guaranteed for class victory next Sunday afternoon.

RAM Racing:

#53 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Johnny Mowlem/Mark Patterson/Archie Hamilton
The RAM racing GTE Am entry should have a much higher chance of class victory than their GTE Pro entry, however the team’s funding issues in 2014 have hampered their preparations as the team have been unable to update their Ferrari F458 from 2012 spec, the only team in the class with a 2012 car.

The team’s driver line-up changed late also with Archie Hamilton replacing Ben Collins not long ago. The budget problems have severely hampered the team yet Mowlem is a seriously quick GT driver and if the team has a reliable run expect him to drag the car into contention, of course a lot depends also on how Hamilton and Mark Patterson performance during the race. If those two can perform at their best the team has a good chance for at least a class podium.

Krohn Racing:

#57 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Tracy Krohn/Nic Jonsson/Ben Collins
The Krohn racing team received very little time to prepare for the 24 Hours after their desperately late call up to the race at the end of May. Therefore the link they have with the American Risi Competizione team has been a massive help to their preparations for this race.

The team found RAM racing refugee Ben Collins to partner long time team mates Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson. The team has a long recent history at Le Mans and have claimed 3 class podiums in the last 7 years. Therefore this team can never be discounted however the late entry and the competitive nature of the driving talent this year in GTE Am probably means a top 5 in class would be a good result for the American team.

Team Sofrev ASP:

#58 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Fabien Barthez/Anthony Pons/Soheil Ayari
The Sofrev-ASP team are relatively new to international GT racing, yet the team have performed solidly so far in the opening two European Le Mans Series rounds so far. The team is run by experienced GT racer Jerome Policand, who alongside driver Soheil Ayari will provide a wealth of experience to the other two drivers.

Both French footballing legend Fabien Barthez and Anthony Pons are relatively inexperienced, and will therefore benefit massively from Ayari and Policand. Expect this team to surprise with it’s pace with Ayari behind the wheel yet both Barthez and Pons will have to show pace far beyond their experience for this entry to challenge for a top 5 in class. To finish at all would be a result for this newly formed team and relatively inexperienced line-up.

AF Corse:

#60 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Peter Mann/Lorenzo Case/Raffaele Giammaria
The first of AF Corse’s mammoth 4 car entry in GTE Am alone is the #60 for experienced amateur drivers Peter Mann and Lorenzo Case. Pushing this entry forward will be ex-F3000 racer Raffaele Giammaria, who will set the pace for this car. Whilst AF Corse are almost certainly the best Ferrari GT racing team on the planet, the strength of the class this year suggests this entry will struggle to compete for a significant placing once Giammaria steps out the car. A finish will be a result for this team although expect Giammaria to shine.

#61 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Luis Perez Companc/Marco Cioci/Mirko Venturi
This #61 AF Corse entry is the most likely of their 4 GTE Am entries to take class honours as this line-up has already proved successful in the World Endurance Championship this year. The driver line-up of experienced racers Companc and Cioci alongside Mirko Venturi should prove enough to challenge anyone in the class. If the AF Corse team can work their magic and this car has a reliable 24 Hours, expect this #61 entry to be challenging for a podium if not class victory. Definitely one to look out for during the race.

#62 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Yannick Mallegol/Jean-Marc Bachelier/Howard Blank
As I said before relating to the #61 entry being the favourite of the AF Corse entries to claim GTE Am victory, the opposite is true of the #62 which appears to have the least opportunity to claim class honours. Although the car and team are first rate and can match anyone in the class, the driver line-up for the #62 car is well below the level of some other entries in the class.

Yannick Mallegol, Jean-March Bachelier and Howard Blank can all count experience in their favour when it comes to Le Mans, the fact their an all amateur driver line-up severely dampens their chances of a decent result. For this car a reliable run to the finish would be a good result, with any further placing’s being purely a bonus for this all amateur entry. On the plus side this entry could challenge anyone in the class for the honours of best livery.

#81 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Steve Wyatt/Michele Rugolo/Sam Bird
The final of the four entries is the #81 car, which should have the best chance of a decent result for AF Corse outside of the #61 entry. This team has proved competitive so far in the WEC and will be hoping to carry over this form into the Le Mans 24 Hours. The team will produce a first rate car and reliability should be no issue for this well proven car. Therefore a lot like most entries in this class the difference will be between the driver line-up’s of each car.

This favours the #81 car as they boast a solid amateur driver in Steve Wyatt, a fast yet experienced racer in Michele Rugolo and , if he can adapt to the Circuit de la Sarthe quickly, the fastest driver in the class in AMG Mercedes test driver Sam Bird. He’s gained some Sportscar experience in the American United Sportscar Championship so should prove a revelation during the week. If this car can stay out of trouble look for this entry to be right in the fight for victory on Sunday afternoon.

JMW Motorsport:

#66 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Abdulaziz Al-Faisal/Seth Neiman/Spencer Pumpelly
2014 has seen a fair amount of change for this plucky privateer as they have been forced to switch to Michelin tyres from Dunlop. Also the team have changed their driver line-up for a so far competitive campaign in the ELMS. Things are not so rosy for Le Mans however as a tie-up with the Flying Lizard American GT team, means the team will field a mostly new line-up for the 24 Hours.

Partnering experienced amateur racer Abdulaziz Al-Faisal are Flying Lizard partners Seth Neiman and Spencer Pumpelly. Neiman is another experienced Am driver, but it will in the hands of Spencer Pumpelly when this car flies. He’s a seriously quick driver in the American GT scene and once his steps out, this team will struggle mightily to keep pace with the rest. A top 6 would be a good result for this team but they’ll need a clean run first.

IMSA Performance Matmut:

#67 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Erik Maris/Jean Marc-Merlin/Eric Helary
The vastly experienced customer Porsche IMSA Performance Matmut team returns once again to the Le Mans 24 Hours, this year with two older spec Porsche 911 GT3-RSR’s. The first of these is the #67 entry which may well struggle to compete with the ultimate pace in the class this year. Whilst the team is a highly competitive Porsche GT outfit the two amateur driver’s in the line-up will put a wrench in any plans they may have had on a competitive showing.

1993 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Eric Helary will star as always in this entry yet it will be expecting a lot of amateur drivers Erik Maris and Jean Marc-Merlin to even get close to his pace. Therefore a more realistic target for the team will be to have a trouble free race as anything can happen in the 24 Hours. This mostly definitely appears their best chance of attaining a respectable result in class against the wealth of opposition.

That concludes Part 1 of my predictions for the GTE Am category, one that should provide exciting racing throughout the 24 Hours, like every other class racing. A huge thank you to Motorsport.com for their amazing photos again to view them all please visit this link. Enjoy! http://www.motorsport.com/#!/filter/lemans/photos/main-gallery/?sz=2&y=2014&ft=1