Porsche

2020 Rolex 24 GTD Preview Part One

Part four of my Rolex 24 preview looks at the GTD class, open to GT3 machinery. If you would like to view my other class previews, you can find DPI here, LMP2 here and GTLM here. The GTD class is by far the biggest in the race, with 18 entries from nine different makes.

The class focuses on pro/am racing, similarly to LMP2, with the focus being on pairing amateur drivers with professionals. With 18 entries and nine different cars, the class will provide intense racing the entire 24 hours. Let’s preview the first half of this GTD class.

#9 Pfaff Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Lars Kern/Dennis Olsen/Patrick Pilet/Zach Robichon

Pfaff Motorsport return to IMSA, aiming to improve upon a very good 2019 season. Two wins at Lime Rock and Road America propelled the team to third in the GTD standings. Porsche’s renewed focus on GT racing has massively improved their 911 GT3 car across the world.

Canadian Zach Robichon impressed last year and so returns for the full season, partnered with Dennis Olsen. Porsche factory drivers Lars Kern and Patrick Pilet complete the line-up for Daytona.

Qualifying at the Roar didn’t go to plan, with Robichon placing the Porsche 14th. The team ran consistently during the test without any issues. The pace wasn’t there, except when Pilet was in the car, but don’t discount them. The Porsche is a proven package and their driver line up deserves respect.

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#11 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Albert Costa/Richard Heistand/Franck Perera/Steijn Schothorst

De facto Lamborghini factory team GRT Grasser Racing have made the switch to IMSA  this year, after impressive cameo appearances in recent seasons. The team are twice defending Rolex 24 champions, along with a Sebring 12 Hours class win last year. Despite only running the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds, the team are a formidable opponent.

Lamborghini factory aces Albert Costa and Franck Perera lead the team, joining very quick silver rated driver Steijn Schothorst. Richard Heistand moves across from Lexus to complete the quartet.

The car ran quickly at the Roar in the hands of Costa and Perera, with Heistand going ninth in the qualifying session. The team have a proven pedigree in Europe, and recent years have shown that the Lamborghini is ideally suited to Daytona.

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#12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3: Townsend Bell/Shane van Gisbergen/Frankie Montecalvo/Aaron Telitz

AIM Vasser Sullivan return for a second year running the Lexus GT3  program, after a promising debut season. The team came a close second at the Rolex 24 last year with this #12 car.

Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo return, with Indy Lights star Aaron Telitz also back as the third driver. Completing the team is Australian V8 Supercars star Shane van Gisbergen. His signing is a real coup for the team, as he embarks on his fifth Rolex 24.

Montecalvo topped the Roar qualifying session, a boost for the team heading into the race. He was consistently quick in the car, with a faultless three days another promising sign. They have all the ingredients to go one better than their second last year.

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#14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3: Kyle Busch/Parker Chase/Michael de Quesada/Jack Hawksworth

The #14 car has created headlines this year, thanks to signing Nascar superstar Kyle Busch for his Rolex 24 debut. The team showed enormous promise last year, with third in the Sprint Cup and two wins in a stellar debut year.

Jack Hawksworth returns, this time partnered with Parker Chase. 2017 Rolex 24 GTD winner Michael de Quesada joins for the Endurance rounds, along with Busch.

Hawksworth did a masterful job to top the opening Roar test session by three tenths of a second, a big gap in this class. From here the test was used to get the others up to speed. De Quesada and Busch had never driven the car before. The team has a great line-up, they just need more time in the car

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#16 Wright Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Klaus Bachler/Ryan Hardwick/Anthony Imperato/Patrick Long    

Wright Motorsport steps across into IMSA from the Blancpain GT World Challenge America. The team do have prior experience of the Rolex 24.

Porsche factory driver Patrick Long joins Ryan Hardwick for the season, with Anthony Imperato joined by fellow Porsche factory ace Klaus Bachler for this race. Imperato was with the team in Blancpain last year, with Hardwick moving across from Paul Miller Racing.

Long put the car in the top five for the Saturday night session at the Roar, however Imperato struggled in the qualifying session. 17th and 1.2 seconds back is tough, but the test is about gaining experience and the team ran smoothly throughout.

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#19 GRT GEAR Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Tatiana Calderon/Rahel Frey/Katherine Legge/Christina Nielsen

The second GRT entry falls under the GEAR Racing banner. GEAR are promoting women in motorsport, starting in IMSA. The initiative aims to expand into other forms of motorsport, and has already garnered plenty of publicity.

Katherine Legge moves across after three successful years with Michael Shank, and is joined by former double class champion Christina Nielsen. Completing the all female line-up is experienced GT racer Rahel Frey and F2 convert Tatiana Calderon.

The car completed over 160 laps across the three day Roar test, as all four driver get used to a new car. The Lamborghini package is competitive at Daytona, so gaining as much experience as possible before the race will be key.

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#23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3: Roman de Angelis/Ian James/Alex Riberas/Nicki Thiim 

The popular Heart of Racing team return to IMSA after a three year absence. The team raises money for Seattle Children’s hospital and has raised over $6 Million since 1997. Their Aston Martin Vantage GT3 car is making it’s IMSA debut, the first Aston Martin customer IMSA program in several years.

Alex Riberas returns to the team, joining reigning Porsche GT3 Cup American and Canada champion Roman de Angelis. Team manager Ian James joins for the endurance rounds, with factory driver Nicki Thiim along for Daytona.

The team never troubled the top of the times during the seven test sessions, but they did run consistent lap times without issues. Thiim is the only one with experience of this car, so the team has a lot to learn in a short space of time. Simply finishing the Rolex 24 would be a great result.

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#44 GRT Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Andy Lally/Marco Mapelli/John Potter/Spencer Pumpelly 

The third GRT Grasser run entry is this #44 car, which takes on Magnus Racing branding after the popular team disbanded last year. The team were mainstays of IMSA, but return with new support.

Magnus team owner John Potter returns, along with long time co-driver Andy Lally. Spencer Pumpelly joins for the endurance races, with factory driver Marco Mapelli recruited for Daytona.

The #44 team were consistently at the top during the Roar. Amateur driver Potter struggled in the qualifying session, but the car was very quick in the other drivers hands. The team were tenth last year, but as former two-time winners of the Rolex 24 this entry cannot be discounted.

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#47 Precision Performance Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Brandon Gdovic/Johnathan Hoggard/Mark Kvamme/Eric Lux

PPM Motorsport return for another year of IMSA competition with their #47 Lamborghini Huracan GT3. The team only ran the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds last year, their second in IMSA after moving across from Nascar.

The owners son Brandon Gdovic returns, with Eric Lux joining after partial seasons in the LMP2 class. Johnathan Hoggard and Mark Kvamme were late additions from the aborted Rick Ware Racing LMP2 entry. Hoggard is the Sunoco Challenge winner, and as a British F3 race winner should be quick despite a lack of experience.

Gdovic impressed at the Roar, qualifying fourth, less than two tenths from top spot. Lux didn’t complete any laps, losing valuable driving time as he adjusts to GTD. Based off testing times, this #47 car could surprise a lot in the paddock.

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#48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Andrea Caldarelli/Corey Lewis/Bryan Sellers/Madison Snow

Paul Miller Racing return for a fifth season with their Lamborghini Huracan. The team won at Laguna Seca last year. Problems last year limited them to 15th at the Rolex 24, a result they can improve upon.

Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow return, aiming to repeat their 2018 IMSA GTD title. Corey Lewis is back for the endurance rounds, with factory pilot Andrea Caldarelli also back for Daytona.

Caldarelli and Sellers had the car running competitive laps at the test, although Snow will be disappointed with 13th in qualifying. This team are looking to bounce back and repeat their 2018 form.

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That wraps up the first half of my GTD class preview for the Rolex 24, stay tuned for part two coming very soon. Who do you think anyone deserves the tag of favourite for the race? Let me know either by commenting below or finding me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Thank you for reading! Finally, a big thank you must go to Motorsport.com for the high quality images in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2020 Rolex 24 GTLM Preview

Part three of my review looks at the super competitive GTLM class. If you would like to read part two of my preview looking at the LMP2 class, you can find it here. You can also find part one, looking at the DPI class here.

The class is much changed for 2020, with the biggest news being Ford’s withdrawal after four successful years with their Ford GT. Their loss brings the class down to seven entries, however don’t be mistaken into thinking the class is struggling. Four different makes, all with factory line-up’s will be competing for the coveted Rolex watch. This class is arguably the most competitive in the series, and will be fought tooth and nail for 24 hours.

#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R: Nicky Catsburg/Antonio Garcia/Jordan Taylor

Corvette Racing returns for it’s 21st year of IMSA competition, but it’s all change this year. The team are debuting their new Corvette C8.R, the first mid-engined Corvette. Gone is the distinctive thunderous noise, a by-product of needing to remain competitive.

There’s a new face on the driving front too, with former DPI star Jordan Taylor moving from dad Wayne Taylor’s team to join Corvette Racing. Spaniard Antonio Garcia returns for his seventh full year with the team, with former BMW factory driver Nicky Catsburg as the third driver.

The team understandably focused on reliability at the Roar, with the car running faultlessly across the three days. This #3 entry completed over 160 laps, as they learn about this new mid-engined Corvette. Garcia was last in the qualifying session, but was only 0.4s off the ultimate pace. This emphasises just how competitive this class is.

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#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R: Marcel Fassler/Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner

The #4 crew are looking to bounce back after a tough 2019 season. Eighth in the standings and no wins is something the team isn’t used to. The new C8.R is a bold step for the team, but something they felt they needed to do.

The team retain Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner for their ninth season as a duo. Marcel Fassler is the third driver, and has with plenty of experience with Corvette Racing. The Roar went perfectly for the #4 crew, completing 180 laps across the three days and Milner put the car third in the qualifying session, only one tenth off the pace.

Debuting a new car in a 24 hour race doesn’t usually go well, but Corvette Racing have done everything they can to make this car reliable straight out the box.

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#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE: John Edwards/Augusto Farfus/Jesse Krohn/Chaz Mostert

BMW put an end to their WEC program, but they remain committed to IMSA. It’s a case of much the same with BMW, retaining the same car, team and full season drivers for this #24 entry. This team will want a chance to repeat their teammates Rolex 24 win last year.

American John Edwards and Finnish racer Jesse Krohn return, aiming to improve upon seventh in the standings last year. BMW factory racer Augusto Farfus joins, along with Australian V8 Supercars star Chaz Mostert.

Krohn put the car fourth in the qualifying session at the Roar, but only a tenth and a half off the ultimate pace. They completed 165 laps over the three days, although never troubled the top of the times.

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#25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE: Connor De Phillippi/Philipp Eng/Colton Herta/Bruno Spengler

The #25 crew enter as defending champions, being in the right place at the time when torrential rain prematurely stopped the race. The team are entering their third year with this M8 GTE, and have shown the car is built to last 24 hours.

Connor De Phillippi returns for the season, with Canadian Bruno Spengler replacing the departed Tom Blomqvist. Spengler has waved goodbye to the German DTM series, and now takes up a sportscar role full time. Joining them at Daytona is Philipp Eng and Colton Herta. Eng is a superstar for BMW in GT3 racing, with Herta one of the rising stars of Indycar.

In Eng’s hands the car was sixth in qualifying, only 0.3s off the top of the times. The team showed early pace, topping both sessions two and three on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning respectively. Based off the Roar, this is the BMW showing itself to have the better chance of a repeat Rolex 24 win.

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#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE Evo: James Calado/Alessandro Pier Guidi/Davide Rigon/Daniel Serra 

Renowned Ferrari team Risi Competitzione return for another chance of a Rolex watch. The single car team are the only non-factory team in GTLM, however they still have plenty of Ferrari support. This is the IMSA debut for the new Evo spec 488 GTE, with the previous spec winning last time out at Petit Le Mans last October.

The team have a full Ferrari factory line-up, consisting of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra. Calado, Pier Guidi and Serra all won at Petit Le Mans, meanwhile Rigon joined the team for their run to second here last year.

The team only competed in two races last year, however they scored a second and a win in those outings. Calado also set the fastest time in qualifying, and the team were able to complete 165 laps in the three days. Their pace and consistency across the Roar shows this team is a serious contender for GTLM victory at a Daytona circuit that suits the Ferrari.

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#911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19: Matt Campbell/Frederic Makowiecki/Nick Tandy

CORE Autosport return to run the Porsche factory GT IMSA program this year, after a year of unrivaled success. The team finished 1-2 in the points, with six wins from the possible eleven rounds. Sadly for the #911 crew it was their team mates that won the title, but a Sebring 12 Hours class win is a very good consolation.

Nick Tandy returns for the season, and is joined by Frenchman Frederic Makowiecki. Makowiecki was previously the third driver for the endurance rounds but steps up after ditching his Super GT commitments with Nissan in Japan. Newly elevated factory ace Matt Campbell completes the trio.

This is the IMSA debut for the new spec Porsche 911 RSR, which has already won two of four races in the WEC. Tandy put the car second in qualifying, agonizingly only one thousandth of a second from Calado. The car ran faultlessly at the Roar, managing 171 laps along with consistently quick times.

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#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19: Earl Bamber/Mathieu Jaminet/Laurens Vanthoor

The #912 crew came out on top in 2019, and will be aiming to repeat this year. The best way to start a GTLM title defense will be with a Rolex 24 win. The new spec Porsche 911 RSR has looked quick both at the Roar and in the WEC, so all the signs point towards another good year for Porsche.

Close friends Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor return, with Mathieu Jaminet stepping up from GT3 racing into the third driver role. All three are prodigiously quick GT drivers who can set consistently quick lap times for multiple stints at a time.

The Roar went well for the team. They were consistently quick over the three days, most notably topping the night time session on Saturday. The car ran faultlessly through the test, which is a great sign for a new spec car. The only blemish for the team was their poor display in qualifying, with Vanthoor putting the car fifth. This session only decided pit box allocation for the race, but in a class as closely fought as GTLM, the small margins can decide the race.

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That wraps up my preview for the GTLM class with the Rolex 24 almost upon us. This class always provides scintillating battles for 24 hours, and this year will be no different. Expect this class to go right to the chequered flag. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism if you have any thoughts on this piece, and thank you for reading! A massive thanks must go to Motorsport.com for the great photos in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

What F1 Can Learn From Le Mans?

This article is something that came about because of two factors. The obvious one is of course the latest edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Even 24 hours after the race finished the raw emotion the race produces in fans is still evident. The race produced drama for the entire 24 hours and once again proved very exciting for motorsport fans.

The second less obvious reason was a recent tweet from former F1 racer and commentator Martin Brundle. This is what he said. https://twitter.com/MBrundleF1/status/876548908297707520 . He has highlighted a genuine question that Formula One should take some time to answer. Formula One is increasingly struggling to maintain it’s fan base happy and excited with the racing on track, something Le Mans never struggles in this department. So just what can Formula One learn from the Le Mans 24 Hours?

Le Mans 24 Hours is one of the great motorsport races in the world, yet it has evolved into more than that. It has developed into a festival where fans treat the event in a similar manner to a music festival for example. The fans flock to the event every year with the race build up beginning the week before when scrutineering takes place. Now of course Formula One cannot make every race meeting a week long, there is some other things they can do to replicate the success of Le Mans.

Le Mans breeds this festival vibe by the things they do to keep all fans excited all week. They have various fun fair rides across the circuit and host events like music concerts which ensure that even people who don’t have an interest in motorsport could have an enjoyable experience at the race. F1 has already taken these steps as they often host concerts after grand prix’s when they can, which shows they are clearly taking steps to improve the overall experience at grand prix’s.

Recent years have seen Le Mans produce crowds of over 260 000 people, and this is much higher than the biggest grand prix crowd of last year, the British Grand Prix which had a crowd of 139 000 people for the race. Whilst a direct comparison cannot be made as Le Mans is a whole week for most fans and not simply one day, it’s easy to see that F1 can learn from Le Mans in terms of attracting a crowd.

Whilst many would think that the ticket prices are a easy route to attract more fans, this may not be the magic bullet some people would think it would be. Tickets for the British grand prix are £210 for the cheapest weekend ticket, and for Le Mans they are £209. This shows that for the same money Le Mans seems to produce something more for it’s fans that F1 doesn’t.

Sportscar racing is currently experiencing a resurgence since it’s hybrid regulations came into place early this decade. The profile has risen mightily since the creation of the World Endurance Championship in 2012, with many young drivers abandoning single seaters to switch to sportscar racing.

The racing currently in sportscars is always providing exciting racing across all four classes. Unlike F1 the cars can follow each other and battle and this area is where something can be done to attract fans. Fans are increasingly frustrated with the lack of overtaking in F1, something where sportscars have no issue. The Le Mans 24 Hours is very exciting for fans simply because in each class the battle for the lead lasts throughout the entire race.

Whereas in the past the race was a strict test of endurance, thanks to the increase in mechanical reliability the race has now become a 24 hour sprint race. This is what the fans want to see and this is where the rule makers can do to improve racing. If F1 can return to more pure racing where the cars are not affected so much by aerodynamics this will dramatically increase the overtaking in the eyes of fans and will bring them back to F1 and excitedly watching the racing as they do at Le Mans.

Thank you for reading this article and if you enjoyed it please leave a comment below. You can find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

Where Next For Kevin Magnussen?

5th October 2015. Kevin Magnussen was celebrating his 23rd birthday. But a good day very quickly turned into a very bad one when he checked his emails. He noticed one from McLaren team principal Ron Dennis’s personal assistant Justine Bowen. He was being told his services as McLaren F1 reserve driver would not be required in 2016 and his contract would therefore not be renewed. Even for the famously business orientated Dennis this seemed a very harsh move.

Magnussen had grew up and developed with the team since he joined their young driver programme in 2010, reaching the pinnacle with a second place in his debut for the team at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. Magnussen showed well against experienced former world champion team mate Jenson Button. But then the big names became involved. Honda were partnering with McLaren from 2015 onwards, and very quickly Fernando Alonso fell out of love with Marco Mattiacci and Ferrari, rendering him suddenly on the market for 2015.

This brought about a scenario which seemed impossible in 2008. Fernando Alonso would reunite with Ron Dennis and McLaren. This seemed impossible after their very bitter and public falling out in their first spell together in 2007. But I guess times change and money talks in F1, all of this leaving Magnussen battling Button for the remaining race drive for 2015.

Magnussen racing his way to the Renault World Series title in 2013. The future seemed bright for him at McLaren, but this would soon change. Photo copyright Motorsport.com

What followed was a very drawn out waiting game for both Magnussen and Button as months passed whilst McLaren tried to make their decision. Whilst it’s believed many in the team favoured the younger Magnussen, it appears at the last minute experience won out and the team announced their driver line up of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button in early December.

With very little time to find himself another drive in a competitive series, Magnussen had little other option than to accept the role of McLaren reserve driver for 2015, before finding a race seat for 2016. One thing was clear. Kevin Magnussen still wanted to race in 2015. He was in the advanced stages of securing a Indycar drive for the year so he could continue to race. Then Fernando Alonso got in his way again.

In the later stages of pre-season testing Alonso mysteriously crashed his McLaren-Honda, and whilst the initial assessment was not a serious one, it was quickly discovered Alonso had suffered a concussion and was unlikely to make the opening Australian Grand Prix several weeks later.

Magnussen was forced to end talks of an Indycar drive as he was called into action to replace Alonso in Australia. What followed was a hugely disappointing grand prix weekend where both McLaren drivers were plagued with issues surrounding the new Honda power plant. Magnussen qualified last and didn’t even start the race as his engine failed before the start to complete a miserable weekend for him and the team.

Magnussen in pre-season testing for McLaren this year. His lack of racing would prove a huge frustration to him during the year. Photo copyright McLaren/LAT.

Fast forward nine months and Magnussen is now looking for a race deal in 2016 after largely being sat on the sidelines for 2015. He came close to joining the new Haas F1 team for 2016 but lost out to first choice Romain Grosjean, and has recently tested for World Endurance title winning Porsche 919 for the team.

Magnussen will surely be a driver high in demand for 2016 with his talents, it’s now whether he wishes to try and continue in single seater series such as Indycar/Super Formula or whether he changes tack and moves over to sportscars or GT racing.

Surely Magnussen will get another chance in F1 soon, he’s too talented to only have one season at the pinnacle of motorsport. Only forces beyond his control can stop him. Yet where does the young Dane go from here? He’s looking to bounce back in big way next year after being an after thought at McLaren this year. Add the extra fire surely provided by the process of his dismissal from the team and he will be looking to prove a point next year.

He was close to an Indycar drive this year, so could he cast his eye back to the series for next year. The only top line drive available appears to be the final Chip Ganassi Racing entry, a car he could seriously impress with next year. Should he take up this seat he would surely be a dark horse contender for race victories throughout the year.

For now another possibility that hasn’t been ruled out is joining the Super Formula series in Japan. It’s highly competitive with a top quality grid which would keep Magnussen race sharp as he looks towards a return to F1. Whilst it will make it harder to gain the attention of Formula One in Japan, the series would be every bit as good as Indycar for him right now. Whilst nothing has been mentioned and it seems unlikely, it cannot be ruled out.

Or could he be eyeing sportscars next year? The WEC is building in prestige and popularity every year, with an increasing influx of young single seater drivers making the move to become professional drivers. With the level of technology in the current leading LMP1 these prototypes are arguable more advanced than current F1 cars.

Magnussen posing before testing the WEC title winning Porsche 919 Hybrid at Barcelona. Will he be racing the car in 2016? Photo copyright Porsche AG.

After testing the Porsche 919 Hybrid at Barcelona, he raved about the car calling it “the most advanced race car in the world”. Should the European Grand Prix in Baku remain clashing with the Le Mans 24 Hours, that would leave a seat available in the Porsche team for their warm up events and the 24 Hours itself. Porsche say their considering several drivers, could Magnussen be one of them?

He would make a big impact for the Porsche team and would likely prove very fast in the WEC next year. The series would also be the perfect shop window for him to try find a way back into F1 when he feels the time is right. Porsche won both the championship itself and the marquee Le Mans 24 Hours, an opportunity to make your debut for Porsche contending for victory would be a dream for Magnussen.

From here who knows where Kevin Magnussen will be racing in 2016. The only thing we know is that whatever he’s driving, he’ll be going flat out and racing at the front.

Where do you think Magnussen will be racing next year? Let me know in the comments section and thank you for reading.

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.

2015 Sebring 12 Hours GTLM Preview

The latest installment of my series previewing this weekend’s iconic Sebring 12 Hours, the second round of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship, previews the highly competitive GT Le Mans class for GTE Le Mans spec race cars. This class is swarming with big budget factory teams and all star casts of drivers, something which makes this class arguably the most competitive on the TUSC grid. Predicting a winner is almost impossible but here’s my best shot at it!

#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Ryan Briscoe

This Corvette Racing entry are coming into Sebring full of confidence after an impressive class win at the opening Rolex 24 Hour race at Daytona. The Corvette crew won out against a plethora of fellow factory entries, eventually finishing an outstanding 4th overall, which just shows how high the quality is in this GTLM class.

Corvette Racing have been a powerhouse in American GT  racing for over a decade now and what their Pratt & Miller team doesn’t know about long distance sportscar racing, frankly isn’t worth knowing. This combination of experience and high quality is reflected in their driver line-up too.

Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia are the full season drivers, both highly experienced and very fast Corvette drivers. Indycar star Ryan Briscoe completes the line up, bringing again both speed and experience with the Corvette C7.R race car. Corvette racing can never be discounted in GT racing, and this time out the team and this #3 entry will be hoping for yet another class win for Corvette Racing this weekend.

#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Simon Pagenaud

The Corvette Racing team started the year meaning business with an impressive run to first and third on the GTLM podium at the opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, unfortunately for the #4 crew it was their Corvette C7.R that had to complete the podium in third. Whilst this is still an amazing result, for a team used to winning third just won’t quite cut it for them. Therefore watch out for this #4 entry this weekend as the team look to reclaim the top step on the GTLM class podium come the end of the 12 Hours.

The Sebring 12 Hours is renowned for being a very difficult race to master, with some calling it the toughest sportscar race in the world. The #4 crew will be feeling up for the challenge however with the might of Corvette Racing behind them and a stellar driving cast.

Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner are both seriously quick and experienced GT drivers for Corvette Racing, whilst the hiring of Indycar rising star Simon Pagenaud for the long distance races was an inspired move by the team. Whilst he lacks GT experience, Pagenaud is seriously quick and could spring a surprise this weekend. Whilst the team will be looking for a good result to collect a haul of points for the championship, they will also be sniffing for victory should they have a clean run in the race.

#17 Team Falken Tires Porsche 911 991 RSR: Bryan Sellers/Wolf Henzler/Patrick Long

This Falken Tires outfit suffered at the Rolex 24, with a cruel engine blowup on Sunday morning forcing them out of the battle for the class lead with only a few hours remaining. Whilst it was desperately cruel luck for this team, they can take solace from their strong showing until the blowup.

This team will therefore be looking to avenge their late retirement and get back into the title fight with a strong showing this weekend. The team have spent several seasons now gaining experience and developing their unique Falken Tires, which could prove to either be an advantage or disadvantage on the rest of their competitiors depending on how they set up their car and the quality of their tyre allocation.

The team has a very strong driver line up with Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler being joined by Porsche factory GT driver Patrick Long for the long distance events. Long adds crucial speed and experience with in-depth knowledge of the 911 GT race car, which alongside Sellers and Henzler make this entry one to watch out. Whilst this class is full of factory GT outfits, don’t be at all surprised if this independent Falken Tire team spoil the party and claim class honors for themselves come the end of 12 hours of frantic GT action.

#24 IHG Rewards Club BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE: John Edwards/Lucas Luhr/Jens Klingmann

The BMW Team RLL team were the closest challengers to Corvette Racing in the final hours of the Rolex 24, which was slightly surprising considering the strength of the BMW Z4 GTE has always been it’s higher downforce, nimble agility rather than the out and out straight line speed that is primarily needed to run quickly on the Daytona track. This #24 entry suffered some small issues during the race, although still finished a respectable 4th in class.

For the works BMW team however and this #24 entry 4th won’t be enough to satisfy them, as they will look to improve this weekend at a circuit that should suit the strengths of their Z4 more than Daytona did. On the driving front the team has a very quick line up with two young GT charges John Edwards and Jens Klingmann providing blistering pace for the team whilst the very experienced sportscar racer Lucas Luhr provides the calm experience needed to complete the 12 hours without any major dramas.

This BMW RLL Team will be looking for the couple of tenths they appear to need to beat Corvette Racing in a straight fight, although the twistier nature of the track may be all they need to snatch a class win this weekend, with this #24 crew hoping it’s them and not the sister #25 entry that leads the BMW challenge in GTLM this weekend.

#25 IHG Rewards Club BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE: Bill Auberlen/Dirk Werner/Augusto Farfus

The #25 entry from BMW Team RLL was tantalizingly close to claiming class honors at the Rolex 24, falling just 0.478 of a second behind the victorious #3 Chevrolet Corvette, after 24 hours of high octane racing. It’s impossible in a sportscar race 24 hours in length to get closer to a victory, with the team hoping to make the small improvement needed to claim class victory this weekend.

This BMW Team RLL has become a very professional and well drilled outfit, ran by Bobby Rahal, and their BMW Z4 GTE  should be on form again this weekend at Sebring. The driving talent in this #25 BMW entry is impressive with the vastly experienced and fast Bill Auberlen anchoring the line up, alongside team mate Dirk Werner and BMW factory DTM driver Augusto Farfus to complete the trio. With the team coming so close at Daytona, you can be sure they will be doing everything in their power to finish the job this weekend and claim class honors.

#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia: Pierre Kaffer/Giancarlo Fisichella/Andrea Bertolini

The #62 Risi Ferrari team were running strongly in the opening hours of the Rolex 24, before a serious engine problem ruined their race and forced the team into retirement. This was not the start to the 2015 Tudor United Sportscar Championship season this team was expecting, and they will be looking to bounce back to the rightful spot at the front of the GTLM class battle this weekend.

The Risi team is one of the strongest Ferrari GT teams in the world, with Ferrari factory assistance adding to the highly professional and long standing team. In terms of driving talent the team has three stars with factory Ferrari GT driver Giancarlo Fisichella leading the line up, with Pierre Kaffer and Andrea Bertolini providing a wealth of experience and consistent speed, which will be crucial in their fight for class victory. This team is looking to bounce back after Daytona, and don’t be surprised if they do so in resounding fashion with a class win this weekend at Sebring.

#98 Gulf Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 GTE: Pedro Lamy/Paul Dalla Lana/Darren Turner/Mathias Lauda

The Aston Martin Racing factory team suffered a difficult start to their return to American GT racing at the Rolex 24, suffering several problems which left the team on the fringes of the top five in GTLM come the finish. The team will therefore be hoping to have unlocked some extra speed from their Vantage GTE car this weekend at Sebring, as it hopes for a much stronger showing this time out.

On the driving front the team also suffered slightly compared to the rest, with long time Aston Martin factory drivers Darren Turner and Pedro Lamy leading the line up, although the car’s overall pace dropped off slightly when new Aston Martin factory driver Mathias Lauda and the only amateur in the GTLM class in Paul Dalla Lana.

Whilst both Lauda and Dalla Lana were still quick, their pace couldn’t quite match the rest of the very fast professional GT drivers in their class, which is to expected considering the experience compared to the rest.This weekend the team will be hoping for an upturn in their fortunes, although they may struggle to fight for class honors a podium is a definite possibility for this very well run Aston Martin Racing team.

#911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 991 RSR: Nick Tandy/Patrick Pilet/Richard Lietz

For the Porsche North America factory racing team it was not a happy return to the Rolex 24 after a class victory on their debut in 2014, this year the race dealt them some cruel luck and the team stumbled through the 24 hours, although the #911 entry did well in it’s recovery drive as they soldiered through the field to an eventual 4th in class. Embarrassingly both cars collided with each other during the late evening at Daytona, something the team will be hoping does not derail their run at Sebring.

Porsche are always professional and highly organised in their running of a team, and they always manage to find a bevy of drivers with both blinding pace and the consistency that make a great sportscar driver. On this front the team has a brilliant line up of their latest recruit Nick Tandy, alongside long standing Porsche factory drivers Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz.

Whilst the Porsche factory team suffered a difficult opening Rolex 24, the fact this #911 entry still finished 4th in class despite it’s problems shows that when this team has a clean run, they will be right there with the contenders fighting for the victory, something they hope to achieve starting this weekend.

#912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 991 RSR: Jorg Bergmeister/Earl Bamber/Frederic Makowiecki

The #912 Porsche entry suffered even more bad luck than their sister #911 entry at Daytona, with the crew surely hoping that’s their lot in terms of bad luck for the next few races. The team struggled at the Rolex, although when the car was running healthy it showed a lot of pace and could well had challenged for the class win had they not suffered their issues.

The Porsche North America team is highly organised and they would have rectified any mistakes made at Daytona, with an all star driver line up adding to their professionalism.  Jorg Bergmeister is the experienced hand in this entry, although still has a wicked turn of pace in a Porsche 911, with the highly rated duo of Frederic Makowiecki and Earl Bamber alongside him. Both have established themselves as seriously quick GT drivers and this car has a great chance of class victory at Sebring if they can get the car dialed in with the tricky airfield circuit.

That wraps up my preview of the highly competitive GT Le Mans class of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship, as for predicting a winner that is simply too hard to predict. I will be tuning in this weekend for sure to see who comes out on top in this titanic GTLM class battle. A final word of thanks has to go to the amazing Motorsport.com for their high quality photos which one again feature in this article. Please go and visit their website http://www.Motorsport.com for all the latest motorsport news and high quality photos from across the motorsport globe. Thank you and any comments would be appreciated both good and bad. Enjoy!

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.