Sportscar racing

“The Show”Turning Hardcore Fans Off

“The Show”. This term has become as ubiquitous as “falling off the cliff” and “DRS” in the past few years. Formula One has become obsessed with spicing up the entertainment on track, with the introduction of short life tyres, DRS and now a reformed qualifying session. But the real question remains, have all these changes had the desired effect or are they in fact turning fans off the sport?

Well, if you believe the results from a variety of the extensive fan surveys carried out in the past few years, these new rules to spice up “the show” have had the opposite effect. In a survey compiled last Summer with Autosport, Motorsport News and F1 Racing magazines found from their results that 73.9% of fans were against using artificial methods to tighten up the races.

These findings are supported by a separate GPDA survey also revealed last year. From over 200 000 fans took part, with the findings suggesting fans are against the gimmicks in place within the sport. Many of the fans from these survey’s were long time followers of Formula One, but in recent years an increasing number have been switching off.

The majority of fans suggested their favourite decade of the sport was the 1990’s, and as an obsessed F1 fan I can only agree with their assessment. Growing up in this decade my earliest memories of F1 and motorsport in general came from this decade. It was this era of Formula One, with the sculpted beauty of the cars matched with the shrieking V10 engines got me hooked on the sport, something that continues to this day.

It was the ferocious speed and ear splitting sounds that attracted the majority of fans to the sport, captivated with dare devil drivers peddling the fastest racing cars on earth. In the current era this no longer seems to be the case. With the continuing technological advancement in the sport, some of the old magic has been lost.

Whilst the cars are still the fastest racing machines on the planet, it no longer looks or sounds that way to some of the spectators. With the new 1.6 litre turbo engines a big criticism of the technology is the relative lack of sound made from them. Efforts have been made to address this issue, however thankfully the once tested megaphone exhaust idea never caught on.

paphoto4srl_596075Nico Rosberg testing the megaphone exhaust system at Barcelona during the 2014 season. Thankfully the idea never caught on and didn’t have much of an effect. Photo copyright Crash.net . 

The talk in the paddock currently surrounds making these breed of cars significantly faster, with a paddock held target of increasing the lap times of these cars by three seconds for next season. This is an attainable goal and would likely receive a lot of support from both drivers and fans alike.

The ongoing political side of the sport is something that a lot of fans are simply not interested in, as many teams outside the top five struggle to survive in this highly expensive sport. This creates opportunities for relative “pay drivers” to muscle their way into Formula One. This is not something new and has long played a role in the sport, but as a fan it’s frustrating if you do not feel like the grid is filled with absolutely the best drivers in the sport.

For many years the increasing quest for downforce has had a negative effect on the level of entertainment on track. The level of over taking was slowly decreasing through the 2000’s, and for many purist fans the advent of the new “DRS” drag reduction system has gone too much the other way. The sport has seemingly gone from one extreme to the other, as over taking used to be a very difficult task, it has now become ridiculously easy.

Another big talking point for fans is the Pirelli tyres. They are specifically designed to have a short shelf life, forcing a majority of the races to be run at a controlled pace to save the tyres. Whilst this is not Pirelli’s fault, they are only creating the tyres they were asked to, it has left drivers and fans frustrated with the situation in races.

It’s a cliche example but for many fans they will hold up some famous racing from the past to support their argument. Battles such as the one between the Ferrari of Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux at Dijon in 1979. Here is a link to a video of their titanic battle Gilles Villeneuve vs Rene Arnoux battle .

The constant fighting and swapping positions shown in that battle are an increasingly rare sight in modern Formula One, and that is exactly why a lot of fans are struggling to remain devoted to the sport. These fans are not simply giving up on F1, they are simply choosing to explore different forms of motorsport.

Sportscars are becoming increasingly attractive for many fans and drivers, along with GT racing, Indycar and the new Formula E championship. Speaking from a personal perspective again, I find myself increasingly following sportscars rather than F1. After catching up with the Rolex 24 at Daytona last month, the non-stop fighting for victory across the majority of the classes kept me hooked for 24 hours in a manner F1 has failed to do for a number of years.

imsa-daytona-24-2016-4-corvette-racing-chevrolet-corvette-c7-r-oliver-gavin-tommy-milner-mThis is the genuine winning margin for the #4 Chevrolet Corvette in the GTLM class of last month’s Rolex 24. To be seperated by only a matter of feet after 24 hours of racing shows how competitive sportscar racing is currently and why it’s having a resurgence of interest. Photo copyright Motorsport.com .

The level of competition and the quality of the field’s in modern series such as the World Endurance Championship, WeatherTech Sportscar Championship and Blancpain Endurance Series are converting a lot of fans to the long distance element of the sport. Right now it feels like modern sportscar racing is like F1 in it’s glory days. There is a lot of high quality drivers, teams and manufacturer’s involved, with flat out racing and constant battles to be found on track. It’s refreshing as a contrast to modern F1.

By all means I still love and enjoy Formula One and always will do. I don’t intend for this piece to be a solid bashing of F1 because it has a lot of positive elements going for it currently and is deservedly the top series in world motorsport. I only wanted to express an opinion from one F1 fan that for even the die hard supporters of the pinnacle of motorsport, the increasing politics and gimmicks in the interest of “The Show” are leaving the purists feeling cold on F1.

If someone who has religiously followed F1 since a very early age can feel like this, the problems with the sport run deeper than many people will think. Without the long term F1 fans the sport is left only with casual fans who will be a lot less likely to sustain the sport in the long run. For now I will still watch F1 as much as possible, it’s just now that sportscar racing takes precedent. That shows the current relative merits of both series within the motorsport fan base.

What are your thoughts on this article? Please feel free to share your opinion and let me know. Also a huge thank you for reading this article.

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.

Radical Clubman’s Cup MSVR Castle Combe Report 02/08/14

After the lunch break, the first race was for the Radical Clubman’s Cup, a stepping stone in the Radical progression from the entry level SR1 cup to the higher profile SR3 Challenge or even European Masters series. Although the grid was not the biggest last weekend the series always provides close racing and plenty more was expected from their two races over the course of the day.

After qualifying it was Dan Vaughan in his SR3 that was on pole, from young hot shoe Oskar Kruger in his smaller PR6 model. Row 2 consisted of Steve Burgess in his SR3 from Brian Caudwell in a similar SR3 in 4th. From the start it was Kruger who made the best start although he was challenged for the lead by the fast starting Ben Dimmack, up from 8th on the grid, although some questioned whether he made too good a getaway. Into Quarry things got frantic however as 5 cars collided, although several were able to continue. The amount of stranded cars left the organisers with no option but to red flag the race to allow the stranded cars to be recovered safely.

After a 10 minute delay the cars began to line up on the grid again for the re-start, which had now been cut from 20 minutes to 15 in order to try make up time for the Castle Combe Saloons to have their race at the end of the day. At the re-start things carried over with Kruger quickly demoting Dimmack from the lead at the Esses on the opening lap. Kruger was clearly on a mission as he built up a lead of several seconds over the next few laps, and things got even more comfortable for him when news filtered through on lap 4 that 2nd man Dimmack was to have 10 seconds added to his race time for a jump start.

From the mid race point the depleted field were evenly spread out until the finish as Kruger came through for a comfortable victory, from Brian Caudwell in 2nd whilst the time penalty for Dimmack demoted him from 2nd on the road to 3rd in the overall result. John Macleod came home 4th in his SR3, whilst Brian Murphy and Richard Stables completed the top 6 from a truncated opening Radical Clubman’s Cup race.

For the second race later on in the afternoon, the grid was back up to full strength after the multi car accident in the opening race, with the front row order reversed this time around as the opening race winner Oskar Kruger claimed pole from Dan Vaughan, whilst similarly to race 1 Steve Burgess was 3rd from Brian Caudwell completed row 2. At the start it was Kruger and Burgess who made the best getaway’s to take an initial lead in this once again reduced to 15 minutes race.

Race 1 standout Ben Dimmack was at it again in race 2 as he came through to an initial 2nd place, although by lap 4 Burgess was beginning to seriously challenge Dimmack for the place as Kruger sprinted away into the distance up front. Dan Vaughan made a bad start and spent the early portion of the race attempting to make up some of the lost ground. His challenge for 4th place ended in tears on lap 6 as he passed John Macleod for the position before almost simultaneously spinning at the Esses, and into subsequent retirement.

http://www.msvracing.com/umbraco/imagegen.ashx?image=/media/2012/img_6798.jpg&height=600&allowupsizing=false&compression=90&format=jpg

The Safety Car was immediately deployed on lap 7 as it was deemed the car was in a dangerous position, although it only took 2 laps to recover the car before the Safety Car went in again. From here Kruger picked up where he left off before the Safety Car as he quickly restored a lead of several seconds over the rest. Behind Kruger Dimmack was had to defend courageously against Burgess behind him, although on the penultimate lap exiting Camp corner Burgess found a way through on the inside to claim 2nd, a position he would hold to the flag. Kruger was again dominant as he took a second victory of the day from Burgess and Dimmack. John Macleod came home for double 4th place from Brian Caudwell in 5th and finally Brian Murphy who completed the top 6.

These races were entertaining for the spectators although a few more cars on the entry list would have really enhanced the races last weekend, although in peak holiday season a dip in a usually much larger entry list is to be expected. All of the MSVR series who raced at Castle Combe last weekend would definitely be welcomed back by the spectators next year.

Credit for the excellent photos go to

http://www.radicalsportscars.com/au/readnews/?news=2014%20Radical%20Clubman’s%20Cup:%20Donington%20Park%2026%20April%20Race%20Report&passive=1&r=9&t=282

http://www.msvracing.com/cars/radical-clubmans-cup.aspx

For more information in this series please visit their website through the link below
http://www.radicalsportscars.com/au/?loadnews=regional

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 LMP2 Review Part 1

The 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours cemented the argument that this year’s LMP2 class was the most competitive in at least a decade if not more, although the class has struggled for numbers this year, especially in the World Endurance Championship, the 17 car entry for the 24 Hours provided a scintillating battle throughout the full 24 Hours. This class provided everything with stunning speed, intense battles for position and finally a popular class winner in the Jota Sport team. For 2015 this class has a lot to live up after this year.

Millennium Racing:

#22 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Fabien Giroix/Oliver Turvey/John Martin
Although I included this entry in my LMP2 preview post, it seemed as soon as I posted it this entry was withdrawn, as the funding issues which have prevented this car from running in the WEC so far this season reared it’s ugly head again. These funding issues must be frustrating for everyone involved with this Alan Docking Racing ran team, which if it ever makes it on track this year, will prove a formidable challenger for class honours with a very strong team and driver line-up. Let’s hope we see this car in action before the year’s out.

Sebastien Loeb Racing:

#24 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Rene Rast/Jan Charouz/Vincent Capillaire
For this relatively young team, this years Le Mans 24 Hours almost provided a fairy tale for them, as the team came an agonisingly close 4th in LMP2, only 1 lap off the podium. 4th for this new team is still a magical result for the team, of which little was expected pre-race.

The team’s driver line-up performed admirably, with the stand out of the three being amateur Vincent Capillaire, who more than held his own amongst an army of professional drivers in the class. If this team can retain it’s driver line-up and luck from 2014 going into the 2015 24 Hours, expect them to improve on a 4th in class. A truly great effort from this team this year.

G Drive Racing:

#26 Morgan LMP2-Nissan: Roman Rusinov/Olivier Pla/Julien Canal
For this team the 24 Hours proved a great disappointment as a team that was right in the mix for class honours early on was eliminated on Saturday evening. The OAK racing team and it’s driver line-up were definite contenders for victory, something we were robbed of seeing with their retirement. This team looks set to continue it’s dominance of LMP2 in the WEC this year, and hopefully we’ll see a much longer run for this team in 2015.

SMP Racing:

#27 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Sergey Zlobin/Mika Salo/Anton Ladygin
The Russian SMP Racing team came to Le Mans with high expectations and hoping for a great result in the 24 Hours. Things didn’t go to plan however during the whole week as both the team’s entries proved accident prone and slightly off the pace in this highly competitive class. Despite this the team was hoping to shed their bad luck before the start of the race.

Sadly this didn’t prove the case as the team was unfortunate to suffer a number of problems throughout the race, something which meant they finished 37th and the final LMP2 car to finish. In reflection, this AF Corse affiliated team will hopefully see that simply finishing the race, after the battle scarred week the team suffered, is enough of an achievement for this year. Expect to see more from this professional outfit in 2015.

Pegasus Racing:

#29 Morgan LMP2-Nissan: Julian Schell/Nicolas Leutwiler/Leo Roussel
This team appeared at a huge disadvantage to other entries in this highly competitive class, as to achieving a good result with many experts giving this small team little hope. The relatively unknown driver line-up and the fact this is the team’s first time back at Le Mans after several years were their reasoning behind the scepticism.
Sadly for this team a misunderstanding with the #1 Audi in Thursday’s evening qualifying session, resulted in a red flag inducing shunt for this entry.

The team subsequently performed brilliantly to re-build the car in time for the race. From here the team’s drivers stepped up to the plate to provide a steady run for this team, which managed to stay out of trouble for the rest of the race, although some mechanical reliability hampered the team as they struggled to a 10th place finish in class,18th overall. For this team they showed they were deserving of an entry and should come back stronger in 2015, hopefully for a much more rewarding race.

OAK Racing- Team Asia:

#33 Ligier JSP-HPD: David Cheng/Ho-Pin Tung/Adderly Fong
For this OAK racing-Team Asia entry, the 24 Hours proved relatively quiet for them as they soldiered on from a poor qualifying to attain an ultimately rewarding 12th overall and 7th in class finish. Not many thought these great looking new Ligier JSP2 coupe’s would complete the 24 Hours trouble free, despite extensive pre-race testing.

This team ran like a metronome and their relatively inexperienced driver line-up drove brilliantly to cope with changeable conditions, and whilst others were throwing their cars off track or suffering reliability issues, they kept going to hopefully the first of many Le Mans finishes for this young team.

Race Performance:

#34 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Michel Frey/Frank Mailleux/Jon Lancaster
The Race Performance have quietly impressed many within the European Le Mans Series showing so far in 2014, as they have proved competitive in both ELMS before the 24 Hours. Despite their impressive showings, not many tipped this car to challenge for class victory in the 24 Hours. Yet the team pulled a masterstroke in teaming rapid ex-GP2 racer Jon Lancaster with regular drivers Frank Mailleux and Michel Frey.

From the start, this car proved competitive as all 3 drivers drove impressively to keep the car in the hunt for victory. Sadly for this team, the car let them down in the final few hours as they were hobbled by a variety of mechanical issues, which left them tumbling down the order as they yo-yoed between the track and garage. The team did at least make the finish, albeit 13th overall and 8th in class. If this team continues it’s upward trend, the team will be hugely competitive next year. Expect big things in the future from this team.

OAK Racing:

#35 Ligier JSP2-Nissan: Alex Brundle/Jann Mardenborough/Mark Shulzhitskiy
Going into the race, this entry appeared one of the favourites for class honours on paper. The OAK racing team are prodigiously successful at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and their driver line-up was arguably the most competitive in the LMP2 class. Ultimately, despite showing blistering pace and leading a portion of the race, the team’s Achilles heel proved exactly it was feared it would be. The new Ligier JSP2 coupe.

Although the team made sure to do extensive testing before the race, a few small problems eliminated this car from contention on Sunday morning, something that left the drivers devastated. It seemed likely if this car stayed healthy, it would have won the LMP2 class. Something the team will be hoping they can prove in 2015.

Signatech Alpine:

#36 Alpine A450B-Nissan: Paul Loup-Chatin/Nelson Panciatici/Oliver Webb
Preparing for the Le Mans 24 Hours, this team appeared to be struggling as they were well off their 2013 ELMS title winning potential. After the first ELMS race the team changed tyre suppliers, hoping this would solve their issues. Yet this car still went into the race and under the radar contender for victory in LMP2. This was despite impressing in qualifying, especially LMPC Prototype graduate Paul Loup-Chatin. Throughout the race the drivers performed impressively and the car stayed out of the garage.

This left the team fighting for the top 3 podium positions in class with only a few hours to go. The team battled on into the final hours, eventually coming home a very competitive 3rd in class, and startling 7th overall. The team and drivers were clearly very happy with their result, and with such a young driver line-up, the team has plenty of potential to improve on their 3rd in class next year.

That’s it for the first half of my LMP2 Le Mans 24 Hours review, feel free to comment or look at any of my other Le Mans posts over the past few weeks. Finally a huge thanks to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality photos please visit their site it’s the first for up to date news and scintillating high quality photos. Enjoy!

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP1 Review

After previewing all four class competing in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, now seems an appropriate time to subsequently review all four classes how they fared in a thrilling 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours. The 24 Hours kept race fans glued to the race throughout, with changeable conditions teaming with uncharacteristic unreliability to provide a classic Le Mans. Like with the previews, I’ll go through each class individually, starting with the highest class, LMP1.

Audi Sport Team Joest:

#1 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Tom Kristensen/Loic Duval/Lucas Di Grassi/Marc Gene
For the No1 Audi, this race provided all the extremes this great race can provide. After initially looking quick, a monumental accident in first practice at the Porsche curves rendered Loic Duval unable to race. Audi quickly drafted in reserve driver Marc Gene from the Jota Sport LMP2 team, and set about rebuilding the car. The mechanics worked flat out to get the car qualified the next day, and the team’s confidence grew as the race drew closer. After running solidly early on, the team capitalized on other’s misfortunes to snatch the lead when the leading Toyota faltered in the early morning hours.

From here the team were set for a fairytale victory. However, Le Mans proved how cruel it can be as the car suffered a misfire at around 9am, which forced the car into the pits for 4 laps of repairs, subsequently ending it’s chances of victory. From here the team followed the sister No2 entry in 2nd to the flag after Porsche’s dramatic late demise. Considering the state of the car on Wednesday evening, 2nd is a terrific result for this team, yet anything other than a win for Audi drivers at Le Mans is a disappointment.

#2 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Marcel Fassler/Benoit Treluyer/Andre Lotterer
For all three Audi cars, the 24 Hours week got better the further along we got. Initially in practice and qualifying they appeared to lack the pace of Toyota and Porsche, a concern for the race. Whilst some discounted Audi based on their qualifying pace, the team did what they do best, and provided a relatively trouble free run.

Just as the team were getting comfortable in the lead, after the demise of the leading Toyota, the team were forced to pit in the early hours of the morning with a failing turbocharger, the team lost 20 minutes and dropped to 3rd. From here all 3 drivers drove flat out, and allied with problems for the cars ahead, were able to re-claim the lead for good at around mid morning. From here it was fairly comfortable, as the remaining Porsche challenge crumbled, leaving an Audi 1-2 to the finish. This is the trio’s 3rd win in 4 years, a truly remarkable achievement for this highly talented trio.

#3 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro: Oliver Jarvis/ Marco Bonanomi/ Filipe Albuquerque
Before the event started, the #3 Audi had already been discounted as a challenger for victory by some people, who pointed to the driver line-up and the fact this not a full season entry as justification for their viewpoint. After qualifying however, they were proved wrong as this Audi was the fastest of the 3 in qualifying going into the race. The team were hoping this car’s usual bad luck would not repeat itself this year, yet the couldn’t of been more wrong.

With only a few hours gone in the race, the rain showers began with heavy intensity, at which point the slow travelling #3 Audi was rear ended by the #81 GTE Am Ferrari, subsequently eliminating both as they were both unable to hustle their cars back into the pits for repairs. A very sad end to what promised to be a great run for this #3 Audi crew, who must surely be asking which spiritual God they offended with the amount of bad luck they have in the 24 Hours.

Toyota Racing:

#7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid: Alex Wurz/Stephane Sarrazin/Kazuki Nakajima
For Toyota and especially this #7 entry, the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours is the ultimate example of one that slipped away. In the pre-race build-up Toyota were more than comfortably justifying their pre-race favourites tag as this car claimed pole. Nobody appeared to be able to match their pace during the race, with the #7 entry leading from the start and building over a 2 minute lead on the chasing pack by the early hours of Sunday morning, despite spending longer in the pits.

This car’s dream run was brought to a sudden halt however as the car lost drive coming out of Arnage in the 9th hour. Despite frantic contact between driver Kazuki Nakajima and the team, the electrical problem could not be fixed and the car was forced to retire. For Toyota this was a heart breaking moment as no manufacture has worked so hard to win this race. Toyota will surely come back stronger in 2015 and they might just finally claim the Le Mans 24 Hours victory they so badly crave.

#8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid: Anthony Davidson/Nicolas Lapierre/Sebastien Buemi
The second Toyota also suffered a greatly unlucky run in the 24 Hours, as their car was eliminated from realistic victory contention within the first few hours of the race. The #8 car was caught out in the same conditions as the #3 Audi. Although driver Nicolas Lapierre gave the car considerable contact in the very difficult conditions, the team was able to mend the car for it to continue, unlike the #3 Audi.

From here the team simply drove flat out and hoped for the best, with the pace they were able to show in the remaining hours proving an ultimate what if statement. Their pace was remarkable as they were the only car to be able to consistently lap in 3m26 laps during daylight conditions. With others misfortunes and their startling pace the car salvaged the final podium spot, after the demise of Porsche in the final few hours. This team will surely come back in 2015 even more determined to claim victory after this year.

Porsche Team:

#14 Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb
For the Porsche outfit, 2014 was always pencilled in as a learning year for this new team, with any competitive results being a bonus for them. During the race, the car was running well above predictions as it mixed it with the Toyota’s for the lead. The team’s great run was dampened however with two separate fuel pressure problems, leaving the car well behind the leaders.

The car continued circulating at an impressive pace, before in the cruellest fashion possible, mechanical problems forced the car into the garage with only 3 hours remaining, where it would remain until the end.For this team the pace they showed will provide huge encouragement, expect this team to be seriously challengers when they return to Le Mans next year.

#20 Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley/Mark Webber
Incredibly, the #20 had an even more impressive Le Mans 24 Hours than the sister car. This entry showed they meant business by claiming provisional pole on Wednesday, thanks to a stunning lap from Brendon Hartley. Although they slipped back on Thursday, they went into 24 Hours reasonably confident of a good result. From the start the team ran under the radar, capitalising on other’s misfortune to climb the leader board.

Sensationally, after the problems for the #1 Audi on Sunday morning, this promoted the #20 Porsche into a fairy tale lead with only a few hours remaining. From here however this slipped out of their grasp as the charging #2 Audi was able to reclaim the lead an hour later. Soon after, things got even worse as the #20 was forced into the garage with a broken anti-roll bar. This halted their run and in a final twist of cruel fate, the car was not classified as a finisher after it failed to complete the final lap in the set time. Again huge positives can be taken from their run and expect them to be on the podium next year.

Rebellion Racing:

#12 Rebellion R-One-Toyota: Nicolas Prost/Nick Heidfeld/Mathias Beche
For the Rebellion team things went according to expectations mostly, with the only major surprise being the relatively faultless run they had in the 24 Hours, considering it was only the second race for a car short on testing miles too. The car’s paced compared to the other LMP1 entries may have worried them, as they finished 14 laps behind the next LMP1 entry ahead of them.

The team did however benefit massively from the misfortunes of others, as they climbed the charts to eventually finish a brilliant 4th overall. The team will be thrilled with this result, with the team’s only concern going into the 2015 24 Hours will be the overall pace of their LMP1 entries, although for now they can celebrate an excellent result for this privateer outfit.

#13 Rebellion R-One-Toyota: Dominik Kraihamer/Andrea Belicchi/Fabio Leimer
The #13 entry proved to be the slightly slower of the two Rebellion racing entries, although this is not a major surprise considering the relative driver line-up’s of the two cars. This car was hoping for a steady run in the 24 Hours, ;although unlike the sister team entry, this car was unable to achieve this. The team suffered terrible luck as an engine problem side lined the car after only several hours. The team will be hoping to come back a lot stronger in 2015 as they aim to bring more pressure to the factory entries.

There’s the first of my Le Mans 24 Hours reviews. The other class reviews will be posted in the next few days. Once again huge thanks to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing photos, please feel free to visit their site if your interested.

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

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro Preview

After previewing the LMP1 and LMP2 prototype classes now it’s time to switch my focus onto the GT classes. First up is the GTE Pro series, which this year is mostly the domain of factory teams. This year see’s 4 manufactures take each other on in what should be a very tense battle, as they fight for the all important class victory.

AF Corse:

#51 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Gianmaria Bruni/Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella
The #51 AF Corse entry has been a winner so far in the World Endurance Championship in 2014, yet the team could struggle with the Ferrari at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Indeed, last year’s race for Ferrari may just end up repeating itself as all GTE Pro cars were frozen in 2013 spec before the start of this season. This therefore doesn’t bode well for AF Corse as they struggled to match the pace of Aston Martin and Porsche.

AF Corse can never be discounted however, especially this #51 entry which comprises the same line-up that won this class in 2012. Ex-F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella joins Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander. These 3 are very quick in GT Ferrari’s and expect them to still challenge the pacesetters in the class, despite a car that most likely will be the third best car around the Circuit de la Sarthe.

#71 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Davide Rigon/James Calado/Olivier Beretta
The second of the factory supported AF Corse entries is the #71 entry, which blends experience with youth for Le Mans with Olivier Beretta bringing his vast GT racing experience to complement young chargers Davide Rigon and in particular James Calado. Although Calado and Rigon have little GT experience expect both of them to fly during the race. As I mentioned above the Ferrari’s don’t appear to suit the Le Mans circuit, meaning the most likely route to victory for AF Corse will be a reliable and trouble free run, rather than on outright pace alone.

RAM Racing:

#52 Ferrari F458 Italia GT2: Matt Griffin/Alvaro Parente/Federico Leo
For the RAM Racing team, 2014 promised so much for this plucky privateer team, yet so far it has delivered little as the team have struggled through the year with financial issues. These issues have severely hampered their Le Mans 24 Hours efforts as they were forced to miss the last WEC race at Spa to be confident of making the 24 Hours. Funding has also affected their driver line-up with experienced racer Ben Collins being replaced by the ex-single seater driver Federico Leo in the run up to the event.

For the only privateer team in the GTE Pro class things were always going to be tough against the might of factory Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin entries, as they fight an uphill battle to challenge the factory outfits in GTE Pro. Luckily for RAM racing they have three very quick GT drivers to share the car, including on-loan McLaren GT factory driver Alvaro Parente. Expect this car to shine in their hands but for this team a top 5 result in GTE Pro would be good but they’ll need a reliable run to achieve this.

Corvette Racing:

#73 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Jordan Taylor
The enormously successful Corvette racing team returns to Le Mans after a bruising 2013 24 Hours where there were far behind the leading pace of Aston Martin and Porsche. This year they aim to rectify this with a brand new C7.R model Corvette, which has so far proved very competitive in the American Tudor United Sportscar Championship, with arguably the most competitive GT class in the world right now.

If the C7.R can adapt to Le Mans quickly expect this team to be right at the front all race long. Certainly they have the driving talent to be at the front with the #73 being crewed by vastly experienced racers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, perfectly complementing the outright pace of youngster Jordan Taylor. Although he’s had little running in the new C7.R, if he can adapt quickly to the car and track, expect this car to fight for the class win.

#74 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Richard Westbrook
The second of the factory Corvette entries is again piloted by an impressive line-up of Corvette racing stalwart Oliver Gavin alongside Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook. This line-up is as strong as any in this class and most importantly if the new C7.R can prove reliable over 24 Hours they will certainly be fighting for the class victory.

The reliability of this new car is very important as the team suffered reliability problems in it’s racing debut at the Rolex 24, something they’ll hope will have been rectified by this time next week. Their performances in the race will be one’s to watch out for in the hotly contested GTE Pro category.

Porsche Team Manthey:

#91 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Patrick Pilet/Jorg Bergmeister/Nick Tandy
The Manthey Porsche team will be hoping for a repeat of their 2013 class win at the Le Mans 24 Hours, with continuity being the name of the game with Porsche as they keep the same band of drivers,car and team for their 2014 campaign. Although there have been Balance of Performance tweaks since last year’s 24 Hours, the Porsche 911 appears to still be the car to beat going into the 2014 edition.

The only relative difference for this #91 entry for 2014, is the promotion of Porsche factory driver Nick Tandy to the factory team, after spending the last few years impressing on assignment with various Porsche customer teams. Alongside fellow factory drivers Patrick Pilet and Jorg Bergmeister both Porsche entries must surely go into the event as pre-race favouries in the GTE Pro category.

#92 Porsche 911 997 GT3-RSR: Marco Holzer/Frederic Makowiecki/Richard Leitz
The second of the factory Manthey Porsche’s is piloted by a stellar line-up of factory drivers in Marco Holzer, new signing Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Leitz. Both Porsche entries have proved fast and reliable so far in 2014, and whilst the headlines have been taken by their return to the LMP1 category for this year, the team is adamant the GT racing group is entirely separate from the prototype division. This should ensure the team are in the perfect position to replicate their class victory from a year ago. Anything can happen at Le Mans however.

Aston Martin Racing:

#97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke/Bruno Senna
Similarly to Porsche, Aston Martin returns to Le Mans in 2014 with mostly the same group that gave Porsche an almighty challenge for class honours last year. The factory team brings two entries this year and so far both have struggled in the WEC with Balance of Performance tweaks, which the team feel have blunted their challenge in an unfair manner. Some in the paddock question however is Aston Martin have simply been sandbagging before Le Mans, the truth will only appears once qualifying for the 24 Hours starts on Wednesday.

On the driving front the #97 entry will lead the way with GT stalwarts Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke partnering Bruno Senna for Aston. Whilst Senna may appear a slight weak link with the little running he’s done in the car this year, expect all 3 drivers to be right on the pace throughout the race. Reliability should not be a problem in this well proven car therefore it will be down to the drivers to make the difference needed for class victory.

#99 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Alex MacDowall/Darryl O’Young/Fernando Rees
The second of the works Aston Martin entries this year is a collaborative effort between the works Aston team and the Asian based team Craft-Bamboo. This link-up explains the driver line-up of Bamboo linked drivers Alex MacDowall and Darryl O’Young to partner experienced Brazilian Fernando Rees.

Whilst the driver line-up may slightly hamper this car in a class full of factory GT drivers, if the pace Aston showed last year has remained intact and the car can stay reliable, expect this team to provide glimpses of promise in the race with a top 5 result a real possibility.

That’s it for the GTE Pro class, although the entry is relatively small the 4 factory outfits will be fighting right until the end for the class victory. This is exactly why anyone watching the race should always keep an eye on the GTE Pro fight as the race develops. Once again massive thanks must go to http://www.motorsport.com/#!/lemans for their amazing photos once again all the latest Le Mans 24 Hours news can be seen on the link above. Keep posted for the GTE-Am preview in the next few days. Enjoy!

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 Preview Part 1

After previously previewing the LMP1 class for this years Le Mans 24 Hours, now it’s time to look at the burgeoning LMP2 class, which is in very rude health this year with 18 entries battling for class victory. Any one of these entries is capable of winning and the sheer size of the class appears to show the ACO’s decision to make this class strictly a pro-am format seems the correct one at this point. This class will provide plenty of action over the 24 hours that’s for sure.

Millennium Racing:

#22 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Fabien Giroix/John Martin/Oliver Turvey
In the pre-season this entry from Millennium racing would have been a favourite for victory in both the World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours. So far however 2014 has not been kind to the team as budget problems mean this is their first running of the year having missed last week’s Test Day, the team are up against it to find the sweet spot for their Oreca entry. This team should not be discounted though as the team is highly professional and experienced in sports car racing, as are their stellar driver line-up which is a match for any in the LMP2 field.

Sebastien Loeb Racing:

#24 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Rene Rast/Jan Charouz/Vincent Capillaire
The Sebastien Loeb name returns to Le Mans for the first time in years, although sadly for spectators he is not returning behind the wheel. This year it’s the turn of his Sports car team as they make their LMP2 debut in the 24 Hours. The team is coming into the race in good form having claimed 2nd in the most recent European Le Mans Series race at Imola. The only question mark around this team is how they will handle the P2 class in the 24 Hours as the team has little experience with this car. Something that cannot be questioned however is the driver line-up with on-loan Audi factory GT driver making his debut in the LMP2 class, previous factory LMP1 and Le Mans Series champion Jan Charouz and gentleman driver Vincent Capillaire. Capillaire is one of the better Am drivers and if Rast shows anything like the kind of pace he has in GT cars he will be one to watch out for.

G-Drive Racing:

#26 Morgan LMP2-Nissan:Roman Rusinov/Olivier Pla/Julien Canal
This G-Drive racing team has proved itself to be a major contender so far in 2014 as it has dominated in the WEC taking victory in both rounds so far, also topping the times at the Test Day last weekend. This Oak racing affiliated team looks strong this year with their Oak badged Morgan which was designed specifically for this race. This came through last year as the team claimed a dominant 1-2 finish, something they’ll be aiming to repeat this year. On the driving front this team is particularly strong as Rusinov has improved dramatically in 2014, Pla is one of the benchmark LMP2 drivers in the world right now with Am driver Canal bringing plenty of experience and is no slouch himself. Watch out for this team as a podium is easily within their reach this year.

SMP Racing:

#27 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Sergey Zlobin/Mika Salo/Anton Ladygin
Another team relatively new to LMP2 racing is the SMP racing team which makes it’s debut in the P2 class at the 24 Hours this year. The team is formidable,especially thanks to AF Corse support in running the organization. Although luck has so far deserted them in the opening WEC races they have been challenging for wins, before various dramas have delayed them. Anyone in the class who gets a relatively problem free run in the 24 Hours will be fighting for the podium come next Sunday afternoon,with the SMP racing team hoping their bad luck is up for the year now. The driver line-up of Russians Zlobin and Ladygin is solid with Mika Salo bringing both pace and experience to the team. This team in overall terms is a solid entry yet will probably need a reliable run and misfortune for others to challenge for a podium.

Pegasus Racing:

#29 Morgan LMP2-Nissan: Julian Schell/Nicolas Leutwiler/Leo Roussel
Pegasus racing is once again a team new to top level prototype racing, however the team doesn’t have the support of a major team like SMP has with AF Corse, or the stellar line-up enjoyed by Sebastien Loeb racing. Therefore whilst this team has shown admirably sop far in the ELMS it has yet to consistently challenge for podiums, something that appears almost impossible for this young team. Whilst it can claim to have one of the best liveries in the field if it has struggled in the ELMS so far the step up at the 24 Hours will be awfully daunting for this team. The driving talent of Schell, Leutwiler and Roussel have little previous prototype experience and can be described as a majority Am line-up. This is something the team will struggle with against the immense driving talent in this class. Realistically the team should be aiming for a finish with anything more simply a bonus for a team which needs more experience at this level to be competitive in this class.

OAK Racing-Team Asia:

#33 Ligier JS P2-Honda: David Cheng/Ho-Pin Tung/Adderly Fong
Whilst the OAK racing team has been competing in the Le Mans 24 Hours for years, this is a debut for the team in this new affiliation with the Asian market, sparked by the recently launched Asian Le Mans series. Carrying on the new image of this team is the car their using, the Ligier JS P2 Coupe, making it’s debut at the 24 Hours. So far this is all adding up to a classic retirement with a new car devoid of race running and a newly affiliated team. Before you write this team off on the flip side the team has plenty to justify it’s contenders tag. Firstly the driving talent includes quick ex-single seater drivers Ho-Pin Tung and Adderly Fong, joined by the experienced David Cheng. Also the OAK racing team are always dynamite at the 24 Hours. Therefore if the new coupe can run reliably first time out do not at all be surprised to see this team competing for high placings next Sunday.

Race Performance:

#34 Oreca 03R-Judd: Michel Frey/Frank Mailleux/Jon Lancaster
After a 2013 campaign in which they struggled the Race Performance team have shown definite signs of improvement so far in 2014. The team has stuck to a reliable Oreca-Judd package and with regular drivers Michel Frey and single seater convert Frank Mailleux, have shown tremendous promise so far in the ELMS. Mailleux has proved a revelation so far, with their driving talent strengthened immensely with another single seater convert in Jon Lancaster joining the team for his Le Mans 24 Hours debut. If Lancaster can quickly adapt to the Circuit de la Sarthe expect this team to rapid from the flag. A class podium is a definite aim for this team.

OAK Racing:

#35 Ligier JS P2-Nissan: Alex Brundle/Jann Mardenborough/Mark Shulzhitskiy
The second OAK racing entry is most definitely an intriguing entry in the LMP2 class, as it shows off their newly developed Ligier JS P2 coupe for the first time at the 24 Hours. Whilst the car is very new the team appear confident it can last the full 24 Hours. If this car can run trouble free throughout the race expect it to be challenging for the class win as this entry is very closely linked to Nissan this year. This is shown on the driving front as the team boasts 3 very fast Nissan backed drivers in benchmark man Alex Brundle, GP3 racer Jann Mardenborough and GT academy winner Mark Shulzhitskiy. All of these are quick drivers and this will only benefit the team, the only question mark remains on their new Ligier coupe.

Signatech Alpine:

#36 Alpine A450B-Nissan: Paul Loup-Chatin/Nelson Panciatici/Oliver Webb
Yet more diversity is brought to the LMP2 field as the Signatech team again field it’s Alpine badged Oreca for the race. This team is gaining experience in the category and came into 2014 on the back of winning the ELMS LMP2 drivers and constructers championships. Things have been slightly rougher in 2014 so far yet this team has showed tremendous promise and is deserving of it’s title as class victory contenders. The line-up of the experienced Panciatici with rapid young drivers in Chatin and ex single seater hot shoe Oliver Webb could prove inspired come next Sunday.

That’s the first half of this diverse LMP2 field previewed,please stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!
In the meantime please visit the home of the great photographs I’ve used in the preview, they can be seen at http://www.dailysportscar.com/?p=32030 and http://www.motorsport.com/lemans/photos/main-gallery/?r=8087

May Bank Holiday Races Report Part 2

After the frenetic resident Formula Ford series there was no let up in the action as the Castle Combe Saloon car championship took to the grid. After qualifying a shock was provided as circuit favourite Gary Prebble managed to snatch pole in his first time driving friend Rob Ballard’s Seat Leon Cupra. Alongside him was the impressive Russell Akers in his uprated Vauxhall Astra. At the lights it was Akers who made the best start to grab an initial lead. Behind him Tony Hutchings improved on 3rd in his Audi TT by passing Prebble for 2nd on lap 2.

From here the leaders appeared to spread themselves out slightly however this calm period was ruined when Prebble re-took 2nd from Hutchings around the back portion of the circuit and was soon hustling Akers for the lead. Behind them a potentially big moment in the 2014 championship occurred as perennial class winner Adrian Slade lunched his gearbox going into Camp on lap 7 forcing him to retire from 4th.

From here the race was taking a calmer turn yet by the penultimate lap this was clearly over as both Prebble and Hutchings were looking to pass Akers going up Avon rise. The inevitable people feared occurred from here as Akers was potentially helped into a spin at Quarry although from my vantage point it looked as if he lost him all by himself. Either way he became a retirement and this settled the race as Prebble opened a small gap to take a very popular win from Hutchings in 2nd with Kevin Bird a long way back in his Renualt Megane completed the rostrum. The win was also significant for Prebble as he matched Bob Light’s all time win record at Castle Combe.

After that excitement it was the Nippon Challenge that was next up with their second race of the day. The first race finishing order from race 1 determining the grid for race 2 many waited to see if Simon James could improve on his third place grid slot after his race 1 heroics. At the lights it was pole man Adam Lockwood who made the best getaway with a similar outcome to race 1 as immediately him and second man James Janicki broke away from the pack by lap 1 with Lockwood then opening a gap to Janicki in second through laps 2-4. Although not quite as dominant as race 1 it was clear only mechanical/driver error would deny Lockwood a double win.

The spectator’s eyes were therefore drawn to the battle for 4th between Curtis Mitchell and Craig Rankine which was settled in Rankine’s favour on lap 7. At this point Lockwood had a 6 second lead however with only minute’s left in this 15 minute dash the red flag’s suddenly appeared after tail ender Jon Lord suffered a dramatic looking accident on the pit straight. After running wide at Camp he lost control on the grass with the rear hitting the tyres before sending the car into a sickening mix of barrel and end over end rolls before landing upside down. Luckily the roll cage did it’s job and Lord was quickly out of the car, yet this spelt the end of the race as Lockwood was declared the winner from Janicki and Simon James in 2nd and 3rd.

Net up on the time table was the new for 2014 Castle Combe Sports Racing Car Series solely for sports prototype machines. After a thin first round entry the numbers were up slightly for this meeting as 7 cars ventured onto the grid. After missing the first round it was no surprise to see Simon Tilling on pole although this time he was driving his newly acquired VdeV spec Ligier JS49T and not his bright orange Radical. First round winner Norman Lackford lined up alongside him on the front row.

From the rolling start Tilling was dominant as he lapped several seconds a lap quicker than the rest in what was simply a shakedown session for his new car. Behind Lackford gave valiant chase with the only real action being Stephen Bracegirdle in his Nemisis passing Mike Roberts Radical SR8 for 3rd on lap 7 before pulling away. After a dominant 20 minute display Tilling took the win 30 seconds clear of Lackford in 2nd with Bracegirdle a lap down in 3rd.

The penultimate race of the race was the second stanza of the Toyota MR2 series with once again the finishing order from race 1 determining the grid for race 2. Therefore it was Paul Corbridge who was on pole from Nathan Harrison in second. From the lights Corbridge made a very good getaway whilst Harrison fell into the pack as he fluffed his start. This time around it was 4th man Neale Hurren who had vaulted his way up to 2nd at the start that was troubling Corbridge as they broke from the rest by the end of lap 1.

Harrison started his recovery drive by passing Eddie O’Kane for 4th going into Quarry on lap 5 before joining the battle between Jon Winter, Harrison, Peter Higton and race 1 pole man Aaron Pullan who had amazingly managed to fit a new clutch in the period between race 1 and 2 to start from the back. His lightning progress soon saw him win this battle as he snatched 3rd from Harrison on the inside at Tower on lap 8. Sadly he was left with not enough time to catch the leading two despite taking seconds a lap out of their lead he finished the race right on the tail of 2nd man Hurren with Corbridge only just up the road as he took the win.

The final race of this truncated programme was a Castle Combe open sports v saloons race with an eclectic entry. On pole was Chris Milner with his Caterham CSR with the VW Vento VR6 of Dave Scaramanga alongside him. From the start both front row men made good getaway’s as the rest were left for dead behind. Soon Scaramanga joined that list as Milner’s Caterham was so much quicker than the rest of the saloon entries.

Behind him the field was fairly evenly spread with no real significant battles being provided during the 10 lap dash. At the flag it was a delighted Chris Milner who took a very comfortable victory with Dave Scaramanga being the best saloon car home I 2nd, only 50 seconds down on Milner. Martin Perry completed the podium in his Fiat coupe to round out another great day’s racing at Castle Combe with the next meeting only 3 weeks away on the next Bank Holiday Monday.

For more details about the Castle Combe circuit please visit their website here http://www.castlecombecircuit.co.uk/

Also for anyone interested in the official results from yesterday’s meeting feel free to visit the TSL Timing link to all the official results here http://www.tsl-timing.com/?loc=club&season=2014&series=CCRC&event=club&source=ed_CCRC&eventid=141968