TUSC

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!

2015 Sebring 12 Hours Prototype Challenge Preview

Next up in my series previewing next weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours is the Prototype Challenge class. Whilst the class consists of spec Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet cars, the class provides great racing with the spec Oreca meaning the teams and drivers are very closely matched. Let’s take a look at the runners and riders for next weekend’s Sebring 12 Hour enduro.

#8 Martini Starworks Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Renger Van Der Zande/Mike Hedlund/Mirco Schultis

The Starworks motorsport teams Prototype Challenge class entry virtually mirrored their Daytona Prototype entry in that both cars showed impressive pace when running cleanly, although a series of issues hampered the team and ultimately led to the retirement of both cars. In the case of this #8 PC entry an alternator faliure forced the team out during the night.

For this weekend’s next round at Sebring the team will be hoping for a more comfortable run for the #8 entry as they look to recover from their first round retirement during the gruelling 12 Hours of Sebring. The team has retained the majority of it’s stellar driving line up from the Rolex 24 with the very fast Dutch driver Renger Van Der Zande leading the line up alongside the added pace from Mike Hedland, with the trio being completed by the very experienced German Mirco Schultis.

If this teams #8 Martini entry can remain reliable throughout the 12 Hours and avoid an on track drama’s, expect this team to be right at the front of the highly competitive Prototype Challenge class with Van Der Zande leading the charge for class honors.

#11 AutoMaxUSA RSR Racing Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Bruno Junqueira/Chris Cumming/Gustavo Menezes/TBA

The #11 RSR Racing entry was another Prototype Challenge car to face difficulty in the opening Rolex 24, the team forced to retire on the Sunday with an engine faliure. The team will therefore be hoping for much better this weekend at Sebring, although the 12 Hour race on the airfield circuit is another stern test for the Tudor United Sportscar Championship grid.

The RSR Racing has a wealth of American sportscar racing experience to count on, something even more important in a class where the car and engine package are the same for everyone, as is with the Prototype Challenge grid. On the driving front the team has former F3000 champion and Champ Car title contender Bruno Junqueira, a stunning signing for the RSR team.

Partnering him will be the young American driver Gustavo Menezes. He is climbing the single seater ladder in Europe and will be another fast driver for this team. The final piece of their line up is the amateur driver Chris Cumming, another fast Canadian who is a former PC class champion in the old American Le Mans Series. With the experience of the RSR Racing team and the very fast driver line up they have the team will be certain to challenge for class victory if they can have a clean run during the 12 Hours.

#16 Spongebob Movie BAR1 Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Johnny Mowlem/Martin Plowman/Tom Papadopoulos

The BAR1 Motorsport team were another team to show their pace during the Rolex 24, and will be hoping to continue this good start to the season this weekend at Sebring. Whilst things went well for the team on the track at Daytona, unfortunately the team were disqualified after the race for a drive time violation. Whilst this is rightly a huge blow for the promising young team, they can at least take solace from their strong run to pole position and a close second in class.

The team will be hoping to show similar pace this weekend, whilst keeping in line with the rules so they can keep their finishing position points. The team’s line up of very fast British drivers Johnny Mowlem and Martin Plowman are joined by the amateur driver Tom Papadopoulos, who is a good addition for the team. This line up is one of the best in the class and the team will be disappointed if they have a clean run during the 12 Hours and don’t come away with at least a podium place. Watch out for this team this weekend.

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Jerome Mee/James French/Conor Daly

The Performance Tech Motorsport team suffered a difficult Rolex 24 at Daytona, an accident eliminating them early on in the race. The team will therefore be looking for a smoother run in this weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours, although this race is another punishing event for everyone on the grid. The team will hope for a clean run throughout the race, something which should land the team a respectable result if they can achieve this.

On the driving front the team has the relatively experience James French to lead the line up alongside Jerome Mee, someone stepping up to the Prototype Challenge class of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship after competing for the last few years in the feeder IMSA Prototype Lights category. The team created a stir amongst the TUSC grid by announcing this week that the very fast young American Conor Daly will complete their line up for this weekend. Daly is inexperienced with sportscar racing although should impress at his first attempt. With this line up the team can definitely challenge for a class podium.

#52 Cuttwood PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Tom Kimber-Smith/Mike Guasch/Andrew Palmer

For the PR1/Mathiasen team started the year in the perfect manner with class victory in the opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, a result the team will hope to repeat at this weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours. The team got lucky in some cases during the race at Daytona, a key ingredient to all long distance sportscar victories. Whilst every team hopes before the start of a faultless run during the race, for this team this applies even more as they know if they can stay reliable they will be fighting to class victory come the end of the 12 Hours.

The team have retained their Daytona driver line up, with the very experienced and fast Brit Tom Kimber-Smith now partnering team mate Mike Guasch full time after Andrew Novich stepped down from the team after Daytona to focus on his college studies. Guasch is a very experienced a solid amateur driver to anchor the line up and will provide consistent stints whilst staying out of trouble, vital to any sportscar victory. Completing the teams line up is the fast young American Andrew Palmer, who steps up to the PC class of the Tudor series for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races. Palmer impressed in the competitive Pirelli World Challenge series last year,finishing 5th overall, and will look to continue his upward career momentum with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport. Coming off a Rolex 24 class victory, this team goes into Sebring as one of the favourites for class honours.

#54 FlexBox CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/James Gue

This CORE Autosport team have quickly established themselves as the leading team in the competitive Prototype Challenge class, as they dominated last year to taking the class title with numerous wins including at the Rolex 24. The team looked set for another class victory at Daytona this year, until a late accident in the final hour forced the team to settle for second in class. This team is used to winning in PC and will look to return to winning ways this weekend at Sebring. The team is highly professional and will surely go into the race as the favourite for PC class honours come the end of the 12 Hours.

The team’s driver line up looks solid on paper, although this underestimates the speed of Colin Braun or the steady and reliable team owner Jon Bennett and James Gue. Both can provide stints with a high average speed across their stint, whilst also remaining consistent and keeping out of any on track trouble that is inevitable with grids of over 40 cars. This team will go into the race as favourites for PC class honours and will surely be disappointed with anything but a class win.

#85 La Moderna JDC/Miller Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Mikhail Goikhberg/Chris Miller/Rusty Mitchell/Gerry Kraut

The JDC/Miller Motorsport team will go into Sebring this weekend hoping to build on their class podium in Januaries Rolex 24 at Daytona. The team will have been happy to complete the podium in third although this was tinged slightly with the news that it only came about because of the exclusion of the #16 BAR1 Motorsport car.

The team have lost some of their star name drivers from the Rolex 24, although the line up they have retained is a very respectable one and can compete for competitive class honours in the race if they can avoid any major dramas. Mikhail Goikhberg has stepped up to the Tudor United Sportscar Championship this year after winning the feeder IMSA Prototype Lights series last year. This shows his pace and he will likely lead the teams line up throughout the race. Rusty Mitchell is another fast driver from this line up, and with plenty of sportscar racing experience he will help the team massively during the race. Chris Miller and Gerry Kraut will both be a safe pair of hands during the race and will hopefully keep the team out of trouble so that Mitchell and Goikhberg can push the team towards a top placing. If this team can stay out of trouble, they could very well spring a surprise come the end of the race. Watch out for this JDC/Miler entry and discount them at your peril.

That concludes my preview of the Prototype Challenge class ahead of this weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours. If I had to chose one car to put money on it would be the #54 CORE Autosport entry, although the likes of the #16 BAR1 Motorsport, #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport and #85 JDC/Miller Motorsport cars will all be fighting at the front for class victory. As with every class in the highly competitive Tudor United Sportscar Championship, it’s impossible to predict a clear favourite for victory, which only means the action on track will be even more exciting come Saturday. A final comment I have to make is a huge thank you to Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality images in this preview. Please go and visit their website http://www.Motorsport.com for the latest news and photos from across the motorsport world. Also feel free to comment any will be appreciated both good and bad. Enjoy!