Endurance Racing

FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue Preview

PHOTO: TOYOTA MOTORSPORT GMBH

The 2018/2019 FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season is about to begin with the pre-season Prologue tests. The first session kicks off at 10 am local time on Friday, April 6th.

The off-season for the FIA World Endurance Championship is finally drawing to a close as the inaugural Super Season is about to start. The teams are assembling at Paul Ricard in the south of France, and journalists are gearing up for a few days of incessant announcements. This year, the Prologue introduces a mammoth session, a 30-hour session to truly test the mettle of these endurance machines. Thirteen of the thirty-five entries have elected to participate in the 30-hour test session, a selection which interestingly includes none of the LMP2 runners.

Only nine of the ten full season LMP1 entries will be present at the Prologue as Rebellion Racing have chosen to run only one of their R13 chassis. However, the car is running the 30-hour session with driving duties split between all six of Rebellion’s drivers. Toyota are bringing both of their new TS050’s but have also only entered the #7 car into the extended session, although they have registered five drivers to run in the #7. ByKolles are returning to the WEC with their ENSO CLM P1/01 in the hands of confirmed driver Ollie Webb and Dominik Kraihamer, while SMP Racing have brought both of their BR Engineering BR1 chassis. Both SMPs and the ByKolles will be joining the 30-hour session and round off the LMP1 entries planning to participate in the extended running. The third BR1 chassis at the Prologue belongs to Dragonspeed and will be piloted by their lineup of Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman and Renger van der Zande. That leaves the two Ginetta G60-LT-P1 Mecachrome cars of CEFC TRSM Racing (or Manor for short.) While only Charlie Robertson and Oliver Rowland are the only two drivers listed on the Prologue entry list, we now know that the team have signed Alex Brundle for the full super season and we expect more driver announcements in the near future.

Though LMP2 sees a much smaller grid this season, it is still a pretty impressive lineup and now features more variety in terms of chassis. The familiar Oreca 07s of Jackie Chan DC Racing are back, bringing the team’s Asian Le Mans series lineup of Jazeman Jaafar, Weiron Tan and Nabil Jeffri in the ‘Fortune Cat’ #37, and Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and newly announced Stephane Richelmi will be in the Mighty 38.

There are two more Orecas on the grid this year, one in the hands of TDS Racing with Francois Perrodo, Matthieu Vaxiviere and former Audi LMP1 driver Loic Duval. The second is Dragonspeed’s full season LMP2 entry with Roberto Gonzalez and Pastor Maldonado on board. Anthony Davidson will be joining the team after the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, but he’ll be on Toyota duty during this test. Signatech Alpine have returned with their Alpine A470, and have brought with them Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet. French team Larbre Competition have made the jump to LMP2, swapping their Corvette C7R for a Ligier LSP217 with Erwin Creed, Romano Ricci and serial Instagrammer Fernando Rees on board. And finally, Racing Team Nederland have brought their bright yellow Dallara P217 up from the European Le Mans Series along with drivers Frits van Eerd, Jan Lammers and Giedo van der Garde.

There’s a mix of old and new faces in the GTE Pro category, with newcomers BMW Team MTEK lining up alongside season regulars AF Corse, Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK, Porsche GT Team and Aston Martin Racing (albeit with a shiny, new Aston Martin Vantage AMR.) Porsche are the only team to be running both their cars in the 30-hour test session, giving Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre, Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni plenty of time to gather all-important data. BMW and Aston Martin are both entering one of their cars into the extended test. The #82 BMW assigned to Augusto Farfus, Antonio Felix da Costa and Alexander Sims and the #95 Aston Martin of Marco Sorensen, Nicki Thiim and Darren Turner will be clocking up the miles in these brand new GTE Pro cars. Elsewhere in the paddock, not much has changed with both AF Corse and Ford Chip Ganassi electing to run the same driver lineups as last season.

There are a total of nine GTE Am entries this season, and four of them will be joining in the 30-hour test session. Spirit of Race and Clearwater Racing are both returning with their Ferrari 458 GTE’s with mostly unchanged driver lineups, though Spirit of Race have added Giancarlo Fisichella to their team. Japanese outfit MR Racing have also brought a Ferrari 458 GTE and will be making their debut with drivers Ishikawa Motoaki, Olivier Beretta and Eddie Cheever on board. Team Project 1 are another new face to the series, entering a Porsche 911 RSR in the hands of endurance veteran Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti. All four of these teams have elected to join the extended test session. Aston Martin Racing are entering the #98 with its familiar lineup of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Matthias Lauda, while Dempsey-Proton Racing are returning with a two-Porsche effort. Lastly, making the jump from European Le Mans Series are TF Sport as they continue their climb up the endurance racing ladder. They’ll be running an Aston Martin Vantage with Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey and Charlie Eastwood.

The first test session and the extended 30-hour session begin on Friday, April 6th at 10 am local time, while the Super Season goes racing for the first time at Spa Francorchamps on the 5th of May.

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