Earlier today, the FIA WEC returned, with qualifying taking part at the Nurburgring on the Grand Prix circuit configuration. The return to the Nurburgring is an important one for the series; a home race for all three competing LMP1 factory teams, and a chance for the FIA WEC to show the potential for the series, in a year when F1 hasn’t raced in Germany.
The weekend marks the first time the championship has raced in Germany, although the 6-hour (1000km’s) format at the Nurburgring has seen a far longer illustrious history under various sanctioning bodies, and formats since 1953 initially on the Nordschleife and since 1984, on the new ‘ring in the various configurations, though the race has not run continuously in the period having several breaks throughout its history.
Qualifying was the tale of two dominating manufacturers, Porsche and Ferrari. In the Prototype LMP1 ranks Porsche picked up exactly how the team left off before the summer break by placing the #18 driven by Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb on pole position ahead of Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard by a gap of 0.069’s.
Audi Sport Team Joest starts 3rd and 4th with the #8 driven by Lucas Di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis beating the #7 entrant, driven by Fassler and Lotterer in the session whilst Toyota start 5th and 6th with the #1 leading the sister #2 entrant. Rebellion once again beat Kolles to the privateer LMP1 pole.
LMP2 saw Le Mans winner Nick Tandy take the KCMG run Oreca 05-Nissan to pole position alongside Richard Bradley and Matthew Howson, the trio claiming the class pole ahead of the Ligier JS P2 of Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal and Sam Bird.
In the GT ranks, it was a very pleasant day for Ferrari’s entrants with the Ferrari 458 in the hands of AF Corse dominating GTE Pro with the #51 (Gianmaria Bruni & Toni Vilander) qualifying ahead of the #71 (James Calado and Davide Rigon) whilst in GTE Am it was the SMP Racing #72 of Victor Shaytar, Andrea Bertolini and Aleksey Basov on class pole.
Overall the qualifying session was a fairly predictable if interesting session. Most of the interest was in the story the session showed of how the race may be impacted tomorrow.
We saw a number of cars blocked in traffic today and I imagine with the nature of this circuit in particularly and the speed differential between the classes, controlling the traffic will be key to victory in the race tomorrow in what should be an exciting return for the series, in what seems an eternity since the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
News this week!
The main news from the championship on the recommencement of the season has centred on new cars for 2016, and commitments by manufacturers to the series future.
Porsche confirmed on Thursday that it would extend it’s FIA WEC LMP1 programme until 2018, which should the schedule stay the same, is an additional year following the introduction of new LMP1 regulations changes.
Toyota’s 2015 season has overall become very disappointing with only one podium from the manufacturer at Silverstone and an uncompetitive outing at Le Mans.
The poor season coming off the back of an incredible 2014 season which saw them take the FIA world championship indicates the development of the current package has reached the end of its lifespan. Therefore 2016 will see vast changes to the Toyota Gazoo Racing programme with a new power train in addition to the new hybrid system coming.
Nissan take a break from racing in the series at this round, for more testing in the USA following the disappointing outing at Le Mans in June.
With regards GT news, Ferrari is continuing testing of the awaited replacement for the Ferrari 458 GT2 which will run to the new for 2016 GT regulations. Ford is also continuing testing of the new Ford GT which will see its debut in FIA WEC competition next year.
Race coverage this weekend
Tomorrow’s race starts at 12pm (Noon) local time, will be broadcast online via the FIA WEC website (PPV) and on a combination of Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 in the USA.
Check local listings for details.