Silverstone WEC preview

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About the event – 6 Hours of Silverstone

LMP1 pole time 2014 : 1:42.774
Laps covered in 2014: 167 Laps (Race shortened by 26 minutes due to torrential rainfall)
Race Length: 6 Hours
Video coverage: FOX Sports live in the USA, MotorsTV live in the UK / Eurosport / FIAWEC.com/ App.
Radio Coverage: Radio Le Mans.
Entry lists: WEC / ELMS / F3

Summary

The WEC enters 2015 with a fair amount of momentum behind it, 2014 was a positive year overall for the championship, with a lot of that momentum continuing through the off-season. A race in Germany this year is good for the series, with three of it’s manufacturer P1 programmes being based in the country, and ultimately a lot of optimism exists for the series, ahead of round one this weekend at Silverstone.

LMP1
The series has a lot of potential storylines this season, Can Audi return to form after a less than brilliant 2014? Is Porsche going to continue the correct development path and be an outright challenger for the title in 2015? Will Toyota retain its world championship, and finally win at Le Mans? And finally what of Nissan, the programme doesn’t start until Le Mans now in a competitive manner but what can the innovative concept bring to the table.

Ok, so the first question, can Audi return to form? Well the technology tells us yes, the improvement in energy recovery from 2MJ to 4MJ should allow for Audi’s primary issue in 2014, which was straight-line speed, as was entirely apparent at Fuji to be minimised, particularly, in addition to the new aero package.

The problem for Audi is whilst the team has taken steps forward, from last years R18 Etron Quattro (2014) so has everyone else, and the question therefore exists of whether the revised, and likely more competitive iteration has done enough to see Audi actually be fully competitive again, when the field is even.

Porsche in 2014 impressed on the teams return to top-flight competition in the FIA WEC, with a few reliability issues. Overall however Porsche’s 2014 year, is similar to that of Toyota’s late 2012 success, therefore is it going to be a case that everyone else comes back fighting this year, pushing Porsche back down the order a little, or will as expected, Porsche be a real challenger for the title, and the win at Le Mans this year?

The prologue at Paul Ricard showed immense pace for Porsche, topping the timesheets but those times relative to the opposition are questionable, when you compare it to the pace over the last few years. Porsche does have an interesting concept however, of using the maximum energy of 8MJ a lap at Le Mans this year, and having the third car entered for Le Mans and Spa, along with what is effectively a brand new package from the outside.

Toyota have confirmed that the team will be in the FIA WEC through 2017, after which it is anyone’s guess at this stage but the commitment does alleviate concerns of the future commitment of the brand. The 2015 TS040 is effectively an evolution of last years car, lubricants are supplied by Mobil 1 instead of Total, and a revised aero package and driver lineup. The 2015 iteration retains the same 6MJ super-capacitor system, though Toyota claim the super capacitor system itself is an upgrade on last years.

Anyway, for 2015, a championship win is what Toyota should be aiming for off the back of 2014, however the big question for Toyota in 2015, can the team win at Le Mans? It has to happen sooner rather than later for Toyota. The team is capable of winning Le Mans. Last year was Toyota’s best chance in my opinion at doing that and it was misjudgements and errors that cost them the win. Factor in Porsche and a potential resurgent Audi, plus a possible outside factor of Nissan, and victory at Le Mans in 2015, is an even harder challenge.

Speaking of Nissan, although the WEC programme is now delayed until Le Mans, from a competitive standpoint. The team still will factor during the 2015 FIA WEC season. Year one is always tough for new teams in any series, and whilst this programme has had a fair share of issues and delays.
It is still in my honest opinion, the most exciting motorsport project to launch in years. I don’t know how much that is me being excited about the design, the technology, or the marketing, but it has been an incredible off season for Nissan, from a standpoint of publicity, I’m sad not to be seeing this car at Silverstone racing, but I am very excited about its overall future.

The remainder of the LMP1 entries come from ByKolles will see a debut at Silverstone, with the revised chassis. Whilst two cars will come from Spa, from Rebellion Racing, again running the R-ONE, however with a change to AER engines, the same power unit as is in the ByKolles entry.

LMP2
LMP2 in 2015 brings some changes, not quite as many as anticipated, at least not from the word go, but an improved number of entrants all the same. Among them, the delayed but brilliant looking Strakka-DOME S103, the car has had a long inception into LMP2 competition, as well as the new Oreca 05, which will see it’s competition debut at Silverstone. Extreme Speed Motorsports join the FIA WEC full season, the team will race at Silverstone with the older ARX 03b, whilst Ligier JS P2’s are available for the team, and following HPD’s decision for the 04b’s to be pulled from competition temporally due to a lack of competitiveness.

Even with the SARD Morand late withdrawal from Silverstone, compared to the LMP2 field we saw at last years race, this is a successful resurgence for LMP2 in the FIA WEC.


GTE

Ok, whilst the prototype ranks see substantial change for 2015, the GT classes maintain a level of status quo, particularly in the GTE Pro class, with Aston Martin Racing, Porsche AG Team Manthey and AF Corse re-joining battle once again in the class. AF Corse effectively maintains the same driver line-up, and assignments as in 2014.

Michael Christensen is a change for this year, he’s in the #91 Porsche Manthey entry, previously occupied seat by Nick Tandy, Tandy having moved to the prototype ranks, racing with KCMG for some rounds to gain experience in a prototype ahead of his factory 919 drive in the third Porsche entry for Spa and Le Mans.

Aston Martin Racing will have three pro entries in this years 6 Hours of Silverstone, and the WEC, the extra entry comes with the Danish pairing of Christoffer Nygaard, Marco Sorensen and Nikki Thimm, The #95 entry returns, although not with Bamboo racing support. A striking new livery is also present for AMR’s entrants this season.

In GTE Am, the picture is slightly more different from last year, notably with the addition of a Larbre entered Corvette C7.R to the FIA WEC grid, full season, the factory Corvette Racing team will also join the championship for Le Mans in the GTE Pro ranks.

Dempsey racing additionally moves across from the IMSA Tudor United Sportscar championship into WEC competition, and I will be honest, with the driver line-up, as strong as Aston Martin and AF Corse GTE Am entries are, the combination of Pat Long, Marco Seefried and Patrick Dempsey is an interesting one, and one I think may bring a number of spoils throughout the season, within the class.

Regulations Changes

Firstly full season entries in the LMP1 category will be limited to a maximum of five engines, for use throughout the season, for manufacturers entered before the end of the 2014 season. Nissan, being a new entry for 2015, will be limited to Seven engines. For the additional entries from Audi and Porsche for Spa and Le Mans, will be limited to two engines, per car, per event.

Once again for 2015, the FIA WEC will see a change to the qualifying format, with a reduction of five minutes of session time, down to twenty minutes. The format change being whereas previously the average time was the best two laps of both drivers, in 2015, it will be the best singular lap by both competitors, to register a two-lap average.

Tyre limitations will also apply, for slick tyres. LMP1 teams will be limited to four sets of slick tyres during free practice, and Six sets during qualifying and race sessions, excluding Bahrain and Shanghai which will allow for eight sets. Teams can also change two single tyres without penalty during weekends. Wet weather tyres remain unlimited, and the new tyre regulations do not apply for Le Mans. The other major change for LMP1 is the average driver weight, between the three drivers, effectively if the average weight is under 80KG, then ballast has to be added to clear the deficit.

 

 

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Tim C

I am so looking forward to the WEC season . . . especiallt Le Mans. These cars are just awesome!

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