All posts by Andy Lloyd

The EGT Friday Sportscar Round-Up (15.12.17)

Photo: REBELLION Racing

As the 2017 season winds down, TF Sport is preparing to contest its final race of the year with the Gulf 12 Hours. TF Sport Director Tom Ferrier spoke to EnduranceandGT’s Andy Lloyd about this year’s season which has seen the Redhill-based team contest its first 24 Hours of Le Mans and win the Blancpain GT Endurance Series.

Ferrier described the experience of competing in the World’s Greatest Motor Race.

“Incredible – that was the word to sum it up! It was absolutely mind-blowing from start to finish. It was lovely to be involved through the Aston Martin camp through our first Le Mans. That helped us a lot and it helped me more than anyone, probably. What an event – it was mind-blowing! I couldn’t sum up the size of it to be honest. We were very proud to have been there. I hope we can do many more.”

Tom Ferrier also described some of the frustrations that the team encountered with its 2017 British GT Championship season, especially after the dominance the team had shown in 2016.

“(Mid season) we discovered that Derek and Jonny had had a bit of a handling issue with the car which carried through to Silverstone as well. We eventually found it was due to some of the chassis glue had come away but it took us a long time to get to the bottom of it. That lost us the mid-part of the season with Derek and Jonny which was frustrating. But then we were all up and singing at Brands Hatch and Donington.”

You can read the full interview here.

Young Australian driver James Allen has announced that he will return to the European Le Mans Series in 2018 with Morangis-based GRAFF, a team he enjoyed great success with in 2017, including competing in his first 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Speaking to EnduranceandGT.co.uk, Allen, currently enjoying a warm winter off-season in his native Australia, said:

“I’m very excited for 2018. My first year in LMP2 went much better than I expected and I’m pleasantly surprised. 2018 will still be a big challenge but I feel ready to push for an even better season next year.”

Two-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD champion Christina Nielsen will be joining forces with Porsche factory driver, 2017 Pirelli World Championship champion Patrick Long and Wright Motorsports to contest the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Championship GTD class.

Wright Motorsports Principal John Wright is excited at the prospect of the 2018 season with Nielsen and Long.

“I am very pleased to have this great opportunity come together in such a short time,” said Wright. “It is a tremendous opportunity to be heading back into the endurance racing arena with such a strong program. In my experience, I haven’t seen too many driver combinations better to compete for a championship than what I think we will see in Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen.”

“I am really looking forward to being back in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and I am absolutely thrilled that we’ve come up with such a strong combination with Wright Motorsports and Porsche,” said Christina Nielsen. “I’ve had a great run for the last three years, but it won’t be easy to do what I’ve already done. For me the biggest thing is to go into 2018 without relying on any previous results. We’ll start from scratch beginning with Daytona and go from there.”

Swiss team REBELLION Racing, 2017 European Le Mans Series LMP2 champions, has announced a two-car assault on the LMP1 class of the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship.

Bruno Senna and Mathias Beche will be joined by ex-Porsche LMP1 Team drivers Neel Jani and André Lotterer. Gustavo Menezes and European Le Mans Series star Thomas Laurent will also be joining the two-car driver line-up.

You can read the full story here.

And finally, the season draws to a close with the Gulf 12 Hours at Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi. The lights go out for the start at Part One at 09:10 local time on Saturday December 16.

James Allen To Return To European Le Mans Series With GRAFF In 2018 (14.12.17).

Photo: Roger Jenkins

21-year-old Australian driver James Allen has announced that he will return to the European Le Mans Series in 2018 with Morangis, France-based GRAFF.

Allen, who enjoyed a stellar debut season in the 2017 European Le Mans Series, shared his plans via social media. The young australian intends to contest his second 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018, if the team receive an invitation.

Allen was partnered by Richard Bradley throughout the season with Franck Matelli completing the driver line-up for the first half of the season and Gustavo Yacaman for the latter part.

The #40 GRAFF ORECA 07 won the final two rounds of the series on the way to finishing third in the LMP2 Teams standings on 86 points.

Speaking to EnduranceandGT.co.uk, Allen, currently enjoying a warm winter off-season in his native Australia, said:

“I’m very excited for 2018. My first year in LMP2 went much better than I expected and I’m pleasantly surprised. 2018 will still be a big challenge but I feel ready to push for an even better season next year.”

The first round of the 2018 European Le Mans Series will be the Four Hours of Le Castellet on April 15.

Rebellion Racing Announces Two-Car Assault On FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 Title (14.12.17)

Photo: rebellion-racing.com

Swiss-based REBELLION Racing, 2017 European Le Mans Series LMP2 champions, has announced a return to the premier class of world endurance racing with a two-car assault on the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship.

Bruno Senna and Mathias Beche will be joined Neel Jani and André Lotterer. Ex-Porsche LMP1 Team drivers, Jani and Lotterer finished joining fourth in the 2017 LMP FIA World Endurance Drivers Championship.

Gustavo Menezes and Thomas Laurent will complete the driver line-up for REBELLION Racing for the 2018/19 Super Season with the new-season cars being unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

“I am very happy to be in LMP1 with REBELLION RACING for the 2018-2019 FIA WEC Super Season,” said Bruno Senna. “The many changes in the rules will be a huge challenge, but we have drivers and a quality team to deal with them. We will push very hard for these crucial Le Mans wins!”

For Neel Jani, joining REBELLION Racing is like coming home, the 34-year-old Swiss driver having raced for the team in the 2013 FIA WEC and American Le Mans Series.

“I am looking forward to coming back where my endurance racing career started nine years ago,” said Jani. “REBELLION Racing played a huge role in my career and also helped me become a factory driver for Porsche. When Porsche stopped in LMP1, it was clear to me that I wanted to race again for REBELLION. With the new regulations, I hope we can reach the overall podium at Le Mans and, with a bit of luck maybe we can even grab some wins during the super season of WEC.”

Christina Nielsen And Patrick Long Join Forces With Wright Motorsports For 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (13.12.17)

Photo: wrightmotorsports.com

Batavia,Ohio-based Wright Motorsports has announced that it will contest the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Wright Motorsports’ GTD-class Porsche 911 GT3 R will be driven current GTD champion Christina Nielsen and long-standing Porsche factory driver Patrick Long.

Wright Motorsports Principal John Wright is excited at the prospect of the 2018 season with Nielsen and Long.

“I am very pleased to have this great opportunity come together in such a short time,” said Wright. “It is a tremendous opportunity to be heading back into the endurance racing arena with such a strong program. In my experience, I haven’t seen too many driver combinations better to compete for a championship than what I think we will see in Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen.”

“I’m also happy to have Patrick back for the 2018 season,” continued Wright. “Coming off this year’s championships, our momentum could not be stronger than it is now. I am looking forward to working with Christina and seeing her behind the wheel of a Porsche. We have tried to make something happen in the past, but due to different circumstances we were never able to pull anything together. The stars have aligned to make it possible for this year and hopefully years to come.”

2017 Pirelli World Challenge champion Patrick Long is looking forward to continuing his partnership with Wright Motorsports.

“I am thrilled to continue my journey with Wight Motorsports for the 2018 season,” said the Californian driver. “We will have our work cut out for us starting with two of the biggest international endurance races in sports car racing, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, but I am confident in the group’s ability. Christina has been on an amazing run with her two titles over the last two years and I want to blend that momentum with our 2017 title and aim for victories right out of the box.”

Two-time GTD IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title-winner with Scuderia Corsa, Christina Nielsen is also looking forward to 2018 with Long and Wright Motorsports.

“I am really looking forward to being back in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and I am absolutely thrilled that we’ve come up with such a strong combination with Wright Motorsports and Porsche,” said the Danish driver. “I’ve had a great run for the last three years, but it won’t be easy to do what I’ve already done. For me the biggest thing is to go into 2018 without relying on any previous results. We’ll start from scratch beginning with Daytona and go from there.”

The 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship opens with the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 27-28.

“Le Mans – We were very proud to have been there. I hope we can do many more” – TF Sport’s Tom Ferrier Talks With EnduranceandGT.co.uk (12.12.17)

Photo: tfsport.co.uk

2017 was a year of incredible highs and some deep frustrations for Surrey-based TF Sport. The team’s 2016 form in the British GT Championship seemed to elude it on occasions and a one-point lead in the LMGTE class in the European Le Mans Series going into the final round turned into a two-point deficit as the chequered flag fell in Portimáo. Those events were, however, were balanced by the team clinching the 2017 Blancpain GT Endurance Cup Pro/Am crown with Jonny Adam and Ahmad Al Harthy and contesting its first 24 Hours of Le Mans.

EnduranceandGT.co.uk editor Andy Lloyd caught up with TF Sport Director Tom Ferrier as the team prepared to depart for the Gulf 12 Hours of Abu Dhabi.

The 2017 British GT Championship, from the outside, looked like a very frustrating season for you. How did it feel from your perspective?

“That’s probably the right word – frustrating. Obviously we had come off the back of a really strong year. Mark and Jon were ever improving and we thought they were going to be in a place for a real title bid and we didn’t quite get it together. We were pretty strong at Oulton in the first round. Rockingham looked great and we qualified one and two but the Am drivers just had a bad race there. Starting first and second and finishing seventh and eighth was the worst outcome we could have had.”

“After that we discovered that Derek and Jonny had had a bit of a handling issue with the car which carried through to Silverstone as well. We eventually found it was due to some of the chassis glue had come away but it took us a long time to get to the bottom of it. That lost us the mid-part of the season with Derek and Jonny which was frustrating and I think that had a bit of an effect on Mark and Jon as well because the sister car wasn’t doing quite so well and I think that heads dropped a little bit in the camp. But then we were all up and singing at Brands Hatch and Donington.”

“It was just a mid-season lull which I would say affected the confidence of everyone a bit – the drivers and team. But you learn from it and it was lovely to end on a high to re-establish a bit of a boost back into the drivers and they’re all geared up now for next year.”

TFS2 a.a. 17.12.12

Photo: tfsport.co.uk

Derek Johnston and Mark Farmer have both already committed for next year. Does that give you a lot of confidence, to be able to plan for 2018 at this stage of the year?

“Absolutely. Being an Aston Martin team and wanting to stay an Aston Martin team, it’s not the easiest seeing as how the car is in its last year and she’s an old girl. To have that faith from our two Am drivers this early on has been lovely going in to the winter, that’s for sure.”

Stepháne Ratel has always been very clear about the balance between Am and Pro drivers in the British GT Championship. Do you feel that the regulations are about as good as they can get now for a national GT series?

“Yes, I would say so. There’s definitely nowhere else to go and race as a Pro/Am pairing. I think Derek Johnston summed it up. He was unsure if he wanted to do British GT or not mid-way through the year because he was obviously quite down. He went and looked at other options but to race in the UK there isn’t a more prestigious, well turned-out paddock with tougher competition. It’s the only place to be. We’ll just keep going hopefully. There’s rumours of GT3 slumping. There’s a cost issue there – these are expensive cars to run – but if you look at the quality of the teams that are in it, it’s very high so we’re very happy to be there.”

Looking at your European Le Mans Series campaign, the final round at Portimão looked to be heart-breaking bearing in mind how dominant you were in the earlier part of the season?

“Yeah, I’m still grumpy about it now, to be honest! It’s the worst way, isn’t it, to have led every round and to lose it by two points at the last race. I think, without getting political, things were against us. If you look at our Pro driver Nicky Thiim who’s one of the fastest men on the planet in a GT car and how he could qualify a second and a half off the pole position of a Ferrari is unheard of, really. I don’t think things were in our favour and we chose one way with the strategy and things didn’t go our way.”

“If the first full course yellow had happened five minutes later, we would probably have won the race by 45 seconds but as it happened it was the other side of the five-minute window and it hurt us. But that is GT racing. It was sad because the boys had done a great job on the car, our drivers were on-form and we were definitely dominant and not to come away with it was a bit disappointing. I’m greedy and I wanted to win two championships!”

Silverstone Salih Yoluc (TUR) / Euan Hankey (GBR) / Nicki Thiim (DNK) - TF SPORT - Aston Martin V8 Vantage

Photo: tfsport.co.uk

Your season this year included the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That must have been an incredible experience.

“That was the word to sum it up. It was absolutely mind-blowing from start to finish. It was lovely to be involved with the Aston Martin camp through our first Le Mans. That helped us a lot and it helped me more than anyone, probably. What an event! I couldn’t sum up the size of it, to be honest. Everyone absolutely loved it – the drivers, the team, everyone. We were very proud to have been there. I hope we can do many more.”

Was there one moment in that whole race week that you look back on and think: that was the moment?

“No, it was all a bit of a blur, to be honest. Obviously when we finished that was absolutely lovely. Having Jonny win the race was an incredible moment as well, as we were part of that camp. It was just a great event. We finished British GT on the Sunday night and I drove the van with Jonny in the back and some of the mechanics and we drove over night to Scrutineering. Every day you woke up, it was an exciting day because it was the first time doing it. And to get to the end of it, it was lovely to finish for all the boys who put the effort in – it was great. I think we have the potential to do more there but next time… as they say!”

Blancpain this year was brilliant for you. That must have counter-balanced some of the frustrations in the other championships.

“I was fully aware of how tough Blancpain is but winning at Monza was probably one of my highlights of the year because it was the first race and the first time and the first time the crew had been together. It was a lot of firsts and to come away with such a dominant victory was awesome and then the rest of the year kept rolling on really well.”

“The Spa 24 was fantastic for us. We went there to try to win the championship and that was our strategy for the race. I think we could have fought for the win in the race had we not been trying to collect so many points along the way. Another great event. I think both 24 hour races this year have been awesome. Somewhat tiring but awesome!”

Jonny Adam’s drive at Monza was staggering. That, and his win at Le Mans, were my highlights of the year.

“He got the bit between his teeth. The car had been fast all weekend. Again we probably had favourable BoP there. We got the fastest lap of the race. But he didn’t put a foot wrong. There wasn’t a way we weren’t going to win that one once he got in the car. Hats off to him – he’s been wonderful to have in the team for the past two years.”

TFS4 a.a. 17.12.12

And now you’re off to the Gulf 12 Hours of Abu Dhabi. What are your thoughts on the final race of the season?

“It’s an event we’ve not done before so we have a bit of learning to do. We’ve got Euan Mckay, who’s not driven with us before, as one of the silver drivers so it will be good to see how he gets on. We have Tom Jackson, Le Mans support race-winner in ‘Road to Le Mans’ and we have Ahmad Al Harthy. Obviously the aim is to win Pro/Am and see where we can get to overall. It’s nice to have a race in the winter, to be honest. It’s such a long off-season, it’s nice to get everyone revved up again.”

Are you at a stage where you can say what your commitments will be in 2018 to Blancpain and the European Le Mans Series?

“I can tell you we’ll be in British GT definitely. We’re pretty much there with the FIA World Endurance Championship deal with Salih and Euan and a TBC driver. It’s not 100% confirmed yet. Then we’re looking at either the European Le Mans Series or Blancpain – it’s one or the other. We’re not quite sure which way it will go yet.”

The Gulf 12 Hours of Abu Dhabi takes place on December 16.

The EGT Friday Sportscar Round-Up (08.12.17)

As preparations continue across all series for 2018, the Asian Le Mans Series entered its second round for the 4 Hours of Fuji on Sunday December 3.

Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA dominated the event by taking first and third in the LMP2 class with the #8 Nissan-powered ORECA 05, piloted by Thomas Laurent, Stéphane Richelmi and Harrison Newey crossing the line over a minute ahead of the #37 BBT Ligier JS P2 driven by Anthony Xu Liu, Pipo Derani and Davide Rizzo.

The sister Jackie Chan DC Racing X JOTA entry, the #7 ORECA driven by David Cheng and Jazeman Jaafar took the final podium position in the LMP2 class.

The Chinese team, managed by Kent-based JOTA Sport also won the LMP3 class after its #6 Ligier JS P3 piloted by Patrick Byrne and Guy Cosmo crossed the line some four laps ahead of the #65 Viper Niza Racing entry.

#8 a.a. 17.12.04

You can read about the race here.

The British GT Championship was well-represented at the annual British Racing Drivers Club awards. Team Parker Racing duo Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris, 2017 Champions in the team’s #31 Bentley Continental GT3, won the John Cobb Memorial Trophy, an award given to drivers racing a British car ‘who achieved success of outstanding character’.

RP - SM a.a. 17.12.04

GT4 Teams and Drivers Championship-winning HHC Motorsport drivers Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton were the first joint winners of the Henry Surtees Trophy, acknowledging the most outstanding performances by BRDC Rising Stars.

A report on the BRDC awards can be found here.

HHC Motorsport was in the news again after it announced its driver line-ups for the 2018 British GT Championship. The 2017 Teams and Drivers championship-winning team will be campaigning two Ginetta G55 GT4s in 2018, one with a Silver-graded pairing and the sister car with a Pro/Am line-up.

Ginetta GT4 Supercup champion Callum Pointer will be joined by Ginetta Junior Rookie of the year Patrick Mathiesen in a Silver Cup-entered GInetta G55 GT4.

In the sister Pro/Am entry, 2017 BTCC driver and 2016 Ginetta GT4 Supercup vice-champion Will Burns will partner Mike Newbould.

Talking to Motorsport News, team manager Charlie Kemp described how he felt with the new driver line-ups announced for 2018.

“We’re really excited about British GT for next season and we’ve definitely got two driver line-ups that can impress,” said Kemp. “In Callum we have a very proven young driver, who’s coming into British GT knowing the G55 inside-out but from a sprint race format. Patrick we ran to the Ginetta Junior Rookie title in 2015 and we know his pace. He’s bringing endurance racing experience so together they should be right at the front.”

You can read the full story here.

The FIA World Motor Sport Council approved evolutions to its World Endurance Championship. In summary, the LMP1 title will move to a team recognition rather than a manufacturers title. Only the points of a team’s highest placed finishing car will count towards the teams title.

Points awarded will depend on the duration of the race with the 24 Hours of Le Mans awarding 50% more points than a six-hour race and the Sebring twelve-hour race awarding an additional 25% points haul.

Tyre changes will be allowed while cars are being re-fuelled.

You can read a further summary of the changes here.

Finally, all eyes are now focused on the 2018 running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. United Autosports has announced that Bruno Senna will be joining Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer in one of its entries while Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris and and Phil Hanson will pilot the sister car.

The Roar Before The 24 takes place on January 5 – 7

Enjoy your weekend!