Audi To Leave FIA World Endurance Championship At End Of 2016 (26.10.16)

After weeks of rumour, Audi has confirmed that it will withdraw from the FIA World Endurance Championship, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at the end of the 2016 season and will instead focus on the Formula E series.

Chairman of the Board of Management Rupert Stadler spoke to employees of the motorsport department on the morning of Wednesday October 26.

“We’re going to contest the race for the future on electric power,” said Stadler. “As our production cars are becoming increasingly electric, our motorsports cars, as Audi’s technological spearheads, have to even more so.”

Audi’s departure from top-level endurance racing marks the end of an 18 year campaign, during which the brand scored 13 victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, won the FIA World Endurance Championship twice and secured the American Le Mans Series title nine times.

Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ulrich was clearly sad at the closing of this chapter in Audi’s history.

“After 18 years in prototype racing that were exceptionally successful for Audi, it’s obviously extremely hard to leave,” said Dr. Ulrich. “Audi Sport Team Joest shaped the WEC during this period like no other team. I would like to express my thanks to our squad, to Reinhold Joest and his team, to the drivers, partners and sponsors for this extremely successful cooperation. It’s been a great time!”

Audi’s departure will leave only two manufacturers in the premier class of the FIA World Endurance Championship – Porsche and Toyota.

A Dramatic Finale To The 2016 European Le Mans Series (16.10.24)

In an incident-packed race the #38 G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S with Giedo van der Garde at the wheel took the lead at the first corner. Nicolas Lapierre, who had started from pole in the #21 DragonSpeed ORECA 05 was being pushed by Fabien Barthez in the #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JS P2 until the Frenchman made an error at Turn 4 and spun. There was further excitement when van der Garde in the #38 car made contact with the #51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia with Rui Aguas at the wheel, forcing the Portuguese driver into a spin.

Van der Garde handed over to Simon Dolan at the first pit-stops, with Lapierre in the #21 car handing over to Henrik Hedman. Hedman took the lead after the driver changes but had a brief off-track excursion, giving Dolan the opportunity to take the lead.

Disaster was to strike the Championship-leading #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing ORECA 05 when it became time for Pierre Thiriet to hand over to Ryo Hirakawa. An electrical problem meant that the car would not start and the #46 car was pushed back into the garage, from whence it would not emerge until it was some 20 laps down on the leaders.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK driver Harry Tincknell brought the #38 car home to win the 2016 European Le Mans Series LMP2 teams Standings amidst emotional scenes from a team that had narrowly lost the title in recent years. Nicolas Lapierre brought the #21 Dragon Speed car home for second place. Taking the final podium spot in the LMP2 class was the #32 SMP Racing BR 01 with Stefano Coletti at the wheel.

With the LMP3 Teams Standings already won, United Autosports was looking to assert its dominance in the class at the final round. The Championship-winning #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3 with Alex Brundle at the wheel started from class pole. However it was the #18 M.Racing-YMR Ligier JS P3 that took the honours at the final round with Yann Erlacher bringing the car home with the #3 United Autosports entry piloted by Mark Patterson, Matt Bell and Wayne Boyd taking second place. Taking the final podium slot was the #9 Graff entry driven by Eric Trouillet, Paul Petit and Enzo Guibbert.

Alec MacDowall in the #99 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage got off to a flyer from the back of the LMGTE grid and passed the LMGTE Teams Standings leader #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 Italia to take the lead after 14 laps. The #66 car fought back to regain the lead and build a comfortable gap. However bad luck was to strike the #66 car when it was delayed leaving the pits. Worse was to occur when smoke was seen coming from the back of the Championship-leading Ferrari F458. Butcher kept the Ferrari on the circuit until the next pit stop when the car was pushed back into the garage with a gearbox problem.

The #99 car now needed to win the four-hour race as anything less would have given the tile to JMW Motorsport. Darren Turner took the car over but passed it back to MacDowall for the final stint and the honour of bringing the car home to win the GTE Teams and Drivers Standings for Aston Martin Racing.

The drama was entirely fitting for the final round of what will be recognised as a classic season of European Le Mans Series racing.

The opening round of the 2017 season takes place at Silverstone on April 14 – 15.

G-Drive Racing Win 2016 European Le Mans Series LMP2 Title With Victory At Estoril (23.10.16)

Kent-based G-Drive Racing took a convincing victory at Circuito do Estoril in Portugal to win the 2016 LMP2 Teams Classification. Giedo van der Garde, Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell controlled the race from the front for much of the four hours. The win was especially poignant as it was the last competitive outing for the venerable Gibson 015S, the same chassis that won the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014.

The #46 Thiriet by TDS ORECA 05, driven by Mathias Beche, Pierre Thiriet and Ryo Hirakawa, led the standings going into the final round but encountered a problem with the car failing to start after a pit stop with less than two hours of the race run. The subsequent repairs dropped the #46 back by some 24 laps from which it was unable to recover.

Second across the line in the LMP2 class was the #21 DragonSpeed ORECA 05 piloted by Nicolas Lapierre, Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley, Lapierre taking the final stint. Taking the final podium spot was the #32 SMP Racing BR 01, driven by Stefano Coletti, Andreas Wirth and Vitaly Petrov, Coletti taking the car across the line.

Victory for G-Drive Racing put it on 103 points for the championship with Thiriet by TDS Racing on 94 points, having scored two points for its eventual ninth place finish.

Full race review with reports on LMP3 and LMGTE to follow.

Victory And 2016 Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup To TF Sport At Estoril (22.10.16)

Redhill, England-based TF Sport took the chequered flag at Circuito do Estoril to win the sixth and final round of the inaugural Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup and win the Teams Standings. Euan Hankey took the #34 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 across the line after a champions first-stint drive from Salih Yoluc.

In a race where heavy rain threatened but never materialised, TF Sport led from early in the two-hour race and rarely looked threatened. The championship adds to TF Sport’s 2016 British GT title and concludes a highly successful year for the British team.

Continue reading Victory And 2016 Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup To TF Sport At Estoril (22.10.16)

Perfetti Puts Mentos Racing On Pole For Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup Final Round (22.10.16)

Egidio Perfetti put the #88 Mentos Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R on pole for Saturday October 22’s final round of the 2016 Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup at Estoril.

The Norwegian driver lapped the 4.182 km circuit in 1:56.788, 1.922 seconds quicker than the #55 FFF Racing team by ACM McLaren 650S with Hiroshi Hamaguchi at the wheel.

Lining up third on the grid will the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari F488 GT3 driven by Aleksey Basov.

Qualifying took place in very wet conditions. Salih Yoluc, in the series-leading #34 TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, headed the time-sheets after the first qualifying session and stayed in the car for the Superpole session. However the continuing rain meant that Yoluc could only ultimately manage only fourth on the grid.

The lights go out for the start of the two-hour sixth and final round of the 2016 Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup at 16:45 local time (16:45 UK time).

Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup – Estoril Finale – Round Six Preview (21.10.16)

The Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, which has provided excellent GT3 racing alongside the European Le Mans Series, visits Circuito do Estoril, Portugal for its sixth and final round on October 22.

11 cars will take to the grid for the two-hour race which starts at 16:45 local time. BMS Scuderia Italia returns with its #7 Ferrari F458 Italia GT3, to be piloted by Luigi Luchini and Matteo Cressoni. Missing, however, from those who competed at Spa will be the #66 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán, the team sampling the series at Spa as did Optimum Motorsport at an earlier round, and the #90 Autoclub Excelsior Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

The standings could not be closer with 12 points covering the top three teams. TF Sport leads the standings on 82 points with its #34 Aston Martin Vantage V12 Vantage GT3 driven by Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey. Second, and just four points behind in the standings, is the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari F488 driven by Aleksey Basov and Victor Shaitar. Third, just a further eight points behind SMP racing, is the #88 Mentos Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, piloted by Egido Perfetti and Klaus Bachler.

Although the grids have been of modest size for this inaugural season, the quality of the racing has been very high and that, combined with the beauty of the circuits, has meant that the two-hour Saturday evening races have become compulsive viewing. The sixth round will be no exception.

The 35-minute qualifying session takes place on Saturday October 22 at 11:05 local time with the flag dropping for the start of the two-hour race at 16:45. Excellent on-line coverage, compete with Rad+io Le Mans commentary, can be found at www.gt3lemanscup.com.

"When you're racing, it's life. Anything that happens before or after is…. just waiting. " Steve McQueen – "Le Mans" – 1971