Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup Launches At Imola

The inaugural round of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, and the opening round of the 2016 season takes place at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola on Saturday May 14.

The grid assembled for Saturday’s race represents a foundation on which the ACO will undoubtedly build over the coming months. 11 cars will contest the opening the opening round, representing eight teams from five different countries.

FFF Racing Team by ACM is a young team formed from the joining of FFF Automobile, managed by Fu Songyang and ACM, owned by Andrea Caldarelli. The team has entered a Lamborghini Huracán and a McLaren 650S. The #5 Lamborghini Huracán will be driven by Songyang and Caldarelli. The #55 McLaren 650S will be driven by Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs. Quaife-Hobbs moved into endurance racing with Von Ryan Racing in 2015 and already has experience in the McLaren 650S.

Four Ferrari F458 Italia GT3s are entered for Imola. BMS Scuderia Italia has entered the #7 car to be driven by all-Italian line-up of Luigi Lucchini and Mateo Cressoni. Scuderia Villorba Corse has entered the #8 car with French pairing of Cedric Mezard and Steeve Hiesse sharing the driving duties. AF Corse has entered two F458s; the #14 car with Pierre Marie de Leener and Rui Águas at the wheel and the #71 with Felipe Barreiros and Mads Rasmussen sharing the driving duties.

AF Corse will have a busy weekend as it has also entered a Ferrari F488, the #51, which will be driven by Thomas Flohr and Franceso Castellacci. A further F488 is entered by Silverstone-based FF Corse with Johnny Mowlem and Ivor Dunbar, whom Mowlem has coached, at the wheel.

A single Audi R8 LMS is entered by York-based Tockwith Motorsports with its #19 car being driven by Phillip Hanson and Nigel Moore.

TF Sport enters the sole Aston Martin in the augural race with its #34 V12 Vantage GT3, to be driven by Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey.

Mentos Racing rounds off the entrants with its #88 Porsche 911 GT3 R, in which Egido Perfetti is currently the sole declared driver.

Qualifying starts at 11:20 on Saturday May 14 with the lights going out for the start of the two hour race at 17:00 later in the day.

ELMS At Imola Promises More Close Racing

Round two of the 2016 European Le Mans Series tales place at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari at Imola on Sunday May 15. 42 cars will take to the grid in a race that last year was won by the Thiriet by TDS Nissan-powered ORECA 05, the maiden international victory for the car.

In 2016, however, G-Drive Racing will be looking for its second win of the European Le Mans Series season after a frustrating weekend at Spa-Francorchamps eight days previously with its two-car entry in the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

In the LMP2 class the #40 Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2 – Nissan will see OlivierPla alongside the existing driver line-up of Tracy Krohn and Nic Jönsson. Pla replaces Björn Wirdheim for this round. SMP Racing will have a sole entry for Imola, the #44 not being entered for this round.

As announced this week, Murphy Prototypes will have new additions to its driver line-up for the #48 ORECA 03R when Garry Findlay and Patrick McClughan join Seán Doyle, in line with the team’s policy of nurturing young driving talent.

In LMP3 Jens Petersen replaces Thomas Dagoneau in the #13 Inter Europol Ligier JS P3. In the #15 RLR Msport Nissan-powered Ligier JS P3 Ross Warburton is not driving at this round.

In LMGTE Davide Rigon replaces Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #56 AT Racing Ferrari 456 Italia. There is also a driver change in the #77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR 991 where Robert Renauer replaces Marco Seefried. There is also a further change for Proton Competition in the #88 car where Klaus Bachier will join Gianluca Roda and Christian Reid in place of Richard Lietz.

Aston Martin Racing has a single entrant for Imola – the #99 Aston Martin V8 Vantage, driven by Andrew Howard, Alex MacDowall and, for the second time this season, Darren Turner.

Track action starts at 14:00 on Friday May 13 with FP1. FP2 takes place on Saturday May 14 at 09:35 with qualifying sessions starting at 13:50. The 4 Hours of Imola starts at 14:00 on Sunday May 15.

Barbosa Joins Krohn Racing For Le Mans

Houston, Texas-based Krohn Racing has announced that João Barbosa will once again join the long-standing driving partnership of Tracy Krohn and Nic Jönsson at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Portuguese-born Barbosa contested the 2015 running of the French classic with Krohn Racing. The team finished 32nd overall and 12th in class in its Judd-engined Ligier JS P2. Barbosa is highly experienced round the Circuit de la Sarthe, having competed there a total of eight times with his best result being fourth overall in 2007 in the Rollcentre Racing Pescarolo 01-Judd.

The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans also marks the 11th consecutive driver partnership of team owner Tracy Krohn and Nic Jönsson. Krohn and Jönsson enjoyed their best finish in 2007 when they finished 19th overall and second in class in the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT2.

The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans starts at 15:00 on Saturday June 18.

Murphy Prototypes Announces New Drivers For ELMS At Imola

Dublin, Ireland-based Murphy Prototypes has announced a new driver line-up for the second round of the 2016 European Le Mans Series, The 4 Hours of Imola.

Seán Doyle remains as part of the driving team for Imola and is joined by Garry Findlay and Patrick McClughan.

McClughan, from Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland, began his motorsport career in the Ginetta Junior Championship. He contested the 2015 Radical Sprint Championship and was on the top step of the podium for 12 of the season’s 21 races. He also won a fully funded drive at Daytona in January as a result of winning the Sunoco Challenge Award last year.

Findlay, from Norfolk, made his European Le Mans Series debut at Estoril in 2015 and secured a podium finish in the LMP3 class. Findlay also has experience in Formula Fords and VdeV sportscars.

“Our team has always been committed to showcasing young talent and giving drivers the opportunity to develop their natural ability,” said Greg Murphy, Team Principal at Murphy Prototypes. “Garry has already demonstrated what he can do in Formula Fords and then underlined it in VdeV. Patrick is an incredibly exciting prospect. He has shown his speed in the Radical Championship and has even beaten former Murphy Prototypes drivers such as Alex Kapadia and James Littlejohn.  Seán did a great job for us at Silverstone on his first time out in an LMP2 car and it’s good to have him driving for us again.”

Murphy Prototypes has a talent for developing young drivers. Brendon Hartley, now racing for Porsche in the 919 Hybrid, started his prototype career with the team as did Pipo Derani, who won the Rolex 24 At  Daytona and The 12 Hours of  Sebring earlier this year.

The lights go out for the start of the 4 Hours of Imola, the second round of the 2016 European Le Mans Series, at 14:00 on May 15.

Audi Sport Team Joest Take Victory In FIA WEC Thriller

The #8 Audi Sport Team Joest R18, driven by Lucas Di Grassi, Loïc Duval and Oliver Jarvis, took the chequered flag after a thrilling 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps which saw all three manufacturers take the lead over the course of the race.

In second place was the #2 Porsche Team 919 Hybrid driven by Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb. The #13 Rebellion Racing R-One AER, driven by Mathéo Tuchser, Dominik Kraihamer and Alexandre Imperatori took the final podium slot.

The LPM1 class was closely fought. Technical issues were widespread, however, across the class. The #5 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050-Hybrid gained an early advantage, only to lose the lead after three hours due to mechanical problem. The car then remained in the garage, only to return to complete one final lap under hybrid power in order to score championship points. The sister #6 Toyota, driven by Stéphane Sarazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi retired after four hours with electronics issues.

Despite its second place, Porsche also had a difficult day. The #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, driven by Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard led at the start, only to suffer a series of punctures and a gearbox failure which meant the car had to be worked on in the garage for over 90 minutes, to emerge with just enough time to complete enough laps to gain points.

Rebellion Racing enjoyed what must have been a very satisfying result for the team. The #13 R-One-AER, driven by Mathéo Tuscher, Dominik Kraihamer and Alexandra Imperatori finished third, the best ever FIA World Endurance Championship finish for the Swiss-based team. The #12 sister car, driven by Nicolas Prost, Nelson Piquet Jr and Nick Heidfeld finished fourth, ensuring that then team took maximum LMP1 Privateer points from the race.

The result means that Porsche now lead the FIA World Endurance Championship with 54 points, followed by Toyota on 45 and Audi on 41. Lieb, Jani and Dumas lead the Drivers Championship with 43 points each.

LMP2 also witnessed close battles. The class was won by the #36 Signatech Alpine A460-Nissan driven by Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Stéphane Richelmi. Second was the #31 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P2 driven by Ryan Dalziel, Pipo Derani and Christopher Cumming. Taking the final podium spot was the #45 Manor Ligier JS P2 driven by Matt Rao, Richard Bradley and Roberto Mehri.

The early class lead was taken by the #26 G-Drive Racing ORECA 05 with René Rast at the wheel. However Nathanaël Berthon suffered a puncture which took the car out of contention and the race was subsequently fought over by Manor, Extreme Speed Motorsports, Signatech Alpine and RGR Motorsport By Morand. Lapierre, in the #36 Signatech Alpine, took the lead in the closing minutes of the race after a courageous pass on the #31 ESM car.

The result saw Manor take its first podium in the FIA World Endurance Championship. At one stage, however, Manor’s cars were running first and fourth in class so Manor must be taking a lot of positives away from Spa in preparation for Le Mans.

GTE Pro was won by the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE driven by Davide Rigon and Sam Bird. However it was the sister #51 car, driven by Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado that had led the class for the race, only to retire with ten minutes to go. Calado appeared to be very upset with the retirement.

Second place was taken by the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT driven by Marino Franchitti, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell, the team’s first podium in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Third place was taken by the #97 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage driven by Richie Stanaway, Fernando Rees and Jonny Adam, Adam being on a roll after winning in the British GT Championship at both Brands Hatch and Rockingham.

GTE Am saw three different manufacturers take the class podium. The winner was the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 driven by Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda. Second was the #83 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GTE driven by François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas while the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7-Z06 driven by Yukata Yamagishi, Pierre Ragues and Paolo Ruberti was third.

The race witnessed a concerning incident when the #95 Aston Martin, driven by Nicki Thiim, rolled after contact with the #38 G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S driven by Simon Dolan. Thankfully no serious injuries were sustained by the Danish driver. A Full Course Yellow neutralised the race whilst the driver was attended to.

The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship will be the 24 Hours of Le Mans, held on June 18 and 19

Team Parker Racing Earns PMW Expo Team Of The Weekend Award

After the massive effort to get the #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 on to the grid for May 1’s second round of the British GT Championship, the team has been awarded the ‘PMW Team of the Weekend Award’.

The Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3, driven by Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris, sustained damage after Parfitt was caught out on oil exiting Gracelands in FP1. The resulting impact was measured at 4g and the damage, for many teams, would have resulted in the car being retired for the weekend. Not so for Team Parker Racing.

“The impact punched two holes in the chassis and took almost the entire right-hand side out,” explained Team Principal Stuart Parker, in an interview with Motorsport news. “We had to change both bumpers, the front cooling pack, both corners and repair the chassis. The carbon fibre specialist was working until 7.00am on the bodywork.

The car had lost none of its pace in the race on Sunday when Parfitt drove through up to fourth overall and set the fastest Am lap time. Penalties, however, resulted in the #31 car ultimately finishing 10th.

The third round of the 2016 British GT Championship takes place at Oulton Park on May 29 and 30.

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