Season six of FIA WEC gets underway at Silverstone

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The sixth season of the FIA World Endurance Championship will get underway on Easter Sunday with round 1 of 2017 taking place at Silverstone, the Home of British Motor Racing. 

Twenty seven competitors are expected in the 6 Hours of Silverstone (14-16 April) with the expectation of close racing and high drama on offer. With a packed timetable of on and off track entertainment for the huge crowds that are expected for the world championship’s only visit to Great Britain.

Fans will also be able to see the start of the FIA F3 European Championship, the opening round of the European Le Mans Series and the new-look World Series Formula V8 3.5, offer the very best in sportscar and single seat entertainment.

LMP1

Four British drivers will be among those going for outright honours in the LMP1 category, which carries the added prospect of winning the coveted Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy. The oldest trophy in motorsport has only been won once by a British driver, Anthony Davidson, since the WEC launched in 2012.

Porsche LMP Team and Toyota Gazoo Racing both revealed their new-for-2017 prototypes in Monza last week, and had a productive two days of testing at the high-speed track. 

Toyota’s Mike Conway (with Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria Lopez) and Anthony Davidson (alongside Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima) will face stern competition from Porsche’s strong line up which includes fellow Briton Nick Tandy, who is making his first attempt at the outright victory at Silverstone after previous outings in LMGTE Pro and LMP2. Tandy will drive the No.1 Porsche 919 Hybrid with two-time Tourist Trophy winner André Lotterer and defending WEC champion Neel Jani, with 2015 championship-winners Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley being joined in the No.2 by Earl Bamber.

Oliver Webb completes the quartet of British drivers in LMP1, campaigning the Nissan-engined ByKolles CLM P1/01 with four-time British GP starter Robert Kubica.

LMP2

Nine of the new Gibson-engined LMP2 cars will be at Silverstone, with just one Alpine A470 among the ORECA 07s.  The second Signatech Alpine Matmut entry will return for the second round of the championship in Belgium.

At The Prologue in Monza there was little to choose between TDS Racing, Vaillante Rebellion, Jackie Chan DC Racing, G-Drive Racing, Signatech Alpine Matmut and CEFC Manor TRS Racing – just half a second separating all these teams in the final analysis of fastest lap times.  Some excellent nose-to-tail racing is promised, with exciting young talent among the driver line ups.

Among these will be 22-year-old Briton Matt Rao who joins reigning LMP2 champions Signatech-Alpine for his second season in the WEC.  He will be seeking his first victory in the WEC, and will benefit from the experience and speed of team mates Nicolas Lapierre and Gustavo Menezes.

Former Williams F1 reserve driver Alex Lynn moves to G-Drive Racing for 2017, while the Sino-British Jackie Chan DC Racing team has two British drivers: Alex Brundle and ex LMP1 star Oliver Jarvis.  Thai/British competitor Tor Graves’ CEFC Manor TRS Racing teammates will include former F1 driver Jean-Eric Vergne who will be making his WEC debut at Silverstone.

WEC, 6 Hours of Silverstone, FIA, Motorsport, Endurance

LMGTE PRO

The WEC’s GTE manufacturers are this year contesting a full FIA World Endurance Championship title, and the driver line up among the eight entries is second to none.

Aston Martin Racing’s 2016 championship-winning Dane Train of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen return to defend their title, alongside AMR stalwart Darren Turner - a former winner of the event in 2014 – and British GT champion Jonny Adam.

AF Corse and Ferrari’s Sam Bird will be hoping to defend his victory at Silverstone last year in the first WEC appearance for the Ferrari 488 GTE. Bird and team mate Davide Rigon led home a 1-2 for Ferrari, with James Calado in second.  The Italian cars will be wearing a new heritage red paintwork for the 2017 season in celebration of the Prancing Horse’s 70th anniversary.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK also has a pair of determined Brits hoping to win local pride. Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx were victorious in Fuji and Shanghai last year, and will aim to hit the ground running from the start alongside GT rookie Pipo Derani who joins the duo for the first three rounds of the year. Team mates in the sister Ford GT, Olivier Pla and Stefan Mücke will be joined by American Billy Johnson.

Porsche’s new 911 RSR has made an impressive debut on the international racing stage this year, and performances at The Prologue indicate they will be strong contenders for victory.  2015 GT champion Richard Lietz and his team mate Frederic Makowiecki have already won at Silverstone and will be looking to add a second victory to their tally as will their team mates Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre.

LMGTE AM

In the GTE Am class, the passionate and knowledgeable home fans will have plenty of new cars and drivers to cheer on, including Britain’s Ben Barker and Mike Wainwright in the Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR (991).

Irishman Matt Griffin will proudly represent the Emerald Isle in Clearwater Racing’s first appearance in the WEC, and will be mentoring his new team mates in the No.61 Ferrari 488 GTE, just as Francesco Castellacci will be doing in the No.54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. He will be joined by former DTM hot shot Miguel Molina who will race in the Ferrari factory entered No.51 at Le Mans.   

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