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Jean-Eric Vergne is relishing the prospect of testing his mettle against the world’s best LMP2 teams and drivers this year and, despite a lack of pre-season testing, he believes that he will integrate quickly into the world of endurance racing.

“I am really looking forward to it this year,” said the former Toro Rosso F1 racer. “It is a good deal, and endurance racing has been in my mind more and more over the last few years.

“It looks like I won’t get in the car until Silverstone,” explained Vergne. “I have no problem with this because I am used to jumping into cars at the last moment. I need to get familiar with the team, the strategies and work with two other drivers but all this will come naturally.

“What is clear is that Manor is a good team and they have a season of experience behind them,” he says. “I think we can do some good races this year. Clearly, I am a competitive guy so I am looking forward to pushing the team on in 2017.

“The FIA WEC is a very strong championship, this is clear. I love this level and the challenge will be one that as a team together we can embrace and hopefully challenge for some really strong results.”

Vergne has some experience of driving with a roof over his head after he completed some testing miles with the Toyota Gazoo Racing team back in 2015 at Paul Ricard. The 26-year-old Frenchman thinks that the new LMP2 cars will be spectacular to watch in 2017.

“I heard that at Motorland Aragon a few weeks ago it was as quick as an LMP1 at some stages,” says Vergne. “The LMP1 cars save fuel so the LMP2 cars have a small margin to catch them so it will be interesting to see how close we can get. Ultimately, I think the podium at Le Mans will still be filled by LMP1 cars, but the LMP2 battle is going to be super-exciting and really close.

“The last few weeks I have been watching some WEC races and old Le Mans races and they are races where absolutely anything can happen so I am really looking forward to racing with Manor but I also have to learn quite a bit in the first races.”

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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.


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.


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


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.


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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Gibson Technology will be the single engine supplier of LMP2 teams in the FIA WEC until 2020, and the British manufacturer’s latest creation, a 4.2 litre 600 BHP V8, is expected to reduce laptimes in LMP2 by several seconds compared to last year.

The GK428 unit has undergone extensive development since December 2015 to be ready for the first round of the WEC, culminating with a successful two days of testing at the WEC’s Monza Prologue last week.

“We were contractually obliged to deliver the first four engines on August 15th and then they went to the chassis manufacturers,” explained commercial director James Hibbert.

“Since then, we’ve gone over the 100,000 km marker. We’ve had a lot of testing, but we’ve also had the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours, which were both quite significant events for us.”

Gibson Technology has extensive experience of supplying single-make engines in its former guise as Zytek Engineering and is continually innovating to produce more powerful and durable products at a manageable cost.

The GK428 has been developed to last for 50 hours or 8,000 km on average, almost three times more than was possible 20 years ago.

“We’ve had engines running on our test and development programme in excess of 50 hours as a means to monitor performance and degradation so on, which is not something that’s been done before with a thoroughbred racing engine,” said senior project manager Bob Barker.b n

“Prior to any engines going in the cars, we’d already exceeded that 50 hour limit on a single engine, so were very confident that level of performance can be maintained throughout the life of an engine.”

In addition to the technical challenge, Gibson Technology also faces the not insignificant task of maintaining the fleet, as teams start from zero and will need servicing at roughly the same point.

“From start to finish, to build a brand new engine takes maybe 350-400 hours,” said Hibbert. “Then once all the cars have got engines, then we can start to build up a pool and then it’s going to be a lot easier to manage.

“We’re putting big hours in and doing lots of overtime, but that’s not unusual in motorsport.”

Logistics can also pose difficulties as Gibson Technology will supply three different championships at Silverstone, but Barker is confident of being able to cope with the demand.

Certainly at Silverstone we’ve got three championships to supply there, so there will be a truck in the WEC paddock, one in the ELMS paddock and another support vehicle for the Formula V8 3.5 people as well,” added Barker.

“But it’s an honour to do this and we’re up for the challenge. We’ve provided single make engines for many years in the lesser categories, so we feel that we’re well placed to be able to offer the FIA and the LMP2 customers a five star product.”

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A large Italian crowd spent another enjoyable free day at Monza watching six hours of track action as the FIA World Endurance Championship pre season test concluded with the no7 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid of Nicolas Lapierre posted the fastest time of the two days at The Prologue. 

The French driver, who is celebrating his 33rd birthday today, posted a 1m30.547 lap in the final 3-hour session of the day, two tenths faster than his teammate Anthony Davidson and 0.9 seconds faster than the rest of the field.

In LMP2 the no28 TDS Racing Oreca 07 Gibson set the quickest class time of the weekend, with Matthieu Vaxiviere posting a 1m36.078 lap, just 0.16 sceonds faster than the previous best set by Bruno Senna in the Vaillante Rebellion Oreca on day 1.

The no92 Porsche of Kevin Estre was quickest LMGTE Pro competitor in this morning’s session with a 1m47.507 and the no67 Ford GT of Harry Tincknell was fastest in the final session with a 1m47.530, but the fastest time of the weekend was set by Michael Christensen in the first session when the Dane set a 1m47.379.

In LMGTE Am Miguel Molina took the top spot with the only time below 1m 50 seconds when the Spaniard set a 1m49.843 lap in the no54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE.  Matt Griffin was quickest in the afternoon session in the no61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari, but 0.4 seconds behind Molina’s best lap time.

The scene is now set for the season opener, the 6 Hours of Silverstone on Sunday 16 April, where the LMP1 drivers will compete for the coveted Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy.