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President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), Pierre Fillon, and CEO of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Gérard Neveu, today outlined the pathway to an exciting new-look, strengthened WEC. 

The plans include several innovative features which will not only continue the close and exciting competition between prototypes and GTE cars that has become the calling card of the WEC, but also offer competitors a viable and sustainable business model for the future. 

The recent announcement of the withdrawal of certain manufacturers has offered the FIA and ACO an opportunity to accelerate the evolution process which was already underway, and to develop an exciting and enticing vision for the future. 

Full details are still being finalised and will be announced in due course, but several innovative features were revealed which will ensure the continuation of a strong world endurance championship, one that has since its inception in 2012 become a vital part of manufacturers’ marketing and technical development strategies and the draw for entrants wishing to compete at the highest level in endurance racing. 

Three fundamental parameters have been taken into account during the formulation of the new-look WEC, with the calendar, logistics, sporting and technical regulations being at the heart of the decisions:

• All decisions must stay in line with Endurance Racing and the values of the discipline. The 24 Hours of Le Mans remain the point of reference. 

• The major focus remains the client (the competitor), the product (the sporting competition that is delivered) and the fans.

• As a priority, for each of these decisions, the financial and economic aspects must be taken into consideration. It is essential to allow the WEC’s teams and partners to continue in the WEC with a viable and sustainable business model. 

The plans have been presented to, and received the full support of, the President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Jean Todt and the FIA Endurance Commission led by its President, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones. The calendar and new sporting regulations will be presented to the FIA World Motor Sport Council for ratification in the coming days. 

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Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner has been racing alongside fellow British driver Jonny Adam and Brazil’s Daniel Serra.

The highlight of the season was winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the very last lap of the race to score the team’s one and only victory so far.

Q: Last year you won here in Mexico with Richie Stanaway, this year you are racing with Jonny Adam and Daniel Serra. What are your thoughts on returning to Mexico for the second time?

“I loved going to Brazil, Sao Paulo was great, but equally going to Mexico is a fantastic experience. This is one of the good things about the FIA World Endurance Championship is the fact we go to some great places around the world. You get to touch a little bit of the culture in each of those countries.

“Because the circuit has a bit of feel of a street circuit it is very exciting to drive. There is a good combination of corners and very technical as well. The last stadium section is wonderful to come into. You come from an area that is surrounded by concrete walls and then it opens up in front of you. You get the feeling of the crowd and everything else so it is a great way to finish a lap.

“Last year there was mixed weather so we were changing to wets or intermediates during the race. It was Richie’s stint when the drizzle came and he stuck it out on the slicks was the turning point. When it was dry the no95 Aston had the advantage and Nicki (Thiim) was pulling away but the race changed for us when the rain came. The result put me in the lead of the championship so it was a good race to win.”

Q: The 24 Hours of le Mans was a good result for you, Jonny, Daniel and Aston Martin. The other three races have proved to be a challenge for you. What has been the difference between Le Mans and the other races in the WEC this season?

“You would have to look at the balance of performance (BoP) as Le Mans is done differently to the other races. One of the big things this year is the new regulations on tyres, which is having a big effect on the way we are able to do the strategy for the races. It is really difficult to make four sets of tyres last qualifying and a six hour race. It’s not ideal for wheel to wheel racing and we’ve been struggling to manage the tyres over the weekend.

“The BoP at Le Mans was obviously off the back of last year and kept everyone very close. The tyre allocation isn’t the same so we were back to a traditional style of strategy for the race, which worked really well and the Dunlop tyres were fantastic. What was really nice was how close all the competition was. This year it was five manufacturers and we’re all within a couple of tenths of each other. That last five minutes of the race was magic to watch!”

Q: 2017 has seen the GT class become an official FIA World Championship rather than a world cup. Has this meant any change on how you approach the races or the season for you as a driver or for the team?

“You just want to win the championship, whether it is world or whatever; it is still a championship you want to win. All it means if you do win it you can call yourself a world champion. Maybe it should’ve been a full world championship from the beginning, but it is now and it is fantastic. The status will only encourage more manufacturers to come and compete in the WEC, so it is a good move.
“It certainly doesn’t change the mentality of the drivers or the teams, we still approach each race the same way as before.”

Q: There are five races left on the 2017 calendar. Which one are you looking forward to the most?

“That’s a difficult question because I really enjoy all of them for different reasons. Mexico is great because, well, it is Mexico, the circuit is fun and challenging. CoTA is one of the best modern grand prix tracks there is. The otherside is going to Austin, so you get to see a fun part of America, which is great. Shanghai is completely different from everything else, a good circuit and, on a personal side, the nicest hotel we stay in all year.

“I love going to Japan, I’ve always looked forward to going there. Fuji, while it’s not always been a great circuit for us, it’s difficult because it is low grip and that hasn’t always played into our hands. Bahrain is the season finale, another nice track, nice people and a great end of season party.

“I can’t pick one circuit as my favourite because they all have something to offer and I am looking forward to them all.”

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A heavy rain shower just 30-minutes before the start of Free Practice 1 gave the competitors some tricky conditions to contend with in the opening session of the weekend.

On a wet track the no1 Porsche LMP Team 919 hybrid of Andre Lotterer was the quickest car in the first practice session of the 6 Hours of Mexico weekend. 

The German driver set a lap of 1m27.026, six tenths ahead of the no2 Porsche of fellow German Timo Bernhard. 

The two Toyotas were third and fourth quickest with the no7 TS050 the fastest, two seconds behind the lead car.

The no36 Signatech Alpine Matmut A470-Gibson of Nico Lapierre was the quickest of the nine LMP2 entries with the French driver setting a 1m34.556. 

The lap was less than four tenths ahead of the two Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07s, with the  no13 car setting the second best time of the 90-minute session with a 1m34.932.

In LMGTE Pro it was Ferrari ahead of Porsche ahead of Aston Martin with James Calado setting a class best of 1m41.101 on the drying track in the no51 AF Corse F488.

The no91 Porsche 911 of Fred Makowiecki was second quickest, 0.076s behind the lead Ferrari and 0.120 ahead of the no95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Nicki Thiim.

The no77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 of Matteo Cairoli was fastest in the LMGTE Am class with a 1m42.469 ahead of the second Porsche 911, the no88 Gulf Racing entered car of Ben Barker, who set a 1m42.576, 0.107s behind the lead Porsche and 0.347s ahead of Pedro Lamy in the no98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage.

The second Free Practice Session of the 6 Hours of Mexico weekend will take place tomorrow at 09h30 (local) / 16h30 CET.

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Round 5 of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship will be held in the capital city of Mexico on Sunday 3 September and the entry list for the first of the five long haul events on the 2017 calendar will once again show that there is much on offer for South and Central American fans to cheer about.

The 2017 6 Hours of Mexico presented by AT&T will take place at the impressive Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez facility, located in the heart of one of Mexico City, and will be the second time the WEC has staged a race on the 4.304km circuit.    

Twenty-six cars are included on the provisional entry list for the fifth round of the 2017 WEC, with 22 nations represented amongst the teams and drivers, all guaranteed to provide excitement and entertainment for the thousands of fans due to attend.

LMP1: Porsche or Toyota to Win in Mexico?

In LMP1 Porsche and Toyota go head to head with the Japanese manufacturer looking to return to the top step of the podium for the first time since Round 2 in Belgium and close the gap in the championship after Porsche’s 1-2 success at the Nürburgring race. Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard won in Mexico last and, along with teammate Earl Bamber, the winners of the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans will be looking to return to winning ways in Central America.

Among the stars displaying their talents in Mexico will be three-time FIA World Touring Car Champion José Mariá López of Toyota.  The Argentinean can’t wait to be at what will effectively be his ‘home’ race, or the one nearest to his home in South America, and experience the fantastic ambience and passion from the Mexican spectators.

LMGTE PRO: Four Manufacturers – One World Title

The quest for the GT FIA World Endurance Manufacturers Championship sees Ferrari and Ford currently tied on 135 points, with Aston Martin and Porsche also within touching distance of the lead. 

Ferrari and Ford will of course be looking to maximise their turbocharged engines in the rarefied Mexican atmosphere, but it was an Aston Martin which took victory in 2016.  Can they do it again, to the delight of Brazilian Daniel Serra’s Latin American fans, or maybe it will be the turn of the new-for-2017, mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR?

LMP2 : New Cars – Same Close Racing

There will be 9 entries in this super-competitive class, with just the omission of the second Signatech Alpine car from the full season entry list.  The increased power and improved aerodynamics in 2017 have offered up some nail-biting battles in this category, and the Mexican fans can look forward to action, noise and maybe even some drama.

LMP2 features the only Mexican driver in the field thus far, Roberto Gonzalez in the No. 25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing ORECA 07 Gibson.  The older brother of race promoter Ricardo Gonzalez will line up with Simon Trummer and Vitaly Petrov – the trio determined to get their first podium of the season in front of Roberto’s home crowd.

Adding extra fervour for the Mexican fans will be two famous South American racing names – Nelson Piquet Jr and Bruno Senna, both competing for the Vaillante Rebellion team, and Senna’s No.31 holding second place in the LMP2 championship behind the seemingly invincible Jackie Chan DC Racing team.

Andre Negrão is set to replace Matt Rao at the wheel of the No.36 Signatech Alpine Matmut entry. The Brazilian driver teams with defending LMP2 Champions Nicolas Lapierre and Gustavo Menezes in the squad’s lead Alpine A470 Gibson.

LMGTE AM: Two Points Separate Porsche-Ferrari-Aston Martin

In LMGTE Am there is an incredibly tight battle for the top of the points’ tables, with the crews from Dempsey Proton Racing (No.77 Porsche 911 RSR) and Clearwater Racing (No.61 Ferrari 488 GTE) tied on 88 points at the head of the classifications.  Just two points further back is the No.98 Aston Martin Racing trio – all three crews having taken a win so far this year.

Track action for the 6 Hours of Mexico will begin on Friday 1st Septemberwith practice on the 4.304km circuit, with the race scheduled to begin at 12 noon local time on Sunday 3rd September.