As the FIA WEC continues to reel from the lack of enthusiasm in it’s premier LMP1 class and continuing luke-warm take-up of the new Hypercar rules, today saw the French-run World Championship take another body-blow with formal confirmation from SMP Racing of the cessation of their LMP1 race program seeing the removal of their entries from the 2019/20 WEC season and, of course, today’s release of the Season 8 Prologue entry list which will be staged at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the very first time.
While the organisers are making hay of the 30 WEC cars which will take to the grid, no amount of gloss can hide the lack of cars in the premier class, now down to six at best with the withdrawal of the Russians. While all three teams are slated to bring two cars each, it is likely that Rebellion will only run a single R13 and, without further financial backing being found the ‘not a factory’ Ginetta LNT Team may only circulate one of there recently re-engined Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER prototypes.
Toyota, as it’s the only factory team remaining, will of course arrive in force bringing its full 2019/20 line-up of Toyota TS050 HYBRIDs and drivers including WEC returnee Brendon Hartley who has replaced Fernando Alonso in the #8 now that his Le Mans ambitions have been met.
In LMP2, four new teams make their full-season debut in the WEC at the test: United Autosport, High Class Racing, Cool Racing and Cetilar Racing, with all four proving themselves in the highly-competitive European Le Mans Series before stepping up to the world stage this coming season.
UA will, for obvious reasons, be fielding one of their Ligier JSP217s for Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta [update: or actually, they won’t. The Hanson family have seen the light and realised they are throwing away their money peddling a Liger around and have brought an Oreca 07 which UA will now, begrudgingly, run for them in the WEC].
Italian team Cetilar Racing will now be the only non-Oreca in what is now all but a total spec series and will run their Dallara P217 for Andrea Belicchi, Roberto Lacorte and Giorgio Sernagiotto, banking on the Italian car, Italian drivers, Italian team ethos to magic them some speed and luck from somewhere!
According to the list, the currently injured Mark Patterson steps up from his 2019 Algarve Pro ELMS seat into the WEC with High Class Racing, however, either this is a different Mark, or he’s changed his nationality to Danish to fit in with the team! Cool Racing will field drivers Nicolas Lapierre, Antonin Borga and Alexandre Coigny.
Finally, Anthony Davidson, Pastor Maldonado and Robert Gonzales will drive for JOTA Sport – the trio having made the switch from DragonSpeed at the end of the Super Season after Elton Julien confirmed at Le Mans that his team would be focusing on their Indy Car efforts during the remainder of 2019 and into 2020.
Regular LMP2 teams Signatech Alpine Elf (formerly Matmut), Jackie Chan DC Racing and Racing Team Nederland will also bring their Oreca 07 cars.
A total of five LMGTE Pro cars will be at the Prologue, with two Ferrari 488 GTE Evo cars from AF Corse and three of its regular drivers: James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Davide Rigon.
Porsche GT team has a total of four drivers coming to Barcelona to test its newly upgraded Porsche 911 RSR-19 cars: Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin Racing will bring four drivers (Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin, Marco Sørensen and Nicki Thiim) to test the #97 Aston Martin Vantage AMR.
Newcomers in LMGTE Am include British team Red River Sport who, in collaboration with Spirit of Race, will bring a Ferrari 488 GTE Evo to Barcelona. British drivers Bonamy Grimes and Johnny Mowlem are listed to drive.
Reigning LMGTE Am Team Champions Team Project 1 will bring two cars with Egidio Perfetti and Patrick Lindsey the two named drivers to test the pair of Porsche 911 RSR cars.
AF Corse will also send two Ferrari 488 GTE Evos with its full team line-up of six drivers: Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci, Giancarlo Fisichella will take to the wheel of the #54 car while 2016 class champions François Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard will be joined by reigning Ferrari Challenge Europe Champion Nicklas Nielsen in the #83 car.
Canadian Billionaire Paul Dalla Lana will bring his newly purchased Aston Martin Vantage AMR – eligable to fun for the first time in this season’s LMGTE Am class. Gulf Racing (Porsche 911 RSR) and MR Racing (Ferrari 488 GTE Evo) will also be present in Barcelona, while last year’s category runners-up Dempsey-Proton Racing (Porsche 911 RSR) will be there with both the #77 and #88 cars.
The two-day Prologue will comprise of a total of 16 hours track time, with two four-hour test sessions scheduled for both Tuesday 23 July and Wednesday 24 July (10h00-14h00 and 17h00 – 21h00).