Porsche 919 Hybrid, Porsche Team: Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber

Image Credit: Porsche Press

Battle ensued at Fuji, will it continue where we left off?  

Well it looks likely, with the same candidates from pole-sitters Porsche #1 & Audi #8 being separated on the grid in 2nd place by the Toyota #5 rather than the #6 which took the win at Fuji anything could happen. With Audi #8 being still in the hunt for the World Endurance Championship for Drivers, but after Fuji trailing the Toyota #6. Look forward to seeing Toyota maintain the positive momentum of Fuji, but expect them to be challenged every step of the way.

Why is the Porsche #2 seemingly off the pace, again?!

Honestly we don’t know. Its significant that Porsche of all people have not been able to get to the bottom of that car’s issues.  Unless they have and are holding back, or there is not a problem and they are just holding back to conserve the car and its components…  Lieb/Jani/Dumas hold a 23-point lead over the Toyota #6 of Kobayashi/Conway/Sarrazin, hence as long as they continue to finish respectably we would expect them to attain the Championship, but it only takes a moment’s slip and a maximum result for the Toyota #6 and it would all swing in their favour.

Audi R18 (2016) #8 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval, Oliver Jarvis
Audi R18 (2016) #8 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval, Oliver Jarvis

Will the Audi off-track decision impact their performance?

Yes, but being true professionals it will only make them more hungry to go out fighting for wins with nothing to lose. It does have the potential to have a slight negative impact off-track with repeated questions from a news hungry media, but once the door closes and the engine runs all else will be out of their collective minds. The only thing that matters is Winning!

Is LMP1-Privateer a dead-duck?

To the best of our knowledge it is a one-horse race in 2017, and that car the ByKolles will struggle to finish ahead of the 2017-spec LMP2s. Whether that is a situation to be tolerated only the organisers can tell us, but it would appear ridiculous to allow such a poor performer to obtain an automatic place at Le Mans and deny an LMP2 car of similar performance. With that said, and Audi Sport’s withdrawal, the prospect of running an LMP1-P and securing podium places in 2017 might be appealing to suitably funded teams, and the Rebellion R-Ones are known to be available for hire/sale.

LMP2 looks like a bun fight !

Exciting does not begin to describe the starting driver line-up of this category, and should things settle down in LMP1 this will be the place to look all race long. The starting drivers are Alex Lynn (WilliamsF1 reserve) #44, Nico Lapierre (no intro necessary & Championship leaders) #36, Tom Blomqvist (son of Stig!) #30, Alex Brundle (son of Martin etc..) #26 and one Bruno Senna (nephew of a MotorSport God!) #43.  Everyone will be putting in top performances because of the shake-up the changes at Porsche (Webber retirement) and the Audi decision are likely to ripple out.

The variety of LMP2 will by design mechanically narrow next year, and this indeed is the first WEC race without an open-top Prototype. With more similar equipment it will be team preparation and performance that will separate the men from the boys, the pros from the gents, or enthusiastic amateurs. As that distinction evolves in 2017 it will be fascinating to see how the regulators try to balance out performance… For now enjoy the racing and look forward to the noise of the Gibson 2017 engine.

Can you explain GTE-Pro at the moment ?

Well sadly no! We heard of Balance of Performance(BoP) changes prior to the event, then talk of outrage at Maranello, but this does seem to be a case of some mis-information or partial at a minimum. Again we find ourselves at a circuit that suits slippery turbo cars, and as we’ve come to expect that means Ford GT territory, which rather than being a point of note does seem to be one of expected exception, that surely should not occur within a BoP led category.

@FordPerformance Photo: Drew Gibson
@FordPerformance Photo: Drew Gibson

Our ‘Brit Pack’ #67 of Priaulx/Tincknell (Priaulx starts) nailed pole with a 2:01.391 a clear six-tenth ahead of the first non-Ford of #95 Aston Martin Vantage to be started by Marco Sorensen. The #51 Ferrari 488 to be started by Bruni splits the Aston Martins with the #71 of Rigon a tiny fraction under a 2:05. It continues to surprise the difference between the two truely new for 2016 cars, the Fords & Ferraris and the regulators need to take a closer look as to what is going on.

As a footnote – Ford have attracted a 5000euro fine at Shanghai for a homologation documentation irregularity.. Though surely the continued lack of a road-going production Ford GT at the end of the 2016 season is even more of an irregularity (or waiver…)    

And GTE-Am ?

The Aston Martin #98 of Lamy/Lauda/DallaLana continues to deliver pole positions, but the AF Corse Ferrari #83 458 continues its reliable major to what looks to be a Championship title. That said the Porsche RSRs #77 and #88 are in the mix, and it is never over until the mathematicians say so!

Hopefully that gives a feel for those to look out for. To further assist find an image of the Grid to assist below.  We’re expecting 6-hours of racing under consistent dry weather conditions, with the possibility of some T16 Track Limit penalties to be served.  Pit work will of course be critical, but sit back and enjoy.  

To follow along it is probably on MotorsTV from 0300uk – For us it will be the excellent FIAWEC App the best 5euro of anyone’s money with uninterrupted comms from John Hindhaugh and the ever analytical Graham Goodwin.   Time for some shut eye 🙂

See you Trackside