Start of the 6h Mexico 2016. Image © FIA WEC / Adrenal Media.

The second half of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship prepares to kick off today with the first of the Free Practice sessions as the premier racing series touches down in Mexico City.

Mexico marks the first of the five flyaway rounds for the FIA WEC, which sees the Championship complete its circle of the globe between now and the November’s season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain. 

As teams began to re-assemble their personnel after the summer break, various flight diversions due to flooding and the closure of Mexico City airport saw WEC personnel and nearly a dozen drivers, including Nick Tandy from Porsche, Ford’s Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx, Alex Lynn of G-Drive Racing and the Championship’s Official Photographer John Rourke ‘forced’ to spend a day on the beach as their British Airways flight was diverted to Cancun. Others ended up sitting out the storm in Acapulco. 

A revised weekend schedule greets the 26 car entry, the lowest car count since the 2014 season finale at Interlagos, and sees track action starting late Friday afternoon, with a 90-minute Free Practice 1 at 17:15 local time (GMT -5). Free Practice 2 will now take place at 09:30 on Saturday, with the final practice session at 13:45; qualifying sessions begin from 17:50. The race will start Sunday at midday. 

6h Mexico Entry List

For those that did make it early to the track, like the JOTA run Jackie Chan DC Racing squad, the time in between the rain was well spent getting in as much practice as possible – conditioning being essential for the mechanics as well as the cars considering the track’s elevation, 2000ft above sea level. As the GTE teams prepare, Balance of Performance (BoP) adjustments via the FIA’s new automated system have been made to every car in the GTE-Pro class ahead the weekend’s race. 

The Porsche 911 RSR, Aston Martin Vantage and Ford GT have all received a 2kg weight break. The normally aspirated Porsche and Astons have seen their air restrictors enlarged by 0.1mm and an equivalent increase in boost pressures has been applied to the turbocharged Ford. Meanwhile, the Ferrari 488 GTE has been given a 5kg weight increase and a decrease in boost across all rpm levels.As the GTE teams prepare, Balance of Performance (BoP) adjustments via the FIA’s new automated system have been made to every car in the GTE-Pro class ahead the weekend’s race. 

Additionally, the FIA’s atmospheric pressure adjustments, used to balance normally aspirated and turbocharged cars, will now be applied in real-time with the aim of eliminating the huge advantages seen by the Fords and Ferraris at Le Mans in 2016 where the ‘baseline’ pressure setting remained static for the weekend despite large changes in atmospheric pressure between qualifying and the race.

The GTE-Am class, although not covered by the automated BoP system, has seen a single adjustment for Mexico with the Ferrari 488 gaining a 15kg minimum weight addition.

Away from the track, speculation reigns rife over the future of the Championship following Porsche’s announcement this summer that it will cease its LMP1 effort at the end of 2017, a year early.

While it is clear that the LMP1 Manufacturer’s World Championship can no longer continue with Toyota as the sole entrant, whether their involvement will extend past a three race entry (Spa, Le Mans and Fuji) in 2018 remains unclear. 

There are also rumours, both reliable and otherwise, of changes to the GTE format and moves to position the Championship as a winter series with a Le Mans finale (something we here fully support).

The ACO and FIA will hold at joint press conference today at 15:30 local and outline their plans for the future of both the LMP1 class and the Championship as a whole. As we wait for the press conference, why not take a look at Graham Goodwin’s excellent “what next” article in Daily Sportscar which gives some balanced opinions and potential next steps. 

Finally, as we prepare for the race, don’t forget to download the latest FIA WEC Spotters Guide so you can follow the action throughout the weekend.