Image credit: FIA.
The FIA World Endurance Championship(WEC) ends the long hiatus after its showcase 24-Hour event at Le Mans, with round 4 at the Nurburgring taking place this weekend.
The Nurburgring is new to the WEC schedule brought in as a replacement for the Sao Paulo round at Interlagos which is undergoing major changes this year. Hence locally this will be an important weekend, if its a classic race hopefully the circuit will become a permanent and additional feature on the series schedule.
Of course this is not the Nordschleife but the 5.148-km Grand-Prix-Strecke which currently hosts Formula One Grand Prixs in alternate years. The circuit replaced the Sudschleife first hosting the European Grand Prix in late 1984 and the German GP in the subsequent year. It was utilised for the predecessor to WEC up until 2009 and the teams ran at a Toyota organised Test in late July, Loic Duval’s Audi setting a best time of 1m37.456 (190.166kmh). One other point to note, is that the Nurburgring holds happy memories for Porsche’s Mark Webber, being the scene of his first GP victory, what are the chances of an inaugural WEC Nurburgring win with Mark going two-for-two?
Whilst the #7 Audi R18 e-tron of Lotterer/Fassler/Treluyer holds the drivers championship lead currently, they come to the fourth round with a cloud over the car. Audi were found to have broken seals on the power unit of the #7 car, and that infringement will leave this car with only one new engine available for the remainder of the season. Given the car is clearly capable of running 24-hour races it may not be too huge a penalty, but it is a disadvantage to its competitors. Expect to see Andre Lotterer continue to be the difference in this car.
Since Le Mans a relaxing in the number of tyres available for each car has been granted, all LMP1s now have 8 sets available to them. In theory this may favour the Porsche 919 Hybrids which have been heavier on tyre degradation from the beginning of the season (the nature of deploying 8mjs perhaps). Of course to take this benefit you still have to stop and we are yet to see whether the additional pace can overcome that time deficit.
Further changes are in the Technical Regulations, Appendix B – Values of Energies and Power, snappily known as the Equivalency of Technology (EoT). This is amended once a year after Le Mans and provides the governance of the fuel flow metering (and capacity) for the different Energy Recovery Options (and fuel utilised, Petrol/Diesel). In summary the changes appear to rein in Porsche demanding greater efficiency from a small tank, whilst Audi have an improved flow, but again from a smaller tank. The big winners here appear to be the non-hybrid Privateer LMP1 runners (Rebellion & byKolles) who see a both a greatly increased flow and a 10% increase in fuel tank capacity. This should make bring them closer to the factory teams. One additional fuel related item is that there are now two sanctioned manufacturers of Fuel Flow Meters, though it is not thought that anyone has deviated at this time from the original equipment.
The stunning looks of Rebellion’s R-Ones was first seen in anger at Le Mans, and the Nurburgring will be our first opportunity to see them run to a 6-hour format. As at Le Mans expect them to out pace the byKolles car.
Sadly we won’t be seeing the Nissan Nismo GTR-LMs this weekend. Due to the hurried nature of their development, Le Mans appeared to be something of an extended test and they never had all the components of their package available and thus under performed and were rather unbalanced. We wish them well in further testing and hope that we see them either later this season or in 2016.
With Audi leading the drivers and Porsche the manufacturers championship expect battle to re-commence on Sunday !
The situation in LMP2 is perfectly poised, the championship is led by the #47 KCMG Oreca 05 of Howson/Bradley/Tandy largely due to consistency and of course the Le Mans win (counts double). For the season prior to Le Mans the G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2s #28 of Yacaman/Derani/Gonzalez and #26 Rusinov/Canal/Bird took a win a piece and looked dominant. That already looks like a great battle to keep an eye on, and with the recent sad loss of Guy Ligier to would be wonderful to see a car bearing his name on the top step. However, there is more in the LMP2 mix hopefully. Strakka Racing have taken the decision to run a Gibson 015s Nissan (see our separate article A Very British Conundrum for why), which have been victorious in two of the three rounds of the European Le Mans Series this year. When participants from that series have been involved in WEC-rounds they have been immediately on the pace ( JotaSport won at Spa and Le Mans previously)… Of course we ignore Signatech Alpine, ESM and Team Sard Morand (with Archie Hamilton) at our peril, expect a thrilling race long battle in LMP2!
AF Corse’s #51 Bruni/Vilander leads Teams and Driver standings closely followed by their team-mates #71 Rigon/Calado both in the now ageing Ferrari 458 Italia, but this is a race in Germany so expect Weissach to pull everything out on the #91 and #92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSRs. Also worth noting that after a difficult Le Mans Aston Martin Racing will be looking for a good result to bring themselves into the championship fight, however, with a 3% Balance of Performance penalty applied from today until the end of the season, today’s practice will see how the V8 Vantages hold up to the competition.
The GTE-AM class is also Ferrari led by SMP Racing #72 of Shaytar/Bertolini/Basov though again expect them to be hard pushed by the Le Mans luckless#96 & #98 Aston Martin Vantage V8s. Of course in another sign of Porsche’s desire to win at home keep an eye on the Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing 911 RSR #88 Ried/Al Qubaisi joined this weekend by one Le Mans winning Earl Bamber…
After a wash down on Thursday, the weather currently looks blue-sky and fair with temperatures soaring into Sunday’s race. As a result expect tyres to be a factor up and down the field. We expect it to be both a cracking and classic event, with support races from Nurburgring Legends and Porsche Super Sports Cup to add to the fun.
Oh it is good to be WEC !