In Paris today the ACO revealed an incredible 35 entries for the forthcoming FIA World Endurance Championship season which begins at Silverstone on the 12 April. The large grid includes 21 LMP entries, with 11 LMP1 and 10 LMP2 cars entered for the full season. The LMGTE entry is evenly split with 7 cars in both Pro and Am categories, making a total of 14 in all.
For the first time there will be four major manufacturers competing for the World Endurance Championship title. On Sunday Nissan revealed the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO which will take on the might of reigning World Champions Toyota, 24 Hours of Le Mans winners and double World Champions Audi, and race winners Porsche. The Japanese manufacturer also announced Marc Gené as its first driver signing and today has revealed that reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 class winner and ELMS Vice Champion Harry Tincknell will become a Nissan factory driver in 2015. He is joined by Olivier Pla, the French driver also stepping up from LMP2 after scoring four wins and seven pole positions for G-Drive Racing in 2014, and reigning Super GT GT500 Champion Tsugio Matsuda who has also competed in the WEC’s LMP2 class in 2014.
Toyota has confirmed World Champion Anthony Davidson as the lead driver in the no1 TS040, with Alex Wurz in the no2 car. Audi has announced Marcel Fässler and Lucas di Grassi as the lead drivers in the no7 and no8 R18 e-tron quattros, with Porsche confirming Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas in the no17 and no18 919 Hybrids.
The manufacturer driver line-ups are essentially unchanged but with two notable full time additions for 2015. Audi recently announcing Oliver Jarvis as the replacement for Tom Kristensen, while Toyota has confirmed that Mike Conway would be racing for the team full time this season.
There are three LMP1 privateer entries for the 2015 season. Three-time champions Rebellion Racing are entering two Rebellion R-Ones, with Nicolas Prost and Matthias Beche announced as the lead drivers. For 2015 the Swiss team will switch from Toyota to AER engines. Team Bykolles, formerly Lotus, will enter a single CLM P1/01 – AER with Swiss driver Simon Trummer named as the lead driver.
After smaller than expected grids in 2014 the LMP2 category has bounced back in 2015 with a large ten-car entry that features six different manufacturers – Alpine, HPD, Ligier, Morgan, ORECA and Strakka Dome.
2014 LMP2 runners-up G-Drive Racing return as a two-car team in 2015, racing the Ligier JS P2-Nissan that proved to be so successful for them last year. Four-time race winner Roman Rusinov and Columbian Gustavo Yacaman are the two lead drivers named for the Russian team. 2013 LMP2 Champions OAK Racing also return to the WEC in 2015, with team owner Jacques Nicolet named in the no35 Ligier.
After claiming three LMP2 victories last year, KCMG will also return in 2015 with the new Nissan powered ORECA 05 driven by Matt Howson.
Following two successful outings in 2014, American team Extreme Speed Motorsports will compete for the entire WEC season in 2015 with a pair of the brand new HPD ARX 04B-Hondas with Ed Brown and Scott Sharp named as the lead drivers.After a difficult year of development in 2014, Strakka Racing will finally be able to showcase the new Strakka Dome S103–Nissan in 2015. The Strakka Dome will be the only LMP2 car to use Michelin tyres, all others being on Dunlop rubber, and Nick Leventis, Jonny Kane and Danny Watts will all return to the WEC this season with the British team.
Double European Le Mans Series Champion Signatech Alpine is bringing the Nissan-powered Alpine A450B to the World Endurance Championship in 2015, with reigning ELMS Drivers Champion Nelson Panciatici confirmed by the team.
Another team moving up from the ELMS is Team Morand. The Swiss team has formed a partnership with Japan’s SARD Racing to form a two-car entry for Team SARD Morand running the Morgan Evo–SARD. Christian Klien will drive the no39 car entered under the Japanese flag, while Pierre Ragues will drive the Swiss-entered no43 Morgan.
Triple World Champion Ferrari is back to defend its title with a two-car entry run by AF Corse. Gianmaria Bruni will also return to defend his world title, racing the team’s no51 Ferrari 458 Italia, with Davide Rigon named in the no71 F458. The Italians will face fierce opposition from a two-car entry by Porsche Team Manthey and a three-car assault by Aston Martin Racing.
Two race wins and second place in the manufacturers title last season gives the German team a strong foundation on which to launch its 2015 campaign but nothing less than the world title will be good enough for the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans class champions. Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet have been named as the lead drivers in the no91 and n92 Porsche 911 RSRs respectively.
Two becomes three for Aston Martin Racing in 2015 with the LMGTE Am Champions Young Driver AMR moving up to the Pro class to race alongside the no97 Aston Martin Vantage of Darren Turner and no99 Vantage V8 of Fernando Rees. The ‘All Danish’ no95 car will feature Lotus F1 reserve driver Marco Sørensen.
Seven cars and four different manufacturers makes the battle for the GTE Am title an exciting prospect in 2015. American acting star Patrick Dempsey will join the grid racing a Porsche 911 RSR for Dempsey-Proton Racing, with a second Porsche 911 being run under the Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing banner with Christian Ried leading the no88 car.
2012 LMGTE Am Champions and 24 Hours of Le Mans class winners Larbre Competition return to the WEC in 2015 with the Corvette C7R. The very experienced Italian Gianluca Roda is named by the French team as the lead driver.
Last season’s WEC LMP2 Champion SMP Racing transfers to the GTE Am category with a single Ferrari 458 for 2014 ELMS Champion Victor Shaitar, while AF Corse will also enter a single Ferrari 458 with Francois Perrodo as the lead driver.
As well as the three LMGTE Pro cars, Aston Martin Racing will be running a further two Vantage V8s in the LMGTE Am class for Germany’s Roald Goethe (no96) and Canadian Paul Dalla Lana (no98).
Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, said: “This grid represents the very top of endurance racing in the world today. We welcome back the teams and drivers who raced with the WEC in previous seasons and we also welcome the new teams who are joining the World Endurance Championship for the first time in 2015.
“The WEC and the 24 Heures du Mans is the top of the endurance pyramid and it is very good to see representatives from each continent – Europe, North America and Asia – where the ACO has established continental series.
“The LMP1 regulations have been a great success and have created an environment for technical innovation and excellence. This season we welcome Nissan to the WEC family and the Japanese manufacturer has chosen a radical design to challenge Audi, Porsche and Toyota.
“The fact that the WEC technical regulations are flexible enough to allow such a different concept is testament to the successful governance of the championship by the ACO and the FIA.
“This is true for all the classes, which is reflected in the quality of the teams that have entered for the 2015 season.”