An American sports car feast is ahead at Austin this weekend

1 Comment

Sports car racing fans should flock to Austin’s Circuit of the Americas this weekend, for a joint weekend of the FIA World Endurance Championship and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron.

The FIA WEC headlines the weekend for its lone North American stop of 2013, with a six-hour race to be held Sunday afternoon. Late Saturday, the ALMS makes its first trip to the circuit for a two-hour, 45-minute race.

Some news and notes for the weekend to follow:

ALMS

  • The much-hyped DeltaWing Coupe makes its race debut after its first test in Georgia a couple weeks ago. The car is shooting to run at P2 class speeds and serve as a possible option to customers interested in the car for the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship. Katherine Legge and Andy Meyrick will drive, as they have for the team since Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May.
  • There are a number of entry list updates since the last round in Baltimore. Dyson’s P1 car sees Tony Burgess and Chris McMurry back in the No. 16 Lola Mazda. Anthony Lazzaro continues in Extreme Speed’s No. 01 HPD P2 car alongside Scott Sharp for the rest of the year. Several changes occur in PC, with Starworks adding the No. 5 car for Ryan Dalziel and John Pew, David Heinemeier Hansson replacing Alex Popow alongside Bruno Junqueira in RSR’s No. 9, and CORE autosport trading Colin Braun from its PC car to its GT car (No. 05 to No. 06) with Tom Kimber-Smith going the other way. Joey Hand also makes a surprise appearance alongside longtime friend and teammate Bill Auberlen in Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s No. 55 BMW Z4 with Maxime Martin committed to a Blancpain Endurance Series race this weekend.
  • There’s a handful of car updates as well. CORE’s GT class Porsche is a new tub that has been built up; Team Falken Tire reverts to its 2010 model year Porsche, a backup car that won twice in 2011, and Paul Miller Racing has fixed the damage sustained on its Porsche after all three were involved in a start-line accident in Baltimore.
  • In the points standings, GT is the closest battle with the Corvette pair of teammates split by two points. Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner right now lead Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. BMW’s Dirk Mueller, racing with John Edwards, is eight points behind the class leaders.

WEC

  • This marks the North American debut of the Toyota TS030 Hybrid. Toyota did not have its car ready for the 2012 WEC curtain-raiser at Sebring, run in conjunction with ALMS, and also did not bring one to this year’s Sebring. Audi competed in both events; Audi is also undefeated in four prior WEC races this season.
  • Porsche’s new-for-2013 991-coded 911 RSR makes its North American race debut, as well. Porsche finished 1-2 at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE Pro class with this car.
  • Chris Dyson will be racing for Greaves Motorsport’s P2 Zytek Nissan in WEC rather than his usual P1 Dyson Lola Mazda in ALMS. Dyson is one of three American drivers in the WEC race, along with Kevin Weeda and Tracy Krohn.
  • The contingent of ex-Formula One racers  includes: Allan McNish (Audi), Stephane Sarrazin, Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson (Toyota), Nick Heidfeld (Rebellion), Vitantonio Liuzzi (Lotus P2), Gianmaria Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella, Kamui Kobayashi (AF Corse Ferrari), Pedro Lamy and Bruno Senna (Aston Martin).

Porsche ready for final LMP1 outing in Bahrain

Photo: Porsche
Leave a comment

At the conclusion of this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, Porsche’s four-year run in the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship will come to a close. The pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids will roll off from first and third after Friday’s qualifying, and will look to add one more win to their final tally.

Despite its short stint, Porsche more than made its mark on the class and the championship, immediately jumping to the fore and challenging young hotshots Toyota, race winners in 2012 and 2013 and LMP1 champions in 2014, and long-time stalwarts Audi, which introduced its first LMP1 entry in 1999 and quickly became the predominant force in the LMP category.

The 2014 season saw Porsche score four poles and a race win before embarking on a remarkable three-year stretch from 2015 to 2017, in which they scored three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and three straight WEC driver and manufacturer championships (they wrapped the 2017 titles at the previous race in Shanghai.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of the LMP1 effort, detailed that the early days of the program were a little rocky, given the complex hybrid technology they were working with, but that they were able to find their stride relatively quickly.

“Back then (in 2014), we developed from zero a highly complex hybrid racecar on a Formula One level. The early days were extremely demanding, especially as we had to set up the infrastructure, including new buildings, at the same time, plus assembling a team of 260 excellent people. The timing was really tight and the 2014 Le Mans race came way too early for us. But since then, we have managed maximum success. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I hope that we can conclude the era of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a good race in Bahrain.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl added that having the championships wrapped up will make the final weekend more enjoyable, as they won’t have the pressure of racing with the championships in mind.

“I feel a big relief that the pressure of defending the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championship titles is resolved before our last race. The emotions of the farewell under the stress of the title battle would have been extremely hard for the team,” Seidl revealed.

Further, he added that Toyota’s TS050, which debuted last year, made their task all the more challenging as they worked to developed the Porsche 919 Hybrid –  the same basic car that they launched in 2014.

“In Toyota this year, we are facing a competitor who developed an all-new car for 2016. We, instead, kept developing our existing car. That we still won Le Mans as well as both championship titles is thanks to outstanding driver performances, many detailed improvements and the operational strength of our team,” Seidl asserted. “Now we have to get ourselves together and focus on this last race. We want to leave the stage not only as world champions but also with a performance that is satisfying for all of us. Six hours of reliability and faultless work are big challenges of men and machine. Safety has the highest priority. Only after the checkered flag can we allow our reflective feelings to break through.”

In terms of approaching Porsche’s LMP1 swan song, some drivers are taking different approaches. For example, Nick Tandy, driver of the No.1 entry with Neel Jani and André Lotterer, isn’t putting much thought into the farewell and is focusing entirely on the race.

“I prefer not to think about the farewell yet,” Tandy quipped. “The Bahrain race is very interesting anyway because we are racing from day into night. It is normally very hot for the car, the drivers and especially the tires. It is a challenging race to finish the season at. I haven’t been there since 2015 but I was on the podium back then when I came second in the LMP2 class. So this year’s target is to make it onto the LMP1 podium.”

Conversely, newly crowned champion Brendon Hartley, driver of the No. 2 entry with fellow champions Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard, freely expressed his emotions about the end of the Porsche LMP1 program.

“Going to Bahrain will be emotional for all of us. Especially as we arrive as World Champions with less pressure now,” asserted Hartley, who has also endured a busy stretch since the Petit Le Mans on October 7 that has seen him racing every weekend across the WEC, Formula 1, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “I have so many incredible memories and experiences with the 919 Hybrid, teammates and all the boys and girls from the Porsche LMP Team. We shared something very special together. After developing the Porsche 919 for more than four years, it’s an absolute dream to drive so we will all be enjoying every last lap with this awesome machine. On one side there will be a lot of sadness, but on the other hand we will be giving everything to give this project the ultimate send off it deserves.”

Porsche’s LMP1 effort won races in each of its four seasons, totaling 17 victories between it’s entries.

Follow @KyleMLavigne