FIA World Endurance Championship 2013 Season Review

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The FIA World Endurance Championship’s second full season was a good reflection on its first in 2012. Car counts remained relatively stable (28-32 cars) as there were a few new cars or entrants, but there were still a couple quirks during the year.

Audi, inevitably, took six of the eight overall victories in LMP1 and Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and new full-time recruit Loic Duval swept to the Driver’s Championship. Duval’s presence pushed McNish and Kristensen even more and the three were all on top of their games to win at Le Mans. The second car of twice-defending Le Mans champs Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler matched the No. 2 car’s win total of three wins apiece, although failed to score as highly in the races it didn’t win. Toyota won twice, albeit one was the water-logged Fuji race that finished after only 16 laps under a red flag. Rebellion was the only privateer that lasted the season, as Strakka Racing dropped out after Le Mans. New regulations and cars will come for 2014, and be explained further in due course.

LMP2 belonged to former or current open-wheel stars, now plying their trade in prototypes. Thanks to their Le Mans victory which highlighted their season, OAK Racing’s trio of Martin Plowman, Bertrand Baguette and Ricardo Gonzalez took the Driver’s Championship in their Morgan Nissan. Outright fastest driver most of the time was Mike Conway for G-Drive Racing; Conway and co-drivers John Martin and Roman Rusinov won four of the last five races but an exclusion at Le Mans cost them the title. Delta-ADR and Pecom Racing (like G-Drive, with Oreca 03 Nissans) won the year’s first two rounds but faltered from there.

GTE Pro saw AF Corse Ferrari split its usual driver lineup for the season finale in Bahrain to give the team the best chance of capturing the Driver’s title, and Gianmaria Bruni delivered the championship with a win in the last race. Bruni drove with Giancarlo Fisichella all year except Bahrain and the fellow Italian was second in points; hard-luck losers in class were Aston Martin’s pair of Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner in third. Porsche led a 1-2 with its new Team Manthey-run 911 RSRs at Le Mans, but otherwise struggled for balance and outright pace in the first year with its new car.

Aston was able to capture the GTE Am class title, albeit in the hands of two drivers you’d hardly call “amateurs” in English veterans Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall. The class is designed to have a mix of Silver and Bronze drivers in two of the three seats and a late-year regulation change required at least one Bronze, but those drivers classified as Silver were still eligible to compete. As it was, that pair won the Driver’s title by just one point over 8Star Ferrari’s true pro-am pairing of Rui Aguas and Enzo Potolicchio. Consolation for 8Star was the fact it took the team’s championship.

Naturally the biggest and probably worst story of the year for the WEC, more than its on-track product, was the death of Danish driver Allen Simonsen at Le Mans. Simonsen’s car went into the guardrail at Tertre Rouge, and the hope is that safety updates are made in that portion of the circuit. Otherwise, the world championship continues to press ahead into 2014 as a proving ground for innovation and technology which isn’t necessarily seen in FIA’s flagship championship, Formula One.

F1 Mexican Grand Prix on NBC, NBCSN, App this week

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Lewis Hamilton is poised to wrap his fourth Formula 1 World Championship early at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, as NBC Sports covers the 18th of 20 rounds this season from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

Expanded TV coverage comes this weekend on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

All sessions will air live. Both Friday practice sessions are live on NBCSN at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET. Saturday third practice airs live via the NBC Sports App at 11 a.m. ET with a practice replay show at 12:30 p.m. before live qualifying at 2 p.m. ET, those two on NBCSN.

On Sunday, race day, F1 Countdown starts at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC leading to lights out and the race at 3 p.m. ET. Post-race coverage continues on NBC for one hour, from 5 to 6 p.m. ET.

Mercedes AMG Petronas has won both Mexican Grands Prix since the race was reinstated in 2015 after a 23-year hiatus. Nico Rosberg won in 2015 a race after Hamilton had clinched that year’s title, while Hamilton won last year in a 1-2 with Rosberg continuing to close on his first title.

Controversy reined about third place in Mexico last year with all of Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and ultimately Daniel Ricciardo ending in third, Ricciardo getting the podium after post-race penalties were assessed to the other two. Valtteri Bottas is the other active podium finisher in Mexico, having come third in 2015 with Williams.

Vettel enters Mexico 66 points behind Hamilton and can only keep the title alive to Brazil if he gets the gap under 50 points; any top-five finish for Hamilton will ensure the Englishman equals Vettel on four titles. So if Vettel doesn’t finish first or second, he can’t score enough points (either 25 or 18) to get that gap under 50 markers.

Last year’s race featured a bit of a “Noah’s Ark” finishing order with just the top five teams in the championship scoring points at this race, almost in descending order of just two-by-two. It was two Mercedes, then two Red Bulls, then two Ferraris, then Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India before the two Williams, and finally hometown hero Sergio Perez in the second Force India.

Perez is the lone home favorite this race with Esteban Gutierrez not on the grid this season.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Oct. 27, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Oct. 28, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 3 (Replay): Saturday, Oct. 28, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m.-3:45 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 2:30 p.m.-3 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 5 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Oct. 29, 8:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Brazilian Grand Prix, on November 12.