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.

Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.

He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.

Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.

However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.

“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”

The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

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Ed Jones continues steady run with seventh at Road America

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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.

And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.

The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.

However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.

“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”

The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.

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Vilander replaces Bird at AF Corse for Nurburgring WEC round

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AF Corse has confirmed that Toni Vilander will race the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE in next month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring in place of Sam Bird, who is tied up with Formula E commitments in New York.

Vilander currently races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Risi Competizione, and appeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago.

The Finn won the WEC GT drivers’ title in 2014 and last raced full-time in the series in 2015, but will return at the Nürburgring in place of Bird, who confirmed on Monday that he would be prioritizing his Formula E commitments on the July 16 weekend.

Vilander is relishing the opportunity to race alongside Davide Rigon in the No. 71 Ferrari, and is eager to bounce back from an early retirement at Le Mans.

“I’m happy to be able to return to the FIA WEC with the 488 GTE of AF Corse team. This is my chance to cancel the disappointment of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as soon as possible,” Vilander said.

“Car number 71 is in the top places of the championship standings, and I will give all I have to achieve the best possible result at Nürburgring, to help Ferrari in the manufacturers’ championship and Davide Rigon in the drivers’ ranking.”

British GP expands to four-day schedule, F2/GP3 practice set for Thursday

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The British Grand Prix weekend will expand to a four-day schedule next month as Formula 2 and GP3 practice running gets shifted to Thursday.

On-track running for all Formula 1 events traditionally takes place across three days – Friday to Sunday, bar Monaco, where practice is on Thursday – with support events following a similar format.

Silverstone has confirmed its schedule of events for the British Grand Prix weekend, with F2 and GP3 practice slated for Thursday July 13.

F2 practice will run from 15:30 to 16:15 local time at Silverstone on the Thursday, followed by GP3 running from 16:45 to 17:30.

Both support series will hit the track again on Friday for their respective qualifying sessions, taking place after F1’s second practice in the afternoon.

The remainder of the race weekend will go ahead as usual for F2 and GP3, having one race each on both Saturday and Sunday.

The F1 schedule for the weekend remains unchanged, with FP1 and FP2 on Friday, FP3 and qualifying on Saturday, and the race on Sunday.

Both Renault and Williams will take part in special show-runs during the grand prix weekend as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations.

You can see the full British Grand Prix schedule here.