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.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.