FIA WEC: Ex-F1 prospects Calado, Bird do well in qualifying

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Former open-wheelers James Calado and Sam Bird appear to be taking to the World Endurance Championship nicely after qualifying up the grid in their respective classes for tomorrow’s WEC season-opener at Silverstone.

Calado and Bird are with the same AF Corse Ferrari team, but the former is in the GTE-Pro while the latter is in GTE-Am. But both of them had a fine Saturday, with Calado and teammate Davide Rigon qualifying fourth in Pro and Bird, Stephen Wyatt, and Michele Rugalo earning pole in Am.

Calado, who finished third in GP2 last year, sounded pleased with his work and hailed teammates Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander for their GTE-Pro pole on Twitter.

As for Bird, last year’s GP2 runner-up, he says he’s having fun with his “amazing opportunity” to run with AF Corse, which won last year’s WEC GTE-Pro title.

“[It’s been] really good fun, and I’m enjoying my racing in GTs,” Bird said to reporters today at Silverstone. “It’d be great to get on the podium. Obviously, the main thing is to make sure that Steve is fast as possible.

“If he can do a really good job then we’re gonna be within a shout of being on the podium if not winning the race.  Hopefully, the conditions will suit us. If not, it might be a very tricky race.”

Bird and Rugalo topped the Aston Martin of Pedro Lamy, Christoffer Nygaard, and Paul Dalla Lana for GTE-Am pole by almost a full second.

Rebellion confirms LMP1 return, all-star line-up for WEC super season

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Rebellion Racing has confirmed it will return to the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2018/19 ‘super season’ with an all-star line-up featuring Le Mans winners Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer.

Rebellion raced in LMP1 as a privateer between 2009 and 2016 before stepping down to LMP2 for the most recent season, capturing the class titles at the first attempt.

Following a push from the WEC and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to make LMP1 more appealing to privateer teams, Rebellion announced on Wednesday it would return to the premier class for the 2018/19 season with a two-car effort.

WEC LMP2 champion Bruno Senna will return with Rebellion next year, as will Mathias Beche, with the pair set to be joined by four new faces.

The most notable arrivals are Porsche factory drivers Lotterer and Jani, both of whom were left without an LMP1 drive following the closure of the German manufacturer’s program at the end of the season.

American racer Gustavo Menezes will also join Rebellion, stepping up after two years in LMP2, while outstanding 2017 rookie Thomas Laurent completes the Swiss team’s line-up.

“I am looking forward to coming back where my endurance career started nine years ago,” said Jani.

“Rebellion Racing played a huge role in my career and also helped me become a factory driver for Porsche. When Porsche stopped in LMP1, it was clear for me that I wanted to race again for Rebellion.

“With the new regulations, I hope we can reach the overall podium at Le Mans and with a bit of luck, maybe we can even grab some wins during the super season of WEC.”

“I am very happy to join the champion Rebellion team,” added three-time Le Mans winner Lotterer.

“The LMP1 project is very exciting and to be able to go on with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA WEC challenge is something I did not want to miss.

“I am motivated and looking forward to have a great time with great people there.”