© Getty Images

FIA, ACO confirm 2017 entry lists for WEC and Le Mans

2 Comments

The FIA and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) have jointly confirmed the entry lists for this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

As expected, the launch conference revealed a slimmed-down WEC field for 2017, with the headline omission being Audi following its decision to end its LMP1 program at the end of last year.

Toyota confirmed late last night that it would be fielding three cars with the rounds at Spa and Le Mans, with Jose Maria Lopez replacing Stephane Sarrazin in a full-time seat. Sarrazin will race in the third car at Spa and Le Mans.

Defending manufacturers’ champion Porsche confirmed its line-up last December, with Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber all getting LMP1 seats. Despite many hoping it would revive its third car entry from 2015, Porsche will only race with two cars at Le Mans once again.

Following Rebellion Racing’s move down to LMP2 means that ByKolles is the only non-factory team racing in the LMP1 class this year, entering one car. Ex-Formula 1 racer Robert Kubica will make his Le Mans debut with the privateer team, being listed as its driver for Le Mans.

The LMP2 grid will feature 10 cars through the WEC season, with a bumper grid of 25 slated for Le Mans. As expected, all the full-season entries will run ORECA chassis.

In GTE Pro, 13 cars were confirmed to be racing at Le Mans, including a full complement of four Ford GTs that combines both the US and European squads, as seen at Daytona last weekend. The biggest talking point here is the signing of rising endurance star Pipo Derani for the first three races, the Brazilian joining Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 67 Ford GT.

In GTE Am, five cars will take part in the full WEC season, with a grid of 16 set for Le Mans.

The full list for Le Mans, and by extension the FIA WEC, is linked here.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.