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FIA WEC: Toyota third car, Signatech Alpine lineups revealed

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A couple more lineups for the FIA World Endurance Championship season have been announced this morning.

Toyota Gazoo Racing has welcomed back Nicolas Lapierre and added new driver Yuji Kunimoto to the lineup of its third car for the races at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, alongside Stephane Sarrazin in the No. 9 Toyota TS050 Hybrid.

Since Toyota didn’t retain him after 2014, Lapierre responded with class wins at Le Mans in LMP2 for KCMG and Signatech Alpine the last two years in the Oreca 05 (and rebadged Alpine A460) chassis, and swept to the LMP2 driver’s title last year with Gustavo Menezes and Stephane Richelmi.

“It’s great to be back with Toyota and I would like to thank the team for this opportunity,” Lapierre said in a release. “I’m really looking forward to racing an LMP1 car again because the cars have developed a lot since I drove the TS040 Hybrid in 2014. The Spa race is coming around very quickly so I am fully focused on preparing myself for the new season. I have stood on the podium before at Le Mans with Toyota so my target is clearly to do that again this year.”

Kunimoto is a Super GT and Super Formula veteran and is another young driver who will look to impress in his opportunity.

Lapierre will continue with Signatech Alpine Matmut for the rest of the season as part of a restructured lineup there for the Philippe Sinault-led team.

He’ll drive with Menezes and Matt Rao in the No. 36 Alpine A470 (the rebadged Oreca 07) Gibson for the other seven races of the year, with Porsche GT factory driver Romain Dumas stepping into the car while Lapierre is at Toyota.

A restructured No. 35 car sees Nelson Panciatici, Pierre Ragues and ex-Indy Lights driver Andre Negrao in that entry. Per Sportscar365, it will miss the Silverstone season opener and pick up its season at Spa.

Lest those be the only moves of late, ex-DTM shoe Miguel Molina will make his FIA WEC debut as part of a GTE-Am Ferrari entry, sharing the No. 54 Spirit of Race 488 GTE with Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci.

Nick Foster replaces Adam Carroll in Gulf Racing’s No. 86 Porsche 911 RSR in the category as well, alongside Ben Barker and Michael Wainwright.

This all but completes the FIA WEC grid, with the only remaining vacancies the sixth and final driver at CEFC Manor TRS Racing in LMP2 and third driver alongside Robert Kubica and Oliver Webb at ByKolles in LMP1.

The grid then, as it stands for WEC:

LMP1

1-Porsche 919 Hybrid-Jani/Tandy/Lotterer
2-Porsche 919 Hybrid-Bernhard/Hartley/Bamber
4-ByKolles CLM P1/01 Nissan-Kubica/Webb/TBA
7-Toyota TS050 Hybrid-Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez
8-Toyota TS050 Hybrid-Buemi/Davidson/Nakajima
9-Toyota TS050 Hybrid-Sarrazin/Lapierre/Kunimoto (Spa & Le Mans only)

LMP2 (all Oreca 07s, except Signatech Alpine with Alpine A470s)

13-Valliante Rebellion-Piquet Jr./Beche/DHH
31-Valliante Rebellion-Prost/Senna/Canal
24-CEFC Manor TRS Racing-Graves/Trummer/Vergne
25-CEFC Manor TRS Racing-Rob.Gonzalez/Hirschi/TBA
26-G-Drive Racing (TDS Racing operated)-Rusinov/Thiriet/Lynn
28-TDS Racing-Collard/Perrodo/Vaxviere
35-Signatech Alpine Matmut-Panciatici/Ragues/Negrao
36-Signatech Alpine Matmut-Lapierre (7 races)/Dumas (Spa & Le Mans only)/Menezes/Rao
37-Jackie Chan DC Racing-Cheng/Gommendy/Brundle
38-Jackie Chan DC Racing-Tung/Jarvis/Laurent

GTE-Pro

51-AF Corse-Ferrari 488 GTE-Calado/Pier Guidi
71-AF Corse-Ferrari 488 GTE-Bird/Rigon
66-Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK-Ford GT-Pla/Mucke/B.Johnson
67-Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK-Ford GT-Priaulx/Tincknell/Derani
91-Porsche GT Team-Porsche 911 RSR-Lietz/Makowiecki
92-Porsche GT Team-Porsche 911 RSR-Christensen/Estre
95-Aston Martin Racing-Aston Martin Vantage V8-Thiim/Sorensen
97-Aston Martin Racing-Aston Martin Vantage V8-Turner/J.Adam

GTE-Am

54-Spirit of Race-Ferrari 488 GTE-Flohr/Castellacci/Molina
61-Clearwater Racing-Ferrari 488 GTE-Sun/Sawa/Griffin
77-Dempsey-Proton Racing-Porsche 911 RSR-Ried/Dienst/Cairoli
86-Gulf Racing-Porsche 911 RSR-Wainwright/Barker/Foster
98-Aston Martin Racing-Aston Martin Vantage V8-Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda

FIA WEC reveals restructured TV commentary team

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One of Audi’s flagship drivers, Allan McNish and veteran TV hosts Martin Haven and Toby Moody join Louise Beckett and Graham Goodwin as part of the restructured television commentary team for the FIA World Endurance Championship, ahead of its 2017 season.

McNish retired from active driving at the end of the 2013 season and the two-time Le Mans winner and 2013 WEC LMP1 champion with Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval has remained an ambassador for Audi in the years since. He’ll be at six of the eight WEC rounds this season (Le Mans considered separately, although under the WEC umbrella).

Moody has been a familiar voice for his bike coverage and in the U.S., for Red Bull Global Rallycross broadcasts on NBC Sports. He’ll be on for the 6 Hours of Silverstone, the 6 Hours of Nürburgring and the 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Haven is well known to sports car fans and will be on for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, 6 Hours of Mexico, 6 Hours of COTA, 6 Hours of Fuji and 6 Hours of Shanghai.

Beckett continues in the pits and paddock with DailySportscar editor Goodwin also back as part of the team; he’s been the lead analyst alongside John Hindhaugh the last couple years.

Hindhaugh won’t be on the TV side, instead having announced earlier this week on his own he’d be focusing on Radio Show Limited’s audio productions for WEC shows. Le Mans is treated as a separate entity from a broadcast and production side compared to the rest of the WEC season.

Renowned for his radio calls, Hindhaugh will be in his true area of passion throughout this season, as he also is Stateside for IMSA Radio’s coverage of IMSA championships. RSL has also recently announced it will broadcast VLN coverage this season (more here via DailySportscar).

“Thankfully the busy endurance racing schedule has only a couple of clashes so that means that for most of the WEC events I will be joining the established team providing live commentary for RSL radio,” Hindhaugh said in a release.

“For the WEC events I’m covering for the RSL radio service, we’ll be adding live audio coverage of qualifying to the regular full race broadcast.”

In the WEC release, series CEO Gerard Neveu thanked Hindhaugh for what he’s brought to the TV side the last couple years while also looking forward to the new arrivals to this year’s broadcast team.

“We believe that one of the reasons for the WEC’s current success in today’s motorsport world is that we try not to rest on our laurels; we are always looking to innovate and re-energize the championship in every area.

“John Hindhaugh, who has been our lead commentator until now, has decided to return to his first love of radio commentary, and we want to thank him for the great job he has done, and for his contribution to the championship. We are sure we will have an opportunity to work together again in the future but, for this year, we are very enthusiastic about our new broadcast team and the season ahead.”

The WEC season kicks off with the Prologue test next week in Monza before the season itself starts April 16 at Silverstone.

Lauda cites ‘unfinished business’ in WEC after 2016 title loss

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Aston Martin Racing driver Mathias Lauda says he has “unfinished business” in the FIA World Endurance Championship after missing out on the GTE Am title in 2016.

Alongside Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana, Lauda won five WEC races last year in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, but the trio could only finish third in the standings for both GTE Am championships.

Retirements in Mexico, Bahrain and – most crucially – the double-points race at Le Mans meant Lauda and co. missed out on the title, with the No. 83 AF Corse entry comprising Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas was able to clinch both crowns.

After also missing out on any WEC title in 2015, Lauda says he has a score to settle ahead of the start of the new endurance season at Silverstone on April 16.

“In WEC, it’s a lot about Le Mans. You need to finish because it’s double points,” Lauda told the official WEC website.

“This was the turning point where we lost the championship, because if you don’t finish Le Mans, you lose 50 points.

“At the end of the day, it was a great year. We had so many wins but we were just a bit unlucky by not finishing three races and couldn’t seal the title, which was really disappointing.

“We have unfinished business. This year, our full focus is on being really consistent, we will give everything not to do any mistakes and full focus to finish all the races.”

Lauda, Lamy and Dalla Lana will team up once again in 2017, racing in a five-car full-season GTE Am class.

Alex Lynn adds WEC program with G-Drive to busy 2017 duties

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Alex Lynn has added a full-season FIA World Endurance Championship program to his busy 2017 schedule after being announced as G-Drive Racing’s third driver in the LMP2 class.

After winning the GP3 Series title in 2014, Lynn spent two years in GP2 and worked with Williams Formula 1 as its development driver before shifting his focus at the end of last year.

Lynn made three starts for Manor in the WEC in 2016, as well as vying for a full-season Formula E seat with Jaguar. Despite missing out, he did land a reserve role in the all-electric series with DS Virgin Racing.

Lynn also sealed a deal to race at Sebring and Petit Le Mans in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Wayne Taylor Racing, and is set to appear at this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours with BMW’s factory team as well.

Lynn told NBC Sports over the Buenos Aires Formula E weekend that he wanted a WEC drive and to appear at Le Mans in 2017, and has now got his wish after being confirmed in a seat with G-Drive.

The British driver will join Roman Rusinov and Pierre Thiriet in the No. 26 ORECA 07 car, completing G-Drive’s line-up for the new season.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Lynn told Sportscar365. “[It’s] a great car, great engineers, great drivers. We’ve got a strong chance at hopefully every race we turn up to.

“I’m very excited. I’ve got so many cool races this year, I feel very lucky, and I’m just super excited. I’m enjoying my racing so much this year, and I just fell really happy to be honest.”

Lynn will make his IMSA debut this weekend in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R alongside Ricky and Jordan Taylor, with the trio being forced out of part of the practice running due to an issue.

27 cars confirmed for WEC Prologue at Monza

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Officials from the FIA World Endurance Championship have released a 27-car entry list for the two day pre-season Prologue at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on April 1-2.

Prior to the start of the new WEC season at Silverstone on April 16, drivers and teams will get a chance to take part in the collective test at Monza, one of the fastest circuits in Europe.

Following the publication of the full season and Le Mans entry lists last month, the WEC and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) have now issued the roster for Monza.

All but one car confirmed to be racing full-time in the WEC this year will feature at Monza, the exception being the second CEFC Manor TRS Racing entry.

While there are a few blanks to be filled in on the driver front, two notable exceptions are Toyota drivers Sebastien Buemi and Jose Maria Lopez. Both will be at Monza for the launch of the 2017-spec TS050 Hybrid car on March 31 before dashing to Mexico for the Formula E race on April 1.

Curiously, DS Virgin Formula E driver Sam Bird does feature on the entry list in the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE alongside teammate Davide Rigon.

You can see the entry list in full here.