FIA World Endurance Championship

Getty Images

Toyota ‘sad and disappointed’ by Porsche’s LMP1 exit

Leave a comment

Toyota president Akio Toyoda says he is “sad and disappointed” that Porsche will be ending its LMP1 program at the end of the year, leaving the Japanese marque as the sole manufacturer in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s premier class.

Porsche announced early on Friday that it would be pulling the plug on its LMP1 operation following this year’s season finale in Bahrain, switching focus to Formula E, where it will race from 2019.

Toyota and Porsche have battled for top honors in the WEC since 2014, leaving Toyoda with a heavy heart after hearing the news.

“I felt that it was very unfortunate when I heard that Porsche decided to withdraw from the LMP1 category of the WEC racing series,” Toyoda said in a statement.

“At last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race, we were honored that Porsche considered Toyota as a rival. It was a great battle as we fought against each other for victory.

“Looking towards this year’s series, we aimed to rise to and even surpass Porsche’s challenge. Those thoughts drove us to work harder and put forth our best efforts in realizing new technologies and skills.

“At this year’s Le Mans, I again had the opportunity to meet and talk with Dr. Porsche. He told me that, much like us, his company participates in motorsport to enhance its production cars. As a carmaker that has been doing such for a very long time, Porsche deserves a great deal of respect.

“I feel very sad and disappointed that we will no longer be able to pit our technologies against such a company on the same battleground next year.

“However, the fight is not yet over. We will continue to battle with all our strength in the remaining five races of this year.

“Let’s make it an amazing competition that will remain in the hearts of the teams as well as of the fans.

“I am full of gratitude to Porsche, but I will save my thanks for when the season is over. At that time, I wonder which of us will be congratulating the other.

“Let’s look forward to that moment as we continue to fight. To everyone at Porsche, we’ll see you on the track!”

Porsche announces LMP1 withdrawal from FIA WEC

Getty Images
2 Comments

Porsche has announced its withdrawal from the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class, the top class, a year earlier than its current contract called it to.

The move comes after a high-profile meeting in Germany to evaluate the effectiveness of Porsche’s top-tier LMP1 program to the overall Porsche brand.

Additionally, Porsche has confirmed its entry into the FIA Formula E Championship from season six, starting in 2019.

This aligns with the company’s new electric direction focus for its product line, Porsche Strategy 2025, which will see Porsche develop a combination of pure GT vehicles and fully electric sports cars, such as the first fully electric Porsche model, based upon the Mission E concept car.

Porsche released the following statement today about the end of its LMP1 tenure:

“Building up the Le Mans team from scratch was a huge challenge. Over the years, we have developed an incredibly successful and professional team. This will be our basis going forward. I am certain that we will maintain our high level in Formula E. Confidence is high, and we are excited to get started,” said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President in charge of LMP1.

Porsche said it plans to keep the LMP1 team intact, including its factory drivers, elsewhere within the framework of the company. Additionally, the new mid-engined 911 RSR will continue in the GT ranks; the new car won its first race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Dirk Werner and Patrick Pilet at Lime Rock Park this past week.

The Porsche 919 Hybrid won the last three 24 Hours of Le Mans overall, taking its overall win total to a Le Mans record 19 wins. It’s also won the last two FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 championships, with Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley in 2015 and with Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb last year.

The move leaves the FIA WEC’s marquee LMP1 class in a difficult position from 2018 and beyond, as Porsche joins fellow VAG brand Audi as a second manufacturer to withdraw from the top class in as many years.

Toyota is left as the single manufacturer, its contract good through 2019. But while LMP1 privateer has witnessed several announcements of new programs, how many actually materialize beyond the press releases into cars on the grid remains to be seen.

Despite the excitement over manufacturers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Daytona Prototype international (DPi) formula, the DPis paired with the 2017-spec LMP2 cars in IMSA’s Prototype class, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest would need to allow DPis to race at Le Mans if they are to make an appearance in Europe. Right now, the cars are ineligible.

The GTE-Pro ranks will be bolstered with BMW’s arrival with the new M8 GTE, joining the existing four manufacturers there, and that will likely emerge as the series’ marquee class.

FIA WEC: Porsche opens Nurburgring weekend with practice sweep

Photo: Porsche
Leave a comment

Porsche Team premieres its new high downforce aero package this weekend at the resumption of the FIA World Endurance Championship season, with the 6 Hours of Nürburgring Round 4 of the 2017 season. And it’s also premiered at the top of the timesheets in the pair of practice sessions.

The No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid led both the morning and afternoon sessions, improving from a best time of 1:41.612 in the first session down to 1:38.663 in the second, for the car driven by the 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning trio of Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley.

All three have been bullish heading into the weekend, the Kiwi pair of Bamber and Hartley thankful to have Bernhard’s lifetime of success at the Nürburgring alongside them.

“I am very excited about racing the new high downforce package for the first time,” Bamber said heading into the weekend. “We come off Le Mans with good momentum and our priority is to push for the manufacturers’ championship. If we can secure that, we want the drivers’ title as well. I have some experience on the Nordschleife but not so much on the Grand Prix circuit. But I like it and can’t wait to take the 919 Hybrid round there for the first time.”

Hartley added, “It’s been a crazy but good couple of weeks after Le Mans and the result has just about sunk in. We have since tested our high downforce kit and the focus now moves on to the remaining World Championship races. We have won the Nürburgring race for the last two years and Earl and I are lucky to have ‘Mr. Nürburgring’ himself as a teammate. Everyone at Porsche has been working hard to get the new aero kit ready for the Nürburgring race. A victory on home soil would be the icing on the cake after Le Mans. I’m looking forward to another big fight!”

Bernhard won here in 2015 and 2016 with Hartley and Mark Webber, and in both years the Nürburgring win launched them into a several-race win streak. It was four consecutive races in 2015 and three last year.

The No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, featuring Sebastien Buemi on WEC duty instead of Formula E at New York City with Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, could only get within 1.11 seconds in second practice.

The TDS-run No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson (practice one) ended fastest of the day in LMP2 with another of the New York City Formula E substitutes, Ben Hanley in for Alex Lynn, joining Roman Rusinov and Pierre Thiriet to top the charts in this class. The best time here was a 1:47.188. Vaillante Rebellion’s No. 31 Oreca, Filipe Albuquerque deputizing for Nico Prost alongside Bruno Senna and Julien Canal, led the second session at a slower 1:47.717.

Portuguese driver Albuquerque adds the Oreca to the Ligier JS P217 he races with United Autosports in ELMS and the Dallara P217 baseline chassis to the Cadillac DPi-V.R as now having driven three of the four 2017 homologated LMP2 spec chassis this season.

Porsche topped GTE-Pro for the day with the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR of Richard Lietz and Fred Makowiecki at a 1:56.244 in second practice. But with the fastest of all four manufacturers within 0.721 of a second, the debut of the new automated Balance of Performance system has at its first day delivered a decently close result.

In GTE-Am it was Spirit of Race on top with its No. 54 Ferrari 488 GTE, Miguel Molina back here after a one-off AF Corse run at Le Mans. The best time here was a 1:57.592.

Qualifying runs tomorrow with the race Sunday.

RESULTS: FP1, FP2

FIA WEC and Formula E: Driver movement flow chart

Buemi's weekend destination is the hot-button topic of the FE/WEC conflict. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

This weekend’s pair of conflicting FIA rounds, the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Nürburgring and the FIA Formula E Championship New York City ePrix, mean there’s a bit of driver movement.

My colleague Luke Smith broke down who goes where and the respective reasonings a couple weeks ago.

Here in simplified form are a pair of tables that show who was in what car at the most recent round, and who takes over this weekend as the two race events clash this weekend. Bold type indicates a driver change for this weekend.

FIA WEC 6 HOURS OF NÜRBURGRING

# Class Team Le Mans Nürburgring
7 LMP1 Toyota Gazoo Racing Conway/Kobayashi/Sarrazin Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez
13 LMP2 Vaillante Rebellion Beche/DHH/Piquet Beche/DHH/Derani
31 LMP2 Vaillante Rebellion Senna/Canal/Prost Senna/Canal/Albuquerque
24 LMP2 CEFC Manor TRS Racing Graves/Hirschi/Vergne Graves/Hirschi/Merhi
26 LMP2 G-Drive Racing (TDS) Rusinov/Thiriet/Lynn Rusinov/Thiriet/Hanley
71 GTE-Pro AF Corse Rigon/Bird/Molina Rigon/Vilander

FIA FORMULA E NEW YORK CITY ePRIX

# Team Berlin New York City
9 Renault e.dams Buemi Gasly
37 DS Virgin Racing Lopez Lynn
2 DS Virgin Racing Bird Bird
3 NextEV Piquet Piquet
8 Renault e.dams Prost Prost
25 Techeetah Vergne Vergne
33 Techeetah Sarrazin Sarrazin

Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.