FIA World Endurance Championship

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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.

Jean-Eric Vergne claims WEC seat with Manor for 2017

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Ex-Formula 1 driver and current Formula E racer Jean-Eric Vergne will make his debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship next month after signing a deal with Manor for 2017.

Vergne raced for Toro Rosso in F1 between 2012 and 2014 before spending two years in a reserve role at Ferrari.

The Frenchman moved into Formula E following his race stint in F1, driving for Andretti and DS Virgin before joining Techeetah for season three and taking a stake in the team.

Vergne will balance his Formula E duties with a drive in the WEC this year, announcing on Friday that he would be linking up with the CEFC Manor TRS Racing team.

Vergne will make his debut for Manor at the 6 Hours of Silverstone on April 16 ahead of a nine-round season that will also see him make his first appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

“I’m extremely happy to join CEFC Manor TRS Racing for the WEC season,” Vergne said.

“Endurance racing and especially the 24 Hours of Le Mans is something that has been more and more on my mind lately. I couldn’t ask for more than to start this experience with such a great team.

“I can’t wait to be behind the wheel and bring my motivation to the team to achieve great results together!”

“We are very happy to welcome Jean-Eric to the team. He is a very talented driver that we have followed over the years as we have raced alongside him in Formula 1,” Manor sporting director Graeme Lowdon added.

“We are really looking forward to starting the season and working together with Jean-Éric and I hope that, together, we will have a really successful year.”

Vergne is the fifth driver to join Manor’s two-car effort for the 2017 WEC campaign, taking a seat alongside Tor Graves, Jonathan Hirschi, Roberto Gonzalez and Simon Trummer.

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.

Porsche confirms Kevin Estre in final GTE Pro WEC full-season seat

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Porsche has confirmed that Kevin Estre will join its full-season line-up in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s GTE Pro class.

Porsche’s factory effort returns to GT competition in the WEC this year after a season away, with a mid-engined 911 RSR set to battle with rivals Ford, Ferrari and Aston Martin for GTE Pro class honors.

Porsche confirmed at its Night of Champions event that 2015 champions Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz would be joined by Frederic Makowiecki for 2017, with the fourth full-season seat left open.

Ferrari factory driver Gianmaria Bruni had been in the running for the drive, only for the terms of his exit from Maranello to prevent him from joining Porsche until July.

As a result, Porsche factory driver Estre will take the fourth full-season WEC seat, as confirmed by the German marque on Thursday.

Lietz and Makowiecki will share the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR in 2017, with Estre racing alongside Christensen in the No. 92 entry.

“In the fight for the maiden GT World Championship title in the FIA WEC we’ve put together two strong driver pairings,” head of Porsche motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser said.

“And all four pilots come from the world’s best GT hotbed of talent, Porsche’s one-make race series.”

The new WEC season begins with the 6 Hours of Silverstone on April 16.

Aston Martin commits to WEC entry until 2021

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Aston Martin has confirmed that it will continue to have a presence in the FIA World Endurance Championship until 2021.

Aston Martin Racing has been a key pillar of the British marque’s identity since its formation in 2004 in partnership with Prodrive.

AMR won last year’s World Endurance Cup for GT drivers with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen in the No. 95 Vantage GTE entry.

During a busy day of announcements for Aston Martin at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland, it confirmed that it will continue to race in the WEC for a further five seasons, taking it to the end of 2021.

Aston Martin also confirmed in Geneva that it would be launching a new AMR brand for its production cars to strengthen the relationship between the track and the road.

“Each time we have pushed the boundaries and done something extreme, the customers have loved the cars,” Aston Martin EVP and chief creative officer Marek Reichman said.

“AMR enables us to take Aston Martin into a new dimension. One where we can turn-up the sporting DNA present in all of our models and make a true statement.

“An AMR model will have an instantly recognizable design language. One that accentuates and amplifies, together with the latest GT race car technology for the road. They will be special and rare cars that are credible, thrilling to drive and hugely desirable to own.”