The FIA World Endurance Championship brings its 2014 season to a close this weekend at Sao Paulo, with the Interlagos circuit serving as a spiritual end to the campaign. A few story lines to watch:
“Mr. Le Mans,” Tom Kristensen, hangs up his helmet after this weekend in Brazil. Kristensen’s pace, professionalism and persistence over the last two decades have brought so much success and so much admiration from those around the world. Audi’s the underdog on outright pace (rare are those words ever typed) heading into the weekend, but the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of TK, Loic Duval and Lucas di Grassi – a native Brazilian – must be considered the emotional favorite.
In the same race where 47-year-old Kristensen signs off, 67-year-old Emerson Fittipaldi – the Brazilian legend and two-time F1 World Champion – makes his competitive racing return in the No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia. He’ll share the GTE-Am entry with his pair of quick co-drivers in Alessandro Pier Guidi and Jeff Segal, and will no doubt be the media darling of the weekend even if the car is an unlikely win contender.
LMP2 TITLE BOUT
G-Drive Racing holds an eight point lead over SMP Racing’s Sergey Zlobin in LMP2 heading into the weekend. More here on the battle from Sportscar365; G-Drive should hold the upper hand given the points scenarios, but as was witnessed last race in Bahrain, nothing’s a certainty.
WEBBER’S RETURN; PORSCHE’S MAIDEN WIN?
The stars could well align for Porsche this weekend as it seeks its first LMP1 victory with the 919 Hybrid. The car’s shown much better pace in the second half of the season and been closer to Toyota than has Audi. Both the No. 14 or the No. 20 are podium contenders. Mark Webber returns to the site of one of his most successful F1 circuits, and along with Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard could well be the trio that delivers the 919 its first win.
TOYOTA, ASTON MARTIN SEEK TO EXTEND STREAKS
Toyota has already clinched the driver’s World Championship with Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi and is poised to capture the Manufacturer’s Championship this weekend. Meanwhile either that pairing in the No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid or the sister No. 7 of Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway looks to deliver Toyota’s fourth straight win, which would be a first for the Japanese marque in the WEC. In GTE-Am, Aston Martin has won the last five races and six of seven this season; a six-pack is possible with either its championship-winning No. 95 Young Driver-backed “Dane Train” entry or the sister No. 98.
THE TRACK ITSELF
Resurfaced since the last time FIA WEC ran there, and with F1 having been there earlier this month, drivers and teams will be greeted with the new, smoother racing surface. How well each team adjusts to that will likely determine the pace-setters.
It should be a great weekend of racing in Brazil, with the Six Hours of Sao Paulo to run on Sunday.