2015 FIA WEC season launches in London ahead of first race

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LONDON – Ahead of the opening race of the year at Silverstone in ten days’ time, the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship enjoyed its official season launch in central London on Thursday.

The series enters its fourth season in 2015 and boasts its most impressive grid to date, with Nissan joining Audi, Porsche and defending champions Toyota in the LMP1 class this year.

Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi will be hoping to defend their drivers’ title in 2015 after winning four races en route to Toyota’s first major honor in the FIA WEC last season, wrangling the championships away from Audi.

However, the jewel in the endurance racing crown – the 24 Hours of Le Mans – eluded Toyota as the Audi No. 2 car of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer emerged victorious at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

With Porsche also emerging towards the end of last season as contenders and then displaying an impressive pace at the pre-season prologue at Paul Ricard last week, the stage is set for another thrilling year of racing.

In London on Thursday, fans were able to get up close with some of the cars that will be racing in 2015 as AF Corse, Aston Martin Racing, Audi, Toyota and Nissan all parked runners outside the Marble Arch landmark.

Anthony Davidson, Mike Conway, Oliver Jarvis, Brendon Hartley, James Calado, Jonny Kane, Danny Watts and Darren Turner were also on hand to represent their teams before meeting with the media at the historic Royal Automobile Club on London’s Pall Mall.

Series CEO Gerard Neveu outlined his hopes for the new season of racing, underlining the fan-oriented focus that the WEC upholds.

“We have to say at the prologue last week at Le Castellet, it was a perfect indication of how we start the season now,” Neveu said. “The most impressive thing from this weekend is the quality of the paddock. One more time, the most fabulous things in this championship is the content of the championship: the cars are absolutely amazing, 345kph on the straight with a Porsche.

“The level of the drivers – we have probably the best driver line-up in motorsport. They do an incredible job and stay very humble and accessible. They share the whole weekend with more than 20,000 fans.”

The first taste fans will get of the WEC in 2015 will come at next weekend’s 6 Hours of Silverstone, and Neveu believes that the championship represents something of a good news story during difficult times.

“We are living in a very strange world,” Neveu said. “When we switch on the news, we discover some very bad story around the world.

“If you spend a weekend for the six-hour race. For sure, we will show the passion for motorsport, but you will also receive a breath of happiness, of performance, of honest and very nice people.

“Just come, enjoy, and it’ll be a really good weekend for all of us.”

The winner of the 6 Hours of Silverstone has gone on to win the FIA World Endurance Championship in each of the past three seasons, and Anthony Davidson firmly has his sights set on defending the RAC Tourist Trophy that is awarded to the winner of the race.

“2014 was a great year for everyone at Toyota Racing, beginning with the amazing feeling of lifting the Tourist Trophy at Silverstone,” the Briton said. “Now we are back to defend those Championship titles, starting once again at Silverstone next week, and the competition looks to be very close so it’s certainly going to be exciting to see who has the upper hand.

“I’ll be starting my home race with the number one on the car which is a great feeling; we will be fighting to keep that for next year. That, and winning Le Mans, are the big targets for this season. I am looking forward to getting on track in front of my home crowd at Silverstone in just over a week’s time. It’s going to be a great year.”

Toyota wil face a stiff challenge to retain its championships in 2015, with Porsche setting the pace during pre-season testing. As it proved at Le Mans last year, Audi is a force that can never be underestimated, whilst Nissan will also be keen to get up to speed straightaway upon its debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Behind the four-way fight in the LMP1 class, the GTE-Pro championship is also set to be closely contested as Aston Martin, Porsche and Ferrari go head-to-head once again. AF Corse’s Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander will be gunning to defend their GT drivers’ championship, but will face a season-long fight once again. Outside of the manufacturer classes, LMP2 and GTE-Am will also provide a highly competitive standard of racing once again.

The series will hit American shores on September 19 for the 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The race forms part of the Lone Star Le Mans weekend at the COTA as WEC goes back-to-back with the Tudor United Sportscar Championship.

It may only be entering its fourth season, but the WEC is set to continue to go from strength to strength in 2015 with some of the most competitive, exciting and enthralling racing in global motorsport.

2015 FIA WORLD ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP – Calendar

1. 6 Hours of Silverstone – April 12
2. 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – May 2
3. 24 Hours of Le Mans – June 13-14
4. 6 Hours of Nurburgring – August 30
5. 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas – September 19
6. 6 Hours of Fuji – October 11
7. 6 Hours of Shanghai – November 1
8. 6 Hours of Bahrain – November 21