Le Mans double points makes big impact on FIA WEC standings

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It’s not something you think about until long after the 24 Hours of Le Mans is over, but it is something you note:

It’s the first and only double points round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season.

Therefore, results are magnified quite a bit.

Obviously, without any additional Le Mans-only entrants, the LMP1 category had its nine full-season cars finish in the nine positions in class. But if a car isn’t classified – as was the case for the No. 5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid after its power loss cost it the win on Sunday – it means there’s no points scored.

Championship leaders Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb of Porsche provisionally extend their lead in the World Endurance Driver’s Championship to 39 points following their win (95-54). Second is Audi’s trio of Loic Duval, Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis, with Toyota’s now leading trio of Kamui Kobayashi, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway just one point back of them.

The leading LMP1 privateer entry, the No. 13 Rebellion R-One AER trio of Dominik Kraihamer, Alexandre Imperatori and Matheo Tuscher, gained no points and remain stuck on 30 points, fifth in the standings. They’re tied with LMP2’s leading trio, Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Richelmi and Gustavo Menezes, who won their second straight FIA WEC race in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan.

Nightmare starts for the No. 1 Porsche and No. 5 Toyota crews leaves those squads with just 3.5 and 1 point, respectively. Even though it’s only three races into a six-race season, the No. 1 car trio of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley face a near impossible hill to climb if they are to defend their title.

In the World Endurance Manufacturer’s Championship, Porsche leads Audi and Toyota, 127-95-79.

Rebellion Racing’s No. 12 trio of Nelson Piquet Jr., Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost actually leads the LMP1 Private Teams’ Drivers Trophy, having finished at Le Mans while the other two cars in class did not. It sees them 36 points clear (86-50) of the No. 13 crew, even though in the World Endurance Driver’s Championship points, they’re five back (30-25).

The Signatech Alpine trio’s lead in LMP2 driver points for the FIA Endurance Trophy is 23 points over Rene Rast and Roman Rusinov, who’ve been in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05 Nissan for all three races. The car switched drivers from Nathanael Berthon to Will Stevens at Le Mans. The RGR Sport by Morand trio (Bruno Senna, Filipe Albuquerque, Ricardo Gonzalez) sit third (87-64-53).

A Ford trio leads the points in the World Endurance Cup for GT drivers, and it’s the trio that was first of the FIA WEC full-season runners in fourth in GTE-Pro on Sunday.

Olivier Pla, Stefan Muecke and Billy Johnson – the last of whom is only confirmed through Le Mans at the moment – gained the maximum 50 points with the result and have now springboarded to the top of the GT driver points with the result.

The trio of the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT are eight points clear of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon of AF Corse, who won the opening two FIA WEC races in GTE-Pro in the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE. Aston Martin Racing’s “Dane Train” car, even though Darren Turner is English and therefore only an “honorary Dane,” sits third, a further point back with No. 95 car co-drivers and actual Danes Marco Sorenson and Nicki Thiim.

Ranked fifth in these standings are the top GTE-Am drivers, Emmanuel Collard, Rui Aguas and Francois Perrodo, who finished second in GTE-Am on Sunday in their No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia. But like the No. 66 Ford, they were top of their class behind the non-FIA WEC-entered winning car from Scuderia Corsa.

They gain maximum points towards the FIA Endurance Trophy for GTE Am drivers, and like the LMP1 leaders have a 30-odd point lead over second place. Collard, Aguas and Perrodo have 93 points to the 55 scored by Abu Dhabi Proton Racing’s pairing of David Heinemeier Hansson and Khaled Al Qubaisi. Patrick Long missed the Silverstone season opener, otherwise he’d be on level footing.

Aston Martin Racing has now moved into the lead of the World Endurance Cup for GT Manufacturers. Aston Martin has 112 points to Ferrari’s 103; Ford has 98, and Porsche has 60.

The FIA WEC now heads into its usual summer break, off until the Nürburgring on July 24, for a resumption of the series’ usual six-hour races. It’s still a significantly shorter break than in previous years; the Nürburgring race was in August last year and before that, there were several months until Circuit of The Americas.

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing

As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”


James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”