Ford and Mexico join the FIA WEC party in 2016
The 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship will start on April 17th with 6-hour race at the Silverstone. The major novelties in the fifth season of the revived World Endurance Championship are the entrance of one more manufacturer and an additional race in the calendar.
Ford are joining the FIA WEC party with their brand-new Ford GT to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic victory at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans with Ford GT40 MkII. The party would be renamed to ‘fiesta’ on September 3rd when the 6 Hours of Mexico will be held at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Mexico is returning to WEC calendar after 25 years of absence.
Nissan’s team withdrew the competition but the brand remains the engine supplier
The FIA World Endurance Championship was re-established in 2012 and since then it became one of the most respected global motorsports series. Five manufacturers competed in the previous season through their factory or semi-factory teams (Porsche, Audi, Toyota, Aston Martin and Ferrari) and they will stay on the grid for the 2016 season. Nissan withdrew from competition, but the Japanese brand will be widely represented as an engine supplier for all teams in LMP2 class. Chevrolet again will be represented in the GTE Am with Larbre Competition’s Corvette.
Ford is coming back to celebrate the 1966 Le Mans victory
The top story is Ford’s comeback to the world stage. The car that will represent Ford will bear the same name that the 1966 Le Mans champion had – Ford GT40. It was just the first of four consecutive wins at Le Mans, which were remembered as the greatest period of the Ford’s motorsport history. In 2016, Ford is returning to Le Mans and World Championship with one goal – victory. It wouldn’t be an overall victory for sure because the current Ford GT is a GTE class car and it can reach the class win only.
Porsche, Audi, and Toyota – the top contenders for the title
It’s easy to predict that the overall winner of the 2016 Le Mans and the 2016 championship title will be the one of the latest hybrid LMP1 prototypes of Porsche, Audi or Toyota. All three manufacturers are returning to the grid with more powerful and more sophisticated state-of-the-art cars. The cars are upgraded versions of last year’s machines, with three totally different approaches in the engine compartment.
Toyota changed the engine of its prototype
Porsche 919 Hybrid is still using V4 2.0 turbo petrol engine while Audi still believes in diesel power and R18 will run again with V6 TDI 4.0 turbo diesel engine. Toyota Gazoo Racing (Toyota’s name for the current season) made a significant change and replaced the TS040 with TS050 Hybrid.
The previous V8 3.7 petrol engine is replaced with V6 2.4 bi-turbo petrol engine. Which approach will prove to be the best? We will find out after the last round of the championship in November.
Nine LMP1 prototypes on the grid
Audi took the championship titles in 2012 and 2013, Toyota triumphed in 2014 and Porsche was the dominant manufacturer in 2015, taking both the championship title and Le Mans victory. The defending champions Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard again will share the cockpit, this time with number 1 on their car.
All three teams are entering the championship with two cars, same as the best private LMP1 team Rebellion Racing, which will compete with AER-powered R-One. Ninth car in the LMP1 class will be the ByKolles Racing CLM P1/01.
Eight teams in the LMP2 class
In the LMP2 class, eight private teams will fight for the title, which was won last year by #26 crew of G-Drive Racing. Roman Rusinov will drive the #26 car again in 2016 but everything else about the team has changed. Ligier JSP2 prototype is replaced by Oreca 05 and Rusinov’s teammates are new – Nathanael Berthon and Rene Rast instead of Julien Canal and Sam Bird. Other LMP2 teams are Extreme Speed Motorsports, SMP Racing, Strakka Racing, RGR Sport by Morand, Manor, Signatech Alpine and Signatech’s sister team Baxi DC Racing Alpine.
13 GT cars ready for the full season
The full-season entry in the GTE Pro class features seven cars, from the four teams. AF Corse will run two Ferrari 488s, Aston Martin Racing will have two Vantages, Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK are entering the competition with two Ford GTs and Dempsey-Proton Racing will run one Porsche 911 RSR. In the GTE Am class eight cars are listed, six of them as full-season entries. The competitors are Larbre Competition (Chevrolet Corvette C7R), AF Corse (Ferrari 458 GT2), Aston Martin Racing (Vantage GTE) and three teams with Porsche 911 RSR cars (KCMG, Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing and Gulf Racing).
32 cars and well known rookies
In total, 32 cars in four categories are entering the full-season championship fight. Of course, the additional cars will appear in some races while the grid of the 2016 24h Le Mans race will have the traditional number of 55 cars, plus the special entry in the Garage 56.
Among almost hundred drivers listed for the championship, fifteen of them will be making their WEC debuts. Although they are rookies, many of them are well-known racers and multiple champions, such as three-time WTCC champ Andy Priaulx or Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr. The rookies with Formula One experience are Will Stevens, Roberto Merhi, and Vitaly Petrov.
Shortly after the season-opening race at Silverstone the second round will follow, on May 7th at Spa-Francorchamps. Le Mans 24-hour race is the third round, with scheduled start of the race on June 18th. Six more 6-hour races are on the calendar: Nurburgring (July 24th), Mexico (September 3rd), Circuit of the Americas (September 17th), Fuji (October 16th), Shanghai (November 6th) and Bahrain (November 19th).