2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season review
The 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season ended up in the similar fashion as the previous season, with Porsche Team taking both Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ titles. Instead of reigning champions in the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, the championship winning crew was in the #2 car – Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas.
Four crews clinched victories in the nine-round championship season. The 2015 champions Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brandon Hartley won four times (Nürburgring, Mexico, COTA, Shanghai), most of all crews, but bad results in first three rounds of the championship prevented them from being higher than fourth at the end of the season. The #6 Toyota crew (Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi) finished third in the points, winning one race (Fuji). Oliver Jarvis, Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval in the #8 Audi scored two wins (Spa and Bahrain) to finish second in the points.
Two wins for the championship-winning crew
The title-winning trio had an extra successful start of the season, with a victory at Silverstone (after post-race exclusion of the #7 Audi), second place at Spa and dramatic victory at Le Mans (after a technical fault of leading #5 Toyota). Later in the season, the #2 Porsche didn’t score any more wins or podiums, but consistency led the crew to the triumphant end of the season.
Le Mans finish would be one of the most memorable moments of 2016, because #5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson stopped on the last lap, handing a victory to #2 Porsche crew.
Audi is leaving WEC, Porsche without three champions
The season was also marked by significant announcements which would change the face of the championship in the future. Audi completely withdraws from the championship while Porsche would enter the next season without three champions.
Mark Webber became the brand’s ambassador, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas would have some other duties inside Porsche hierarchy. For Romain Dumas it was an unforgettable season because he won not only 24h Le Mans and FIA WEC title but also became the winner of the famous Pikes Peak International Hillclimb.
Signatech Alpine dominated in the LMP2 class
In the LMP2 class, the season was dominated by the Signatech Alpine squad in the #36 Alpine A460-Nissan. Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Richelmi and Gustavo Menezes clinched four class wins and added three more podiums to finish a season with a 33-point gap over RGR Sport by Morand. One of those wins was at Le Mans, where both Richelmi and Menezes was driving for the first time.
For the al-new Mexican squad, with Ricardo Gonzalez, Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque in the cockpit of the #43 Ligier JS P2 (Nissan), the highlight of the year was a victory in their home race at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Prior to that, they won the season-opening race at Silverstone.
Roman Rusinov and Alex Brundle were the winners of last three races (two with Will Stevens and one with Rene Rast) in the #26 G-Drive Racing’s Oreca 05 (Nissan), but it was enough for just a third place in the final standings.
Thiim and Sorensen are the best GT drivers
In the GT category, Ferrari took the Manufacturers’ title, for the first time with new Ferrari 488 GTE, but the best crew in the GTE Pro class was driving the Aston Martin Vantage GTE. Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen are the winners of the World Endurance Cup for GT drivers, after they scored two wins (COTA, Bahrain) and four more podiums in the #95 Vantage.
Six different crews were winning the races during 2016, with championship runner-ups Davide Rigon and Sam Bird (#71 AF Corse Ferrari) being double winners. At Le Mans, Ford marked its return to the famous endurance race with a victory for Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla and Billy Johnson in the #66 Ford GT.
Consistency for GTE Am class title
In the GTE Am class, the winners of the FIA Endurance Trophy are Rui Aguas, Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo. Their #83 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia was a victorious car two times (Silverstone, Le Mans) but crucial thing was a consistency because they added six more podiums on their account.
On the other hand, the #98 Aston Martin Vantage, driven by Mathias Lauda, Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana, was the fastest GTE Am car five times but three retirements ruined all that, so they finished third in the points. The #88 Porsche 911 RSR of Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing, driven by Khaled Al Qubaisi, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Patrick Long, reached the second place with two wins (Mexico, Bahrain).