Getting ready for the new season of WEC

Sunday, August 25, 2019

With just a handful of days now before the opening sequences of track action ahead of next weekends opening round of the World Endurance Championship, we look ahead to what promises to be yet another exciting season of GTE racing at the highest level.

Back to its more traditional position as the opening venue of the WEC season, the Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire will see the FIA world championship start its eighth season of racing still in something of a transitional phase to what we have seen it of late with the top class of LMP1 cars entering their twilight year of racing ahead of the much anticipated hypercar regulations that should hit these new race cars hit the tracks for the first time next season. Aston Martin will be an integral player within these new regulations with the expected multiple factory and (possibly) customer entered Valkyrie race platforms.

In the meantime GTE racing continues to go from strength to strength - particularly in the Am class which helps to cover the loss of two OEM entrants this season after the withdrawal of both Ford and BMW after Le Mans this year.

Aston Martin Racing and its Partner team TF Sport of course make a return to the Championship with four 2019 specification AMR Vantage GTE's being entered between them - two in each class with the #95 and #97 factory cars aiming for the GTE Pro class title whilst the #98 and #90 (TF Sport) crews aim for that recently allusive GTE Am Class crown.

With such a short period of time since the conclusion of the previous season at the Le Mans 24Hr back in June and the start of the new season next weekend, there has been little time for any crew to undertake an extensive testing programme. Indeed, the Prodrive factory was hard pressed to get the required number of GTE chassis ready in time for the WEC Prologue test over in Barcelona last month with three new chassis being required - two for the GTE Am runners with that chassis now being eligible in that class and one to replace the chassis written off at Le Mans in June hence the reason for only two factory cars at the Prologue.

All four cars will arrive at Silverstone with a change in appearance as the three AMR factory supported cars evolving to a lime and green 'camo' livery whilst the TF Sport car swaps from blue to a vibrant red colour scheme.

Driver line ups have also been tweaked in a couple of the cars with both Pro cars remaining unchanged from their 2018-19 season line up with their (#95) Marco Sorensen/Nicki Thiim and (#97) Alex Lynn/Maxime Martin combinations but with Canadian businessman Paul Dalla Lana returning with his new #98 GTE Am car alongside AMR factory drivers Darren Turner and Ross Gunn. Whilst seeing Turner back in a full season entry is something of a surprise but always fully welcomed considering his vast degree of knowledge and experience, the rise of AMR Driver Academy winner and former British GT GT4 Champion Ross Gunn is a delight to see and just reward for all of his efforts with both the factory and customer teams since his transition to GT racing in 2015.

Meanwhile, the #90 TF Sport car of Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood return with AMR factory driver Jonny Adam again alongside - this time for the full 2019-20 season.

In GTE Pro, just six cars remain in the class after the departure of both Ford and BMW but scarily Porsche do arrive with a new variation of their already much dominant 911 RSR of last season whilst Ferrari will have to persevere with their somewhat maligned evo model of their 488. In GTE Am, another healthy grid of eleven cars will make for some very good racing with everyone knowing that each mistake on and off track being another potential reason why that will not be enough for them to secure the Championship such is the quality of the Am class these days. Like the GTE class above, the Am class will be made of solely of AMR's, Porsches and Ferrari's with the German and Italian powerhouses each outnumbering the Aston's 2:1.

TF Sport last week completed a two day test with their new GTE where both Yoloc and Eastwood got their first mileage in around the Portimao Circuit in Portugal then on Friday last week, all three AMR cars and most of their drivers were at Snetterton undertaking simple pre-event shakedown test and crew training sessions before they all make the short journey to Silverstone in the early part of next week.

The Championship has itself also changed as the season has now fully evolved to a winter based Championship after the extended 'SuperSeason' of last year with both race distance and calendar position changing to what we see before us this year 2019-20.

Silverstone has now become a four hour race rather than its traditional six (clearly an emotive subject amongst many of the UK fan base) before the Championship literally ships out to the Far East for the next rounds at Fuji, Shanghai and Bahrain before the years end. In the New Year its' a Championship return to Sao Paulo in Brazil before then heading north for another 1000miles of Sebring in March. The WEC circus then returns to Europe in time for the six hours of Spa Francorchamps in late April with the season finale again at the Le Mans 24hr in mid June.

The questions over the identity of the third driver required within each of the GTE Pro cars for the 'longer' races at Bahrain, Sebring and Le Mans remain as yet unquantified by the team but with Messrs. Adam, Turner and Gunn already 'busy' within another full season WEC entry we do expect these to be faces new.

Track action from Silverstone for the WEC runners will commence just before midday (local) on Friday with the first of two ninety minute Free Practice Sessions before a third sixty minute session on Saturday morning. Qualifying will start for the GTE classes later at 10:55am (local) with the start of the four hours of Silverstone at midday (local) on Sunday.

Photo credits - Adrenal Media / AMR / TF Sport

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes