2017 Season Preview: LMGTE-Pro

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The mouth-water­ing bat­tle in GTE Pro con­tin­ues for anoth­er sea­son with a straight-up bat­tle between four two-car fac­to­ry (or at least fac­to­ry-blessed) squads. One of the main bug­bears of the 2016 sea­son, the num­ber of BoP adjust­ments over the course of the sea­son, has been resolved with the addi­tion of an “auto­mat­ic” BoP sys­tem, based on a com­put­er algo­rithm built around a delta lap time.

Tyres have also played a major role in the GTE Pro cham­pi­onship over the past cou­ple of years, and the Michelin/Dunlop split con­tin­ues in 2017. Fer­rari, Porsche and Ford will all run Miche­lins, while Aston Mar­tin have stuck with the tai­lored Dun­lop tyre that took them to the dri­vers’ and teams’ titles last year. The num­ber of avail­able tyres has been reduced for 2017, with teams only allowed three sets in free prac­tice and four in the race, plus two sets as spares.

This sea­son also offers the added bonus of an offi­cial FIA World Cham­pi­onship for GT Man­u­fac­tur­ers, which should add an extra edge to the title fight.

AF Corse

Fer­rari 488 GTE

#51 – James Cal­a­do, Alessan­dro Pier Gui­di, Lucas di Gras­si (Le Mans only)
#71 – Davide Rigon, Sam Bird, Miguel Moli­na (Le Mans only)

Ferrari’s qua­si-fac­to­ry GT squad run by Ama­to Fer­rari based in Pia­cen­za are back for anoth­er tilt at the GTE man­u­fac­tur­ers’ title it has won in four of the FIA WEC’s five sea­sons. A poor show­ing at Le Mans, with both cars retir­ing before Sun­day morn­ing will have been tem­pered by the cham­pi­onship win in the FIA Endurance Cup for GT Man­u­fac­tur­ers, but AF Corse will sure­ly want to put on a bet­ter show­ing against the fac­to­ry Fords at Le Mans in 2017.

Fer­rari stal­wart Gian­maria Bruni’s shock depar­ture to Porsche has left a great void at the AF Corse, with fre­quent stand-in dri­ver Alessan­dro Pier Gui­di giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to step up to the main squad. Davide Rigon and Sam Bird reprise their suc­cess­ful 2016 part­ner­ship, and will be joined by for­mer Audi DTM dri­ver Miguel Moli­na for Le Mans. Anoth­er for­mer Audi dri­ver, Lucas di Gras­si, will join James Cal­a­do and Per Gui­di in the #51 machine.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK

Ford GT

#66 – Ste­fan Mücke, Olivi­er Pla, Bil­ly John­son (select­ed races)
#67 – Andy Pri­aulx, Har­ry Tinck­nell, Luis Felipe Derani (select­ed races)

Ford’s return to GT rac­ing as a works team last year was clear­ly all about Le Mans. Bal­ance of per­for­mance may have played a (some­what con­tro­ver­sial) role, but in real­i­ty the Ford GT was built for one pur­pose and one pur­pose only: to win Le Mans. Ford didn’t quite achieve the clean sweep of the podi­um they had per­haps hoped for, with the Fer­rari 488 of Risi Com­pe­tizione some­what crash­ing the par­ty, so that may be the aim for 2017.

The only change to the dri­ver line-up is the addi­tion of Luis Felipe Derani in the #67. The Brazil­ian made a name for him­self last sea­son with some stel­lar dri­ves at Day­tona and Sebring and joins the #67 crew along­side Andy Pri­auxl and Har­ry Tinck­nell, but like­ly only for the first three rounds of the sea­son at Sil­ver­stone, Spa and Le Mans.

Porsche GT Team

Porsche 911 RSR

#91 – Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makowiec­ki
#92 – Michael Chris­tensen, Kévin Estre

Porsche are back from their one-year GTE Pro sab­bat­i­cal with a full two-car works entry under the new Porsche GT Team ban­ner. The brand-new 911 RSR (2017) sees the engine move for­wards from the rear to the mid­dle of the car, ahead of the rear axle.

It’s a break in tra­di­tion that may upset the purists, but the changes have allowed Porsche greater scope in terms of aero­dy­nam­ics to put the car on a lev­el with the tur­bocharged, mid-engined Fords, Fer­raris and Aston Mar­tins. Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiec­ki will part­ner up for the #91 car, while Michael Chris­tensen is joined by French­man Kévin Estre in the #92 machine.

Aston Martin Racing

Aston Mar­tin Van­tage

#95 – Nicky Thi­im, Mar­co Sørensen, Richie Stan­away (select­ed races only)
#97 – Dar­ren Turn­er, John­ny Adam, Daniel Ser­ra (select­ed races only)

Aston Mar­tin Rac­ing enjoyed a suc­cess­ful 2016, with Nicky Thi­im and Mar­co Sørensen win­ning the dri­vers’ and teams’ titles for the British mar­que. It’s a step in the right direc­tion, with the ulti­mate aim being a Le Mans vic­to­ry (AMR’s last came back in 2009) and the GT man­u­fac­tur­ers’ title (which they have nev­er won in the WEC era).

Danes Nicky Thi­im and Mar­co Sørensen con­tin­ue their suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship in the #95 car, with Dar­ren Turn­er and John­ny Adam set to take the helm in the #97 machine. Famil­iar face Richie Stan­away will join the Dan­ish crew for Le Mans and select­ed oth­er races, while 33-year-old Brazil­ian Daniel Ser­ra, whose dri­ving exploits have large­ly been con­fined to GT and stock car cham­pi­onship in his home­land, will be the third mem­ber of the #97 crew for select­ed races.