The summer break is normally a time for rest and recuperation, but not this year. Even though the first race of the new 2019/2020 season takes place on the weekend of 30 August, teams have travelled to Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona for the FIA WEC’s Prologue test.
The new hypercar regulations are just around the corner, and this season marks the swansong for the LMP1 formula. Perhaps expectedly, the number of competitors in the top class has shrunk with many other teams concentrating on their preparations for the new 2020/2021 cars.
Only five LMP1 machines have been entered for the season curtain-raiser, the 4 Hours of Silverstone. Besides the two works Toyota (TS050 Hybrid), only newcomers Team LNT will be entering a pair of cars in the form of their Ginetta G60-LT-P1s. Rebellion Racing will enter one car in the new season, while SMP Racing have withdrawn their programme completely.
Question marks remain in terms of the driver line-ups in the top class of racing. Toyota are expected to compete in largely unchanged form this season, with Fernando Alonso the sole departure and a more than adequate replacement having already been found in the shape of Brendont Hartley. Rebellion Racing have lost Neel Jani and André Lotterer to Porsche’s Formula E project, and it remains to be seen which drivers the Swiss outfit will opt for. Team LNT’s driving team also remains a closely guarded secret.
Reduced field in GTE Pro too
The other FIA World Championship as part of the WEC has also suffered a number of losses for the 2019/2020 season: both BMW and Ford have ended their works programmes and withdrawn from the championship.
Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche remain, each with two GTE cars. There are not many new additions to the driver line-ups, with the sole TBA next to the #71 AF Corse Ferrari. WEC stalwart Sam Bird will be focusing on his Formula E efforts this season, leaving a seat open alongside Davide Rigon.
Porsche unveiled their 2019/2020 challenger earlier this summer. The Porsche 911 RSR – 19 is a development on the marque’s GTE machinery with improved aero, a larger engine and greater efficiency.
Fresh blood in LMP2 and GTE Am
With participation in the pro classes somewhat ailing, the LMP2 and GTE Am are experiencing a boom in competition. Eight LMP2 cars will be on the grid at Silverstone, including newcomers from the likes of United Autosport (UK), High Class Racing (Denmark), Cool Racing (Switzerland) and Cetilar Racing (Italy).
Jackie Chan DC Racing has split from its established partner Jota Sport, who will competing under the Jota banner once again. Both Jackie Chan DC Racing and Jota Sport will each be entering one Oreca 07 chassis.
All seats in the LMP2 category have already been taken. Notable changes include last year’s DragonSpeed trio of Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado and Anthony Davidson all moving to Jota Sport, and Toyota development driver Thomas Laurent forming part of the defending champions Signatech Alpine Elf’s driver line-up.
It’s a record-breaking eleven-car field in GTE Am, with AF Corse returning to the fray with two cars and reigning champions Team Project 1 upping their commitment with an additional Porsche 911 RSR – 18. Red River Sport from the UK and their Ferrari 488 GTE EVO is a brand-new addition to the FIA WEC paddock.
The Aston Martin teams will be able to enter the new Vantage in GTE Am, as cars in this class have to be one year old. The same applies to the Ferrari 488 GTE EVO.
You can find the complete entry list for the 4 hours of Silverstone here.
Images © WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk)