With the first World Endurance Championship race of the season in the books, part III of our beginner’s guide will be focussing on what fans can expect over the remainder of what promises to be one of the most exciting WEC seasons since its re-establishment.
The first round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Silverstone was just the first of a total of eight rounds in the 2015 season. Next up, the teams will make the short hop to Belgium to the formidable Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Spa is traditionally seen as a warm-up for the Le Mans 24 Hours, with some of the factory teams such as Audi and Porsche choosing to run additional cars.
Following the six-hour blast through the Ardennes, teams will make their way to the Pays de la Loire region in Western France in preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours, round three, on 13th June. To enable teams to gather precious data on the temporary Le Mans track, a special Test Day is set to be held on 31 May, consisting of two four-hour sessions. This test session also gives rookie drivers a chance to complete the mandatory ten laps around the Circuit de la Sarthe before they are able to race.
At 3:00pm on Saturday 13th June, the French tricolore will drop on a 56-car field for the gruelling race of speed and endurance. Round three of the WEC will also mark the competitive debuts of a number of 2015 teams, including the Rebellion R-One LMP1s and the works Nissan GT-R LM NISMO team.
The WEC then takes something of a summer break, before the teams and drivers descend on the famous Nürburgring circuit in Germany for a six-hour race around the GP circuit. The Six Hours of the Nürburgring marks the season’s final European race, before the cars are jetted around the world to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, Fuji in Japan, Shanghai and finally Bahrain.
As mentioned above, the on-track début of Nissan’s revolutionary new LMP1 racer at Le Mans Test Day will be one of the highlights of the season. Three cars are set to run at Le Mans, with the team then continuing with a standard two-car entry for the remainder of the season. Also look out for the new Rebellion R-Ones, and their new AER engines, at Le Mans. The larger grid at the Circuit de la Sarthe also means that the WEC competitors will also be joined by two thundering Corvette C7Rs as well as a Dodge Viper in the GTE-Am class.
The Six Hours of Silverstone treated fans to a wealth of breathtaking wheel-to-wheel battles both at the front of the field and further down the order. Expect this to continue throughout the season. Many teams’ focus in the run-up to Le Mans is firmly on the big 24-hour race, so take Toyota’s apparent lack of ultimate pace with a pinch of salt. Teams, especially in LMP1, are known to experiment with low-drag Le Mans set-ups at Silverstone and Spa, despite the tracks not being entirely suited to such components.
Porsche’s step up to 8 megajoules of hybrid recovery seems to have given them the edge in terms of top speed, but could we see Nissan go even faster with its front-engined monster? Once again, Audi proved to be the kings of strategy at Silverstone and they look to be back on form for the 2015 season following a disappointing 2014 beyond the Le Mans victory.
In LMP2, ESM are set to switch to a Ligier closed coupé for Spa from the open-top HPD they ran at Silverstone to a surprise third place (before being disqualified). G-Drive racing look strong at round one, but last season the title race went down to the wire and expect KCMG and Strakka Racing to push on in their new cars as the season progresses.
The bumper-to-bumper racing in GTE will certainly not let up either, with each track playing to the strengths of one particular team. Last year it was Ferrari and AF Corse who took the spoils at Le Mans and ultimately the drivers and constructors title – but look out for the challenge of Aston Martin Racing, Porsche Team Manthey and the Corvettes at Le Mans.
If you have missed a part you can read the whole guide here.
Image Source: WEC-Magazin