Along with announcements for the European Le Mans Series and for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA World Endurance Championship had its full season grid revealed for the coming season, with a noticeable reduction in entries compared to 2016.
The car count of 28 isn't just a reflex of the end of Audi's LMP1 program, but also of other teams moving to other competitions, like Strakka Racing, and others simply vanishing from sight, like Larbre Competition, which is only known to be aligning its Corvette C7.R GTE for Le Mans.
The LMGTE-AM class suffered heavy losses compared to 2016, as out were Larbre Competition, KCMG and Abu Dhabi Racing, and with Clearwater Racing and Spirit of Race joining, we have 5 cars in the class, as Aston Martin keep the Vantage V8 of Paul Dalla Lana while Porsche is represented by Gulf Racing and the remaining Proton Competition entry, run with Dempsey Racing.
The LMGTE-PRO class sees almost no changes in the grid, with 8 cars as Ferrari, Aston Martin and Ford bring two cars each with updated version of their current models, while Porsche retakes its position as a factory team after a single year hiatus to focus on development of the new 911 RSR model, now more suited to the new LMGTE regulations, with their pair of cars also in the field.
10 cars are featured in the LMP2 class, or may we say, “ORECA Supercup”, as there isn't any car outside the ORECA 07 model in the field. Jackie Chan DC Racing parted ways with Signatech Alpine and is now allied with Jota Sport, fielding two cars, with the same number being valid for their former partners. Talking about break ups, Jota Sport's former partner G-Drive Racing continues in the game but now partnered with TDS Racing, fielding one car over the G-Drive banner with the other being the TDS one.
Rebellion Racing is still relying in ORECA but stepped down from the LMP1 class as the new regulations for non-hybrid cars came too late, coming with two cars, and Manor completes the grid coming back with a pair of cars.
The LMP1 class may feel the hit from losing Audi, which was practically the identity of the class in the last decade, and Rebellion Racing, which was a loyal representative on the privateer side, but the 5 entries there will keep things going this year ahead of a possible influx of privateer entries in 2018.
Toyota and Porsche will come with updated versions of the TS050 Hybrid and 919 Hybrid, making it a four-way battle right from the start, while ByKolles will bring a single renewed CLM P1/01, trying to take advantage of the new technical regulations as well of the Nissan engine used in their LMP1 cars in 2015, replacing their AER units. Along with the updates, driver lineup shakeups may play a factor in the game, as Andre Lotterer is now a Porsche driver, José Maria Lopez was brought to Toyota and Robert Kubica joins ByKolles.
The full 28 car grid is listed below:
The action starts on April 16th at Silverstone.
PHOTO: Automobile Club de l'Ouest