WEC Preview Part 3: GTE Pro & Am.

As with the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship, the FIA World Endurance Championship features a number of new contenders in the GTE ranks in 2016. Whilst the FIA WEC in 2016 doesn’t feature the same level as variety as the American series in terms of the number of different car models on the grid. The new 2016 GTE regulations have successfully brought Ford on to the grid whilst Porsche will be represented with customer rather than factory teams in 2016.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK – The highlight announcement of the winter was that Ford are entering two of the 2016 Ford GT GTE cars in the full season of the FIA World Endurance Championship whilst also entering two cars in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar championship, with a combined four-car effort at Le Mans. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing have seen the debut of the Ford GT in the US IMSA series with the cars competing in the Rolex24 and the Sebring 12 Hours to date. Overall the early races for the 3.5l Twin Turbo V6 Ecoboost Ford GT entrants haven’t gone too well.

The cars suffered multiple issues and suffered several small incidents on track, however progress was apparent between Daytona and Sebring and it is a new programme so in time I fully expect them to be competitive. I just wouldn’t expect a Ford GT WEC class victory in the early part of the season. The team owner is Chip Ganassi, hence running under the Chip Ganassi Racing banner entrant, although the WEC entrants are run out of the UK base near Banbury in Oxfordshire. Multimatic’s George Howard-Chappell is the team principal.

The teams drivers in the FIA WEC are American Billy Johnson who has recently raced for Ford in the IMSA Continental Sports Car Championship in the USA. Stefan Mucke moves across from Aston Martin Racing to Ford for the 2016 season. The pair are joined by Olivier Pla who moves from the now defunct Nissan LMP1 programme to GTE PRO for his 2016 campaign. The sister car is driven by Marino Franchitti. Three Times World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx and multiple LMP2 race winner Harry Tincknell.

AF Corse – Switching from the highly Ferrari 458 GT2 to the 3.5l Twin Turbo V8 Ferrari 488 GTE in the GTE PRO, whilst retaining the older Ferrari 458 GT2 for use in the GTE AM championship in 2016. The GT3 specification 488 has already claimed a pole position and a class win the USA, a feat drivers of the GTE spec of the car have yet to accomplish. The driver lineup in WEC in GTE PRO is Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado in the #51 whilst Davide Rigon and Sam Bird drive the #71. Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas meanwhile pilot the Ferrari 458 in the GTE Am class.

Aston Martin Racing – Continuing in 2016 with an upgraded Aston Martin Vantage GTE. The cars feature a major aerodynamic change from the 2015 480HP V8 Vantage to be made legal for the 2016 regulations. This is particularly evident on the Aston Martin Vantages by the protruding diffuser out the rear of the car. The teams driving talent is Nicky Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Darren Turner in the #95, whilst GP2 race winner Richie Stanaway joins Fernando Rees and Jonny Adam in car #97. In the teams GTE Am car is Paul Dalla Lana alongside racing veteran Pedro Lamy and the son of ‘the elderly F1 fan’ Mathias Lauda.

Porsche – The representation for Porsche in 2016 is somewhat different to the 2015 season. Porsche has abandoned its full season factory Porsche AG Team Manthey in the WEC’s GTE PRO class for 2016. However the 3.6l Flat Six 911 (991) RSR is still represented in the GTE PRO class by the Dempsey Proton Racing with a 2016 specification entered, driven by Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen. In the GTE am ranks, three customer Porsche 911 RSR’s are entered. The first of these is entered by former LMP2 team KCMG, driven by Christian Reid, Wolf Henzler and Joel Camathias. The second of these is the Abu Dhabi Proton entrant driven by Patrick Long, Kaled Al Qubaisi and David Heinemeier Hansson. The third of the 911 RSR’s in the GTE Am Ranks is run by the Gulf Racing UK squad with Adam Carroll, Ben Barker and Michael Wainwright.

Larbre Competition – The team in entering a singular 5.5l V8 Corvette C7.R in the 2016 FIA WEC season, piloted by Pierre Ragues, Paolo Ruberti and Yutaka Yamagishi. The team will be joined at the 24 Hours of Le Mans by the factory Corvette Racing team.

How to watch

The FIA WEC Six Hours of Silverstone is this Sunday. The race is available in the UK and Europe through MotorsTV and Eurosport whilst in the USA, it will be on the FOX Sports Family of channels. Alternatively the FIA WEC has a paid streaming service available through tablets, phones or PC. See the official FIA WEC website and your local listings for more details on coverage in your region.

Thank you for reading my 2016 preview.