The fourth round of the 2016 WEC series kicks off this weekend with the 6 Hours of Nürburgring, boasting a full field of 33 cars. Set in the beautiful Eifel Mountains, the Nürburgring is both daunting and heroic, demanding precision and concentration from the drivers. Thursday saw torrential showers, and more is forecast for today (Friday).
This year, the teams have had a real mixed time, with Audi being disqualified in the first race, and then Toyota’s car failing in the penultimate lap of the Le Mans race. Leading the LMP1 championship coming into this race, Porsche is in top spot but this means that the other two manufacturers will be gunning for the Stuttgart team in the 6 hours of Nürburgring. In the WEC, three aero configurations per season are allowed to be homologated, and to date Porsche has tried two of these. They started the season with the first spec, the second one was for low drag on the long straights of Le Mans, and now, with narrower circuits coming up, a higher downforce level is required which will see the third aero package being deployed.
Toyota have of course shown, in no uncertain terms, that they have got the pace and the potential to beat both Porsche and Audi. Having led a good deal of the Spa race, and most of the Le Mans race, Toyota will be more eager than ever to make amends. Toyota too will have their new high downforce aero package in action, and with this weekend’s race just an hour’s drive away from the team base in Cologne, they will be keen to put the Le Mans memories behind them.
On the team news front, Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer in the number 7 will not be joined by their teammate Benoît Tréluyer, as he was injured in a cycling accident in late June. But the trio in car number 8, Lucas di Grassi/Loïc Duval/Oliver Jarvis, travel to Audi’s ‘home race’ in second spot in the championship.
With the first three races of the year behind us, the scores in LMP1 manufacturer rankings looks as follows: Porsche (127 pts), Audi (95 pts), Toyota (79 pts). In the GTE manufacturer’s PRO class, the order is: Ford #66 (60 pts), Ferrari #71 (52 pts), Aston Martin #95 (51 pts). In the LMP2 class, Signatech Alpine is out in front with 87 points, with G-Drive Racing in second place with 66 points and RGR Sport by Morand with 56 points. The top of the GTE AM table is occupied by AF Corse (number 83 Ferrari 458), who are way ahead with 93 points. In second place is Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing (number 88 Porsche RSR) with 55 points, with Larbre Competition (number 50 Corvette C7-Z06) a point back on 54 points.
It is to be expected that the driver’s table would follow the manufacturer’s table: Porsche’s Lieb, Jani and Dumas on 94 points, Audi’s Duval, Di Grassi and Jarvis on 55 points, with Toyota’s Kobayashi, Conway and Sarrazin on 54 points. With Ford having won their class at Le Mans, the GTE PRO driver’s standings are as follows: Ford’s Johnson, Pla and Mücke on 60 points, Ferrari’s Rigon and Bird on 52 points, with Aston Martin’s Turner, Sorensen and Thiim on 51 points.
Following today’s FP1, Porsche set the pace in LMP1 with the #2 car just ahead of the #1 car, followed by the #7 and #8 Audis and the #5 and #6 Toyotas. In the GTE PRO class, Ford are playing the waiting game as the two cars are languishing down in fifth and sixth place, with the #51 Ferrari and #97 Aston Martin occupying the top two spots. In the LMP2 class, the #26 G-Drive car heads the class with the #44 Manor team car in second. The #98 Aston Martin heads the GTE AM class with the #50 Corvette in second place.
With only the FP1 behind us, it is of course way too early to read anything into the time sheets, but at least the cars have been out and they will begin to settle in with two more free practice sessions before qualifying tomorrow afternoon. It is all too easy to become complacent midseason, but these races are often where the championship can be won or lost. So book your seat for Sunday afternoon…and enjoy!
The programme for this weekend is as follows:
Free Practice 1 Fri 22nd July 12h00
Free Practice 2 Fri 22nd July 16h30
Free Practice 3 Sat 23rd July 09h15
Qualifying LMGTE Sat 23rd July 14h15
Qualifying LMP Sat 23rd July 14h45
Race Sun 24th July 13h00-19h00
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: John Mountney