Friday, 25 May 2018

LMP3: Four manufacturers announced for next gen LMP3 cars

Since it's introduction in 2015, the LMP3 class has been a huge succes story with over 150 cars that have been built up to today. The goal of the LMP3 series waswas to facilitate access to the discipline with affordable cars and enable drivers and teams to progress to gain a footing on the endurance ladder. French talent Thomas Laurent is has excelled in this, moving from LMP3 in 2016 to LMP1 in 2018. 

The main objective for the next generation of LMP3 cars remains the same; to act as a springboard to attain the pinnacle of the ACO Endurance pyramid.  From the first 5 cars in the opening race of the 2015 European Le Mans Series, now LMP3 cars can be seen in a dozen different series, all over the globe. Among them are the European Le Mans Series, Asian Le Mans Series, Michelin Le Mans Cup, Road to Le Mans, LMP3 British Cup, V de V, lMSA Prototype Challenge, Gulf 12 Hours and the FRD LMP3 Series.

When LMP3 was introduced back in 2015, a precise set of specifications were submitted to the candidate manufacturers. For the second generation from 2020 to 2024, selection has focused on cost control, driver-friendly operation, modernisation, guaranteed service to the teams and closer competitiveness between the various models. Four manufacturers have been chosen: Onroak Automotive - Ligier, Duqueine Automotive - Norma, Ginetta and Adess.

The future LMP3s will be based on existing cars equipped with a kit chiefly designed to improve engine power and driver safety in the cockpit, while leaving room for some body modifications. The cost of a new car and the kit will be published shortly. The future of LMP3 begins today. The future of endurance too.

Compared to the selected manufacturers for the first generation LMP3's, Ave/Riley and Dome aren't selected anymore.  Ave/Riley only managed to get one car to race in the IMSA Prototype Challenge, the Dome never made it any further than the drawing board.  For Ginetta it's a bit of a return to the series, as they stopped production ... after some hick-ups with Oreca in the past. 

Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: “To ensure continuity, we needed to form solid foundations and build up a talent pool of new drivers with a feeder series that enables novices to take their first steps in endurance, and gain race experience without breaking the bank. LMP3 seemed an obvious solution. And it has proved to be a sound decision.”

Friday, 18 May 2018

Spa Classic: An exciting weekend of classic car racing in the Ardennes

It's been tradition now for a few years that in the middle of May, Peter Auto strikes down at Spa-Francorchamps for the annual Spa-Classic weekend. An event reviving the glorious legacy of racing at the Belgian track with a stunning amount of legendary racing cars returning to the iconic circuit. 

Spa-Francorchamps is one the last remaining real driver-tracks, shaped by its environment and surrounded by the stunning scenery of the Belgian Ardennes.  A track with a rich history; back in the old days with the mythical Masta kink, outrageous speeds on public roads, the banking on the way to Stavelot (it's still there, waiting for you to drive over it) to the most known and feared corners in the world: Eau Rouge & Raidillon and the tantalizing high speed section of Blanchimont. 

The Spa-Classic, created in 2011, has now grown to one of the major European events for historic cars, attracting some very impressive starting grids in 8 different classes over the weekend.  It brings back some of the most legendary endurance GT cars and Prototypes that have raced over the track in its most glorious era's. 

With open paddocks all weekend, free grandstand acces, an exhibitor's village and several attractions, the Spa Classic is just  another event not to miss for the real petrolhead.  The weather forecast seems rather nice too, so no excuse not to drop by for a day or the weekend if you're near the Ardennes. 

In this preview we'll give you a rundown of all 8 grids who will race at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend; from the 2.0L Porsches over Classic Endurance Racing and the mighty Group C monsters.

Classic Endurance Racing

The biggest grid over the weekend will be the Classic Endurance Racing which is celebrates its 15th season.  Since 2004 Classic Endurance Racing has been the retrospective of endurance races held between 1966 and 1981, an epoch when this branch of the sport topped the bill in world motor racing. It was the glorious era of the Ford GT40s, Porsche 910s and 917s, Ferraris 512Ss and Ms, BMW M1s, etc. driven by Jacky Ickx, Henri Pescarolo Gérard Larrousse and Derek Bell among others, whose playing fields were not limited to the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours. 

They also raced on the most famous European circuits in the context of the Sports Car World Championship. Classic Endurance Racing is much more than a simple historic commemoration. With grids of 50 cars and drivers determined to pay homage to the glorious past of their vehicles, the on-track spectacle is quite simply awesome!  The field will be split into two: CER 1 for GT cars from 1966 to 1974 & prototypes from 1966/1971 and CER2 for GT cars from 1975 to 1981 and prototypes from 1972 ot 1981. 

Watch out for these cars in their night qualifying (Friday) and night races on Saturday. 

Group C Racing

Group C Racing is probably the grid where most endurance fans are looking forward to again this year.  With a mouthwathering grid of 33 cars, this will be one of the highlights of this year's Spa-Classic. The Group C regulations in force between 1982 and 1993 led to the production of legendary cars that wrote some of the most glorious pages in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Sports Car World Endurance Championship.

The Group Cs are still quite modern looking with their fighter pilot-like cockpits, doors in elytron and their huge rear wings, and they still exert an incredible fascination on all generations of fans with performances that still would be very competitive and top speeds way north of 300 km/h! 2 Peugeot 905, 5 Jaguars from the XJR 8 to the XJR14, Porsche's 956 and 962, they will all be thundering through the Ardennes again.  Add a mix of Nissan, Spice, Tiga, March and other Group C machinery and we're sure this will be three great 45 minute sessions over the weekend. 

Heritage Touring Cup 

The Heritage Touring Cup has formed the backbone of the Spa-Classic endurance event since 2013. Since then the Heritage Touring Cup has gone from strength to strength among the owners and drivers of these saloons, which provided excitement in the one of the biggest era's of the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) between 1966 and 1984. The pinnacle of the season was the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours that became the favourite playing field of the majority of the best-known manufacturers and drivers. 

During this long era of touring car racing, a number of manufacturers won the event with their flagship makes. BMW was one of the most loyal participants as over three decades the Bavarian manufacturer entered a whole string of models ranging from the T1800 Ti in the 60s to the famous M3 in the 90s. It holds the record for the number of victories (21) in the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours. The cars from Munich had several rivals over their long reign with Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz, Ford Mustangs and Capri RSs, Porsche 911s, Jaguar XJSs ... 

The Heritage Touring Cup will be out 5 times on track this weekend, including a night practice and night race of 1 hour. 

Sixties Endurance Racing

Sixties' Endurance racing is in it's ninth season in 2018 and has attracted a large following among spectators over the years thanks to its allencompassing quality field. Top pre-63 sports cars are joined with pre-66 GTs that used to race in the world endurance championship of the era. On track will be cars like the AC Cobra, Ferrari 250 GT, Lotus 15, Jaguar E-Type, etc. 

A very diversified grid gives will be out for a 2 1 hour races on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.   During these hour long races the pre-66 sports and GT cars revive the battles of that bygone era. A classification based on an Index of Performance which, in addition to the scratch classification, gives an advantage to the small capacity cars and the oldest warriors faced with their more powerful and more modern rivals like the very quick AC Cobras that have racked up victories on many circuits. 

Formula 2 challenge

The Formula 2 Challenge has been created by Peter Auto for the 2017 season and is open to Formula 2 cars that forged the reputation of the European Championship between 1967 and 1978. At the time F2 was considered as the key to the door of Formula 1, and over a decade it trained drivers who left their mark on the history of motor racing. Between 1967 and 1978 the champions were: Jacky Ickx, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Clay Regazzoni, Ronnie Peterson, Mike Hailwood, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Patrick Depailler, Jacques Laffite, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, René Arnoux and Bruno Giacomelli. The grid at Spa will see several March chassis, Lotus, Chevron and Ralt. 

The Greatest Trophy

The Greatest Trophy, formerly known as the Trofeo Nastro Rosso is now open to more than just Italian built cars. By accepting beautiful models built by other famous makes  like the Aston Martin DB4 GT, Mercedes-Benz 300 S and Porsche 550, the trophy is even more attractive. In 2018 it will be open to the exceptional cars that marked the major endurance events of the 50s and 60s. 

A grid full of some extremely rare and valuable cars applies rules based on sporting ethics and strict respect of the cars taking part in this championship to guarantee that risks are reduced to the absolute minimum. Respect and fair-play are now the key words for these gentlemen racers who are taking part in the new Greatest’s Trophy.  

2.0L Cup

After the creation of Euro F2 Classic in 2017 and the takeover of Group C Racing in 2016, Peter Auto is continuing to enlarge and develop its grid offer in historic racing by introducing The 2.0L Cup in 2018. This single-make grid will be reserved for 2-litre short chassis early Porsche 911s prepared in accordance with FIA pre-66 regulations. 

The 2.0L Cup has been created in association with Britons Lee Maxted-Page (Porsche Classic & Racing specialist) and James Turner (Director of the 2L Racing Group). It is expected to attract around 40 cars and the aim is to see the make’s former drivers at the wheel of some of these.

Global Endurance Legends

There's one guest grid this year at Spa-Francorchamps: the Global Endurance Legends.  Global Endurance Legends is a club for owners of GT and sports prototype racing cars of a type that raced during the 1990s and 2000s and organises events at leading historic meetings and iconic circuits.  Expect some very exciting cars on track with a selection of the best and fastest GT's and Prototypes from the era. You can expect everything from and Aston Martin DBR 9, Mercedes CLK GTR, Porsche GT1, Lister Storm, Audi R8, Dallara SP1 to a Ferrari 333SP and a Pescarolo P60.  Rumours are going round that a Bentley Speed 8 might be in Francorchamps this weekend ... that car alone is worth the trip ! 

Clubs and open paddocks

Meeting up at Spa-Classic has become a habit for the clubs that are joined by owners of individual cars. This is an honour for the organisers among whose objectives is to bring together at one of the world’s iconic circuits all sports car lovers.  After around 1200 cars at the previous event, this year’s aim is to attract even more collector cars. They will have seven 25-minute runs during the weekend to enable them to enjoy and take full advantage of the famous track. 

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

ELMS: G-Drive takes victory in an eventful 4 Hours of Monza

G-Drive Racing took victory last Sunday in the #26 Gibson powered Oreca 07 making it two weekends with two race wins after the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and three in a row for Jean-Eric Vergne who won the Formula-e race in Paris three weekends ago. 

In an eventful race strewn with accidents and what was certainly questionable driving standards, the Russian backed car (which also won last weekend at Spa, the first round of the World Endurance Championship’s Super-Season) took today’s win at the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Monza.

The #33 TDS Racing Oreca 07, which started the race at the back of the LMP2 pack after having Matthieu Vaxiviere’s qualifying times cancelled when tape found on the car in post-session scrutineering was deemed a technical infringement, took advantage of the multiple safety car periods to work back to the head of the pack and claim second place. French team IDEC Sport completed an Oreca 07 clean sweep of the podium with Paul Loup Chatin, Paul Lafargue, and Memo Rojas bringing the #28 car home for third place. 

The Safety Car was called into action four times along with various Full Course Yellow periods in what was certainly the most eventful of races. Somewhat unusually for Monza all of the pack made it through variante Retifillio unscathed, thanks no doubt to Race Director Eduardo Freitas mandating two warm-up laps to ensure that the cars brakes and tyres were up to temperature. However, soon after that, mayhem started. 

The #19 YMR Norma of David Droux was hit on the first lap causing a rear puncture and damage to the legality panel that would plague the car for the rest of the race. Soon after the #39 Graff Racing Oreca hit the tyre wall at Lesmo 2 so hard it nearly launched over the top bringing out the Safety Car whilst the barriers and tyres were repaired. Luckily Alexandre Cougnaud emerged from the wrecked car unscathed.

With the barriers repaired and 3h 24 minutes to go the SC came in and green flag racing recommenced ….. for a while! The battle for the lead was between the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca and, showing certain pace following the ‘Joker’ updates this year, the two United Autosports Ligier JSP2s, #22 and #32 with the #49 High Class Racing Dallara snapping at the leading trio’s heels. 

As this battle raged, Enzo Guibbert planted his #40 G-Drive backed Oreca firmly into tyre wall at entry of Ascari, ending the race for the TDS run car. As the SC was again deployed while the mess was cleared up we saw a bunch of cars dive into the pits including the #19 YMR Norma for it’s third visit, still suffering problems with the legality panel. With so many cars on the grid (43), there was eschewing chaos as cars jostled for position and mechanics pushed and manhandled them about to get the vehicles lined up to leave!

While the chaos in the pits was underway, Christian Olsen somehow managed to smash his #7 ECURIE ECOSSE NIELSEN Ligier LMP3 into the barriers under the Safety Car causing extensive damage to the front; he did however continue to drive it, somewhat recklessly, back to the pits where the team managed to get a new front fitted and get the car back into the race, albeit some laps down. 

After the first hour’s ‘racing’ the #26 G-Drive had dropped back and the leading three cars were the #29 Duqueine Engineering Oreca followed by the Dallaras of AVF By Andrian Valles (#30) and the #47 of local team Cetilar Villorba Corse. 

As the race went back to green again there was contact between the #17 Ultimate and #20 Racing for Poland Ligiers. Mondini in the #11 Eurointernational was fighting hard with Sean Rayhall in the #2 United Autosports LMP3 for second position while Terrence Woodward held the lead position in the #6 360 Racing Ligier. Henrik Hedman in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca earned himself a drive through penalty following an accident with the #18 YMR Ligier leding to its retirement and a thoroughly miserable weekend for the French team. 

Next ‘off the track’ was the #8 DKR Norma M30 which needed to be towed off to the pits to retire bringing out another FCY then SC while the #88 Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR dived into the puts with damage following contact with the (freshly repaired) #20 Racing for Poland Ligier. 

By half distance Andrea Pizzitola’s G-Drive Oreca lead the DUQUEINE ENGINEERING car of Nelson Panciatici in LMP2, Sean Rayhall was leading the P3 class from Kay van Bierlo in the #11 Eurointernational and in GTE, Aaron Scott in the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari was ahead of Marc Lieb in the #77 Porsche. 

The race continued until a big shunt at Lesmo 2 involving various P3 cars and the #66 JMW Ferrari brought out the fourth safety car of the race – due to some possible miscommunication, both of the United Autosports P2 Ligiers passed the safety car and then had to wait just before Parabolica to be collected, slotting in neatly behind the Jaguar Safety Car as it passed.

One lap later, with 1h 38 to go the race again went green, however Harisson Newey jumped the restart in the #31 Algarve Pro Rebellion Racing car earning himself a penalty. Phil Hanson in the #22 United Autosports Ligier was putting up a great fight against Andrea Pizzitola in the #26 Oreca but eventually succumbed and handed the lead to the Italian two laps later.

At the final scheduled round of pitstops, the #26 G-Drive Racing car retained its lead with Filipe Albuquerque still pushing hard in the #22 Ligier behind. Matthieu Vaxivière continued to work his way up from last to third position. 

With 45 minutes to go Albuquerque had to pit handing third to Vaxivière, Falb led Kay Van Berlo in the P3 class with Cameron leading GTE in the #55 Ferrari. The leading G-Drive car then dived into the pits for a splash and rejoined in third. 

As the chequered flag fell, Jean Eric Vergne brought home the G-Drive car just under 30 seconds ahead of Matthieu Vaxivière who’d battled his #33 TDS Racing Oreca all the way to the head of the pack. 

In the LMP3 category, the #11 Eurointernational Ligier JSP3 driven by Giorgio Mondini and Kay Van Berlo took first place after late race drama for the John Falb in the #2 United Autosports Ligier who saw a certain win vanish when a puncture forced the American for an extra pitstop with just eight minutes to go. The #6 360 Racing Ligier JSP3 driven by Terrence Woodward and Ross Kaiser came home second, some four seconds behind the leaders.  A strong effort from the team as James Swift was excluded from the race. Martin Hippe in the #13 Inter Europol Ligier seemed to be on his way to the podium, but almost ran out of fuel in the penultimate lap and had to come in for a splash & dash.  The final podium position in the LMP3 class went to the #3 United Autosports Ligier shared by Anthony Wells, Garret Grist and Matt Bell.

In GTE the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE of Matt Griffin, Duncan Cameron, and Aaron Scott took home the win after leading their class for a majority of the race. The #77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR of  Christian Ried, Marvin Dienst and Marc Lieb finished the race in second with the #80 Porsche of Ebimotors rounding out the GTE podium.

Race Results

Text: John Stevens/Kristof Vermeulen
Pictures: JellyBaby.Media