WEC and Euro F3 kick off new season at Silverstone

Weekend Racing Wrap

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It was a bumper weekend for motorsport fans, with racing taking place almost anywhere you looked.

The 2015 World Endurance Championship got underway at Silverstone, with the number seven Audi R18 of Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer taking the first victory of the new season.

Supporting the WEC this weekend was the European Formula Three championship – the series Max Verstappen graduated from last year – with Felix Rosenqvist, George Russel and Charles Leclerc all victorious over the first three races of the season.

The Blancpain GT series saw 58 cars take the start in Monza and the race winning Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan provisionally excluded over concerns with the team’s refuelling restrictor.

In other single-seater action in Jerez, the opening races of Euroformula Open were won by Alessio Rovera and Konstantin Tereschenko.

In North America, a strange first race for the NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana saw James Hinchcliffe claim a surprise win in round two of the IndyCar Series, while Jimmie Johnson led a three car scrap across the line in NASCAR.

Finally, the new-for-2015 TCR series had its second round running as a support series to Formula One in Shanghai, with Gianni Morbidelli and Andrea Belicchi winning the two races.

World Endurance Championship

Round 1 – Silverstone

The opening round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship saw Audi take the honours in the Six Hours of Silverstone, with Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and last year’s Caterham deputee Andre Lotterer winning in the number seven car. The R18 beat the Porsche of Roman Dumas, Marc Lieb and Neel Jani by 4.6 seconds, while the defending champion Toyota driven by ex-F1 trio of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took third, just under 15 seconds behind.

Despite leading the opening hour from pole, the #17 Porsche that former F1 driver Mark Webber shares with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley suffered gearbox issues early in the event, forcing a retirement.

In the LMP2 class, G-Drive took the flag with Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal and Sam Bird, while the AF Corse Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander won the LMGT Pro class. Aston Martin continued their recent domination of the LMGT Am category with Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda – son of three-time Formula 1 champion Niki – claiming the top step on the podium.

Round two of the WEC takes place in May with the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

European Formula Three

Round 1 – Silverstone

Joining the WEC at Silverstone was the European Formula Three Championship. A damp first race was won by Felix Rosenqvist for Prema Powerteam, who took victory by only 0.938 seconds from another man with previous F3 experience, Antonio Giovinazzi for the Jagonya Ayam-backed Carlin satellite team. Briton Jake Dennis was third for Prema.

In race two, polesitter Charles Leclerc was beaten to the win by fellow rookie George Russell’s Carlin, while Leclerc finished second for Van Amersfoort – the team who ran Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen last season. Giovinazzi was third, while another highly rated rookie and Ferrari junior driver Lance Stroll took fourth. Race one winner Rosenqvist was demoted to 35th and last on the grid after a technical infringement in qualifying, but made a fantastic recovery drive to take seventh.

The final race was taken by another rookie, as Leclerc managed to retain his pole position advantage to win. Again Giovinazzi took to the podium with second, while Jake Dennis was again third. Round two of the championship will take place in Hockenheim on the support bill of the DTM in early May.

Video above is race one. To see races two and three, head over to Formula 3’s official YouTube channel.


Round 2 – Louisiana

After an electrical storm caused the cancellation of qualifying halfway through the session, the grid order was determined by championship positions, placing Juan Pablo Montoya on pole. However, in a rather farcical race dominated by incidents and caution periods, the race was eventually won by a strategy gamble as James Hinchcliffe made just the one stop on his way to victory – promptly running out of fuel on the cool-down lap.

From the moment Hinchcliffe took the lead on lap 33 just prior to a caution period, the race barely saw any more green flag racing with an incident seeming to occur as soon as a green flag flew, prompting another caution. Wet conditions at the start and the multiple incidents it caused meany the race only ran to 47 of the scheduled 75 laps after a 1 hour 45 minute time limit expired.

Much like the Chinese Grand Prix before it, the race ended under a caution period following a nasty accident involving Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastian Bourdais, in which the ex-F1 racer was very lucky to avoid a whack to the head.

Blancpain GT Series

Round 1 – Monza

An action-packed opener to the 2015 Blancpain GT Series saw 58 entrants battle it out over three hours in Monza. The new Lamborghini Huracan GT model dominated the race, but the winning cars were eventually excluded following a row over a refuelling restrictor. The race result is under appeal.

Euroformula Open

Round 1 – Jerez

The first race of the opening round of Euroformula Open 2015 took place in Jerez in mixed conditions, with some sections of the circuit wet and other sections bone dry. This caused a split in tyre choice, with some drivers opting for wets, and others slicks – which later proved the correct choice. Alessio Rovera overcame the difficult conditions – and a safety car period – to win race one.

Race two was considerably more straightforward as Konstantin Tereschenko – best known for his spectacular aerial incident at the Bus Stop chicane in GP3 last season – dominated from lights to flag, also taking the fastest lap and a bonus point with it, meaning he leaves Jerez as the championship leader.

Video above is race one. To see race two, head over to Euroformula Open’s official YouTube channel.


Round 7 – Fort Worth

The first of ten consecutive NASCAR races was won by Jimmie Johnson after an epic three-way fight for the win with Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The three drivers made a late race charge after the final caution, eventually locking out the podium.

TCR International Series

Round 2 – Shanghai

Round two of the TCR International Series took place in Shanghai as the championship followed the F1 circus to China. Race one saw pole sitter Gianni Morbidelli take the win in his Honda, followed home by West Coast team mates Rene Munnich and Kevin Gleason to make it an all-Honda Podium. Stefano Comini was best SEAT in fourth, five seconds off the pace, while Mikhail Grachev took the Audi TT to its best result so far of sixth.

Target Competition dominated race two, with Andrea Belicchi winning ahead of team mate Comini. Morbidelli made a great drive from the reverse grid to overtake multiple cars on his way to third. He was as high as second, before what seemed to be an electrical issue demoted him to fourth, before the fault resolved itself to allow the Italian to take third back from Craft Bamboo SEAT driver Pepe Oriola.

Morbidelli leads the championship by two points over Comini, with Belicchi third and Oriola fourth. The series heads to Europe for the first time in May for the next round at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia.

Video above is race one. To see race two, head over to TCR’s official YouTube channel.

Over to you

Next weekend we have round three of both IndyCar and the United SportsCar Championship from Long Beach while Japan’s Super Formula championship begins at Suzuka. NASCAR’s Sprint Cup rolls on to the manic short track at Bristol and there’s action from both the British and World Touring Car Championships, from Donington Park and Morocco respectively.

Perhaps most importantly, the Bahrain Grand Prix will also take place next weekend, as will the opening round of the 2015 GP2 season.

Will you be watching any of these races? And what did you watch last weekend? Have your say in the comments.

Thanks to @Mathers for contributing to this article.

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35 comments on “WEC and Euro F3 kick off new season at Silverstone”

  1. I can condense an excellent ten hours of endurance racing at Silverstone into the weekend into three statements:

    1) The WEC has shown an excellent understanding of the core fans’ desires by introducing Le Mans-style starts for each race and has never seemingly done anything to infringe on the the purity of the spectacle.

    2) Motorsport requires variety – would the Formula Ford-style duel between Fassler and Jani been possible without having vastly different packages? Since the WEC’s core appeal is its variety, by putting 1000bhp+ prototype monsters on the same racetrack as a V8 Ferrari that is nineteen seconds slower, is motorsport necessarily improved by homologation?

    3) F1 has no monopoly on driving brilliance. The weekend efforts of Neel Jani, Mark Webber, Sam Bird, Tristan Gommendy, James Calado and especially Andre Lotterer amount to as hearty a portion of driving skill as any Grand Prix. In Lotterer the WEC has, had he got his F1 chance, a likely F1 frontrunner.

    Are you listening, Bernie?

    1. I thoroughly enjoyed those 6 hrs as well, and I think there were less lulls in it (but probably there was plenty of action further in the field) than in most F1 races!

    2. So what you want is having GP2 meld together with F1 in MotoGP style?
      And obviously if the driver you have as an example was rejected for F1 then they truly have monopoly.

      1. @rethla – So Jaguar should have signed the sponsor-less Lotterer and duly accepted liquidation as Pizzonia’s cheque went elsewhere? Lotterer is a Formula BMW champion, Japanese Super Formula champion, double Japanese SuperGT champion, FIA WEC champion and triple Le Mans winner: be reasonable.

        As for variety, I am simply proud of the fact that F1 is not a spec series; something that Bernie would apparently like it to be in his pursuit of a “drivers championship”.

    3. @countrygent, on the topic of homologation – I don’t think you are aware that the ACO actually enforce quite strict engine and chassis homologation regulations on the LMP1 manufacturers.

      The regulations for the World Endurance Championship have been changed, so now manufacturers can only homologate one power train specification for an entire season. http://www.fia.com/news/world-motor-sport-council-2015-geneva

      In other words, whilst Audi, Toyota or Porsche could pick what powertrain they wanted before the season, they cannot make any modifications to their powertrains until 2016.

      Furthermore, they have also introduced engine usage restrictions – the regulations state that the LMP1 teams are only permitted to use five engines a season, although Nissan is being given a waiver to use seven. Tyre usage is also restricted now – six sets for a six hour race, plus four for practise and qualifying sessions.

      Speaking of homologation, the ACO evidently thinks it is a good thing given that they are driving forward with ever more homologation of the LMP2 class.
      They have stated that they want a universal engine for all LMP2 teams, standardisation of chassis performance and the elimination of over half of the LMP2 chassis suppliers, a single set tyre (with a complete ban on tyre development work) and standardised electronics.

      1. The ACO’s restrictions (which I aware of) are an active attempt to sustain the varied technological solutions to the regulations via homologation. Q.E.D. teams cannot do a technical U-turn when a more optimal solution arises in their rival’s packages. And whilst there restrictions so to ensure that the teams arrive with something resembling a Le Mans endurance racer, this comparison is relative. The fundamentals of a P1 H car are completely open to interpretation, resulting in varied drivetrains, powerunits, energy recovery systems and [albeit to a lesser extent] aerodynamics. By contrast a legal F1 car must be a 1.6 L V6 powered, RWD single seater, with a hybrid ERS system and a carbon fiber monocoque chassis that is 1.8 meters wide. And that is before we arrive at the aerodynamic, spatial and safety restrictions.

        You have misunderstood the ACO’s restrictions in LMP2. P2 homologation is an attempt to reduce costs for P2 teams so they are better able to pluck future platinum drivers from single seaters. LMP2 is meant as a stepping stone, and if homologation allows it better fulfills that function, it is a sensible move in my view.

    4. @countrygent is right, of all the racing I watched this weekend, the WEC seems to have things nailed down the best of all the series right now. It was literally stunning to watch at times and see the differences between classes.

      anon, you’re being extremely pedantic. countrygent was clearly talking about the diversity of technology which provided that incredible battle between Faessler and Jani about 2 hours into the race. Yes, there are still rules and the cars are homologated so they can control costs before they lose 20-25% of their field as we do in F1…but at least they get to make choices:
      – 2 wheel drive (front OR rear)
      – 4 wheel drive
      – 2, 4, 6 or 8 MJ hybrids
      – Batteries vs supercaps vs flywheels
      – diesel vs petrol

      And you can literally see the results of their choices on different parts of the track as they swap the lead on straights vs corners or in their fueling strategy. The racing is simply interesting to try and guess which choice will work better on each track and each weather condition.

      I love F1 and will always be a huge fan no matter how much I complain, but I’m finding that I enjoy the WEC races just as much or even more and I’m going to the COTA event this year and will probably go to Le Mans itself next year.

      The politics of F1 and especially Bernie: just a huge turnoff. The incredible inability to fix even the simplest and most obvious problems: stunning and disappointing at every turn. Listening to Bernie badmouth the sport and the noise of the engines: disgusting.

      1. Personally, I don’t think it is pedantic given that countrygent was talking about the impact of homologation.

        The way that he phrased his comment made it sound as if there was no form of homologation procedure at all, when in fact that isn’t the case, and the ACO’s plans for the future involve increasing the amount of homologated parts, not lessening them.

        As for losing outfits, Lola was bankrupted due to escalating costs and Dome have also said they will not enter the LMP1 category because it is still far too expensive, eliminating the customer base for privateer LMP1 teams.
        Outfits like Pescarolo, Courage and Zytek have all been driven out of the LMP1 category because they don’t fit into Neveu’s vision for a manufacturers driven category, even though it has shrunk the LMP1 class as a result (go back six or seven years and the LMP1 class could see upwards of 20 entrants for Le Mans – this year, that has now dropped to 14 entrants).

        The result is that the LMP1 category has actually lost about 25% of the entrants it once had due to the ACO pushing teams down into the LMP2 category – but because they are all privateers, it seems that nobody cares less for them.

        Yes, I cannot deny that I find the technology of the cars interesting and the racing good to watch, but at the same time it comes with the bitter knowledge that it is through the systematic and intentional destruction of the privateer base in sportscar racing.

  2. Felix Rosenqvist did an amazing job i F3. He started last in two of three heats and managed to pass 50+ cars in the thwo last races. Also I was really impressed by the racing in WEC, I will definitely keep following that series again

  3. I’m so disappointed I was busy this weekend. I had planned a whole day of motorsports, but then had to change them last minute. There was MotoGP, too, which is missing from the list here, and some other bike racing I think. Bumper weekend for motorsports fans all round!

    1. @drmouse

      I got up early (in Austin) and watched the F1 race, then I watched the WEC race, then headed to the track and watched the MotoGP race then came home and watched my DVR of the Indycar race in New Orleans…and I snuck in the Game of Thrones season premiere last night!

      It was a wild, but fun day!!!

  4. Sadly, F1 & Indycar were have to finish behind safety car.

  5. Brilliant round-up. I watched the F1 and WEC races, and enjoyed the 6 hours of Silverstone more than Shanghai!!

    The Blancpain endurance race looks good, not a series I’ve really followed but tens of Mclarens, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Mercedes, Ferraris, Audis etc looked fantastic bunched up at Monza going into the chicane.

    Also, what was all that green stuff they used for run-off at the Indy Car race? It looks totally different to the black/grey stuff they have on the run-off at most of the F1 tracks? ;)

    I notice Moto-GP was on as well at the weekend, but I’m missing out on that series these days because I don’t have BT Sports.

    1. What do you mean..?, I’m just seeing the grass field at NOLA

      1. @ernietheracefan I think it was sarcasm, hence the wink face. And the fact that F1 seems to have a lot of asphalt run-off which provides no real penalty if you go off somewhere in a turn whereas in Indy, it is evident that you are penalized by going off track.

    2. Not sure if you know but MotoGP do this novel internet thing called streaming and BT is the only option. I appreciate not everyone agrees with subscription based tv, and not everyone can still afford it as it still costs €99 for the season. But still offers another way of purchasing Motorsport which F1 doesn’t yet offer.

    3. It was incredible to see Marc Márquez this weekend. His qualifying effort was incredible as he had to park his primary bike with a problem and literally jumped a fence and ran to get his backup bike out and managed to just get out with 7 seconds to go for a flying lap…yet managed to destroy the track record with the wrong tire on his bike!

      We were on the main straight heading up into Turn 1 and everyone loved the show…very entertaining.

  6. I was lucky enough to attend the WEC event at Silverstone, and what a fantastic weekend it was. I know I talk an awful lot about how brilliant the WEC is, but man alive, they put on a good show. Not just the 6 hours itself, but also the incredible support package. There was rarely more than 10 minutes in between sessions during the weekend, with the European F3 championship and also the hugely underrated European Le Mans Series.

    The ELMS 4 Hours of Silverstone definitely deserves a mention. It featured a race-long battle between the top three cars, which culminated in a final-hour showdown, with GP2 winner Jon Lancaster fighting Nissan’s Harry Tincknell for 2nd place while both hunted down Tristan Gommendy. In the last 10 minutes, Tincknell spun out, Lancaster caught Gommendy, both collided while lapping traffic, Gommendy spun into the grass, allowing Tincknell to catch back up to Lancaster. Lancaster just managed to hold on by a mere 0.37s at the line. Definitely a championship worth watching. Definitely an event worth going to as well — wonderfully accessible (compared to F1), non-stop action, friendly atmosphere and a fraction of the price of a grand prix ticket. Haven’t been to a Grand Prix since 2012, and as long as the WEC keeps coming to Silverstone I have no desire to change that. As a package, the whole weekend for the WEC is head and shoulders above an F1 event.

    Anyway, driver for the weekend for me was Andre Lotterer. I believe the Radio Le Mans commentary team said that his average lap over his 3 stints was over half a second quicker than anyone else. Although, it would certainly have been interesting to see how close that Webber/Hartley/Bernhard Porsche could have been without the gearbox problem.

    1. @jackysteeg – Actually Paul Trusswell, the chap who calculated the average laptimes, put one stint of Lotterer’s as a 1’43.1, whereas Davidson and Lieb, who were on the track at the same time as Lotterer’s PB stint, both averaged a 1’44.1. In fact Webber was the only other driver to manage a stint average of under 104 seconds.

  7. I watched the two TCR races, and I thoroughly enjoyed them both. Races are short but action packed. There’s competition throughout the field (although the race director could do more to show different battles instead of focusing solely on the lead battle).

    It’s an entirely different style of racing to what I’m used to watching F1, WEC and a little of WRC. Great stuff with some deliciously dirty scraps, it might be a lot slower than F1 but I still found it to be full of gripping racing.

    Coletti’s very scrappy battle with Gleeson in race 1 was fantastic and the three way shootout for the win in race two was also a lot of fun.

    1. Whoops meant Comini, not Coletti!

  8. WEC and Formula 3 were great this weekend. WEC had that immense fight between Faessler and Jani in the Audi and Porsche, with the Audi overtaking the Porsche in the loop section, but the Porsche constantly re-passing on the Wellington straight. Fabulous racing, deserved win for Audi, who seemed to have the best package.

    F3 was pretty good, especially that 2nd race, with constant action throughout the field. Rosenqvist should be able to take the title this year, but nice to see Leclerc and Russell taking their maiden win as well. Leclerc especially seems like a guy we can expect in F1 sooner rather than later.

    1. @andae23
      Yes, that fight between Faessler and Jani was some of the best racing I’ve ever seen and it went on solid for about 6-7 laps. Exchanging the lead at least once, sometimes multiple times per lap!!! And it was always clean from both drivers which made it even better.

  9. This years LeMans will be fantastic with 33 drivers in 11 LMP1 entries. And now that I see the entire WRC races are available in HD on YouTube same day- well I think I just converted over from F1 just like that after watching Silvetstone.

    F1 will have a few exciting races here and there, but for the ultimate drama this year, I will look no further than LeMans.

    1. Firstly, whilst Nissan are working towards their entry, they haven’t actually confirmed that they will be able to race at Le Mans given their chassis failed the mandatory crash tests.

      Asides from missing the Silverstone 6 Hours, they’ve also confirmed that they can’t complete the crash tests in time for Spa and will skip that race as well.
      Now, the regulations stipulate that a new car must have its chassis homologated at least 30 days in advance before it can compete in an event, and scruitineering for Le Mans will start on the 7th June – so, unless Nissan passes their crash tests and completes the homologation process in the next three weeks, Nissan will miss the deadline and won’t be allowed to compete at Le Mans.

      Secondly, your total of 11 entrants quite clearly ignores the independent entries by Rebellion and Kolles, who are also competing in the LMP1 class. Evidently, it looks like Neveu might have had a point when he said that they can drive the privateers out of the LMP1 class and nobody would care less.

      1. Well I don’t quite follow the news right now as much as some of you (thought Rebellion was in their own subclass still) I guess- the point of my post was that I will soon.

    2. Why covert you can watch both there no law to stop you. Loads of great top level motorsports to watch now. Watch them all.

  10. In the Indy race, the yellow flags and subsequent safety car deployments virtually every lap were a bit frustrating to watch but good racing regardless. I was pulling for Simona and she ended up fourth I think after starting around 15th or something. WEC was stellar; was hoping for a last few lap sprints especially after the stop and go penalty was issued.

  11. Indy race was absolutely ludicrous.
    WEC was interesting, a good race, not great, as F1.
    Nascar race was pretty good, Moto Gp interesting too.

  12. WEC was phenomenal. I wanted to leave the race on the background while I worked on something else, as I did a couple of times last year with WEC, but I couldn’t do it yesterday. Awesome battle for the lead of LMP1. It’s crazy to see cars so different being so close together on track. The Audi was very good in the fast corners, the Porsche was ridiculous down the straights, yet they had some amazing battles and after six hours they were separated only by a few secons. And the Toyota was not very far either.

    Yesterday evening I watched Indycar and what a waste of a perfectly fine evening. I usually like Indycar, the racing is quite fun, the strategies are always quite weird and it’s easy to see an underdog doing really well. And in a way it happened yesterday, Hinchcliffe won and the fast guys finished a few places behind. But the “race” was a disaster. There were more laps of caution than green flag, I’m not kidding. The worst thing is that, after the first 10 or 15 laps of uninterrupted green, we had no more racing. After the first caution they never even got to two consecutive green flag laps, I think. That was very frustrating.
    Hopefully next week in Long Beach it’ll be better.

    1. yes, the Indycar racing was disappointing. Usually they’re fun, but this was a poor “track” (really just a few strips of pavement in a swamp/field), some metal bleachers that would have been more at home in an American high school football game, and swampy runoff and puddles that were just in the wrong places to cause a wreck every time they tried a restart.

      But as you say, Indycar is usually fun so I’m putting it down as just a bad set of circumstances and looking forward to Long Beach.

  13. Yeah the WEC still as grid girls, they are just not on the formed up grid. They were standing underneath the podium in very short skirts. So much for all that then.

  14. I’m not to clued up on the WEC, how does qualifying take place? Do all 3 drivers get a shot at pole? Which 3 of the Porsche drivers earned pole at Silverstone?

    1. Hi @Wass1985 I believe that 2 drivers are nominated and the combined best time of them both divided by 2, decides the grid. 20 minutes qualifying and includes the driver change.

      1. Cheers, how do teams normally run qualifying? How many runs do the drivers do? Can the tyres handle consecutive laps pushed to the limit?

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