Kubica to make Le Mans debut in LMP1 WEC move

2017 F1 season

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Robert Kubica will race in the World Endurance Championship this year, including the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The former Formula One driver, who suffered serious arm injuries in a rally crash in 2011, has signed to drive for the ByKOLLES team run by ex-F1 team chief Colin Kolles. He will drive the team’s CLM P1/01 Nismo LMP1 car alongside Oliver Webb and a third driver who is yet to be announced.

Kubica said he was “looking for something as close to Formula One as possible” after spending four years in the World Rally Championship. “This is exactly what I’ve found in LMP1.”

“At the end of last year’s WEC season, I was able to do my first laps behind the wheel of the CLM P1/01. I felt comfortable in the car very quickly and was able to increase my pace accordingly. With even more experience I’m sure I will be able to extract more performance.”

“I’m already very much looking forward to the Prologue [test] in Monza and the season start in Silverstone.”

Along with the 24-hour endurance classic at the La Sarthe circuit, the nine-round WEC calendar includes six-hour races at Silverstone, Spa, the Nurburgring, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Circuit of the America, Fuji, Shanghai International Circuit and Bahrian International Circuit.

“The WEC is racing on circuits that I know well from my time in Formula One,” said Kubica. “The exception is Le Mans. I’ve heard so many good things about the event at the Sarthe. I’m very excited about my first start at this 24-hour race.”

Kubica’s car will be one of just six LMP1 machines in the race following the withdrawal of Audi’s factory squad. Toyota is entering three cars and Porsche will continue to run two.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “Kubica to make Le Mans debut in LMP1 WEC move”

  1. That’s great for him but not deserved if you ask me. There are men who deserve it more.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      2nd February 2017, 21:00

      @xtwl It depends how you look at it… There are probably faster drivers out there who have worked just as hard, if not harder but you have to remember that Kubica “deserved” to be in F1. The accident that meant he couldn’t race in F1 anymore wasn’t deserved and I think it’s great to see him back right at the top of Motorsport. I hope it goes well for him.

      It works for the team because he’ll get lots of press coverage which will mean more sponsorship and it’ll probably get a few more people to watch WEC out of curiosity as well.

    2. Didn’t he do damn well in the tests though? Was very quick if I remember correctly. Deserved it imo.

      1. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
        2nd February 2017, 22:11

        If I recall correctly outpaced their regular driver by seconds (multiple).

        1. @peppermint-lemon, it wasn’t quite that extreme, but his best time was around 0.5s faster in the test session that he had in Bahrain than the lap time that their lead driver set in the 2016 WEC race. It shows that he is likely to at least be on the pace of the other drivers in that team, if potentially slightly faster, so he is being given the place on the basis of his performance.

    3. Who are they, if you don’t mind saying?

      1. Pastor & Rio.. :p

    4. In sportscars, “deserves” is more complicated than F1. It’s not just a question of the individual merit of the driver, but in how well the combination of drivers works together. It also tests a greater range of skills (in some cases to a lower level) to F1; and team owners like to have drivers together with complementary skillsets, and with some car designs even similarity of height between drivers can be an advantage in some contexts.

      If Colin Kolles has hired Robert Kubica for his race team, there’s probably several good reasons for it. Beating the regular driver by a solid margin will certainly have helped!

    5. Not deserving?? here are the reasons he deserves it:
      -was the fastest man in F1 in 2010, voted driver of the year in many motorsport media/forums.
      -on comeback trail won 14 WRC stages in the worst WRC car at the time, as a privateer
      -on first circuit racing return in 2016 at Mugello 12H, set the fastest time of the race
      -in only ~30 laps in first time out in LMP1 car, set times faster then teammates – too easy
      -in his most recent race, first time ever in a Porsche GT3, in his only stint at the Dubhai 24H, was the -fastest man on track at the time, setting incredibly consistent times
      -and don’t forget this is the guy that consistently beat Lewis Hamilton in junior Formula.
      here is a video of him in a race car cockpit with current right hand problem, its not too bad, just not enough space in an F1 cockpit unfortunantly, but he has never lost his speed!:

  2. I’m behind this guy with all my bleading heart. The level of sadness and frustration inside his head must be huge. I am quite suprised that noone is talking about this at all.

  3. Very good timing for driver, team and series. Nothing much for him to race against but it’s a new challenge and good publicity all round.
    Doesn’t even matter if Rebellion continue to beat them (which is possible) as they’ve dropped down a class to LMP2.

  4. Good news!

    But ByKolles are in a weird limbo in LMP1 because they aren’t quick enough to challenge Toyota and Porsche but they’ll most likely be able to comfortably handle the P2 cars, so query how much actual racing they’ll be doing.

    1. They are guaranteed good finishing positions every time if by some miracle their car doesn’t catch fire…

    2. @geemac, I’m not so sure that they will necessarily have a comfortable performance advantage over the LMP2 cars.

      The rumours coming out of the pre-season tests suggest that the 2017 spec LMP2 cars are several seconds a lap faster than their predecessors (down to the sort of lap times that the LMP1 manufacturer teams were setting before the current hybrid formula was introduced). That seems to being borne out by the relative performance of the cars in the 24 Hours of Daytona, given that the IMSA has closely matched their regulations to the ACO’s LMP2 regulations – lap times were more than two seconds a lap faster in 2017 compared to 2016.

      There has been talk that the LMP2 cars could be as much as 3-5s a lap faster around the Circuit de la Sarthe this year – the ByKolles LMP1 car was only around 2s a lap faster in 2016, so if those predictions prove to be correct, it is possible that some LMP2 cars could outqualify the ByKolles entry.

      1. ByKolles will be faster and more reliable this year with new engine, making around 700hp – more than last years car, and a good driver developing and setting up the car, they should be faster than LMP2.

  5. Great for Kubica and he’s teamed up with a great guy in the form of Oli Webb. Here’s wishing them all the best luck!

  6. About time we get a real big name and talent to LMP1.

  7. I thought he couldn’t return to F1 because of the way you lay down in the cars and his injury limited his range of motion too much and I was under the impression that the Prototype cars were about the same. Has he recovered enough that he could possibly drive an F1 car again if there is an opening or is the seating position in P1 different enough for it not to be impacted by his injury?

    1. The problem is his limited hand movement. So in F1 the rules state that the driver have to be able to use the gear rocker (it works on a push-pull system in F1 unlike a road car which is dedicated gear up and gear down) which he can’t do with his damaged hand, but he can work a lever gear tiptronic type system which they use in rally, touring cars, and I am guessing here, can use in LMP class cars.

    2. @lancer033, I think it is more down to modifications that have been made to the cockpit dimensions in the WEC (which have been increased slightly to allow increased access for medical staff), as well as the fact that the driver position has been raised slightly over time (though the main reason was for improved side visibility). I might be mistaken, but I also think that, unlike in F1, the ACO doesn’t strictly require a driver to be able to evacuate the car by himself within a set time if he is capable of doing so.

      1. Drivers have to be able to self-evacuate in WEC, per Article 6.10 of the Sporting Regulations. However, the rules are more relaxed: the exit time is 7 seconds from the driver’s side and 9 seconds from the passenger’s side. In F1, the maximum is 5 seconds. Those 2 seconds may make a lot of difference, especially in the context of the wider cockpit.

        1. @alianora-la-canta, in which case I stand corrected – that said, I think that Kubica’s problem with the F1 cockpits was also compounded by the restricted rotational movement in his wrist as well as the shorter exit time allowed.

          I think that another advantage that Kubica has alluded to is that the ByKolles car is slower than he expected – he said after the test session that he thought that the car would have more downforce than it actually does and the car wasn’t as physically difficult to drive as expected (he was in some discomfort, but the main difficulties he had were mainly because of balance issues rather than the physical demands of driving the car).

  8. Pastor & Rio.. :p

  9. If he has a spot based on speed, that is great then.

  10. I believe Kubica will show great speed, even though there is no direct competition. I would to then see in 2018 Toyota or Porsche sign him, and maybe Kubica and his good mate Alonso can one day enter the Le Mans 24 hour race as team mates. its a shame after the fantastic 2016 WEC season LMP1 now has only 3 teams, 3 cars for Porsche, 2 for Toyota and the only non-hybrid in byKolles.

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