35 cars for the Prologue at Circuit Paul Ricard!
The WEC’s official pre-season test for all competitors this year returns to Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet in the south of France on 6/7th April, with Saturday the 7th being open FREE to fans including access to the paddock and a pit walk.
Private testing sessions are completed, new prototypes and GT racers have been built, drivers have been secured: now the opportunity is here to see, hear and truly appreciate the amazing variety of cars entered for the 2018-2019 FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season!
A non-stop 30 hours of testing is available to teams, should they wish to take it, and – for many drivers new to the WEC – it will be the perfect opportunity to do some night running as a rehearsal for the first of two 24 Hours of Le Mans events in the Super Season this coming June. 13 of the cars (in bold on the entry list) will profit from the 30-hour session and run throughout the entire 10h00 Friday to Saturday 16h00 period.
There will be 35 cars lining up for the two days of testing which will offer competitors, media and fans an ideal chance to get early indications of performance and there will be plenty of ‘firsts’ to savour.
This will be the first time this year that the new LMP1 cars will take to the track all together alongside Toyota Gazoo Racing’s hybrid entries, the first time that BMW’s new M8 GTE will appear as a WEC entrant together a public track debut for the all-new Aston Martin Vantage AMR and the EVO version of the Ferrari 488 GTE.
It will equally be the first time that five new teams from both the LMP2 and LMGTE Am categories will participate in an official WEC event, and they will all be keen to get settled into the rhythm before heading to the first race of the 14-month season, the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday 5th May.
Gérard Neveu, CEO of the WEC: “We have such an incredible line up of cars and drivers for this unique, transitional Super Season, and – like all our competitors – we can’t wait for the action to start. We are very happy to be returning to Circuit Paul Ricard for the Prologue, our traditional pre-season collective test, which comes just a week before the first round of the European Le Mans Series, also at Le Castellet. We look forward to welcoming our fans on Saturday as they experience the warm and friendly ambiance of the WEC paddock, which is open to all, with a pit walk allowing them to see these amazing cars both on and off track.”
The entry list in more detail
LMP1 heads the four classes on track at the same time
Leading the way in LMP1 will be the two hybrid-powered LMP1 prototypes from Toyota, and the Japanese manufacturer will be presenting its Super Season challengers just ahead of The Prologue. Three of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s full-season drivers will be absent due to other racing commitments, so official test drivers Anthony Davidson and Alex Wurz will line up alongside Sébastien Buemi, José María López and Mike Conway. Fernando Alonso, who won’t be at the Prologue, has taken part in several private tests in preparation for the season, as have the two Japanese drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima.
Returning to the LMP1 class once more will be 2017 LMP2 Champions, Rebellion Racing, who will only have one car present but all its six drivers including André Lotterer, Neel Jani and Bruno Senna. ByKolles Racing makes a welcome return to the action with its ENSO CLM P1/01 – Nismo after sitting out the second half of last year for testing and development, with Oliver Webb heading the driving roster.
CEFC TRSM Racing (formerly CEFC Manor) makes the step up from LMP2 to LMP1 to campaign two Ginetta G60-LT-P1 – Mecachromes with several drivers still to be confirmed. Young Britons Oliver Rowland and Charlie Robertson are the two named on the entry list. DragonSpeed and SMP Racing will all be campaigning BR Engineering BR1 chassis – with the US team using a Gibson engine, and the two Russian entries AER power. SMP’s drivers are yet to be confirmed, while Ben Hanley will be showing the WEC way to Henrik Hedman and Renger van der Zande.
The battle for GT World Championships begins in France
In LMGTE Pro all 10 entries will be present, including the reigning FIA GT World Champions Ferrari who return with an EVO version of their title-winning 488 GTE in the hands of an unchanged driver line headlined by Champions James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi.
Up against the defenders will be the WEC’s latest manufacturer BMW with its two distinctive M8 GTEs and a full line up of drivers including season regulars and endurance partners such as Alexander Sims, Philipp Eng and Tom Blomqvist.
Will the vibrantly-coloured, all-new-for-2018 Aston Martin Vantage AMR be ahead of the competition at The Prologue? With the British marque having completed considerable testing miles in the early part of the year, there are less than 30 days to find out where in stands against its competitors. New to the team this year are drivers Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin, with the Belgian bringing a lot of GT experience to the team but making his debut in the WEC.
These include Porsche GT Team’s two 911 RSRs which will be in the hands of returning former GTE Pro champion Gianmaria Bruni who is paired with 2015 GT Driver Champion Richard Lietz, plus familiar Porsche names such as Estre and Christensen. Porsche and Ford are two teams which bring relatively unchanged cars to the Super Season, and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s driver line up is also unchanged.
LMP2: variety is the spice of life
Seven LMP2 entries will grace the sweeping Le Castellet track, and variety is the name of the game. Three different chassis are represented this year; Racing Team Nederland’s all Dutch crew includes former WEC entrant Giedo van der Garde and former Le Mans winner Jan Lammers at the wheel of the Dallara P217-Gibson, while Larbre Competition makes its return to the WEC in LMP2 instead of GTE with a Ligier JSP217 Gibson and a line up which includes Brazilian Fernando Rees.
Signatech Alpine’s A470 will feature Nicolas Lapierre once again, the French team going for another LMP2 title, while TDS Racing, DragonSpeed and Jackie Chan DC Racing will all stay loyal to the ORECA 07 Gibson. Among the driving talent in the class will be former WEC World Champion Loic Duval at TDS, and Mexico’s Esteban Gutierrez at DragonSpeed.
Strength in depth in GTE Am
Joining the factory-led teams will be nine further GTE entries from the equally competitive LMGTE Am class which includes Ferraris from the Swiss Spirit of Race team, Clearwater Racing from Singapore and a newcomer to the WEC, MR Racing. Among the famous Ferrari drivers in the category will be Giancarlo Fisichella who returns to the WEC for the first time since 2013.
Christian Ried’s Dempsey-Proton Racing is back with two 911 RSRs and Gulf Racing’s single Porsche is joined by a new team representing the German marque – Team Project 1 from Germany which features long-time factory driver Jörg Bergmeister. Two Aston Martin Vantages will contest the Super Season including defending class champions, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, in the Aston Martin Racing entry, joined this year by newcomer TF Sport in a second Vantage.
The Prologue – FREE ENTRY FOR THE PUBLIC
The Prologue will take place at Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet in the south of France on 06/07 April 2018, and entry to the track is free to members of the public on SATURDAY ONLY. In addition, the paddock will be open to fans and there will be a 30-minute pit walk organised immediately after the end of the track session at 16h05.
Fans who attend will have the opportunity to see the cars on track throughout the day, non-stop, and a full provisional entry list is available HERE
More details on The Prologue, including ticket information, can be found on Circuit Paul Ricard’s website HERE