WEC Season 8 Review: LMGTE Pro
As the dust settles on the longest FIA WEC season in history (nearly 450 days!), we review the main action from eight races in LMGTE Pro during WEC Season 8.
Rewinding back to Silverstone 2019, the Porsche GT Team got off to the best possible start as the No. 91 (Gimmi Bruni and Richard Lietz) and No. 92 (Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre) Porsche 911 RSR cars delivered a one-two at the WEC Season 8 curtain-raiser. Aston Martin claimed third position on home soil with the No. 97 car.
With Porsche on top of the leaderboard going into Fuji, it was the turn of Aston Martin Racing to take a double podium and claw back some valuable championship points. The No. 91 Porsche – the same car that won at Silverstone – finished runner-up seeing Bruni and Lietz lead the GTE Pro drivers’ standings going into round 3.
Round 3 in Shanghai saw plenty of action as Porsche were declared winners of the LMGTE Pro category after the No. 51 AF Corse 488 GTE Evo driven by James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi was disqualified following post-race technical checks. However, the drama continued when Ferrari was eventually reinstated the win after the Italian team won their appeal. Porsche, therefore, finished second and third respectively.
Bahrain was next which saw non-stop race action between Aston Martin and Ferrari as both teams swapped positions on multiple occasions throughout the eight-hour race. Aston Martin was eventually crowned overall victors as the No. 95 car went on to take its second win of the year. The win in Bahrain catapulted Aston Martin to the top of the overall standings – nine points ahead of Porsche at the season’s half-way point.
Aston Martin Racing’s good fortune was to continue for round 5 when the WEC returned to the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, in February. Once again, the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage AMR reigned supreme as the Dane Train of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen scooped another win and left the USA with a 26-point lead in the LMGTE FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Championship.
Following a rejigged calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rescheduled race at Spa-Francorchamps in August saw the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR return to the top of the pile. Thiim and Sørensen finished second, with the sister No. 97 car taking the final podium spot.
With just two races remaining, and thanks to Aston Martin’s double podium in Spa, it was now mathematically possible for Aston Martin to take the manufacturers’ title at Le Mans the following month… And this is exactly what happened. A superb win from Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell in addition to the No. 95’s third place finish meant the squad had secured enough points to take its first LMGTE FIA world Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship.
The season-closing 8 Hours of Bahrain saw a three-way title fight for the LMGTE FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Championship between the No. 95’s Sørensen and Thiim plus Martin, as well as the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari’s Calado. Both Lynn and Pier Guidi were unable to compete in the final race of the season, meaning they were unable to claim the drivers’ title.
Despite a difficult race and only finishing fifth in Bahrain, Thiim and Sørensen did enough to secure the FIA GTE World Endurance Drivers’ Championship – they ended the season 12 points clear of the sister No. 97 car. Aston Martin, therefore, scooped both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ title in GTE Pro – a dream season for the British marque.
It was the No. 92 Porsche of Estre and Christensen that won the final race of the season, however, finishing just 2.8 seconds ahead of the sister Porsche GT Team No. 91 entry to make it a 1-2 for the German manufacturer. The result also meant that Porsche finished second in the FIA GTE Manufacturers’ Championship – 39 points ahead of Ferrari who claimed third. Estre and Christensen also clinched third in the drivers’ championship, 12 points behind Aston Martin’s Max Martin.
Can Aston Martin cling onto their team and drivers’ trophies next time out? All will be revealed in WEC Season 9 which gets underway in March 2021.