Who are the new faces in LMGTE Am?
The FIA World Endurance Championship has assembled its largest-ever permanent field in the GTE Am class for the Super Season, with last year’s car count of five practically doubling to provide a healthy nine-car field for the new campaign.
Of those, three cars are being field by teams new to the championship: Team Project 1 (Porsche 911 RSR), MR Racing (Ferrari 488 GTE) and TF Sport (Aston Martin Vantage).
Project 1, a mainstay of the German Porsche Carrera Cup scene, moves up to the WEC this year with factory Porsche racer Jörg Bergmeister spearheading the team’s driving strength. The former 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner is joined by two fresh faces, American Patrick Lindsey, a race winner in IMSA’s GT Daytona class, and Norway’s Egidio Perfetti, a long-time Porsche Carrera Cup racer.
MR Racing is an entirely new team formed for the WEC Super Season, but can count of technical support from Ferrari’s factory-backed AF Corse squad. Japanese gentleman racer Motoaki Ishikawa, after taking part in the Rookie test in Bahrain last year, makes his series debut alongside Olivier Beretta who brings with him decades of GT racing experience with Chrysler, Corvette and more recently Ferrari. Also new in this car will be Eddie Cheever III, who combines his first season in the WEC with a partial IMSA campaign.
TF Sport graduates to the WEC after a successful campaign last year in the European Le Mans Series, where it finished second in the GTE class. Turkey’s Salih Yoluc and sometime European F3 racer Euan Hankey make the step up with the British outfit, having both made their Le Mans debuts last year, while Porsche Carrera Cup GB champion Charlie Eastwood joins the team fresh for the Super Season.
There are a number of other new faces among the remaining teams, with only two – Aston Martin Racing and Clearwater Racing – fielding entirely unchanged line-ups from 2017.
Dempsey-Proton Racing expands to a second Porsche 911 RSR this year under the same banner, and three of its six drivers are new to the championship. They are Porsche young driver, Matt Campbell of Australia, a front-runner in the Porsche Supercup last year, French Carrera Cup champion Julien Andlauer, who will make his WEC debut aged just 18, and Giorgio Roda, who is the son of former WEC GTE Am racer Gianluca.
Another Porsche squad, Gulf Racing, also welcomes a new driver to its ranks in the form of ex-Australian Supercars racer Alex Davison, who made a one-off GT2 class Le Mans appearance back in 2008 and who brings plenty of Porsche experience with him.
Finally, although he’s no stranger to the WEC, two-time F1 Grand Prix winner Giancarlo Fisichella makes a welcome return to the championship at the Spirit of Race Ferrari team after a number of years away. The popular Italian has seven GTE Pro class wins to his name, including two at Le Mans, having been part of AF Corse’s full-time line-up in 2012 and 2013.