The WEC continued to grow in stature on the world motorsport stage, thanks to the quality and performances of its competitors plus the stability of its calendar and FIA/ACO combined regulatory body. Mexico City made a successful debut as host of the 6 Hours of Mexico, and spectator numbers continued to rise at venues across the globe, but for many the 2016 season will be remembered with some sentimentality, with heartbreak for some and fond farewells to others.
Porsche does the double
Porsche won its second, consecutive World Championship with six victories, including a dramatic visit to the top step of the podium at Le Mans after the Toyota which had lead the race for so many hours stopped on the pit straight with an engine issue…on the penultimate lap. There was no better representation of the Spirit of Le Mans than the reaction from fellow competitors up and down the paddock to Toyota’s heartbreak.
Those valuable double points for Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas in the Porsche 919 Hybrid led them to the 2016 World Championship Drivers’ title although it was the trio’s last victory of the season. Their team mates Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley won three races on the bounce mid-season for Porsche, and Toyota claimed a very welcome victory at the 6 Hours of Fuji.
The final round of the year in Bahrain went to Audi, as had the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, and it was a win that was universally popular as it marked the end of their epic era in endurance racing. The German manufacturer departed from the WEC on a high, with fond farewells from all in the paddock and beyond to a competitor that had changed the face of endurance racing over the last 18 years. There were also tributes to 2015 World Champion Mark Webber who retired from the driving seat after a long and illustrious career including a huge contribution to the WEC.
Rebellion Racing took the LMP1 Privateers laurels with Dominik Kraihamer, Alexandre Imperatori and Mathéo Tuscher in the No.13 Rebellion R-One, with their team mates claiming victory at Le Mans in the sister car.
GT goes down to the wire
In the hotly contested GT categories, Ferrari regained its hold on the GT Manufacturers’ crown, but fought right to the last round with Aston Martin for the title. There was spectacular racing, always unpredictable results and the very best of professional driver line ups in the world. In the end, it was thanks to Ferrari’s performances in both the LMGTE Pro (3 wins) and Am ranks (2 wins) combined that the Italians claimed their fourth title in five years. Aston Martin Racing’s Danish duo, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen took the FIA World Endurance Cup for GT drivers after a superbly consistent season, with wins in America and Bahrain. Ford’s first full year in the WEC saw them take the double points for Le Mans and wins at Fuji and Shanghai, while Porsche experienced a more subdued year than 2015 while developing its new-for-2017 car.
LMP2 continues to thrill
The action never stopped in the LMP2 category, with some incredible competition and thrilling battles through the year between the teams and drivers. Signatech Alpine’s Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stephane Richelmi were both fast and consistent in the Alpine A460 entry, winning four races including Le Mans. This saw them take the crown ahead of strong challenges from RGR Sport and G-Drive Racing who both took class wins. The advent of a wave of young, ambitious and hard-charging drivers to the category saw some amazing nose-to-tail, side-to-side competition that was always hard but fair.
Ferrari v Porsche v Aston Martin
AF Corse’s François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas took the LMGTE Am title in their Ferrari, with reliability, consistency and victory at Le Mans making all the difference to the final classifications. The trio was, however, pushed hard all the way by Aston Martin Racing who, despite winning five times, finished third in the standings after a disastrous Le Mans. Just edging them into second place was Abu Dhabi Proton Racing, the Porsche 911 RSR taking the winners’ laurels in Mexico and Bahrain.