FIA WEC heads to Silverstone; full six hours to be broadcast LIVE on FOX Sports 1
The FIA World Endurance Championship opens its 2015 season this weekend at Silverstone, in what’s shaping up to be a highly anticipated first round battle between new and improved machinery across all four classes.
Additionally, U.S. fans will have unprecedented access to the globetrotting championship this year, beginning with Sunday’s race, which will be shown LIVE and in its entirety on FOX Sports 1, beginning at 7 a.m. ET.
LMP1 factory squads Toyota, Audi and Porsche will take center stage, with all three manufacturers debuting revised cars and hybrid power trains for 2015.
Porsche, which is coming off its maiden victory for the 919 Hybrid in last year’s season finale in Sao Paulo, has rolled out with an all-new car, which includes a step up to the largest hybrid capacity subclass.
The German manufacturer will compete with 8 MJ (per lap of Le Mans) of hybrid energy, while the updated Audi R18 e-tron quattro, featuring cutting edge aerodynamic developments, has moved from the 2MJ to 4 MJ subclass, which will give the 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning diesel-powered prototype nearly double the hybrid power from last year.
While both Porsche and Audi have undergone considerable changes, reigning World Champions Toyota have stuck with its tried-and-trusted package that took the Japanese manufacturer to five victories and the World Championship for Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi last year.
Updates have been made to the Toyota TS040 Hybrid’s energy recovery system, although remaining in the 6 MJ category.
The three returning LMP1 works teams were due to be joined by Nissan with its radical front-engined, front-wheel drive GT-R LM NISMO, but development issues has resulted in the car’s debut being pushed back to Le Mans in June.
While there have been changes to machinery at the sharp end of the grid, the same could be said for some driver lineups.
The most notable absence this weekend is Tom Kristensen, with the nine-time Le Mans winner having hung up his helmet at the end of last year following an illustrious career.
Oliver Jarvis has replaced the legendary Dane in the second Audi, while IndyCar race winner Mike Conway steps up to a full-season ride with Toyota. Porsche’s lineup, meanwhile, remains unchanged from 2014, which includes the return of F1 star Mark Webber.
The LMP2 class sees some American flavor to the grid, with Tequila Patron ESM embarking on a full-season campaign with a star-studded lineup that includes Ryan Dalziel, Jon Fogarty and team owner Scott Sharp.
David Brabham has been a last-minute addition to ESM’s driving squad this weekend as the veteran Australian fills in for Johannes van Overbeek, who has not been cleared to fly after breaking a rib.
The Florida-based team, which will begin its campaign with its HPD ARX-03b cars before moving to brand-new Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 coupes for next month’s round at Spa-Francorchamps, is the only American team registered for the full eight-round championship.
There are, however, other drivers flying the stars and stripes this year, most notably Patrick Dempsey, who joins Porsche factory driver Patrick Long and Marco Seefried in a Porsche 911 RSR entered by Dempsey Proton Racing in the GTE-Am class.
The Hollywood actor/racer will also be setting off on his first full-season FIA WEC campaign after making three previous starts at Le Mans.
In addition to Dempsey’s entry, the production-based GTE ranks feature a diverse group of Ferraris, Porsches and Aston Martins, as well as a Corvette C7.R for longtime GM supporter Larbre Competition.
Of those cars, Porsche and Aston Martin are fielding factory entries in GTE-Pro, alongside the heavily supported AF Corse outfit with its F458 Italias, including one for defending class champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander.
A total of 29 cars are set to take part this weekend, down from the initial 35 full-season entries due to withdrawals from Rebellion Racing (LMP1) and Team SARD-Morand (LMP2) in addition to the aforementioned Nissans.
FOX Sports 1 will carry all the action live, beginning at 7 a.m. ET on Sunday. Don’t miss it!