WEC 2016 Season Review  – A dominant start of the year

21 December 2016

WEC 2016 Season Review – A dominant start of the year

Maranello, 21 December 2016 – Ferrari seems almost fated to win any competition it enters. So the 2016 season of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) was loaded with expectations for a number of reasons. Partly it was time to recover from 2015 when Maranello took the world title in the GTE-Am category, but where in the most prestigious class, the GTE-Pro, it fell short in the Drivers’ championship and especially among the Constructors, always its prime target along with victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Then there was the big challenge of winning in the first year with a completely new car, the 488 GTE, which replaced the glorious 458 Italia, now only racing in the GTE-Am class.It was not a “simple” change but a structurally new car, from the technical solutions to the gearbox, now transversal, and with a turbo engine pulsing at the heart of the car for the first time since the F40. After thousands of kilometres of testing, the 488 GTE debuted at Daytona, still green from the reliability point of view but already noteworthy in terms of performance.

 

Silverstone. The months between the end of January and mid-April, when the WEC got going at Silverstone, were very useful for refining the preparation, and the car was clearly dominant right from race one. In 2016 the AF Corse team fielded two cars in the GTEPro class and one in the GTE-Am. Ferrari provided the Amato Ferrari team with four of its official drivers: James Calado arrived alongside Gianmaria “Gimmi” Bruni in the iconic no. 51, while in no. 71 Davide Rigon was joined by Sam Bird, the LMP2 world champion who has always been a very fast driver and highly rated in all competitions. Like in 2015 Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo and Rui Aguas drove the only Ferrari in the GTE-Am, the 458 Italia GTE no. 83. Qualifying was bittersweet at Silverstone: Rigon and Bird won pole position beating the Porsche of Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen by over a second, while after recording a time with Calado the no. 51 suffered an engine problem that forced Bruni into the pits. The failure necessitated a change of engine with a consequent start from the back of the grid and a three-minute stop&go. Bird and Rigon won the race while the no. 51 crew pulled off an almost incredible comeback to finish second, thanks to a perfect team strategy. Ferrari’s celebrations were completed by a victory for the 458 Italia no. 83 in the GTE-Am class, which beat the Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda.

 

Spa-Francorchamps. The second race took place in early May at Spa-Francorchamps, where Ferrari once again did the lion’s share, dominating from qualifying. Rigon and Bird repeated the previous month by claiming pole position ahead of their teammates. However, the roles were reversed in the race itself, with Bruni and Calado faster than their teammates until 10 minutes from the end. At that point car no. 51 developed a problem that forced James into the pits when he was easily in the lead. Rather than destroy the engine they decided not to restart his 488 and so there was to be no victory for Bruni and Calado. It would have been the British driver’s first in the WEC. There were also no points for the constructors, drivers or teams due to the famous Endurance rule, which only awards points to cars that physically cross the finish line. Bird and Rigon won again to pull away in the championship, while in the GTE-Am Aston Martin took its revenge but Collard-Perrodo-Aguas kept pace finishing in second place. Join us tomorrow for the second part of the 2016 WEC Season Review.