Maranello, 22 December 2016 – Ferrari.com continues the 2016 WEC season review with the central four races of the year.
Le Mans. It was over a month before the cars were next back on track and this time it was for the main event of the season, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In the GTE-Pro class the two cars of the AF Corse team were joined by the 488 GTE of team Risi Competizione, which usually competes in the IMSA championship. It was crewed by Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Matteo Malucelli. At this point we saw the effect of the Balance of Performance (BoP), that is, the set of regulations and restrictions that as far as possible balance out the performance of the various GT cars. This variable played an increasingly dominant role in the season, completely distorting the values in play and heavily influencing the results of the championship. Ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans the sports authorities judged Ferrari’s superiority excessive, changing the BoP and saddling the 488 GTE with an extra 20 kg of weight and other minor limitations. However, it was clear that some manufacturers had seen the first two races of the season as a sort of test in the run up to the famous French marathon. One of these was the debutant Ford which had four cars in the top five in qualifying after which the BoP was further adjusted.The race was difficult for the Ferraris of AF Corse. The 488 GTE no. 51, third in qualifying, was in the leading group in the early stages but then James Calado, who shared the car with Bruni and Alessandro Pier Guidi, drove too hard over a curb on returning to the pits after a puncture, damaging the car and effectively putting it out of contention. The no. 71 of the championship leaders suffered some performance problems but stayed among the top four until shortly after the halfway point when the right rear wheel exploded, compelling Davide Rigon, and with him Sam Bird and Andrea Bertolini, to call it a day, unable to make it to the pits on three wheels. Risi Competizione held the banner of Ferrari high. Car no. 82 was still a matter of seconds behind the leader until 11 am when Vilander, who needed to push to the limit to keep up with the Ford, made a mistake that opened the way to victory for its rivals. However, the “American” Ferrari still came an excellent second.
The triumph. The Prancing Horse had much more success in the GTE-Am class: third last year, Townsend Bell, Jeff Segal and Bill Sweedler managed to win even after a disastrous qualifying.The three Scuderia Corsa drivers were followed by Collard-Perrodo-Aguas who pulled away in the standings also thanks to the withdrawal of their Aston Martin rivals. Ferrari missed out on a clean sweep of the podium by a handful of seconds, with the 458 Italia of Clearwater Racing in fourth place with Weng Sun Mok, Keita Sawa and Bob Bell.Formula Racing (Johnny Laursen, Mikkel Mac and Christina Nielsen) also took sixth, while tenth went to the other AF Corse car crewed by Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott.
Nürburgring. The WEC resumed in July at the Nürburgring, where the BoP was further modified to help Aston Martin, which complained about the lack of competitiveness of its Vantage, a car that although not new had been aerodynamically updated. The AF Corse team soon saw that it would be a difficult race because the British cars were flying down the straights under the new federation regulations. The Aston Martin easily won pole position, while the first Ferrari came fourth almost one second behind. James Calado and “Gimmi” Bruni needed a superb race to overcome the values in play. The British driver was lightning fast while Bruni overtook the Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen on the bend, given that the 488 had no chance on the straights. In the GTE-Am class the British team had no rivals, but Collard-Perrodo-Aguas held their ground by clinching an important second place.
Mexico City and COTA. The championship was back on track at the end of August for the season’s novelty, the 6 Hours of Mexico, just 15 days before the 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). These two races were all Aston Martin affairs. Indeed, the Nürburgring win, besides lots of satisfaction for Ferrari led to a further change in BoP, which further dulled the competitive edge of the 488 GTE. Bruni and Calado limited the damage with two second places, while Rigon and Bird slipped back. Sorensen and Thiim now topped the standings and Aston Martin overtook Ferrari in the constructors’ table. This was the trickiest point of the season. Two Porsches won in the GTE-Am class but Collard- Perrodo-Aguas returned to take points at the expense of their Aston Martin rivals.