Part 1: FIA WEC Super Season Preview – Introduction
Part 2: FIA WEC Super Season Preview – LMP1
Part 3: FIA WEC Super Season Preview – LMP2
Part 4: FIA WEC Super Season Preview – GTE Pro
Part 5: FIA WEC Super Season Preview – GTE Am
Welcome to our sixth and final part of our FIA WEC Super Season Preview. In today’s installment, we’re looking at the drivers. Due to the number of entries and the fact that driver line ups, especially in the Am classes (LMP2 and GTE Am), can be rather fluid, we won’t be focussing on every driver currently entered. We will, however, be looking at the bigger names and some of the more noteable drivers.
FIA WEC Super Season Resources
One of the more complicated rules surrounding endurance racing is driver ratings. Due to the complexity of the driver ratings, we won’t be going into how the different ratings are decided and what affects them. Instead we’ll explain what rating of drivers teams are permitted (mostly. Again, we’ll get to this!) and a give a simplified overview of the ratings.
The classifications are as follows:
Platinum drivers are drivers who satisfy the criteria. They can be professional, where the driver gets paid by the team to race for them and it is their main occupation. A amateur driver could be a Platinum driver, but if they were good enough to be Platinum then they’d get paid and stop being an Amateur.
Gold drivers can be either professional or amatuer. Professional drivers who don’t meet the criteria for Platinum are rated as Gold. Amateurs who satisfy the criteria are rated as Gold.
Silver and Bronze rated drivers are purely amateur drivers. This means that they don’t get paid to race. They are often referred to as “gentleman drivers” and will pay for their drives, either from personal wealth or generous backers.
Technically, the only rule regarding driver ratings in LMP1 is Silver or above. Teams are free to run a mix of whatever rating drivers they wish, so long as they are not Bronze rated. However, the ACO can make exceptions, as they have in the case of Henrik Hedman. Hedman is a Bronze rated driver but, as he funds the DragonSpeed entry, the ACO have given him special dispensation to race in LMP1.
GTE Pro has no restrictions on the driver ratings at all. They can be all Platinum, all Bronze or anything in between. With the class being so competitive, teams tend to field entirely Platinum or Platinum/Gold drivers.
LMP2 cars must field at least one amateur driver. In a three-driver line up they must either a Bronze or a Silver rated driver.
GTE Am teams must field at least two amateur drivers. This can be as a pair of Bronze or one Bronze and One silver. Gold or Platinum drivers are permitted, but they can only have one per car.
The Big Names
Some of the biggest names in motor sport are racin full time in the WEC this season. There are Formula One race winners in every class and multiple world champions all fighting for the biggest prize in endurance racing.
The Spaniard needs little in the way of introduction. Fighting to become only the second driver after Graham Hill to win the unofficial Triple Crown of motor sports. Having come close to winning the Indy 500 at his first attempt last season, for 2018 he’s switching his focus to winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Having signed with Toyota for the full Super Season, he has both the best car and two chances of claiming the second part of his Triple Crown assault.
Alonso had his first taste of mixed class endurance racing at this year’s Rolex 24, racing for United Autosports, to help prepare him for the challenges that wait.
The immensely popular Brit only recently announced his WEC entry. Also competing in LMP1, Button has signed for SMP Racing in the BR1. Button’s WEC season won’t start until Le Mans as his Super GT commitments in Japan prevent him from racing at Spa.
Alongside Button in the SMP Racing entry is another former F1 driver in Vitaly Petrov. The Russian might not have had the same level of success as his team mate, but he does have two seasons of LMP2 experience and a third place at Le Mans in 2016 under his belt.
Fisi makes a full-time return to the WEC after taking the GTE Pro title and the GTE Pro class victory at Le Mans in 2012. The Italian is the only Pro rated driver in the Spirit of Race 488 GTE.
It was strange seeing Lotterer in Porsche colours last season. The German had entered 7 consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans with Audi, winning 3 of them. However, with Audi’s withdrawl in 2016 and then Porsche pulling the plug in 2017, the 36 year old has signed with Rebellion. It doesn’t represent the best chance of adding to his Le Mans tally, but he could be there to pick up the pieces if Toyota falter once again. Lotterer is a firm fan favourite and will be drawing a lot of fans to cheer on the Rebellion.
Racing alongside Lotterer is Bruno Senna. The Brazilian moves up to LMP1 with the Rebellion squad, having raced in LMP2 with them in 2017. He’ll be lucky to repeat the four class victories he enjoyed last season, but with a very strong team mate and being a rapid driver himself, Senna will be one to watch.
The IndyCar veteran made his WEC debut at Le Mans, replacing the injured Sebastien Bourdais. The 2013 Indy 500 winner has been named as one of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing drivers in GTE Pro for the opening round at Spa-Francorchamps.
That wraps up our look ahead to the 2018/2019 WEC Super Season; we hope you enjoy the racing as much as we will.
Despite the ongoing concern over the viability of LMP1, the ACO have done well to see the largest number of privateer LMP1 entries in years. Whilst it’s unlikely that anyone but Toyota will take the title, there should still be a great fight between the two TS050s. Alonso is one of the greatest drivers racing at the moment, and it’s a realy boon for WEC to have the Spanish superstar committed to the full season.
Elsewhere, the entry from BMW should add even more spice to an already highly competitive GTE Pro field. More variety is always good and it’s great to see GTE Pro in such good health.
Roll on 2018/2019!