Welcome to part 4 of our 2018/2019 FIA WEC Super Season Preview. Today, we’re looking at GT Pro.
GTE Pro is always a difficult class to predict. This is mostly down to auto BoP (you can read more about BoP here) which is designed to ensure no one car has a large advantage over the others. Whilst it takes away some of the purity of racing it does, for better or worse, make the GTE class incredibly close and competitive. With 17 cars entered for the WEC Super Season, this is going to be a brilliant one for GTE Pro.
FIA WEC Super Season Resources
One of the biggest changes in GTE Pro is the departure of the old Aston Martin Vantage. The outgoing Vantage had been in service for 7 years and was more than due a replacement. However, that didn’t stop them from claiming the GTE Pro class win at Le Mans. Unfortunately, at every other track the car was showing its age. The new for 2018 Vantage GT3 is a stunner. Moving to a turbo’d engine for the first time, the Vantage GTE houses the same Mercedes-AMG V8 as its road-going counterpart.
Aston Martin Racing (AMR) factory drivers Marco Sørensen, Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and the mad-haired Nicki Thiim have all been confirmed as drivers for the 2018/2019 WEC Super Season.
Another big change to the GTE Pro field is the addition of BMW. The new M8 GTE has a 4.0l turbocharged V8 and made its competitive debut at the Daytona 24 in January. Le Mans will see the return of the German marque for the first time in 6 years, having last competed the 24 Hours of Le Mans back in 2011.
BMW Motorsport have named Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus, Antonio Felix da Costa and Martin Tomcyzk as full-season drivers for the two MTEK-run M8 GTEs. Supporting them for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Sebring in March 2019 will be Tom Blomqvist, Philipp Eng and Alexander Sims.
Porsche GT Team
The fall-out of the VW emissions scandal seems to have missed the Porsche works GT entry entirely. This is probably more of an indication as to just how important the 911 and GT racing is to Porsche/VW.
The 911 RSR-GTE was slightly underwhelming during 2017, finishing the year above only the long-in-the-tooth Aston Martin. It was, however, the sweetest sounding of the GTE Pro cars. They will be fielding four cars for the 24 Hours of Le Mans this season, with two cars entered for every other round.
Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre all stay with the Stuttgart team.
Technically the only privateer team in GTE Pro (though with very strong links to Ferrari), AF Corse won the GTE title last season after class victories at Spa, Nurburgring, CoTA, Fuji and Bahrain. Powered by a twin-turbo 3.9 litre V8, the Ferrari 488 GTE is entering its third year of competition. With new machinery from Aston Martin and BMW, AF Corse will have a fight on their hands to defend their title.
Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK
The Ford GT struggled more than expected last season, though it still managed to claim the runner-up spot in the final standings.
In the past, Ford have been accused of sandbagging. To counter this, the ACO introduced an automatic BoP which seems to have kept a lid on the GT’s early great performances in 2016. In 2017, Ford was hit with a large BoP penalty – a 20kg weight increase. This was decreased over a couple of rounds but then settled. The 20kg weight increase meant that the Ford had started to struggle over a race distance compared to the Ferrari. It will be interesting to see what the auto BoP does for Ford during the WEC Super Season.
Ford’s driver lineup remains unchanged for 2018/2019, with Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 67 and Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla in the No. 66. The 24 Hours of Le Mans will also see Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA entering 2 cars, with Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Sebastien Bourdais, Dirk Muller and Joey Hand at the wheel.
On Thursday, we’ll be looking at the “Gentleman Driver” class, GTE Am.