WEC 2021 team-by-team season preview

28 jota oreca 07 gibson sean g 1
28 jota oreca 07 gibson sean g 1

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Hypercar

TOYOTA – Toyota GR010 Hybrid

7. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

8. Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Brendon Hartley

Toyota has been WEC’s mainstay in the top class for several years and was ‘rewarded’ for its persistence by getting a clear run at three consecutive Le Mans wins, while preparing for the new Hypercar era with the GR010 Hybrid. In anticipation of fellow factory competition from the likes of Peugeot (2022) and Ferrari (2023) Toyota will once again be its own biggest rival, with an another intra-team battle anticipated between the world championship-winning #7 crew and the Le Mans winners in car #8, all of which remain on board for the new campaign. For Toyota, getting a handle on its all-new car, weeding out potential reliability issues, will be key in holding off the competition, particularly from Alpine.

ALPINE – Alpine A480-Gibson

36. Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere

Alpine steps up from LMP2 to Hypercar for an exploratory year, albeit with a grandfathered Oreca LMP1 chassis previously run by Rebellion. The top division’s Balance of Performance should theoretically guarantee that Alpine, which is the only Toyota rival to commit to every race, will be in the ballpark to try and defeat the Japanese giant. By using a tried and tested chassis, Alpine’s fast and experienced line-up of Lapierre, Negrao and Vaxiviere should be able to challenge the reigning champions at every round, or at least pick up the pieces in case Toyota hits reliability trouble with its less mature platform.

GLICKENHAUS – Glickenhaus 007 LMH

708/709: Gustavo Menezes, Ryan Briscoe, Romain Dumas, Pipo Derani, Olivier Pla, Richard Westbrook, Franck Mailleux (combinations TBD)

Boutique manufacturer Glickenhaus has left no stone unturned in its David and Goliath quest to challenge the big boys at Le Mans. Signing a superb seven-man roster including some of the hottest properties in sportscar racing, which are yet to be divided into three-man teams, was a sure statement of the Glickenhaus family’s intent. However, the squad ran out of time to get ready for Spa’s opening round, now vowing to be on the grid for June’s Portimao round. As a result not much can be said about, or expected from, WEC’s newest hypercar entrant, so the jury is still out.

#28 JOTA Oreca 07 - Gibson: Sean Gelael, Stoffel Vandoorne, Tom Blomqvist

#28 JOTA Oreca 07 – Gibson: Sean Gelael, Stoffel Vandoorne, Tom Blomqvist

Photo by: Erik Junius

LMP2

RICHARD MILLE RACING – Oreca 07-Gibson

1. Sophia Floersch, Tatiana Calderon, Beitske Visser

Following a respectable Le Mans debut in 2020 the all-female crew from Richard Mille Racing returns for a full season aboard what is now numbered as the #1 Oreca. While Floersch, Calderon and Visser all have mostly single-seater backgrounds, they gained valuable experience last year in the European Le Mans Series, and they are aiming to build on that with a solid showing in the world championship.

HIGH CLASS RACING – Oreca 07-Gibson

20. Dennis Andersen, Jan Magnussen, Anders Fjordbach

Danish WEC regular High Class Racing will be uniting father and son Jan and Kevin Magnussen at the Le Mans 24 Hours, a lifelong dream of the Magnussen family. Until then, Magnussen Sr will man the lone full-season entry with Anders Fjordbach and Dennis Andersen. A veteran of 21 Le Mans starts, Magnussen’s speed and experience should help the team become a solid midfielder in a stacked field.

DRAGONSPEED USA – Oreca 07-Gibson

21. Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman, Juan Pablo Montoya

DragonSpeed regulars Hanley and Hedman are joined by former IndyCar and F1 star Montoya, who contested his second Le Mans 24 Hours last year with Elton Julian’s team. At the age of 45, Montoya is still blindingly fast and should help elevate the entry as an outside contender to challenge the likes of JOTA and United Autosports.

UNITED AUTOSPORTS – Oreca 07-Gibson

22. Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque, Fabio Scherer

Given United’s sportscar pedigree and headline results, it is easy to forget that 2019/20 was  first full WEC season. Albuquerque, Hanson and Paul di Resta won four races on the trot, including a maiden Le Mans win, to clinch the LMP2 title with a race to spare. The team owned by Zak Brown and Richard Dean will have its work cut out to try and repeat those exploits, while young Swiss driver Fabio Scherer comes in to replace the vastly experienced di Resta, a result of Hanson being upgraded to gold status over the winter.

JOTA – Oreca 07-Gibson

28. Stoffel Vandoorne, Sean Gelael, Tom Blomqvist

38. Roberto Gonzalez, Antonio Felix da Costa, Anthony Davidson

Just like last season, United’s main competition is set to come from JOTA, which is now running both of its Orecas under its own banner after the end of its tie-up with Jackie Chan DC Racing. The regular #38 entry with Gonzalez, Felix da Costa and Davidson returns in a bid to avenge last year’s near-miss at Le Mans and runner-up spot in the championship. Mercedes Formula E star Vandoorne anchors a second entry alongside Gelael and Blomqvist, giving JOTA another bullet in the gun to take on its LMP2 rivals.

RACING TEAM NEDERLAND – Oreca 07-Gibson

29. Giedo van der Garde, Job van Uitert, Frits van Eerd

Racing Team Nederland, the team formed around Jumbo supermarket CEO Frits van Eerd, already proved it is more than just a hobby project or Minardi tribute act. The team made big strides after switching from Dallara to Oreca chassic and employing TDS to run its car, and took its maiden win in Shanghai last season along with three more podiums. Nyck de Vries is now employed elsewhere, but in Job van Uitert RTN has found the perfect replacement. The team suffered a major setback with a big crash on Tuesday during the Prologue, but managed to rebuild its car in time for Spa practice.

TEAM WRT – Oreca 07-Gibson

31. Robin Frijns, Charles Milesi, Ferdinand Habsburg

Team WRT, the Belgian squad led by Vincent Vosse, has been one of the references in GT3 racing for a number of years and has recently broadened its horizons with a move to DTM and has now entered an LMP2 car in both the WEC and ELMS. Envision Virgin Formula E driver Robin Frijns anchors the team’s Oreca, joined by DTM driver Ferdinand Habsburg and by former Super Formula racer Charles Milesi, who has three LMP2 races under his belt for various teams. WRT might enter uncharted territory, but the team’s pedigree should allow it to compete from the off. 

INTER EUROPOL COMPETITION – Oreca 07-Gibson

34. Kuba Smiechowski, Renger van der Zande, Alex Brundle

The Polish Inter Europol squad is a familiar sight in Europe’s sportscar paddocks with its bright green and yellow livery, being a regular in the ELMS as well as Le Mans. In 2021 Inter Europol steps up to a full WEC season and by recruiting the likes of Renger van der Zande and Alex Brundle to partner Smiechowski the team shows it means business. Helio Castroneves had been set to join the squad for the Sebring season opener in place of van der Zande before that raced was scratched from the calendar amid the pandemic.

ARC BRATISLAVA – Ligier JS P217-Gibson

44. Miro Konopka, Oliver Webb (except Spa), TBA

Spa only: Tom Jackson, Darren Burke

Slovakia’s ARC Bratislava is the only team in the LMP2 grid not running the Oreca chassis, giving the Ligier JS P217 that was last represented full-time in 2018-19 another outing. Gentleman driver Konopka will get support from ex-ByKolles Oliver Webb for his maiden WEC campaign, but with Webb absent for this weekend’s Spa opener due to clashing commitments in the UK, fellow Britons Tom Jackson and Darren Burke have been drafted in to join Konopka.

REALTEAM RACING – Oreca 07-Gibson

70. Loic Duval, Norman Nato, Esteban Garcia

Spanish real estate investor Esteban Garcia made a name for himself in the world of sailing but has also been scratching his motorsports itch. After competing in Formula Renault and ELMS, Garcia is stepping up to the LMP2 class of the FIA WEC with an Oreca chassis. He has enlisted the services of Norman Nato and Le Mans winner Loic Duval in a bid to compete for Pro-Am honours.

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado

Photo by: Erik Junius

GTE Pro

AF CORSE – Ferrari 488 GTE Evo

51. James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi 

52. Miguel Molina, Daniel Serra

Ferrari’s AF Corse-run factory team has kept the ageing 488 platform (no longer even on sale as a road car) competitive for quite some time, having first introduced the car in 2016 and applied an Evo kit for the 2018-19 superseason. Going into their fourth season as a duo in the #51 car, James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi will be hoping to improve on their tally of one victory last season. The second car (previously the #71 but now renumbered as the #52) sees a change as Davide Rigon steps back in favour of Daniel Serra, who steps up to a full-season role alongside second-year Miguel Molina after years of impressive cameo outings.

PORSCHE GT TEAM – Porsche 911 RSR-19

91. Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz

92. Neel Jani, Kevin Estre

Despite scoring three wins in the first season with the new 911 RSR-19 in 2019-20, Porsche will probably not remember the campaign especially fondly, as it lost out on the GTE Pro title to Aston Martin and struggled in the Le Mans 24 Hours. With the car itself only undergoing minor tweaks for 2021, the biggest change for the German marque going into the new season its driver line-up, as Michael Christensen moves aside to make way for ex-LMP1 ace Neel Jani in the #92 machine alongside Kevin Estre. There’s continuity in the #91 car as Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz continue for a third season together, although there have been some changes on the crew, including a new chief engineer. 

#33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR: Ben Keating, Dylan Pereira, Felipe Fraga

#33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR: Ben Keating, Dylan Pereira, Felipe Fraga

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

GTE Am

TF SPORT – Aston Martin Vantage GT3

33. Ben Keating, Felipe Fraga, Dylan Pereira

777. Satoshi Hoshino, Tomonobu Fujii, Andrew Watson (as D’station Racing)

After narrowly missing out on the GTE Am title in only its second season in the WEC, Tom Ferrier’s team has expanded to two Aston Martin Vantage GTEs for the new campaign, with one of those being run under the ‘D’station Racing’ banner for Japanese gentleman racer Satoshi Hoshino. The other car is centred around Ben Keating, who embarks on his second season in the WEC and will – incredibly – campaign his seventh different type of car in seven attempts at Le Mans this August! Joining Keating is long-time partner Felipe Fraga and Porsche Supercup runner-up Dylan Pereira, while the D’station-branded entry is shared by Hoshino, SUPER GT GT300 class veteran Tomonobu Fujii and Andrew Watson.

TEAM PROJECT 1 – Porsche 911 RSR-19

46. Dennis Olsen, Anders Buchardt, Axcil Jefferies (withdrawn from Spa)

56. Matteo Cairoli, Egidio Perfetti, Riccardo Pera

The 2018-19 GTE Am title-winning team goes into the new season once again fielding a pair of Porsches, having upgraded to the latest-gen 911 RSR-19, but will only have one of its car racing at Spa following a major crash for the #46 car in the Prologue test. That just leaves the more promising #56 machine, which was second-fastest in testing courtesy of Matteo Cairoli. The rapid Italian once again shares the car with Norwegian confectionery magnate Egidio Perfetti, while another Italian, Riccardo Pera, moves across from Dempsey-Proton to complete what has to be considered one of the strongest line-ups in the class. 

CETILAR RACING – Ferrari 488 GTE Evo

47. Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto, Antonio Fuoco 

Having struggled badly as the lone Dallara entrant in the LMP2 ranks against the dominant Orecas during 2019-20, Cetilar has stepped down to the GTE Am ranks with Ferrari for the 2021 campaign, continuing its relationship with AF Corse. The move already looks like it will pay dividends as the handsome blue 488 GTE topped its class in the Prologue courtesy of ex-Formula 2 racer Antonio Fuoco, who embarks on his first full season in the WEC this year. He replaces Andrea Belicchi, who remains on board in an advisory role, with team owner Roberto Lacorte and his long-time driving partner Giorgio Sernagiotto both staying on.

AF CORSE – Ferrari 488 GTE Evo

54. Giancarlo Fisichella, Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci

83. Francois Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen, Alessio Rovera

For a second season in a row, AF is running two Ferraris in the Am class under its own banner as it seeks to defend the GTE Am drivers’ title it won in 2019-20 courtesy of Francois Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen and Emmanuel Collard. Both Perrodo and Nielsen return for another season in the #83 car, but Collard has stepped aside in favour of Italian youngster Alessio Rovera, last year’s Italian GT champion with AF. The sister #54 car is once again anchored by three-time grand prix winner Giancarlo Fisichella, who is flanked by the bronze-rated Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci for a third consecutive campaign.

IRON LYNX – Ferrari 488 GTE Evo

60. Andrea Piccini, Matteo Cressoni, Claudio Schiavoni

85. Rahel Frey, Manuela Gostner, Katherine Legge

Andrea Piccini’s squad is the only wholly new entry in the GTE Am class for this year, stepping up to the WEC from the ELMS with a pair of Ferrari 488s. One of those will be shared by Piccini himself, Matteo Cressoni, a veteran of GT racing, and 60-year-old gentleman racer Claudio Schiavoni. But it’s the other car that will probably get the lion’s share of fan and media attention, with its all female-trio of Rahel Frey, Manuela Gostner and last-minute addition Katherine Legge. Ex Champ Car and DTM ace Legge takes the place of Michelle Gatting, one of the original ‘Iron Dames’ alongside Frey and Gostner in the ELMS last year.

DEMPSEY-PROTON RACING – Porsche 911 RSR-19

77. Christian Ried, Matt Campbell, Jaxon Evans

88. Alessio Picariello, Andrew Haryanto, Marco Seefried

Christian Ried’s team had something of an ‘off’ season in 2019-20 with just two podiums for he and co-drivers Matt Campbell and Riccardo Pera, but upgrading to the new 911 RSR-19 should herald an upturn in fortunes. With Pera crossing the floor to join Project 1, the team has recruited Kiwi racer Jaxon Evans, a frontrunner in Porsche Supercup last year and the French Carrera Cup champion, to join Ried and Campbell in the #77. The #88 car featured no fewer than 13 (!) different drivers across the 2019-20 season, and for Spa there are three new faces piloting the car: Alessio Picariello (who did one race at the end of last season for Gulf Racing), Andrew Haryanto and Marco Seefried.

GR RACING – Porsche 911 RSR-19

86. Richard Wainwright, Ben Barker, Tom Gamble

The team formerly known as Gulf Racing (but which has run without the famous oil company’s branding since the 2019 Fuji round) is back for a fifth campaign with the new Porsche 911 RSR-19, with team owner-driver Michael Wainwright having finally scored a first podium finish in two years last season. Established Porsche ace Ben Barker joins Wainwright for yet another season, having been with the team since the start, but yet again there’s another new face in the team’s third seat as Andrew Watson makes way for reigning ELMS LMP3 champion Tom Gamble.

NORTHWEST AMR – Aston Martin Vantage

98. Paul Dalla Lana, Augusto Farfus, Marcos Gomes

Despite the name change, this team is a continuation of the #98 Aston Martin Racing operation of which Paul Dalla Lana has been an integral part for many years, with ‘NorthWest’ being the name of the Canadian driver’s healthcare property business. After what had been the longest-serving line-up in the WEC (Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy) was broken up ahead of last season, there have been further changes for 2021: Augusto Farfus joins the team after a pair of guest outings last year and Brazilian Stock Car champion Marcos Gomes comes on board for his first full season in the championship.

The WEC Spa 6 Hours starts on Saturday May 1 at 1.30pm CET, with practice and qualifying scheduled on Thursday and Friday. All sessions of the event will be streamed live on Motorsport.tv

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