With a manufacturer returning to GTE-Pro with a factory effort and a combined set of 2015/2016 technical regulations for GTE-Am, there’s plenty of change in the works in the production-based categories of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Sportscar365 takes a look at the current confirmed, likely and possible entries for GTE-Pro and GTE-Am next year.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing – The Multimartic-run, UK-based operation will return for its second season campaigning factory Ford GTs, with a likely unchanged full-season lineup of Stefan Muecke, Olivier Pla, Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx. Marino Franchitti, who was dropped from the lineup mid-season, is unlikelky to return. (2 cars confirmed)
Porsche Motorsport – Porsche will return to GTE-Pro with two brand-new factory Manthey-run 911 RSRs. Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen and Fred Makowiecki are three of the likely four confirmed full-season drivers. While not having been announced as a factory driver at its end-of-year dinner, Ferrari ace Gianmaria Bruni is understood to still be in contention for the final seat. Otherwise, it could go to Romain Dumas or Sven Mueller, who both have been confirmed as GT factory drivers for next year. (2 cars confrmed)
Aston Martin Racing – After winning the 2016 driver and team titles, the British manufactuer is expected to return with a two-car Vantage GTE program at a minimum. Drivers have yet to be confirmed but it would see logical for World Champions Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen to continue, as well as longtime AMR factory driver Darren Turner. (2 cars likely)
AF Corse – The Italian squad, led by Amato Ferrari, is likely to continue, despite continued disputes over Balance of Performance. However, it’s unclear if its star driver Gimmi Bruni will return, with the Italian repordiely wanting out of his contract and having been close to a deal with Porsche. James Calado, Sam Bird and Davide Rigon, however, are all expected to be back. (2 cars likely)
Larbre Competition – Jack Leconte’s team has laid out plans of fielding a Corvette C7.R in the GTE-Pro class, although is waiting on a final decision from GM on whether they’ll be able to run a 2016-spec car. It’s understood a proposal is in place involving 2016 drivers Ricky Taylor and Pierre Ragues, who could make the step up to the top GT category. (1 car possible)
Expected Entries: 8-9 cars
Aston Martin Racing – At least one Aston Martin Vantage GTE will be on the GTE-Am grid next year, for Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, a car which will be upgraded to 2016 GTE specifications. There are prospects of a second entry, potentially spearheaded by Abu Dhabi Racing-backed driver Khaled Al Qubaisi, who tested a Vantage GTE last month in Bahrain. (1 car confirmed, 1 additional car possible)
Proton Competition – After fielding three Porsche 911 RSRs across GTE-Pro and GTE-Am this year, the German squad is likely to be reduced to a singe-car effort in 2017, with Al Qubaisi and David Heinemeier Hansson not returning. Team boss Christian Ried is likely to continue with a car for himself and a to-be-determined remaining lineup. (1 car likely)
AF Corse – With Francois Perrodo graduating to LMP2, Amato Ferrari does not yet have a confirmed GTE-Am entry, although it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least one 488 GTE entered by the Italian squad. (1 car possible)
Larbre Competition – Should its proposed GTE-Pro effort not materialize, look for the French squad to return to GTE-Am with its existing Corvette C7.R, running to 2015 specification. (1 car possible)
Gulf Racing – The status of the Michael Wainwright-backed team, which entered into the WEC for the first time this year, is unclear, after multiple failed attempts for Sportscar365 to reach Wainwright for comment at last month’s season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain. (unknown)
Expected Entries: 2-5 cars