From the FIA World Endurance Championship to IMSA, Blancpain GT, European Le Mans Series, Pirelli World Challenge and numerous other championships worldwide, there was plenty of talent that was on showcase this year.
Sportscar365 ranks the top 10 drivers from the 2016 international sports car racing season.
10. Shane van Gisbergen — A come-from-behind victory in the Bathurst 12 Hour and the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup title, despite missing the final race, were highlights of van Gisbergen’s impressive international GT racing season, largely with McLaren GT. With his Australia Supercars championship factored in, the Kiwi ranks as one of the top drivers in the motorsports world from 2016.
9. Harry Tincknell — The protege of Allan McNish came of age this year, not only in finally delivering the European Le Mans Series championship with the Jota Sport-run squad, but also proving to be one of the standout drivers in the new Ford GT program. Tincknell’s early season performance in the factory GTE-Pro contender was rewarded with an unexpected full-season drive, capped off with class wins in Fuji and Shanghai.
8. Nicolas Lapierre — An impressive season that saw four WEC class wins, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans wth Signatech Alpine, as well as an ELMS victory with the DragonSpeed outfit, the Frenchman was routinely one of the quickest LMP2 drivers in both championships. Lapierre’s strengths were shown with two very different teams, and while facing some of the toughest competition in the prototype racing world.
7. Andre Lotterer — With Audi having a rather disastrous 2016 season, on multiple levels, it’s tough to hold that against one of the quickest drivers in the WEC paddock. Lotterer failed to reach the top step of the podium, but put in strong runs all season, often being one of the quickest LMP1 drivers but his Audi Sport team and R18 falling short on reliability and luck, compared to rivals Porsche.
6. Pipo Derani — The young Brazilian driver enjoyed a breakout year, particularly in America, having taken Tequila Patron ESM to overall victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring, and nearly the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, had it not been for engine failure at Watkins Glen. Derani was often one of the quickest drivers in the WEC LMP2 ranks as well, although hampered in the results due to the ESM team having one of the few genuine Pro-Am driver lineups in the class.
5. Gianmaria Bruni — Ferrari’s standout driver, Bruni was unable to show his strengths through much of the WEC season, due to the Balance of Performance controversy that struck the GTE-Pro class. The Italian ace, however, upped his game, especially with the arrival of James Calado as his new co-driver, who also impressed in the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE car. While only claiming one class victory on the season, the pairing should have won many more, had it not been for BoP.
4. Dane Cameron — While only visiting victory lane twice this year, Cameron proved to again be IMSA’s most consistently fast Prototype driver, and was rewarded wth the overall championship alongside Action Express Racing co-driver Eric Curran. The pairing failed to finish off the podium only three times, delivering strong runs, particularly at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Road America.
3. Timo Bernhard — While German driver failed to become repeat World Champion, it largely came down to the No. 1 Porsche’s retirement at Silverstone, due to Brendon Hartley’s crash, as well as mechanical issues at Le Mans. Bernhard, Hartley and Mark Webber were perhaps the strongest overall lineup in the WEC again this year, with wins in four of the last six races, but had unlucky breaks in the first three races.
2. Brendon Hartley — The Kiwi had a stronger performance than even in his World Championship-winning 2015 season, with four wins in the last six races and often splitting honors with Neel Jani as the quickest Porsche driver on weekends. While Hartley came of age in 2016, a heavy accident in the season-opener at Silverstone, while leading, may have ultimately cost he, Bernhard and Webber a repeat title.
1. Neel Jani — While having been Porsche’s quickest LMP1 driver in recent years, Jani managed to bring home the hardware this year, winning the Drivers’ World Championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans, arguably with co-drivers that didn’t match his level of performance. The Swiss driver claimed only two victories, following a disastrous second-half of the season, but was likely no fault of his own. His second consecutive Le Mans pole also proved Jani’s worth as one of the best sports car drivers in the world.
Honorable Mentions: Laurens Vanthoor (Intercontinental GT Challenge and FIA GT World Cup Champion), Maxi Buhk (Blancpain GT Series Champion), Oliver Gavin (IMSA GTLM Champion), Lucas Di Grassi (WEC runner-up), Rene Rast (Standout WEC LMP2 Driver), Alvaro Parente (PWC Champion) and Richard Westbrook (IMSA GTLM runner-up).