From Daytona to Sepang and everywhere in between, Sportscar365 was there to cover another exciting year of international sports car racing, which provided plenty of drama, controversy and memorable moments.
In the first of Sportscar365’s “Top 10” countdown of the year, we take a look at the top 10 races of 2016:
10. WEC Mexico City – A new circuit for the FIA World Endurance Championship produced a wide-open race that ultimately went in the favor of Porsche, but only after multiple issues for the pace-setting Audis in the rain-affected round. Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber scored their second of four consecutive wins, with RGR Sport claiming a popular LMP2 class victory on home soil.
9. IMSA Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – Michael Shank Racing claimed its first victory in more than four years, following issues for the pace-setting and Mazdas and early race penalties for DP competitors. Ford, however, stole the headlines with a 52-lap closing stint for Richard Westbrook, which gave the Ford GT its maiden win in a fuel mileage race.
8. Twelve Hours of Sebring – Pipo Derani’s late-race charge, from third to the lead with less than 12 minutes to go gave Tequila Patron ESM its second major endurance victory of the season, after a hard-fought battle with the Action Express Racing Corvette DPs. GT Daytona class honors also went down to the wire, with Alessandro Balzan powering past Jens Klingmann to give Scuderia Corsa’s new Ferrari 488 GT3 car class victory in the car’s debut.
7. Blancpain GT Misano – A well-timed Full Course Yellow, in an action-packed race, gave Bentley victory in the opening race of the Blancpain GT Series season. The mixed-condition 60-minute Qualifying Race produced plenty of surprises, with the No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 of Andy Soucek starting on slicks and carving its way through the field until benefitting from a FCY to take the first blood in the revitalized Sprint Cup.
6. PWC Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – Last-lap contact in a one-lap shootout for the victory and title ultimately handed the GT championship to K-PAX Racing’s Alvaro Parente, who took advantage of Johnny O’Connell’s clash with Patrick Long. The Porsche factory driver finished fifth, after running second for much of the race, and crucially ahead of Parente. A post-race penalty stripped O’Connell of the win in the wild season finale.
5. WEC Fuji – Toyota scored a long-awaited first victory of the WEC season in a thrilling race on home soil, with Kamui Kobayshi holding off the No. 8 Audi R18 of Loic Duval by just 1.5 seconds after six hours or racing. It marked the Japanese manufacturer’s first win in nearly two years and also saw a thrilling conclusion in LMP2, which went the way of G-Drive Racing.
4. 24 Hours of Spa – A series of miscues for Bentley saw ROWE Racing take its BMW M6 GT3 to victory in a highly talked-about Belgian endurance classic, that saw Mercedes-AMG stripped of its top-six qualifying sweep and handed hefty in-race penalties that derailed the German manufacturer’s charge. A sudden downpour in the final hour shook up the results, in favor of BMW and drivers Alexander Sims, Maxime Martin and Philipp Eng.
3. Nürburgring 24 – Maro Engel’s last-lap pass on Christian Hohenadel gave Black Falcon a thrilling win in the closest-ever finish in Nürburgring 24 history. Engel led home a Mercedes-AMG 1-2-3-4 sweep with its new GT3 car, which proved to be the class of the race. The event featured a sudden hail storm in the opening hour that resulted in a three-hour red flag period, producing dramatic pictures of cars stranded on track.
2. Rolex 24 at Daytona – A dramatic late-race duel between the two Corvette Racing C7.Rs ended in a photo finish for the class win in GT Le Mans at the 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona, with GT Daytona honors going down to a fuel mileage race in favor of Rene Rast and Magnus Racing, despite the dominant Lamborghinis, which self-destructed, and later slapped with hefty post-race penalties. Up front, Tequila Patron ESM scored overall victory, the first for a P2-baed car at Daytona, in the breakout race for young Brazilian Pipo Derani.
1. 24 Hours of Le Mans – What looked to be a breakthrough first win for Toyota in the French endurance classic turned upside down with less than five minutes remaining when the No. 5 TS050 Hybrid ground to a halt on the front-straight with engine issues, handing overall victory to Porsche for the 18th time. Ford, meanwhile, scored a controversial win in GTE-Pro, in its Le Mans return, despite an unprecedented post-qualifying Balance of Performance change and multiple protests with Risi Competizione and Ferrari.