There were a number of stories that rocked the sports car racing industry this year, both occurring on and off the track, that will likely shape the sport for years to come.
Sportscar365 takes a look at the Top 10 stories from 2016:
10. New GT3 Cars Debut — With new cars from Lamborghini, Mercedes-AMG, Audi, Porsche, BMW and Ferrari, the highly popular production-based platform received an extreme makeover for 2016, and saw continued growth, particularly with IMSA’s adoption of full GT3 regulations. Revised regulations saw the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup explode in car count as well.
9. Driver Lineup Shakeups — Audi’s withdrawal from LMP1, and other factors, have resulted in significant shakeups in driver lineups across multiple manufacturers in LMP1 and GTE/GTLM for 2017. Newly crowned FIA World Endurance Champions Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas have been dropped at Porsche, along with Mark Webber’s retirement, leading to Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Andre Lotterer’s appointments with the German manufacturer. There’s also been major changes at Porsche’s GT lineups, as well as BMW in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
8. Mark Webber Retires — The Formula One veteran and 2015 FIA World Endurance Champion hung up his helmet at the end of this season, following a successful three-year stint in LMP1 competition that saw the Australian claim eight overall wins alongside Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard at Porsche.
7. Driver Ratings Impact Multiple Championships — Off-season driver rating changes, and the rise of young open-wheel talent to LMP2, impacted multiple championships, primarily the WEC LMP2 category. Multiple Silver-rated drivers, including Roman Rusinov, Matt Rao and Gustavo Menezes, who won the LMP2 World Championship, were often quicker than their Pro-rated co-drivers, sparking continued controversy.
6. ACO and IMSA’s Complex Relationship — Rising tensions between the ACO and IMSA, largely over the DPi/LMP2 regulations, reached a boiling point by Le Mans, when the ACO revealed that IMSA-based DPis, even with the global bodywork, would not be eligible in the LMP2 class at the French endurance classic next year. That, and other behind-the-scenes factors, have led to a larger separation between the two organizations.
5. New DPis, LMP2s Break Cover — While a new era for prototype racing begins next year, IMSA’s DPi and the global LMP2 cars have all broken cover, following nearly two years of work from the FIA, ACO and IMSA on the new platform. ORECA, Onroak Automotive, Dallara and Multimatic Riley were selected as the four LMP2 constructors, with Gibson as the spec powerplant, with IMSA’s DPi platform set to initially launch with three manufacturers: Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan.
4. Mercedes-AMG, Lamborghini Penalized for Cheating — Two major GT3 manufacturers were slapped with hefty penalties after cheating in a pair of 24-hour races. All Lamborghini Huracan GT3 teams were given post-race penalties after an air restrictor infringement was found following the Rolex 24 at Daytona, while Mercedes-AMG lost its 1-5 qualifying sweep, and each Top-20 qualifying car handed a five-minute in-race penalty at the Total 24 Hours of Spa due to an engine mapping irregularity.
3. Porsche Steals Le Mans Victory — What looked to be a breakthrough first win for Toyota in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 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.
2. Ford GT Wins Le Mans Amid BoP Controversy — Ford claimed GTE-Pro class victory in its comeback to Le Mans, despite multiple protests and a week-plus long controversy surrounding the category’s Balance of Performance, which had, in unprecedented fashion, been adjusted post-qualifying.
1. Audi’s Withdrawal from LMP1 — Perhaps considered one of the stories of the decade, Audi’s exit from top-level prototype racing at the end of the WEC season took the entire motorsports world by shock, despite signs coming for a number of years, and accelerated by the recent VW emissions scandal. The German manufacturer’s withdrawal came after a remarkable 18-year run that included 13 overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.