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FIA WEC: Silverstone Preview Part 1, LMP 1

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LMP1 : 7 Cars

1 M Toyota Racing Anthony Davidson/Sebastien Buemi/Kazuki Nakajima Toyota TS 040 Hybrid
2 M Toyota Racing Alexander Wurz/Stephane Sarrazin/Mike Conway Toyota TS 040 Hybrid
4 M ByKolles Racing Simon Trummer/Vitantonio Liuzzi CLM P1/01 AER
7 M Audi Sport Team Joest Marcel Fässler/Andre Lotterer/Benoit Treluyer Audi R18 e-tron quattro
8 M Audi Sport Team Joest Lucas Di Grassi/Oliver Jarvis/Loic Duval Audi R18 e-tron quattro
17 M Porsche AG Timo Bernhard/Mark Webber/Brendon Hartley Porsche 919 Hybrid
18 M Porsche AG Romain Dumas/Marc Lieb/Neel Jani Porsche 919 Hybrid

It should have been 11 cars for the start of the season but with the delays for both the Nissan NISMO GT-R LM factory programme after some testing and systems woes, plus the delayed start to the year for Rebellion Racing after the team opted to make a late switch to AER turbo power, resulting in a required comprehensive redesign of the cooling, aero and bodywork of the R-One we’ll start with seven at Silverstone.

That includes a stunning sextet of factory cars, we’ll get to them in just a moment. First up there’s a new team name, a new colour scheme but a familiar car as the only privateer entry in LMP1 until Le Mans. That’s good news & bad news. Bad news because ByKolles Racing have no real competition, good news because it will give Rebellion something to chase when we do see their two cars later in the year.

For now we have the CLM P1/01 AER in a new and quite attractive pearlescent white and bright yellow livery. The car looks great but sadly proved no quicker, and if anything rather less reliable, than in 2014.

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Sometime GP2 racer Simon Trummer is joined at Silverstone by Vitantonio Liuzzi, the Italian ex F1 man returning to the team for the first time since their LMP2 days.

Toyota return to defend their World Championships with a pair of 2015 spec TS040 Hybrids that stay in 1000 hp 6mJ trim but with plenty of attention paid to the aero, cooling and weight distribution for an evolutionary approach that they hope will keep them ahead of a growing pack. The car retains the glorious normally aspirated V8 coupled to the successful Toyota Supercapacitor system, this in its final season with work well underway on a new for 2016 replacement.

2014 World Champion drivers Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi are joined in 2015 by Kazuki Nakajima in another driver reshuffle, Nakajima though will not have the distraction of clashing programmes this year and should contest all eight rounds in the #1 car this season.

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The sister #2 car sees Alex Wurz return as the only man to have competed in every one of Toyota’s LMP1 races in the current programme, joined again by the equally experienced Stephane Sarrazin and new full season signing Mike Conway.

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There are no weak links in the Toyota chain, and despite making few headlines at the Paul Ricard Prologue Test the rumours were flying that the 2015 spec car had posted times in private testing up to a second faster even than the impressive benchmark set by Porsche!

Audi return with a heavily updated version of the R18 e-tron quattro that was increasingly outgunned as the 2014 season progressed.

In proportionate terms Audi have made the biggest step forward moving up from the 2mJ class to 4mJ, but that is only part of the story as Audi Sport’s new Neuberg ‘Skunk Works’ begins to swing into action.

Whilst similar looking to the ’14 car the 2015 evolution is of massive proportions with huge attention paid not only to the hybrid system, but also to aerodynamics, an area where the underpowered car fell way short of the opposition last year.

Add in trick suspension and braking systems and there are interesting signs of confidence at Audi. And it’s very possible that their confidence is well founded. Whilst Porsche grabbed the headlines with searing pace Audi went about their job list in typically quiet fashion, and consistently completed their long stints faster than Porsche!

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There’s a change in the driver line-up too of course after Tom Kristensen joined Allan McNish in the carpet slippers and dressing gown squad. Mr Le Mans has been replaced by Mr Jarvis in the car now numbered #8 alongside Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval whilst the sister #7 car has an unchanged line-up of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer.

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Finally Porsche, and a world first as the 2015 919 Hybrid, another car that looks broadly similar to its predecessor, makes a huge leap forward into the so far uncharted 8mJ territory. Figures aren’t immediately on tap but this is certainly a car that enters the 1000 bhp+ category.

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The difference from the 2014 6 mJ car may be visually small but in reality it’s immense with the uprated hybrid system needing massive work on aerodynamics, weight management and cooling.

The result? A car that was 4 seconds faster than last year’s car at the Prologue Test, faster than the full fat all time 900 bhp Peugeot despite having less mechanical grip from the newer car’s narrower rubber, an astonishing level of progress through technology.

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Where there has been no change in 2015 is the driver line-up, the sextet of 2014 drivers all return with no change in the two full season squads, last year’s #14 and #20 though become #17 & 18 with the #17 fielding Messrs Webber, Hartley and Bernhard, #18 Dumas, Lieb and Jani.

Over a single lap the Porsche had it, over the longer runs the Audi,but then there were those rumours to savour of Toyota’s testing pace. This could be one hell of a season!