The final part of our look back at the first 50 races of the FIA World Endurance Championship covers GTE Am.
At times overlooked (at your peril because the past six seasons have seen some excellent racing) GTE Am has provided the WEC with a solid privateer foundation in the GTE ranks over the years, and 2018 is set to see more still with an influx of new cars and, for the first time in Championship history, a majorly oversubscribed entry!
Teams and drivers representing three different marques have taken Championship titles since 2012 with only one team, (though arguably two!) taking more than one crown.
Of the 11 Championships awarded (there was no Drivers Championship in the first season), its even stevens between the Ferrari and Aston martin teams at five apiece with the Larbre Corvette effort taking the tams title in the inaugural year for the Championship.
Aston Martin Racing has scored two Teams Championships, its crews taking a trio of Driver’s Championships, AF Corse has taken a single Championship in their own name, another under the 8Star moniker, with SMP Racing also taking a Championship win.
Porsche, somewhat surprisingly, have yet to take a WEC title in the class but have had representative teams win races in every season bar one.
The inaugural season of the FIA WEC saw eight cars involved in the class though one AF Corse car was for Spa and Le Mans only and the Luxury Racing 458 did not reappear after the big one!
The #88 Felbermayr Proton Porsche took four race wins in the eight event season – including the first ever event win at Sebring, Christian Ried, Gianluca Roda and Paulo Ruberti the full-season trio.
Sadly for Christian Ried’s outfit, a DNF at Le Mans saw the team on the back foot, losing out on the double points scoring opportunity and a late season charge by Larbre Competition’s #50 Corvette C6.R (one of a pair the team contested the full season with) saw Jack Leconte’s outfit take full advantage of their 50-point Le Mans points haul backed up by a double win in the last two races of the season to secure the Championship with a 26 point advantage.
Pedro Lamy anchored the crew taking the first three of his record-breaking haul of class wins alongside Patrick Bornhauser and Julien Canal. There was though, no Drivers Championship in 2012, with Larbre taking only a Team’s Trophy.
One other crew took a win during the season, Matt Griffin, Marco Cioci and Pierguiseppe Perazzini taking the Silverstone win in the #61 AF-Waltrip Ferrari, this the only race in the season that did not see either of the NASCAR stars rostered (Michael Waltrip and Brian Vickers) driving.
The 2013 season saw triumph and tragedy for Aston Martin Racing. Five of the eight class wins went to one or other of the two Vantage GTE’s entered for the season, Jamie Campbell Walter and Stuart Hall claiming the inaugural drivers title after taking a pair of wins when driving as a pair, team-mate Roald Goethe completing only a part season, Jonny Adam bolstering the effort with a couple of late appearances.
The sister #95 Aston Martin claimed three wins including the opening race of the season at Silverstone. The campaign was defined though by the death of Allan Simonsen at Le Mans, the Dane crashing out early in the race after qualifying on pole position in the worst incident in FIA WEC history.
Nicki Thiim replaced his fellow Dane after Le Mans with the revised crew taking a further pair of wins in the ‘Dane Train’, one at CoTA seeing Bruno Senna replacing Thiim.
The Le Mans win was taken by the #75 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche, the Porsche campaign put into the shade later in the season by the rampant Astons, a pair of late season podium finishes not enough to sustain the challenge.
The Larbre Corvette challenge faded too after a couple of encouraging early season results, the team, like IMSA Performance, adding a second car for Le Mans only.
The Ferrari attack saw an unsuccessful AF Corse attack (though Manu Collard and Francois Perrodo would dip in for the final round, the pair a future Championship-winning combination).
The 8Star effort (also very much an AF Corse campaign) though would see success, Enzo Potolicchio and Rui Aguas aboard for the full season, future factory driver Davide Rigon bolstering the effort later in the season and helping to secure the teams title for the #81 squad.
The season saw utter domination by the Aston Martin Vantage GTE, AMR’s cars taking seven of the eight class victories for the season.
The #98 Vantage saw the introduction into the WEC of Paul Dalla Lana, an ever present ever since, alongside Pedro Lamy and Christoffer Nygaard, the trio would claim three wins and would finish off the podium only once (at Le Mans).
That record though, would be thoroughly eclipsed by the #95 ‘Dane Train’. The Jan Struve-co-ordinated Young Driver AMR effort bouncing back after the heartbreak of 2013 with an astonishing run that saw the car win four races and finish second in the other four, Nicki Thiim at the helm for all four wins and second place in Bahrain to secure the Team’s title.
Richie Stanaway replaced the Dane (below) for three races while Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson stayed aboard for the full season. The run included a triumphant, and hugely emotional, win at Le Mans.
The Proton Competition Porsche would finish third in the standings but had no answer for the Astons, the only other winner during the season coming for a part season effort by the #61 AF Corse Ferrari of Marco Cioci, Mirko Venturi and Luis Perez Companc.
The season saw a real turnaround with Ferrari efforts to the fore, albeit with a trio of wins for the #98 Aston, now with Mathias Laura joining messrs Lamy and Dalla Lana, a trio that has been ever present since. There was a popular win too at Fuji, their only of the season, for the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche, Marco Seefried and Pat Long providing solid support for Patrick Dempsey, his only WEC win.
There was an increasingly convincing effort too from the #83 AF Corse Ferrari, Francois Perrodo and Manu Collard taking second in the Driver’s Championship, the pair with Rui Aguas, staking a win at Shanghai, Matteo Cressoni replacing Aguas for the season finale.
The dominant force for the season though was SMP Racing, its #72 Ferrari 458 GTE taking a trio of consecutive wins including Le Mans for Andrea Bertolini, Aleksey Basov and Viktor Shaytar, the charge late season by the #83 and #98 split the attack and allowed the Russian-flagged squad to cruise to the title, a deserved Championship win.
Saw the titles go to a super consistent year long run from the #83 AF Corse Ferrari 458 squad (also the last WEC title to fall to the screaming Ferrari). Francois Perrodo, Manu Collard and Rui Aguas (below) took a win at Silverstone and scored the double points maximum at Le Mans (the race won by the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari) and only finished off the podium once for the remainder of the nine race season, a record that made it impossible for the less consistent opposition to close the gap.
The remaining wins were split between the #88 Abu Dhabi Proton Porsche, a pair of victories for Khaled Al Qubaisi, David Heinemeier Hansson and Pat Long launching them to second in the standings with the crew enjoying an emotional final round win at Bahrain, the Emirati-flagged effort getting some deserved regional media ‘love’.
The remaining five races of the season were all taken by the #98 Aston Martin, their Championship run ruined by a trio of retirements, dramatically at Le Mans in the closing stages when leading comfortably, a mistake from Paul Dalla Lana in the Ford Chicane, with hindsight, effectively costing them the title as well as the race, whilst a fine run in Bahrain also fell victim to a DNF, this time a mechanical failure.
They would have to wait for another year!
Last year was fantastic, with a near full-season class battle with the debuting Clearwater Racing crew taking the Championship lead at Silverstone courtesy of a storming late race drive drive by Matt Griffin, aided and abetted by an extraordinary clash on the final lap between Miguel Molina and Pedro Lamy when Molina was challenging for the lead.
Thereafter it proved to be a topsy turvy season with the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche taking a pair of wins, the first for the ever present WEC entrant Christian Ried as a driver since the 2012 season!
Le Mans saw the Clearwater crew take maximum (double) points as the first WEC trio home in a race win by ELMS stars JMW Motorsport and with mixed fortunes elsewhere in the mid-season the Championships would go down to the wire.
The #54 Spirit of Race (AF Corse) Ferrari would take a sole win in the weather-shortened Fuji encounter but the late season story was the form of the #98 Aston Martin, a car so often plagued by misfortune, and at times misadventure, the late season form for Messrs Lamy, Dalla Lana and lauds was near faultless, the points tally at the end of the season perhaps slightly flattered the effort but there could be no arguing with a season that saw seven pole positions and four wins for the Aston boys.
The Championship finally went their way in both the Team’s and Driver’s standings!
Aston Martin dominate the record books in the class with 24 race wins, all for Aston Martin Racing with two generations of the iconic Vantage GTE the cars have won races in the class every season since 2013. It has also scored most wins per season by marque for each of those seasons except in 2015. In the 2014 season the two cars in the class scored a total of seven class wins across the eight races!
Ferrari are next up with 13 wins, 10 for the 458 GTE, a trio for the newer 488 GTE. Eight of the wins have come for teams operated at least in part by AF Corse though Clearwater Racing operate in partnership with the Italian super-squad.
Four have come under the AF Corse banner, one apiece under AF-Waltrip, 8Star and Spirit of Race. SMP Racing took three wins en route to the 2015 title whilst Scuderia Corse and JMW Motorsport have taken wins at Le Mans in the WEC era. Porsche have 10 wins, nine of which have come from various iterations of the Proton Competition squad with Felbermayr Proton taking four wins in 2012, Dempsey Proton taking a win in 2015, and two more in 2017 and AbuDhabi Proton taking a win in 2016.
IMSA Performance Matmut’s Le Mans win in 2013 sees the ‘odd one out’ in Porsche wins. Corvette meanwhile have a trio of wins in the Championship, all in the first season, 2012 in the hands of Larbre Competition with its C6.R GT2. Larbre stayed in the WEC until 2016, still scoring podium finishes by then with a C7.R but not scoring another win!
Beyond the Race winners mentioned above there have been a number of other teams entered in full-season FIA WEC competition.
2012 saw the Pirelli-shod JWA Avila Porsche of Paul Daniels racing for the full-season without a podium finish.
Luxury Racing was a full-season entrans in both GTE classes, but failed to make it beyond Le Mans; it did though, make it to the podium at Spa.
Krohn Racing would score multiple podium finishes with its Ferrari 458 in 2012 en route to third in the Championship. A second season in 2013 saw far shakier form.
RAM Racing and Prospeed brought a Ferrari and Porsche respectively to the 2014 season entry. RAM would falter after Le Mans without troubling the podium, Prospeed though woud score third at Fuji with a pairing (Perrodo and Collard) that would go on to win the Chamionship with AF Corse a couple of years later, plus Mathieu Vaxiviere who would join them in LMP2 in 2017!
The KCMG name would feature in the class in 2016 aboard a Proton run Porsche that would score five consecutive podium finishes at the end of the season to secure 4th in the points.
And Gulf Racing UK brought its immaculately prepared Porsche to the fray in 2016, returning in 2017 and scoring a pair of podiums in a learning couple of seasons for the fan-favourite squad.
51 different drivers have taken at least one class win in GTE AM (including at the Le Mans 24 Hours). Over half (26) have taken a single win apiece including Patrick Dempsey, and current Ferrari factory driver Davide Rigon, plus Bruno Senna (who won in both GTE Pro and Am in the same season (2013)), and the late, great Allan Simonsen. 2016 Class Champions Francois Perrodo and Manu Collard also took a single win – plus a full points haul at the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours as first WEC car home.
Nine drivers have taken a pair of class wins, including 2013 Drivers Champs Stuart Hall and Jamie Campbell Walter,.
Seven drivers have taken three class wins – including 2015 Drivers Champions Alexy Basov, Viktor Shaytar and Andrea Bertolini.
2016 Drivers Champion Rui Aguas has four wins, as does Julian Canal whose wins came in 2012 when no drivers Championship was awarded.
WEC and GTE AM ‘ever present’ Christian Ried is on five wins, as is Aston Martin Factory driver Nicki Thiim. 2014 Driver’s Champions Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson are on six wins apiece, as is countryman Christoffer Nygaard.
The top three are all the current class Champions, Mathias Lauda has 12 class wins, Paul Dalla Lana has 15 and Pedro Lamy 18.