If the first eleven months of Nick Tandy’s 2015 were the best of his life, December is swinging the pendulum back. Following a disgraceful lack of recognition in this year’s Autosport awards, further disappointment arrived at the annual Porsche Night of Champions in Stuttgart, where the 2016 Porsche LMP1 programme was confirmed as a two-car push for all nine WEC rounds, including Le Mans, with the regular driver squads running unchanged.
Porsche cuts 2016 LMP1 Le Mans Squad
Despite Porsche’s best-ever year selling cars with more than 200,000 Porsches delivered in the first eleven months of 2015, both Porsche and Audi have agreed to cut their Le Mans teams to just two LMP1 cars a piece for “maximum cost efficiency”. The decision means no LMP1 for the 2015 Le Mans winners, despite their superior pace in the 2015 event: Bamber’s debut race at Le Mans.
Porsche axes 2016 WEC GTE-Pro Team
Maximum cost efficiency has also led Weissach to axe its factory GTE-Pro campaign for the full WEC season. Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen will instead defend their 2015 GTE-Pro titles in a 911 (991) RSR run by Proton Dempsey Racing. While Proton runs the old 911, Porsche will develop a new RSR for the regulation changes effective next season, which allow GTE-Pro cars to run 20 more horsepower and 10 fewer kilos. Though the old RSR might find the new regs tough going, anything can happen in racing. No doubt Lietz & Christensen will apply all of their talents as reigning World Champions.
Extra RSRs planned for Le Mans
They’ve lost their LMP1 seats, but it’s hoped that Tandy and Bamber will drive at Le Mans. Their participation has yet to be confirmed, but Porsche hopes to receive two more GTE-Pro entries for the 24 Hours. Fun-loving Pilet and Tandy with newest works driver, Kévin Estre, would take one 911, while Bamber, Fred Mako and Jörg Bergmeister would get the other. Porsche would also have cars in GTE-Am, so its promo machine should take maximum value from being the only manufacturer to have entered three of the four Le Mans categories.
2016 Le Mans versus Formula 1
The 2016 Le Mans 24-Hours takes place on the weekend of 18/19 June, and coincides with an F1 race for the very first time. The FIA says that the start of the Baku Grand Prix will be scheduled so as not to clash with the end of the 24 Hours.
ACO’s plans to extend the Le Mans pit lane to sixty garages – four more than are currently available – would allow a few more cars in the race, so it’s hard to imagine Le Mans saying no to the reigning champions. It is therefore quite likely that we will see Tandy and Bamber on the grid in France, although I suspect that if a competitive LMP2 drive turns up for either, they will do their best to be in it. Let’s wait for the entry list.