The opening round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship will give an idea of the relative strengths of the teams with just over two months to go to the Le Mans 24 Hours on 22-23 June.
The entrants have been champing at the bit for the past several weeks. This year the road to Le Mans begins in Great Britain after months of intensive preparation. In LM P1, the eagerly-awaited, fabulous duel will ratchet up several notches in intensity between Audi, the reigning world championship team and winner of the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours, and its rival, Toyota. This weekend both protagonists have entered two hybrids, although the German manufacturer will have a third car in the Sarthe. Waiting in ambush to take advantage of the fallout from this battle are two privateer teams, Rebellion Racing with two Lola-Toyotas and Strakka Racing with its HPD (Honda Performance Development). Their chances have been given a boost by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s decision to reduce the performance gaps between them and the works LM P1 cars.
The ten LM P2s make this category the one with the highest number of cars in the field at Silverstone. In the absence of Starworks Racing, the 2012 champion, the 2012 runners-up ADR-Delta and Pecom Racing will be out to win, while fighting off the attacks of the three very quick Morgan-Nissans entered by OAK Racing and the Greaves Motorsport’s finely-tuned Zytek Z11SN –Nissan. Among the newcomers, a close eye should be kept on the two new Lotus T128s and the Morgan-Nissan entered by Chinese squad KCMG, which is there to prepare for the coming Le Mans 24 Hours and the Asian Le Mans Series.
A no-holds-barred battle looks on the cards in LM GTE. The six cars in the Pro category are all works entries starting with the two Ferrari F458 Italias the reigning champions driven by Fisichella-Bruni and Kobayashi-Vilander. They are up against two Aston Martin Vantages and two Porsche 911 RSRs run by Manthey Racing. All the cars are driven either by former Le Mans winners or guys who’ve come from Formula 1, which gives an idea of the overall level of quality of the competition.
The LM GTE Am category has attracted eight entries starting with the Larbre Competition Corvette (Bornhauser-Canal-Rees) who are back to defend their 2012 title; they will have a tough job on their hands fighting off teams like Krohn Racing, Imsa Performance Matmut, Aston Martin, AF Corse, etc…
Sunday’s race starts at 12.00, the winners will be awarded the prestigious Tourist Trophy, one of the oldest in the history of motor racing. By Melissa Warren