2017 Season Resumé
The 2017 WEC season will be remembered for great competition on track, thanks to some outstanding performances from its competitors, notably at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but also for being the end of an era with the announcement from Porsche mid-season that it would be withdrawing from the LMP1 hybrid class. But, as one era comes to a close another dawns, and the end of the sixth season not only brought championship celebrations for Porsche, Ferrari, Rebellion and Aston Martin, but also great optimism and confidence for the future of the WEC.
Porsche parts on a high note from LMP1
Porsche won its third consecutive FIA World Championship and a third Le Mans victory – somewhat against the odds – which ultimately tipped the balance towards the German marque in the final stages of the season. Toyota actually claimed more race victories (5) and showed great pace in the second half of the season, but Porsche’s consistency across its two-car LMP team meant it was able to depart with its hybrid technology from the WEC on a high.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans proved, as so often, to be a pivotal moment in the season, and was full of emotion, heat and drama. Porsche’s No.2 919 Hybrid finally conquered all those sensations to take the marque’s 19th win, despite losing 65 minutes in the pits for repairs in the first quarter of the race after a front axle drive issue. The double points awarded boosted the popular trio of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber towards the 2017 World Championship Drivers’ title, with Porsche team orders playing their part too.
A highlight of the year was Kamui Kobayashi’s record-breaking qualifying lap of Le Mans in the Toyota TS050 HYBRID. That performance, plus its 5 wins including the final three races of the year, offers encouragement for success at Le Mans in 2018 and in the WEC Super Season. The sight of F1 double world champion Fernando Alonso in a Toyota at the Bahrain Rookie Test brought a different kind of hope for the future!
Ferrari claim inaugural GT FIA titles
In the ever-competitive GT categories, Ferrari claimed its 5th GT title in 6 seasons and the inaugural GT FIA World Endurance Championship titles for both the manufacturer and its drivers James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi. The British-Italian duo, which secured 3 victories plus 3 second places with the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE, was pushed hard throughout the season by Porsche and Ford and just 6 points separated the drivers in 2nd, 3rd and 4th places in the title chase.
There was spectacular racing as always, some unpredictable results – thanks in part to the success of the new automated Balance of Performance system – and the very best professional driver line ups in the world. Victory proved to be just outside the grasp of the Porsche GT Team in 2017 with its new 911 RSR, but consistency brought its rewards and runner up spot. Ford took two wins, while Aston Martin had the crowd on its feet at Le Mans with a spectacular grandstand finish for LMGTE Pro honours.
LMP2 thrilled to the final chequered flag
The LMP2 entrants never failed to entertain in 2017, and provided some of the most exciting moments of the season – above all at Le Mans where Jackie Chan DC Racing broke new ground in the modern era by leading the race and finishing 2nd overall. Key protagonists all year were Vaillante Rebellion and Jackie Chan DC Racing – scooping up 7 of the 9 class victories between them, with the balance 4-3 to Rebellion. Bruno Senna was in many people’s eyes the driver of the season (in the LMP2 class) and his hard-charging, never-give-up attitude saw him claim the class Drivers’ championship title with Julien Canal in the final hour of the final race. The advent of a wave of young, ambitious and hard-charging drivers to the category saw some amazing nose-to-tail, side-to-side battles that thrilled and entertained in equal measure.
Aston Martin bid farewell to its Vantage in style
As in the previous season, it was a 3-way battle between Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche, with the British marque this time coming out on top in the LMGTE Am championship fight. Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda were unstoppable for the virtually the whole season, taking 4 wins on their way to the title – sending the venerable Vantage into a well-deserved retirement. Aston Martin was challenged by Clearwater Racing (Ferrari) and Dempsey-Proton Racing (Porsche) throughout the year – both teams taking 2 wins apiece – with Spirit of Race claiming victory in the weather-affected Fuji race.