WEC IN A (WHEEL) NUT SHELL
Ten months after announcing his exciting new career with Porsche in the Silverstone paddock, Mark will return there next week to race at the wheel of a Le Mans prototype for the first time since 1999. He’ll need all his grit, determination and tenacity as the German marque seeks to extend its illustrious record in elite endurance racing.
But what if you’re more used to 90 minute races than six or 24 hours ones, can’t tell your LMP1s from your LMP2s or just want the low-down on Mark’s new championship?
Well, we’ve put together all the information you need to follow Aussie Grit’s 2014 WEC season – and yes you will need some endurance yourself too to get your head around it!
What is the WEC and what are the categories involved?
The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is comprised of Le Mans Prototype cars (LMP1 and LMP2) and Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance cars (LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am).
Le Mans prototypes are cars developed exclusively for on-track competition. LMP1 is split into two classes, LMP1-L for privateer non-hybrids and LMP1-H for hybrid-powered cars. As the light cars (L) have no Energy Recovery System (ERS), the FIA limit the amount of fuel in accordance to the used electrical boost, so that both can compete in the same category.
LMP1 cars are only driven by professional racing drivers and are marked by red stickers. The LMP1 power train for 2014 will be based on efficiency and fuel consumption meaning no limit in air restrictor, boost pressure and engine capacity. Their overall length must be no more than 4650mm and width no more than 1900mm – an F1 car would be in the region of 4630mm long and 1800mm wide.
Their minimum weight depends on whether they have hybrid technology (LMP1-H 870kg /LMP1-L 850 kg), compared to an F1 car which has a minimum weight of 691kg.
The LMP2 category is reserved exclusively for private teams that are independent of manufacturers and/or engine suppliers and race in blue stickers. LMGTE Pro cars can be used on open roads and are driven by professionals only. These cars are identified by green stickers. LMGTE Am consists of gentleman and professional drivers and the cars are at least one year older than the latest LMGTE Pro specification cars. These cars are identified by orange stickers.
The titles Mark will be fighting for are Manufacturers’ Champion and Drivers’ Champion which are reserved for LMP categories.
Speed and Distance
To compare the speed of LMP1 with F1, Mark’s fastest lap at last year’s British Grand Prix (average speed: 227.059kph) was just over 10.5 seconds quicker than the fastest WEC lap there (average speed: 203.600kph). At Silverstone, the race distance is over three and a half times that of an F1 race, which is in the region of just under 200 laps.
FIA WEC official collective testing was held at Le Castellet on 28/29 March 2014. The race calendar includes Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps, Le Mans, The Circuit of the Americas, Fuji, Shanghai, Bahrain and Sao Paolo. That means Mark will race at six venues that he raced at last season.
The weekend schedules differ according to whether the race is on Saturday or Sunday. For example at Silverstone where the race is on Sunday, there will be two free practice sessions on Friday, FP3 and qualifying on Saturday before the race the following day. In contrast, the race at Shanghai is on Saturday and as such there are two practice sessions and qualifying on Friday.
The only anomaly is Le Mans which holds practice sessions a few weeks before the race to aid the teams’ preparation. There is a further practice session on the Wednesday before the race ahead of three two-hour long qualifying sessions spread across Wednesday and Thursday with fastest lap time achieved taking pole. The 24hr race starts at 3pm on Saturday afternoon.
In qualifying for all races except Le Mans, two drivers from each crew must set at least two timed laps and the average of the four best lap times (the best two of each driver) will serve as the reference time for establishing the grid.
In terms of driving time for Mark’s LMP1 category, to be able to score points, a driver must imperatively drive for a minimum of 45 minutes during the race. A driver may not drive for more than four hours and 30 minutes in total.
Points for the titles of Drivers’ World Champion and Manufacturers’ World Champion are awarded at each race (except Le Mans) according to the following scale: 1st: 25 points, 2nd: 18 points, 3rd: 15 points, 4th: 12 points, 5th: 10 points, 6th: 8 points, 7th: 6 points, 8th: 4 points, 9th: 2 points, 10th: 1 point.
Half a point will also be awarded to any car classified lower than 10th and an additional point will be awarded to the pole position manufacturer and drivers. At Le Mans double points will be awarded.
Points for the Manufacturers’ World Championship will only be scored by the highest finishing eligible car entered for the FIA WEC and entry is limited to a maximum of two cars per group, however for Le Mans only, the LMP1 manufacturers may enter a third car.
Unlike in F1, in the FIA WEC the number of people in the pitlane is very strictly controlled. As in F1, they all have to wear fire suits and helmets or at least fire suits, balaclava and goggles.
In endurance racing every car will refuel when it stops and – depending on strategy – most will leave driver changes to coincide with tyre changes as that takes longer than a fuel-only stop.
As the driver comes into the pits he’ll be told to go through his team’s procedures which are usually to unplug radio connection, disconnect his drinks system, loosen his belts – but not undo them until he has stopped otherwise he can get a penalty – and any other specific instructions from his team.
Everyone has to stay behind the solid white line in front of the garages until the car has come to a stop, and no equipment is allowed over the line until it stops. On stopping, the driver must switch off the lights, cut the engine and undo his harness.
The roles of the team are as follows:
- One person acts as the car ‘controller’ or supervisor and he/she holds the stop board and will also safely see the car out of the pits when it is ready. He is not allowed to touch or work on the car.
- Once the car is ‘earthed’, two people are allowed to carry out refuelling/venting – wearing three-layer fire-suits and full face helmets. When they finish, they withdraw immediately to the garage.
- As this is going on, or if necessary afterwards, a maximum of two people are permitted to clean the windscreen, headlights and rear lights, mirrors or cameras. One of these can also connect a cable for downloading data.
- Tyre and brake technicians (one from each supplier) are allowed to carry out checks (temperatures, pressures, visual checks) if necessary, while refuelling is going on.
- A maximum of two tyre changers are allowed and only one tyre gun is permitted to be used at any one time. It’s very carefully choreographed for speed and usually two mechanics do one side and then run back into the garage, another two come and do the other two wheels on the other side but each team has a different system. The mechanics are allowed to lay down the new tyre on the ground while refuelling is going on, but they can’t touch the car until it is finished.
- One person is allowed to change the memory card for data logging if this is necessary.
- In LMP1-H a specific role for one additional person will be to change the fuel flow meter.
- The driver is allowed a ‘driver assistant’ to help him when he first enters the cockpit, but many teams prefer to use the driver who is exiting the car. They will help connect the radio and seat belts, and close the door.
- A maximum of four people are allowed to work on the car in the working pit lane once refuelling and tyre changes have taken place – i.e. if there’s a problem with something – but most teams tend to bring the car into the garage because then there’s no limit on who can work on the car.
2014 FIA World Endurance Championship TV Broadcast
Motors TV will broadcast all races live in the UK (excluding Le Mans) starting with the season opener in Silverstone on the Easter weekend, Sunday 20 April at 11:30 GMT. A replay will be shown on Eurosport 2 on Wednesday 23 April at 08:00 GMT.
In Europe the race will be shown live for the final hour by Eurosport International (18:00–19:00 CEST) with a replay on Eurosport 2 on Wednesday 23 April at 09:00 CEST.
In Australia Speed will show all eight rounds of the WEC starting with Silverstone on Sunday 20 April 12:00pm-07:00pm
Please check TV programs for further information.
In addition to the TV coverage, the race can be followed live through the websites of the FIA WEC (www.fiawec.com/live), Le Mans TV (www.lemans-tv.com) and on the endurance racing radioweb service, Radio Le Mans (www.radiolemans.com).
Updates for the next races will follow.
by Jonathan Campkin