Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Five: Bahrain and London

The 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship ends their 2015 season in Bahrain this weekend and all four championships remain unclaimed. While sports car racing's best battle under the lights in the Persian Gulf, champions from all forms of motorsports, two-wheels and four, will compete in London in the 2015 edition of Race of Champions.

The battle for the world championship is between two teams. The #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley extended their championship lead to 12 points over the #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer after winning in Shanghai. The #17 Porsche has won every race since Le Mans while the #7 has finished on the podium in every race this season but has not stood on the top step of the podium since Spa-Francorchamps in May. 

All three Porsche drivers are pursuing their first world championship. The three Audi drivers won the inaugural FIA World Endurance Drivers' Championship in 2012. 

The #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan of Romain Rusinov, Julien Canal and Sam Bird leads the #47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan of Matthew Howson and Richard Bradley by 16 points. The Russian team has finished on the podium in the last five races with two victories and three runner-up finishes. KCMG lost its lead in the LMP2 championship after retiring at Fuji. The team won at Le Mans and Nürburgring and finished on the podium in every other race but Silverstone, where the team finished fourth. 

Both teams are going for their first LMP2 titles. G-Drive finished runner-up last year with Rusinov, Canal and Olivier Pla. KCMG finished third last year with Howson and Bradley. 

Richard Leitz controls his own destiny for the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers. The Porsche drivers leads with 135 points, 18 points ahead of co-driver Michael Christiansen. The Dane only trails the Austrian because he missed the Spa-Francorchamps round. Both will share the #91 Porsche. Twenty points behind Leitz is the #71 AF Corse Ferrari of Davide Rigon and James Calado. Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander both still have a shot to retain their title. The #51 AF Corse drivers trail by 22.5 points. 

Ferrari has won every title in GTE-Pro with Bruni taking a share in every previous World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers. Porsche is looking to sweep both the top prototype and GT championships.

The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Viktor Shaitar and Aleksey Basov lead with 155 points and are 19 points head of the #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo and Rui Águas. Águas will miss the season finale and will be replaced by Matteo Cressoni. The #72 Ferrari won three races, including Le Mans, has three third and a sixth at Fuji. The #83 Ferrari has finished on the podium in every race this season but did not pick up its first victory until the most recent round at Shanghai. 

The streak of no repeat champions in GTE-Am will continue as neither SMP Racing nor AF Corse have won. Labre Compétition, 8Star Motorsports and Aston Martin Racing have each won the title while Aston Martin drivers have won both editions of the Endurance Trophy for GTE-Am Drivers. 

Race of Champions
The 27th Race of Champions will feature 20 drivers from 11 different countries. 

The defending Champion of Champions, David Coulthard returns and will pair with Williams F1 test driver Susie Wolff to represent Scotland in the Nations' Cup. Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg return to defend their Nations' Cup title for the Nordic team. After not competing in 2014, Germany will have a team represented. Sebastian Vettel also returns after missing in 2014 and he will be paired with Le Mans winner Nico Hülkenberg. Germany won six consecutive Nations' Cups with Vettel and Michael Schumacher from 2007-2012. 

The host England has two teams. British Touring Car Championship drivers Jason Plato and Andy Priaulx pair to form England 1 while Jenson Button and Blancpain Endurance Series champion Alex Buncombe form England 2. Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Doohan will represent Australia . Brazil will have a team in Race of Champions for the first time since 2005. Felipe Massa and Nelson Piquet, Jr. were the drivers that year and both return in 2015. 

Ryan Hunter-Reay and José María López return to ROC and will form Team Americas. Runner-up last year's in the Champion of Champions Pascal Wehrlein returns and will pair with Jolyon Palmer to form the Anglo-German Young Stars team. Romain Grosjean and Jorge Lorenzo were schedule to form Team All-Stars but Lorenzo is out after suffering burns celebrating his MotoGP championship. Sir Chris Hoy will replace the Majorcan. The six-time Olympic gold medalist Hoy won the LMP3 championship this year in the European Le Mans Series. 

In round one of the Nations' Cup, Team All Stars will face off with Team Young Stars and England 1 will take on Brazil. The winners of those two match-ups will meet in a quarterfinal. 

Team Nordic will face-off against Team Americas. Former Red Bull teammates Ricciardo and Vettel will go head-to-head as Australia faces Germany. There will be a Calcutta Cup matchup as England 2 faces Scotland in the fourth quarterfinal. 

Each Nations' Cup round is a best-of-three with the winning drivers meeting in a third heat if necessary. 

For the Champion of Champions competition on Saturday there will be four first round match-ups. Team Americas teammates López and Hunter-Reay will meet. The winner of López/Hunter-Reay will meet the winner of Wehrlein/Priaulx in round two. Doohan will face the winner of ROC Factor  Bradley Philpot, a driver who has finished on a class podium in the 24 Hours Nürburgring. The winner of Doohan/Philpot will face the winner of Buncombe/Palmer. 

Coulthard will face Wolff in the first race of his title defense. Grosjean is the only other past Champion of Champions in the field and he will face Plato. Ricciardo and Hülkenberg meet in one of two all-Formula One driver match-ups. The other is Button vs. Massa. Vettel takes on Solberg while Kristensen will face Piquet, Jr. 

After the Champion of Champions is crowned, the drivers will take part in a karting competition. Two heats will take place with the top ten heading to the final. 

1. Over or Under: 2.5 cars finishing on the lead lap?
2. Over or Under: 2.5 Ligiers on the podium in LMP2?
3. Over or Under: 4.5 nationalities represented on the GTE-Pro podium?
4. Over or Under: 4.5 laps between the GTE-Pro winner and GTE-Am winner?
5. Over or Under: 1.5 British drivers in the semifinals of the individual competition?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: Zero Chase drivers finished a lap down at Phoenix.
2. Under: One retirement in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Carlos Sainz, Jr.
3. Under: The combine age of Andrea Caldarelli and Ryō Hirakawa is 46.
4. Under: The top three starters in GT300 at Motegi finished in the top three.
5. Under: Only one Scandinavian driver in the top five of Wales Rally GB, Andreas Mikkelsen.

1. All three privateer LMP1 entries finish the race.
2. Both Extreme Speed Motorsports cars finish and one finishes in the top half of LMP2.
3. One of the FIA WEC teams with a streak of five consecutive podiums or more ends at Bahrain.
4. Aston Martin wins in GTE-Am.
5. The Nations' Cup has a first-time winner.

Last Week's Predictions
1. One of the four drivers on the outside looking in entering Phoenix will be championship eligible at Homestead (Wrong. The four that entered were the four that left).
2. A car will retire while running in the top three (Wrong. Sainz, Jr. was never close to the top three).
3. The GT500 champion will have a race victory (Correct. Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli had two victories).
4. A non-Japanese manufacture will win the GT300 race at Motegi (Wrong. Toyota won).
5. Three British drivers finish in the points (Wrong. Only two. Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans).
Overall: 1/5 Running Tally: 27/55