Monday, November 23, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: 2015 Sports Car Predictions: Revisited

We are less than a week from Thanksgiving in the United States and the motorsports season is coasting to the finish line. Championships were crowned under the lights in the Persian Gulf and in South Florida. Meanwhile, some of the best of the world battled it out in a plethora of automobiles in London to determine who is the Champion of Champions. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

2015 Sports Car Predictions: Revisited
With the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship season now in the books. It is time to look back on predictions not only for WEC but IMSA, Pirelli World Challenge and Blancpain GT Series.

1. FIA WEC: All Four LMP1 Manufactures Win in 2015
Wrong! Nissan ran Le Mans and disappeared. Toyota never got over their championship hang over. It was Porsche vs. Audi the entire season. I made this prediction because Porsche won in their first season and I bought into the Nissan hype-train. Now, where is Nissan? They turned out to be all talk. Now we aren't even sure if Nissan will try again in 2016. I don't think they will.

2. Extreme Speed Motorsports is the LMP2 Favorites
Wrong! Extreme Speed Motorsports struggled with the HPD ARX-04b developed and had to move back to the ARX-03b before settling on the Ligier. They were always chasing the rest of the LMP2 grid this season. After their impressive appearances in the few WEC events they did at the end of 2014, I thought they would be able to take the fight to G-Drive, KCMG and others. I didn't think those teams were that strong as there were only four full-time cars in 2014. I was mistaken. G-Drive took the title and KCMG came second. I think ESM has the people to compete on the world stage and perhaps a less fluid situation in 2016 will have the team competing at the front more often.

3. Ferrari and Gianmaria Bruni Do Not Win a Third Consecutive World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers and Manufactures
Correct! Although, Ferrari and Bruni had a shot to continue the streak at Bahrain, Porsche and Richard Leitz came out on top. With the future of Porsche in GTE still up in the air, this could just be an off year for the Italian make and Italian driver. Aston Martin hasn't been able to competitive throughout an entire season and who knows how Ford will do in their debut season.

4. IMSA: LMP2 Cars Go Winless
Correct! Daytona Prototypes went 10-0 in 2015. Michael Shank Racing was LMP2 cars lone bullet and the closes they came was a second at Belle Isle. There is no point in running IMSA if you have an LMP2 car. Balance of Performance will never be on your side. You mind as well try and find a well-funded silver driver and try to run in ELMS or FIA WEC.

5. Corvette Takes the GTLM Title
Wrong! Another year. Another year with Corvette lighting the world on fire before the month of July. Another title coughed up. The season started with the sweep of the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring and then a third at Long Beach for Jan Magnussen and Antonio García. After that the #3 Corvette would score only one podium in the final seven races, a third at Mosport. The #4 Corvette of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin won at Le Mans but there only podiums were the bookends of the season, third at Daytona and third at Road Atlanta. While the Corvettes couldn't get there act together, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy kept winning and Porsche took the title.

6. The TRG-Aston Martin Wins a GTD Race
Wrong! But they were so close. Four runner-up finishes and a third. Christina Nielsen lost the GTD title on the final day of the season by two points to Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler. Her and James Davison let Belle Isle slip through their grasp and then her and Kuno Wittmer had golden opportunities at Road America and VIR. Nielsen and TRG were the most consistent team in GTD in 2015 but they just couldn't break through and the title slipped away.

7. PWC: Cadillac Does Not Win the Title
Wrong! If Olivier Beretta doesn't drive into the side of Johnny O'Connell, who knows who would have won the title but the Italian's failed attempt at the Corkscrew ultimately cost him the title. Also, who knows whom the champion would have been if Ryan Dalziel didn't have to miss races because of FIA WEC duty. Cadillac didn't dominate and while they started slow, O'Connell was able to compete at the front with the Beretta, Dalziel, Kevin Éstre and James Davison.

8. At Least Seven Different Manufactures Get a Win in the GT Class
Correct! Ferrari and McLaren split the opening weekend at Austin. Acura surprised everyone with a victory in the wet at St. Petersburg. Nissan won its first race at Barber. Cadillac swept Mosport. Lamborghini and Bentley scored their lone victories of the season at Road America and Porsche's first victories didn't come until Mid-Ohio when Dalziel swept the weekend. And, amazingly, eight manufactures won in GT and none of them were Audi.

9. There is a New GTS Champion
Correct! But to be fair, I didn't know at the time that Lawson Aschenbach was going to be moving to the Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge. The man who replaced Aschenbach at Blackdog Speed Shop, Michael Cooper, picked up right where Aschenbach left off. He won the title handily over the Phoenix American Motorsports Ford of Andrew Aquilante and GTSport Racing Porsche of Jack Baldwin. TRG-Aston Martin's Kris Wilson won the most races in GTS but, like Dalziel, missed a handful of rounds but not due to FIA WEC duty. If Wilson had run the full season, he might have taken the title and not Cooper.

10. Blancpain GT: Bentley Wins a Blancpain Title
Correct! The #84 HTP Motorsport Bentley of Vincent Abril and Maximilian Buhk won the Blancpain Sprint Series over Robin Frijns in the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS Ultra.

11. The Moscow Blancpain Sprint Series Race Does Not Happen
Correct! Technically. I said the street race in Moscow would not happen and it didn't. The race was replaced with a round at Moscow Raceway but Moscow Raceway isn't in Moscow, it is in Volokolamsk, Russia, 60 miles from Moscow.

12. A non-German Manufacture Wins the Spa 24 Hours
Wrong! The #46 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS Z4 GT3 of Nicky Catsburg, Lucas Luhr and Markus Palttala won the Spa 24 Hours.

Champions From the Weekend
The #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Brandon Hartley and Timo Bernhard won the World Endurance Drivers' Championship with a fifth place finish in the 6 Hours of Bahrain. 

The #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan of Romain Rusinov, Sam Bird and Julien Canal won the Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers with their victory in class in the 6 Hours of Bahrain. 

Richard Leitz, driver of the #91 Porsche won the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers by finishing fifth in class in Bahrain.

The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Aleksey Basov and Viktor Shaitar won the Endurance Trophy for GTE-Am Drivers by finishing fifth in class in Bahrain. .

Kyle Busch won NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship by winning the finale at Homestead.

Chris Buescher won the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship by finishing 11th at Homestead. 

Erik Jones won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship with a seventh at Homestead. 

Winners From the Weekend
You know about England's victory in the Nations' Cup, Sebastian Vettel and Kyle Busch but did you know... 

The #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani won the 6 Hours of Bahrain. The #92 Porsche 911 RSR of Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet won in GTE-Pro. The #98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda won in GTE-Am. 

Maro Engel won the FIA GT World Cup for Mercedes. He swept the weekend, winning the qualifying race and main race.  

Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup split the Saturday V8 Supercars races from Phillip Island. Lowndes would win the Sunday race as well.

Stoffel Vandoorne and Mitch Evans split the GP2 races from Bahrain. Vandoorne tied Pastor Maldonado as the all-time leader in GP2 race victories with ten. Marvin Kirchöfer and Luca Ghiotto split the GP3 races. 

Kyle Larson won the NASCAR Grand National Series finale at Homestead. Matt Crafton won the season finale of the Truck season, his sixth victory of 2015. 

Coming Up This Weekend
The Formula One season comes to a close in Abu Dhabi. 
GP2 and GP3 also end their seasons in Abu Dhabi. 
The World Touring Car Championship ends under the lights on Friday night in Qatar.