Silverstone once again host the opening round of the 2017 season, this year on Easter Sunday. Spa-Francorchamps will be the second round of the season on Saturday May 6th. The 24 Hours of Le Mans marks the third round of the championship on June 17-18th. After a month off, the WEC returns to competition on July 16th at the Nürburgring.
After taking two months off, the series crosses the Atlantic for the Mexico City round on September 3rd. Circuit of the Americas hosts round six of the championship on Saturday September 16th. A month after Austin, the series heads to Fuji on October 15th. The penultimate round of the season will be November 5th at Shanghai with the season finale taking place on Saturday November 18th at Bahrain, the lone night race of the season. Besides Le Mans, all races are scheduled for six-hour durations.
#1 Porsche 919 Hybrid: Neel Jani, Nick Tandy, André Lotterer
What did they do in 2016: Jani won the World Endurance Drivers' Championship with Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas, which included victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Tandy raced for Porsche's factory IMSA program and finished eighth in the GTLM championship and won at Long Beach. Lotterer raced for Audi and finished fifth in the championship with two runner-up finishes and a third.
What to expect in 2017: This is a complete shake up of a championship line-up but Lotterer was the best Audi driver and a former champion. We know about Tandy's heroics in LMP1 and GT cars. It is tough to repeat but this team can do it despite the changes.
#2 Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber
What did they do in 2016: Bernhard and Hartley finished fourth in the World Endurance Drivers' Championship despite winning four races, the most in LMP1 in 2016. Bamber raced for Porsche's factory IMSA program and finished fourth in the GTLM championship and won at Austin.
What to expect in 2017: Bamber replaces Mark Webber but this team ended 2016 on fire. I think Bernhard and Hartley are ready to take the torch back from Jani and company. Both cars are going to win races but which team will win more and can this team avoid the bad luck that set them back at the start of 2016?
#4 ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO: Oliver Webb, Dominik Kraihamer, James Rossiter
What did they do in 2016: Webb drove for Team ByKolles last year and his best finish was sixth at Spa-Francorchamps.
What to expect in 2017: This team is a mess. Robert Kubica was supposed to be Webb's co-driver but pulled out. The car only completed six laps at the Prologue and all signs already point to the car being the lone LMP1.5 on the grid, way off the factory, hybrid LMP1s and just ahead of the LMP2 cars. I would be surprised if this team is at all nine WEC events.
Toyota Gazoo Racing
#7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López
What did they do in 2016: Conway and Kobayashi finished third in the World Endurance Drivers' Championship and they won at Fuji. López on the World Touring Car Championship and joined Formula E with DS Virgin Racing.
What to expect in 2017: Conway and Kobayashi carried the Toyota flag in 2016 but López is making a big jump from touring cars to LMP1. I think this team's season is dependent on how fast López can adjust. If he is off the pace significantly, I wouldn't be surprised to see him dropped sometime during the season, most likely after Le Mans, especially after seeing the pace of Nicolas Lapierre, who will drive a third Toyota at Le Mans with Stéphane Sarrazin and defending Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto.
#8 Toyota TS050 Hyrbid: Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima
What did they do in 2016: Buemi, Davidson and Nakajima finished eighth in the World Endurance Drivers' Championship with the team's lone podium being a third in Shanghai.
What to expect in 2017: This team had a disastrous 2016 and the car dying on the final lap at Le Mans when leading didn't help. This team was fastest at the Prologue test at Monza and it will surely improve from eighth in the championship with 60 points and only one podium. I think this is Toyota's best challenger to Porsche and I think they win at least two races if not three.
#13 Oreca 07-Gibson: Nelson Piquet, Jr., Mathias Beche, David Heinemeier Hansson
What did they do in 2016: Piquet, Jr. ran the first three races of 2016 with Rebellion Racing, where he finished fourth in the first two races on top of his NEXTEV Formula E seat and he made one start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Beche ran one race with Rebellion Racing in WEC at Nürburgring and raced with Manor at Shanghai but he did finished second in the ELMS championship and won three races with Thiriet by TDS Racing. Heinemeier Hansson finished second in GTE-Am with Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing and won at Mexico City and Bahrain.
What to expect in 2017: Both Rebellion cars are basically professional line-ups. Beche is coming off a really promising season in ELMS. Piquet's Formula E commitments could get in the way and be a hurdle the team can't clear.
#31 Oreca 07-Gibson: Nicolas Prost, Bruno Senna, Julien Canal
What did they do in 2016: Prost ran the first four races of 2016 with Rebellion Racing and he finished third in the Formula E championship where he swept the London doubleheader. Senna finished second in the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers and won twice with RGR Sport by Morand. Canal finished tenth in the ELMS championship with Greaves Motorsport.
What to expect in 2017: Like the sister car, this line-up is a professional line-up and should be a title favorite but Prost has Formula E conflicts. The good news is Senna had a great season in 2016 and Canal is a past LMP2 champion. This team is set up to overcome the absence of Prost.
CEFC Manor TRS Racing
#24 Oreca 07-Gibson: Tor Graves, Jonathan Hirschi, Jean-Éric Vergne
What did they do in 2016: Graves ran six races for Manor in 2016 and his best finish was fifth. Hirschi ran three races for Algarve Pro Racing in ELMS and two races for Emil Frey Racing in the Blancpain Endurance Series. Vergne raced for DS Virgin Racing in Formula E before switching to Techeetah for the 2016-17 season. He finished second at Buenos Aires in February and Mexico City earlier this month.
What to expect in 2017: Manor had a rough opening season and while Vergne is a respectable name, he has a Formula E conflict and Graves and Hirschi aren't top silver drivers.
#25 Oreca 07-Gibson: Roberto González, Simon Trummer, Vitaly Petrov
What did they do in 2016: González ran three races for Greaves Motorsport in WEC and his best finish was fifth at Mexico City. Trummer raced for Team ByKolles and his best finish was sixth at Spa-Francorchamps. Petrov raced for SMP Racing and his best finish was third at Le Mans.
What to expect in 2017: This is a team that is set to be at the back of the class and may breakthrough in a race with high attrition.
#26 Oreca 07-Gibson: Romain Rusinov, Pierre Thiriet, Alex Lynn
What did they do in 2016: Rusinov finished third in the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers and won the final three races in 2016. Thiriet finished second in the ELMS championship with Thiriet by TDS Racing and won three races. Lynn finished sixth in the GP2 championship and won three races and Lynn won the 12 Hours of Sebring in March with Wayne Taylor Racing.
What to expect in 2017: This is a championship contender. Rusinov is a LMP2 whiz, Thiriet has had a lot of success in ELMS and Lynn is already set up nicely for a breakout 2017 season.
#28 Oreca 07-Gibson: Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo, Matthieu Vaxivière
What did they do in 2016: Collard and Perrodo won the FIA Endurance Trophy for GTE-Am drivers and won at Silverstone and was the top full-time GTE-Am team at Le Mans, second in class. Vaxivière finished sixth in the Formula V8 3.5 Series and won twice.
What to expect in 2017: Collard and Perrodo were spectacular in GTE-Am last year but I think this will be a building year and the team will be looking toward 2018, although Vaxivère was fastest in LMP2 at the Prologue.
Signatech Alpine Matmut
#35 Alpine A470-Gibson: Nelson Panciatici, Pierre Ragues, André Negrão
What did they do in 2016: Panciatici ran the first five WEC races with Baxi DC Racing and his best finish was fifth. Ragues drove for Labre Compétition Corvette in GTE-Am and he finished third four times. Negrão ran in Indy Lights with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and he had five podium finishes, finishing seventh in the championship.
What to expect in 2017: This team will miss the first round at Silverstone and I think they will struggle to keep up to its sister car.
#36 Alpine A470-Gibson: Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes, Matt Rao
What did they do in 2016: Lapierre and Menezes won the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 drivers with four victories, including at Le Mans. Rao drove for Manor and his best finish was third at Spa-Francorchamps.
What to expect in 2017: Lapierre and Menezes were tremendous in 2016 but 2017 will be a little more rocky, especially as Lapierre will drive a third Toyota at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans and Romain Dumas will replaced him and Rao didn't show great pace at the Prologue. I think this team won't repeat but should be contending for top three in the championship.
Jackie Chan DC Racing
#37 Oreca 07-Gibson: David Cheng, Tristan Gommendy, Alex Brundle
What did they do in 2016: Cheng drove all nine races in LMP2 and his best finish was sixth. He finished second in the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 championship. Gommnedy drove for Eurasia Motorsport in ELMS and his best finish was second. Brundle ran the final six WEC races with G-Drive Racing and won the final three races of the season.
What to expect in 2017: This is a sleeper in class. Cheng isn't the fastest but he has a fair amount of experience in LMP2 equipment. Brundle is an underrated driver who is looking to bust out and Gommendy has had a respectable sports car career. This team could win a race or two and could be a surprise in the title fight.
#38 Oreca 07-Gibson: Ho-Pin Tung, Thomas Laurent, Oliver Jarvis
What did they do in 2016: Tung drove all nine races in LMP2 and his best finish was sixth. He also finished third in the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 championship despite winning two of four races. Laurent competed in ELMS' LMP3 class for M.Racing - YMR and won the finale at Estoril. Jarvis finished second in the World Endurance Drivers' Championship with Audi and won two races.
What to expect in 2017: Jarvis is a massive coup and Tung is competent and was third quickest at the Prologue. Laurent is a young driver and was promising in LMP3 last year. Just like the other DC Racing entry, this one could be a surprise contender.
#51 Ferrari 488 GTE: James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi
What did they do in 2016: Calado finished third in the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers with a victory at Nürburgring. Pier Guidi competed in 15 races across Blancpain Endurance Series, IMSA and ELMS and had four podiums including three runner-up finishes. He finished third in the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series GT championship with two runner-up finishes and a third in four races.
What to expect in 2017: AF Corse is going through a transition with Gianmaria Bruni exiting the team. Calado is a stout driver but Pier Guidi is making a big step up. The team should be competitive but second of the AF Corse Ferraris. Also of note, Lucas di Grassi will join this team for Le Mans and he reportedly wasn't that impressive at the Ferrari driver gong show.
#71 Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
What did they do in 2016: Rigon and Bird finished second in the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers after winning the first two races of 2016.
What to expect in 2017: Rigon and Bird are two top drivers and this duo should be in contention for the title until the end of the season with many race victories. They will be joined by Miguel Molina for Le Mans.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK
#66 Ford GT: Stefan Mücke, Olivier Pla, Billy Johnson
What did they do in 2016: Mücke and Pla finished fourth in the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers and were the top championship finisher at Le Mans, fourth in class. Johnson ran the first three races with Mücke and Pla and was apart of the team at Le Mans. Pla also won Petit Le Mans with Michael Shank Racing and Johnson won the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS Championship.
What to expect in 2017: Mücke and Pla finished ahead of Priaulx and Tincknell but only by half a point and finished behind the British pair in seven of nine races. Mücke and Pla will have a tough inter-team fight let alone the championship as a whole.
#67 Ford GT: Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell, Pipo Derani
What did they do in 2016: Priaulx and Tincknell finished fifth in the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers with two victories. Derani drove for Extreme Sports Motorsports in LMP2 and he had two podiums as well as overall victories at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring.
What to expect in 2017: Praiulx and Tincknell ended 2016 strong and with Ford getting a good start to the year in IMSA, I think this team could contend for the title. Derani is only signed for the first three races but he has been impressive everywhere he has gone in sports car. I don't see that changing.
Porsche GT Team
#91 Porsche 911 RSR: Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makowiecki
What did they do in 2016: Lietz drove for Dempsey-Proton Racing and finished eighth in the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers with his best finish being fourth. Makowiecki finished fourth in the IMSA GTLM championship and won at Austin.
What to expect in 2017: Lietz is a former champion and Makowiecki is an experienced veteran. Anything less than a championship isn't acceptable.
#92 Porsche 911 RSR: Michael Christensen, Kevin Éstre
What did they do in 2016: Christensen drove for Dempsey-Proton Racing and finished eighth in the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers with his best finish being fourth. Christensen also won in GT Daytona with Alegra Motorsports at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January. Éstre competed in ADAC GT Masters, WEC, International GT Open and IMSA and won four times in ADAC GT Masters and once in International GT Open.
What to expect in 2017: Christensen started 2017 in great form while Éstre had a year in waiting for Porsche's factory effort to return to GTE-Pro. They were the top two drivers in GTE-Pro at the Prologue and will challenge their senior teammates for top Porsche.
Aston Martin Racing
#95 Aston Martin Vantage: Nicki Thiim, Marco Sørenson, Richie Stanaway
What did they do in 2016: Thiim and Sørenson won the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers with two victories. Stanaway ran seven races for Aston Martin and won at Mexico City.
What to expect in 2017: The defending champions will be joined by Stanaway for the first three races. Thiim and Sørenson won the title with consistency and closed the title with a victory in the finale. I am not sure they can rely on that again in 2017.
#97 Aston Martin Vantage: Darren Turner, Jonathan Adam, Daniel Serra
What did they do in 2016: Turner finished sixth in the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers with a victory at Mexico City and he won the ELMS GT Championship with two victories. Adam won the British GT Championship with two victories and ran in three WEC races and finished third twice. Serra finished third in the Stock Car Brasil championship with one victory and he race six races in IMSA GTLM and finished second at Laguna Seca.
What to expect in 2017: Turner and Adam is matching the veteran with a newcomer. I think it could be another year in the middle of the pack with the occasional day in the sun.
Spirit of Race
#54 Ferrari 488 GTE: Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci, Miguel Molina
What did they do in 2016: Flohr and Castellacci won the Gulf 12 Hours and finished seventh in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup. Molina finished 13th in Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters won twice.
What to expect in 2017: AF Corse organized a championship program last year and Flohr and Castellacci have been a good partnership. Molina won some praise in the driver selection process but he will be in the #71 Ferrari in GTE-Pro for Le Mans leaving a big vacancy for Le Mans.
#61 Ferrari 488 GTE: Weng Sun Mok, Keita Sawa, Matt Griffin
What did they do in 2016: Mok, Sawa and Griffin finished fourth in the 2016-17 Asian Le Mans Series GT championship with their best finish being second. Griffin finished sixth in the ELMS GT championship with two podiums.
What to expect in 2017: Clearwater Racing hits the big time after being a regular in Asia. I think it could be a difficult year for the team as it gets adjusted to the world stage.
Dempsey Proton Racing
#77 Porsche 911 RSR: Christian Ried, Marvin Dienst, Matteo Cairoli
What did they do in 2016: Ried drove for KCMG in GTE-Am and finished on the podium in the final five races. Dienst finished 14th in the ADAC GT Masters and finished on the podium once. Cairoli finished second in the Porsche Supercup championship despite leading the series with four victories.
What to expect in 2017: Ried has been a consistent driver in GTE-Am and Cairoli is coming off a breakout year. This team could contend for the title.
Gulf Racing UK
#86 Porsche 911 RSR: Michael Wainwright, Ben Barker, Nick Foster
What did they do in 2016: Wainwright and Barker finished seventh in the FIA Endurance Trophy for GTE-Am drivers. Foster ran in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland
What to expect in 2017: Wainwright and Barker have a year of WEC experience under their belts and Foster will have some work to do to get up to speed. Gulf Racing UK might not be the pied piper but the team should be competitive.
Aston Martin Racing
#98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda, Pedro Lamy
What did they do in 2016: Dalla Lana, Lauda and Lamy finished third in the FIA Endurance Trophy for GTE-Am Drivers despite winning five of nine races.
What to expect in 2017: With how dominant Aston Martin has been in GTE-Am, you have to think this is going to be its year to take the title. This is the class favorite.
Practice for the 6 Hours of Silverstone begins at 7:15 a.m. ET on Friday April 14th. Second practice will be at 11:30 a.m. ET. Saturday practice begins at 4:00 a.m. ET with qualifying scheduled for 6:50 a.m. ET for the GTE cars with the prototypes qualifying session following at 7:20 a.m. ET. The Six Hours of Silverstone will begin at 7:00 a.m. ET on Sunday April 16th.