37 cars ready for the FIA WEC season opener

When the first round of the FIA World Endurance Championship is run at Spa Francorchamps on 5 May, there will be 37 cars on the grid.

Other than the 36 full season cars for the Super Season, G-Drive Racing have decided to enter their ORECA 07 – Gibson for the race. Roman Rusinov and Jean-Eric Vergne are the only two drivers in the car so far, and they are going to use the race as preparation for Le Mans. They are already racing the in the European Le Mans Series this year, but the race at Spa is always a good place to run ahead of the French classic. Plus the ELMS series itself visits the Belgium track in September.

There are a few minor changes and additions to the regular 36 FIA WEC teams. SMP Racing has decided to put Stephane Sarrazin in #17 together with Egor Orudzhev and Matevos Isaakyan. The two latter drivers drove together in the European Le Mans Series in 2017, where their season included a win in the LMP2 category. Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin have been put in the same #16, instead of them in separate cars on the initial entry list.

DragonSpeed has announced Nathanael Berthon as the third driver in their LMP2 car with #31 on the side. He will join Roberto Gonzalez and Pastor Maldonado. Berthon has been shopping a bit around between various teams in both the FIA WEC and the ELMS, but the choice has become the DragonSpeed team for this season.

Jackie Chan DC Racing has confirmed “Team Malaysia” will be the full season drivers in #37. Jazeman Jaafar, Weiron Tan and Afiq Ikhwan Yazid drove together in the Asian Le Mans Series for the team, but they are now getting upgraded to a full FIA WEC season. Ho-Pin Tung will race in the #37 together with Gabriel Aubry. Aubry drove some of the Asian LMS races with the LMP3 outfit of the team, but will now race in an LMP2 car. He is lightning fast, and could very well turn out to be the next Thomas Laurent, which the team, to their big surprise, saw leaving to Rebellion Racing and their LMP1 programme.

Aston Martin Racing #95 & CEFC Manor TRS Racing #25
Photo: JJ Media

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK has confirmed that they will run with three driver in each car at Spa. That means that Billy Johnson will return, while Tony Kanaan will have his debut at the undulating Belgian track. Something which most likely will be an eye opening experience for the Brazilian veteran.

Another interesting point on the entry list, is that BMW Team MTEK still have Augusto Farfus, Antonio Felix da Costa and Alexander Sims listed as the drivers in #82, while Martin Tomczyk, Nicky Catsburg and Philipp Eng are in #81. Farfus and Eng will however race DTM on that weekend too, but there has been talks about them jumping in a plane or a helicopter, and take the 300 kilometers from Hockenheim to Spa. The DTM race finishes at approximately 14.30, so they would still be able to get to Spa in time for a few stints. But it’s going to be a bit harder for Alexander Sims. He is normally schedules to race in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in Mid-Ohio – so how the team is going to sort that one out, time will tell. Perhaps BMW by accident sent the “standard-entry” to the FIA WEC, and then will change it at a later point.

There has been a bit of swapping going on at Dempsey-Proton Racing. Matt Campbell has been moved into the #77 together with team owner Christian Ried, while the third driver hasn’t yet been announced. Matteo Cairoli jumps into #88, where he will race together with Khaled Al Qubaisi and Giorgio Roda. That marks the return of Al Qubaisi to the #88, which he was racing for a few seasons.

Otherwise, everything else on the list is as expected. There are still however 6 TBA’s next to CEFC TRSM Racing and ByKolles Racing Team, with the teams only having put a name down for the lead drivers in each car. So expect announcement in the very near future.

The 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps will be run from 3 to 5 May at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium.

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