WEC notebook: We got attacked by a gang, but still bring you all the news

Our ace sportscar reporter Sam Smith was mugged by thugs in Paris after the WEC press conference yesterday, but brings you this wrap-up of all the news despite them stealing all his money and iPhone...

WEC notebook: We got attacked by a gang, but still bring you all the news
The 24 Hours of Le Mans trophy
Gerard Neveu, Head of WEC and Pierre Fillon, ACO president
Harry Tincknell, Nissan Motorsport
The Nissan GT-R LM NISMO
The 24 Hours of Le Mans poster is revealed
The 24 Hours of Le Mans trophy
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Sport
The 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours poster
Pascal Vasselon
Toyota Hybrid signage
Neel Jani, Porsche Team
The 2015 Porsche 919 Hybrid
Third place in the
The 2015 Porsche 919 Hybrid
The 2015 Porsche 919 Hybrid

Harry Tincknell – “I didn’t think LMP1 would happen this quickly for me.”

When new Nissan LMP1 driver Harry Tincknell visited the Austin round of the FIA WEC last September he wasn’t just there as a tourist. He will go back this year as a driver with the radical new GT-R NISMO machine.

“The day after the race I went to have a seat fitting in the car and meet some of the team, including Ben Bowlby,” Tincknell told Motorsport.com in Paris. “In fact he had me a bit worried because just after we first met he immediately telephoned Darren (Cox) and remarked on how tall I was, and that it could be a problem. Thankfully it wasn’t.”

Tincknell had one of the biggest smiles in in the place today and the reigning LMP2 Le Mans champion was raring to get behind the wheel of the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO for the first time.

“I get my first go next week as we have a week long test in the States. Being in a team with Marc (Gene) is great because I have experience of working with him at Jota last year. He is like a walking encyclopaedia of endurance racing. He’s been there, seen it and one it with three major manufacturers. He will be so valuable to the team.”

“As for the last few days since everything was confirmed I am on cloud nine. I just didn’t think LMP1 would happen this quickly for me. I owe a big thank you to Jota because without them I wouldn’t have had this great opportunity. I’ll miss them.”

Dr Ulrich – Huge year for Audi

Audi Sport boss Dr Wolfgang Ulrich has targeted defending Audi’s Le Mans crown stoutly in 2015 as three updated Audi R18 e-tron quattros get set to take on their fellow manufacturers for victory.

“2015 will be a huge year for Le Mans with the quality and quantity of the field,” said Ulrich. “I have seen the development of the FIA WEC grow and grow each year and all the organisers should be very proud. It has been a huge job and today we see the results.

“Last year Le Mans was one of toughest ever. Our team did an incredible job, and we take great motivation from that in order to try and do it again. We’ve always won with these (race) numbers – 7,8 and 9 so maybe we can do it again."

Toyota's Pascal Vasselon: We want to fill the void and win Le Mans

Toyota Racing technical director - Pascal Vasselon was quick to acknowledge the focus of his team with regard to breaking Toyota’s duck at Le Mans in 2015.

“2014 was a liberating experience for the Toyota Racing team," he said. "We have shown that we are capable of winning the title. Our objectives are to win it again in 2015, but we also want to fill the void and win Le Mans and make it our year.

“The team has to be homogeneous, this is very important and on our driver line up we have continued to evolve and Kazuki Nakajima will join the two World Champions - Sebastien and Anthony.”

The position is between Jean-Eric Vergne, Mathias Beche and Kamui Kobayashi who all tested the Toyota TS 040 two weeks ago.

Vasselon told Motorsport.com that a decision on an official reserve driver will be taken soon but last month’s test was ‘not a comparison test between them’.

Porsche's Andreas Seidl – Third 919 Hybrid shows commitment

Porsche team principal– Andreas Seidl has stated that the effort to enter of third 919 Hybrid at Spa and Le Mans will pay dividends in 2015.

“It has been a huge challenge for us to get a third car ready but this shows great commitment from the management,” said Seidl. “Expectations for our second year are high within the team and so the targets have been lifted. More podium finishes and for us to be in position to win more races are the aims. We are all really looking forward to the prologue next month.”

Seidl confirmed Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber would join Nico Hulkenberg in the #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid at the Spa 6 Hours and Le Mans.

Asian Le Mans Series expands for 2016

2015 will be a transition year for the nascent Asian Le Mans Series. Three races will be held this season.  Round two will be at Fuji on 31st October, while the season will end at Sepang in Malaysia on December 19.

For 2016 six races are planned to take place as part of the series which is organised by the ACO after it took over from the Shanghai based S2M Group which previous ran the Asian Le Mans Series under a licensing agreement.

TUSC race front runner Yacaman bullish on ’15 program

Gustavo Yacaman will form a South and Central American alliance along with ‘Pipo’ Derani and Ricardo Gonzalez at G-Drive Ligier this season. The Colombian was delighted to have completed the deal with the Philippe Dumas run squad.

“What an honor to be here among so many great drivers. I have to say thanks to Jaccques (Nicolet) and Philippe Dumas who have believed in me so much. I am very excited for 2015. We have a great, great car in the Ligier. We will do a good job and make everyone proud I’m sure.”

Benjamin Durand – BR01 to undertake crash test next week

SMP boss Benjamin Durand attended the press conference where it was confirmed, as Motorsport.com exclusively predicted yesterday that the Russian team will race two of the brand new BR01 in ELMS and at Le Mans this season.

“We have decided to concentrate on the ELMS this season for a combination of logistical and technical reasons. With a new car it is sensible to do this I think. The BR01 will have its crash test by the FIA next week. We aim to shake it down just before the ELMS Ricard test, which is our plan and our goal.

Durand also went on to confirm more technical details on the new package.

“We will use Nissan engines and Hewland gearboxes. We got our composite work completed at a new company in Italy called ARS."

From a drivers point of view Durand was relaxed about not knowing exactly which trios would race together in the new cars.

“We are very happy to have Mikhail (Aleshin) in the car of course. We wanted to have him as part of the team at Le Mans last season but there was a clashing IndyCar race during the test day weekend.

“For the rest of the line-up we will use mainly the same drivers as in 2014 but maybe move them around a bit.”

Durand also refused to rule out the potential of a BR01 making a one-off FIA WEC appearance post-Le Mans. “It is entirely possible but we must concentrate on our nominated program first and think about that after Le Mans.”

Hughes de Chaunac – New ORECA to test early March

ORECA boss Hughes De Chaunac was very complimentary of the ACO selecting twenty LMP2 cars for the 83rd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.

“I take my hat off to ACO for forming regulations which have been a success,” said De Chaunac. “It is a great endorsement getting so many cars and because of their vision we will have some fantastic races again for sure. We at ORECA are delighted to take part in it with existing and new cars.”

“We plan to shakedown the new Oreca LMP2 car at the beginning of March. It is the first of the new generation of closed LMP2 cars that the ACO wanted to bring to endurance racing in the future.”

TDS by Thiriet are scheduled to race the car in the ELMS and Le Mans this season after previously competing in a Ligier JS 2 for the majority of 2014.

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