The FIA World Endurance Championship returns this weekend after a six week summer break.
For the first time, Mexico will host a 6 hour WEC race at the recently renovated Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, located in southeast Mexico City.
However, it’s not the first time the world’s premier sportscar teams have visited Central America, with the former World Sportscar Championship holding a season-ending race at the circuit from 1989-1991.
This time, things are a little different with the FIA Grade 1-compliant track layout and the appearance of hybrid LMP1 prototypes.
Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez – named after the racing brothers Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez – is Mexico’s primary motor racing venue and has been a nexus for international competitions since it opened in 1962.
Its brief spell with the World Sportscar Championship came at the height of the Group C era, with the likes of Mercedes, Porsche and Jaguar fighting for top honours.
In 1989, Jean-Louis Schlesser clinched the championship with the help of Mercedes-Sauber team-mate Jochen Mass, while in 1990 Michael Schumacher recorded his first ever sportscar race victory.
The current track layout is 2.674 miles long and incorporates much of the geography used by the old circuit. It’s also the shortest circuit on the WEC calendar, falling 0.2 miles short of Japan’s Fuji Speedway.
Sector one is most akin to the previous design, with the long pit straight followed by a slow right-left-right combination of corners.
Traffic management will be key in sector two, which is dominated by the turn six hairpin and the flowing esses leading towards the stadium. Expect to see some risks taken through here, as the prototypes are taken off line to negotiate the slower GT cars.
The third and final sector is the postcard image of the circuit, with the imposing former baseball stadium making for a spectacular viewing opportunity for spectators.
The Championship Situation
Porsche still leads both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships in LMP1, although the gap was reduced by Audi last time out at the Nurburgring.
Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas finished fourth in Germany, which puts the #2 919 Hybrid on 106 points before wheels hit the track in Mexico.
A second place finish (and a third consecutive podium) for the #8 Audi R18 crew of Oliver Jarvis, Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval means that car is now 33 points adrift on 73.
Third in the championship is the #5 Toyota TS050 driven by Mike Conway, Stephane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi, which has an 11 point advantage over the #7 Audi of Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler which picked up its best result of the season at the Nurburgring.
In LMP2, Signatech Alpine has a clear 41 point cushion at the top of the leaderboard following its third straight victory in Germany. Things are a bit closer in the fight for second, with hometown squad RGR Sport by Morand just six points ahead of G-Drive Racing.
Ferrari has closed the gap to Ford in the GTE tables, with Davide Rigon and Sam Bird just two points behind Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla. A further three points back are Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen in the highest placed Aston Martin entry, while AF Corse is looking to continue its dominant streak in GTE-Am.
News and Notes
There have been a number of driver lineup changes ahead of the 6 Hours of Mexico, including an additional entry in LMP2.
European Le Mans Series champion Greaves Motorsport will join the WEC grid for this race only, with the British team entering the Gibson 015S that won its silverware last year.
Brazilian Bruno Junqueira will be joined by fellow American Le Mans Series alumni Ricardo Rodriguez and Luis Diaz, both of whom will be competing on home soil. The Gibson will be adorned in a red, white and green livery to mark the occasion, and should be a popular entry with the home crowd.
As one car joins LMP2, another makes its departure. Manor will run with just the one ORECA 05 in Mexico, owing to budget issues. The #44 car is the one that makes it onto the entry list, with Matt Rao and Richard Bradley joined by Mexican driver Alfonso Toledano Jr, who most recently took part in the 2014 Formula Acceleration 1 series.
In GTE-Am, Corvette factory driver Ricky Taylor will join French outfit Larbre Competition until the end of the season. Taylor will share the #50 C7.R with Yutaka Yamagishi and Pierre Ragues, replacing Italy’s Paolo Ruberti who drove at Silverstone, Spa and the Nurburgring.
And, in a change of equipment, Aston Martin Racing’s Am car will use Michelin tyres until the end of the season. The Pro teams, on the other hand, will continue to compete with the Dunlop rubber that is being developed in tandem with the 2016-spec car.
The Weekend Schedule
The WEC field shares the 6 Hours of Mexico weekend with the Vintage Mexico Series. Local times for the WEC on-track sessions are listed below.
Free Practice 1 – Thursday, September 1 @ 13:30
Free Practice 2 – Thursday, September 1 @ 18:00
Free Practice 3 – Friday, September 2 @ 10:00
Qualifying – Friday, September 3 @ 14:10
Race – Saturday, September 4 @ 13:30