Flashback: WEC 2017 Season Analysis – GTE Pro

by Alice Holloway
6 Hours of Fuji was the last victory the #51 AF Corse took in 2017, but that did not stop them claiming the GT Drivers' World Endurance Championship in the final race of the year.

The GTE Pro class of the 2017 World Endurance Championship was arguably the closest fought disipline of the season. At the final race, five different teams were capable of taking the GT Drivers’ World Endurance Championship. It was James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi who were victorious in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari.

After the first race at Silverstone, Andy Prialux and Harry Tincknell emerged as class favourites. They fought around a door issue to take home victory as a duo British line up. However, reliability was to play a big hand in their chances of taking the Championship. Tincknell snatched second place in class on the line from Jordan Taylor in the 24 Hours of Le Mans-only entry Corvette Racing after the American had a brilliant final lap battle for the lead with Aston Martin Racing‘s Jonny Adam. However, the Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 started to lose it’s Championship lead after the prestigious 24-hour event.

The battle for the Championship securely slipped from Tincknell and Priaulx’s hands after the shortened 6 Hours of Fuji. With heavy rainfall and unsafe conditions, the race was hit by two long red flag periods. This resulted in a 6-hour race with only around 4 hours of live racing. An early race incident saw the championship leaders tumble down the race order, and will too many red flags and safety cars they were unable to climb back up the order. Full points were awarded in the race, meaning that Priaulx and Tincknell failed to score anything, finishing 15th, whilst their closest competitors took first and second on the podium.

Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Lietz had a fairly consistent year in the #91 Porsche GT Team and were a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the season. They pulled themselves up to second in the championship by the last race, behind the Ferrari #51 duo.

At the 6 Hours of Bahrain, there was a very small chance for Davide Rigon to take the GT World Endurance Championship, but his team mate Sam Bird was unable to take the title with him as he had missed the 6 Hours of Nurburgring due to a Formula E weekend clash. The main fight was between the #51 AF Corse and #91 Porsche GT Team, but Tincknell, Priaulx and Rigon still had a slim mathematical chance to take victory in the class.

Bird and Rigon managed to take the final pole position of the year and used it to their advantage to aid the sister car in claiming the championship. As most of the other championship battles had been settled before the final race, the GTE Pro cars had all the attention on them as they took to the track for some epic wheel-to-wheel action to end 2017.

AF Corse commanded the race, finishing the year strong with a one-two, led by Bird and Rigon. But as the other championship competitors ended behind Calado and Pier Guidi (#67 Porsche finishing off the podium whilst #91 Porsche had to settle for fourth) Ferrari added the GT Drivers’ World Endurance Championship to their GT Manufacturers’ Championship that they secured at the 6 Hours of Shanghai.

After their Le Mans victory, Aston Martin struggled to keep up with the rest of the field. They will be hoping to have a much more competitive year this season as they bring their new Aston Martin Vantage to the track. As well as Ferrari aiming to retain the GT World Endurance Championships for both their drivers and as a manufacturer, Ford and Porsche will be fighting harder than ever to claim victory.

With BMW joining the WEC this season, we can only hope that the battle will go down to the wire, meaning that our GTE Pro championship climax will come at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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