The Girlie Guide to … Endurance Racing (Part 2)

With the first race of the WEC ‘Super Season’, the “Total 6-hours of Spa-Francorchamps”, just having finished, what better time to do the second part of my introduction to endurance racing.

So, in Part 1  I covered the different types of cars, driving licences and how long each driver can drive for.

This article will deal with qualifying, the actual race and how to score points.

Let’s start with qualifying. How does that work?

It seems to be a fairly straightforward process. There are two qualifying sessions both of which are 20 minutes long.

Each team must choose two drivers to take part in qualifying and they must both set a timed lap during the session.

The grid is determined by the average of the two best lap times (one from each driver) with obviously the quickest average being on pole, next fastest in P2, etc.

Now, there are a few provisos, as you would expect.

I believe, from what I read and my understanding of the regulations, that in the LMP2 class one of the designated drivers must be a silver or bronze driver and in the LMGTE Am class one of the drivers must be a bronze driver. If I’m completely barking up the wrong tree, please tell me 😉

That seems fairly straightforward, but I do have one question that was not covered.

I assume that all cars, irrespective of class go out during the qualifying sessions and that there are not separate qualifying sessions for LMP1/MLP2 and LMGTE Pro/Am?

So once qualifying is over, it’s time for the race.

This year, I believe it’s the first one, WEC have a ‘super season’. This runs from this weekend’s 6-hour race at Spa through to and including next year’s Le Mans. Races include in the super season are:

  • The Prologue (6-7 April) – 30 hour non-stop testing (not a race)
  • Total 6-hours of Spa-Francorchamps (5 May 2018)
  • 24 hours of Le Mans (16-17 June 2018)
  • 6 hours of Silverstone (19 August 2018)
  • 6 hours of Fuji (14 October 2018)
  • 6 hours of Shanghai (16 November 2018)
  • 1000 miles of Sebring (15 March 2019)
  • Total 6-hours of Spa-Francorchamps (4 May 2019)
  • 24 hours of Le Mans (15-16 June 2019)

But what happens during the race? I guess the first question is how long can the drivers drive for?

This varies with car type.

  • LMP1 and LMGTE PRO drivers must drive a minimum of 40 minutes but no more than 4½ hours in total.
  • LMP2 drivers must drive for a minimum of 1¼ hours but no more than 3½ hours in total
  • LMGTE AM bronze and silver licence drivers must drive for a minimum of 1¾ hours, other drivers a minimum of ¾ hours with no driver exceeding 3½ hours in total

With the minimum time between drives being 30 minutes.

BUT, the Le Mans is 24 hours long and 1500 miles of Sebring is roughly a 12 hour race. What happens then?

Apparently, during Le Mans, the driving times follow a completely different set of rules as set out by ASA ACO and they can drive for a minimum of 6 hours, but no more than 14 hours in total.

For the Sebring race no driver, irrespective of category and licence, can drive a maximum of 8 hours.

My second question on the actual race is about the pit stops. What happens there?

Obviously a pit stop is when drivers change can change over, but also, in these races there is the element of refuelling as well as tyre changes. And, from what I have read, this season sees a change in the regulations, whereby teams and drivers can change tyres during refuelling.

Apparently, this will (should) prevent advantages being gained from quick tyre changes and adding stints to tyres to gain track position.

The change has not been made on safety grounds, but purely on the fact that WEC series has the slowest stops of all major motorsport series.

There is a whole ream of information about what you can and can’t do during pit stops in the technical regulations such as where to park the car, turning the engine off, repairing the car, how many people can work on the car, etc. Reading it gave me a headache, I can tell you.

A third question is once the race finishes, how do we know who wins?

According the WEC website, “The overall winner is the car that has covered the greatest distance by the time it passes the chequered flag (starting grid positions are not taken into account).”

So, would I be right in assuming that after 6 hours (or whatever the duration of the race is) the chequered flag is raised and cars go through it. BUT this could mean that the back of the field could go through first with the race leaders going through the chequered flag half a lap later.

Thus meaning, it’s not first passed the flag who wins, but who has driven the greatest number of laps as they pass the flag. Right?

I think, please correct me if I’ve misunderstood, but I think that not only is there an overall winner, but also winners for each class.

In order to be classified as finishing the race cars must:

  • cross the line when the chequered flag is shown
  • have covered at least 70 per cent of the distance covered by the overall winning car

And, finally, how are the points allocated?

For 6 hour races the top 10 positions are awarded points as for Formula 1, i.e., 25, 18, 15, etc, and every place after position 10 is awarded half a point.

This point allocation is the same for both the driver and manufacturer championships.

Am I right in thinking that points are awarded for all categories? That is LMP1, LMP2, LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am. Or is it just LMP category and LMGTE category?

And, then another question springs to mind, is there also points for overall classification of the top 10?

So, if the top 10 includes all categories does this mean that there is an overall top 10 points awarded, PLUS the top 10 for each category??

So, if an LMP 1 car wins it could get 25 points for the winning overall, plus 25 points for winning the LMP category??

There are different points awarded for the race at Sebring and Le Mans, as they are of longer duration.

Position 6 hour race Sebring Le Mans
1st 25 32 38
2nd 18 23 27
3rd 15 19 23
4th 12 15 18
5th 10 13 15
6th 8 10 12
7th 6 8 9
8th 4 5 6
9th 2 3 3
10th 1 2 2
11th + ½ 1 1

So there you have it.

Not a comprehensive guide, but a general gloss over some of the main points and if you could answer any of my unanswered questions that would be fab…

Hope you enjoyed the race in Spa?

 

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