Thoughts on the 2015 WEC Season

For me, the most interesting racing of the 2015 season came from the World Endurance Championship (WEC). Even though there were some dominating season long performances the racing was almost always not just good, but great. It goes beyond that, however. When you look at the LMP1 class, the jump in performance between 2014 and 2015 is simply amazing. For that reason alone, the 2015 WEC season is one of the history books. As I look back over 2015 I realize that, for me, the most impressive race car of the 2015 season and my choice for Racer of the Year come from the WEC.

The performance jump in LMP1 between 2014 and 2015 was nothing short of amazing. I can’t remember such a difference from one season to the next. Toyota improved their performance by something around 2 seconds a lap. That sounds impressive enough, but even with that level of gain they got their tails handed to them by Audi and Porsche. Audi and Porsche were able to better their performance in 2014 season by something in the neighborhood of 4 seconds in 2015! The speed Audi and Porsche had at Le Mans prompted rules changes to slow them down there in 2016!  Many will try to tell you that F1 is the pinnacle of racing technology, but right now the pinnacle of racing technology is the WEC. What Audi, Porsche, and Toyota are doing with hybrid power units is incredible.

My choice for race car of the year didn’t require a second’s thought. It is the Porsche 919. I’m an Audi fan, albeit a conflicted one because the VW scandal, but you can’t help but be impressed by what the 919 did in 2015. In its maiden season in 2014, the 919 used a battery system to store hybrid energy while Audi used a flywheel and Toyota a supercapacitor. Particularly in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but also in the regular 6 hour races of 2014, it seemed that the battery system on the 919 degraded towards the end of the races, no doubt because of heat and charge/discharge cycles. Over the off-season Porsche obviously found a fix because the 919 was no slower at the end of this season’s races as it was at the start of them. Fast the car was, too… Audi was close, but to truly have a chance at winning this season they almost always had to hope for Porsche to have problems. It’s become obvious that batteries are the way to go for hybrid energy storage because both Audi and Toyota have announced they’re switching to battery systems for 2016. This highlights the benefits that LMP1 racing can and will have for road cars:  improvements to battery system technology and control systems that can handle the stresses of motor spot will eventually find their way to road going hybrid cars.

The 2015 Porsche 919 (photo from Porsche's website)
The 2015 Porsche 919 (photo from Porsche’s website)

My choice for racer of the year didn’t require much thought either. Once again, Nick Tandy was my instant choice. Nick Tandy was simply incredible in a variety of machinery this year: LMP1 and LMP2 in the WEC and GTLM in IMSA.. He was on the Porsche LMP1 team that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall in a car that was not a full season entry. He drove for KCMG in LMP2 in most other WEC races and helped propel them to second in the LMP2 championship. He drove GTLM (GTE-Pro) in the IMSA Tudor Championship and was part of the Porsche domination in that class, including a brilliant overall victory in the rain at Petit Le Mans. Often times his stints were simply amazing in whatever he was driving.

The 2015 WEC season was truly one that will be remembered for a long time to come. I know the term legend gets tossed around a lot these days, but I truly believe that the 2015 Porsche 919 will be remembered in the future as a legendary race car much like we now look back at the Porsche 917. I also believe that Nick Tandy is a racer who is potentially a legend in the making. I can’t wait to see what both do in 2016.

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