This weekend sees the historic track of Monza in Italy hosting round three of the World Endurance Championship.
First built in 1922, which made it the third purpose built racetrack after Brooklands and Indianapolis, it soon hosted sportscar racing over decades, and was regularly used annually during various versions of world sportscar championships. While it has been used for the European Le Mans Series in recent years, with their latest race just last weekend, full world sportscar championship races have not been held there since 2003 when the Racing for Holland Dome-Judd won with drivers Jan Lammers and John Bosch.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the latest iteration of cars perform on the fabled “Temple of Speed” with its long straights a good comparison in preparation for the next round of the championship, the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The class expands to five entries for this weekend, as Glickenhaus bring along their second car for the first time. While demonstrating the car at Goodwood last weekend, team owner Jim Glickenhaus rated their chances this weekend as being significantly better than they were at Portimao, with the long straights favouring the design of their car, rather than the tighter technical sections they encountered on their debut in the championship. Having got that first event under their belt, it will be interesting to see if this prophecy proves to be true or not.
Elsewhere in the class, it is as you were, with Toyota and Alpine battling head to head, but with the Alpine always ‘penalised’ for being a grandfathered car from LMP1. There have been no changes to the balance of performance settings between Portimao and Monza for any of the cars.
There is an additional entry for this race, the #82 Risi Competizione Oreca for Ryan Cullen, Oliver Jarvis and Felipe Nasr, the American team using this as a prelude to taking the car to Le Mans next month. Their familiar blood red will bring another colourful image to the class, and the team, while unfamiliar with prototype racing, cannot be discounted with the strong history of GT competition.
JOTA and United Autosport are expected to continue their season battle, United no doubt smarting after JOTA’s 1-2 finish at Portimao. Having said that they achieved their finishing places at Spa through stealth, I was made to eat my words at Portimao with the speed shown all weekend, so let’s see what round three brings on.
The remainder of the class is the same as before, the only change of driver being for the #29 Racing Team Nederland entry where Dutchman Nyck de Vries will replace Job van Uitert, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week ahead of the ELMS race.
No changes are expected in the direct battle between Porsche and Ferrari for honours in this straight us-against-them battle for championship honours, where Porsche’s Kevin Estre and Neel Jani won the season-opener, and Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado took their Ferrari to victory at the second round.
Both Ferrari and Porsche have received weight adjustments in the first round of GTE-Pro Balance of Performance changes this season. The two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos have been given a 5 kg weight reduction under the automatic process, which only came into effect after the opening two races. In turn, the factory Porsche 911 RSR-19s will be 5 kg heavier than they were at Spa and Portimao. The changes leave the Ferraris on 1255 kg and the Porsches on 1264 kg.
The minimum weights in GTE-Am are subject to the success ballast system.
An impressive sixteen entries are registered this time around, including the one-off entries from Inception Racing, Rinaldi Racing and AF Corse’ No. 61 crew.
After the impressive first WEC class win at Portimao, Cetilar Racing will be looking for another smooth run in their home country, but have been penalised with success ballast following that victory, with 35 kilos of weight being added, making it the heaviest of the Ferrari hoards.
Dempsey-Proton Racing must be smarting with their performances this season, neither cars able to make the running yet, but given this is a Porsche brand, you can expect that they won’t be resting on their laurels. Equally the Project 1 team will finally be fielding their second car #46 for Norwegians Anders Burchardt and Dennis Olsen as well as Axcil Jefferies from Britain, the car making a welcome return following a heavy crash during round one at Spa-Francorchamps, so expect the Porsche name to make more of a presence amongst the ten Ferraris.
Sarah Bovy will be making her WEC debut this weekend, replacing Manuela Gostner aboard the #85 Iron Lynx “Iron Dames” GTE AM Ferrari as their bronze graded driver. She performed well during last weekend’s Michelins Le Mans Cup race so has up to date knowledge of the track.
The lightest cars in the class right now are the Aston Martins, both the D’station Racing and Aston Martin Racing weighing in at a ‘slimline’ 1247 kg, some 58 kgs less that the Cetilar Ferrari. Hopefully, this will be enough to enable both teams to find the speed needed to bring them up the order.
Monza will welcome a limited number of public (in accordance with COVID-19 regulations) for the first time in this WEC season, and the "tifosi" will no doubt be vocal despite the reduced numbers. It is another sign that life is slowly returning to normal, something most people can happily agree with.
Practice starts on Friday afternoon, with qualifying on Saturday, and race day on Sunday, starting at midday CET.