WEC teams conduct tire testing at Portimao

David Lord Photography

WEC teams conduct tire testing at Portimao

Le Mans/WEC

WEC teams conduct tire testing at Portimao


Multiple FIA WEC teams and drivers took part in a three-day test at Autodromo do Algarve following the European Le Mans Series season finale in Portugal last weekend. While many of the headlines will have concerned the first public running of two of the four 2020 LMP3 chassis from Ligier and Duqueine Engineering, the WEC teams present took part in significant tire testing.

United Autosports, which organized the test, ran both ORECA 07 Gibsons it campaigned in the ELMS this year, with a range of drivers. Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque, who compete with the team in the ELMS and WEC, turned laps in the No. 22 as part of a Michelin tire test, while full-season ELMS drivers Alex Brundle and Ryan Cullen spent time preparing for the 2020 ELMS season in the sister car.

Team owner Richard Dean told RACER that United was running development Michelin rubber ahead of the 2020/21 season on Tuesday with the No. 22. In addition, the team tested a pair of drivers that don’t currently race in LMP2 with the team.

One was Kay van Berlo, a previous ELMS LMP3 race winner. The Dutchman has previous history with the team, having competed with it during the 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series season. American driver John Falb was the other, driving one of the team’s ORECAs in what was a belated day of running as a reward for winning the ELMS LMP3 title back in 2017 with the team. This year, Bronze-graded driver Falb made the step up to LMP2 for the first time, and impressed mightily throughout the season driving for Algarve Pro Racing in the ELMS.

United wasn’t the only LMP2 team turning laps on Michelin tires in Portugal, as ELMS LMP2 teams Duqueine Engineering and G-Drive Racing were also spotted on French rubber. G-Drive Racing was testing Michelins as part of its association with TDS Racing (which runs the Aurus in ELMS). G-Drive is expected to race with TDS in the WEC at Bahrain in December.

Goodyear’s support staff was on hand for the first time in public as an ELMS tire supplier. The American brand — which takes over from Dunlop as an ELMS LMP2 and GTE supplier — was running with DragonSpeed, a potential new customer team for 2020. DragonSpeed (pictured above) was sampling the current FIA WEC Goodyear tires with Ben Hanley leading the team’s evaluation.

The Panis Barthez team also tested with Goodyear as it continues to evaluate which supplier to use in 2020. Panis Barthez is unlikely to compete in the WEC next season (outside of a guest entry at Le Mans), but is looking at competing in the IMSA enduros at Daytona and Sebring.

The testing for Goodyear came after it spent multiple days at Sebring with its WEC customer JOTA two weeks ago, preparing for the 2020/21 season. Mike McGregor, Goodyear’s manager of sales and on-track support, told RACER in Portimao that the JOTA-run ORECA managed to complete over 1,600 miles of testing in Florida, using both current-spec WEC tires and future concepts.

Goodyear now looks ahead to further tests it has planned in January, February and potentially April, where Goodyear says JOTA and possibly additional customer teams will be involved.

Converted Beechdean Vantage AMR GTE

Of the WEC’s GTE teams, Aston Martin Racing and Proton Competition were also present at the test. AMR ran with a converted Vantage AMR GTE, which ran in GT3 spec last weekend in the final Le Mans Cup round with Beechdean AMR. After the British marque hastily prepped the car on Monday, factory drivers Maxime Martin and Ross Gunn took on driving duties testing tires ahead of the WEC race at Shanghai in two weeks time.

Proton was running Italian team Ebimotors’ ELMS Porsche 911 RSR. Christian Reid’s team had to rent the Ebimotors 911 on short notice after its own pair of ELMS 911 RSRs were damaged beyond repair in a huge multi-car accident in the season finale on Sunday. Reid himself hit the track along with a pair of significant drivers who look set to race with the German team next season.