The 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) gets underway this weekend at Silverstone, England with two New Zealanders in the box seat to win the title.

Brendon Hartley is in his fourth season with the Porsche factory LMP1 programme and this year he is joined by fellow Kiwi Earl Bamber, who replaced Mark Webber during the off season. German Timo Bernhard makes up the driving trio in the 919 Hybrid.

The line-up in the No2 car is just about as strong as you can get. Hartley is the 2015 WEC world champion and a Le Mans 24 Hour runner-up while Bamber is the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hour champion and a former Porsche Supercup champion.

Rounding out the driver line-up is Bernard who is one of the most impressive drivers in the category having won the WEC, Le Mans and American Le Mans championships.


With the demise of the Audi LMP1 programme this year just two manufacturers will be battling it out for 2017 honours.

Toyota and Porsche rolled out their new 2017 prototypes at Monza, Italy earlier this month. Both cars were impressively quick with Porsche taking the bragging rights, however, when the cars line up for qualifying in their new high-downforce aerodynamic packages all bets are off.

Hartley and co, as well as their teammates in the sister No1 car Nick Tandy, Andre Lotterer and reigning WEC champion Neel Jani, won't have it all their own way. Toyota's Mike Conway (with Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez) and Anthony Davidson (with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima) all looked quick at Monza and were just over a second off the pace of the leading Porsche.

"I cannot wait to get the season started in Silverstone," said Hartley in a statement. "Technically we had a great test in Monza and as a car crew, we feel ready for the fight.

"Earl has integrated well and also showed awesome performance in Monza. In Silverstone, we may see a different picture in terms of competition in the LMP1 category. We will see how strong Toyota are."

As it is always with the German manufacturer in particular, they are looking at the long game rather than a sugar rush this weekend. They have opted to use their low-drag aero kit for the first two races of the championship at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps in May. This will hand a slight advantage to Toyota over the weekend, but come later in the season things might just turn around.

"I think we can expect a very tight fight with Toyota this year," said Bamber.

"It was close in Monza but Silverstone is a very different circuit layout so we must get on track with our Le Mans aero kit and see where we are.

"I have raced only once in Silverstone. This was in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and I finished on the podium. It was an amazing fight and so I have great memories of that circuit."

The changes in the rules during the offseason meant teams are only allowed two different aero kits all season, hence Porsche decision to roll the dice.

The other challenge for the LMP1 teams is the new tyre rule that reduces the number permitted to be used per race.

This will mean a lot of thinking will have to go into tyre strategy especially so when a set of slicks will have cope with 90 minutes of racing.