Toyota and Porsche go toe-to-toe at Silverstone

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The Porsche team will likely have left Silverstone with a smile on their face, having travelled to the UK with the low-downforce, Le Mans-spec bodywork and performing well at a track not entirely suited to a low-drag set-up.

“We are even happier about today’s second and third place with such a marginal gap to the winners,” team vice president Fritz Enzinger said after the race. “Our low downforce aerodynamic package now has its most difficult race behind it.”

In truth, it was a relatively dominant performance – as expected – by the winning #8 Toyota TS050. Buemi, Davidson and Nakajima, Toyota’s most experienced crew, took the victory by six seconds, but without the safety car brought out by teammate José María Lopez’s huge accident at Copse, the victory would have perhaps been more convincing.

Indeed, the quotes emerging from the Toyota garage after the race suggested that the Japanese manufacturer was a little surprised by the pace of the 919 Hybrid. The race was a lot more difficult than we expected,” winning driver Kazuki Nakajima said. “We were a bit unlucky with the safety car and it was difficult with the rain. I was happy with the car but Porsche also had good pace and made it very difficult for us.”

As in any endurance race, the true pace of a car and a driver lies in average lap times over the course of a stint. This is where Porsche may see an advantage going into Spa and particularly Le Mans. Mike Conway’s fastest lap of the race was one second faster than the fastest Porsche drive – Nick Tandy –, but in terms of average pace, the Porsches were only around half a second down on the Toyotas.

What does this mean for Le Mans? Given the nature of Silverstone as a circuit, not much. Spa will provide a more accurate picture of where the LMP1 manufacturers are at, but Toyota and Porsche are still likely to keep their cards close to their chest. Toyota will arrive at Spa not only with their low-downforce set-up, but also a third car piloted by Stéphane Sarrazin, Nicolas Lapierre and Yuji Kunimoto.

Images © WEC-Magazin