A front row lock out for Porsche set up a strong showing for them the race. But it was to be Audi that took win at the opening round of the WEC this season.
The early stages of the race were productive for Porsche’s Mark Webber. A perfect start saw him gap the trailing pack immediately and start to make an early bid for victory. Audi had a less successful start with the #7 car when it didn’t get away from the start, dropping down to the mid pack. The ByKolles team only lasted a handful of laps before the #4 car was pushed off the track and caused damage to the floor, forcing a full replacement to the underside of the car.
LMP2 was again, a story of a fantastic start. Nick Tandy’s first LMP2 start was strong enough to see him jump ahead of the pair of G-Drive cars at the start. Although the lead was closed down towards the first pit stop window by the charging G-Drive duo. while both GTE categories saw the pole sitting Aston Martins fall down the pack.
As both Porsches 919s broke away it was Toyota leading Audi and the #2 Toyota, with the recovering #7 car close behind. Mark Webber hit trouble when a rear drive train issue forced the German team into a bringing the leading #17 car into the garage, where it remained for the rest of the race.
Due to the issues with the #17 car, the #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid inherited the lead of the race. Treluyer’s come back after his disastrous start had by this point seen him rise to fourth, but with the #17 Porsche dropping out the race and the sister #8 Audi having to pit to replace its rear legality panel, that quickly became second place.
All this set the scene for a fantastic on edge battle between Treluyer and Neel Jani in his leading #18 Porsche for the race lead. The pair were line astern for 20 minutes as they swapped positions almost every lap. The Audi had the advantage into the loop at the start of the lap, more often than not gaining the lead of the race by Aintree. The Porsche then dragged past on the straights to reclaim the lead. While it was fireworks at the front of the pack, Anthony Davidson put in fastest laps to close the gap in his #1 Toyota.
The battle continued until the pit stops. As the race wore on the sole remaining Porsche 919 lost pace to the Audi, but remained in the hunt for the win due to its superior fuel consumption. The #1 Toyota was staying in touch in third place, but becoming ever further adrift was the #2 effort from Toyota.
While the LMP1 battle was well and truly raging, the inter-team fight for the lead in GTE Pro between the two AF Corse Ferraris was also busy burning away. the #71 car caught up to the back of the #51 car but couldn’t find a way past the defending champions.
Although a lap down, the #8 Audi still had a vital part to play in the race when after a sequence of pit stops it came out behind the #7 car. A welcome rear gunner for the Joest team. This eventually helped the #7 Audi pull out a lead over the Porsche.
Meanwhile in LMP2 the race continued to go through it’s paces. The #26 G-Drive car continuing to lead from the sister #28 car. The ESM team in their first race at Silverstone had made a break into the provisional top three. Despite an early spin, the Strakka dome was finding its way back though the order.
The bad luck was not over for the Porsche team, but this time it was the GTE Pro teams turn to have a car drop out of the lead. The former #92 Porsche 911 leader had to have an extended stop due to a broken front damper. Although like earlier in LMP1, the sister car inherited the lead.
As the hours ticked by the #7 Audi continued to lead and began, for the first time to look like a potential winner. Although an incident at club corner saw Fassler run all four wheels off the circuit to pass a back marker. The incident was deemed to be ‘abusing track limits’ which landed the Swiss driver a stop-go penalty. The #7 Audi came into the pits the next lap, but had fuel added to the car. This meant that after having the lead dissipate in a planned stop, the car would still have to serve a drive though a lap latter.
Sure enough the leading Audi came in for its stop go penalty the next lap. Jani, who was back in the Porsche did not have to stop for fuel due to supirour fuel consumption. The trip twice down the pits put the Porsche right back in contention with just ten minutes to go in the 6 hour epic.
Unfortunately for Porsche, the late charge was not enough to claim victory. The gap closed significantly to about 3 quarters of the length of the new Silverstone pit straight. The Porsche however ran out of time on the clock to catch the cautious Audi in the closing stages.
This meant victory for the first time since the 6 Hours of CoTA last season for Lotterer, who managed to pull the #7 Audi clear of the Porsche after the battle mid race, Fassler, who raced hard with Jani in the titanic scrap for the lead at the 2 hour mark, and Treluyer who’s recovery after the ailing start for the Audi was vital to its success.
They won the race from the #18 Porsche and the #1 Toyota that held on for the final podium position. Toyota’s #2 car came home in fourth with the troubled #8 Audi last of the LMP1 finishers.
It was Sam Bird in his first LMP2 race that brought the G-Drive #26 car over the line for victory in class on his home soil. G-Drive completed a fantastic weekend for the Russian team with the #28 JS-P2 claiming the second step on the podium. ESM’s #30 car took third on the road, but was later excluded from the results. This handed third place to the debuting Strakka Dome, although 7 laps off the #26 car.
The #91 Porsche ended the race in Second position in the GTE Pro class in a close finish, just 10 seconds adrift of the defending champions, Bruni and Vilander. After a strong battle with the eventual winners at the half way stage, Calado and Rigon crossed the line in third position in class. A lap behind was the pole sitters in the #95 Dane Train which struggled for race pace.
Lamy claimed the GTE Am lead back by the end of the race after a quick stop at the end of the race. The class was one by a mere 13 seconds over#83 AF Corse Ferrari in second. It was another Ferrari in third, however this one was the SMP Racing effort piloted by Shaytar, Bertolini and Basov.
Images © WEC-Magazin / Walter Schruff/James Clarke