The #7 Audi R18 of André Lotterer, Benoit Tréyuler and Marcel Fässler took the overall victory after an incident-packed 6 Hours of Silverstone. The pole-sitting car didn’t have everything its own way, however, and benefitted from a number of issues affecting the Porsches, including a massive accident for Brendon Hartley in the #1 919 Hybrid two hours into the race.
Porsche appeared to have the early-race pace, with Mark Webber in the #1 car and Romain Dumas in the #2 machine quickly chasing down the Audis. Webber caught and passed Lotterer on lap 16 for the race lead and cemented the car’s advantage in the early stages.
All signs pointed to Porsche superiority, with Hartley holding a 42-second advantage over the sister car and a 50-second lead over the nearest Audi at the two-hour point. On lap 70, however, the New Zealander attempted an ambitious lapping manoeuvre on the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Mike Wainwright around the outside of turn two. The #1 car ran out of road and slammed into the front of the GTE Am entry, the impact pitching the prototype onto its side and sending it careering into the gravel trap.
That wasn’t the end of the drama, either. After Oliver Jarvis had complained of hybrid problems in his earlier stint, Lucas di Grassi came to a standstill under FCY conditions with apparent power unit problems. Despite the Brazilian’s desperate attempts to revive the stricken machine, it was curtains for the #8 car’s challenge.
With two of the top four cars now out of the race, it was left to Benoit Tréyuler and Marc Lieb to pick up the challenge. The race returned to green on lap 75 and Tréyuler almost immediately slipped past the German on the exit of Copse. What followed was a game of cat and mouse between the Audi and the Porsche, with the pair darting between traffic in an effort to gain an advantage.
On lap 102, the #5 Toyota TS050 of Kazuki Nakajima suffered a puncture at Club and had to complete almost an entire lap with a flailing tyre carcass destroying much of the rear end. The on-track debris forced Race Director Eduardo Freitas to call a safety car, giving the Silverstone marshals a chance to sweep up the mess. Nakajima’s problems promoted the #13 Rebellion R-One of Tuscher/Kraihamer/Imperatori to an impressive fourth.
The safety car was withdrawn on lap 107 and the Tréyuler-Lieb battle resumed with a vengeance. With both cars taking risks in traffic, it was only a matter of time before contact was made. Coming into Club, the #66 Ford GT of Marino Franchitti was wrong-footed by the lappery and made contact with the second-place Porsche, costing Lieb roughly ten seconds. As Tréyuler handed the driving duties over to Marcel Fässler on lap 128 and Lieb to Jani after 132 laps, the lead gap was at 13 seconds.
Into the final hour, there was drama in the Porsche garage as Jani was forced to pit on two concurrent laps. The decision turned out to be the result of a puncture on Jani’s out lap, which effectively cost the Porsche any chance of victory. Fässler comfortably completed his final stint and brought his Audi R18 home for the team’s first victory since Spa last year. The #2 Porsche finished in second, while the #6 Toyota TS050 of Conway/Sarrazin/Kobayashi finished third, around lap behind the winning Audi.
In LMP2, the #43 RGR Sport by Morand Racing car recorded a debut victory ahead of the #31 Extreme Speed Motorsport machine. In a hectic opening phase, it was Daytona and Sebring star Luis Felipe Derani who took an early lead, passing the pole-sitting #26 G-Drive Racing car on lap 1. Bruno Senna in the #43 overtook Roman Rusinov in the #26 shortly afterwards and the tone was set for the remainder of the race.
With Rusinov double-stinting at the start of the race, he inherited the class lead after the first round of pit stops, which he only surrendered on lap 45. Audi works driver took up the mantle and drove an outstanding stint, passing five cars to lead after 54 laps. Problems as the race went back to green after the FCY then saw Rast stationary at the entry into Maggotts, promoting the Strakka Racing machine and the RGR Sport by Morand car to first and second respectively.
Rast, however, soon rose back to the top of the LMP2 rankings before handing over to Frenchman Nathaneal Berthon on lap 114. The longer pit stop for the driver change saw Bruno Senna assume the lead of the race in the #43 car. The Brazilian then proceeded to extend his lead over the #26 car to the best part of a lap by the end of the fourth hour. The G-Drive car was then forced to pit for a new nose after contact with an Aston Martin, ending its chances of a top-three finish.
With one hour remaining, Felipe Albuquerque now held a commanding lead over the rest of the LMP2 field in the #43 machine. Smart pit-stop tactics from the #31 ESM team saw the US-entered Ligier leapfrog the recovering #36 Signatech-Alpine car in the pitlane and into second. Albuquerque took a comfortable victory for the RGR Sport by Morand Racing squad on its debut season in the World Endurance Championship.
Image sources: WEC-Magazin // AdrenalMedia.com