Reigning WEC champions Toyota Gazoo Racing took a commanding victory at the first round of the 2019/2020 FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone. In GTE Pro, Porsche prevailed on the debut of the new 911 RSR-19 after a race-long battle with Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Despite a smaller gap to the LMP1 privateer teams, Toyota Gazoo Racing failed to put a foot wrong at the opening race of the 2019/2020 season to secure the overall victory. The #7 TS050 Hybrid of Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez converted pole position into the race win, with the sister #8 car close behind.
Third position went to the #3 Rebellion Racing car, which was battling at the front of the field at times after inclement weather swept across Silverstone Circuit at around the halfway point.
Ginetta marked its comeback to the FIA World Endurance Championship with Team LNT with a solid fourth-place finish – inherited after problems befell the full-season #1 Rebellion entry with just 15 minutes of the race remaining. The #5 car of Charlie Roberton, Ben Hanley and Egor Orudzhev suffered some issues of its own and finished around 5 laps down on the leaders.
GTE Pro evenly matched
What the GTE Pro field now lacks in quantity it most certainly makes up for in quality, with the three manufacturers evidently very evenly matched. Ferrari had started the race as slight favourites after locking out the front row, but it was Porsche who ultimately took the one-two finish in its new-for-2019 car.
The #71 AF Corse machine was involved in the only serious incident of the race, colliding with Oliver Jarvis in the #6 Team LNT Ginetta at Maggotts and into retirement. The class remained extremely tight right up to the chequered flag, with just 16 seconds separating the top four at the finish line.
Third position went to Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin in the Aston Martin Vantage AMR, with pole-sitters James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi a disappointing fourth.
Debut win for Cool Racing
Cool Racing crowned its maiden appearance in the FIA WEC with a surprise victory in the LMP2 class. Pole-sitter United Autosports came to a standstill after just two laps with an electrical issue, with Racing Team Nederland inheriting the lead. However, a pit-stop penalty and a safety car period for the #71 incident eliminated the #29 car’s lead, handing the advantage to the #42 Cool Racing Oreca.
The win was all the more impressive given that the team were down to just two drivers. Alexandre Coigny was not cleared to race after a serious accident during the previous day’s European Le Mans Series race, meaning that debutant Antonin Borga and two-time LMP2 drivers’ champion Nicolas Lapierre had to complete the race as a pair.
Wheel-to-wheel racing in GTE Am
The most excitement at Silverstone was provided by the GTE Am class. The battle for the lead continued unabated for almost the entire race, with any mistakes punished severely. Reigning champions Project 1 spent much of the race at the head of the field fighting with the pole-sitting #90 TF Sport crew, however contact between the two cost both a chance of victory.
The #83 AF Corse team were the beneficiaries of the other cars’ misfortunes, securing the first win of the season at the first try. The #98 Aston Martin and #70 MR Racing crews rounded out the top three.
Images © WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk)