Toyota Gazoo Racing wins nerve-wracking opening round

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 won the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship held at Silverstone.

The driver trio of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, and Kazuki Nakajima couldn’t relax at any point during the race, since the competition from Porsche pushed all the time, even though the gap was a bit elastic at some points.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8, Porsche #2
Photo: JJ Media

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 went from hero to zero during the first 4 hours of the race. They started from Pole Position, but quickly the sister car #8 made it past them. After a bit more than 4 hours, Jose Maria Lopez crashed the car heavily into the tire barrier, after putting the left hand wheels on the curb in the quite right hander, Copse. He managed to get the car limped back to the pits. The doctors on the track demanded him to go to the local hospital for a medical check-up, since it was a very high speed crash, but he should be okay, and he drove the car back to the pits himself, after being dragged out the gravel. His two teammates, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, could drive the car to the finish, after the mechanics had repaired it for more than an hour. But it was enough for them to be classified as finisher and receiving points, and that could be important at the end of the year.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67
Photo: JJ Media

Porsche #2 with Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, and Brendon Hartley was the quickest Porsche team of the day and finished the race second, after having led at various times during the race. Porsche #1 with Nick Tandy, Neel Jani, and Andre Lotterer drove a steady race and came home in third.

ByKolles Racing Team #4 had to retire with around an hour to go, after a collision with Aston Martin Racing #97. There wasn’t any clear TV pictures of what happened, other than #97 were missing their diffuser after a heavy impact with the barrier. They could, however, finish the race.

Clearwater Racing #61
Photo: JJ Media

In the LMP2 category we saw a fantastic battle through all 6 hours. G-Drive Racing #26 had started from Pole Position but didn’t lead a single lap of the race, after losing the lead already during the first lap. The race then became a duel between TDS Racing #28, Signatech Alpine Matmut #36, Vaillante Rebellion #31, and Jackie Chan DC Racing #38. The lead went back and forth and only 15 minutes before the chequered flag, after the final pitstop, it was clear that the #38 with Ho-Pin Tung, Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent could take the win, followed by #31 with Bruno Senna, Nico Prost, and Julien Canal, with #28 Francois Perrodo, Maxime Vaxiviere and Emmanuel Collard in third.

Vaillante Rebellion #13 had a very bad day at Silverstone. The car was generally lacking speed, and a collision between David Heinemeier Hansson and an LMP2 competitor didn’t make the situation much better. A couple of hours before the finish, they were hit by the AF Corse #71 Ferrari and received damage to the side of the car, that needed an extended repair in the garage. But their race was already lost at that point.

Jackie Chan DC Racing #38
Photo: JJ Media

GTE Pro saw an amazing battle, and perhaps even more than some had expected ahead of the race. Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 with Andy Priaulx, Luis Felipe Derani, and Harry Tincknell started from Pole Position and ended up winning the race too, but a lot of things happened during the 6 hours. Shortly into the race they had the right hand door pop open on their car, and it was flapping open and closed several times during the lap, costing them top speed. That meant that they first lost the lead to their sister car #66 and went all the way down to P3 after Porsche #91. At the first pitstop, they got the door slammed extra hard, and it wasn’t until shortly before the finish of the race, that it started to pop open again – but that didn’t affect the results.

AF Corse #51 mixed into the battle of the top and was leading for a short time, but they had to accept second for James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi.

LMP1 podium
Photo: JJ Media

Porsche GT team had a day from hell to the top – and for the #92 with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre, back to hell. About halfway through the race they had to retire with Estre behind the wheel, with flames licking out of the engine bay of the car. Fortunately he got out of the car without any injury. What saved the day for the Porsche team was the #91 with Richard Lietz and Fred Makowiecki bringing home the third placed trophy. Both Porsche cars had a lot more speed than in the qualifying yesterday, and Michael Christensen told shortly before the start of the race, that they hadn’t even focused on the qualifying yesterday, but only the race. So it was very unlucky for that car to retire – but that’s how racing is sometimes.

LMP2 podium
Photo: JJ Media

There was drama three corners before the chequered flag in GTE Am, where the leading AMR #98 had a collision with Spirit of Race #54 driven by Miguel Molina. It meant that Clearwater Racing #61 with Matt Griffin, Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok could go past and take the victory in the category, while #98 Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana made it home in second, ahead of Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 with Matteo Cairoli, Christian Ried, and Marvin Dienst in third. #54 didn’t make it out of the gravel and wasn’t classified as finished, and thereby loosing out on points, since you have to cross the finish line to get points. So less than one kilometer before the finish line, they are leaving Silverstone without any points.

GTE Pro podium
Photo: JJ Media

AMR #98 had a special day where they were fastest in the class, but Paul Dalla Lana had two spins during his stint. First when he went side to side with a LMP2 car and later when he came in too fast into a corner, on a slightly damp track, from one of the few sprinkles there was today. The time that he lost during the two spins proved to be very costly, since that ended up costing the team the victory.

GTE Am podium
Photo: JJ Media

The next time that the FIA WEC is on the track is in three weeks’ time, when Round 2 of the years Championship will be run at Spa Francorchamps. For that race we will have at minimum one more starting car, since Signatech Alpine Matmut will have their other car with number 35 ready, as a preparation for the Le Mans race in June.

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