Sunday 12 April 2015

Final thoughts from Silverstone WEC

An innovation for all future rounds in the 2015 WEC is the adoption of the 'Le Mans' style start build up. This involves all the teams lining up on the start finish line in echelons while the anthems are sung. They then set off behind the safety car for two 'rolling laps' and do a normal rolling start.. bang on 12:00hrs!

At 12:41hrs we had our first 'full course yellow'. This is run to new rules which now successfully bring all the cars to a safely manageable 60 km/h (same as the pit lane limit) wherever they are are around the circuit and as a result the gaps don't close up.   Racing recommenced and the Audis were still in the pits so they misjudged it slightly but Alex Wurz in #2 Toyota certainly lost out.

Romain Dumas, after his opening stint, told us that there maybe trouble ahead because Porsche maybe powerful and economic but will have to double stint the tyres at some stage and this may become a critical feature in this race.

From the outset it looked like Mark Webber in the #17 Porsche was the class and pace of the field until at 14:00 hrs ,having controlled the race comfortably up to that point, the car suddenly went out with failed"rear drive train", this was not the hybrid bit that broke but the 500 bhp 2.0 litre V4 petrol engined bit.. this was roughly two hours into the race as we sadly we thought might happen.. fast .. yes..but fragile? The #18 Porsche also had problems when it had to pit for new rear bodywork so the race was slipping away from them. Not helped by the #7 Audi being consistently and comfortably quicker than both the remaining Porsche and both Toyotas!  So the advantage began to drift towards Audi.

It became clear that the leading Audi #7 was the quickest car out there as soon as the Webber Porsche expired.

The race then evolved into a classic 'endurance' race with a remarkably low attrition rate with only three cars not classified as finishers.

Despite this we had a fantastic race that gave us every sort of drama and after a record race distance of 201 laps, which is 1186 kms, the margin between the winning the winning #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Fassler/Lotterer and Treluyer and the #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by Dumas/Jani/Lieb was 4.610 secs! We calculate that as about 271 metres at the flag.

The whole thing boiled over in the final twenty minutes when the race leading Audi #7 was given a 'Stop-Go' penalty for exceeding the track limits. Dr Ulrich Head of Audi Sport chose not to speak to the pit lane commentator.. he was clearly very unhappy!

However it was a well deserved LMP1 victory. The #7 Audi had been consistently a second or two a lap faster than the rest of the pack. The only serious challenge would have come from the #17 Porsche which was blindingly quick. But it didn't reach the end! The Audi, driven superbly particularly by Andre Lotterer did what Audi Sport do best .. winning with apparently very little drama! Except maybe for that Stop Go which might have even rattled the might of Audi.

Toyota matched the pace of the Audi and Porsche but had no plan that would have given them the over all win. They need more outright pace. Porsche had it during testing, practice and qualifying but they lacked race pace and are rumoured to be heavy on tyres.

LMP1 wasn't the only class that gave us some great racing but it was too easy to get carried away by the P1 dramas. In LMP2 the pair of G-Drive Ligier JS P2 Nissans ruled the class racing against each other and leaving the Strakka Racing Dome S103 Nissan without a look in!

You may recall that we thought it would be virtually impossible to knock all three Aston Martin Martin Racing V8 Vantages off the podium in LM GTE Pro.. how wrong we were! At the time of writing we are not clear quite what happened but  the Class was won by the #51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia driven by Bruni and Vilander. Second was the semi works Porsche Team Manthey #92 Porsche 911 RSR and third was the other AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia. The Astons? They were nowhere! David Richards must have slept easily after qualifying but now faces a nightmare trying to work out where it all went wrong and where to find more speed. All this before Spa and Le Mans.

In LGTE Am Aston Martin Racing could breath a sigh of relief with a win by the #98 Aston V8 Vantage ahead of that pesky AF Corse and their Ferrari F458 Italia and yet another Prancing Horse car #72 from SMP

This weekend we have seen a pair of outstanding races with ELMS and WEC. The next round is at Spa and then the big one " Le Mans 24 hrs" !