Saturday 15 April 2017

FIA WEC 2017 - 6 Hours of Silverstone: Saturday FP3 and qualifying report

In a busy weekend of racing, Saturday at Silverstone saw the WEC qualifying sessions and the ELMS 4 hour race. 

The clear and dry early morning belied the cool and damp track conditions. The World Series Formula V8 qualifying was a bit slippery so the prospect for the one hour of WEC free practice looked like it might be 'interesting'. However, the single-seater session and the sunshine seemed to be doing the trick and by 9:45 the circuit appeared to be reasonably but possibly not completely dry.

At 9:30 WEC cars we pushed out into the sunshine on the pit apron. Porsche #2 was first in line at pit exit, followed by #1. The first few flying laps were up in the 1:46 region for LMP1-H, about 8 seconds of yesterday's pace so clearly it was still 'mildly moist' out there. At 9:50 however Davidson put the Toyota #8 at the top of the timing screen with a lap in 1:43.811.

The #7 Toyota however was confined to its pit garage with hybrid problems, while the #8 was progressively improving, then in the hands of Nakajima with a lap in 1:41.185. Meanwhile Fred Mako in the Porsche #91 was fastest in GTE Pro with a time of 1:59.540 but soon surpassed by Andy Priaulx in Ford GT #67 with 1:58.391.  With 37 minutes remaining, Canal was fastest in LMP2 in the #31 Vaillante Rebellion with a time of 1:46.143. In GTE Am it was Castellacci in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari with a time of 1:59.544.

With the clock at 30 minutes the order was #1 #2 #8 #7 in LMP1-H and #31 #13 #38 #36 in LMP2. Matt Griffin in the #61 Clearwater racing Ferrari put in the quickest GTE Am time of the weekend 1:59.194 to put it ahead of #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari and #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche. In GTE Pro, the two Ford GT entries #67 and #66 were quickest from #51 and #71 AF Corse Ferraris.  At 10:18 the #86 Gulf Porsche was 'pinged' for speeding in the pitlane. The #4 ByKolles car was still down at the slow end of the LMP2 times. At 10:18 Vaxiviere in the TDS racing #28 put in the fastest time so far of the weekend in LMP2 1:44.105. There was a minor spin at Luffield for Senna in #31 Vaillante Rebellion at 10:25 but rejoined with no harm done. Shortly after that there was a big lock up for Reid in #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche.

Davidson went quickest in the #8 Toyota 1:39.476 just as the clock ticked past 10 minutes remaining, displacing the two Porsche LMP1-H #1 and #2. Dalla Lana in Aston Martin #98 appeared to make contact with Lopez in #7 Toyota while being passed at Luffield bringing about a front left tyre failure for the Aston. Lopez was subsequently reported by stewards for dangerous driving. At the chequered flag the order was unchanged: #8 #1 #2 #7 in LMP1, #28 #26 #38 #25 in LMP2. In GTE Pro #67 #66 #51 #71 and in GTE Am #98 #61 #54 #77. Free practice was complete, but of course the times that really count were still to be set. It was in the two 20 minute qualifying sessions in the afternoon where the serious business would be concluded

First on track In the spring sunshine were the GTE cars, both Am and Pro. Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 was first out of the pit exit. Early quick time for Thim in #95 Aston Martin 1:56.989 with Lamy also quick in the #98 Aston Martin in the Am class 1:58.792. At the point where all first drivers had set a time, Griffin in #61 Ferrari was quickest in Am. The Ford GT #67 set a 2 lap average of 1:56.202 before the chequered flag to claim the GTE Pro pole and the #98 Aston Martin captured the GTE Am pole with an average of 1:59.562.

In LMP qualifying Kobayashi set the tone by setting a time of 1:36.743 in his first flying lap in the Toyota #7, swiftly followed by Vaxiviere in the #28 TDS Racing LMP2 with the fastest in class of 1:43.752. At 13:46 Brundle had an off-circuit moment at Becketts in #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing LMP2 but quickly rejoined.  At the chequered flag it was still the #7 Toyota at the top of the timing screen with an average time of 1:37.304 despite Conway having one lap deleted due to track limits violation. In LMP2 it was the #26 G-Drive that put in the quickest average time 1:44.387 to claim class pole.

As always in the WEC, qualifying seemed to be over in a second. Toyota seemed comfortably in charge of LMP1-H and locked out the front row. Porsche with their low down-force configuration seemed to have no answer to the qualifying pace and had to settle for the second row. The only private LMP1 competitor, the ByKolles Racing #4 ENSO CLM P1/01 - Nismo had an uninspiring qualification session and set an average time 9th fastest overall and only 5th fastest in the LMP2 field. The G-Drive Oreca Gibson #26 was just a whisker ahead of the #36 Signatech Alpine and Jackie Chan DC Racing #38.

Next up for WEC is the start of the 6 Hours of Silverstone on Sunday at 12:00. Although today we had sunshine and a fresh breeze, tomorrow is forecast to be wet almost from flag to flag with an 80% change of precipitation at noon.

Full timing and classification can be found HERE