Tuesday 21 August 2018

Michelin Tyres at the WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone

Your scribbler has the enquiring mind of a child! So where did this Michelin and Bibendum business start?

Back in 1894 Edouard and Andre Michelin were in Lyon attending an exhibition and they noticed a pile of used tyres that made Edouard think of a man with no arms.. bit of imagination needed here I agree. Some four years later Andre met a cartoonist called Marius Rossillon. Marius showed him an image that had been rejected by a Munich brewery. It was a cartoon of a sizeable rather regal figure holding a massive glass of beer and quoting Horace’s phrase “Nunc est bibendum” or “now is the time to drink”! André immediately suggested replacing the man with a figure made from tyres. This transformed the earlier image into Michelin's current symbol. Today, Bibendum is one of the world's most recognised trademarks, representing Michelin in over 150 countries. 

Enough history.. back to The 6 Hours of Silverstone! 

Michelin have all but cornered that market in WEC, there are only four cars on the grid using Dunlop. This year’s visit gives the tyre suppliers a new challenge because the entire track has been resurfaced. It will be the first time this has happened in 22 years of hard use. The only chance to test here was at the end of July when the exceptionally hot weather wasn’t really representative of the conditions teams normally encountered at Silverstone.

The long, fast track features ten right-hand and eight left-hand turns which put tremendous strain on tyres. The technical regulations for the 2018/2019 FIA WEC dictate that, Michelin’s partners must use tyres that were developed to cover the entire super-season. Jérôme Mondain who is manager of Michelin Motorsport’s endurance racing programmes tells us that  “Silverstone was recently resurfaced, so it’s like we are going there for the very first time because we have zero data. Based on experience, wear rates are likely to be low if the conditions stay dry due to the new surface’s characteristics. That said, the track promises to heat up in direct sunshine and we could see particularly high ground temperatures which would certainly have an impact on tyre performance. If it rains, the resurfacing probably won’t assist draining, so standing water will tend to accumulate and this will lower the aquaplaning threshold.” 

The regulations state that FIA WEC entries for Silverstone are allowed just 18 tyres in the LM P1, LM P2 and LM GTE Pro classes, but LM GTE Am runners will be able to use up to 26 tyres. Teams will be able to choose between hard- and medium-compound tyres. If it rains, as well it might, they will be able to fit either ‘Wets’ or ‘Full Wets’.Things are a bit different for the LM P1 teams who will have the option of selecting the ‘Hybrid’ intermediate slick for drying conditions.

This Hybrid tyre is just for the LMP1 cars and was introduced to replace the more conventional ‘intermediate’ treaded  tyre for the first time in 2012. It’s revolutionary compound means this pattern-less tyre can be used in damp and drying conditions. Michelin have brought along around 3,200 tyres to Silverstone in order to cover the possible weather conditions and different strategies of its 30 different cars..

Jock Simpson

Monday 20 August 2018

WEC Silverstone 6 Hours - The Race Highlights (and a few low lights)

OK these guys are racing drivers.. it is in their DNA to be competitive but it still comes as a surprise when with just six hours to go they drive into each other! It was a messy start that the stewards decided to investigate. In amongst the general excitement there was contact between #3 Rebellion car and #17 SMP Racing . The upshot was the two Rebellion cars nearly hitting each other., which would have been a pity!

The Ford GT’s had a messy sort of start and lost out in a big way in the muddle but quickly showed they had the pace to match the Astons and the race leading Porsche. After the chaotic start the #38 Jackie Chan DC racing earned itself a drive through penalty! The pit entry cuts out a fair chunk of circuit so it isn’t such a major penalty in reality.

The two BMW M8 GTE started better than most and were looking good but the ever faster Fords caught and passed them. Remember the #17 SMP Racing that was involved in ‘the action’ at the start? Well, the earned themselves a drive through penalty! Next on Ford’s shopping list was the #97 Aston Martin which had qualified well and had kept out of trouble at the start. Everybody had expected the Ford GT to be quick and it was proved to be right.

Also as expected the Toyota Twins were having a ‘race’ of the own with the lead changing occasionally during the pit stops. They are obviously way quicker than the rest of the cars in LMP1, so no surprises there then. Only some kind of mechanical catastrophe will rob them of a victory but the question is whether it will be #7 or #8 on the top step.

#11 SMP Racing BR1 pulled off the track with what looked like a blown engine. Not encouraging information for Lawrence Tomlinson and Ginetta who have just swapped from Mecachrome to AER for the balance of their troubled season. Several cars have had surprising spins, maybe due to the resurfaced track, one victim was #29 Racing for Nederland. It seems the track was resurfaced but the very hot spell has caused ‘micro’ bumps to appear.

The Fords were on a charge and after 90mins #67 took the lead in GTE Pro.. it had taken time but it they were looking good as the Aston Martins faded. The reason the #95 Aston had slowed was due to getting stuck in 4th gear.. a new actuator and longish pit stop later it was back into the action.

The #4 Bykolles Racing Team car driven by Rene Binder had a serious fright when he caught up some slower cars which caught him out and he lost it into the barriers. It was a fairly hard hit which led to a Full Course Yellow and Rene being carted off to the medical centre for a check over.

One very lucky spectator was one of the infamous ‘Silverstone Hares’ who narrowly avoided getting flattened while crossing the track!

One of the messier accidents involved #17 and #71.. they both wanted the same bit of track and made contact. The #71 Ferrari came off rather worst with a rear right puncture. The tyre then fell apart taking most of the rear corner with it scattering carbon fibre all over the track. This incurred the wrath of the Clerk of The Course and brought out the safety car while the mess was cleared up. The #17 SMP Racing then had a spin which was probably down to damage caused when it collided with the #71 car.

You may recall one of the Ford GT’s having a spot of bother keeping its door shut at Le Mans, unfortunately the problem struck the #66 car here at Silverstone and it was forced to pit while the door was replaced.

With all the action going on in and around GTE Pro it was easy to overlook the AF Corse #51 Ferrari which was keeping out of trouble and fending off the challenges from Porsche and leading the class for sometime. Maybe Ferrari were bluffing but they reckoned they didn’t really have a chance here but clever tactics and low tyre wear seem to have paid off and the Porsches (who are notoriously greedy with their tyres)  will be very hard pressed to catch them… unless of course we get a safety car...

It came as a surprise when the #8 Toyota arrived in the pits for a scheduled stop and had its nose section replaced.. this was part of a plan to sort out a cure for oversteer. At the other end of the reliability scale is the #10 Dragonspeed BR1... they have a tricky race all round with what may be a record breaking 11 pit stops!

With less than an hour to go the Toyota Twins swapped places and the #8 car took the lead.. just to remind you that is the Alonso car...surely they are not ‘engineering’ a result? No.. of course not !!

At this level it was a surprise when  #50 #56 #90 all got hit with 75 second stop go penalty for coming into the pits too early when the safety car was out.. they should have waited for three laps behind the safety car before they piled off into the pits.. seemed like a silly mistake but a harsh penalty!!

So it all panned out roughly as we expected.. the ‘right’ Toyota won with Alonso on board.. the #7 car had some unscheduled work on its rear body panels which wasn’t as slick as you might have expected losing them 10 precious seconds, the delay let #8 car take the lead. The ‘Best of The Rest’ in LMP1 was the #3 Rebellion Racing R13-Gibson.

In LMP2 Jackie Chan DC Racing had a great race with a 1st (#38) and 2nd (#37) ahead of the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut. They didn’t run into trouble like the others, it was a very tidy performance.

Some of the best racing came out of LMGTE with a great battle between Ferrari, Porsche, Ford and of course Aston Martin. The #13 AF Corse Ferrari had a relatively straightforward win in the end. They had the edge as far as tyres and tactics were concerned. Porsche had a busy day chasing down the Ferraris and fending off the Fords. The result was Porsche #91 came second ahead of the #87 Ford GT.

It is amazing that Dempsey-Proton Racing and their #77 Porsche 911 RSR made their way steadily through the race to come home despite not having the quickest car on the grid.  The #90 TF Sport Aston Martin took second place. After a long and intense battle, Jorg Bergmeister clinched the final podium spot in the #56 Prjoect 1 Porsche, passing Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin in the final lap of the race. 

Postscript - 1

Both Toyota TS050 Hybrids have been disqualified from Sunday’s Six Hours of Silverstone due to technical infractions, handing the overall victory to Rebellion Racing. The cars, which finished 1-2 in the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, were found to have failed skid block deflection tests.

According to a stewards report issued late Sunday, the “front part” of the No. 8 Toyota’s skid block deflected 9 mm under the specified 2500 N load on both sides of the skid block, while the No. 7 car had 8 mm of deflection on the left side and 6 mm on the right side. It was found to be a breach of Art. 3.5.6.d of the LMP1H technical regulations, resulting in exclusions.

While there were no reports of the Toyotas being involved in any incidents, the Japanese manufacturer has claimed, per the stewards report, that both cars must have sustained “some sort of damage” to the internal stays affixed to the portion of the skid block. The stewards, however, dismissed that explanation, stating that cars must be able to withstand the “normal rigors” of a six-hour race.

It comes after a dominant run for the Toyotas, which finished four laps clear of the competition, led by the No. 8 entry of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
(Edit - Toyota Gazoo Racing have withdrawn their appeal against Silverstone exclusions so the result will stand.)

Postscript - 2

In GTE Pro, the Porsche #91 was excluded from it's second-place finish. The ride height was judged to have been 2mm lower than the permitted 50mm.  The #67 Ford GT of Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx moves up to second in class as a result, and Porsche #92 of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre is promoted to third.

Race Results
Toyota stewards report
Porsche #91 stewards report

Text: Jock Simpson
Pictures: Kristof Vermeulen

Saturday 18 August 2018

WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone - Free Practice and Qualifying

Free Practice

In the first free practice session there was a big accident for Bruno Senna in Rebellion #1. Senna suffered an injured ankle going off at the exit of Copse corner. The car appeared to have been destroyed and took no part in the second session later in the day. Senna's injury was not serious but did sideline him for the rest of the weekend. The Bykolles #4 ENSO caught fire towards the end of the second free practice on Friday evening bringing out a red flag. 

The third free practice session was at 9:00am on Saturday for 1 hour. In the first few minutes Alonso set a time of 1:37.677 on his first flying lap in the #8 Toyota. Meanwhile Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin set a 1:58.460, quicker even than last year's GTE Am fastest lap. The end of FP3 was cut short a few minutes due to a wayward bollard on the circuit. Both the Bykolles #4 and the Rebellion #1 were repaired overnight and took part in the session.

You can't draw any firm conclusions from practice times but as far as LMP1 is concerned, it's really just as case of which of the two Toyota's crosses the finish line first. Cynics might even say that perhaps Toyota may ensure that it's the #8 car. Among the non-hybrids the two SMP Racing BR1's were looking very strong at that point with both cars dipping under 1:40 in FP3. 


Qualifying started on time at noon under an overcast sky and relatively chilly (by recent standards) 17.2C air temperature. GTE qualifying became very hard to follow with many laps deleted for track limits infringements, particularly in the Am class. In Pro the #66 Ford GT of Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla had a very tidy session and took pole position. It was a slightly less tidy session for Priaulx and Tincknell the #67 sister car that ended up behind the Aston Martins #97 and #95. In GTE Am once all the lap deletions had been accounted for, it was the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche at the top of the timing screen followed by the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche that may even have taken pole were it not for several lap deletions. Third quickest was the TF Sport Aston Martin.

LMP qualifying was easier to follow with less pushing of track limits.  Alonso quickly put Toyota #8 quickest with a time of 1:36.789 but that was short lived as Conway in Toyota #7 went a shade faster with a time of 1:36.769. One of Nakajima's laps in the #8 Toyota was deleted for track limits and the #7 car stayed at the top of the timing screen for the remainder of the session. Jaafar set a time of 1:44.372 in the #37 JC DC Racing Oreca and a quick lap by Jeffri gave them an average of 1:44.896 and LMP2 pole position. With 5 minutes remaining there was a red flag to recover the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara that Frits Van Eerd spun into the gravel at Copse.

Full timing results can be found HERE

WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone - Pre-race Jox Jottings

Having missed Le Mans 24hrs for ‘technical reasons’ (or more accurately accreditation reasons!) it is good to be back at Silverstone for round three of The Super Season. There has been a long summer break since Le Mans back in June. 

However the technical fellows at FIA WEC have not been idle! Toyota had a very convincing victory at Le Mans as we know, so there was a call to ‘level the playing field’ to give the other LMP1 teams a reasonable chance of at least a getting a glimpse of the silverware. Toyota got their first ever win since they began racing at Le Mans. Alonso moved from F1 to Le Mans and achieved ‘part two’ of his dream to win Le Mans, Monaco and Indianapolis. But for some observers the Toyota victory was seen as slightly hollow, forgone conclusion. OK the cars survived for 24 hours but there was no serious competition and they finished 12 laps ahead of the rest of the field.. Credit where credit is due it is not easy winning at Le Mans as Toyota knew only too well! As a result The FIA World Endurance Championship organisation set about having a go at applying a modestly sized roller to the playing field between the hybrid Toyotas and the other non-hybrid LMP1s by making changes to the Equivalence of Technology (EoT) rules. Equivalence of Technology? A degree in particle physics would come in handy here and we don’t happen to have one! 

But the outcome of all this for Silverstone was the removal of the promised 0.25% lap time advantage given to Toyota. At Le Mans this was reckoned to worth around half a second a lap, that doesn’t sound much but over 388 laps it all begins to add up! 

Next up are changes to the fuel flow to the non hybrid engines which has been upped to 115kg/h from 108kg/hr’ Again rather hard to comprehend for us lesser mortals! Easier to get to grips with is the refuelling rig restrictor size has been increased. This means fuel can go in faster and as a result less time in the pits. 

Ironically it was this area of technology that caused the downfall and exclusion of the two TDS run cars at Le Mans. This is still under appeal.

Weight is easier to understand..the normally aspirated cars have been given a 15kg weight reduction..  

A WEC statement said that the changes were designed to 
"Ensure an appealing top category and achieve the best possible balance between the performance potential of cars using both hybrid and non-hybrid technologies."

It will not come as a great surprise to hear that Ginetta won’t be here this weekend. It is a long and complex saga that is getting no easier to fully explain. However plenty of words appear elsewhere but the latest news is that Ginetta have changed their Mecachrome’s 3.4-litre V6 engine to the AER P60B twin-turbo V6. This was because Ginetta reckoned they were down on power with the Mecachrome engine but interestingly the AER engined car didn’t finish at Le Mans while the Mecachrome one did.  This story will run and run but they are not here at Silverstone

In GTE-Pro it was fair to say that at Le Mans and Spa Aston Martin did not prosper as far as Balance of Performance was concerned. They were way off the pace through no fault of their own. Balance of Performance is a blunt instrument to say the least but WEC have tried to make amends for Silverstone. So both the Aston Martin and Ferrari 488 GTE Evos have received BOP adjustments for Silverstone.

A pair of the ‘new-generation’ Aston Martin Vantage GTEs have arrived at this weekend’s Six Hours of Silverstone but now armed with more power. In Aston Martin’s case their new turbocharged V8 engine gets a significant increase in turbo boost throughout its power band. Plus they get an extra five litres of fuel to take into account the increase in power.
Additionally, the Astons will have 5 litres of additional fuel capacity to take into account the increased power. On the other hand Ferrari only get a small increase in power There have been no adjustments for BMW, Ford and Porsche .

Finally.. you may have heard that Bruno Senna had a big accident in free practice when he went off at Copse driving the #1 Rebellion Racing R13-Gibson. The good news is that despite the scale of the accident Bruno emerged with a fractured ankle but won’t be racing again this weekend. The car was rebuilt for qualifying and is 6th on the grid. The stewards are allowing the team to run with just two drivers. We wish Bruno well and look forward to maybe seeing him back out in October for the Fuji round.  

Jock Simpson