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