The race was one of the most exciting races I’ve had the pleasure of watching. I suspect it will become the poster child for the series, in highlight reels for years to come.
From the start, the race was something special, the Le Mans style start procedure with the cars lined up against the pit wall, was somewhat novel trackside, though I do wonder how it translated onto the television. Porsche led away in the early stages, with the #17 and #18 starting on the front row, the battle soon emerged between Audi and Porsche.
Porsche #17 would lead the race into the second hour, with Mark Webber at the wheel, before the car suffered terminal gearbox failure.
The battle between Porsche #18 and Audi #7 however was immense. Watching the action from Becketts enabled a view of the cars battling out of farm, through Village, The loop, Aintree and disappearing out of sight on the Wellington Straight, before reappearing in sight through Becketts, Chapel and again disappearing down the Hanger Straight.
Audi had a clear advantage through Village, The Loop and Aintree whilst Porsche’s top speed was allowed them to reclaim the lead on the Wellington straight, maintaining it most the time through Becketts and onto Hanger Straight. It was not only a fantastic race battle, but also incredibly respectful between the pilots.
Whilst Audi and Porsche battled, Toyota played its own part in the race, eventually coming home third. I’ve got to say I have a little head scratching to do to understand why Toyota weren’t abit more competitive this weekend, this is the championship winning TS040 evolved from last season. Toyota and Porsche appeared to gain and lose ground to one another throughout the race, whilst Audi had the consistency
Things settled abit up front during the middle portion of the race, as is quite common in endurance racing. However whilst Audi took a more commanding lead in this portion of the race, Toyota and Porsche remained in a fairly good battle for second position, whilst the GT battle between the AF Corse Ferrari entrants and Porsche AG Team Manthey, kept a high level of entertainment for the viewing crowd.
With one hour and four minutes to go, the strategy of the respective LMP1 teams began to play out, first in was Toyota #1 with Ant Davidson out and Sebastien Buemi in to take the car home. Audi came in from the lead next, with Marcel Fassler taking over the car from Andre Lotterer to take the car to the end, whilst Porsche’s increased fuel efficiency allowed for the team to stay out and close the gap to Fassler down to just 1.5 seconds, with an hour to go.
With fifty minutes left, Porsche took the final stop, leaving Neel Jani in the car, giving the lead back to Audi, before the announcement came, with a splash of fuel also required for Audi, that the lead #7 car was under investigation for track limits, with the penalty being called as a stop/go for the team.
With fourteen minutes to go, Audi brought car #7 into the pits from the lead for the final splash of fuel, allowing Porsche to close the gap. Audi taking the penalty the lap after further closing the gap for Porsche, with ten minutes left in the race; it was time for the climax, watching from club corner, the atmosphere of Porsche hunting down Audi, in the closing stages was incredible.
Jani’s effort was outstanding, but time wasn’t on Porsche’s side, and eventually a 4.6 second victory went to Audi Sport Team Joest #7, over Porsche #17, with Toyota #1 a further 9 seconds back from second place.
In P2, G-Drive racing dominated the race, with the Ligier JS P2’s, ESM came home third, although the team was later penalised in a post race penalty, whilst the GTE Pro battle came down between Ferrari #51, #71 and Porsche AG Team Manthey #91, with the #51 entry eventually coming home ahead of Porsche AG Team Manthey. In GTE AM, Aston Martin, despite a very late race splash of fuel, won the class honours with the #98 entrant.
I found the weekend thoroughly enjoyable, the fan experience at Silverstone was improved, with stronger organisation and more of the facility available for access, including the Silverstone wing. In addition to improved co-ordination of the autograph sessions.
I really can’t find a criticism for this race overall for the weekend,
If anything was slightly disappointing this weekend, it was in the build up, a few cars dropping off the entry list or returning to older chassis for this race. That is something that was out of control of the series and the circuit however, and the race itself more than made up for it, as did Nissan bringing along the display model GTR-LM Nismo’s for fans to experience across the weekend.
Attendance wise, the series said around 45,000 fans went through the gates this year, which is fairly close to last years total number. I would advise anyone to go and try a round of FIA WEC trackside, if only for the spectacular LMP1 factory cars, though P2, and the GT classes are incredible too, overall a lot of fans went home very happy with this event including myself.
Did you enjoy the race? How was the US broadcast? If you watched at Silverstone, how did you find the venue? Any other thoughts on the FIA WEC?