Are they close?
Many wrote the script for Silverstone in the immediate aftermath of the announcement from Porsche that they would run the low downforce aerodynamic package at the opening-round.
If the Toyota had taken as big a step forward as expected then the Porsche would not be able to live with it.
At times that’s exactly what it look like but, as we’ve seen in recent seasons, these six-hour WEC encounters have a tendency to throw the unexpected.
Now the scriptwriters have a different draft, one that tells a tale of Porsche being much closer the most, Perhaps including Toyota, thought possible whilst using an aero kit that was far from optimum for the circuit. Just exactly how good is this car going to be beyond Le Mans when Porsche do use the aerodynamics designed the purpose.
There’s a lot of buzz once again around the potential for LMP1 Privateer, this despite the fact that the class currently has only one taker (ByKolles), and no championship in 2017.
There are though a number, at least four, programmes which aim to bring new cars to the fore for 2018.
Beyond the SMP Racing/Dallara programme, another attempt by Benoit Morand to rejoin the fray, hopefully with his now somewhat long-standing fiscal woes behind him, and at least one – (and very probably more) additional as yet unannounced programme there is the Ginetta LMP1 programme to consider, as the only as yet announced offering for customer teams.
Ginetta hosted a pair of technical presentations at Silverstone with an impressive top table and with plenty of design work and components destined for their the new car on display.
Headline grabbing partnerships with Williams Advanced Engineering and Adrian Reynard amongst others have added a large dose of credibility to this project and the revelation of the financial package at Silverstone present further layers to the interest from media and industry alike.
Certainly the Silverstone events helped to move some observers on from the presumption that this is a rather homespun, cottage industry sort of effort – it most certainly isn’t.
The reality is different, Ginetta are attempting to translate their successful formula of scaled production that has in the past provided the springboard for both the GT4 and LMP3 classes onto an entirely different technological level.
Whilst clearly a challenge the answers provided to some searching questions impressed many observers, as did the responses to those who asked how flexible the package might be if a customer preferred a different engine selection for instance.
Rather more people are taking this programme seriously now that was the case just a few weeks ago – and correctly so.
Based on the same technology park as Ginetta in Garforth West Yorkshire, 2016 saw United Autosports set the bar in the ELMS LMP3 Championship, other teams showed periodic pace, but the combination of preparation, a well drilled pit crew and a winning strategy combined to great effect, and the 2016 title.
That led, of course, to an automatic entry for the Le Mans 24 Hours in LMP2 and, after a frenetic close season that saw Richard Dean globetrotting in search of the best solution to fielding a full season effort, to the arrival with the team of a new Ligier JS P217.
With an all-new driver crew in the new P2 car, new faces both in the cockpit and the pit garage for the P3 effort too, not to mention an additional pair of cars in the Michelin Le Mans Cup, United would’ve been forgiven if the first part of 2017 at least fell victim to some growing pains.
That though simply didn’t happen, the best laid plans in this case played out magnificently.
Silverstone saw an historic result for the team with a double win in both LMP2 and LMP3, Felipe Albuquerque producing the ideal blend of pace and conservatism to use both car and tyres to best effect as he built on the efforts of Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer to claim a last gasp win as others faded.
In LMP3 Sean Rayhall produced the drive of the race, ably assisted by John Falb to leave themselves the opportunity to pace the field home.
All in all it was impressive stuff, all the more so when you consider the team’s LMP2 race engineer was taken ill the day before the race with a last-minute replacement having to find.
Strategy is the key
After United’s heroics on Saturday it was the FIA WEC fields turn to impress on Sunday at Silverstone.
Once again we were treated to some blinding speed by the new LMP2 Orecas, one car even having a nibble at the heels of the LMP1 into Turn Two.
Thereafter though it was clear that either the WEC teams been watching the ELMS closely, or that they’d come to some of the same conclusions.
Once again it was strategy rather than outright speed that won the day and oddly enough the prime exponent was another ex-Audi LMP1 man as Oliver Jarvis played the team game, Looked after the Dunlops, and anchored Jackie Chan DC Racing to the win.
It was a seemingly similar run achieved in a very different way that was the same important conclusion:
The new LMP2 cars of 2017 are perfectly capable of absolutely blinding speed but, for the moment at least it seems, if you keep doing it those lap times then you won’t win the race!