Toyota earned its third consecutive 1-2 WEC finish today at Silverstone, its pair of TS050 HYBRIDs again untouchable, crossing the line four laps ahead of the nearest privateer runner.
When all was said and done it was also the #8 of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi’s third win in a row too. Heading into the final hour it looked like the #7 of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi would lead home the formation finish, but an issue with the car’s floor left Kobayashi with no option but to relinquish the position to Buemi who took the flag.
Despite Toyota having no real competition, there was still plenty of scrapping between the two TS050s, with both cars running together on track for most of the race, and spending extended periods in the lead. It was no grandstand finish though, and at the end, the #8 finished 19 seconds ahead of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez’s challenger.
“It was a close race, it seems that we were struggling at the beginning or the stints, the #7 was killing us, but in the end it was close racing. Three for three!” Said Alonso after the race.
Behind, there was plenty of intrigue in the privateer ranks, but it was ultimately a race of attrition, and Rebellion Racing emerged victorious on this occasion. The #1 R-13 looked set to lead home the #3 for the first time this year, but the team was forced to change the #1’s rear at its final stop, dropping it off the podium.
EoT is the story du jour once again in LMP1. Despite a change heading into the weekend to speed up the privateers — and the organizers quietly removing the lap limit for each stint — it was no contest. If the aim is to ensure that privateer teams have a real chance of taking the fight to the Toyotas, then another re-think is required.
This was a comfortable ‘Privateer’ win for Rebellion that late swap aside, as both cars ran a steady race (after both cars were involved in the chaos at Turn 1 at the start) as the other cars faultered.
Both SMP Racing BR1s provided the Anglo-Swiss outfit’s biggest threat, but the #11 retired in the opening hour with an engine failure (before Jenson Button was able to drive in front of his home fans) and the #17 faded away late in the race and finished fifth.
Elsewhere, ByKolles’ CLM failed to finish after an accident at the start of a full-course yellow period, and the DragonSpeed BR1 finished 32 laps down after a multitude of issues throughout the race.
Jackie Chan DC Racing 1-2 in LMP2
LMP2 was, unfortunately, rather uneventful in racing terms too, but it was nevertheless a very impressive performance from Jackie Chan DC Racing, which scored a dominant 1-2 finish, the #38 of Stephane Richelmi, Gabriel Aubry and Ho Pin Tung taking its second win of 2018 after an inter-team fight for much of the final three hours that left the all-Malaysian #37 crew forced to settle for second, crossing the line just 2 seconds off the leading car.
It was notable that JCDC scored such a comfortable formation finish, as neither car had a clean run. The #37 suffered a puncture, and the #38 had to serve a drive-through for a jump start, and lost further time due to an ill-timed safety car period late in the race for called to clear up the stranded #82 MTEK BMW.
“After Le Mans, which was disappiinting after last year, we’ve turned it around, it’s been a great day.” Tung said.
The championship-leading Signatech Alpine finished third, the team struggling for pace for almost the entire six hours, Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and Andre Negrao slowly falling back and finishing a lap down. Completing the top five was the #31 DragonSpeed ORECA which endured a real slog of a race, with contact, penalties and mechanical issues leaving the team three laps down in the end. Racing Team Nederland finished fifth.
Ferrari beats Porsche in GTE Pro
A typically hard fought race that challenged pit strategy and tyre performance delivered a win for the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi. The early form at the front wasn’t suggestive of their #51 car’s eventual success, but the crew pushed hard and made the best of what the Silverstone circuit and the race presented.
Pole-sitter Olivier Pla had to take his Ford onto the run-off in avoidance of the Dragonspeed LMP2 car, which had locked up under braking, leaving Kevin Estre’s Porsche to jump the two Aston Martins to lead at the start.
Pla posted quick laps in his recovery through the order, as ahead Sam Bird’s #71 AF Ferrari harried the Aston Martins in second and third. Pla and team mate Priaulx were soon tied together, 5thand 6th and gathering pace. Alex Lynn’s Aston Martin had been passed by Bird’s Ferrari, but was doing well to keep the Fords in check. The Aston Martin Vantage was showing improvement, helped in part by a 25 bhp performance break.
The Fords’ pressure was too great though, Priaulx making the move past after a solid defence by the #97 Vantage. As Pla’s Ford and then Pier Guidi’s Ferrari broke through Lynn dropped back, lapping 2 seconds a lap slower, into the clutches of the BMW pair which would only feature at the lower half of the GTE-Pro class.
Sam Bird delivered his next move on Marco Sorensen’s #95 Aston Martin into Copse for second, the Ferrari lapping quicker than Estre’s leading #92 Porsche. Priaulx repeated the move at Copse just before the end of the first hour and the first routine stops.
Priaulx’s pace got the better of Christensen into the Maggots / Becketts complex half way through the second hour, soon piling seconds on to extend his lead over the Porsche. Stefan Mucke was also all over Sam Bird’s Ferrari for third, the pair’s duel closing right up on the now second placed Porsche. Bird got by the Christensen in a clean move up the inside at Stowe, Mucke following soon after to resume his assault on the Ferrari. Mucke made a brave pass stick at Maggots, the Fords now 1-2.
Christensen was losing traction, down to sixth behind Thiim’s #95 Aston Martin and his team mate Richard Lietz in the #91 car. The #92 pitted early for fresh rubber as Porsche split their strategy, the #91 car having changed rubber at its first stop, the team chasing degradation data.
At the second round of stops Priaulx was first to pit from the lead and confirmed, “It was a tough stint, cold tyres and lots of cars going off. Then the Porsche was looking like it had a tyre issue and I was able to pass him.”
The second round of stops coincided with a Full Course Yellow, the order initially looked to have resumed as before: Fords 1 and 2, the #71 AF Corse Ferrari third, now in the hands of Davide Rigon. Harry Tincknell now had the wheel of the leading #67 car, Mucke staying aboard the #66. But it was the #51 Ferrari that gained under the caution in its first decisive break. Having left its stop late, the Ferrari resumed in second, James Calado splitting the Fords and in sight of the lead.
Green flag racing saw the other AF Corse entry soon in trouble however, a right rear puncture inflicted by side contact from a somewhat ambition #11 SMP BR1 caused serious bodywork damage, Rigon pushing too hard to get the #71 car to its pit. A Safety Car period was given by Race Control to collect the debris.
As the Safety Car was cleared, the Fords dived to the pits. A problem for the #66 car though put it into its garage to change a left-side door, a number of its crew seen working on the car in the pitlane as a potential infringement. Minutes lost (and with a penalty to follow, it was now down to the #67 car as the remaining Ford competitor. Having stopped out of sequence though, Tincknell was now down the order. James Calado’s Ferrari thereby found itself at the front, the #51 AF Corse car having driven a solid race so far and on schedule.
After a period where both GTE classes were somewhat out-of-sync, the ‘Pro order resumed its ‘net’ position as Estre and Calado took their third stops. Having made up sufficient time they left the pits marginally ahead of the #67 Ford GT. Estre’s #92 Porsche now held the lead from Calado’s Ferrari, Tincknell third; six seconds covering the top three.
Aston Martin found trouble as Marco Sorensen reported a serious problem with the gear change on the #95 car, brought into its garage to lose several laps. A front suspension failure for the #82 BMW added to MTEK’s disappointing weekend too: Antonio Da Costa couldn’t get the car any further than Becketts, having to park the car on the inside and triggering a further Full Course Yellow just as the GTE-Pro lead was hotting up again: James Calado’s Ferrari was all over Kevin Estre’s leading Porsche and looking very threatening before the caution was thrown, the pitlane beckoning a change of drivers. Crucially, the Ferrari with Pier Guidi now aboard again resumed in the lead ahead of the Porsche, James Calado reporting, “I tried to save tyres and fuel and took advantage in the Full Course Yellow. We know we’re not quite there on pace, but are quite happy with where we are. We’re leading now, but a podium will be a bonus.”
Andy Priaulx was back in the #67 Ford GT, hauling in the #97 Aston Martin and taking fourth into Brooklands. The #67 car was still circulating strongly but seemed to have lost out through its out-of-sequence strategy being affected by caution periods. 20 seconds adrift of the Porsches, Christensen and Bruni now second and third, the gaps from first to fourth were looking evenly spread, 40 seconds covering them.
Into the final hour and the last cycle of stops: Bruni’s #91 Porsche, having had a lower key weekend up to now, rejoined ahead of the #92 car, where it would stay to finish second.
The leading AF Corse car was the last of the leading three to pit. Alessandro Pier Guidi had pushed hard and stayed aboard the #51 Ferrari, resuming the lead 15 seconds ahead of the Porsches, which started to spread out behind.
James Calado commented: “We made our own luck, saved fuel and made the right calls. I think I had a really good stint, not there on pace, but managed to stay ahead of the Porsches. We’ve got fresher tyres on the right, the wear being harder that side. It will be a great result for Ferrari, we’ve had a difficult start to the year, so fingers crossed.”
Tincknell’s #67 Ford GT was still fourth, the gap to the #92 Porsche 911 RSR five seconds with 30 minutes to go. Sensing the podium and pushing hard, Tincknell rapidly closed up to Christensen. A brave move around the outside at Stowe traded paint with the Porsche, Christensen blocking out the Ford and lining up a defensive line into the tight left hand chicane at Club. There was more contact, but this was a clean, hard fight. Christensen got air as he fought back, Tincknell forced to the Club Corner run off before recovering ahead of the Porsche for third place honours.
But it was AF Corse’s day, Calado and Pier Guidi delivering a gritty, well managed win for the #51 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO, and much needed points towards their championship campaign.
Dempsey Proton win in Am
Dempsey-Proton Racing’s solid presence all weekend delivered a well earned win, but its eventual winner was never the clear pace-setter. As cautionary periods forced reactions from faster cars ahead the #77 Porsche 911 RSR of Christian Ried, Julien Andlauer and Matt Campbell held firm to take class honours.
Salih Yoluc’s TF Sport Aston Martin made a better start than the two Porsches ahead of him as the field threaded through the Turn 1 melee. In the following compression into Aintree though Paul Dalla Lama’s Aston Martin was rear-ended, punting into the back of the TF Sport car. The #98 dropped to the back of the field and lost time in the pits for replacement of a lost rear diffuser, though Yoluc emerged unscathed. This incident also caught out the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari, which lost laps in the pits replacing its diffuser and front splitter, meaning it would not feature.
Five laps later Egidio Perfetti took back the lead for the Project 1 pole sitting Porsche and began to pull a comfortable gap to Yoluc. Christian Ried’s #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche was now third, and the Clearwater Racing Ferrari – Keita Sawa aboard – had steadily overhauled Gianluca Roda’s #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche to go fourth, Ried’s Porsche just 1.4 seconds up the road.
Perfetti’s Project 1 Porsche had the measure of the Aston Martin despite Yoluc closing under the next FCY, extending his lead again to 8 seconds half way through the third hour. Pedro Lamy’s #98 Aston Martin had recovered well after its earlier mishap, back up to fourth now behind the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche, while Clearwater Racing, who had threatened at the front in the hands of Sawa, had slipped back and were handed a drive-through for a pit lane infringement, resuming sixth in the order. Third routine stops completed, the order settled back down. Bergmeister had the lead for Project 1 Porsche, 1.9 seconds ahead of Charlie Eastwood’s TF Sport Aston Martin. The #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche of Christian Ried back to third, it was business as usual again. Until the next round of stops…
Jonny Adam was plugged in to the TF Spot Aston Martin and made short work of Patrick Lindsey’s Project 1 Porsche, the pass into the Brooklands left hander looking too easy. As the final hour approached, the factory Aston driver had built a lead of over 16 seconds before heading for its pit.
The leading pair’s battle for race-winning honours though was to suffer a devastating blow as both the #56 and #90 were dealt 75 second stop and hold penalties for entering the pits as the safety Car was scrambled whilst the pit entry light was against them.
The effectively handed a substantial lead to the #77 Denpsey Proton Porsche, Matt Campbell able to cruise to the win Adam resumed second.
Remarkable progress was also made by Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin, emerging ahead of Jorg Bergmeister’s Project 1 Porsche that had looked so strong throughout the earlier part of the race. The Aston Martin had recovered well from its early problems, steady pace, good strategy and a little luck delivering a potential podium finish. But this wasn’t over yet. Bergmeister’s Porsche experience was well matched by Lamy’s time with Aston Martin, the pair circulating a second apart as Bergmeister threw everything at the Portuguese veteran to close right up. The Porsche though made it past on the last lap, disappointing for Aston Martin, but fair reward for the Project 1 team’s notable Silverstone WEC campaign this weekend.