Last Sunday I popped up to Silverstone for the 6 Hour race, the 4th round of the 8 race World Endurance Championship.
When I first visited Silverstone in 1978 the layout was still essentially an airfield perimeter track consisting of six straights joined by six fast corners with the main runway still in use on raceday’s. Since then the track configuration has changed several times, the runway is now long gone and there is a completely new infield section between the Club and Woodcote corners which was introduced last year.
When I arrived at the track I was heartend to find that endurance racing appeals to a younger audience who travelled from far and wide, though just as in 1978 in disappointingly small numbers.
Making it’s first appearance in the UK was the new for 2012 Toyota TS030 Hybrid which proved fast at the previous Le Mans 24 hours if ultimately unreliable, the car driven by Austrian Alexander Wurz, Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre and Japanese Kazuki Nakajima qualified 3rd behind the two Audi Sport Joest R18’s but after a dozen laps went into the lead, unfortunately it could not maintain it’s lead during the pit stops and so was always, entertainingly playing catch up to the Audi’s with their smaller, diesel filled, fuel tanks which proved ultimately more economical.
Further Japanese interest in the race was provided by Keiko Ihara who was sharing her second tier LMP2 #29 Gulf Racing Middle East entered Lola Nissan B12/80 Coupé with Fenchman Fabien Giroix and Swiss Jean-Denis Delatraz, they qualified a distant 22nd and finished an equally distant 18th overall and 11th in class.
Also running in the LMP2 class was former Grand Prix Driver, 1990 Le Mans winner and Sky Sports Formula One presenter Martin Brundle who joined his son Alex and Spaniard Lucas Ordonez in the #42 Zytek Nissan Z11SN. The #42 qualified a respectable 8th overall 1st in class but could only finish 12th overall 5th in class.
As well as the two LMP1 and LMP2 prototype classes additional classes catered for GT2 cars which are split into LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am divisions. Amateurs Christian Ried from Germany with Italians Gianluca Roda and Parato Ruberti from Italy qualified the #88 Porsche 911 RSR (997) 27th overall and 2nd in class and finished 25th overall 2nd in class, seeing the slower GT drivers getting swamped by the faster prototypes on the corners is always interesting but only rarely leads to the kind of damage seen above.
The #50 Chevrolet Corvette C6-ZR1, seen above, shared by Brazilian Fernando Rees and Frenchmen Patrick Bornhauser and Julien Canal actually crossed the line 25th and 2nd in the LMGTE Am class but was disqualified after a “non-conforming safety device, namely the validity date of the car’s fire extinguisher” was discovered in post race scrutineering. Labre Competition Team manager Jack Leconte was suitably contrite after the discovery.
From 35 starters there were only four retirements the second of which was the #23 Signatech Oreca Nissan O3 of French trio Jordan Tresson, Franck Mailleux and Olivier Lombard. Approaching 3/4 distance. Tesson is seen here after a rear tyre exploded at Becketts coming out of the next corner Chapel his car turned sharp left and hit the wall. The ensuing safety car period played into the hands of the overall victor of the race.
The #61 AF Course Waltrip, as in Micheal Waltrip Racing apparently, Ferrari 458 Italia of Italians Piergiuseppe Perazzzin, Marco Cioci and Irishman Matt Griffin qualified 30th overall / 3rd in LMGTE Am and came home winners in the class beating the #98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of German Roald Goethe and Briy Stuart Hall, seen above, that finished 4th in class by 3 whole laps. Griffin said of his win “I’m not British but it’s still my home race so I’m really happy.”
LMGTE Pro honours fell to the #51 AF Course Ferrari 458 Italia of Grand Prix Winner Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni who beat another 458 Italia by two clear laps.
The #25 ADR-Delta team Oreca Nissan O3 of John Martin, Jan Charouz and Tor Garves edged the second Signatech team Oreca Nissan by just six seconds at the finish line but this was not the closest class victory of the day.
By securing the win in their Rebellion Racing Lola Toyota B12/60 Coupé 6th place starters and 4th place overall finishers Italian Andrea Belicchi and Swiss Harold Primat stretched the Rebellion Racing Teams lead in the Privateer LMP1 Championship. They finished 6 laps behind the third place #2 Audi and less than 1 second ahead of the 2nd place privateer LMP1 Honda powered HDP ARX 03a to take the closest class victory of the day.
With the best fuel economy and aided in a small way by several short safety car periods the Audi e-tron quattro Hybrid with a flywheel accumulator system developed by Williams Hybrid Power, to drive the front wheels only at mandated speeds in excess of 75 mph, silently, and I mean really quietly, out ran the Toyota TS030 Hybrid by less than a minute thanks to one less stop for diesel than it’s petrol powered competitor. By crossing the line first Audi secured this years World Endurance Constructors Championship at the half way point because it’s Le Mans win is the one race in the series that counts for double points.
Thanks for joining me on this “Silent Running” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be visiting Dunsfold Aerodrome. Don’t forget to come back now !