A stellar opening stint from Australian John Martin proved the soundest of foundations for the ADR–Delta squad as the three handed effort of Martin, Tor Graves and Jan Charouz won the LMP2 class of the Six Hours of Silverstone at a fair canter given the level of competition in the class.
Such is the success of the LMP2 class this year – not just in numbers but in a balance of performance between the different chassis and engine packages – that more than ten cars were covered by a single second in qualifying. However, for the man that topped the class on Saturday the start of the race was not a happy one.
Alex Brundle had been the surprise package for Greaves Motorsport in taking the class pole, but the young Brit was caught out by Peter Dumbreck’s rotating LMP1 car at the first corner, Brundle Jr. forced to take evading action around the outside of both Dumbreck and the track. Through there was no damage on the Zytek-Nissan the diversion around the opening corner the incident dropped the pole sitter to the rear of the LMP2 field, starting a difficult race for the #42 team, Alex joined by father Martin and Lucas Ordonez.
Ordonez managed to hit a turn apex marker as he started to drive up through the field after the earlier delay. The bollard wedged itself beneath the car prompting a three minute stay in the pits that placed them towards the rear of the field again. The elder Brundle then collected a stop go penalty after being deemed to have overtaken under safety car conditions, though the F1 and sportscar veteran claimed that he had only overtaken as the car ahead was backing off when it should have been accelerating to take the restart.
The trio, despite all the delays, still finished fifth in class. But they were not the only FIA World Endurance Championship team to find trouble on the Northamptonshire airfield circuit.
Perhaps the most hair-raising moment of the class belonged to Murphy Prototypes driver Brendon Hartley who had a left-front wheel fire off just before turn in for Copse corner. With simply taking the corner increased massively in difficult Hartley did well to keep the car in a single piece and limp back to the to the pits – incredibly on schedule for the team – for new tyres and for Warren Hughes to take the driving seat.
OAK Racing’s two LMP2 entrants both had problems. The #35 car was knocked out of contention early when they lost seven laps to a starter motor problem, but the sister Morgan-Nissan was on course to challenge for the class podium or even a win after a rapid double stints from Matthieu Lahaye and Olivier Pla ended with Pla taking the class lead before pitting to hand over to Jacques Nicolet to begin his own double stint.
The crew’s fortune’s changed when Nicolet ended his stint and Pla climbed back aboard. Unfortunately the team’s stop coincided with Jordan Tresson’s crash at the top of the Hanger Straight, the stranded Signatech Nissan bringing out the safety car.
With two safety car snakes negotiating their way around the track Pla was held at the end of pitlane, the total time in the pitlane near three-and-a-half minutes enough for Pla to lose two laps to the class leader at a time when the top six in class were split by less than a single circuit.
Tresson’s meeting with the wall brought out the second safety car of the race, meaning that both the neutral periods in the race were caused by LMP2 runners, the first after the #32 Lotus had expired after less than two hours of running with a fire in the car’s wiring.
Pla’s hold-up pulled the Gulf liveried car from between the ADR-Delta and Starworks Motorsport entries in the battle for the lead, and it would be between these two teams that the fight for the class win would be settled.
With Alex Brundle bundled down the order on lap one the early class lead fell to Stephane Sarrazin and Starworks, but when Sarrazin gave up the driving seat to Enzo Potolicchio at the second round of pitstops John Martin remained behind the wheel of ADR-Delta’s Nissan engined ORECA 03 for a second stint.
The shorter pitstop, without the time needed to change drivers, gave him a lead of nearly forty seconds which he proceeded only to extend with Potolicchio unable to maintain Sarrazin’s pace, the Venezuelan the slowest driver for the team that won their class at both Sebring and Le Mans.
Martin did – eventually – end his stint, Tor Graves taking over the car, losing the lead to Pla soon after, but the OAK team’s challenge would soon ebb away at the foot of the pitlane’s red light pitching ADR and Starworks into something of a distant battle for class honours with a minute between them in favour of Tor Graves who handed over the #25 car to Jan Charouz for the final stints of the race. However, at their final stops – despite ADR-Delta being able to make one less stop after running longer stints throughout the race – the stagger of the earlier difference in pitstop time went the other way.
With new tyres and 88 second stop for Charouz compared to a 58 second traverse of the pitlane for Sarrarzin, now back in the race to try and pull back the victory for Starworks, the Frenchman was tantalisingly close, the swings and roundabouts of the different strategies putting the top three in class just 23 seconds apart to start their final stints.
Over the 40 minutes of racing that followed the gap to Nelson Panciatici in third, driving the surviving Signatech car, remained constant but the time between Sarrazin and Charouz shrunk steadily as the time ticked away. At the flag Charouz led by just six seconds over the charging Sarrazin, recording the win for ADR-Delta and going some way to make up for having to pit from the lead at Spa-Francorchamps with just five minutes remaining.
Starworks’ second place means they keep the top spot in the LMP2 teams’ championship with ADR-Delta now clearly installed as their nearest challengers at the start of the second half of the WEC season.
Nelson Panciatici completed a quadruple stint for Signatech Nissan to take the third step of the podium with teammates Pierre Ragues and Roman Rusinov. The top three were the only teams on the lead lap in class ahead of Pecom Racing, who completed a trouble free race for fourth, finishing ahead of the variously delayed Greaves and OAK teams.