Speaking in the proverbial shadow of the London Eye during the preview event for this weekend’s Six Hours of Silverstone it’s fair to assume that Allan McNish speaks for a large slice of the endurance racing community.
“It’s quite exciting because we’re back doing what we’re meant to be doing – two months has been quite a long time for me, it’s been a long, long two months.”
It’s been more than two months since the previous round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
More than two months since Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler made history in their Audi R18 e-tron quattro hybrid.
More than two months since Toyota went from plucky underdog to the lead in the opening quarter of the race before it all began to unravel.
With the centrepiece of the season now behind the teams and drivers focus can now truly turn to the rest of the WEC year with Silverstone the final European round before fly-away events in South America and Asia close out the year.
The shift in focus is not just psychological, with the change in aerodynamic package necessary between Le Mans and Silverstone dominating team’s workload between the two rounds, begetting something of a cold war of development taking place across Europe.
It is almost certainly Toyota who, from the manufacturers, have the most to learn having only previously raced in low downforce trim, but at the end of extensive work over the season’s intermission the manufacturer’s Cologne based racing outfit have a new package for Silverstone and the confidence that they can once more challenge Audi at the front of the field.
While almost every team has spent some of the two months testing others – though in different series – have been racing and none with more success than Starworks Motorsport. Peter Baron’s team arrived on the WEC stage, immediately announcing themselves as contenders for the LMP2 class with a class win at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
In the weeks between rounds of the World Endurance Championship Peter Baron’s team wrapped a win in another endurance championship – the North American Endurance Championship, run as part of the Grand-Am Rolex Series, with WEC driver Ryan Dalziel also winning for the team at Watkins Glen.
Now they return to the WEC and to LMP2, which under new regulations has been the location of some of the best racing so far this season.
Dalziel, who will be joined by regular co-driver Enzo Potolicchio and Stephane Sarrazin, the Frenchman returning after spending Le Mans with Toyota.
The team hold a handy 19 point lead in the LMP2 standings, due in part to the 50 point haul they took for winning the class on their Le Mans debut. However, the attempts to add a third win of the year – as well as the rest of the class’ attempts to close the gap – will be complicated as the WEC field is again swelled by cars from the curtailed LMS as both Jota and Murphy Prototypes squads hoping to be as successful as they were at Spa-Francorchamps in May when they ended the race first and third in class respectively, sandwiching the ADR–Delta ORECA 03.
LMP2 is not the only class to have LMS interlopers capable of spoiling the full-time WEC runner’s party. Though the absence of a Luxury Racing Ferrari 458 is likely to play hugely into the hands of AF Corse in terms of the WEC standings the number of 458’s remains constant with British team JMW Motorsport entering their home race.
More British interest in the class comes in the constantly improving Aston Martin Racing run V8 Vantage’s, who like Toyota in LMP1 will be hoping that summer break testing has helped correct some of the unreliability that has dogged the Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Adrian Fernandez driver GTE Pro entry so far this year. The car has been quick, leading the class, albeit fleetingly, at both Spa and Le Mans before disappointing retirement.
Aston Martin also led – unfortunately again only briefly – the GTE Am class at Le Mans and with two cars in the class for Silverstone. The first is shared by some time Gulf Racing AMR drivers Roald Goethe and Stuart Hall, the second turned over to Avon Tyres British GT Championship pairing Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam with Paul White – a regular in the Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship – completing the triple handed effort.
To start this weekend, thanks to victory at Le Mans Larbre Competition lead the class, after the failure to finish of the previously pace setting Felbermayr-Proton Porsche. Also hoping for better luck than at Le Mans is Matt Griffin. The Irishman is once again teamed with Italian Piergiuseppe Perazzini, the other man involved in the accident that put Anthony Davidson’s Toyota TS030 Hybrid out of the race. Unlike at Le Mans, when the duo represented AF Corse, they instead run under the banner of the team’s co-operative effort with Waltrip Racing.
The 6 Hours of Silverstone is scheduled to start at noon on Sunday August 26 with qualifying at 2:50pm the previous day. The Checkered Flag will live coverage throughout the event.