Rain never appeared at the 6 Hours of Silverstone that saw Fernando Alonso , Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima continue their clean sheet of race wins in the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship. It was domination for the Jackie Chan DC Racing cars in LMP2, whilst AF Corse secured a surprise win in GTE Pro. The final gold trophy was taken by 24 Hours of Le Mans Am winners in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing.
It took the Toyota Gazoo Racing duo 54 minutes of the race to gain a lap lead on the rest of the field. From there, it was a fight between the two cars for who would come out on top.
After the final round of stops, Kamui Kobayashi led Buemi by 6.6 seconds, a gap that the Swiss-driver began tearing down. With 45 minutes on the clock, the #8 driver took the lead, a position he kept until the chequered flag, to secure the car a hat trick of consecutive wins.
It was certainly not the race that Jenson Button was hoping for, as he didn’t get the chance to set any racing laps in the #11 SMP Racing. Staying clear of the carnage at the start of the race that the sister #17 and Rebellion Racing #3 were tangled in, it looked to be set to claim a podium if it had a clean race. Just 20 minutes into the race Mikhail Aleshin ground to a halt at Maggots with a suspected engine issue. Button’s hopes of ending his 19-year exclusion from the Silverstone podium went up in smoke.
The first corner incident saw the #17 and #3 LMP1 cars coming together off the third row of the grid. Stephane Sarrazin made a move across on the inside line through Abbey and caught the side of Matthias Beche, causing them both to spin off track. Sarrazin was later penalised for the incident, which put the #3 and #17 into a six-hour duel for track position.
Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani had a relatively clean race and looked set to be in line for another podium finish. Unfortunately, a last minute pit stop for rear bodywork repairs saw them drop to fourth on the grid, finishing behind the sister car.
The #10 DragonSpeed had a torrid race, coming across the line 32 laps down on the Toyotas, who were four laps up on the Privateers at the chequered flag. In class, they only finished ahead of the non-finishers, the #11 SMP and the #4 ByKolles Racing Team. The #4 spun out of the race at the top of Hanger Straight as the first Full Course Yellow went out on the track for marshals to recover some bollards that had ended up on track.
The LMP2 pole-sitting #37 Jackie Chan car had looked to be the one to win, with a dominant drive, as the sister #38 car took two unplanned pit stops: Ho-Pin Tung picked up a drive-through for jumping the start and then the car ran low on fuel during the sole Safety Car period.
In the last hour, with the #38 leading the #37 with over a lap’s advantage on the third-placed #36 Signatech Alpine, Jazeman Jaafar was pushing very hard for the class victory, putting a lot of pressure on Tung and was never further than 1.2 seconds off the identical ORECA. Tung defended perfectly and brought home the team and his second consecutive WEC win at the British circuit.
The #28 TDS Racing had been a threat to the Jackie Chan cars throughout the race, but a broken toe-link that was followed quickly by a puncture saw them fall heavily down the order in the space of a few laps.
On his LMLP2 debut, Anthony Davidson helped to bring the #31 DragonSpeed across the line for fourth in class. It wasn’t an easy race for the Brit, sharing the cockpit with team mates Pastor Maldonado and Roberto Gonzalez for the fist time, as the team’s race – similar to that of the sister LMP1 car – was fraught with issues and penalties.
A surprising surge in form saw AF Corse finally return to the top step of the podium for the first time since last year’s 6 Hours of Bahrain. James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi crossed the line with a comfortable win, securing Calado’s first home victory in the series.
The pace of the GTE Pro cars seems to ebb and flow with the race, as each manufacturer looked to be strongest and the most competitive out there at some point during the six hours. Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK looked to be the most consistent cars in terms of pace, but luck was not on the American manufacturer’s side.
A mid-race Safety Car came out for debris that the #71 Ferrari spewed all over the track when a rear right tyre puncture tore up the body work of the car. It was a shame for Sam Bird and Davide Rigon as they were in a highly competitive position before contact with the #17, which is suspected to be when the puncture came from. In this Safety Car, the #51 jumped Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx‘s Ford, giving it the edge and advantage to take the battle to the then leading Porsche GT Team cars.
The #66 was also going strong, until a door failure saw it forced into the garage for repairs. The British duo in the #67 managed to climb back up the order to third, but the #66 had to settle for seventh at the chequered flag.
Aston Martin Racing‘s best finisher was the #97, in the hands of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin, which took fifth at the end of the endurance race. The Dane-Train was unable to stay in the competitive pack when a gear selection issues put the car in the garage.
Only the BMW Team MTEK #81 finished the race, as the sister car had a mechanical failure that saw the cockpit fill with smoke. The car spun off the track and retired instantly in the Maggotts and Becketts complex. Driver at the time Antonio Felix Da Costa got straight out the car as was OK.
The battle for the entire race in the Am class had been between pole-sitters #56 Team Project 1 and Aston Martin customer team #90 TF Sport. It had been a great race of close action for the first five hours of the race, but Jonny Adam sealed the deal for the #90 as he climbed into the cockpit after the Safety Car – with two hours left of the race – and passed Jorg Bergmeister for the class lead.
However, the maiden victory was snatched from their hands as both the #90 and #56 were hit with 75-second stop / go penalties for incorrect Safety Car pit stop procedure. This saw them both drop down the field, with the #77 Dempsey Porsche taking the advantage and ending the race with almost a minute in hand. #56 Project 1 finished off the top three in class.
It’s nearly three months until the World Endurance Championship meets for its next race, heading to the first non-European event: the 6 Hours of Fuji. Toyota have been showing the competitiveness and dominance they have wanted to so far this season, but at their home race they’ll be looking to put on a good show in front of their fans.