Preview: FIA 2018/19 World Endurance Championship – 6 Hours of Silverstone

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The #11 SMP Racing LMP1 car on track, driven by Jenson Button, Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

One of the biggest talking points ahead of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2018/19 ‘Super Season’ was whether or not the 6 Hours of Silverstone would be a part of the calendar. After the initial race schedule was released without it, the Northampton-based track went back into negotiations with the series and managed to get reinstated on the calendar. Now with an August race date, fans can be pretty confident that the snow that hit the track during the final practice session in 2016 is sure to stay away as the WEC circus returns after a month’s break to take on the third round in the championship.

The endurance race at Silverstone has featured in every year of the WEC, so it was good to see it return to the calendar after there was some debate over whether the race would go ahead. The British race is seen as the home race for a few teams and drivers up and down the grid and an old school circuit that most drivers love.

Hoping that finally Silverstone’s home advantage may rub off on him is Jenson Button who, after making his WEC debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, will now race for the rest of the Super Season in the #11 SMP Racing cockpit. Button’s track record around around Silverstone isn’t the greatest, with his best Formula One finish being fourth. He will be hoping he and team mates Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin can end the 6-hour race at least on the podium.

Favourites for the overall win are, once again, the Toyota Gazoo Racing duo. Yet to lose a race or not start from pole position this season, the Toyota cars seem to be pulling away from the rest of the LMP1 class, leaving the privateers to battle for best of the rest and third place in the overall classification.

F1 superstar Fernando Alonso will be looking to follow his Le Mans victory with another win alongside team mates Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, especially after the Spaniard handed in his notice at McLaren. Alonso’s focus truly now seems set on not just becoming the second driver to achieve motorsport’s triple crown, but also in becoming the first driver to be World Champion in each of the corresponding championships. No word has been given on Alonso’s racing plans for 2019 at the time of publishing, though he has confirmed to see the season out with Toyota, meaning that until June next year (at least) he will continue to race in the WEC.

The usual eight LMP1 cars will take to the grid on Sunday, with only CEFC Manor TDR Racing missing from the full season line-up after a late engine supplier change meant their cars were not ready for inspection in time for the British race. It is a shame for the Manor team as this race was viewed as their home race, but we expect the team to be back for the fourth round of the championship at Fuji.

After the massive Le Mans field, the LMP2 class drops down to just seven entries for this weekend’s race. Le Mans on-track winners (who were disqualified after the race due to an illegal fuel rig part) #26 G-Drive Racing do not return to the grid, as they were a Le Mans-only entry. After inheriting the 24-hour race victory, the 2016 LMP2 champions Signatech Alpine go into the British race leading the class championship. They hold a 14-point lead over last year’s runners up, Jackie Chan DC Racing.

Anthony Davidson makes his WEC return this weekend at his home race. He climbs on board the LMP2 DragonSpeed car to share the cockpit with Pastor Maldonado and Roberto Gonzalez, and will remain in this seat for the remainder of the 2018/19 Super Season.

Aston Martin Racing, BMW Team MTEK and Ford Chip Ganasi Team UK racing on track

Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Aston Martin will be hoping to bring some rewards back to the team after their difficult start to the season with their new Vantage. Things look to have swung their way ahead of their home race as the BoP in the LM GTE Pro class has been reset a race early.

In an attempt to bring the competitive field closer together, the BoP change, that was scheduled to come into action for the 6 Hours of Fuji, has been put into action for Silverstone. Both Aston Martin Racing and AF Corse have gained out of the early BoP shift. Hopefully this will lead to a much closer fight in the Pro class this weekend.

The grid size remains at ten for this class, as Corvette Racing will not be back on the WEC grid until the 6 Hours of Shanghai, when they make their one-off appearance to round off their 20th year of racing.

The Am class has shown some great growth since 2017, as now nine full season cars race in this class. Dominated by Porsche and Ferrari entries, the two Aston Martins will be hoping that the shift in BoP brings them much more into the class fight than they have been, especially reigning class champions Paul Dalla LanaPedro Lamy and Matthias Lauda.

Jonny Adam finds himself in the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin after the British team made some shifts in their three man Pro driver line-ups ahead of the Silverstone race to try and optimise the shorter, 6-hour races. Adam will return to the Pro #97 car for the 1000 Miles of Sebring in March.

The last six endurance races at Silverstone have been great demonstrations of epic wheel-to-wheel battles and racing on the limit. We are pretty confident that the great British circuit will deliver another classic this weekend.

Track action starts on Friday with the first free practice sessions. Qualifying takes place at 12:00 BST on Saturday, whilst the lights go out for the seventh edition of the WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone at 12:00 BST on Sunday. This is not going to be a race to miss.

Full entry list can be found here.

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The Checkered Flag’s correspondent for the FIA World Endurance Championship. Working in motorsport as a hobby and as a professional, Alice is a freelance digital communications manager, video editor and graphic designer at OrbitSphere. She also runs and manages her own YouTube channel - Circuit The World - with videos on gaming, travel, motorsports and reviews.
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