Picking up where they left off last season, Toyota Gazoo Racing finished the 4 Hours of Silverstone with a competitive one-two, a lap up on the third-placed Rebellion Racing #3. But in LMP2 and GTE Am, debuting teams and drivers took their first FIA World Endurance Championship victories in the mixed weather event.
Retaining the lead from the start, Toyota dominated throughout the four-hour race, with a short rain spell in the middle causing the team to sweat a little. The spell, lasting around fifteen minutes, saw the Japanese team try to stay out on slick tyres, saving on a pit stop.
However the rain came down too heavy and quickly, and the hybrid duo were losing around ten seconds a lap to the chasing Rebellion cars. The stop for wet tyres paid off in the end, aiding the team to finish a clear lap up on the rest of the field.
Next race in Fuji, Toyota will be hit with their first success handicap, which should see the cars slowed down over a lap to try and bring the competition with the Privateers closer together.
Rebellion had been on par for a solid three-four finish, but penalties and a technical failure saw the #1 fall to the wayside. The third-placed car, #3, was handed two penalties throughout the race. One early on after the first Safety Car period – triggered by the #6 Team LNT losing its wheel out on track – for a technical infringement, whilst the second pulled them back into the pits briefly with half an hour left on the clock.
It was the #1 that suffered a mechanical issue. Losing about 20 minutes in the pits saw it fall from fourth to fifth in class, allowing the #5 Ginetta up to fourth.
It wasn’t the best weekend for the #5, having issues throughout the practice sessions, but it was enough for a strong result come the chequered flag. They may not have had the pace to challenge up the front of the grid, but the mechanical reliability of the car saw them pass the Rebellion in the final hour.
It had looked like the United Autosports was going to be one of the cars to watch during the opening round of the WEC Season 8, but instead their race lasted just one lap. Paul Di Resta was onboard the car when it came to a halt on the main straight, bringing out the first of the two Safety Cars. At the time of publishing, it is unknown what caused the car to come to a stop.
For the first time in WEC history, the LMP2 class was won by a duo of drivers, rather than a trio. The battle raged between the #42 Cool Racing and #29 Team Racing Nederland throughout the four hours, and it had looked like the Dutch team had the edge. However, the second Safety Car (for the #6 wheel) caused the 1m30s lead that Job van Uitert had build to be completely obliterated.
The team had opted to run their silver driver, Frits van Eerd, in the final hour of the race, but this was at the time that their opposition put their pro drivers in the cockpit. van Eerd did his best to hold off the threat, but Nicolas Lapierre‘s pace was too fast for him to be able to keep him behind for the final hour.
Thomas Laurent pushed hard in the final moments of the race to get ahead of the #29 Team Racing Nederland in his class-reigning-champion #36 Signatech Alpine and stole the second spot on the podium, leaving van Eerd to hang onto P3.
Maiden Outing One-Two for New Porsche 911 RSR
In its first racing outing, Ginamaria Bruni and Richard Lietz put the new Porsche 911 RSR on the top step of the podium. Reigning Pro champions Micheal Christiensen and Kevin Estre made it the perfect result as they followed the sister car across the line for a class one-two.
It wasn’t an easy race for the duo, with Ferrari holding the early advantage and retaining the one-two they secured in yesterday’s qualifying. But the odds were stacked against AF Corse today. James Calado picked up a puncture in the first hour that lost the team half a minute on the rest of the field. Alessandro Pier-Guidi and he made a strong comeback throughout the race, but a drive-through penalty in the final hour for overtaking under the Safety Car gave them too much work to do to get back into the Pro fight.
The team’s hope fell to the #71 duo of Davide Rigon and new to a full season WEC seat Miguel Molina, who were looking good in the battle with Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin in the #97 Aston Martin Racing for the lead. But towards the end of hour two, disaster struck again as the #71 was involved in an incident with Oliver Jarvis in the #6 Team LNT.
It is not currently completely clear what happened between the two cars or who is to fault – with the FIA deeming the incident to require no further action – but coming through Becketts, the two came together and ran onto the grass, spinning into the tyre barriers. This brought out the second Safety Car of the race, with the #6 managing to get back to the pits but neither car able to continue.
The podium was rounded off by the Aston Martin duo of Lynn and Martin. Towards the start of the race, they looked to be in a position to push for the victory but Safety Cars and pit stop cycles worked against them. The sister #95 was the last classified Pro car, taking fifth.
GTE Am was a story of penalties as, during the second hour of the race, four of the top six were hit with five second pit stop penalties for Full Course Yellows infringements. This handed mid-race advantages to the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing team, as well as the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche.
However, the pace of all drivers in the #83 AF Corse and the #98 Aston Martin Racing cars could not be stopped. From impressing in qualifying to putting in some fantastic laps during the final hour of the race, Nicklas Nielsen and Ross Gunn were stars once again. Both put in brilliant performances to help secure their teams first and second on the Am grid respectively.
The victory marks as a debut win for Nielsen as well as the first Am win for the team, Emmanual Collard and Francois Perrodo since the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans.
#83 AF Corse led the #98 Aston Martin Racing home for the race win, with the podium rounded off by the #70 MR Racing team. This put two different manufacturers on the podium, with Porsche missing out on an appearance by just seven seconds at the chequered flag.