Toyota Gazoo Racing commanded the opening round of the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship, scoring their fourteenth one-two in the endurance championship. It may have been an easy clean sweep for the LMP1 team, but with new success penalties coming into action for the next race it could be the only easy one-two they have all season.
Leaving the field behind them, just as they did last season, the Toyota duo disappeared into the distance, finishing the race one lap up on third-placed Rebellion Racing #3, and five laps up on the highest placed Team LNT Ginetta in fourth.
Rebellion may have had the pace to look like they will challenge Toyota this year, but the stronger reliability seems to be with Team LNT. With the sole remaining championship Rebellion fading out of the race due to a mechanical issue, the third-placed #3 car picked up the final step of the podium. However, as it will not compete in the full season, it was ineligible for points, meaning that after the first race of the season it is the Ginetta-powered team that sits third in the standings.
History was made in LMP2 as the winning drivers in the Cool Racing car became the first duo of drivers to secure LMP2 victory in the championship. Due to injury, Alexandre Coigny sat out of the Silverstone race, leaving Nicolas Lapierre and Antonin Borga to compete as a two-driver line up for this round. They started an unassuming fourth in class, and it was only towards the end of the race that the car came alive and really started putting on a show.
The competitive driving of Job van Uitert and Giedo van der Garde made the #29 Racing Team Nederland the car to watch in class, and starting from pole they got away strongly, edging away from the field. However, a safety car halted their progress, bringing the field back together and wiping out the 40-second lead that the duo had built up.
Frits van Eerd, the bronze and lowest classified driver of the Dutch team, had opted to complete his obligatory hour of racing at the end of the race, leaving van Uitert and van der Garde to build a gap during the first three hours. This would have worked perfectly, as his pace difference to his team mates is noticeably slower in comparison to the other LMP2 cars, had the safety car not come out. But due to him only having around a five second lead when the race went green again, he was a sitting duck to the charging cars in pro-driver’s hands behind him.
Controversial race penalties shaped the LM GTE results come the chequered flag. Both Ferrari and Aston Martin were handed in-race penalties for overtaking under the safety car, only to find that once they had served the penalties they had been revoked. The AF Corse Pro team blame this bizarre penalty system as the reason they lost the race, claiming that without the 25 seconds lost driving through the pit lane they could have challenged Porsche for the class win.
The Am works Aston Martin Racing entry suffered the same faith, discovering that once they had served the penalty the stewards had overturned it. They had been sitting third in class when they were forced into the pits, which they claim also lost them the chance to challenge for the win.
The only car to have received a penalty for overtaking under the safety car (that was later overturned) and retained track position was the LMP2-winning Cool Racing.
The #98, however, made a better recovery than the #51 AF Corse as the trio of Ross Gunn, Darren Turner and Paul Dalla Lana were able to get up to second on the podium after their rescinded penalty. Arguably, Aston Martin were more irritated with the situation that Ferrari as they appeared in a stronger position to have challenged for the win had they have not have lost the 25 seconds in the pit lane.