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Photo: FIA WEC, Marcel Langer

Toyota Claims Honours at Sensational Silverstone Opener

A sensationally measured drive from No. 8 Toyota GAZOO LMP1 saw it claim victory at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, also collecting the Tourist Trophy and the points lead in the World Endurance Championship.

The first round of the year will always been seen as a magical moment of every season and with a restructured LMP1 class and new drivers up and down the field, it was always going to be a spectacular display from the home of British motorsport.

As the flag dropped on another FIA WEC season, the Toyotas were first to show their hand, breaking away from both Porsche LMP1’s in the early laps. The No. 7 driven by Mike Conway was the first to take the advantage, but a winter away from racing clearly hindered the Brit.

Team mate Sebastien Buemi was quick to respond when the No. 7 got stuck in traffic and took the opportunity to break away in the lead.

It wouldn’t be plain sailing for the No. 7 though, eventually finding themselves dropping backwards due to technical gremlins. They first came into the pits to change the rear wing, before Kamui Kobayashi ran wide and stopped at Club when the the track became slippery.

Their day was later sealed when Jose Maria Lopez spun off, hitting the wall and bringing out the safety car during the greasy conditions.

While rain had been threatening all day it was only at the halfway point that it became a major factor and was critical in allowing the Porsches to close the gap to the leader. The No. 2 had been within half a minute all race and briefly took the lead while the No. 8 Audi regained its composure.

Brendon Hartley took over for the final stint in the No. 2 and it proved to be vital, maintaining the gap to the now chasing No. 8. The Kiwi was forced to make a splash and dash with half an hour remaining, resulting in a drag to the line with the Audi.

It was clear that the No. 8, now once again at the hands of Buemi, was the quicker car and with 12 minutes remaining pulled a dummy overtake on the Porsche going into Village. Hartley would have no response.

Elsewhere in LMP2, the race looked to be another domination from the No. 36 Signatech Alpine until the final hour. It had been an untouchable first stint from Nicolas Lapierre, but his advantage was soon eroded after the late safety car caused by Lopez.

From there, it was the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car that looked the favourite, eventually going on to win the class by 19 seconds as their rivals were forced to make an extra stop. Oliver Jarvis, who was in the car for the final stint, proved to be vital in clinching the result from the No. 31 Vaillante Rebellion.

The result for the Rebellion will be a strong marker going into the season as the team re-learn how to run an LMP2 team. In the end, Signatech fell to third, suggesting that a defence of their title may not be so easy, even if they have the one-lap pace on their rivals.

GTE-Pro would be a story of heartbreak and success for the Ford GT team, who could have easily taken a one-two. The No. 67 would claim the overall victory as British driver Harry Tinknell completed a sensational comeback after falling back, early in the event. The No. 66 had been leading away from the start, but had its door come loose, forcing it into the pits for repairs. The No. 51 AF Corse took second with the No. 91 Porsche 911 in third.

The No. 91 driven by Frederic Makowiecki led after the final round of stops, but unlike their LMP2 compatriots could not make a long strategy work.

As for the GTE Am’s their class finished in dramatic fashion with the No. 98 Aston Martin hitting the No. 54 Spirit of Race on the final lap, spinning the former and destroying their chance at a race victory.

The No. 98 had already spun at the corner earlier at the hands of Paul Dalla Lana, before the No. 97 got clouted from behind by the ByKolles Racing car on the way into the pits. While they had been the quickest team, various casualties allowed Matt Griffin to simply drive around the outside of the No. 98 to inherit victory for the No. 61 Clearwater Racing squad.

 

Connor Jackson