The #8 Toyota takes the opening win of the season at Silverstone, taking the lead with just 12 minutes left on the clock; Buemi on fresher tyres chasing, catching and passing Brendon Hartley into the Village loop before disappearing down the Wellington Straight. Still, a decent result for Porsche all things considered and running the low downforce aero kit. Toyota held first and second place early on before the #7 hit problems. The #1 919 took third place having been forced to make the switch to the “slicktermediate” tyre shortly after a scheduled fuel stop which cost them valuable time. The #7 finished several laps of the lead after fantastic work by the team to get the car back out after a big crash for Jose Maria Lopez at Copse. The Argentinian driver managed to get the car back to the pits . Lopez was taken to a local hospital for a precautionary scan. A bad race for ByKolles got worse when there was a collision with the #97 Aston Martin of Jonny Adam at the entrance to the pit lane.
Buemi: “We were expecting to be a quite a bit quicker than Porsche, so we’re actually scared a bit! We have lots of work to do. At the end, I knew I had the advantage of fresher tyres, but I wasn’t expecting to come out eight seconds behind! Our higher downforce helped a bit when it started raining, too. Porsche were quicker on the straights, so I had to try something in the tighter sections. It’s been a long time since our crew won, so we’re very happy. Porsche are quicker than us in the pitstops, they made up a lot of time, so we need to improve there.”
Davidson: “Even though I’m from around here I wasn’t quite prepared for the weather. It was very tough to deal with on slicks and I didn’t know Porsche were on inters at the same time. I knew if we survived the showers our strategy was good – then the safety car made it all for nothing! It was amazing stuff from Seb at the end – his best-ever drive in sportscars I reckon.”
Nakajima: “It was very difficult with the safety car closing up the field, but at the end of my stint I thought the gap was enough. It wasn’t, but Seb drove amazing – we believe’d he’d make it and he did.”
Hartley: “I was optimistic before the race, having tested the low-downforce kit at Monza. We were surprised at Toyota’s qualifying pace but our full focus was on race pace. I tried to keep up with the Toyotas in my first stint, but across the first two stints we also managed to save a lap’s worth of fuel in each one. The safety car helped us too, so at the end we decided to go with track position on used tyres. I didn’t leave much of a gap but Seb took it. I think we can be pretty happy to finish jusr six seconds off, and it’s a mega debut for Earl as well.”
Bernhard: “It was just drizzing when I came into the pits and I probably would have stayed on slicks, but my engineer saw a couple of cars go off and so we decided on inters. I was only on them for 10 laps but it was important to survive that phase of the race. We couldn’t have expected more than a close second like this and it gives us a small taste of the season ahead.”
Bamber: “My first stint I struggled a little getting into a rhythmn in traffic, then later after the safety car I was able to keep up the pace before handing to Brendon. We put a lot of effort into this low-downforce kit and I think it shows in how close we were able to be today.”
Jani: “During my first stint Toyota pulled away and I was struggling a bit with my rear tyre temperatures – I nearly spun twice! The second stint was very tough for traffic, I think I lost six or seven seconds a lap a few times.”
Tandy: “I have a bit of experience with changing conditions in the UK of course, but we’d fuelled only two laps before the rain came. We had to put the inters on to stay safe. We mixed it up a bit with the strategy, putting two left-hand tyres on, but we had fun and we’re pleased to be on the podium.”
Lotterer: “I’m still adapting to Porsche really, we did better than expected with the low-downforce kit and operationally it was very smooth, we had very good pit stops. I’m looking forward to Spa.”
It was a great first race performance from the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Jota Sport entry, former Audi man Oliver Jarvis, partnered with Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent to take a closely fought victory in the opening race of the season. The safety car brought the field back together. Matt Rao was ahead at the restart with the #38 in second, Vaxiviere (#28) in third and Senna in fourth (#31). The pole starting #26 G-Drive Oreca held fifth place.
Vaxiviere made a move into second with just under two hours to run and took the lead from Matt Rao through Stowe before pitting shortly after to hand the car over to Manu Collard. A good drive from Oliver Jarvis saw him move into the lead in the closing laps. The #31 came home in second place with the #28 TDS car taking third.
Jarvis said afterwards: “We sacrificed the start of our race to be stronger at the finish. We saved a couple of sets of tyres to be able to push later and it worked. The team was excellent and both Ho-Pin, and Thomas were faultless. My first win in LMP2, Ho-Pin’s first WEC win and Thomas’s too – let’s not forget he’s the youngest driver in the race. I hope this is the start of a real run.
Tung added: “I am so proud to be part of this team, to take a win here really feels like it is paying back all of the hard work and loyalty from David Cheng. To win in the first race with this new team, in the new cars and to hear the Chinese national anthem at Silverstone – that’s very special.”
It was a strong performance from Ford but the fighting behind them suggests that it is going to be a closely fought season. Ford led the way early on but the #67 got into trouble early on with a slow front left puncture. The team ended some luck to recover and they got the safety car they were looking for in the fourth hour of the race, putting the charging trio of Priaulx, Tincknell and Derani back in contention. They quickly made short work of the front runners on the re-start to take first place.
Both AF Corse Ferraris proved competitive, fighting hard with the new Porsche 911 RSRs, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado taking second place. The #92 Porsche caught fire at Luffield early into the fourth hour leaving the #91 to fight on alone in the final podium position. It was a disappointing performance for Aston Martin who finished bottom in class.
Speaking after the race, Andy Priaulx said: “It was all looking down and out, but we never gave up. I gave it 100 percent, but we were very lucky with the safety car, which gave us a reset and made things interesting again. I’m delighted we can go away from here with a win, which sets us up perfectly to start the championship.”
Pipo Derani added: “Winning in WEC is something I’ve been working hard to achieve for a couple of years and I’m really glad to be here: this is the best start. The tyre management today was a challenge – it’s certainly different to that of a P2 car – but it was a nice race for me. To be here with the win after that early pit stop where everything was looking pretty messed up is great. Yes, we had a bit of luck… but luck is good!”
Harry Tincknell said: “We managed a small vibration issue and there were some distractions, but I can’t believe this. We were seventh and pretty much down and out. I was out the back when I found out about the safety car and rushed into the pit; I hadn’t expected or prepared for a two-and-a-half-hour stint! To lead at the end was amazing and getting that comeback is fantastic. Well done to Pipo – I know how hard it must have been for him to arrive here without much preparation and to adapt today in tough conditions. But he nailed it. As for Andy, he kept it together when things went wrong early on (with the door) and didn’t put a foot wrong when he got back in – mega stint. I think we make a great team and I’m really looking forward to going forward together. But right now I’m shocked, I’m knackered and I can’t wait to go to bed to be honest!”
It was a strong performance for the #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, the trio controlling from the front as they did through most of 2016. They held the lead until the final hour of the race before the Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 took the win.
Lamy began the race on pole but lost ground early on to the #54 Spirit of Race car before reclaiming first place 20 minutes in. Keita Sawa steadily climbed the order as the race progressed. Matt Griffin went charging after the Aston once the safety car was called in and the race resumed. Ex Lotus/Manardi F1 driver Pedro Lamy doing everything he could to hold off the charging Ferrari. Griffin finally managed to dive down the inside at Copse with 20 minutes left to run. Griffin had to make one final stop though and rejoined the race in third.
Miguel Molina took up the charge, chasing down Lamy before making an attempt at Stowe. Lamy held his ground on the inside but Molina turned in side by side, the contact sent the #54 Ferrari onto the grass and the Aston Martin off with damage to the body work. Lamy rejoined but Griffin had closed the gap and taken the lead.
The #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche took third place Molina did not make the finish.
Clearwater were unsurprisingly over the moon with the win, Keita Sawa commenting: “I actually felt a lot of responsibility to get a good start for my team. It’s my first race in WEC and at Silverstone and it’s been a good experience. The car was good and I felt confident we could win the race. I’m really not surprised we won, we always had good potential.”
Matt Griffin described the hectic final stages: “It was a wild race, but brilliant. We exited the pits for the last stint knowing we were two laps short on fuel, but I decided we’d go for it. I got close to Pedro and it was great battle – you always know where you are with someone with his experience. I managed to fire it up the inside at Copse and then I got my head down knowing I had the deficit to consider. I came out in P3 behind Molina with four minutes to go and I said I’d go for it. I said to my engineer, ‘Just don’t talk to me, don’t tell me about track limits, just let me get on with it.’ I was absolutely on the limit, making up time, and on the last lap going down the Hangar Straight I was about half a second back and was planning where I might make a move… then all hell broke loose and I just went for it through the middle, full ‘Days of Thunder’ style – it was smoke and cars all over the place, but I only have one speed… Then I asked my engineer how long there was to go, and he said ‘it’s over’ and I asked ‘where did we finish?’ and he said, ‘We won!’"
"Clearwater is a proper Asian team and Silverstone is a tough circuit to learn, but it means a lot to win here, a real achievement. It’s a privilege to race with these guys and I’m super-proud to be a part of it. The last time I won here in the WEC in 2012 I was flying to Sepang the following day to join them for the first time. They deserve this success, what a way to start a championship!”