The 2017 World Endurance Championship season started at Silverstone under a blanket of grey clouds. The on and off rain provided some extra excitement at an already interesting race. With Audi leaving the series at the end of last year’s season many were left wondering what would become of the LMP1 class. During qualifying Toyota claimed a very convincing first spot on the grid, mainly due to Kamui Kobayashi’s time of 1.36.793 – around a second faster than his colleagues. One could argue that with only three teams and five cars on the LMP1 grid there isn’t much to fight for, but this is clearly not how the teams involved in this class feel as they did not hold back during the first challenge of the year.
Toyota #7’s good fortune did not hold long after the start of the race. After some technical issues Lopez crashed into the barriers just after the race’s halfway point. He managed to bring the car back to the pits. Despite a lengthy repair time the car did finish the race. It did so without José Maria Lopez, however, as he was checked for any injuries, but was later declared to be fine.
It was the sister car, Toyota’s #8, that took the chequered flag first, followed by the #2 and #1 Porsches respectively.
LMP2 also sees some changes, most noticeably in the cars’ chassis to a new Oreca. During qualifying there was a mere 0.2 seconds between the first three cars. G-Drive Racing’s #26 did not manage to turn their pole position into a podium due to an issue with one of the doors. The car starting from third spot in class, #38 of Jackie Chan DC Racing, did. They battled through the entire 6 hours and took the lead near the end of the race. The second spot was claimed by #31 of Vaillante Rebellion, followed by TDS Racing’s #28 in third position.
The GTE Pro class argueably provided the most excitement during the weekend. The #67 Ford GT claimed pole position during qualifying in a very convincing way, almost one second faster than the #71 Ferrari. They were followed by the #95 Aston Martin which was only 0.1 second behind the Ferrari. Despite a door issue Ford #67 did win in their class. The #95 and #97 Aston Martins seem to struggle for overall pace which meant the ‘Dane Train’ did not hold on to the third place they started the race in. Instead the #51 Ferrari claimed second position in class and the #91 Porsche third. Its brother, the #92 Porsche, retired after the engine went up in flames.
In GTE Am things got a bit messy. After an exciting qualifying session, which saw Paul Dalla Lana set a time 2 second faster than his gentleman driver colleagues, the #98 Aston Martin ended up second in the race.
Clearwater Racing took the class win, despite issues of their own. Dempsey-Proton Racing completed the podium for this class.
The next WEC race is on 6 May at Spa-Francorchamps.
Featured image courtesy of Nicky Hofland.