A huge crowd gathers at Silverstone for the FIA World Endurance Championship for what currently is destined to be the final 6-hour Endurance race to be held here. Despite the loss of Audi & Porsche the appetite in the UK for this top flight of motorsport is clearly strong. Toyota Hybrid continue to perform at the highest level giving Fernando Alonso not just the chance of a further World Championship but also renewing his love for motorsport somewhat lost in the current Formula1 business.
LMP1 is not likely to be contested for overall victory its more a question of do you prefer #7 or #8. Both Mike Conway and Jose Marie Lopez confirmed to SCG that there are no team orders and the faster car with the best strategy and softest step on the tyres is permitted to go out there and win it, but in a ‘no risk’ manner to the overall team performance. Behind the Toyotas we expect a full on bun fight between the 2 SMP Racing BR-Ones, the Rebellion Racing R13s, lone Dragonspeed and the venerable ByKolles ENSO CLM.
Jenson Button is keen to return to racing at Silverstone with a trip to the podium, he has commented that the pace of the privateer cars is commendable given the difference in budgets, capable of lapping at Formula 1 pace of just five or six years ago! He also interestingly noted that they are served up with the same tyres as the Toyotas yet don’t drive (power) their front wheels hence they struggle to generate sufficient energy there, and conversely overheat the rears. Jenson is know for his abilities with tyres so for him to highlight this challenge is significant.
Oliver Webb continues to battle in the ByKolles and with a further replacement engine required for qualifying and the race they are looking for a strong yet steady pace to reward them. Ollie commented that the track resurfacing may have been impacted by the recent hot UK weather (had to believe today) and suggested (as an aside) that everyone tune in or record the MotoGP due here next week because staying on the seat of a motorbike could be tricky given the ride they are having. Indeed Jenson Button added that vibrations at Becketts make it incredible difficult to spot braking points and apexes, a single stint proving to be a proper workout for the keen tri-athelete!
LMP2 see the Jackie Chan DC Racing team looking for a recovery in fortunes, and they have got way there with a stellar qualifying performance from both the #37 and #38. For a team with aspiration to always move onwards and upwards it is imperative that the drivers deliver their best possible performances to get back on terms with the Signatech-Alpine #36 and the TDS Racing #28 squads in the LMP2 Championship. A home win would go a long way to remedying the situation.
GTE-Pro has potentially the greatest battle again though potentially behind the Ford Performance GTs which everyone appears to acknowledge need reining in. Our practice analysis (produced with thx to @thebpillar and documented previously) predicts a race advantage of up to 8-tenths of a second. That said everyone is talking tyres, wear and stints. Porsche’s Kevin Estre believes they have found a good balance after a temperamental start to the meeting on friday. The testing previously done at Silverstone by Ford, Porsche and Aston Martin Racing was in the peak of the heatwave season, and led to concerns for tyre wear and the resurfaced track is also proving tricky. That said Nicky Catsburg at BMW Team MTEK made it clear that this is Silverstone, not the Nordschliefe! So whilst they maybe don’t appear to be as quick (largely due to BoP) they are looking forward to the first race at Silverstone for the BMW M8 GTE and are collecting masses of data for future years. Nick Thiim equally has concerns for the tyre degradation on the New Aston Martin Vantage AMR, but is looking forward to a competitive outing.
GTE-Am sees the last tour for the beautiful ‘original’ Aston Martin Vantage and both Matthais Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana look forward to giving it a fitting swansong at its home venue. A quick wish for all the best to Matthais’s father Niki who is making a slow recovery from a lung transplant. We noted better pace (1st and 3rd) from the -Am 488 Ferraris in the European Le Mans Series yesterday, and hence don’t be surprised if they go better than predicted today.
Enjoy the racing and Follow @SportscarGlobal on twitter for updates. Let’s Race!