Toyota Gazoo Racing took an expected 1-2 win at the World Endurance Championship Season 8 opener, the four-hours of Silverstone.
The #7 TS050 Hybrid of Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway took the flag over the sister #8 car earning them the Tourist Trophy for the first time.
In LMP2 Cool racing took the win in their WEC debut, Porsche’s upgraded 911 RSR took the honours in GTE Pro with the #83 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO taking the silverware in GTE Am.
Conway took the start and the early lead and following an early Safety Car period set a new lap record on the eighth lap of the race; a 1:37.289.
Around 30 minutes into the race the #6 (non-factory, honest guv) ‘Team LNT’ Ginetta lost a wheel bringing on a Full Couse Yellow (FCY). With both Toyotas choosing to pit it left the Rebellion R-13s in a momentary 1-2 with Bruno Senna heading the way in the #1 entry.
Despite the earlier measures to slow the Toyotas and the additional 15kg ballast for today’s race the Toyotas, now lead by Buemi, soon reeled in and passed the non-hybrid R-13s to reclaim the first two places where they would remain for all but one lap of the remainder of the race.
Around 1hr45 into the race the track was declared wet, and a typical Silverstone squall passed through. The majority of the field made the change to wet tyres with Toyota initially staying on slicks in the hope the rain would be short-lived but it soon became clear that the weather conditions were not improving at the rate that the Japanese team had hoped for and they too changed to wets.
As the #1 Rebellion entered the pits it skidded on its slicks taking out two crew members and knocking over the fuel-rig in the process.
As the race reached the half way point there was contact at Maggotts between the #6 Ginetta of Oliver Jarvis and the #71 AF Corse Ferrari of Miguel Molina triggering the second Safety Car of the day. While Jarvis managed to get the Ginetta back on track the Ferrari was done for the day with a destroyed right rear.
With 100 minutes to run Rebellion performed a slick pitstop with the #3 giving Pipo Derani the race lead for half a lap until Kobayashi powered by in the #7 Toyota on the approach to Brooklands and Hartley soon followed suit to snatch the lead in the #8 sister car.
The order between the two Toyotas would then remain the same until 75 minute mark when Hartley received a call to allow Kobayashi pass at Brooklands. The pair of TS050s then kept this order and controlled the race until the checkered flag, finishing the race with a 1.9 second gap while the #3 Rebellion took the third step of the podium.
The #1 R-13, Rebellion’s full-season entry, had a late power steering failure 10 minutes from the end that caused the to spend valuable time in the garage dropping them to 10th overall and allowing Ben Hanley in the #5 ‘Team LNT’ Ginetta skip to claim 4th place, five laps off the lead, having finally passed the LMP2 leader in the closing moments of the race.
Astonishingly, the #6 skip of Guy Smith, Oliver Jarvis and Michael Simpson also saw the chequered flag despite various garage visits and dramas. While the Ginetta PR engine has made full capital of both cars finishing it should be noted that pace and reliability is still far from present even with the switch to AER engines we’d bet on a well driven and run LMP2 ORECA still being likely to beat either of the ‘non-factory’ entries from Garforth.
In LMP2, despite Alexandre Coigny sitting out the race following a very heavy accident in Saturday’s ELMS race, a drive-through penalty and a puncture Nicolas Lapierre and Antonin Borga would take the class honours for WEC debutants Cool Racing in the #42 ORECA.
“This race was very particular for all of us, as it was not nice to leave Alex on the side,” said Lappierre afterwards.
The #36 Signatech Alpine Elf eventually took second place following a hard fight with the #29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA leaving the Dutch WEC debutants to take the final step on the podium.
The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA came home fourth just half a second clear of the sister #38 JOTA entry. A decisive late move at The Loop from Stevens in the #37, which included some slight contact, would be the deciding factor in the intra-team scrap.
Moving on to GTE Pro, Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz in the #91 2019 spec 911 RSR headed a Porsche 1-2 in a typically close race to give the Porsche GT Team its best possible start to the new WEC season.
Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin brought their #97 Aston Martin home for the final step on the podium 2.4 seconds behind Christensen and Estre in the #92 car.
Stepping back into a GTE car after his stint last year in an LMP2, Francois Perrodo returned to the Am class in style taking the class win in the #83 AF Corse 488 GTE EVO along with teammates Emmanuel Collard and Niklas Nielsen.
Aston Martin’s first race in the GTE Am category with the new Vantage AMR served up second place for car owner Paul Dalla Lana and new teammates Darren Turner and Ross Gunn in the #98. With a fuel pick up issue causing a late pitstop for the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche the #70 MR Racing Ferrari passed to claim the final podium step.
Despite an excellent qualifying run and class pole for the #90 TF Sport entry sporting its distinctive new red livery, and Salih Yoluc leading early on, the car dropped into the midfield after a Full Course Yellow infringement. Despite the team’s woes Jonny Adam set a new class lap record of 1:56.520 providing some compensation from a promising yet un-exploited first outing.