Despite being down to one car following Jose-Maria Lopez’s huge crash in the #7 car, Toyota kicked off their 2017 World Endurance Championship campaign with a win at the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima took the chequered flag to not only win the opening round of the 2017 Championship, but the RAC Tourist Trophy as well. With just 12 minutes of the race remaining, Buemi who was on newer tyres mercilessly closed that gap on the race leader, Brendan Hartley in the #2 Porsche and passing him in the loop before the Wellington Straight. The #1 Porsche of Nick Tandy, Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani finished third, their race strategy compromised by rain forcing an unplanned switch to inters.
The two Toyota TS050 LMP1 cars were clearly the fastest over the weekend, however, do not read too much into the speed here – as we know, Toyota have chosen to run the high downforce aero this weekend and at Spa on the #7 and #8 cars, benefitting from the rules allowing them to run the low downforce kit on their third car at Spa and Le Mans; Spa will tell us how fast the TS050 really is compared to the Porsches.
The biggest drama of the race came towards the fourth hour as WEC debutant Lopez harpoon his TS050 into the wall at Copse. Once the stranded and half destroyed car had been lifted from the gravel trap the Argentinian managed to get the rapidly disintegrating prototype back to the pits.
In around an hour the Toyota mechanics worked a minor miracle to get the car repaired back on track where it finished 4th in class, several laps down following the retirement of the ByKolles ENSO CLM Nismo due to a collision with Johnny Adam’s #97 GTE Pro Aston Martin.
The impact was hard enough to engage the FIA medical warning light and Lopez was taken to the medical centre for evaluation for back pain and then to a local hospital for a precautionary scan.
In LMP2 (the ‘Oreca Class’), the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car of Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent came out on top to take the win in what was effectively a spec-class race.
Following the podium Tung said: “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.”
The #31 Vaillante Rebellion of Julien Canal, Bruno Senna and Nico Prost finished second some 19s behind the Jota-run “Mighty 38” with the #28 TDS Racing Oreca rounding out the podium places.
In the GTE ranks, we saw the pole-sitters turn that into a class win despite the #67 car of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Pipo Derani being compromised early on with tyre pressure and door issues.
The #2 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado put in a spirited fight to claim the second step on the podium 15.6s behind the winning Ford with the #91 911 RSR of the returning factory Porsche GT Team rounding out the podium places for Richard Lietz and Fred Makowiecki. Neither of the Aston Martin Vantage V8s appeared to be on the pace this weekend, the #95 and #97 finishing 6th and 7th respectivly. The 92 911 RSR of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre was a DNF following a fire at Luffield in the 4th hour.
Finally, in GTE-Am, the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari of Weng Sun Mok, Keita Sawa and Matt Griffin took a thrilling last-corner victory from the #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda.
With the #98 pole-sitters keeping the #54 Spirit Of Race Ferrari 488 firmly in check for the majority of the race a win looked in the bag for the crew of Dalla Lana, Lamy and Lauda until Miguel Molina’s second-placed Spirit Of Race Ferrari launched an attack on Lamy on the outside into Stowe on the very last lap. Both cars tangled, the #54 Ferrari finding the grass and the leading Aston Martin being knocked off line with bodywork damage.
Matt Griffin saw his opportunity and launched the #61 Clearwater car through the gap to seize the lead and the win. Lamy limped home second, but Molina cost Spirit of Race not only second place but the race overall as the car failed to make the finish line and was classified DNF leaving the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche of Matteo Cairoli to inherit third place.
Full results can be found here.