The 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship got off to a thrilling start at Silverstone this past weekend. Toyota took a hard-fought victory overall, earning an early points lead in LMP1 over arch-rival Porsche.
It was anything but a foregone conclusion however, despite both TS050s qualifying up front. The #7 car of Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez held the lead in the beginning of the race, but found itself in the barrier shortly after the half-way point of the race. With Lopez behind the wheel, the Toyota was amazingly able to wheel itself back to the pits, but ended up finishing fourth in class, and 23rd overall.
Both Porsches took turns leading the race at various points. With various setbacks for the #8 TS050, Brendon Hartley didn’t take new rubber for the #2 919’s final stop, grabbing the lead with less than an hour to go.
It wouldn’t last. On fresh tires, Sebastien Buemi would quickly reel in the Porsche, passing for the lead with less than 15 minutes remaining in the race. The margin of victory was only 6.173 seconds, while the #1 Porsche of Jani/Lotterer/Tandy rounded out the LMP1 podium.
Down in LMP2, the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 emerged victorious, with Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent, and Ho-Pin Tung running a near-faultless six hours. It was a special event for Laurent: not only was this his WEC debut, but after turning 19 only a week before the event, he was the youngest person taking part in the race.
The #31 Vaillante Rebellion (Canal/Prost/Senna) finished only 19 seconds behind the Jackie Chan car, with a late charge by the #28 TDS Racing (Perrodo/Vaxiviere/Collard) putting it only two seconds behind that.
In news that may not surprise many, a Ford GT came out on top in GTE Pro. The #67 car (Priaulx/Tincknell/Derani) wasn’t without its own issues — a passenger-side door that refused to stay shut — but clinched the win with 15 seconds over second place. The #66 sister car had a comparatively cleaner race, but couldn’t maintain its lead in the final two hours.
In second place was the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of Calado and Pier Guidi. Third place went to the #91 Porsche 911 RSR, while its #92 sister car was the only retirement in GTE Pro, with a blown engine putting it out of contention shortly after the three hour mark.
A last-lap accident shuffled the GTE Am lineup around. Matt Griffin benefitted, with the carnage promoting the #61 Clearwater Racing 488 GTE he shares with Keita Sawa and Mok Weng Sun to first from third.
The crash itself involved Pedro Lamy in the #98 AMR V8 Vantage and Miguel Molina #54 Spirit of Race 488 GTE. Lamy was able to recover and limp home to the middle step of the GTE Am podium, while the Ferrari was forced to retire when it couldn’t escape the gravel trap. The Dempsey-Proton Racing 911 RSR rounded out the top three.
The FIA World Endurance Championship returns May 6 with the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
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