***Sunday’s hard-fought Six Hours of Silverstone saw Toyota Gazoo Racing eek out victory over Porsche, in a much closer race that many had expected, including winner Sebastien Buemi. “In a way it scares us a little because we were expecting to be quite a bit quicker than them. It would have been a shame to lose it,” Buemi said post-race.
***The win, Toyota’s 11th in the FIA World Endurance Championship, came despite the TS050 Hybrids sometimes being 3-4 seconds slower in the pits to Porsche, which played the strategy game to get a leg up through portions of the mixed-condition season-opener.
***Timo Bernhard felt the call to put both Porsche 919 Hybrids on Michelin intermediate tires in the third hour was the right decision at the time. “In these races, you have to survive in a way, even though we kept inters on for ten laps, I think it was the right choice,” Bernhard said.
***Toyota’s Anthony Davidson, who claimed his second Tourist Trophy win, admitted conditions were extremely treacherous at that point. “Being from around these parts, I wasn’t quite prepared for the weather,” he said. “Driving on slicks in those conditions was pretty tough; probably some of the toughest driving I’ve ever had to do.”
***It was a strong race for two Asian teams, with Jackie Chan DC Racing becoming the first mainland China-backed organization to claim class victory in the WEC, while a last-gasp effort from Matt Griffin, who entered the final lap third in GTE-Am and emerged as the winner, saw the Malaysian-based Clearwater Racing squad pick up top honors in its series debut.
***A persistent issue with the right-side door latch on the No. 67 Ford GT nearly denied Harry Tincknell GTE-Pro class victory, as the lanky Englishman was forced to reach out and slam the door shut in the closing minutes, after it came loose again. “We were managing the door issue and had some vibrations coming from the front of the car. I can’t believe it,” Tincknell said.
***The door issue resulted in an unscheduled early stop for the pole-sitting Ford, then in the hands of Andy Priaulx, who credited the safety car period in the fourth hour, for track cleanup from Jose Maria Lopez’s accident, on putting them back in contention for the win.
***Pipo Derani, who shared driving duties with Tincknell and Priaulx, scored victory in his team debut, the same feat the rapid Brazilian achieved with Tequila Patron ESM in last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
***Lopez’s accident triggered the medical light onboard his Toyota TS050 Hybrid, which is understood to have prompted the Argentinean to make a trip to the hospital for further evaluation, before being released. The new-for-2017 device, installed in the cockpit and visible through the windshield, is mandatory on every car.
***It was a race to forget for the No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson, which had no fewer than three spins or collisions, a 15-second time penalty for avoidable contact, and a trip to the garage for repairs. However, it was the only of the new-look LMP2 cars to hit trouble, and not of the mechanical kind, which many had predicted to be a concern pre-race.
***There were only two retirements, with the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR of Kevin Estre stopping on-track in the third hour with an engine fire and a bizarre pit-in collision with the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 ending the No. 4 ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO’s day. The LMP1 Privateer entry completed 155 laps in a respectable run after virtually no running with its new engine package prior to the start of the weekend.
***The FIA and ACO’s contract renewal for the WEC, which extends the agreement through the end of 2020, is possible even with only Porsche and Toyota committed in LMP1, according to series boss Gerard Neveu, who said the requirement for a World Championship “has always” been a minimum of two manufacturers. “Remember how we started?” Neveu said, in reference to the championship’s launch in 2012 with only Audi and Toyota following Peugeot’s last-minute withdrawal.
***FIA President Jean Todt, who addressed the media Sunday morning prior to the race, said he’s confident of a rebound in the top prototype class. “You have people coming, staying and living. It can happen in any category of motorsport. It’s up to us, as the governing body, together with our promoter, the ACO, to make sure we will make a show which will encourage manufacturers and privateers to stay and hopefully some more to come.”
***Further safety improvements will be made at Circuit de la Sarthe ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with ACO President Pierre Fillon confirming an extended runoff and wall at Karting Corner, adjusted wall at Marshal Post 29 and new pavement laid down from the Ford Chicane.
***FIA Endurance Committee President Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones said they will have to keep a “rigid eye” on LMP2 costs. “The price of the car itself, and the engine and the leasing agreements are absolutely as promised, and consistent with the old LMP2. But perhaps the teams are spending more in other areas, to be competitive. We’ll regulate if we feel we have to,” he said.
***The reported weekend attendance was 50,200 spectators, slightly down from last year’s reported 52,000.
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report