Modern endurance races have gotten a bit of a reputation as “really long sprint races” due to the reliability of the cars and the skill of the drivers. Just kidding! Only one of each manufacturer LMP1-class prototype remained in contention for the win in the last hour of the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
The main World Endurance Championship teams have two cars each for regular-season races like Silverstone. Having only one of each car left to contend for the overall win hasn’t happened in a while.
The first major retirement was the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which collided with the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR. Michael Wainwright ran wide in the No. 86, and Brendon Hartley in the No. 1 collided with it as he tried to pass on the outside.
Wainwright explained to Motorsport.com that he wanted to maintain his line through the corner:
I was a passenger, I didn’t even know he was there until he was too late.
I think he was trying to pass me, and wanted to come across to take the racing line for the next corner.
This makes sense—after all, it’s up to the faster car to make a clean pass around slower traffic. The closing speeds for this accident were likewise insane. Hartley’s comments to Motorsport.com echoed this, as he mentioned that Wainwright didn’t see the 919 and used all the road accordingly:
Then I wanted to get past a GT car on the outside, which is quite normal through that corner, but the driver didn’t see me and used all the road.
I don’t want to blame anyone. It was a shocking moment and it is a true shame.
Fortunately, neither one was hurt, but the crash took Porsche’s leading 919 as well as the prettiest 911 in GTE Am out of the race early.
Under that full-course yellow, the No. 8 Audi retired after driver Lucas di Grassi stopped on the circuit. The car was stuck in sixth gear.
The Audi R18 suffered a complete electrical failure of its hybrid system. A technician had to come to disable its hybrid battery before it could be hauled away.
Error 420: Let’s not blaze it.
Both the Audi R18 and Toyota TS050 are new for this year, so some teething problems are to be expected. That being said, it’s bizarre to see a major system failure out of the highly organized Audi team.
If you thought Toyota would be able to keep both of its cars in contention after those two were out, sorry. The No. 5 Toyota TS050's rear tire disintegrated, taking out the car’s bodywork with it. (What is it this weekend with tire failures?)
The No. 5 spent a lengthy time in the garage being rebuilt, but unlike the other two, it actually made it back on track. By then, though, the rest of the LMP1-H class was so far ahead of the No. 5 that it didn’t have a chance. The “H” denotes the hybrid factory-backed LMP1 cars, which are a separate class from the privateers’ LMP1s.
The No. 5 finished in 17th place overall, which was hilariously fourth in the LMP1-H class, and behind all three of the slower privateer LMP1s.
In the end, it was Audi whose remaining LMP1-H car ran the best at Silverstone. The pole-sitting No. 7 car pulled off the win in the end, a full 46.065 seconds ahead of the No. 2 Porsche 919. The Porsche wasn’t immune from contact itself, with Romain Dumas in the No. 2 making contact with the No. 67 Ford GT on lap 119 and being sent through the mud.
“He turned in like I wasn’t there,” Ford GT driver Marino Franchitti said of the spin.
Regardless, the No. 2 seemed to be more dirty than damaged and kept going until the end of the race.
Coming in third overall and for the LMP1-H class was the No. 6 Toyota TS050.
Having won off of pole position, the Audi certainly looks like the fastest of the three, however, if they’re aiming to take home a 24 Hours of Le Mans trophy, they need to avoid having gremlins like that hybrid failure. Some cars today, such as the new Ford GT, were very clearly using Silverstone as a shakedown run for Le Mans, opting to run at a certain pace as opposed to go balls-out just yet for the win.
However, the Porsche 919 team proved that they still have a strong package, and Toyota’s time up front proves that it could have a chance this year if they find a bit more consistent speed.
Of all the failures and crashes during Silverstone, however, none were as heartbreaking as the No. 97 GTE Pro Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8, which had to pull off with 25 minutes to go. It was belching smoke out its tailpipe and clearly wouldn’t go any farther.
There’s nothing worse than running fine all day only to have your race end right before the very end.
In GTE Pro, the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE was untouchable from the start. Like Audi’s No. 7, the No. 71 won this race off pole position. Lest we forget that the Ford GT is the only new car running this year, this gives the brand spankin’ new 488 its first win in the WEC. The two new Ford GTs, No. 67 and No. 66, came in fourth and fifth respectively in their WEC debut.
Rebellion Racing’s No. 13 car came home with the LMP1 privateer class win. The No. 43 6 Hours of Mexico-branded RGR Sport by Morand car nudged out 2016 36 Hours of Florida champs Extreme Speed Motorsports for the win in LMP2. Another AF Corse car, the No. 83 Ferrari F458 Italia, took home the win for GTE Am.
Full results for the race can be found here.