Tag Archives: Romain Dumas

Porsche and G-Drive Shine in Silverstone Sun

Audi exclusion lands Porsche the RAC Tourist Trophy whilst a faultless drive saw Simon Dolan, assisted by Harry Tincknell and Giedo Van Der Garde, finally claim a second Silverstone ELMS victory after narrowly missing out in both 2014 and 2015.

PorkerWin

As opposed to re-mortgaging your house to visit the British Grand Prix, just £40 buys an adult weekend pass for the opening rounds of the European Le Mans Series and the WEC.   Even better value for money when you consider that, unlike the F1, there is no charge for parking at the circuit!

Both series have seen changes for 2016, the most obvious being the removal of GTC and the separation of qualifying for all three classes in the European Le Mans Series whilst the WEC welcomed new GT regs that would feature aggressive rear diffusers for the GT PRO machines.  None of which appeared to have done any harm as the ELMS boasted a whopping 44 car entry whilst the WEC managed a quality filled 33.  No better way to commence my circuit racing season.

ELMS

The 4 Hours of Silverstone would fill it’s now traditional Saturday afternoon slot and with great anticipation we made the little over an hour journey down to the home of British Motorsport in far from ideal conditions.  You don’t expect the ‘Warning Ice Possible’ sign to appear on your dashboard in mid April, and even more bizarrely we didn’t anticipate the WEC free practice session to be red flagged as a result of Snow!

SnowySilverstone

Pleasingly however, whilst remaining cold, sunshine finally broke through the clouds as the 44 strong ELMS entry began their formation laps;  the Thiriet by TDS Oreca 05 on pole courtesy of a stonking lap from long time Rebellion racer, Mathias Beche.

ELMSPOLE

The day would not end as well as it started for the pole sitting machine however, initially running wide at the start before a stuck throttle would send Pierre Thiriet into the Luffield Barriers.  Which, alongside the mechanical failure of Tristan Gommendy’s Eurasia Oreca 05 at Woodcote on the very same lap, would bring out the first full course caution period of the afternoon.

In the meantime, works Ford man, Harry Tincknell had built a healthy lead in the G-Drive Gibson with only Paul Loup Chatin in the Panis-Barthez Ligier able to stay in touch.  A lead that was relatively commanding before Chatin was able to take advantage of a second full course yellow to allow legendary French Goalkeeper Fabian Barthez to jump aboard; Barthez emerging in the lead of the race courtesy of the earlier G-Drive stop occurring under green flag conditions.

But whilst Barthez was not able to keep Dolan behind for long, driver rankings dictated that the former was required to spend much less time behind the wheel; a tactic which looked favourable given Timothe Buret’s pace.  Unfortunately however, just as the lead battle looked to be getting interesting, the Ligier hit mechanical problems and dropped way out of contention; thus leaving the way clear for ex Caterham F1 pilot, Giedo Van Der Garde, to cruise to victory.  Although crossing the line with just 3 seconds remaining and then setting the car’s fastest lap of the race on the very last tour must have eroded the team manager’s finger nails somewhat!

Behind, the SMP racing BR01 of Stefano Coletti, Julian Leal Covelli and Andreas Wirth came home second whilst a stunning late stint by Olivier Lombard lifted he, Vincent Capillaire and Jonathan Coleman onto the final step of the podium.  Meanwhile Alex Brundle, Mike Guasch and Christian England claimed top spot for United Autosports in the Ligier dominated LMP3 category.

JMW

In GT, disqualification for the JMW squad robbed them of a home victory, where instead the Aston Martin of Andrew Howard, Darren Turner and Alex MacDowall claimed top spot.  A late push from GT pole man Richie Stanaway almost made it an Aston 1-2 but for a debatable last lap move on the AT Racing Ferrari; the New Zealander crossing the line first but subsequently relegated 1 position at the discretion of the stewards.

WEC

WhatADifferenceadaymakes

Fans had packed into Silverstone on Sunday, basking in conditions that could not have been more different to that of the previous morning.  And several coffees, a quick walk around the underwhelming paddock and a lap of the circuit later we were finally back at Luffield, eagerly anticipating the start; a build up to the race disappointingly ruined by an amateurish warm up act on the PA in preference to Radio Le Mans.  The mind boggles!

In tricky conditions, Audi had stunned onlookers by beating  Porsche to pole position and it was the #7 R18 in the hands of Andre Lotterer who lead the opening laps of the race.  However its was a lead that would last just 25 minutes as Mark Webber in the #1 Porsche was a man on a mission, going on to build a commanding lead before handing over the reigns to Brendon Hartley.

WorldChamps

But, just as Porsche looked like they were going to walk away with it, the young New Zealander made an error of judgement passing the Gulf GTE AM 911 of Michael Wainwright.  And just like that their race was over, thankfully both drivers escaping injury after what was a pretty scary collision; the LMP1 regulations appearing to do their job as the #1 Porsche refused to flip.

YOUTUBE CLIP

Meanwhile the #8 Audi had also hit trouble after the first round of pit-stops.  Oliver Jarvis had put in a great first stint, managing to pass the sister car during the stops but dropping back with hybrid issues at around a quarter distance; the same issue that would cause a recently installed Lucas Di Grassi to park the troublesome machine out on track.  A full course caution was required to remove both of the stricken German machines.

This left the #7 Audi and the #2 Porsche to battle it out for victory with Benoit Treluyer in the R18 managing to sneak past Marc Lieb as the track returned to green after the aforementioned incidents.  Both cars would later endure spins, whilst a safety car period for debris would bring the #6 Toyota in the reckoning;  the 2014 champions however, whilst showing glimpses of pace, were not able to string consistently quick laps together and would never seriously challenge the top step of the podium.

With just a quarter of the race to go there was still little to choose between the front running cars.  Whilst the Audi held a slim lead , attention turned to fuel consumption and whether Porsche could make it to the flag with 1 less stop.  As it happened both the Porsche and Audi required a ‘Splash and Dash’ and whilst Jani was expected to close in on Fassler during the final stint, the Audi was never really troubled.  It had been a great drive by the #7 Audi which reminded me very much of their mighty performances against the super fast Peugeot not so long ago.  Such a shame therefore that they were excluded for an over-worn skid block.  Rules are rules however.

Winners_Stowe

Elsewhere Bruno Senna, Ricardo Gonzalez and Filipe Albuquerque put in a great performance in the RGR Ligier to defeat the similar Sebring and Daytona winning ESM machine and claim LMP2 honours with 5th position overall.

Meanwhile AF Corse Ferraris dominated the GT ranks where the PRO machines will be lucky to escape a balance of performance adjustment for Spa; the #71 of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon leading from start to finish whilst the #51 of Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado ovecame starting from the very back of the grid and a 3 minute stop and go penalty to claim 2nd!  Further back the 458 of Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas topped the AM machines.

GTWinners

GALLERY
WEEKEND THOUGHTS

It would be fair to say that whilst I thoroughly enjoyed both days of competition, I much preferred the ELMS action at last year’s event.  Whilst I appreciate it would be difficult to beat the epic finale to the 2015 opening round, I definitely had a feeling that the Prototype, GT balance has stepped too far in the direction of the former.  In my view GT cars are a vital part of any endurance race and 9 from 44 is too low a ratio for me.

The WEC on the other hand felt like a massive step forward.  Aside from 3 relatively closely matched LMP1 manufacturer teams, we also saw a revitalised Rebellion on the podium and what must be the best quality LMP2 line-up I have ever witnessed.  Throw in the Ford to the GTE PRO ranks and we have a phenomenal formula for success.  The only thing missing is a works Corvette.

Other notable points from the weekend ….

POSITIVES
  • £40 for a weekend pass is incredible value for World level Motorsport.  It costs near £100 to watch Wales Rally GB with zero facilities!
  • Showsec security are a breath of fresh air in comparison to the G4S of old.
  • The array of talent in all 4 classes of the WEC in unbelievable.  When you consider the likes of Bruno Senna, Roberto Mehri, Will Stevens and Nic Lappierre feature the second class of competition you know that the FIA and ACO are doing something right.
  • The straight line pace of Toyota bodes well for a 3 way fight at Le Mans, lets face it, the one event that matters in the endurance racing season.
  • Audi managing to hold their own against their World Champion counterparts.
  • The ability to walk the entire Silverstone circuit, inside and out.
NEGATIVES
  • £4 for a can of Guiness?  Are you having a laugh?  I can get 4 cans from Tesco for the same price!
  • The disappointing engine note of the new turbo engined Ferrari 488!
  • Disqualification of the winning car several hours after the podium.
  • The awful warm up act on the PA system and the lack of Radio Le Mans pre race.
  • The removal of the GTC class from the ELMS ranks.
  • The lack of varierty in LMP3.
  • The stone-age Silverstone ticket ordering system which still doesn’t allow race tickets to be sent to a different address to where the card is registered!
  • A lot of hanging around on Sunday morning.  Is there really no room for more support races?

However, the positives far outweigh the negatives.  Bring on the big one in June.  It could be a genuine three way battle at the front …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Lotterer Leads Audi to Silverstone Glory

Andre Lotterer’s immense triple stint in the middle of the race was the difference in a close battle between all 3 LMP1 manufacturers.  The German driver’s average lap times were a cut above the rest and ensured that even a late ‘stop-go’ penalty could not prevent the #7 Audi, co-piloted by Marcel Fassler and Beniot Treluyer, from taking victory.

Winners

There is a lot to like about the current LMP1 regulations, the hybrid technology is road relevant, they look and sound good and most importantly of all, they are fast; the power trains generating up to, and in some cases in excess of, 1000bhp!  And with pre season testing suggesting that Audi and Porsche had made large improvements for 2015, it was with great anticipation that we headed to Silverstone for the opening round of the World Endurance Championship.

From the outset it was clear that Porsche had the one lap pace and so it was no surprise that the 2 Stuttgart machines locked out the front row in qualifying with the #17 of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley ultimately ending up on pole.  Toyota and Audi however were stronger over longer stints which left expectations high for a close fight on race-day.

PolePosition

While the two Porsches in the hands of Mark Webber and Romain Dumas were able to make a good start and focus on building a lead, the Audi’s had a mixed start to the race.  In fact the #7 Audi had a poor opening lap with an apparent misfire causing the car to drop back.  However such was Audi’s pace that Treluyer had fought back to third position overall as the first hour drew to a close.

A full course yellow as a result of the Signatech Alpine going off at Copse was a good opportunity for the teams to bring in their cars for fuel.  Both Audi’s however were still in the pit lane when the track returned to green following their decision to pit on the second lap of the caution period.  This in effect cost the German team roughly thirty seconds to Toyota and Porsche who had pitted their cars at the first available opportunity, promoting the #1 Toyota to third position overall.

Porsche looked strong up front, but just as onlookers were contemplating a dominant win, Webber was back in the pits and out of the race with a drive train failure; an unfortunate end to the race for leading car.  The #8 Audi meanwhile was soon to be the second major LMP1 player to hit trouble; losing a lap after a collision with the #88 GTE-AM Porsche.  And so it appeared victory would be fought out between the #18 Porsche, both Toyotas and the #7 Audi.

The #7 Audi was setting the track alight and by the time the lead cars pitted for the second time Treluyer had reeled in the 919.  However it was the #2 Toyota who emerged from pit lane with a 40 second lead courtesy of electing to double stint tyres and to leave Wurz behind the wheel; The top 3 teams changing drivers with Fassler jumping in the Audi, Jani climbing aboard the Porsche and Davidson taking over the #1 TS040.

The pace just wasn’t there for the #2 Toyota though and Wurz was rapidly caught by the chasing trio.  Fassler and Jani were now putting on a real show for the fans as the two cars swapped positions lap after lap; the Porsche being much quicker in a straight line but the Audi having a significant advantage through the twisty sections.  This squabbling was also helping Davidson in the #1 Toyota as he closed on the two Swiss drivers.

After some twenty laps of lead changes between the two the duel was finally ended by the next round of pit stops.  Again Toyota jumped their opposition courtesy of Davidson staying aboard the #1 machine, with Conway second but dropping back partially as a result of picking up a track bollard.  Lotterer meanwhile had stepped into the #7 Audi and it wasn’t long before he had despatched both Japanese cars.

Consistently the fastest man on the track and losing very little time in traffic, Lotterer went about building a lead which was over half a minute by the time he handed the car over to Fassler with the race entering the final stages.  The German had blown the opposition away and was clearly the difference in what was essentially a close battle between the 3 manufacturers.

Fassler was then able to increase the lead to 40 seconds before the lead Audi was given a ‘stop-go’ penalty for an overtaking infringement.  This would make for a close finish as the Porsche had been able to eek out enough fuel to save it from requiring a final ‘splash and dash’; something which both the #7 Audi and the #1 Toyota could not avoid.

Indeed, Nakajima’s late stop caused the Toyota to drop back to third, however Fassler had enough of an advantage to make his splash and dash, take his penalty one lap later and still emerge in the lead of the race.  Both the Porsche and Toyota were gaining on the Audi but in reality Fassler was able to control the gap and take victory by 4.6 seconds as the 6 hours elapsed.  The #1 Toyota would take third just 10 seconds further back while the sister car would end the race in 4th, a full lap down by the chequered flag.  The second Audi of Lucas Di Grassi, Oliver Jarvis and Loic Duval rounding out the top five, 3 laps adrift, after a troubled day in the office.

LMP2

Nick Tandy managed to get the jump on both G-Drive racing Ligiers at the start of the race in the KCMG Oreca however the race pace of the Russian team was much stronger; both Ligiers managing to pass Tandy by the close of the first hour.

LMP2

And that was pretty much the story of the race as the #26 and #28 machines drove off into the distance while the rest battled it out for the remaining podium position.  Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal and Sam Bird finished the event in 6th position overall to claim LMP2 vistory with the sister car of Gustavo Yacaman, Pipo Derani and Ricardo Gonzalez, 1 lap further back in 7th.

KCMG had a difficult race, losing 18 laps to the class winners by the chequered flag.  However a solid performance for the #30 ESM HPD, on it’s WEC swansong, looked to have landed them the final step of the podium, only to be disqualified after the event for running too low.  Instead it was the  Strakka Dome which took third position; just reward for not giving up after a diversion into the Abbey gravel trap on the very first lap of the race.

GTE PRO

After dominating qualifying, Aston Martin held a 1-2-3 in the early stages however the team were unfortunate casualties of the full course yellows in the first hour of the race.  All three cars came in under green conditions between the two yellow periods while the other contenders managed to get in and out under caution.  In effect this cost them 1 minute and combined with the fact that the British marque’s race pace was not as strong as their one lap times meant they were now completely out of the running for the podium positions.

Instead it was the #92 Porsche of Patrick Pilet and Fred Makowiecki who now lead the race from the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander, the #71 sister car of Davide Rigon and James Calado and the #91 Porsche of Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz.

As the race reached it closing stages, the #92 Porsche had dropped away courtesy of losing 4 minutes in pit road with problems and the experienced #51 Ferrari crew had gotten the better of their younger team-mates.  In fact the #91 Porsche had also managed to overhaul the #71 Ferrari, but Michael Christensen could do little about the pace of Bruni over the final stint.

GTEV2

And so yet again Bruni and Vilander stood on the top step of the podium, taking class victory by 10.6 seconds with 10th place overall.

GTE AM

GTE-AM

Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda were able to uphold Aston Martin honours in the GTE AM class however, with Lamy having built enough of a lead to make a late ‘splash and dash’ in the #98 Aston and still take victory by 13 seconds from the AF Corse Ferrari of Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas.  While the SMP Racing 458 of Victor Shaytar, Andrea Bertolini and Aleksey Basov were only 16 seconds further back in third.

GALLERY
FULL RESULTS
In Summary …

Overall it had been another great weekend of endurance racing and while it was disappointing that Nissan and Rebellion were not ready to take part in round 1, the closeness of the racing between the other top LMP1 teams suggests that this could be one of the best sportscar racing seasons on record.  Audi clearly had an advantage at Silverstone with their car working well in the high speed corners of Copse, Becketts and Stowe but it will be interesting to see the relative advantages of the other cars come into play at the remaining circuits on the calendar; Toyota seem to have a more all round car whereas the straight line speed of Porsche is bound to be a massive benefit on the Mulsanne!

In LMP2 it was pleasing to see more cars on the grid and nice to have a bit more variety of machinery.  It is a real shame about the ESM HPD project however we eagerly await the forthcoming arrival of the SMP Racing BR01.  It is great to see so many different brands across the WEC and ELMS grids and with this in mind I genuinely cannot see any positives from the potential limitation of this formula to 4 chassis manufacturers and 1 engine supplier for 2017.  I strongly believe in the saying that if it isn’t broke don’t fix it!

I would absolutely love to be at Spa for round 2 but unfortunately my holiday allocation has already been used up.  Surely Porsche will be a strong candidate for victory at the classic Belgium track, but the best thing about 2015 is that no-one genuinely knows who will have the strongest package by then!  Exciting, it most definitely is.

For JPEGS or any other enquiries please get in touch via paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)