On Sunday at Silverstone Circuit, Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Sébastien Buemi barged his way past Porsche LMP Team’s Brendon Hartley with 13 minutes to go. From there, Buemi pulled away from the young Porsche racer to take the overall victory in the season opening 6 Hours of Silverstone.
Afterwards, Buemi was overjoyed.
“I’m really happy. It’s an amazing feeling,” Buemi said to the WEC’s Louise Beckett in parc ferme. “After the pit stop, I knew it would be close, but I did not expect us to be eight seconds behind the Porsche. I had to push really hard. We had to drain the battery; I was recovering less energy just to try to be a bit quicker. Then, the rain came and that helped us.”
Toyota, making use of their low-downforce configuration, dominated much of the proceedings. However, the weather played a substantial role in the race. Rainfall slowed down the Toyota challenge, allowing the Porsches to keep up with their high-downforce setup.
The big moment in the race happened during the fourth hour. During one of the showers, José Maria López lost control of the No. 7 Toyota and slid off into the tire barriers at Copse corner. The crash itself drew a full course yellow. However, the full course yellow was converted to a Safety Car period after Lopez was extracted from the trap and proceeded to shower the track with debris.
After driving the car back to the garage, López was transported to a local hospital for observation. Luckily, that was only a brief stay for the Argentinean rookie.
— TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WEC (@Toyota_Hybrid) April 16, 2017
After an hour in the garage getting repairs, many of which were made necessary by the drive back to the garage after the crash, the No. 7 returned to the race. Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi brought the No. 7 home in 23rd overall, 38 laps down.
The Safety Car wiped out a 37 second lead for the No. 8 Toyota and brought the No. 2 Porsche (driven at the time by Earl Bamber) right up into the hunt. From there, the race became one of pit strategy. The Porsches got better fuel mileage than the Toyotas, allowing Hartley to have a shorter final pit stop.
As a result, Hartley got out of the pits eight seconds ahead of Buemi. For the next 11 laps, Buemi ran down Hartley at a pace of more than half a second a lap before taking the lead.
Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima‘s margin of victory was 6.173 seconds over Bamber, Timo Bernhard and Hartley. The No. 1 Porsche of Neel Jani, André Lotterer and Nick Tandy was third, 47 seconds back.
In LMP2, G-Drive Racing’s Alex Lynn started from pole, but it took Signatech Alpine Matmut’s Nicolas Lapierre less than a lap to take the class lead away. The No. 36 team then proceeded to dominate the entire first half of the race.
However, later on, the Signatech Alpine A470 began to falter, allowing Valliante Rebellion’s No. 31 of Julien Canal, Nicolas Prost and Bruno Senna to come to the front. Pit strategy ultimately decided the race. Senna brought the No. 31 to the pits under the final full course yellow of the race for full service and to switch to Prost.
During the stop, the No. 38 Jackie Chad DC Racing ORECA 07-Gibson shared by Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung swept into the lead. After the final stops with 13 laps to go, Jarvis was able to hold on to take the class victory and fourth overall.
Jarvis finished 19.376 seconds ahead of the No. 31 Valliante Rebellion ORECA 07-Gibson. The No. 28 TDS Racing ORECA 07-Gibson of Emmanuel Collard, François Perrodo and Matthieu Vaxiviere was another two seconds back in third.
GTE-Pro was a back-and-forth affair. The No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK entry of Pipo Derani, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell started on pole, but dropped like a rock almost immediately. That elevated the No. 66 Ford of Billy Johnson, Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla to the point.
As the race continued on, Porsche, Aston Martin and Ferrari all held the class lead at one point. Past the halfway point of the race, the field began to be whittled down. First, the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen caught fire. Estre was forced to stop and bail from the new Porsche, which had fire coming out of the engine cover.
The No. 97 Aston Martin lost a couple of laps as a result of Jonny Adam getting plowed into from behind by James Rossiter in the ByKolles Racing LMP1 entry. Rossiter’s No. 4 was out on the spot, but Adam was able to continue after repairs. The No. 97 shared by Adam, Daniel Serra and Darren Turner finished seventh, two laps down.
The ultimate pass for the win came when Frédéric Makowiecki pitted the No. 91 Porsche with eight laps to go. From there, Tincknell was able to pull off to claim a comfortable victory.
Tincknell’s margin of victory was 15.604 seconds over the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi. Richard Lietz and Makowiecki in the No. 91 Porsche were another 11 seconds back in third. Six of the eight GTE-Pro entries finished on the lead lap.
The GTE-Am class came down to the last couple of turns of the race. Aston Martin Racing’s Pedro Lamy took the lead from Clearwater Racing’s Matt Griffin with a half-hour to go. From there, Lamy was able to stabilize the advantage.
On the final lap of the race, Lamy had a couple of seconds over Griffin when he came upon the lapped Spirit of Race No. 54 Ferrari of Miguel Molina. Contact was made at Stowe, the third to last turn of the race. Both Lamy and Molina spun out, Molina ending up in the sand trap. Griffin was able to sneak in between the two stricken cars to take the victory for himself and teammates Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok.
Normally, Molina would have been able to continue with assistance from the marshals. However, you have to be able to complete the final lap under your own power without assistance. Molina was beached in the trap and thus could not complete the race without assistance. Because of that, the No. 54 Ferrari was not classified as a finisher.
Lamy limped his Aston Martin across the line to finish second, 1.768 seconds back. However, he was unable to get the No. 98 back to the pits. The car ground to a halt a couple of turns past the pits with the left side mirror hanging off. The Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche of Matteo Cairoli, Marvin Dienst and Christian Ried was 25 seconds back in third.
The FIA World Endurance Championship teams will be back in action in three weeks at the Circuit Spa-Francochamps in Belgium. Coverage will air on FOX Sports May 6.