Toyota Gazoo Racing first victory 2017 FIA WEC season at Silverstone
Toyota wins topsy-turvy 6 Hours of Silverstone
Sunday, 16 April 2017
By Stephen Kilbey / Images by FIA WEC, LAT
Toyota Gazoo Racing scored its first victory since the WEC round at Fuji last year to open the 2017 FIA WEC season at Silverstone today. The No. 8 Toyota TS050 of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima snatched the lead from the No. 2 Porsche LMP1 Team 919 in the final 15 minutes to cap off a thrilling sequence in the final hour and take an early lead in the points standings.
“We were expecting to be a quite a bit quicker than Porsche, so we’re actually scared a bit!” Buemi admitted after the race. “We have lots of work to do.
“At the end, I knew I had the advantage of fresher tires, but I wasn’t expecting to come out eight seconds behind! Porsche were quicker on the straights, so I had to try something in the tighter sections. It’s been a long time since our crew won, so we’re very happy.
“Porsche were also quicker than us in the pit stops, they made up a lot of time, so we need to improve there.”
Despite running the high-downforce aerodynamic package with its pair of TS050s, topping all three practice sessions and scoring pole position, it wasn't an easy ride for the Toyota team, which early in the race sat comfortably 1-2. Throughout the race various slip-ups, issues and weather changes allowed Porsche to remain in contention, prompting the No. 2 squad to gamble and not take tires at the final round of stops, promoting Brendon Hartley and his teammates Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard to the lead.
With time winding down, Hartley was chased down by Buemi – who was on fresh rubber – the Swiss fighting from over eight seconds back to dive up the inside at the International Hairpin through traffic to take the top spot. He later crossed the line six seconds ahead of the chasing 919 Hybrid to claim the win, the points and the historic RAC Tourist Trophy for the trio and a win for Davidson on home soil.
Finishing third behind the No. 2 was the sister No. 1 Porsche 919 of Nick Tandy, Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani, which was 49 seconds back from the front-runners despite staying in contention and leading the race briefly during pit cycles.
It was the second Toyota which provided the biggest drama in the class. After leading during the opening laps, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway would finish 23rd overall.
The car dropped out of contention in the second hour due to a software glitch and later a roll-bar problem, before WEC debutant and multiple World Touring Car Champion Lopez went head-on into the barriers at Copse with light rain coming down with two and a half hours left.
Incredibly, the Argentinian was able to drive the car back to the pits with most of its front-end ripped off, where it was repaired. The team lost an hour in the garage, but the car did return to the race and finish, scoring valuable points. Lopez, however, was checked at the on-track medical facility before being transferred to a local hospital for scans. He was later released.
The subsequent Safety Car period which the incident caused did nullify the No. 8’s comfortable lead of over 20 seconds, allowing both Porsches to race for the win in the second half. Prior to that both Porsches were able to match the Toyota on pace at points, allowing them to stay on the lead lap and capitalize from the opportunity created by Lopez’s incident.
In the end, Toyota’s leading car prevailed. Porsche will leave Silverstone confident however, its high-downforce package – that will likely debut after Le Mans – potentially able to make its 919s even more competitive later in the season during the fly-away rounds.
In the LMP2 ranks, it was China’s Jackie Chan DC Racing (pictured) that prevailed. In an impressive second half of the race, Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent kept the team’s No. 38 Oreca 07 in contention before taking the lead in the final stint, crossing the line 19 seconds ahead of the other runners.
“We sacrificed the start of our race to be stronger at the finish,” Jarvis said. “We saved a couple of sets of tires to be able to push later and it worked. The team was excellent and both Ho-Pin [Tung], and Thomas were faultless.
“It’s my first win in LMP2, Ho-Pin’s first WEC win and Thomas’s too; let’s not forget he is the youngest driver in the race and this is his WEC debut. I hope this is the start of a real run.”
04-16-2017 04:21 PM
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