The opening round of the 2016 WEC season delivered a Silverstone surprise on a number of different fronts, from a snow shower to a spectacularly dramatic accident, including a post-race disqualification. The results have been splashed across the covers of numerous magazines and websites, so we thought some of the other achievements would make for interesting reading.
LMP1 – Rebellion
For starters, Rebellion Racing has been beavering away for three years in the LMP1 class against the might of the manufacturer teams, and for their efforts they have lifted the Privateer trophy for the last four years. Despite this accolade, these achievements have gone largely unnoticed. We at Virtual Motorpix thought that this was a little unjust, especially seeing as they clinched a third place overall finish in the LMP1 class at Silverstone after Audi’s exclusion. It didn’t quite work out that way on the day because Audi was credited with the win, but their #7 car was excluded in post-race scrutineering when their front skid block was found to be too thin. This moved Porsche into position one, Toyota into second place and the #13 Rebellion moved from fourth to third. Alright so it isn’t the way you want to earn your place, but a result is a result, and it’s about time (pun not intended!) that Rebellion earned their podium place. Another Silverstone Surprise.
LMP2 – RGR Sport by Morand
The RGR Sport by Morand team with drivers Ricardo Gonzalez (Mexico), Filipe Albuquerque (Portugal), Bruno Senna (Brazil) can be proud of their performance on Sunday 17 April when they snatched the LMP2 class victory. This class is perhaps the most keenly contested of the lot, because the cars are all basically very similar, and it is the skill of the drivers and the efficiency of the team that will determine the winner. Photographing the cars trackside all weekend, it was clear to see that the #43 car was really quick. To illustrate the tightness of the class, the RGR car was placed third in class on the starting grid, two seconds behind the lead car, but with five of the six hours gone in the race, there were four cars on the lead lap. For the next race at Spa, Gonzalez, Albuquerque and Senna will have the satisfaction of starting as class leaders.
GTE PRO – Ford GT
At the beginning of the year the racing world welcomed the return of the Ford GT to its ranks. In the Daytona 24-Hours they finished quite well down the field, and in the Sebring 12-Hours they splashed their way to a 5th and 8th place finish in class. Importantly though, both cars finished both races. At Silverstone, the #66 qualified third in class with the #67 car in fourth, as if tied together with a team rope. This was despite Olivier Pla in the #66 car not having driven the Ford in the wet, and Andy Priaulx/Harry Tinknell qualifying the #67 car with just 3rd and 4th gears, as they encountered gear selection problems. In the race proper, watching these two cars circulating in formation was almost comical, but in reality it was far from that, as the one car would be followed by the other, lap after lap. In the final analysis, it was the #67 car that led the #66 car home by just over a second, and that is after six hours of fierce racing. In reality, the two cars were never separated by much more than that gap for the entire race. The team reported no mechanical problems during the race, and so consistency is the only word that you can use to describe such a finish, and they get our vote as the team to watch this year. What a Silverstone Surprise!
GTE AM – Larbre Competition
Perseverance is the best way to describe the effort of the Larbre Competition #50 Corvette, because it just kept on coming around, without any fireworks, lap after lap. The Corvette was chased all the way by three Porsche RSRs, so this may have been their motivation to get a bit of a hurry up, but that factor aside, the car ran without any mechanical maladies. Apart from some unfortunate timing with Full Course Yellows and Safety Car sessions, the Corvette C7.R put in an impressive performance despite two of the three drivers not having driven the car in the wet. The #50 Larbre Corvette also set the fastest race lap by more than a quarter of a second. Well done to Yutaka Yamagishi, Pierre Ragues and Paolo Ruberti.
The official spectator numbers given by the FIA WEC was 52,000 which is very encouraging considering the weather that Silverstone delivered. The next race at Spa can of course also serve up some unexpected surprises. With Audi’s exclusion from the results, all the teams moved up a place, and this has opened up the Championship right at the outset.
Written by: Glen Smale