Two short weeks ago I was at Paul Ricard, on what seemed like the set of a 1960’s technicolor movie full of colour, style and sophistication. Now I find myself at Silverstone for the 6h of Silverstone. No stunning views, no birdsong no jolly music playing over the PA system as I park my car. I don’t suppose there will be Croque Monsieur, Jambon et Fromage sandwiches or coffee brewed to be accompanied with Gauloises cigarettes and fine Cognac, the best we can hope for is cheap greasy burgers at extortionate prices and watery coffee.
No chance for me to practice my severely limited ‘Parle Francais’ with the stylish lady behind the counter only to end up with lots of light hearted giggling and Frenglish. This is Silverstone Tattos, Piercings, Achne, moody glottal stop and the right change if I’m lucky.
Maybe the stark contrast between Paul Ricard and Silverstone is fitting, let’s face it Paul Ricard was the end of the ‘summer vacation’ the last time to bask in the sun, the last time to showboat and brag, the last bit of cramming before the new term starts.
Silverstone, with no technicolor distractions, just a flat ex-World War Two airfield, monotone vistas and utilitarian buildings in the shadow of the ‘marmite’ wing. What better way to get down to business, the hard business of winning a world championship, of being the best in class or simply being the best.
Not long now just the Headmasters address and the school photograph, the class of 2015. Lets go racing!
Friday, 10 April 2015
So playtime is over, and this is now the serious end of the game, where smiles are replaced by frowns and cars are deliberately obscured from the photographers’ lenses by some paid heavy whose job it is to mooch about and make life difficult. No matter, with a bit of patience another snapper will come along and the heavy will move to block his line of sight, giving you an opportunity to do what you intended all along.
The first free practice session (FP1) ahead of the 6 h of Silverstone for the WEC cars was on at 11h55 on Friday for one and a half hours, and was held under hazy skies on what promised to be the hottest day of the year so far. This session is never really a good measure of the car’s potential because the teams use the time to check setups more than anything else. Our man, John, saw the Audi driver, Lotterer and the Porsche driver Webber both indicating that their respective cars were shaking or jittery, while the Toyota mechanics dived under the front end of their cars which would also indicate suspension issues.
At the end of the session it was the #8 Audi of Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis that posted the quickest time with the #17 Porsche of Bernhard/Webber/Hartley next and the #7 Audi of Fässler/Lotterer/Treluyer third. The GTE Porsches were trailing in the Pro category but in the Am class the #88 Abu Dhabi RSR was top of the leaderboard. Around 13h00 there was the hint of a light shower and a few cars got tail happy for a few minutes, but any moisture was quickly burnt off.
FP2 ahead of the 6 h of Silverstone commenced on the mark of 15h55 and for the next 90 minutes the activity in the pit lane was unceasing as cars came and went, adjusted suspension settings, changed drivers and generally practiced for the big day. Although he has driven at Le Mans several times, this was Patrick Dempsey’s first time out at Silverstone, and so he spent time discussing corners, braking points and lap times with the experienced Patrick Long. Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima in the #1 Toyota were deep in discussion after FP2 exchanging opinions on why the Toyota was understeering. At the end of the session it was again the Audis juggernaut that occupied positions one and two at the top of the LMP1 leaderboard, with the two Porsches in third and fourth, followed by the two Toyotas. To keep the theme, the two G-Drive cars were top in LMP2, the two Porsche RSRs led the GTE Pro class, and it was only in the Am class that the trend was broken with the #98 Aston Martin first and the #72 Ferrari second.
As expected the lap times came down in FP2 compared with FP1, with Benoit Treluyer setting a time six tenths of a second quicker in the afternoon. To be honest, FP3 on Saturday morning may not produce any fireworks as that session is usually spent fine-tuning the car for the afternoon qualifying session, which is when it really counts. Reading between the lines, several of the teams will be spending the evening analysing data rather than enjoying a relaxing evening down at the pub.
The weather outlook at the moment is dry but cooler for Saturday, and Sunday’s race may even see some rain. It’s early days yet, a lot can happen before the start of the 6h of Silverstone and probably will.
Written by: Glen Smale and John Mountney