Year end 2013 – looking back … the year has all but come to an end, but there will be few I’m sure who would disagree that it has been one of the more exciting years on the motorsport front.
For starters, the opening race of the WEC season at Silverstone proved yet again just what a professional outfit the Audi team is, by taking first and second place in the opening race. While the #1 car driven by Lotterer/Fässler/Tréluyer was still leading towards the end of the race, the looks on the faces of the drivers in the pit garage said it all as they realised their car would not hold the lead. With just five minutes of the race remaining the McNish/Kristensen/Duval #2 Audi snatched the lead. Despite brake trouble in the #1 car the (eventually second-placed) Audi managed to fend off the two Toyotas, which finished in third and fourth places. In the LM P2 class, the Delta ADR team beat the Oak racing and Pecom teams to the line.
And looking back, Silverstone was of course the debut of the Porsche 991 RSR, and huge excitement surrounded the works cars under the banner of Manthey Racing. A substantial factory presence was in attendance, and while many were hoping for the Porsches to achieve the unthinkable by grabbing victory, it just wasn’t going to happen. The two cars did give a very good account of themselves by finishing fourth and sixth in the GTE Pro class. Aston Martin and Ferrari dominated the GTE Pro class while Aston Martin, Corvette and Ferrari filled the top three slots in the GTE Am class. And so ended the first big race of the season in Europe, pretty much as expected.
The season rolled on and Le Mans arrived amid much fanfare and jollifications in recognition of the 90th anniversary of this great event. First run in 1923, the nine decades (apart from a few years during the 1940s) have witnessed some exciting duels. Some teams were showing their dominance, but nothing in motorsport is ever certain. At the end of 24 hours, the #2 (McNish/Kristensen/Duval) and #3 (Gené/Di Grassi/Jarvis) Audis were split by the #8 Toyota (Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin) with last year’s winners (Lotterer/Fässler/Tréluyer) in the #1 Audi back in fifth place. In LM P2 there was much to celebrate in the Oak Racing garage as they grabbed first and second spot.
The GTE Pro class was set to be a sizzler as Aston Martin set the pace in practice and qualifying, filling first and second places on the grid. Just two laps into the race, the safety car was deployed due to an accident involving the #95 Aston Martin GTE Am in which Allan Simonsen tragically lost his life. Racing resumed after about an hour but news of the Dane’s death was announced a short while later casting a cloud over the event. Racing is racing and as the saying goes, the ‘show must go on’ and so the various class battles resumed with the Porsches staying in close contention. In the end it was a double podium for the Stuttgart manufacturer, but it would be fairer to say that Aston Martin lost the race when the two British GTE Pro cars went out in the 18th and 19th hours. However, this development allowed Porsche to take first and second in the Pro class as a works team for the first time since 1998.
The remainder of the season had its dramas, car fires (Ferrari, Sao Paulo) and torrential rain (Fuji, Toyota wins after three safety car periods). The end of the season saw Audi take the Manufacturer’s title with Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval being crowned World Champions. Rebellion Racing deservedly won the privateers LM P1 trophy as they are always immaculately turned out and well prepared. Oak Racing finished first and second in the LM P2 class. In the GTE Pro class, the AF Corse Ferrari team walked away with the honours, but the second and third places were closer than one might have thought, with Aston Martin just edging out the Porsche Manthey team by two and a half points. In the Am class, it was the 8Star Motorsport Ferrari team that took the honours.
Looking back, July saw the Goodwood Festival of Speed unfolding under brilliantly warm and sunny skies. A ride up the hill in the most awesome Ferrari F12 berlinetta topped the weekend bill, a powerhouse with some 730bhp under the bonnet, and an experience that will certainly not be forgotten. An opportunity to talk to some legends of the track included Sir Stirling Moss and John Surtees, the latter giving me a quick lesson in Italian. Next interview was with John Fitzpatrick who afterwards exchanged some thoughts in German with Hans Herrmann which made for an amusing encounter. Talking with Jochen Mass is always a laugh a minute as he has such a dry sense of humour (for a German), while Richard Attwood and Vic Elford are always full of stories and filled me in on their experiences behind the wheel of a Porsche for a magazine interview.
The Silverstone Classic promised to be a real humdinger, and that it was but for the wrong reason, as the heavens opened at the end of the first day which saw one race shortened and the much publicised and eagerly awaited Group C night race cancelled. Fans though were treated to a double length Group C race the following day in bright sunshine just to make up for the lost opportunity the night before. Other classes of racing included single seaters, Touring Cars, Grand Touring, Saloon Cars, Sports Cars, Group C and many more. 2013 is of course the year in which Porsche are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic 911, and an attempt to get 911 of these special sports cars on the circuit was easily surpassed when more than a 1000 cars made it onto the track. It was a fantastic weekend with more than 90,000 visitors over the three days.
Looking back, the next big event was the Goodwood Revival in September. It had been a good five or six years since I had last attended the Revival as this event always clashes with the time when I need to submit a book to my publishers. To be honest, I had forgotten what an excellent event this was, and two thoroughly enjoyable days were spent snapping cars, aeroplanes and people enjoying themselves in what is unquestionably the world’s greatest motor racing garden party. This gave me the opportunity to talk with some racing greats including Stefan Johansson and several others who pedalled those fantastic Ferraris around the Goodwood circuit. Of course, on cue, the heavens opened as the last races were being run on the Sunday afternoon and boy did it rain, but a fantastic weekend was had nonetheless.
With my nose firmly glued to the computer for the remainder of the year, I managed to get my latest book completed (almost) on time, this being on the fabulous Ferrari 250 GTO. I look forward to seeing it on the shelves in the summer.
So 2013 has been a really interesting year for a number of reasons, some of which are listed above. We have of course been reminded throughout this racing year that Porsche are going to be returning to the tracks in 2014 with their long-awaited LM P1 car, recently named as the Porsche 919 Hybrid. Details of this will follow shortly, but it remains to be seen how this great manufacturer does in the new season. We do know that ex-Formula 1 driver Mark Webber will be one of the chosen drivers to join Brendon Hartley, Marc Lieb, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani in two factory 919s. Porsche will continue with a pair of Manthey run 991 RSR works cars in the GTE Pro class.
On a less pleasant note, we say farewell to the ever-popular Audi works driver, Allan McNish, who has decided to hang up his helmet, his decision coming soon after being crowned World Champion. McNish is the only driver to have raced every Audi sports prototype ranging from the Audi R8R to the R18 e-tron quattro, as well as the R8, R10 TDI, R15 TDI and the R18 TDI. Knowing the effervescent Scot, McNish is unlikely to suddenly take to gardening, or studying the horizon with his feet up from the veranda of his home, so expect his head to pop up again somewhere in the sport soon. Personally, I give him a month maybe two, before we see him again…only joking, Allan we wish you everything of the very best in the future!
So…as the cold weather and long nights dominate, we at VIRTUAL MOTORPIX would like to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year!! See you on the other side…