The World Endurance Championships 2019/2020 season got underway at Silverstone last weekend with the #7 Toyota of Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi taking the win just ahead of the #8 sister car of Sebastien Buemi, Brendan Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima. Third place went to the #3 Rebellion Racing of Nathanael Berthon, Pipo Derani and Loic Duval.
There was a minutes silence on Sunday to mark respect for FIA Formula 2 Driver Anthoine Hubert who was killed during the Belgian Grand Prix F2 support race at Spa Francorchamps before the race was green flagged by former Aston Martin chairman and current Prodrive and Motorsport UK chairman David Richards.
As the race proper got underway there was misfortune for Paul Di Resta in the #22 United Autosports Oreca with the car losing power just four minutes in, stopping on the start/finish straight and bringing out the safety car. The race had not long resumed when a Full Course Yellow was caused by the #6 Ginetta losing a wheel, as the sister Toyota’s pitted the Rebellion Racing duo took the lead of the race. But just two laps later the #8 Toyota regained the lost ground and pushed the Rebellions back.
It wasn’t long before rain hit the circuit causing a rush to the pits to change to wets, however the Toyota’s stayed out on slicks, dropping lap times in comparison to the Rebellions, but still maintaining the lead, they eventually moved onto wets but contact between the #6 Team LNT Ginetta and #71 AF Corse Ferrari took the Ferrari out of the race and brought about another safety car period, the #3 Rebellion had pitted for a tyre change a lap earlier so took the lead, however as the safety car peeled back in the Toyotas regained their places at the front as racing began.
There were problems in the pits for Rebellion when the #1 car driven by Norman Nato had a front wheel lock up, causing Nato to lose control and knock over three of the Rebellion mechanics, one of whom required medical treatment after breaking a toe.
It was later revealed by Toyota that they had used team orders three times in the four hour race, to ensure the fastest car was always in front. This also meant the sister cars in essence neutralised their race in the last segment, with just over a second dividing them.
In LMP2 Cool Racing took the win in their maiden WEC appearance, their third driver Alexandre Coigny was injured during the European Le Mans Series race on Saturday so had to bow out of driving duties leaving Nico Lapierre and Antonin Borga to tackle the race as a duo.
Second place in LMP2 was the #36 Signatech Alpine ELF of Thomas Laurent, Andre Negrao and Pierre Ragues, while third place went to #29 Racing Team Nederland’s Frits Van Eerd, Giedo Van Der Garde and Job Van Uitert.
In GTE Pro the stunning new #91 911 of Porsche GT helmed by Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz took the class win with second place going to the #92 sister car of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre with the #97 Aston Martin of Maxime Martin and Alexander Lynn completing the Pro podium.
The GTE Am class win went to AF Corse’s Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen in the #83 Ferrari 488, second place went to Paul Dalla Lana, Darren Turner and Ross Gunn in the #98 Aston Martin, while third place belonged to Motoaki Ishikawa, Olivier Beretta and Kei Cozzolino in the #70 Ferrari of MR Racing
The second round of the World Endurance Championships takes place at Fuji on October 3rd/4th.
Images ©Andy Fitzpatrick ©Allison Remzi