So, it’s finally here! My first endurance racing weekend had come to its climax. The morning was cold and damp, but it didn’t seem to slow down anyone’s enthusiasm. The pits were bustling with mechanics and the crew bolting from one side to the other while the drivers welcomed kids and their families with a warm autograph session. The weather, typically British, wasn’t so warm though. Although every now and then I would see a glimpse of blue sky amidst the dark grey clouds… There was uncertainty in the air, a recipe for a exciting race day! (not so much for my non-waterproof camera though).
The energy had slowly built up as the weekend progressed. I got some great shots during practice, followed by more on qualifying the next day. By now, I was in good touch with the pace of the drivers, but as it always goes with motorsport, the anticipation looms overhead until someone crosses the finish line.
The 6 Hours of Silverstone was flagged off on the dot and it was quite what I had expected. The Toyota Gazoo Racing LMP1 cars with their high aero package took the lead over the Porsche 919 Hybrid, followed by the Ford GTLM cars that were in front of the new mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR. The first two hours of the 6 Hours of Silverstone were absolutely intense as light rain kept the weather alternating to a point where teams couldn’t decide what tyre choice would be optimal.
Just as we crossed the mid-race 3-hour mark amidst constantly changing weather that forced drivers to keep their tyres on shuffle (between wet, intermediate and slicks), Jose-Maria Lopez was involved in a hard crash at Copse Corner aboard the #7 Toyota TS 050 HYBRID. With the car almost entirely destroyed on impact, it was surprising to see Lopez drive it back to the pits! While Lopez was immediately sent to the hospital for inspection, the crew at Toyota’s pit garage went on to repair the mostly-crumpled #7. With less than an hour left to completion of the 6 Hours of Silverstone, the Toyota Hybrid was back on track to complete the race.
On the Porsche side of things, while the Porsche LMP1 cars were in a tough fight with the Toyotas, one of the #92 Porsche 911 RSR of Kévin Estre suffered a catastrophic engine failure and went up in flames on the side of the track at Silverstone’s Luffield corner. Thankfully no one was hurt.
In the end, it was the Toyota that took the victory in the LMP1 class at the opening race of the 2017 World Endurance Racing season. Kazuki Nakajima, Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson lifted the 11th victory trophy for Toyota at WEC. On the LMGTE Pro side, it was the Ford GTLM that took first position ahead of the Ferrari 488 GTE in second and the Porsche 911 RSR in third.
It was the perfect ending to an exciting racing weekend at the Silverstone Circuit. In the end, a memorable experience that I would very much enjoy having anytime again. Racing under unpredictable weather for six hours where the cars and drivers go through incredible exertion is a marvelous endeavor of human and machine resilience and I can only imagine what the 24 Hours of Le Mans would be like.
Not to forget the constant anticipation of car doors flying open while racing at 200 miles per hour!
2017 World Endurance Championship, 6 Hours of Silverstone. Race Day Photo Gallery