The all mighty Porsche 919 Hybrid, kicked off its defense of its title in the 2017 World Endurance Championships (WEC) in Silverstone this past Easter.
By having a different strategy to its main competitor, Toyota Gazoo Racing, Porsche DMG MORI came into the race weekend knowing full well that they could be at a distinct disadvantage. Mainly because of the new regulations that only allows a maximum of two aero changes for the season. Even with this in mind, Porsche still opted to run a low downforce setting for the sweeping Silverstone layout, in preperation for the 24 hours of Le Mans in a few weeks time. Meanwhile, Toyota, did the opposite and ran more wing allowing more grip, this was evident especially during qualifying, with both the Toyota’s locking up the front row of the grid, while Porsche, held firm in 3rd and 4th spot.
The 6 hours of Silverstone began under bright skies and blistering cold weather; This suited the Toyota’s, and both cars sped away from the chasing field, with the rest of the cars just playing catch up. After the first round of pit stops and driver changes, it was still Toyota out in front, but, in typical British fasion, British weather played a part in jumbling up the field. Spots rain came down after the 2 hour mark making the track slippery. This caught out a few drivers, notably, Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 Toyota; the Argentinian spun at Copse and straight into the barriers. Race control immeduiatley dispatched the safety car as marshalls tried to retrieve the stircken Toyota. Under WEC rules, car may still continue to race even after being in an accident, just as long as there is no human intervention in getting the car back onto the track and into the garage. Lopez, aided by a crane, was able to drive the the Toyota, albeit very slowly, back into the pits for repairs.
At the re-start, it was Porsche’s time to shine, both cars took well to the damp conditions, which was perfect for the German marquee, and sped off into the distance, with the sole remaining Toyota still trying its best to get past both Porsche’s and onto the podium.
It was a battle of attrition all race long, and, as the afternoon wore on, it seemed that Brendon Hartley in the #2 Porsche, would walk away with the victory at Silverstone, but, with 12 minutes to go, former F1 pilot, Sebastian Buemi in the #8 Toyota dove hard right at the Village corner, and had the power to pull away almost immediately to take the win at the opening round of the WEC season. Coming in 2nd and 3rd were the #2 and #1 Porsche, respectively.
The WEC now moves to Belgium for the 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps. With its long straights, this a circuit wherein Porsche, retaining its low downforce settings, can truly excel at.
*story and photos by William Herrera
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