Over 50,000 fans were present as the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship kicked off over the Easter weekend with the 6hrs of Silverstone booming across the Northamptonshire countryside… or in the case of the LMP1’s…whooshing!
The #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 - Hybrid of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima was the first to put points on the Championship board finishing 6.173 seconds ahead of the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Hartley, Bernhard and Bamber. With 15 minutes to go a pass at Village saw Buemi put the Toyota on the top spot of the podium after a late pit stop put him on fresher tyres. The sister Porsche rounded up the rather depleted LMP1 class who all covered a total of 197 laps, 3 more than in 2016.
Jose Maria Lopez, on his first outing for the Toyota team, unceremoniously put the #7 into the wall at Copse causing a lengthy full-course caution midway through the race. Prompting the new medical warning light system to be activated for the first time Jose Maria, complaining of back pain, was taken to hospital for a precautionary scan – Toyota later confirmed he had been released and all is fine. The #7 crew took delivery of a rather battered car after Lopez was able to somehow return it to the pits and did what is becoming the ‘norm’ in endurance racing, repaired the impossible and sent her on her way!
Toshio Sato, Team President of Toyota Gazoo Racing had this to say after the race: “This has been a dramatic race but the first priority is José María and we are all relieved that he is okay after the accident. Despite our strong performance in qualifying, we knew that Porsche would be a much tougher opponent in the race. The whole team performed well and fought right until the chequered flag. Of course it is disappointing not to have two cars on the podium but I am proud of the team for their determination and fighting spirit today, particularly the mechanics who worked so quickly to get the #7 car back on track. Overall I am satisfied with our high-downforce TS050 HYBRID, which showed strong performance throughout this week. Now we need to fine-tune our package for Spa-Francorchamps when we look forward to again fighting closely with Porsche at the front.”
Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Sport claimed not only a first-ever win for a Chinese team in FIA WEC, but also a first win for a Chinese driver in Ho-Pin Tung, who along with Oliver Jarvis and youngest driver in the field Thomas Laurent, making his world sportscar debut, fought off stiff competition to give the #38 Oreca 07 – Gibson took it’s maiden victory on it’s debut.
Although finishing almost 20 seconds ahead of the Vaillante Rebellion of Canal, Prost and Senna (who’d have thought those two names would be team-mates again!) it was a closely fought LMP2 class as was to be expected. Taking the final podium position just 1.892 seconds behind the Rebellion was the #28 TDS Racing Oreca of Perrodo, Vaxiviere and Collard.
Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Oliver Jarvis: “It was a really good job by my two team mates Ho-Pin [Tung] and Thomas [Laurent]. Superb. That really set us up for a very exciting finish. When I got in the car, I knew we had to push flat out and give it everything because it was going to be very close with the Rebellion. I just got in the car and focused on setting quick laps. Fortunately the car was superb and in the end we were able to open up quite a comfortable gap. At one point we thought it was going to be very close, but we got out of the last stop in the lead and from there I was just able to manage the gap and cross the line in first place. For me, it’s the first time winning at Silverstone for a long time, but more importantly it’s a great result for the team. It’s so important to get points on the board early on in the year. I can’t thank David, Jackie Chan DC Racing and Jota Sport enough. We’re going to have a very successful year. The team’s done a superb job and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season.”