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Silverstone, 17 April 2016

The inaugural 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship race, the first of nine rounds, was held at Silverstone on Sunday 17 April, with support races on the preceding days from the European Le Mans Series and the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, proving to be a popular attraction, with some 52000 spectators attending the meeting over the weekend. This was a particularly impressive number, as apart from the miserable cold weather at the start of the weekend, there was a British Touring Car meeting a few miles up the road at Donington Park, plus a British GT race meeting at Brands Hatch, both very popular events, being held at the same time.

The entry comprised of 33 cars over the four classes, 9 in the premier LMP1 class, 11 in the LMP2 class, 7 in the LMGTE Pro class and 6 in the LMGTE Am class, with  a pair of works entries each from Audi, Porsche and Toyota, together with a pair of Rebellion Racing’s new R-One-RER model and a single Bykolles Racing entry in the LMP1 category. There were five different manufacturers in the LMP2 class, whilst the LMGTE Pro class saw the European debut of the new Ford GT and also the Ferrari 488 GTE, with a pair of each entered by Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK and AF Corse respectively. The LMGTE Am class featured a trio of Porsche 911 RSRs against singleton entries of an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Chevrolet Corvette C7-R and a Ferrari 458 GT2.

The qualifying sessions, both of 20 minutes duration, the first for LMGTE Pro & Am cars, and the second for LMP1 & 2 cars, were held on a still wet, and cold, track on the Saturday morning, immediately following the ELMS qualifying sessions. The pair of 2016 specification Audi R18e-tron quattros topped the times, with the # 7 car of Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer a fraction over 1/10th of a second quicker than the # 8 example of De Grassi/Duval/Jarvis. The quickest of the Porsche 919s, the # 1 car of Bernhard/Webber/Hartley, was next up, although nearly a full second off the pole position time, with the # 2 Porsche of Dumas/Jani/Lieb a little under 1/10th of a second further back. In the LMP2 category the time sheet was topped by the # 26 G-Drive Oreca 05-Nissan of Rusinov/Berthon/Rast, just over a second clear of the # 31 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P2-Nissan of Dalziel/Derani/Cumming.

The LMGTE Pro class pole position went to the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of Rigon/Bird, whilst the sister # 71 example had an engine problem which curtailed its qualifying session. This meant that it had to start from the back of the grid, plus it incurred a 3 minute in-race Stop-Go penalty for a post qualifying engine change. 2nd quickest in the class was the # 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Lietz/Christensen, followed by the pair of Ford GTs. Top of the charts in the LMGTE Am class was the # 88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Bachler / Al Qubaisi / Heinemeier Hansson, from the similar # 78 KCMG entered car of Ried / Henzler / Camathias.

Fortunately, for race goers and competitors alike, Sunday dawned bright and sunny with a few light clouds in the sky, still chilly, but with no forecast of rain, and as the day progressed a reasonable ambient temperature. The Audi duo led from the rolling start, where, unlike in the ELMS race on Saturday, everybody managed to get away cleanly without any perceptible contact, but it wasn’t long before the Porsche duo were hunting them down and looking for a way past, particularly the # 1 car in the hands of Mark Webber who was in the lead within the first half hour, a position that the car held until around the 2 hour mark, when the car, now driven by Brendon Hartley, collided with the # 86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR whilst attempting to pass, putting both cars out of the race. Almost immediately, during the ensuing full course yellow, almost as if in sympathy, the # 8 Audi, which had slowed due to problems with the front axle generator unit, suddenly coasted to a halt in the middle of the track. Despite a technician being brought out to try and resolve the problem, it proved terminal and the car was retired with what Audi described as a “hybrid system malfunction”. This left the # 7 Audi and # 2 Porsche to carry the battle to the flag, with Audi winning the battle on the track to take the race win. However, after post race scrutineering the car was disqualified for the skid plate being worn more than the permitted 5mm, handing the win to the # 2 Porsche driven by Dumas / Jani / Lieb. The # 6 Toyota of Conway / Sarrazin / Kobayashi was thuis elevated to 2nd overall, and the # 13 LMP1 Privateer class winning Rebellion driven by Imperatori / Tuscher / Kraihamer, to the final overall podium spot. Audi have lodged an appeal, so the results remain provisional until after the appeal hearing.

In the LMP2 class the # 43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier JS P2-Nissan of Senna  / Albuquerque / Gonzalez may not have been the quickest qualifier, it was actually 3rd fastest, but it had consistency allied to a decent turn of speed, and suffered no misfortunes, to take the class win. The similar # 31 Extreme Speed Motorsports car, in the lurid bright green and black Patron Tequila livery, of Dalziel / Derani / Cumming, which had qualified 2nd quickest, finished where it started, whilst the # 26 G-Drive Oreca 05-Nissan of Rusinov / Berthon / Rast finished 3rd, thus the podium was the reverse of the top three starting order.

In the GT categories it was a good day for the AF Corse team and Ferrari. The pole sitting # 71 car was the class of the field, although it was kept honest by the # 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche in the early stages, until that car had a suspension problem that caused an unscheduled stop to rectify, which nullified its challenge. The drive of the class came from the # 51 Ferrari of Bruni / Calado, which came back from its 3 minute Stop-Go penalty (around 1½ laps) to finish 2nd in class, whilst the # 95 Aston Martin of Thiim / Sorensen / Turner took the final podium place. It was another AF Corse victory in the LMGTE Am class, with the win going to their # 53 458 GT2 driven by Perrodo / Collard / Aguas, with the # 98 Aston Martin of Lamy / Della Lana / Lauda taking the runner-up spot, and the # 50 Larbre Competition Corvette of Ragues / Yamagishi / Ruberti took the final podium position.

Overall and LMP1 Podium (Provisional pending appeal)

1st         # 2, Porsche Team, Porsche 919 Hybrid, R. Dumas / N. Jani / M. Lieb
2nd        # 6, Toyota Gazoo Racing, Toyota TS050 Hybrid, M. Conway / S. Sarrazin / K. Kobayashi
3rd         # 13, Rebellion Racing, Rebellion R-One-AER, A. Imperatori / M. Tuscher / D. Kraihamer

LMP1 Privateer Podium

1st         # 13, Rebellion Racing, Rebellion R-One-AER, A. Imperatori / M. Tuscher / D. Kraihamer
2nd        # 12, Rebellion Racing, Rebellion R-One-AER, N. Piquet Jr. / N. Prost / N. Heidfeld
3rd         # 4, Bykolles Racing Team, CLM P1/01-AER, S. Trummer / O. Webb / J. Rossiter

LMP2 Podium

1st         # 43, RGR Sport by Morand, Ligier JS P2-Nissan, B. Senna / P. Albuquerque / R. Gonzalez
2nd        # 31, Extreme Speed Motorsports, Ligier JS P2-Nissan, R. Dalziel / L.P. Derani / C. Cumming
3rd         # 26, G-Drive Racing, Oreca 05-Nissan, R. Rusinov / N. Berthon / R. Rast

LMGTE Pro Podium

1st         # 71, AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE, D. Rigon / S. Bird
2nd        # 51, AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE, G. Bruni / J. Calado
3rd         # 95, Aston Martin Racing, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, N. Thiim / M. Sorensen / D. Turner

LMGTE Am Podium

1st         # 83, AF Corse, Ferrari 458 GT2, F. Perrodo / E. Collard / R. Aguas
2nd        # 98, Aston Martin Racing, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, P. Lamy / P. Dalla Lana / M. Lauda
3rd         # 50, Larbre Competition, Chevrolet Corvette C7-R, P. Ragues / Y. Yamagishi / P. Ruberti

Keith Bluemel

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