In the opening of the 2017 World Endurance Cup sports car racing series, Toyota beat the reigning world champion Porsche in LMP1 – the top class at Silverstone. In LMP2, which has become a spec series this year Chan Racing won. Ford led GT Pro, ahead of Ferrari and Porsche. Ferrari won GT Am, ahead of Aston Martin and Porsche.
The race – pure England at this time of year (or any time) – was run under mixed weather conditions, forcing teams to choose between tires – slicks, so-called intermediates or rain rubber in changing conditions that forced drivers to extract the best performance out of the world’s most exciting racing machines.
After six-hours in the English gray with grueling competition fought by arguably the best drivers in the world, Toyota left the Porsche team looking at Japanese taillights in the fastest, most expensive LMP1 class. You wouldn’t know how decisive the win was because no-one in the Toyota paddock was celebrating even when it was apparent that a win was in hand laps before the end of the race. There is history – agonizing history and heartbreaking drama here – since Toyota at Le Mans last year lost the most famous sports car race in the world on the last lap. Hence the staid gazing at the telemetric computers in the Toyota garage until the checkered flag dropped.
Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima and Toyota will be added to the base of the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy as the Japanese team won to take the lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship title race. Buemi, who was reeling in the leading Porsche of Brendon Hartley after the last pitstops of the race, quickly closed an 8 second gap. With 12 minutes left on the clock the Swiss driver dived down the inside of the New Zealander, a move that had the large Silverstone crowd holding their collective breaths. Once clear, Buemi opened a six second gap by the chequered flag.
Porsche were second and third while the no 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 finished 4th in class but 23rd overall after Jose Maria Lopez spun off in the damp conditions and hit the barriers hard at Copse. The Argentine managed to bring the badly damaged car back to the pits. Toyota mechanics patched the rolling wreck and Mike Conway rejoined the race to bring the car home. The British driver did set a new lap record for LMP1 at Silverstone with a 1m39.656 on lap 4 of the race, beating the previous record by 0.647 seconds.
While Toyota’s Davidson, Nakajima and Buemi lead the FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Championship, Porsche lead the manufacturers championship with 33 points to Toyota’s 26.5 points thanks to its two podium places.
The next race will be Round 2 at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on Saturday 6 May.