Words by Rajan Jangda of Chequered Flag Media Images by Rajan Jangda and John Mountney
Part 4 of 4
Silverstone 6 Hrs WEC Tourist Trophy Race. A rumble turns into a collective roar, and 29 cars stream through Abbey and towards The Loop but I can only see 5 LMP1 cars. One of them is missing – the #7 Audi which had an electrical issue at the start and fell down the order. You’d think that this would compromise the car, but it would only take two laps for it to catch back on to the leading pack of LMP1 cars , setting a lap record along the way.
Meanwhile the Strakka was in strife on the first corner, spinning into the gravel and the Bykolles CLM was dropping down behind the GT cars with some sort of problem. This car would more or less have a bad day at the office. Seeing how many times ‘CLM #4’ appeared in the race notes showed how bad it was. This is something I did notice while trackside, but unless you have a headset tuned into Radio Le Mans, you only have the commentary on the track PA system, the LED screens and your own inspection to know these things. Even then I knew that car was having a bad day. It ended up only covering 55% of the distance covered by the winning cars.
The #1 Toyota had briefly mugged the #8 Audi for third, being passed back by the time they got back to Vale. Meanwhile the #17 Porsche was going off into the distance and it would go on to stretch its lead to 17 seconds. It was all going to plan for Porsche until I clocked it going in for a pitstop on one of the LED screens only to see it wheeled into the garage. As I wouldn’t be seeing the car again that day, I could now just read a report or a time sheet and pretend I knew it all. I think it would ruin this report though as I am giving the perspective of a photographer at track side even if as a result I may miss the odd fact.
One thing was clear, once again we had the battle of opposites going on between the Audis and the Porsches at the front, with the Toyota offering a sort of halfway house. We were treated to a great battle between three manufacturers using three different forms of hybrid energy: the Toyota with its super-capacitor system; Audi using a flybrid flywheel system and Porsche using a battery pack system. Porsche have managed to squeeze every bit of power possible from their system, making their car visibly the quickest in a straight line.
When it came to a wheel to wheel confrontation with the Audi, it could simply pass at any point on the straights while the Audis showed aero dominance as they easily re-passed in the corners. Toyota didn’t look to be going as fast but as the race went on they found more and more pace in their cars, supporting beliefs that they were exploring the limits of their cars as opposed to sandbagging. The Audis were just unworldly though the turns showing so much speed that it pretty much said it all when one of them passed the #1 Toyota around the outside with no trouble at all through the second turn of the Becketts complex. Car #7 was visibly in a different league during the middle part of the race.
I would have captured this moment had it not have been for the strong wind almost blowing my camera clean out of my hands! While the LMP1 cars were busy battling each other, it seems myself and the other photographers were having our own battle with Mother Nature. The wind chose to be at its worst the moment I raised my camera to take aim. I believe this is called the Law of Sod.
Most endurance races involving LMP and GT cars on track at the same see the closest battles in GT where the wheel to wheel entertainment keeps us all on the edge of our seats. Despite the GT classes being tighter than Will.i.am’s pants however, it was the LMP1 class that stole the show completely and had people talking about the WEC action on a weekend where the F1 race being run on the same day was good for one thing only: a good snooze.
As I said before, I am a photographer providing the photographer’s point of view, but even without the information that those in the media centre had; a lack of timing info and commentary and just a vague understanding of the proceedings by sixth sense and osmosis, I knew this race was going down to the wire. When I saw Audi #7 and Porsche #18 going blow for blow with each other I knew it was for the lead.
In the end the race was won by the car which suffered on the opening lap – the #7 Audi, but victory was almost snatched away as it was given a stop and go penalty with 20 minutes left – a decision seen as a cynical one – and the 2nd place #18 Porsche was only around four and a half seconds behind as the chequer was waved. It would be unfair to say Toyota were off the pace like some were suggesting, as a late race fuel stop cost the #1 car second place. We could have had two cars closing in on the #7 Audi towards the end instead of one.
In the LMP2 class the G-Drive Racing Ligiers eased their way to a 1-2 finish with the #26 car leading the #28 car. The #30 ESM HPD did finish 3rd on the day, but they were later excluded on a post race technical infraction thus promoting the #42 Strakka Dome to third.
In the closely fought GT Pro class the #51 AF Corse Ferrari lead from the #91 Porsche and the #71 Ferrari, while in GT Am the #98 Aston Martin won from the #83 and #72 Ferraris.
The day wasn’t over for me however as I then went across the pitlane to catch the podium celebrations. I looked at the difference in height between the podium and the ground, and I thought to myself, “How on earth am I going to shoot over that?”. I quickly captured the drivers getting out of their cars and looked around to see that all the other photographers were standing on top of a tyre wall so I did the only logical thing and placed myself on this wobbly platform.
My first international event, the Silverstone 6 Hrs WEC Tourist Trophy Race has been hard to put into words: it was a surreal mind bending experience which I still have trouble finding adjectives for. I probably never will but I enjoyed each moment of it and look forward to doing it again at Spa-Francorchamps. If that race is anything like as good as this one, we will be in for a season to talk about with our grand children as one of the classics!