Words and images by Rajan Jangda of Chequered Flag Media
The Sideshow Before The Storm
Part 2 of 4
Silverstone ELMS Race Report. Ok let’s honest, it’s not a sideshow. The European Le Mans Series (ELMS) is a closely related cousin of the WEC and this year is fielding a healthy grid. It’s quite some achievement to field a field that is a healthy field even if more than 25% of that field seems to come from AF Corse! This year they have expanded from the Ferrari 458s in GTE and GTC with two Oreca Nissans, which has probably fuelled the long running fan-speculation that they may possibly be running Ferrari LMP1s in 2017. Don’t hold your breath.
There is also the new LMP3 class which replaces the accident prone LMPC class providing a better looking entry point into LMP racing. Not to mention the inclusion of the only man capable of getting caught speeding in the pitlane whilst on a bicycle, Sir Chris Hoy, who is also set to make his Le Mans 24hrs debut in June. Having struggled in British GT last year, Sir Chris has clearly done some hard work as he was showing more signs of pace throughout the weekend – even when he pulled the Nissan LMP1 on his bicycle!
The race started with an almost comically unfortunate incident at turn one: the Pegasus Racing Morgan of Jonathan Coleman swerved to the inside of turn 2 to avoid the spinning AF Corse Oreca of Krill Ladygin at turn 1, only to lose control on the grass and slide into the front of the very same car he had just avoided! Equally unfortunate was the AF Corse Ferrari of Thomas Flohr, spinning before even reaching the first turn and subsequently retiring.
Less unfortunate was the Greaves Motorsport Gibson 015S Nissan. They dominated proceedings by leading all but one of the practice sessions; scoring pole and dominating much of the race ahead of the Jota Sport Gibson. Both Gibson chassis were of course updated Zytek Z11SNs and were only really troubled by the Oreca 05 of the Thiriet by TDS team which completed the podium. In GTE the Gulf Racing Porsche won from fifth on the grid. The most trouble they seemed to have all weekend was the team representative taking 40 seconds to pop open his bottle of Champagne on the podium! Completing the podium were the JWM Ferrari and the #55 AF Corse Ferrari – one of eight cars entered by AF Corse! The strategy by AF Corse may at some stage be to use their slower cars to blockade the track and let their faster cars past perhaps?
In GTC , the “it’s GT3 but not GT3, but still GT3” class, we had a GT3 behaving like a GTE car, because the TDS Racing BMW Z4 seemed to be more at home amongst the GTE cars on pace. It was virtually untouchable all weekend in the GTC running being one of only three GTC cars finishing.
The #64 AF Corse Ferrari was a distant second while the Gulf Racing UK Lamborghini Gallardo took third seemingly by surviving. However, all eyes were on the new LMP3 class, despite the fact that only the Ginetta chassis were running on the weekend. They were powered by Nissan V8s and had a thunderously deep and pleasing sound. They also were very pleasing on the eye – a definite improvement from their Courage based Oreca predecessors. The class also had a popular first- ever victor in the shape of Sir Chris Hoy and his teammate Charlie Robinson in the Team LNT run car. As mentioned before, Sir Chris appears to have vastly improved as a driver, comfortably maintaining good pace throughout the race and definitely a changed driver from last year. Following them home was the sister Team LNT car, completing the podium was the car entered by the University of Bolton which was a good advertisement for Motorsport in higher education.
Check back for part 3 tomorrow.