A couple of hours after the F1 race ended in China, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) season began at Silverstone in England. After watching the first 30 minutes of the race on the computer I went to Church for Easter Sunday then came back home and watched the remainder of the race by streaming the video to the TV via Chromecast (more about the video later). Built around some of my tweets during the race, here are my thoughts on the 2014 WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone.
Heck of a 3 way fight for the GTE lead but it’s almost time to head to church. Back later for the rest of the #6hSilverstone
Early on there was a very tight race for the lead in GTE Pro between the two Porsches and one of the AF Corse Ferraris. Just before I left for Church, the three were nose to tail and pushing very hard. When I got back home, the GTE race as well as the LMP1 race had spread out with the Toyotas and Porsches taking a firm grip on the LMP1 and GTE Pro leads. On the other hand, the LMP2 race was still a going concern between the KCMG and G-Drive cars; it would remain that way until it was split up by penalties.
Even though his career was winding down around the time I became interested in sports car racing, Derek Bell has always been one of my favorite sports car racers and it was good to hear him drop in to Radio Le Mans’commentary booth and talk about the control issues the factory LMP1 cars seemed to be having in the wet conditions and how they could be attributed to braking/harvesting and power application of the hybrid systems. It was certainly something to take into consideration given that the while the conditions were slick they weren’t really bad and some of the LMP1s were truly having a hard time staying on the track.
If both tubs are written off, it sounds like Audi could be behind the 8-ball going into Spa and maybe Le Mans.
The team having the most problem keeping their LMP1s on the track were Audi. By the halfway mark, they crashed both of their R18s out of the race with heavy damage. Both cars had to be retired due to tub damage and it was reported that both tubs were written off. It was further reported that Audi’s Brad Kettler said that it was the first time he could remember that an Audi prototype monocoque broke. This race also marked the first time since the 2011 Petit Le Mans that a two car Audi prototype team failed to finish a race. If both tubs are indeed written off, it could definitely put Audi behind going into the next race at Spa and possibly the 24 Hours of Le Mans by limiting their testing and developing time. It was indeed a very un-Audi like race for them; as an Audi fan I hope that they shake off today’s poor performance and come back stronger.
Right decision to stop this one, too much water to safely race. Running around behind the safety car for 30min would be senseless.
Late in the race it began to rain and with about 40 minutes left to race the officials decided to bring out the safety car. At first I didn’t agree with the decision but soon the bottom dropped out and there really was too much water on the track to race safely; the LMP cars in particular were leaving wakes in the standing water. With around 20 minutes to go, race control red flagged the race and called it a day. It was the right decision, there wasn’t much time left in the race and the weather and conditions clearly weren’t going to improve before the the race time was up. There was no sense in just parading around behind the safety car for the last 20 minutes.
Great day for Toyota – P1, P2 overall.; or Porsche – P3 overall, P1 & P2 in GTE Pro; and for Aston Martin – P3 in GTE Pro, P1 & P2 in GTE Am
It was a great day for Toyota; I’d go so far as to call it a dominating day for Toyota. Before Audi dropped out they were clearly faster than Audi and although Porsche got close to taking second a couple of times Toyota held on to first and second in LMP1 rather comfortably. Even though their low downforce configuration wasn’t optimal for the race (it was clearly slower in the wet conditions), Porsche still made the best of their LMP1 debut and took third place when Audi faltered. Porsche dominated in GTE Pro, taking first and second decisively. While one car dropped out in LMP1, I suspect they were still happy with their performance. Aston Martin had a pretty good day as well, eventually taking third in GTE Pro from AF Corse’s Ferrari and comfortably taking first and second in GTE-Am. They had to work at it in GTE Pro, but they were clearly the cars to beat in GTE-Am.
The WEC is not shown on TV here in the United States, but it is streamed live on the WEC’s website with commentary from Radio Le Mans. During previous seasons, the streaming video was live but for this season they decided to put it behind a pay wall; it costs 19.99 Euros ($27.62 at the time I paid for it) for the season. If you are a die hard sports car/endurance racing fan it isn’t a bad price, but with the series still growing I would have thought they would have kept it free for a few more years, making it easier to bring in new fans. When it was free, I refrained from complaining about streaming issues but now that I’m a paying customer I expect more. During qualifying, the audio levels weren’t set properly for a majority of the coverage; you could barely hear the commentary because the ambient track noise was set too high. That problem was eventually fixed but during the race (especially around 2-3 hours in) I experienced a lot of buffering issues; that problem went away as well and the stream behaved for the rest of the race. When it was free it wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, but if I’m going to pay for it, the stream needs to be better quality. I hope they’ve got all of the issues sorted out prior to Spa.
The race provided a wonderful morning and early afternoon of motor sports enjoyment and was a good start to the World Endurance Championship season. Toyota, Porsche, and Aston Martin have set the bar for the rest of the season and it will be fun to see how the rest of the teams and manufacturers respond going in to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and before that the 6 Hours of Spa. The track marshals and fans at Silverstone today deserve a special mention. The weather was cold and wet but the marshals did an outstanding job in trying conditions and the spectators hung around in great numbers to cheer on the racers.
I can’t wait for the rest of the WEC season!