FIA WEC: Toyota, Ferrari score top class poles at Silverstone

Leave a comment

Toyota Racing secured the pole position for the FIA World Endurance Championship season opener at Silverstone. The team’s No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid, driven by Alexander Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Stephane Sarrazin, edged the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro by just 0.005 of a second once average laps were taken into account.

“I am bit surprised with pole but we knew it was going to be close,” Wurz said. “The reason I am surprised is not that I didn’t believe in our performance, but we had a lot of discussion and debate about the set-up. Obviously our decision turned out to be a good one and worked really well. Kazuki’s lap was great; he was really on it. We worked hard to make the car consistent and so far it has paid off. But the focus is fully on the race because that is where the points are.”

The Toyota’s was a 1:42.774 to the Audi’s 1:42.779. The best of the new Porsche 919 Hybrids, the No. 14 car (Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb), clocked in third.

Mark Webber’s FIA WEC debut will occur from P6 in the sister No. 20 Porsche, which he’ll co-drive with Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard.

The lone Morgan Nissan in the reduced four-car LMP2 class, entered by G-Drive Racing and run by the OAK squad, took that class pole. The No. 26 of Oliver Pla, Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov headed a trio of ORECA 03 Nissans.

In GTE, Ferrari took both the Pro and Am class poles with the venerable F458 Italia. The No. 51 AF Corse entry has the top spot in the hands of veterans Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander; the “young gun” second car of Davide Rigon and James Calado is fourth on the grid, with the two factory Porsche 911 RSRs sandwiched in-between.

AF Corse’s 2013-spec Am class car, the No. 81 driven by Stephen Wyatt, Michele Rugolo and 2013 GP2 runner-up Sam Bird (like Calado an ex-open-wheeler), has the top spot in that class ahead of one of the Prodrive-run Aston Martin Vantages, as Aston Martin Racing celebrates its 10th anniversary this season.

More information on this weekend’s race can be found on the official FIA WEC website.

Qualifying times

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
1 Comment

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.