Arguably the most anticipated series on the 2014 calendar got underway this Easter as the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) roared (or whispered if you’re in the P1 classes) in to Silverstone.
All eyes would be on Porsche, with fans and media alike keen to see how they would compare to the all conquering Audi squad. However it was first blood to the Toyota team as the combined times of Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima saw the Japanese marquee claim pole for the opener.
In the P2 class the spoils fell to the Oak-Morgan Nissan squad ahead of the 3 similarly powered Orecas, in a class that would boast just 4 entries following the withdrawal of Strakka and Millennium from the opening rounds.
In the GT classes Ferrari were first with the AF Course machines of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Villander taking pole in the Pro category, with the GT Am pole going to a similar machine which also managed to qualify ahead of the works Aston Martins who, by their standards had quite a miserable qualifying.
Sunday, however is when the points are awarded and, with plenty of action up and down the order due to the changeable weather the fans braving the cold and wet did not leave disappointed.
One team that did leave Northamptonshire looking to forget about the Easter weekend was the reigning champions Audi. 2 DNFs both as a result of running off track is not the way to start a serious title defence.
With the Ingolstadt marquee packing up it was left to Toyota to fight it out with the “returnees” however it was the Japanese squad who claimed a 1-2 victory with Anthony Davidson, Nicholas Lapierre, and Sebastian Buemi, taking the honours from the pole winning Wurz, Nakajima, Stephanne Sarrizain car by one lap and, a further lap ahead of the remaining Porsche of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brenden Hartley after a heavy rainstorm half an hour from the scheduled finish brought about a red flag.
The P2 battle went the way of the Oak-Morgan Nissan ahead of the Orecas but was decided in part by way of pit lane offences, the 2nd in class KCMG entry first was a stop / go penalty due to speeding in the pit lane, the second saw the team docked a lap as a result of an unsafe release of the car at another service.
The Oak (driven by Olivier Pla, Romain Rustinov and Julien Canal) was not without problems of its own suffering from headlight issues which required the front of their bodywork to be changed.
The action in the GT classes was a bit of an upturn from qualifying as Porsche took the fight to the Ferraris to lead home a 1-2 in class with Frederic Makowiecki, Marco Holzer and Richard Lietz leading home Patrick Pilet, Jorg Bergmeister and Nick Tandy, Pilet pitted just prior to the safety cars final intervention prior to the red flag dropping him behind Makowiecki who was due to pit, but unable to as it was closed when the safety car deployed.
Aston Martin took the GTE AM class again finishing in a 1-2 formation the Kurt Thiim, Kristian Poulsen, David Heinemeier car taking the honours.
On the back of this victory some people are now touting Toyota as favourites for the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. I think it’s a little early myself, Audi are not daft but not unbeatable and Porsche have proved that they arent just making up the numbers.
We look forward now to Spa in early May and with just one thought, what if Peugeot were still competing?
© – All pictures copyright Glen Smith & Adam Tudor-Lane