The summer break is over, and it is back to business for the Silverstone Round 3 of the World Endurance Championship. With six 911 RSRs in the field, there is plenty for the Porsche enthusiast to see.
The works Porsche team is well ahead on points in the tables thanks to double points resulting from their win at Le Mans in the GTE Pro class. In the same way, the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing 911 RSR, fresh from its GTE Am class win at Le Mans, also leads the tables in its class. So for this reason, these class leaders will be desperate to build, or at the least maintain, their positions.
The GTE Am class is today no longer just for gentlemen drivers, it is in many instances seen as the feeder class for young, aspiring and talented drivers who have shown potential in the sport. In this respect, the likes of Julien Andlauer, Matt Campbell, Matteo Cairoli and Giorgio Roda, spring to mind. Benjamin Barker has already made a name for himself and can almost be considered an ‘old hand’ in this group. The more ‘senior’ drivers here include Christian Ried, who this writer regards as the equal of some works drivers, Michael Wainwright and Gianluca Roda, the Italian racing veteran. The most successful of the GTE Am drivers, and the one who has been behind the wheel of more 911s in racing than anyone else, is Jörg Bergmeister, who is the lead driver in the #56 Project 1 911 RSR. Bergmeister will share the car with Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti.
The first 90-minute Free Practice session (FP1) is set for 12h15 and the second 90-minute session will take place at 16h25 until 17h55, all on Friday. FP3 is scheduled for Saturday morning at 09h00-10h00. GTE Pro and Am Qualifying consists of a 20-minute blast from 12h00 to 12h20 on Saturday with the LMP1 and LMP2 Qualifying taking place from 12h25 to 12h45.
To be honest, the FP1 session did not reveal any secrets, because the teams were all just running their cars to see that everything was functioning well. The lap times confirmed this, so there was nothing to tell from those. However, during the session, while standing in the grassy area that separates the track at Abbey from the pit lane exit, I noticed an LMP2 car have a coming together with the #86 Gulf Racing 911 RSR as they approached The Loop. The LMP2 car stayed on the track and turned right into The Loop, but he cut up the Porsche in the process and I just saw the RSR heading left, where he should have been turning right. Team boss Michael Wainwright was at the wheel of the Porsche, and couldn’t have been too pleased with this unprovoked contact, because the Gulf team haven’t had a lot of luck at Silverstone. Fortunately for the #86 car, he was just forced into a spin onto the tarred area on the outside of the track, only breaking a front splitter, but the outcome could have been quite different.
The other Porsches all seemed to survive the FP1 session unscathed, a session that was punctuated by two red-flag incidents. The one incident involved the #1 Rebellion driven by Bruno Senna, and the result was a comprehensively crunched car – the mechanics will be working late on that one. The other red flag was for the #4 ByKolles car, towards the end of the session.
By the time the FP2 session kicked off at 16h25, the #86 Porsche RSR was declared fit and healthy and it proceeded to put in some good times. In fact, Porsches filled three of the top four places in the GTE Am class by the end of the session, with the #88 finishing first, #77 in third, and the #86 in third place. In the GTE Pro class it was a different story, with the #92 Porsche in sixth place and the #91 car in eighth place. The Pro Porsches seldom shine during the practice sessions, as they usually spend this time testing set ups and tyres as well as the systems, so one shouldn’t read too much into this.
The weather looks to be fair throughout the weekend, which won’t favour the Porsches, but the performance of these cars in the preceding rounds of the WEC 2018/2019 Super Season has been excellent. With this in mind, the racing is expected to be really tight.
The ACO has just published a press release with the provisional dates of the races post the 2018/2019 Super Season. For reasons not explained, the Silverstone race in 2019 has been reduced to a 4-hour race, and will take place on 1 September. The full provisional 2019/2020 season calendar** is as follows:
|1 September 2019||4 Hours of Silverstone (Great Britain)|
|13 October 2019||6 Hours of Fuji (Japan)|
|17 November 2019||4 Hours of Shanghai (China)|
|14 December 2019||8 Hours of Bahrain (Bahrain)|
|1 February 2020||6 Hours of Sao Paulo (Brazil)|
|XX March 2020||1000 Miles of Sebring (8 hours) (USA) *|
|3 May 2020||6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium)|
|13-14 June 2020||24 Hours of Le Mans (France)|
* to be confirmed
** Pending approval from the FIA World Motor Sport Council
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale