This is an illustrated report of my visit to the FIA WEC Endurance race at Silverstone this past weekend. If you want actual race coverage, you should look HERE
Last year’s race was fun, so I popped over to Silverstone again yesterday to the opening round of the World Endurance Championship. I had a weekend ticket, but for various family-related reasons I couldn’t drag the kids over on Saturday. Judging by the weather, it was probably just as well. There was snow, rain, sunshine and hail all in a 12 hour period. Even the 4WD Safety Car was caught out, and subjected to appropriate ridicule:
I had found my preferred parking spot about 10 seconds walk from the gate behind the pit straight grandstand, and immediately jumped on one of the double-decker buses providing transit around the circuit to the back of the Wing complex where the pits were located. Upon alighting from the bus, I noticed a large number of people heading towards the Pit Lane. I tagged along, and very soon found myself in the heart of the autographing action:
I don’t collect autographs, otherwise I would have gathered quite a few. It was good to see the drivers interacting with the fans, though, and even better to get a peek directly into the garages as they prepared the cars for the big race.
The guy on the right here is former F1 driver Vitaly Petrov. You’d think a Russian guy would be able to handle the cold. It was several degrees above freezing, after all:
Some autographs were more sought after than others:
Here’s a new Toyota TS050 being fettled:
What’s up with the design of the front brakes? ENHANCE:
The (imaginary) prizes for most yellow race car and best mechanic hair were easily claimed by the Larbre Competition Corvette team:
I was a little late to the Pit Lane party, so some of the teams were already packing up the tables and ushering the drivers away. I therefore didn’t see any of the Porsche LMP1 guys, and spotting the Ford GT drivers required familiarity with what they looked like (rather than just seeing who was sat at the tables). Harry Tinknell here had just won the ELMS race at Silverstone on Saturday, so he was having a busy weekend (a few of the other drivers were also pulling double-duty in ELMS):
By the time I got all the way down to the Porsche garage,the PA system was announcing that the Pit Lane needed to be cleared, and there were a group of large shouty men on hand to usher us all back out again. I stayed ahead of them long enough to snap a few more shots and then headed back to the Paddock to see the temporary buildings and trucks that the race crews haul around.
It’s good to see Ford putting the effort into a full WEC assault, with hospitality to match:
One of the great things about WEC is the access that fans can have. You can’t just walk into the hospitality suites or the garages, but the team members can be seen moving between the two fairly regularly. I almost walked straight into Mark Webber as he came through a doorway towards me. He was so close I could have reached out and touched him. Dr Fritz says I shouldn’t do that any more, so Mark went untouched, for now... I was also caught up by the approaching horde around this McDreamy guy, who was present to oversee his own team and wave the green flag to start the race:
It was nearly time for the start of the race, so I jumped on a bus to head around to the Pit Straight to see the cars prepare to set off. I thought I had plenty of time, but I hadn’t taken into account the route the bus would take. It slowly chugged around the entire circuit, and by the time I finally got off at the nearest stop, I could hear the PA burst into life with “Gentlemen,start your engines!” This was not a good sign. I was caught in no-man’s land, with no easy access to a view of the circuit. By the time the cars roared around to start the race, I was still behind an unused (and locked) grandstand, and somewhat annoyed. Fortunately, when the entire grid of the WEC is charging past, no one can hear you scream…
The grandstand I aimed for turned out to be for BRDC members only, so I ended up trudging across the muddy grass to Village. It had a good view of the sweeping S-bends from the start of the lap and the Wellington Straight, so after watching for a few minutes I headed off to view elsewhere. An hour later in front of the very spot where I had been watching, the leading Porsche 919 of Brendon Hartley had a woopsie.
I was on another bus when it happened, so we came around the inner access road in time to see two Porsches buried in the tyre wall and an unrelated number 8 Audi stranded on the circuit right next to them. Things were getting crazy out there. I popped into the Wing building to grab some lunch and watch a Toyota on the big screen using it’s rear tyre as a flail to destroy it’s own bodywork. Ouch.
I later spotted the number 1 Porsche 919 and the number 84 Porsche 911 GTE which collided at Village in the WEC Technical Area, otherwise known as the “naughty corner”:
Just outside the Wing building, you can watch the cars leaving the pits. Once they go past the end of the pit speed limit (60 km/h), the acceleration and noise is quite extraordinary. The Ford GTs were certainly the loudest (watching them pass at full speed on the Hangar Straight was causing some strange vibrations in my inner ear), and the Audi LMP1s were strangely quiet while devastatingly fast. The best sound, however, was reserved for the Larbre Competition Corvette.
Here’s the number 2 Porsche looking a bit muddy after spinning with a Ford GT:
Richie Stanaway got out in this Aston, but the engine let go before the end of the race and he was stranded on Hanger Straight. Fortunately, he could just jump on the bus for a mystery tour before being dropped off at the pits:
I got around the circuit and saw the cars from a number of different angles. I also used a digital compact camera to take a large number of photos. Some of these photos even had cars in them. The album of the not-completely-terrible ones (if you haven’t seen enough already) is here:
A great day out. Well done to the WEC and all who sail in her. Now I just need to watch the highlights to see all the other stuff I missed...
Photo credits: Seriously? Do you think a professional could have been involved?