2014 FIA WEC: Silverstone Six Hours GTE race report
Porsche Team Manthey scored an impressive one-two in the opening round of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone as the 2014 Porsche 911 RSR continued its strong start to the season.
In typically British changeable conditions, the #92 911 RSR of Marco Holzer, Frédéric Makowiecki, and Richard Lietz led home the sister #91 Porsche 991 of Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Pilet, and Nick Tandy after a torrential downpour curtailed the six-hour race with just under 30 minutes remaining.
The two Porsche 911 RSRs were the car to beat during the free practice sessions held on Good Friday. However, the #51 AF Corse Ferrari (the reigning FIA WEC champions) came back fighting in Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session, taking pole.
The #91 car would line up on the front row of the GTE-Pro grid after Pilet and Tandy set the required four timed laps. Behind them, the #92 RSR was only a further 0.33s behind with Holzer and Makowiecki taking the reigns in qualifying.
Getting underway in dry conditions at midday on Easter Sunday, the Ferrari initially held the two Porsches at bay. However, in a typically frenetic opening to a WEC six-hour race, Tandy was soon through before the run passed the old pits on lap 11.
Less than a lap later, Holzer had demoted the Ferrari further and the visibly faster 911 RSRs started to pull away in tandem. Tandy was able to put a bit of daylight between himself and his teammate however, a stop-go penalty (served after handing over to Bergmeister) briefly handed the lead to the #92 car, now piloted by Lietz.
It was around this time that the first ran shower hit the Silverstone circuit. On slick tyres on the damp track, Bergmeister was inspired regaining the top position after a series of fast laps.
The order would stay pretty much constant as the race passed the halfway mark, with the #92 car occasionally taking the lead during the pitstop phases only for the #91 RSR to regain a few laps later.
By now the track had dried again, and the third-placed Ferrari was drifting nearly 20 seconds behind the two Porsches. Then, with the clock ticking passed the five-hour mark a safety car was called after an accident for the sole remaining LMP1 Audi.
It looked as if the hard work put in by the two Porsches would be swept away as the train of cars lined up behind the safety car yet, as the GTE-Pro class competitors headed for the pitlane, a stroke of luck would fall Weissach’s way.
The #51 Ferrari was delayed by a flash fire (thankfully without injury to any pit crew). With the track going back to green soon after, the Ferrari wasn’t able to get back on terms with the two Porsches and instead found itself falling into the clutches of the #97 Aston Martin.
Meanwhile, the rain was starting to fall harder than ever, soaking the track. After a second pitstop for intermediate tyres, the order looked set, with the #91 911 RSR (with Pilet at the wheel) 20 seconds ahead of Makowiecki’s #92 car.
Yet, with the rain intensifying, Porsche Team Manthey chose to bring in the lead 911 for full wet tyres. Unfortunately for Tandy, Bergmeister, and Pilet, the conditions had deteriorated so much that a second safety car was called.
The #92 car stayed out and, with 26 minutes remaining, the race director ordered the red flags to fly. A few minutes later, the race was declared over, handing victory to Makowiecki (on his Porsche debut), Holzer, and Lietz.
Pilet, Tandy, and Bergmeister would share the second step of the podium, with the Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage getting the upper hand over the AF Corse Ferrari in the battle for third.