Three hours into the six hour season-opener and it's Audi holding court at the front of the field.
The No.7 Audi led the first round of the 2015 WEC at the halfway stage this afternoon in an undulating and entertaining opening portion of the 6-hour opening round at Silverstone.
Porsche strong early until issues
The beginning of the race was largely controlled by Mark Webber in the No.17 Porsche 919 Hybrid. The Australian led from pole position and even two brief safety car periods to clear away the crashed Signatech Alpine didn’t halt the former F1 racers pace.
Webber’s progress was eventually halted by a rear drivetrain issue after 80 minutes. Despite the best efforts of the Porsche Team engineers, the car was officially retired in the second hour.
This initially left the way open for the sister 919 Hybrid then driven by Marc Lieb. The eventually handed over to Neel Jani, who then became embroiled in a sensational battle for the lead with Marcel Fassler’s Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
A fierce fight
With the Porsche’s extra mega-joule energy retrieval punchy the car incredibly quickly out of the Becketts/Maggots complex, but the Audi much quicker in the slower and mid-speed corners, the duel was a fascinating and entertaining scrap with the lead changing countless times as the two Swiss racers fought firmly but fairly.
The wheel-to-wheel to racing went on for the best part of 30-minutes but was broken up when first the Audi pitted to change to Andre Lotterer and then Jani relinquished the cockpit to Romain Dumas.
This left Toyota with a 1-2 at the front but with just seconds between the front four. Soon, Lotterer overtook Conway’s Toyota with an incisive pass at Club and set about reducing the gap to Davidson.
The rapid German soon hunted down Davidson, reducing the lead by at least a second a lap and eventually despatching the reigning World Champion going in to Village corner just before the three hour mark.
LMP2, GTE rundown
LMP2 was a straightforward affair as G-Drive Racing dominated the first three hours of the event. The pair of Ligier-Nissan LM P2 cars were initially on the back foot after Nicky Tandy in the KCMG ORECA 05 snatched the lead at the start. Soon though the superior pace of the Ligiers came to the fore and Sam Bird moved ahead, taking his team mate in the No.28 car, Pipo Derani with him.
After three hours the No.26 G-Drive Ligier in the hands of Roman Rusinov held a 35-second advantage over Ricard Gonzalez aboard the sister car. This was despite a quick spin from Rusinov as he attempted to put a lap on the delayed Strakka Dome which had spun in to the gravel at the very first corner.
The KCMG ORECA fell back in the second hour after an errant stone caused radiator damage on the new LMP2 car that Nick Tandy shares with fellow Brits Matt Howson and Richard Bradley.
The Tequila Patron ESM HPD LMP2 started by Ryan Dalziel and then taken over by reigning LMGTE Am champion David Heinemeier Hansson, placed third.
The LMGTE Pro category saw the No.92 Porsche Team Manthey squad lead while the No.98 Aston Martin driven by Paul Dalla Lana enjoyed a 45 second advantage in the LMGTE Am class.