Porsche took a dominant one-two around their home race at the Nurburgring. Toyota Gazoo Racing had no respose as, after leading for most of the first hour, the Porsches disappeared with nearly a lap lead. The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing LMP2 car also had an easy race to victory. None of the other cars could close in the gap to challenge for the win, so the team converted their inherited pole position into the race victory. The GTE classes delivered the predicted Porsche/Ferrari battles. Ferrari came out on top in the Pro class with the #51 AF Corse whilst Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 did a splendid job for their first victory of the season.

The action of the race started before the green flag dropped as disaster hit the #8 Toyota. On the formation lap, Sebastien Buemi had a fuel pump failure that saw the team bringing the car into the pits to replace the part. This instantly turned their race into one of damage limitation as they fought back from the back of the grid. They ended five laps down but managed to classify fourth overall, only losing 13 points to their championship rivals in the Porsche #2.

The LMP1 race very quickly became a inter-team battle as Porsche clearly have a pace advantage with their high aerodynamic kit. Due to pick pick ups of rubber the two Porsche were suffering from aero degradation that created a “yo-yo” effect for which car was leading. Both of the cars were evenly matched pace wise and presented a fantastically close race to the chequered flag. Just 1.6 seconds separated Timo Bernhard and Andre Lotterer as the chequered flag fell.

For the first time this season, both LMP1 teams were running the high-downforce aero packages on their cars. It became clear by the end of the 6 Hours of Nurburgring that Porsche had a pace advantage over Toyota Gazoo Racing with this aero kit. Toyota will need to spend some time over the summer trying to improve that if they wish to have any chance of catching Porsche or fighting them for the World Endurance Championships.

The race behind the #38 was where the action was in the LMP2 class. Nicolas Lapierre once again showed his speed with some fantastic stints for the #36 Signatech Alpine that helped Gustavo Menezes, Tristian Gommendy and he get third place in class. Gommendy’s stints in the middle of the race were also a big contributing factor to help Lapierre pass and extend a lead from the #13 Vaillante Rebellion crew.

Rebellion had shown they had a strong pace behind the #38 car. Bruno Senna, Julien Canal and Filipe Alburquerque drove to a competitive second place whilst the sister #13 battled valiantly with the #36 and the #37 that challenged for their then third place in class. The #13 finished just off the podium in fourth place.

Although a difficult final race for the team, the #4 ByKolles Racing did see the chequered flag, classifying 14th overall. From their side of things, the race was fairly uneventful and they had an incident and garage time-free six hour race to the flag. Only one car retired from the race. The #35 Signatech Alpine suffered damage that would have taken too long to repair. They dropped out of the race just before the halfway point.

The thrilling track battles came from the GTE classes. AF Corse and Porsche GT Team had a tough battle for the lead of class in the first hour. Frederic Makowiecki came out on top of that battle to see the Porsche get ahead. However, around the halfway mark James Calado pulled off a stunning move passed the then-leading #91 Porsche GT to claim the class victory. There looked like there would be another inter-team battle between Porsches as Kevin Estre was closing in on the sister car #92 with Richard Lietz on board. However there were not enough laps for Estre to demote Lietz and Makowiecki off the second step of the podium.

At the back of the grid was the battle of BoP. Championship rivals #97 Aston Martin Racing and #67 Ford Chip Ganassi kept ending up nose to tail on track. However, it is assumed that the BoP advantage Aston had coming into this weekend gave them a pace advantage on the straights. Daniel Serra kept both the #66 and #67 at bay for a long duration of time by driving defensively and using the extra pace they had on the straights to get far enough ahead that Ford could not challenge them. Olivier Pla had to get very clever with his driving line, compromising his entrance into corner to get a much better exit to try and get closer to the Aston so their pace advantage did not matter.

In the end, the #67 lead the trio over the line, taking up fifth, sixth and seventh in class. This gives Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx an extra four points in the championship battle with Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Daniel Serra as we head into the summer break.

The fight for the lead in Am was exhilarating from green flag to chequered. From pole, the #98 Aston Martin Racing car of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda lead the way, gaining just over a minute advantage on the field by the 90-minute mark. But Porsche and Ferrari had proven through the practice sessions that they has better pace this weekend, and the race was no exception. Matteo Cairoli was a man on a mission as he chased down the #98 in the second half of the race. With a better pace, he managed to pass the Aston Martin and extend a competitive lead to the end of the race.

But Miguel Molina also saw his opportunity this weekend. Within the final hour of the race, Molina in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari was in hot pursuit of at least a podium, if not the class win. He deposited the Clearwater Racing #61 with ease before chasing down Dalla Lana for the second step of the podium. The Aston Martin had no power in which to stop the rapid pace of the Spanish driver and he cut down an 18 second lead to a 4.6 second lead in 30 minutes. Had there have been an extra five minutes of the race the Dempsey-Proton Porsche and the Spirit of Race Ferrari would at least crossed the line nose to tail.

After Porsche dominated Friday, Saturday belonged to Toyota. Taking the fastest lap in final practice and in qualifying, Jose Maria Lopez helped take the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing car to pole position for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring. The close fights for pole position continued down the field, with the biggest advantage a pole sitter had was 0.4 seconds. Both the #26 G-Drive Racing and the #98 Aston Martin Racing cars continue to have an unbroken streak of pole positions this season, whilst Porsche GT Team made it four different manufacturers on pole in Pro in the first four rounds.

Lopez was a man on a mission after returning to the #7 car for the first time since his crash at the 6 Hours of Silverstone. He proved to the team why he should be in that car by taking the fastest lap in both free practice three and qualifying. Giving Kamui Kobayashi a two-tenth advantage on the second-placed Porsche #2 at the driver change over, it was a nice simple job for the Japanese driver to set a relative lap time that gave them pole position.

Timo Bernhard tried his hardest to close the gap on the Toyota team, but traffic meant he could get Brendon Hartley and his average lap time any closer than 0.154 seconds. The advantage for the #2 car is that it was not their championship rival Toyota who took the pole position point today, and tomorrow they have the sister Porsche between them. Hartley stated that he hoped team orders would not come into play with so much of the season left, but it can be assumed that Porsche will not risk their championship-contending car losing points to Toyota if they can manipulate the situation.

The qualifying session for the #8 Toyota was a messy one which cost them in the fight for pole. Although the car had been set-up with more focus on the race, as Anthony Davidson told Speed Chills, LMP2 traffic hindered the majority of their session. Davidson’s teammate Kazuki Nakajima was nearly driven off the track by #35 Signatech Alpine driver Nelson Panciatici. Exiting Bilstein Curve, the LMP2 driver ran Nakajima wide, looking like he had not seen the LMP1 car before swerving away. The #35 has picked up a 30 second stop/go for the incident.

The drama did not stop there. Davidson went on to explain to Speed Chills that as he was starting his flying lap another LMP2 car came out of the pits, traveling much slower than Davidson, and drifted onto racing line. This compromised Davidson’s fast lap and contributed to the #8 Toyota only managing a fourth-place start, half a second off the pace. Davidson was not happy about the way the LMP2s had driven in the qualifying session, saying that the drivers needed to learn to “Look in their mirrors.”

Aside from the incidents with the #8 Toyota, the racing in the LMP2 class for pole position was between #26 G-Drive and the Le Mans-winning #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car. Oliver Jarvis was pushing hard to try and close in on the #26, but the G-Drive team proved once again why they have had four consecutive pole positions. The astounding pace of Pierre Thiriet and Ben Hanley, standing in for Alex Lynn who is in New York for Formula E, gave G-Drive Racing their 20th WEC pole position. However, the #26 G-Drive failed scruteneering after qualifying had finsihed because their front barge board was at too steep of an angle. This means that the car will start at the back of the grid, whilst #38 jackie Chan DC Racing inherits its first class pole position of the season and Vaillante Rebellion hold a strong two-three.

The GTE Pro Le Mans-winning Aston Martin had a bad qualifying session as the team ended up at the back of the class. Multiple infringements for track limits saw lap time after lap time deleted for the team, meaning they could only get an average 1.3 seconds off the time of the pole-sitting #92 Porsche GT Team. This was a positive thing for GT Drivers’ and Team Championship leaders in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi car. With a small disadvantage due to a heavier BoP, Ford have appeared to be on the back foot all weekend. It was a surprise when Olivier Pla managed to jump the #66 up to fastest in class in the final moments of free practice three this morning. The #67 did not have the best qualifying, but they will start ahead of the #97 Aston Martin tomorrow, meaning they have a track advantage. If they can keep the British team behind them they will extend their championship lead before the summer break.

It was an impressive performance from Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in the #92 Porsche. The Porsche 911 RSRs have been the cars to beat this weekend and look to be in for a tight fight with the AF Corse Ferraris tomorrow. Their pole position today means that all four of the manufacturers in the GTE Pro class this year have taken pole position this season. Four different pole sitters in four races just proves how close the fight between the GT cars is this year. The pole position is also the first for the new Porsche 911 RSR so a great achievement for the team.

The sole Aston Marin in GTE Am performed spectacularly in qualifying. Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana are the qualifying duo for the team and did not disappoint as they took to the track to take their fourth consecutive pole position of the season. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche, however, cannot be overlooked ahead of tomorrow’s race. The team pushed hard, keeping the pressure on the Aston Martin to the chequered flag. With the two going wheel-to-wheel in tomorrow’s race, the Am class holds the potential for some fantastic on track battles. The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE has also been very quick so far this weekend. Stating from third, the team could really muscle into the fight for class victory.

The entire grid was very close on pace today, showing that there should be some tight fights come tomorrow’s six-hour endurance event. Make sure to follow @SpeedChillsView on twitter for live updates from trackside as the race unfolds.

Lights out for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring is at 13:00 CEST.

Both Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber have shown that the Porsche 919-Hybrid has a competitively strong pace ahead of this weekend’s 6 Hours of Nurburgring. The Porsche #2 has led both session at the chequered flag, whilst the #1 gave Porsche a one-two as the day came to a close. Aston Martin may have a BoP advantage this weekend, but so far it is yet to be shown. The GT classes, both in Am and Pro, look close on a pace basis. This will hopefully promise some spectacular racing come the six-hour event on Sunday.

Toyota Gazoo Racing appeared to be on the back foot in the afternoon session of practice. They kept the competition close in the morning, with just three-tenths of a second separating the four LMP1 Hybrid cars, but in the cooler temperatures of the afternoon they could not keep up with Porsche. They were a clear second off the pace in free practice two, and even when Anthony Davidson climbed aboard with a few minutes left he was unable to close the gap to the Porsches ahead.

ByKolles had a troubled session in the morning, spending most of it in the garage and only getting six laps on the board, but the second practice session looked to be an improvement for the team. This will be the last race that ByKolles compete in as they are taking the second half of the season to test and develop their car ahead of the 2018 season. This decision was made before Le Mans as ByKolles feel they are not currently prepared enough, nor would they be prepared enough if they completed the full season, to take on the new LMP1 Privateers that are joining the field next year.

Vaillante Rebellion looked to be strong once again. They set the pace in the first practice session and were only two-tenths off the pace-setting #26 G-Drive Racing in the second practice session. However, at the end of the first practice session, the #31 Rebellion made contact with the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche. Both cars were fastest of their respective classes when the contact happened. With only four minutes left on the clock the red flag brought out a premature chequered flag, not allowing for any late improvements.

But the incident caused some internal damage to the #31 which meant that they were unable to participate in the second practice session. The two teams were called into the stewards office but no further action will be taken with either team. The left side pod of the #31 was damaged and the front of the #77 was damaged, suggesting that the #77 hit the side of the #31. The #31 was also seen in the barrier at the entrance of the pit lane.

Although the advantage was predicted to be with Aston Martin due to their lighter BoP, it has been Ferrari and Porsche dominating the Am class. The field is close, with only half a second covering the entire class at the end of Free Practice One, so the racing come Sunday is predicted to be intense. Aston Martin Racing has finished both sessions fourth in class so they will be looking for some improvement during the final practice session before qualifying.

The BoP advantage that Aston Martin believed to have at the start of the weekend has yet to be discovered by either the Pro or Am team. The first practice session saw the Aston duo at the back of the class field whilst AF Corse and Porsche GT Team battled for fastest lap. It seems that Porsche and Ferrari have an advantage in the GT classes and should be the ones to watch come race day.

The World Endurance Championship is back this weekend with more thrilling track action at the Nürburgring. The 24 Hours of Le Mans brought a spectacular race to the blue riband event and the fourth round of the championship promises to be just as gripping. With the championship battles closer than ever throughout all the classes in the WEC, the teams are going to more determined to take class victory as every point counts. As this is the last race before the summer break, the grid will be looking to end the first half of the season on a high and come back in Mexico with a positive mentality.

The disastrous Le Mans for the LMP1 class has seen the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship already narrowed down to being between two cars. This means that for the rest of the season both Toyota Gazoo Racing and Porsche will probably employ team orders to promote the #2 and #8 entrants to score more points. The closest LMP1 car to the lead battle is last year’s champion car with Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy onboard, 55 points behind.

Jackie Chan DC Racing had one of the best races of their career out in Le Mans. After the #13 Vaillante rebellion was disqualified for illegal alterations to the car’s bodywork, Jackie Chan DC Racing scored a double overall podium. This puts the overall second-place finishers of the #38 car in a comfortable lead in the LMP2 Drivers’ and Team Championships. However, it is still a battle between Rebellion and Jackie Chan Racing as the #31 team are 38 points of the Le Mans class winners. However, Rebellion’s main concern will be the #36 Signatech Alpine who sit third in the championship, only 10 points off them.

The last minute second place that #67 Ford Chip Ganassi inherited at the end of Le Mans has kept them ahead in the GT Drivers’ Championship. Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Pipo Derrani lead the Le Mans GT Pro class winners of Jonny Adam, Darren Turner and Daniel Serra for the lead of the championship by nine points. Aston Martin have gained an advantage this weekend as the automated BoP has come into action. They will be running lighter than the other competitors in their classes, which could aid them in taking the Championship lead.

Due to the amount of non-scoring LM GTE Am entrants at Le Mans, the 24-hour event did not cost the #98 Aston Martin Racing team too much. Although ending eighth in class, Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda were awarded points for fourth position, meaning they have only fallen six points behind the new Am Driver’s Trophy competitors #61 Clearwater Racing. With the BoP advantage that Aston Martin is supposed to have this weekend, the sole Aston Martin Am crew could get back ahead of the Ferrari-run team by the end of the weekend.

Coming back from a hybrid system issue early in the race which had looked to put them out of contention for the 2017 Le Mans podium, the #2 Porsche crew fought back to take a spectacular victory in one of the most eventful races Le Mans has ever held. Tagged as an ‘old school Le Mans’ race, there was never a dull moment as the 24 hours flew past. Eleven of the starters failed to complete the race, one of the lowest percents of non-finishers in a 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It had seemed like the race was over for the #2 Porsche crew when they were hit with a front axle drive failure around the four-hour mark, as it turns out, this was related to the hybrid system. The only way they would be able to recover the hour they had lost in the garage was if the entire LMP1 field suffered a delay as bad as they had. In a shocking twist in the middle of the night, two of the Toyotas retired from the race whilst the third Gazoo Racing entry was stuck in the pits for two hours. The bizarre twist of events saw the #2 up to second in class, albeit being about 45th in the overall classification.

The plan for the team changed as the #2 crew focused on trying to score constructors points for the team. Constructor’s points are handed out at Le Mans depending on where the car finishes in class clarification. For the driver’s championship, the points are given to the drivers depending on where they finish in the overall standings. With the Porsche #2 team knowing they were in a good place in class clarification they focused on having a clean safe race and getting it across the line at the chequered flag.

But Le Mans was not done with throwing up the twists and turns of the 24-hour endurance race. With only about three hours left on the clock, the Porsche #1 that had been leading by a comfortable 12 laps to the second-placed car (in the overall standings) dropped a lot of speed heading around Tertre Rouge. An oil pressure problem saw Andre Lotterer pulling over at the side of the Mulsanne Straight. As much as he tried to get the car back to the pits there was not enough battery power to limp back to the garage from where he was.

This changed the race for the #2 Porsche as they were suddenly the highest placed LMP1 car. Crunching the numbers, they worked out that with an amazingly fast and consistent pace they could potentially pass all the LMP2 cars that were ahead of them and take the overall victory. They predicted that they would reach the then-leading LMP2 by the last lap of the race, however, three amazing stints by Brendon Hartley saw the Porsche #2 in a position to take the lead from the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing with an hour of track time left.

The last hour was completely nerve-wracking for the #2 Porsche team. They had seen three of the five hybrid LMP1 cars retire instantly from the race and seen hybrid issues on the #8 as well as suffering hybrid issues themselves. There was a sense that Le Mans was not done with the LMP1 field and until Timo Bernhard took the chequered flag no one in the Porsche garage would believe that they had won the 85th running of Le Mans.

The Toyota #8 was the only other LMP1 car to actually classify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It seemed that the oppressive heat that descended over the Circuit de la Sarthe was affecting the hybrid systems of the LMP1 cars. Sebastien Buemi crossed the line to place the #8 ninth overall.

It was a tight battle in LMP2 for the leading #38 car to take the overall victory of Le Mans. They had been in a strong position throughout most of the latter part of the race. When the #1 retired there was a small sense of belief that they would take the overall victory, but Hartley’s rapid place made it clear quickly that Porsche was on a mission.

There was no challenge for the #38 for the LMP2 class victory. The real battle was between the #13 Vaillante Rebellion and the #35 Signatech Alpine as the race drew to a close. the #13 had the better race pace, but a starter motor failure saw them contending with extra long pit stops as they have to remove the back engine cover to manual kick the car into life.

#13 ended up taking second in class, which also meant they took the bottom step of the overall podium. The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing was very close to taking the position from the Rebellion crew and showed great race pace in the latter stages of the endurance.

LMGTE Pro gifted one of the most intense wheel-to-wheel battles to the line for the victory in class. Over the last few hours of the race, the battle had been between Corvette Racing and Aston Martin Racing to take the class lead. Pit stops were shuffling the order and usually saw the Aston on top at the end of the hour as they pitted first.

As the final hour ticked down, Jonny Adam was half a second off the back of the #63 Corvette Racing, then in the hands of Jordan Taylor. Adam tried to make a move work going into Arnage but going up the inside of the corner meant he went very deep on exit. He held the lead for a brief moment before Taylor took it back with ease.

An assumed brake failure saw Taylor go straight on over one of the chicanes down the Mulsanne and pull a big advantage out on Adam. In terms of fair racing, Taylor dropped off the speed a little to reduce the advantage he had and make sure there was nothing he could be penalised.

Adam was very clever as they headed through the final sector of the track. He kept his lines very tidy and clean, making sure he had the perfect run off of the Ford Chicane. Taylor had been trying to defend and left the racing line for Adam to use to produce a beautiful overtake for the lead of the class.

Once Adam was passed, Taylor suffered a failure on his car that was either a brake failure or a puncture as a result of his excurtion through the Mulsanne gravel traps. As it was the final lap, Taylor drove carefully and tried hard to push the car to the finish whilst trying to hold onto his second position. But Harry Tincknell had been racing in the Ford Chip Ganassi #67 with a pace that would see him in the right place if one of the cars ahead of him had an issue. Knowing Taylor was vulnerable, Tincknell pushed hard for the last lap of the race, demoting Taylor to third in class as he took a deeply deserved second in class.

The Am class podium saw a Ferrari domination. The #84 JMW Motorsport put on an amazing performance that saw them take class victory with at least a lap’s advantage over the rest of the field. Spirit of Race #55 Ferrari finished second with the last Ferrari on the podium being the #62 Scuderia Corsa.

Aston Martin looked strong at the beginning of the race. The #98 Aston Martin Racing was leading the class at the beginning of the race before a tyre blow out saw them in the garage for a while with repairs, dropping them down the order. The #90 TF Sport was also looking like it could challenge the Ferraris for a podium finish, but a mistake in the middle of the night put the car in the barrier. Again, repairs in the garage saw it fall down the order.

The best finishing Aston Martin in class was the #99 Beechdean AMR. It finished just off the podium in fourth, an admirable effort considering it is only the second time the team has raced Le Mans and they had a rookie driver on the team.

Disaster struck for Toyota through the night as two of their three cars retired from the race. There were many incidents that kept the night running action-packed and a few shocking events that no one could have predicted. Going into the seventeenth hour of racing, the #1 Porsche leads the field by a competitive eleven laps, with the closest LMP1 car being the sister Porsche down in P10.

Toyota’s woes started when the #8 was forced into the garage with a hybrid issue. It lost just under two hours in the garage as extensive repairs took place, dropping it right down the order to the last of the running cars.

But the #8’s reappearance was nearly lost in the shock of seeing the leading #7 Toyota lapping slowly. There had been a safety car period to clear some gravel and debris off the dark track, and once the safety cars had pulled in Kamui Kobayashi got stuck in gear with the Toyota unable to go any faster than 60kph. The Japanese driver tried many power cycles and limping the #7 as far as he could but he could not get any closer to the pits that Porsche Curves. Sheer disappointment was clear as Kobayashi climbed from the car, retiring from the race before the halfway mark.

That was not the end of the disappointment for Toyota. With the #7 retired and the #8 a long way off the leaders, their hope all felt to the #9. Not even ten minutes after the #7 had retired, the #9 made contact with the #25 CEFC Manor TDS Racing and picked up a rear right puncture. Nicolas Lapierre tried to get the car back to the pits for repairs but the punctured tyre caused a lot of damage to the back of the car and cause the rear to catch on fire. Lapierre, cruelly, got much closer to pit lane than Kobayashi did and was only 200 yards from pit entry when he climbed from the cockpit.

After having lead most of the first half of the race with a competitive pace, Toyota fell to only having one car on track and it being right at the back of the field. The #25 Manor retired instantaneously as heavy contact with the tyre barrier put a lot of damage on the ORECA 07-Gibson.

This left #1 Porsche in the lead with an 11 lap gap to the next car on track and a big gap to the next LMP1 car. The #2 crew and the #8 team have been pushing hard through the night to try and get back up the grid into a competitive position and to take as many points home from the weekend as possible. the #2 is currently in 10th whilst the #8 is behind in 15th.

#38 Jackie Chan DC Racing took over the lead of LMP2 in the hands of Oliver Jarvis on track, using a great strategy and the safety car periods to leap the two Vaillante Rebellions. The Rebellions seem to have lost their edge through the night as little issues and brief visit to the garage have seen them drop further behind the #38, giving the leading LMP2 around a lap advantage.

A big incident saw the #92 Porsche GT Team join the growing list of retired cars. In the middle of the night, it lost the car at Ford Chicane and made contact with the tyre barrier. Repairs on the barrier and removing the car from the track were the reasons behind the slow zones and yellow flags. Unfortunately, the Porsche could not get running again so it retired behind the barrier at the side of the track.

Aston Martin had been the team to beat throughout the night, but as the sun has broken across the track the top four positions in class are covered by four different manufacturers. With the weather supposed to hot up for the closing stages of the race, it could go any way for the chequered flag.

#90 TF Sport and #84 JMW Motorsport have had fantastic performances throughout the race, with the JMW now leading the class with a lap in hand. The #90 had been pushing #84 for the lead but after a scheduled brake change and an unscheduled brief stop out on track the #90 down the order, leaving the #99 Beechdean AMR as the best placed Aston Martin. Ferrari-running teams are currently locking out the top three positions in the Am class.

For a brief session at the beginning of the race, the #7 Toyota lost the lead to the sister #8 car, but apart from that the #7 Toyota has led the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first six hours. Vaillante Rebellion has been commanding the field in LMP2 after the pole-sitting #26 G-Drive Racing had a terrible start that led to an early retirement from the race. Aston Martin have been the teams to beat in the GTE classes but they have not run away with the pace, with Ferrari and Ford keeping the teams on their toes.

It seemed to be an easy six hours for the #7 Toyota as all three drivers have climbed aboard to competitively lead the race. Neel Jani made quick work of overtaking Sebastien Buemi in the #8 Toyota to steal second place and split the Toyotas. Buemi did fight back and keep the pressure on Jani, but after the first driver changes Anthony Davidson seemed unable to keep up with Nick Tandy in the Porsche #1.

Issues have plagued a couple of the LMP1 cars. The #9 had an issue with their door not closing and was forced to make an extra stop in the fifth hour so the team could try and resolve the issue. At the time of publishing, the door was no longer an issue.

But disaster struck for the #2 Porsche as a front axle drive failure forced the car into the garage. The team lost nearly an hour of the race sitting in the garage as the team did an incredibly quick job of replacing the entire front unit of the car. At the time of publishing, Brendon Hartley was in the car pushing for damage limitation with the car down in an overall 55th position.

The ByKolles looked to have a strong start by before the end of the first lap it suffered a rear left puncture. Having to pit so early saw it fall down the order but a suspected engine failure saw the car become the second official retiree of the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans in the second hour.

The first official retiree of the race was the #88 Proton Competition Porsche. After having a bad start and a spin at the Ford Chicane, pole-sitting #26 G-Drive Racing was pushing hard to recover lost positions. Misjudging the space between the two cars, Roman Rusiov got the overtake on the #88 wrong and sent both cars into the barriers at the Porsche Curves. Both cars, with significant damage, made it back to the pits as slow zones covered the Porsche Curves area for barrier repairs. However, neither of them had repairable damage and both cars retired from the race.

The misfortune for the #26, which dropped down the field on the start lap, handed the advantage to Vaillante Rebellion, who has led the class since the second hour. The CEFC Manor TDS Racing #24 has been keen to challenge for a top two spot but has yet to get any higher than third in class. #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing is also battling up the front of the class and all four cars are looking strong as the first quarter of the race is complete.

At the start of the race, the Aston Martins pulled an advantage on the GTE fields, but the Ferrari-running teams were hot on their heels. As the day has begun to cool as the evening running gets underway, the Ferraris have fallen off a little and the battle in Pro is now between the Fords and the Aston Martin. Harry Tincknell had a mega lap that has seen the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car in strong contention for a podium position.

The #66 Ford was looking good for a high position but an early issue with the rear light forced the car to pit out of sequence for a quick repair. The car is still lapping with the top of the class, but the advantage is with the other cars around it as it has to pit after the other LM GTE Pro cars have taken their pits.

Ferrari had an impressive stint around the third hour in the Am class, with a Ferrari one-two-three led by Will Stevens in the JMW Motorsports #84. The JMW Motorsports entry is still running strong at the sharp end of the class but Aston Martin has come back with a strong pace from the works #98 car. It’s an impressive performance from the #90 TF Sport crew who, at the time of publishing, were running third in class.

Four cars have been lost in the first quarter of the race, with the fourth retiree coming in the closing stages of the fifth hour. Matthieu Vaxiviere lost the car under braking for the Forza Motorsport Chicane and side swiped the #82 Risi Competitione. The #82 was spun into the Armco barrier, which suffered a lot of damage, and destroyed the front of the Ferrari 488 GTE. It retired on the spot as the marshals lifted the stricken car off of the racetrack.

The #28 TDS Racing was undamaged from the incident. The LMP2 team has received a 7-minute stop/go penalty for taking out the Risi Competitione.

With the 24 Hours of Le Mans getting underway later on this afternoon, the build up to one of the most important races of the year is almost over. Catching up with some of the drivers in their final preparation week for the prestigious event, Speed Chills got some exclusive quotes on the driver’s feelings before they embarked on the 24-hour endurance race.

Neel Jani showed great excitement before the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but remained respectfully realistic when discussing his prospects for the race weekend, openly stating Porsche was “definitely not the favourites” to win. Coming from the Le Mans test where Toyota Gazoo Racing were competitively faster than Porsche has put the German team on the back foot. But they are still hopeful that over the 24 hours of racing the luck can fall their way.

“I think, for me, and it will be me and Timo doing the start, I think this will be the hardest point in the race probably for us.” Jani said, discussing what he believed would be the most trying part of the weekend. “I think we will also struggle more at the start than Toyota I think we will come when the evening comes. So yeah, Timo and I have the most difficult job at the start.”

However, at Toyota, Anthony Davidson was confident that Porsche were yet to show their hand and believed there would be more to come from the German outlet. “I’m expecting them to raise their game this week.” Davidson said assertively. “Especially for the race. Even if we don’t see anything in qualifying, just like Silverstone they didn’t try, but they knew they had a good car for the race probably and they did.”

Le Mans is one of the most important races in the World, a fact that is not lost on any of the drivers. Davidson added that Le Mans was his Mount Everest, stating that: “I may never get to the top but as long as I do the job I know I can do I’ll be happy.”

Andy Priaulx echoed the thoughts of Davidson in the importance of Le Mans and the extra pressure that the drivers feel in this race weekend. “Le Mans is one of the biggest races on the planet and you’ve got to try and win that.” Priaulx commented to Speed Chills on Wednesday morning. “I think you have to learn to live with a lot more pressure at Le Mans, from the manufacturers. There is a lot more focus on the win here.”

The Porsche #2 drivers Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley were equally as passionate about the importance and prestige of this race, with Hartley coining it as the “most important race of the year.”

Having won Le Mans once in the past (2010 – Audi), Timo Bernhard reflected on the feeling a Le Mans victory can give a driver. “Le Mans, to be honest, is the highlight of our year.” Bernhard smiled. “It has the most prestige. If you win Le Mans your year is already incredible, magic, I mean, there cannot be more to ask for.”

With so much riding on a win at Le Mans it is certain to be a spectacular race. With last year’s dramatic ending still clearly in people’s minds, it will be 24 hours of racing you will not want to miss a second of.

Make sure to be following @SpeedChillsView for LIVE updates and the latest throughout the 24 hours of racing as the 85th 24 Hours of Le Mans unfolds.

The Toyota #7 crew never lost provisional pole throughout the three qualifying sessions, with Kamui Kobayashi setting a fantastically quick lap in the middle of Qualifying Two to take pole position for the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans by a competitive 2.4 seconds. None of the other LMP1 teams could challenge the 3:14.791 lap time that broke the lap record Neel Jani set in 2015 by just over a second. Kobayashi himself was shocked that the lap time was in the 3m14s; he expected to set a 3m15s or 3m16s.

After a long delay due to having to change the engine after suffering an oil supply issue, the #8 Toyota crew took second on the grid, 2.4 seconds behind the record-breaking lap time. Sebastien Buemi came out at the start of Qualifying Three, having lost most of Qualifying Two to the engine change, and set a 3:17.128, going just a few hundredths of a second faster than Neel Jani’s lap time in the Porsche #1 to take a Toyota one-two. The third Toyota struggled on pace throughout yesterday’s evening sessions. After trying a variety of front noses Nicolas Lapierre could go no faster than a time that put the #9 fifth on the grid.

Porsche made improvements on their Wednesday qualifying times in the early evening session of running yesterday. Jani made an eight-tenth improvement on the sister car, qualified by Timo Bernhard, to move the #1 ahead of the #2 for third on the starting grid. Neither Porsche made improvements in the final qualifying session, but there was trouble for the #2 as the light faded last night. An overheating issue caused Brendon Hartley to pull the #2 Porsche off the track at Indianapolis and spend the remaining hour of the session trying to get the car running again so he could return to the pits. This would not be an issue Porsche would want to be faced with ahead of the 24-hour endurance race.

The #4 ByKolles had been at risk of starting behind some of the LMP2 cars as after Qualifying Two Vitaly Petrov’s provisional LMP2 pole time was faster than the time recorded by the ByKolles. Oliver Webb came out in the final session and improved to a 3:24.170 to place it sixth on the grid.

ORECA Dominates LMP2 Field

After holding onto provisional pole in class at the end of Qualifying One, #28 TDS Racing were unable to stay fastest and the battle for class pole was primarily between CEFC Manor TDS Racing, Vaillante Rebellion and Jackie Chan DC Racing. The #8 Jackie Chan DC Racing finished Qualifying Two on top with a 3:26.776, but that time was to be significantly beaten in Qualifying Three.

Since free practice, the #26 G-Drive Racing team had been lapping around with a low profile, not making too much of an impression in the second qualifying session. However, as the laps began getting faster in the night and Vitaly Petrov was leading the LMP2 field with a 3:25.549, G-Drive set Alex Lynn into the action. He did not disappoint, going two-tenths of a second faster and taking pole position with a 3:25.352.

The non-ORECA running LMP2 cars seem to be at a disadvantage this weekend as the ORECA 07 chassis has been competitively superior to the other chassis all week. The top nine in qualifying were locked out by ORECA-running teams, with the #27 SMP Racing being the first of the non-ORECAs in tenths. The time set by the #27 was a 3:27.782, showing a deficit of 2.5 seconds to the fastest ORECA machine.

There were many incidents with the LMP2 cars in yesterday evening’s running, with the #33 Eurasia Motorsports having a big shunt at the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight – Forza Motorsport Chicane. The Armco barriers did their job at deflecting the energy and making sure Erik Maris was able to walk away from the incident unscathed, but this lead to a 50-minute delay in the session as extensive barrier repairs took place.

The other place of incident seemed to be Tertre Rouge. A few of the LMP2s got a wheel wide on the grass on entry of the corner, meaning that they had to correct the mistake to not end up in the gravel run off. The #28 TDS Racing machine was the car with the least amount of luck when making a mistake through this corner. Spinning the car, the TDS clipped the Armco barrier and spun into the gravel trap, causing damage to the barrier and bringing a ten-minute early end to Qualifying Two.

Aston Martin Pro Battle Closer than Expected

Aston Martin dominated both Qualifying One and Two in the Pro class and the Am class, and looked like they could only challenge themselves. The #95 and #97 Aston Martin Racing cars swapped provisional pole times throughout the Qualifying Two session. But as the end of qualifying drew closer the AF Corse Ferrari team began to show more pace.

James Calado and Sam Bird finished the session in the cars and were pushing hard to get some more ultimate pace out of the Ferrari 488 GTEs. The time set by Darren Turner was too much for the Ferrari to overcome and Calado had to settle for second in class. Richie Stanaway set the fast lap in the #95 Aston Martin, which, at the time, had looked like it, would be fast enough for pole position. He managed to fend off the second Ferrari of Bird and will take third on the grid.

Ford had looked like they had found some more pace in Qualifying Two, with the #69 Team USA entry holding provisional pole for a duration of time. But as the evening cooled off and the night running began they once again fell down the pack. The highest placed Ford for the race will be the #69 with a 3:51.232. Ford have seemed to close the gap since having a higher BoP added to their cars, with the gap to the pole sitter in class just over four-tenths.

It was in Qualifying Three that Aston Martin lost the advantage in the Am class. There was a big shuffle in the order at the beginning of the session that saw the Ferrari entrants look to be the favourites for pole. Will Stevens put the JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE on provisional pole and it looked like there was no extra time out there for the other Am cars to beat it.

The Am class has been varied in class leaders throughout the beginning of the WEC season, and this was the case again for qualifying. Four different manufacturers filled the top four at the final chequered flag, with the returning #50 Larbre Competition Corvette taking the glory of pole with a 3:52.843. The Corvette was the only LM GTE Am car to break into the 3m52s, with Pedro Lamy four-tenths behind in the championship-leading Aston Martin #98.

Neel Jani put the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid at the top of the time sheets in FP1 in a session that ran without much incident. Kamui Kobayashi topped the time sheets with his first flying lap, going seven tenths quicker than anyone else with a time of 3:20.996 in the final hour of running. It looked like the time was going to stand but with 20 minutes to run, Jani went sixth tenths quicker with a time of 3:20.362.

Qualifying One saw Toyota Gazoo Racing top the time sheets to take provisional pole but it was Timo Bernhard who initially went quickest in the #2 Porsche after the first few flying laps. Toyota reacted instantly, pitting the #7 and #8 cars and sending out Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima. Kobayashi responded, setting the fastest lap of the session, going six tenths quicker than anyone else with a time of 3:18.793. Nakajima took second in a Toyota One-Two whilst Bernhard’s time was good enough for third place. Having set the pace in FP1, Neel Jani could only manage to put the #1 Porsche 5th. ByKolles had another difficult session, lapping just half a second quicker than the leading LMP2.

LMP2

Alex Lynn knocked the #13 Vaillante Rebellion off the top of the time sheets in FP1, the ex-GP2 driver posted a time of 3:30.363 in the #26 G-Drive, 1.3 seconds quicker than anyone else.

ORECA certainly appear to have a big advantage over the other competitors, the best non-ORECA car finished 10th. The SMP Racing Dallara in the hands of Victor Shaytar was over four seconds a lap slower. There was a close battle in qualifying between all the World Endurance Championship entrants. It looked as if Manor had the pace throughout the session as with just half an hour to run, Jean-Eric Vergne and Vitaly Petrov locked down the top two positions with the #25 and #24 cars. However, as time moved on and the temperature dropped, the rest of the field began fighting back. Bruno Senna broke in to the 3:29s before Vaxiviere went half a second quicker in the #28 TDS Oreca to take provisional pole with a time of 3:29.333. The Signatech Alpine entries sat sixth and seventh whilst the second Rebellion #13 finished eighth with Rusinov rounding out the top nine in the #26 G-Drive.

The fastest non-ORECA running LMP2 finished 13th and was the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara in the hands of Rubens Barrichello, taking part in his first Le Mans qualifying session. The Brazilian set a lap time that was 4.463 seconds off the pace of provisional pole-sitter, Vaxiviere.

GTE Pro

There was a last minute driver change in GTE Pro, Lucas di Grassi has been ruled out of the event on medical grounds having broken his fibula in a charity football match. di Grassi failed to get himself out of the car without assistance within the seven second time limit on the driver extraction test. Michele Rugolo has been drafted in to fill his vacant seat patterning James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari.

#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 jumped to the top of the time sheets towards the end of free practice one. Aston Martin traded lap times with Corvette for most of the session before Bird put the Ferrari on top in the closing laps by half a second. James Calado pushed hard in the closing stages of the session to try and and match the pace of Bird but he was unable to match the time of 3:55.504.

Aston Martin jumped straight to the top in the first qualifying session, Marco Sorensen leading the way in the #95 with a time of 3:52.117, it was only a tenth quicker than Sam Bird but Birds team mates were unable to improve on his opening lap time leaving the #71 crew second at the end of the session. The #51 Ferrari came in 0.888 down on the pole sitting Aston but overall, just two seconds covered the top six.

GTE AM

The factory-entered Aston Martin led the time sheets early on, Mathias Lauda setting the early pace before the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette went quickest at the end of the first hour. The #50 Corvette had a moment through Porsche Curves early on in the second hour and slammed in to the tyre barrier on the outside of the track. The Safety Car was called out for minor repair work and the session restarted. The Clearwater Ferrari was leading the session, even after suffering a left-rear puncture at the end of the third hour. Just after the final hour had started, Pedro Lamy set a new fastest lap of 3:58.234 which allowed him to end the session on top of the class with the #98 Aston Martin.

Aston Martin also held the advantage from the start of the session in LM GTE Am. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche took the lead of the class for the first few minutes of the session, but as soon as Pedro Lamy had set his fast time there was no challenge to his 3:55.232. Only his team-mate, Mathias Lauda, could better the time, improving the Aston Martin #98’s provisional pole time to a 3:55.134.

Matteo Cairoli‘s original fastest time in the #77 was enough to hold on to a comfortable second place. He had a three-tenth advantage over third-placed #90 TF Sport Aston Martin when the chequered flag fell.

Toyota have lead the way in the official Le Mans test day ahead of the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Setting a lap time that was faster than the pole position time for last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota declared a pace that Porsche could not contend with. Last year’s LMP2 class champions Signatech Alpine were on top of things in their respective class, ending both the morning session and the day with the fastest LMP2 time. Returning to the WEC solely for Le Mans, Chevrolet made their mark by taking the fastest time in LM GTE Pro. Proton Racing #77 Porsche took the fastest lap in the Am class before lunch, with Aston Martin finishing the day on top of the class.

Coming off the back of a highly-competitive six hour of Spa-Francorchamps, Kazuki Nakajima reflected the same form he showed last month claiming the fastest time of the morning session. His 3:20.778 lap time was an impressive 1.5 seconds faster than the time set by Sebastien Buemi in the sister #7 car. Toyota locked out the top three, with Jose Maria Lopez setting a 3:22.006 in the #9 – a good effort in his debut around the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Timo Bernard had had the #2 Porsche comfortably second during the first four-hour session, but the last half an hour of fast laps from Toyota saw the Porsche drop to fourth, setting a fastest time of 3:23.089, 2.3 seconds off the pace of the fastest Toyota. Porsche did not complete any fast laps at the end of the session, showing they appeared to be on a different programme to Toyota. Andre Lotterer’s time was only half a tenth off of Bernhard’s, showing the Porsches appear to be equally matched.

In the afternoon session Toyota continued to steal the show. Kamui Kobayashi put the championship leading #7 Toyota fastest with a 3:18.132, a time that was over 1.5 seconds faster than Neel Jani’s 2016 pole time for the 24-hour event. The Toyota’s, once again, locked out the top three positions whilst Porsche ended the day 3.3 seconds off the fastest lap time, but only 0.4 seconds off third-placed #9 Toyota. The #2 Porsche lost time in the afternoon session as the engine was changed on the 919 Hybrid.

The Signatech Alpine #35 was the car to beat in LMP2 as it lead the way at the end of both test sessions. Andre Negrao put the ORECA-Gibson 07 fastest at the end of the morning session with the first LMP2 time to break the 3m30s barrier: a 3:29.809. His teammate, Nelson Panciatici, reiterated what Negrao had performed in the morning’s four-hour session by ending the day with the fastest time of 3:28.146. This gave him a seven-tenth advantage over Jean-Eric Vergne in the #24 CEFC Manor TDS Racing, who ended the day second fastest in class.

In the morning, it was the #13 Vaillante Rebellion Racing that finished second fastest in the LMP2 class. Mathias Beche was nearly beaten to second in class by the ELMS-entry Graff car. Only 0.011 seconds kept Beche ahead of Richard Bradley as the chequered flag fell.

It does seem, from the final test day times, that the ORECA-chassis running LMP2 cars may have an advantage over any other chassis. The top fourteen cars in class were all ORECA-Gibsons when the chequered flag ended the day. However, all of the cars are a lot faster this year. The extra 100bhp that the LMP2 cars have this year have already seen them setting lap times seven seconds faster than they were twelve months ago.

Jan Magnussen returned Chevrolet to WEC racing with intent as he took the fastest lap time of the morning session in LM GTE Pro. It was a close fight between the #63 and the #91 Porsche for fastest lap time with 0.027 seconds separating Magnussen and Patrick Pilet at the end of the first four-hours testing. The sister Chevrolet rounded off the top three half a second down on the fastest pair.

The intention of Chevrolet is clear for this blue-ribboned event as they topped the afternoon session competitively. Oliver Gavin made it a Chevrolet leading a Porsche in the #64 with a lap time of 3:54.701. The #64 crew started the afternoon session with an engine change and was able to lead the class by just over two-tenths on the #91 Porsche.

Porsche took honours in LM GTE Am at the end of the morning session with the #77 Proton Racing Porsche leading the class with a 3:59.117. The time, set by Matteo Carioli, was a tenth up on second-fastest #83 AF Corse-run DH Racing Ferrari. In the afternoon session, however, it was Aston Martin on top, with Pedro Lamy setting the pace with a 3:58.250 in the #98. The Am field looks like it will be as close as it has been all season when the grid takes to the 24-hour endurance race in a fortnight’s time.

The afternoon session was ended twelve minutes early as there was dropped oil on track. It is unknown which car lost the liquid out on circuit.

Toyota #8 Take Second Victory in an action-packed race that saw over 61,000 spectators attend Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend for the second round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 driven by Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took a narrow victory ahead of the sister car, scoring the first Toyota one-two since 2014. Two full course yellows played with the luck of the race that gave Toyota #8 the win after what they admitted should have been victory for the #7 crew. LMP2 saw a tight battle throughout the race but it was pole-sitters #26 G-Drive Racing who converted the race victory that they failed to do in Silverstone.

LM GTE Pro was tightly fought between Ferrari and Ford at the start of the race, but ultimately the 488 GTEs had the pace advantage this weekend. An inter-team battle stemmed between the #71 and #51 AF Corse crews for the majority of the race, ending with advantage going to Sam Bird and Davide Rigon. LM GTE Am was dominated for the duration of the race by the #98 Aston Martin Racing entrant. They had no competition as they drove to an easy victory, even after picking up a time penalty during their pit stop for an infringement on the grid.

Off the start, Andre Lotterer was pressured to protect his pole position as two of the Toyotas ran side by side with him towards La Source. Locking up his breaks, Nicolas Lapierre shot the #9 Toyota straight off into the run off on the outside of the circuit and took the car out of the lead fight. Porsche #2 benefited the most out of the front-runners at the start as Brendon Hartley managed to get it up to second and start chasing down Toyota #8.

There were two Full Course Yellows during the six-hour event that played with the fortunes of those up and down the grid. The first one came from the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche pulling up and stopping on the start finish race. The #86 had had a troubled race from the start, with consistent abuses to track limits the team picked up multiple time penalties in their pit stops for their offences. There seemed to be damage on the car already when it bumped the rear of on of the Fords coming through Bus Stop, from what is unknown, but there was some sort of debris on the kerb of the chicane that caused the #86 to spin. After looking like it would be good to get going again it shuddered to a halt next to the pit wall where it retired from the race. The #7 Toyota had just taken their scheduled pit stop when the Full Course Yellow came out, meaning that the other three LMP1 cars gained a time advantage on them when they took their stops under the Full Course Yellows. This unlucky fate also befell the #7 during the second Full Course Yellow. The cause of the second full caution was the #28 TDS Racing LMP2 car going straight on at Courbe Paul Frère and heavily into the tyre barrier. Luckily for the LMP2 team, the car was able to get back to the pits after it was pushed out of the tyre barrier and simply needed a front nose replacement to carry on. However, for Toyota #7, once again the Full Course Yellow came at the wrong point in their pit strategy and lost them time against their competitors.

It was a close race to the line at the end in LMP1. Kamui Kobayashi was pushing hard in the #7 Toyota to close down a four second gap to the sister car that was leading ahead. All of the LMP1 cars had had to stop for a ‘splash and dash’ in the last fifteen minutes of the race so the victory fight was between Toyota. Kobayashi came so close, but traffic in the final lap saw the Japanese driver almost take himself out of the race. He finished second to the #7 by just under two seconds, when one point in the last couple of laps the gap had been seven tenths. Porsche #2 completed the podium twenty-six seconds down the road after a slow puncture had lost them time earlier on in the race. Hartley had a moment in the final stint where contact was made with the #36 Signatech Alpine LMP2 car that is being investigated after the race. The Kiwi driver was trying to overtake the traffic of the #36 and committed to a move on the inside of the corner. It appeared Hartley noticed he would not be able to make the move as the #36 was not going to leave him enough room, so he hit the brakes, locking them in the process. Unfortunately, the #2 Porsche clipped the back of the #36 Signatech Alpine and spun it around.

It was a great race for the #4 ByKolles. Making it to the chequered flag and encountering no issues through the race, the team ran competitively above the LMP2 field, lapping about a second a lap quicker. They finished a strong sixth which was not expected after they qualified eleventh. Alex Lynn spent most of the race on board the race-winning #26 G-Drive Racing car. The car was competitively paced throughout the race, and although there were swaps of the lead throughout the race the team always looked to be the strongest on track. Lynn had a comfortable lead advantage at the end of the race that allowed him to know that he would not be under any threat for the lead. Second place was a closer battle as the chequered flag approached as the #31 Vaillante Rebellion and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing cars where split by a few seconds. But as hard as Ho-Pin Tung pushed he could not close the gap to knock the Rebellion out of second place. Sam Bird made the move that spurred the inter-team battle in AF Corse in the Pro class. Whilst the #51 was lining up to pass the struggling #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK for the lead just before the halfway mark, Bird used the tow from the sister car to follow it through when it made the pass on the Ford. Having extra momentum, Bird pulled the #71 Ferrari ahead of the #51. But a Toyota that had been passing through traffic did not leave enough room for Bird to comfortably pull ahead. A few corners of jostling between the two 488 GTE Ferraris saw Bird’s bold move come out victorious as he took the lead of the class. The battling between the two Ferrari continued until the end of the race but with fifteen minutes until chequered flag, Bird had built up a twenty second lead meaning that the #51 had no chance of stealing the win at the line. The #66 Ford finished off the podium in a class that finished two by two through manufacturers. Porsche left Aston Martin to take the last two places in the LM GTE Pro class.

In a complete reverse fortune; Aston Martin Racing completely dominated the Am class, not once giving up the lead to another car. The team were handed a time penalty to take in their pit stop due to a broken rule during the start procedure. Even after they took this they were still competitively ahead of the rest of the field and cruised to an easy victory. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche also appeared to have a fairly straightforward race. After a little period of battling on track and recovering from time lost in pit stops Christian Reid and Matteo Carioli had an easy race to take second in Am. The #61 Clearwater Ferrari made it three different manufacturers on the Am grid again by securing third. There was a brief fight between the two Ferrari-running teams for third until around the halfway mark of the race but after this the final order seemed to establish itself. The day was warm and sunny at the start of the race, but the potential rain that was predicted did not fall as heavily as it needed to to make a strong impact on the race. The #8 crew had ‘”mixed feelings” about their victory, saying that all the luck had come to them today and that the #7 had had the quicker pace all weekend. This was a sentiment that the Porsche #2 crew echoed; suggesting that the podium all believed it should have been Conway and Kobayashi on the top step. Had there have been a couple of laps more, they very well could have been.

Having topped the time sheets in all three Free Practice sessions, everyone’s money was on Toyota to take pole position at the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps. But in a session that was interrupted by a red flag, it was the #1 Porsche 919 of Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy that took pole position with an average lap time of 1:54.097.

This is Lotterer’s first pole position with the 919. “Neel did an amazing lap, for me it was smooth, conservative, I didn’t realise there was so much grip, it’s cool that my fastest lap was quicker than by best lap in F1 here,” Lotterer said. “I didn’t think we’d beat the Toyotas as they’ve looked strong all week. The first job is done, the next step is to win the race tomorrow.” Toyota took second, third and fourth on the grid with Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway setting the best lap time of the three with a 1:54.693. It could be argued that Toyota could have made pole position if the session had not been red flagged. They also had laps removed for track limits. Brendon Hartley made an uncharacteristic error at the Bus Stop, locking the brakes and going straight off circuit on his flying lap. Hartley and Bernhard were unable to recover and could only manage a best average time of 1:55.440.

G-Drive Racing took pole position in LMP2, their second of the season which saw championship new comer Alex Lynn post a time of 2:01.253. That time was quicker than the pole position time set by Allan McNish in the #2 Audi R18 in its first race at Spa. With Pierre Thiriet’s lap time taken into account, the pair averaged a time of 2:02.601. Matt Rao and Gustavo Menezes took second place in the #36 with a time of 2:02.624, just 5000ths of a second quicker than the sister #35 car. The #24 Manor and #13 Vaillante Rebellion rounded out the top five in a qualifying session where the top five were split by just a second, incredibly, the top four were just 0.031 seconds apart. The session was red flagged part way through with Vitaly Petrov crashing the #25 Manor at turn nine on his first hot lap. Petrov lost the rear of the car under braking and slammed in to the tyre wall side on, damaging the right side of the car.

In GTE Pro, Davide Rigon and Sam Bird topped the time sheets with a 2:15.017 in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488, the pair were half a second quicker than the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK GT with Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla posting a 2:15.418. Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell were just a tenth behind, qualifying the Silverstone winning #67 car in third. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Calado and Pier Guidi took fourth with the #91 Porsche rounding out the top five. Aston Martin will start on pole position in GTE Am, Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy securing the 46th class pole for Aston Martin in the #98 Vantage. Lamy put in a late lap to post an average time of 2:18.659 and take pole position ahead of the #77 Porsche and #54 Ferrari. The top 3 in GTE Am were split by exactly a second.

Kazuki Nakajima topped the final practice session with a time of 1:55.233 in a Toyota 1-2-3, the #8 car just edging the #7 by 0.005 seconds. Porsche took fourth and fifth with Andre Lotterer posting the best time in the #1 with a 1:56.404 early on in the session. In LMP2, Alex Lynn topped the times with a 2:01.708 in the #26 G-Drive Oreca 07. Notable incidents in the session included the #13 Rebellion losing a front left wheel and the #38 DR Racing Oreca hitting the #61 Clear Water Racing Ferrari. AF Corse took a 1-2 finish in GTE Pro, the #71 Ferrari of Pier Guidi setting the best time of 2:14.904; Sam Bird and Davide Rigon were just two tenths back with a time of 2:15.1. The #67 Ford took third whilst the #95 Aston Martin which had shown early promise in FP2 came home last. Matteo Carol topped the time sheets in the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche, setting the fourth quickest time overall across both GTE classes. The #98 Aston was second and the #61 Ferrari third.

30 cars will take the gird this weekend at Spa Francorchamps, an additional entry from Toyota boosting the LMP1 grid whilst the 35 Signatech Alpine returns to the championship after missing Silverstone and Tockwith Motorsport make their WEC debut and the WEC debut of the Ligier JSP217. There is a possibility that more races may be on the horizon later in the season for the team.

Mike Conway set the pace early on in Free Practice One at Spa Francorchamps, posting a time of 1:57.940 in the #7 Toyota TSO50 Hybrid. Conway will be racing the #7 alongside Kamui Kobayashi this weekend after the FIA Medical Delegate and Toyota’s own doctor agreed that Jose Maria Lopez was not medically fit enough to drive. Lopez suffered minor damage to two vertebrae after crashing in the opening race of the season at Silverstone three weeks ago. Whilst Lopez himself admits he is disappointed to be missing the race, the teams focus is on making sure he is fit enough to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans in just six weeks time.

“I’m extremely disappointed to miss this weekend’s race as I was really looking forward to driving the TS050 HYBRID at Spa,” said López. “I feel basically fine but we all agree that we should take no chances; the priority is to be absolutely fit for Le Mans. Probably I could race if we were at a different track but a driver’s body experiences extreme forces through Eau Rouge so, after discussions with the FIA Medical Delegate and our team doctor, we decided I should not drive this weekend.”

The lap times were reassuringly close throughout the first practice session, Mike Conway’s quickest time was just 0.036 seconds quicker than the #2 Porsche and only 0.1 MPH quicker through the speed traps at 213.8 miles an hour. The #8 and #9 Toyotas took fourth and fifth on the timing screens, the #9 car running the low drag Le Mans aero kit posting a time of 1:59.633.

In LMP2, Gustavo Menezes topped the time sheets in the #36 Signatech Alpine with a time of 2:04.171, the #26 G Drive of Alex Lynn, Roman Rusinov and Piere Thiriet was just a tenth behind.Championship new comer Tockwith Motorsport set a time of 2:06.607 with the Ligier JSP217. The team are making a one off appearance, moving over from the ELMS before competing at Le Mans later in the year.

In GTE-Pro, the championship leading Ford GT of Priaulx, Tinknall and Derani topped the time sheets, fresh off the back of a win at Silverstone, the trio will be looking to take another victory this weekend at Spa. The competition at the top of GTE-Pro was close however, the top three (#67, #91, #66) were split by just four tenths of a second. Ferrari took fifth and sixth in class, the #71 leading the #51 whilst Aston Martin took seventh and eighth.

Porsche topped the time sheets in GTE-Am, the Dempsey Proton Racing car going seven tenths quicker than the #86 Gulf Racing car. The Clearwater Ferrari was the best of the rest, finishing third ahead of the Aston Martin and Spirit of Race Ferrari 488.

For the first race of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, Toyota Gazoo Racing remained on the form they had displayed throughout the weekend to take home victory from the 6 Hours of Silverstone. The #8 crew of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi, and Kazuki Nakajima led most of the six-hour endurance race and only had to fight for position in the closing stages. LMP2 continued to show a mixed field with the pace of all of the cars being very similar throughout the class. It was the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing team that came out on top as the chequered flag fell. After a trouble-filled race that saw them having to pit early, Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx brought a surprise victory to the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car whilst a last lap incident saw the #98 Aston Martin Racing LM GTE Am car lose the class victory to the #61 Clearwater Racing team.

At the start of the race it looked like it was going to be easy for Toyota to secure a one-two at the chequered flag. Although Porsche was setting consistent lap times to the pace the Toyota duo were setting the Japanese team had managed to pull out a lead from the line that Porsche were struggling to close down. But it was not plain sailing for the Toyota team as mixed weather conditions brought Porsche right into the field of play.

For the first three hours there was nothing Porsche could do to catch up to the front-runners. Both teams – Porsche and Toyota – had an inter-team order switch within the first few laps with Brendon Hartley passing Neel Jani for third and Buemi getting ahead of his teammates in the sister car. It was around the halfway mark when the rain started to fall that Porsche looked to have an opportunity.

It first came in the form of pit stops. With timing giving the advantage to Porsche, both the Porsche 919 Hybrids pitted as the rain began to fall, meaning they were in prime position to pass Davidson in the #8 who was struggling on the dry weather tyres. Bernhard and Nick Tandy took on the slicktermediates during their driver change pit stops and passed the struggling Toyota easily on track, dropping Toyota to third on the grid.

The #7 Toyota had suffered issues during the first half that had seen it travelling slowly and falling to fourth on track, but the day got worse for the second Toyota Hybrid. Losing brakes, Jose Maria Lopez had a fast speed crash going straight into the tyre barriers at Copse Corner. Luckily the driver was alright but the car lost an hour and a half after it limped back to the pits and brought out a Full Course Yellows which eventually turned into a safety car due to the debris Lopez scattered across the track. This took the #7 completely out of contention and the battle for the lead between #8 Toyota and #2 Porsche.

Race starters Hartley and Buemi were back in the cars for the closing stages of the race. Having double stinted the tyres at the end of the race and completing a short, fuel-only stop at the end, Hartley returned on track with an eight-second lead, something Toyota did not expect. An incredible drive from Buemi on the fresher tyres and lighter fuel load saw the Swiss driver close in on Hartley at a rapid pace. It became more of a matter of when was Buemi going to pass rather than would he catch up enough to make a move. Coming into Village, Buemi lined Hartley up, getting his Toyota TS050 Hybrid on the inside of the Loop Corner and squeezing Hartley out a little. Having a much better exit from the corner, Buemi made the move stick and went on to take the first victory of the season by 6.1 seconds. The #1 Porsche finished off the podium, bringing home an unexpected double podium to the German team.

The only LMP1-Privateer entrant, #4 ByKolles Racing, was doing much better than many expected during the 6 Hours of Silverstone. After such a poor Prologue, it was assumed that the team would have a difficult first weekend, leading to many assuming this was the reason Robert Kubica dropped out of the team three days before the first event. However, the car was running strong and, besides a couple of short stints in the garage, it was running within the LMP2 field at a competitive level. But it was not meant to be for the #4 team as, with just fifteen minutes to go; the car was parked up in the garage and did not take the chequered flag. This means that the team did not classify for this race.

Off the start, Nicolas Lapierre was once again the driver to watch. From fourth on the grid Lapierre laid down a blinding pace that saw him take the lead of the class within the first half an hour of racing. But it sadly was not something that was meant to last. Although his teammates fought well there was not enough in the car to get it to cross the line any higher than fourth. The #36 Signatech Alpine crew showed an excellent showcase of teamwork as they fought a tough on track battle with the #28 TDS Racing and #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing teams.

Pole-sitter Alex Lynn had a tough race in the #26 G-Drive Racing machine. It suffered an early door malfunction that forced the team to pit for an extra stop to complete repairs. With just over an hour complete the team had fallen out of contention and it was too much of a gap to close before the chequered flag.

The #38 team had been a threat from the start and remained so throughout the six hours of racing. There were at least five different leaders of the LMP2 class through the race showing just how close and competitive this year’s class will be. It was between Oliver Jarvis in the #38 and the TDS Racing #28 for the lead of the class as the race came to an end. An impressive drive from Jarvis saw him take class victory for his first race in the LMP2 class on track. TDS Racing took second whilst the early leader of the race, #31 Vaillante Rebellion, rounded off the LMP2 podium.

The race was packed with action and drama for the pole sitting #67 Ford Chip Ganassi team. They lead the field off the line and held the advantage competitively until Priaulx suffered a door failure. Whilst speeding down one of the straights the driver’s side door of the Ford GT opened a fraction. This happened a few times and Priaulx looked like he was able to sort out the problem from within the cockpit, but in fear of being forced into the pits by the stewards the team took the decision themselves and pitted about halfway into the race. A big slam of the door seemed to fix the problem but it dropped Tincknell and Priaulx right down the order, handing the lead to the sister #66 Ford car.

But it did not last long as the #92 Porsche GT Team entrant was soaring through the class. Porsche explained that they had been focused on the race pace of the car, hence why they appeared to be so off the mark in qualifying, and the performance of the team was proving that tactic correct. They lead the field competitively for a small duration of the race. Disaster struck as the mid-engine car caught on fire, with the car pulling to a stop on Stowe corner. This incident brought out the first Full Course Yellow of the race as the team could only look on whilst the car was doused with a fire extinguisher.

This handed the advantage back to Ford and the rapid lapping #67. As the #67 Ford entrant was out of sync with everyone else’s pit stops they seemed to be making the alternative strategy work for them. Tincknell had made up a lot of ground during his stint in the car and this left him in prime position to inherit the lead of the class. Against all odds the door failure that plagued the beginning of their race returned with just ten minutes on the clock. Tincknell, like his teammate, managed to get a temporary fix on the issue that was enough to see him over the finish line to take the class win. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE finished second in class whilst the #91 Porsche entrant made it three different manufacturers on the podium.

The #98 Aston Martin Racing team were the ones to beat throughout most of the race in the Am class. For around an hour during the rain shower, the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche had the edge, leading the class, but once the track dried out Aston Martin were back to controlling the pace. It looked like they were set to win even with the multiple spins Paul Dalla Lana suffered during the rainy period of the race that luckily caused no damage to the car.

But the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari had been on a mission and with a few laps left it was closing in on the Aston. Pedro Lamy was pushing as hard as he could, as the chequered flag got closer. The Ferrari was quick but it looked like it would not be enough before the end of the race.

Throwing caution to the wind, the #61 through a move up the inside of Lamy, spinning both of them off the track through contact. Due to their lead on the rest of the field being so great, neither of them lost any positions. But as the Ferrari got moving first it stole the chequered flag, taking the first class victory. Lamy struggled home for second with the Aston clearly suffering a lot of damage as it stopped at Farm Corner after taking the chequered flag.

Qualifying for the LMP1 class looked, in the end, to be fairly one sided. Porsche did not seem to be able to get close to the rapid pace of the Toyota TS050 Hybrids. Kamui Kobayashi setting the fastest lap of the weekend, a 1:36.793, that Porsche could not get any closer than 1.3 seconds slower than. With the battle of down force packages seeming to be the main talking point in the LMP1 field, it will be interesting to see just how far behind, if at all, Porsche are come race day tomorrow. Speed Chills got a chance to talk to some of the LMP1 drivers after their qualifying session.

Being one of the drivers to qualify, Anthony Davidson was happy with the set up of the car and the performance of his #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid. He stated that this year’s Toyota is the “Best the car has ever been in Silverstone,” with it “just doing pretty much everything I wanted.” Davidson explained that the impressive time set by Kobayashi was at the result of the two Toyotas running different options of down force in different set ups for the weekend. Even so, Davidson had nothing but praise for the 2017 challenger, claiming the #8 crew is “really confident with our car for the race,” and he is “Really happy to drive such a good car.”

However, Toyota are under no illusion that tomorrow’s race will be an easy one to take the victory for. Although they have an advantage running the high down force package compared to the low down force aero kit Porsche elected for, Davidson is confident Porsche will be back and closer in the race. “They’re definitely going to be closer in the race than they were in qualifying,” Davidson admitted. “This has never been a strong circuit for us in terms of how we use our hybrid system. Our system is a kinetic system only whereas the Porsche system lends itself a bit better to this kind of track where you don’t get much kinetic recovery. They rely more on their turbo for the heat recovery than we can do round here.

“We are expecting them to be closer but we’re still unsure about how it’s going to pan out in terms of the double stint. How we’re going to use the tyres compared to them. Normally, under the normal circumstances, you’d say we use the tyres better than them, we’d be able to eek out more life in our tyres than them because running more down force should keep the surface of the tyre in better condition, putting less friction through them, we don’t know. One thing is for sure, they’re going to be closer in the race.”

Brendon Hartley was keen to echo this sentiment when discussing the benefits and downsides to running the low down force ‘Le Mans’ specification aero package at a track that prefers high down force. Although he stated that “Qualifying wasn’t very important with only four cars,” and that the #2 crew and Porsche were “really focused on the race.” in the free practice sessions, Hartley believes Porsche is not that far off the pace Toyota was setting in their long runs. “Toyota’s pace was awesome in qualifying but we didn’t see the same in free practice.

“Honestly their time this morning [in qualifying] was really impressive but I think that also there’s a bigger gain for them in qualifying compared to us for a few reasons, with how you manage energies and what not. It was an impressive lap, but I don’t think you’re going to see such differences tomorrow.”

Hartley revealed that the #2 car never ran any qualifying simulations in free practice, opting to use the 240 minutes of free practice time to fully focus on long runs and making sure the car was set up perfectly for the race whilst collecting as much data about tyre wear. This meant they never got the balance right when they put the qualifying set up on the car for the first time in the qualifying session which is what Hartley suggests is the reason they start at the back of the hybrid field. On average, the lap times the Porsches were setting on their long runs were fairly close to the pace of the Toyotas in the same circumstance.

Although Neel Jani has been fairly avoidant that Silverstone will be Porsche’s “joker” race, one that he does not expect them to perform well at due to using the low down force aero kit on the Porsches, Hartley is optimistic about his expectations of tomorrow’s race. “I think we can win.” He claimed boldly. “There is gonna be a fight, everyone has to pull together; strategy, pit stops, there could be a bit of weather in play so there is always a challenge. We’re going for the win.”

The low down force aero package appears to not be as much of a deficit to Porsche this weekend, something the team is pleasantly surprised about. However, qualifying third and fourth ahead of the six-hour race tomorrow was all Jani expected out of the cars today. “P1 and 2 definitely out of reach just due to strategy with the down force package over the season.” Jani explained, using a term he has used a lot this weekend by calling Silverstone Porsche’s ‘joker race’. “We know we give away performance but we hope to gain a lot in the second half [of the season].”

In terms of the pace Porsche produced in qualifying with all things considered, Jani was ‘positively surprised’. “I think is important to mention. Last year, we did a 39.6 with a high down force package, or a higher down force. This year with the low down force package and we go one second quicker. Even though we lost down force and whatever we still went quicker. So I think that’s actually giving me a positive outlook for the future with that car.”

Unlike his teammate, though, Jani does not think there is much they can do to catch the Toyotas in tomorrow’s race. “I think the only chance is if we pass them lap one.” He said when asked if there was any possibility they could challenge for a higher position. “2015 I had this big battle with Marcel, with the Audi. Audi was two seconds a lap quicker but because we were so much quicker on the straight they couldn’t overtake us. That worked out nearly until the end with a four second difference at the end. So I’m not sure that would work tomorrow but I would say that is our only big chance on track.

“But on the other hand, just with racing, you need a bit of luck. Like last year, we won, we were not meant to win but we still won. You know, you never know how a race can turn out.”

Jani may have written off the first round of the championship but he is nothing but positive about the prospect of round two at Spa-Francorchamps even with the low down force package on the car. Silverstone, in Jani’s opinion, should be the only race that sees Porsche losing performance to Toyota. “We think in Spa we could be not looking too bad. If we look really bad in Spa I think we should get a little worried.

“I also think at Spa it could help us overall with traffic management because you can only do lap time on the straight line and over take on the straight line. In the middle sector you cannot overtake. So maybe in the race it will be helping us more than it will help us in qualifying. But I think we go with the positive outlook or view to spa after what we felt here.”

Kamui Kobayashi has set the fastest lap time of the weekend to take pole position for the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing. The lap time was unrivalled throughout the session, and made teammate Mike Conway’s job fairly easy when generating the aggregated lap time for pole position. A close battle in LMP2 saw #26 G-Drive Racing picking up the pole position point this weekend. Ford retained the rapid pace they had shown in the final practice session to clinch LM GTE Pro pole, whilst Aston Martin stole Am pole from Ferrari’s grasp.

Porsche did not have a chance at challenging for pole position when Toyota’s Kobayashi set a 1:36.793 on his second flying lap. Pole was fairly secure for the car as Kobayashi handed over to teammate Mike Conway. Although there was a moment of concern for the team when Conway’s first lap time was deleted due to exceeding track limits, the car still comfortably took pole in the LMP1 class. Locking out the front row, it will be two Toyotas at the front for the start of the first race of the 2017 WEC season, with Porsche having to settle for the second row.

The LMP2 times were changing so rapidly throughout the session it was hard to keep track of who was on provisional pole. At the halfway split, it was Alex Lynn leading the field in the #26 G-Drive. But the advantage was not unreachable and the tension was high as the second drivers climbed into the cockpits. Pierre Thiriet did what he needed to make Lynn’s hard work count and secured pole position for G-Drive with an average of 1:44.387. #36 Signatech Alpine’s Nicolas Lapierre did what he had been accomplishing all weekend and put in a fast enough lap as the second driver to place the ORECA/Gibson second in class. He leaped ahead of the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car and the #28 TDS Racing machine with his flying lap. Due to multiple deleted lap times, the #28 fell from its provisional second in class to seventh in class. #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing appeared to have a torrid session and ended slowest of all the LMP2 cars.

ByKolles made a step up for qualifying but were still off their desired pace. It classified ninth overall, which meant it was slower than four of the LMP2 cars. The average of the car was nine tenths off the average of the pole sitting G-Drive. It was a better performance than they showed in the morning practice session but still the team have some big gains to make.

LM GTE Pro became a battle between Ford #67, Ferrari #71 and Aston Martin #95. None of the other Pro cars could get close to the top three as the twenty-minute session panned out. Harry Tincknell set the pace to beat in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car but David Rigon was not far behind in the #71 Ferrari. After the first drivers had set laps, it seemed to be a two horse race, but Marco Sorensen put an end to that with a fantastic lap that put the #96 Aston Martin’s average lap time less than a tenth off the pace of the #71 Ferrari. It seemed the second drivers did enough to maintain the position their teammates set before them, with the #67 sitting on the first 2017 WEC LM GTE Pro pole. Porsche suffered a lot throughout the session and could not seem to get the 911 RSRs into optimum running. Both the Pro cars sat at the back of the Pro field over two seconds off the pole-setting pace.

It was a two car fight in Am, with the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE taking on the #98 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage. After the first drivers got out of the cars, it was the #61 ahead with a small margin. Paul Dalla Lana hopped into the #98 and found the time Pedro Lamy could not out on track, taking the class poll position by six-tenths in average lap times. Porsche were a little bit more competitive in the Am class, taking third place for tomorrow’s grid, but they were nearly a second off of first place. Challenging for anything higher than third was out of reach. The battle at the bottom of the grid was close with each car separated by around three-tenths. The second Ferrari, #54 Spirit of Race, split the two Porsche–running teams, leaving the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR to take the final spot on the grid.

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