Silverstone 6 Hours: Friday Notebook

Today saw the first track action of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship as the 29-strong field took to the Silverstone tarmac in two 90 minute practice sessions. As with all practice times you can’t really draw too many conclusions; we don’t know who was showing their full hand, but we did make a few notes on what’s been significant over the day.

Silverstone Audi Pit

The first thing that stands out is just how close the big prototype battle appears to be; Audi, Porsche and Toyota have all put in a lot similar looking times and a picture is beginning to emerge of what the eight race season might have in store for us.

There were worries that Audi might have shot themselves in the foot with their choice of using less hybrid grunt but their pace has been as ominously good as usual. Porsche have impressed too with the rumoured reliability issues being nowhere to be seen, so the ‘Most Competitive Prototype Battle for 20 Years’ is odds on to live up to its name.

A swift round of applause should go to Rebellion Racing with their ageing Lola-Toyotas wheezing round the track but setting some very impressive times. All of the LMP1-H entries are brand new cars and could suffer from reliability issues, so there’s an outside chance that the venerable old Lolas could end up punching above their weight.

The GTE field is close too, mainly due to the WEC getting rid of the rule that forced Am teams to use cars that were at least a year old. Now that the playing field is slightly more level it’s going to be down to the drivers to make the difference between the two classes, and we’ve already seen a couple of the ‘gentleman drivers’ higher up the order than they were last year.

Here’s one for the most British of you; privateers Ram Racing are performing their ‘plucky underdog’ role rather well. The impressive Pro team of Alvaro Parente and Matt Griffin have been banging in the laps and taking it to the factory teams, even beating their AF Corse counterparts in second practice. 2013 was all about the manufacturers in Pro, it’s good to see the formula being shaken up a bit for this year.

Finally, and probably most intriguingly, the talk at the track is all about what the sky might be doing come Sunday afternoon. With rain forecasted for a large chunk of the race nobody really knows whether or not to make any conclusions in the run up; for example Aston’s uncharacteristically poor pace has been variably put down to rain prep, sandbagging and poor set up.

It’s all leading to an unpredictable start to the 2014 WEC, which is just what we were all crossing our fingers for when the new rules were announced so long ago. Stay tuned to Speed Chills for all the run-up and race action, and keep your eyes peeled when the lights go out at midday on Sunday.