The 6 Hours of Silverstone was the start of the 2015 WEC season. At the moment I follow four different series, which means I can have weekends where I want to watch several races at the same time or at least on the same day. 10/11/12 April was no different. This weekend saw three of the series I follow active, all in different timezones. However, Aston Martin is my main passion, so to Silverstone I went.
Due to work commitments I had to miss the Friday proceedings, but I was present for the third practice session on Saturday morning.
It had been raining earlier that morning; it was not quite dry yet when I arrived. Still, everything dried up fast enough and practice seemed to go quite well for the team I was there to support: Aston Martin Racing.
Aston Martin has quite a history when it comes to racing, but also left endurance racing a long time ago. In 2004 they returned to WEC. Now in their 11th year, they are making another change: this year they will have five cars on the grid, rather than four. Their #95 car, also known as the Dane Train, has been promoted from GTE AM to GTE Pro. It is clear to see why as they started off the season with a P1 in qualification, followed suit by the #99 and the #97.
The Saturday programme seemed quite relaxed for the WEC teams. There was third practice and qualification. At 13:00 they were done. The rest of the day was reserved for the support races: FIA F3 European Championship and ELMS (European Le Mans Series). FIA F3 had several races throughout the weekend, ELMS had one 4 hour race on Saturday.
It is always different to see a race from the side of the track rather than on television. For one, it is actually quite hard to keep up with what is happening and who is in what position. Possibly due to that I found the F3 race a bit dull. The cars seem to stay in the same position, simply coming by in single file until the finish. There was one crash near my position very early on, but I’d rather see a good battle than a crash. Nevertheless, car racing is good in any way as far as I’m concerned.
I have to confess I missed the ELMS race, because I decided to explore the grounds. Silverstone is huge. In fact, it’s so large they arranged double decker buses to transport the public to and fro. Afterwards I learned there were approximately 45,000 people over the weekend. It really felt quite empty, especially with many stands closed. There was an entertainment area which was quite small and never seemed very full.
While walking around I found out the paddock was open to the public, so I immediately took advantage of that fact and had a look around. Aston Martin Racing had brought several beautiful grey and black trucks. All were very clean and parked neatly in a row. What a sight!
The next day I headed back that way, because I had pit walk tickets. The first 2,000 ticket holders got these. That is still quite a large number of people in the pit at one time.
The main attraction was, of course, the drivers signing session. My best friend and I immediately headed for the Aston Martin Racing boxes to get some newly purchased photos signed. She managed to get her photo signed by all 14 AMR drivers!
At noon I was back at the same corner I was at the day before, waiting for the start of the 6 hour race. In the GTE Pro class Aston Martin Racing had taken positions 1, 2 and 3. In the GTE AM class they took 1st and 6th. The 6th position was for the #96 car, which is the new car on the grid for the team.
After a few laps the LMP and GTE classes were starting to get deliciously mixed up, making for wonderful viewing. There were short bursts where a GTE car seemed to take on a LMP car. The GTE car always lost (these LMP’s are quite a bit faster!), but the battles were wonderful to watch.
Eventually I picked another spot to watch the race from. The action remained spectacular. If you watch proceedings from the same position for long enough you can see how a car is progressing. For example, the #99 Aston Martin was hot on the rear bumper of a GTE Ferrari and as the laps went by I could see they were getting closer. Eventually they were so close I expected them to overtake the Ferrari. It didn’t happen when I was watching, but next time around the Aston Martin was up front…and running away from them.
It’s the personal battles like that I really enjoyed.
Another bonus for me is seeing the cars live in action. I had not realised how quiet the LMP1 cars are. During their qualification on Saturday it was possible to hold a normal conversation with the person next to you when they came past.
The GTE cars are a different story. Some of them are very, very loud (here’s looking at you, Ferrari!), which is why you can buy things to protect your ears around the circuit.
I realise I’m biased, but the Astons just sound beautiful. I love a deep growling engine with a rough edge (when speeding and gearing up).
Fairly early on in the race the yellow flags were waved. As I was looking for a new view point at the time I missed it and do not know why it happened. Unfortunately this was not good for Aston Martin Racing. They had already pitted once and ended up at the back of their respective fields. They managed to make up for loss time (I did mention the spectacular action before), but in GTE Pro they never fully recovered. In the GTE AM class they fared a bit better: the #98 car finished in first position.
All the responses I read from the AMR team afterwards were still quite positive. They have a lot of data to work with for the next races and I will watch them all (if they are broadcast on television, of course). Let’s see what happens next time!