Silverstone hosts thrilling opening race in World Endurance Championship

Mark Webber turns the number 17 Porsche into Luffield during the early laps of Sunday's FIA WEC race at Silverstone
Mark Webber turns the number 17 Porsche into Luffield during the early laps of Sunday's FIA WEC race at Silverstone

Over 45,000 people visited Silverstone throughout the three days of the 6-Hours of Silverstone event at the weekend, the opening round of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Those making the trip to the local track saw a titanic battle between factory-entered cars from Audi, Porsche and Toyota, with the winners completing 201 laps around the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit.

Twenty-nine cars took the start for the first of eight rounds of the 2015 WEC, a series that also includes the world famous Le Mans 24-Hour Race in June, and qualifying on pole was former Grand Prix racer Mark Webber and it was he who was tasked with starting the number 17 Porsche 919-Hybrid he shares with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley at the start of the race.

Webber was in fine form and led for the first third of the race until gearbox issues on the car forced retirement.

With the lead Porsche out of contention, it was left to the number 18 Porsche of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb to continue the charge for victory, but as the race progressed, the Audi Sport team saw their number seven R18 e-tron quattro, driven by Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer, move into contention and then the lead.

With the race nearing its climax, the leading Audi came under increasing pressure from the chasing Porsche and the number one Toyota TS-040 Hybrid of Brackley’s Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.

At the fall of the chequered flag the Audi’s margin of victory was just 4.6 seconds, with the Toyota another 10 seconds back down the road.

The number two Toyota TS-040 Hybrid of Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway took fourth, with the number eight Audi of Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis sixth.

G-Drive Racing completed the top six, winning LMP2 in the process, with Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal and Sam Bird driving a Ligier JSP2, while Ferrari and Aston Martin took victory in the two GT classes.

Fassler said: “This was a great battle between all of the leading manufacturers in the WEC. It looks like we are in for a great season of racing, and it is great for Audi that we have been able to start our season with a win here at Silverstone.”

Davidson, who is the reigning world champion, added: “A podium finish was good for us, although obviously we came to Silverstone looking for victory. We are the reigning world champions, and winning at the start of a season is important but what we really want to do is win Le Mans as well.”

After his early retirement, Webber, who received much support at the track where he has twice claimed victory in the British Grand Prix, said: “It was really going smoothly, and I had a nice run at the front of the field, but then we had a drivetrain issue.”

Marc Gene was at Silverstone with fellow members of the Nissan WEC team to promote their participation in the Le Mans 24-Hour Race. The Nissan GTR-LM project has been delayed and the team were forced to miss Silverstone and will also miss the next race at Spa.

Gene said: “It was good to see everyone so excited about our new car, and we are working hard to be ready for Le Mans in June.”