Allan McNish takes a spectacular last gasp victory for Audi at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, the opening round of the 2013 World Endurance Championship.
When the World Endurance Championship circus arrived at Silverstone last year, the odds were looking good for an event whitewash for Audi. With Peugeot having abandoned its global motorsport programme owing to financial difficulties, Toyota had at least stepped into the endurance racing breach to make sure the four-ringed machines wouldn’t walk away with every bit of silverware in 2012. But things hadn’t got off to the best start.
A practice crash at Spa-Francorchamps led to Toyota delaying its debut WEC race weekend until the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But even that went awry when first Anthony Davidson went airborne in the #8 TS030 Hybrid in a terrifying accident involving the #81 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT2, and then Kazuki Nakajima took the sister #7 car out of the reckoning following contact with the DeltaWing prototype. Try watching Satoshi Motoyama’s attempts to get the DeltaWing going again without getting misty-eyed…
Fast-forward to Silverstone 2012. The outright pace of the Toyota TS030 Hybrid still wasn’t clear, and fighting for victory thus seemed out of question. That was until Nakajima, Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre came within seconds of taking Toyota’s first WEC victory. My, how the paddock sat up and took notice.
Fast-forward just under twelve months later, and again it was Toyota flying high after a tumultuous qualifying session. The new procedure – under which the grid is now set based on the aggregate time of the two fastest laps set by each of two drivers – had the drivers completely lost, let alone the fans, while a timing system glitch in the final stages of qualifying meant that nobody knew the identity of the pole winner until hours later. A baffling turn of events certainly, but with Toyota haven’t read the changeable conditions perfectly, Wurz and Lapierre nailed a qualifying run nearly two seconds faster than anyone else, and easily secured pole position at Silverstone.
Fast-forward another 24 hours, and this time it was Toyota left scratching its head. Three wins from the final four races of the 2012 WEC season (as well as pole position at Sao Paolo, Fuji and Shanghai) proved that the TS030 Hybrid had the pace to put the Audis to shame. And yet the two-car effort netted only third and fourth places (the latter one lap down on the leaders) on a day they had looked set to dominate. Audi meanwhile – aided admittedly by playing the weather to their advantage – had walked the event, even if the winner was unclear well into the closing stages.
Much of the same was true in the P2 category, where Antonio Pizzonia, James Walker and Tor Graves in the #25 Delta-ADR Oreca 03 and Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson in the #24 OAK Racing Morgan had gone mano y mano throughout the six hour endurance event, only for the #25 machine to ultimately come out on top.