Silverstone 6 Hours 2013 - The Speed Chills Preview

We’ve been waiting for a long time for the return of the WEC. We twiddled our thumbs for months, took our racing fix where we could and religiously crossed off the days on the calendar, but the world’s premier endurance circus will soon be among us once again. And it’s happening just down the road.

Toyota Hybrid Le Mans

There’s something a bit special about motor racing in good old Blighty. It’s not just the fact that it’s our home race, or that we have pretty much the best racing heritage in history.

Silverstone is one reason; when drivers are asked which tracks are their favourites, the Northamptonshire circuit always shares the top three with history-soaked Monaco and the underwear-soilingly quick Suzuka.

But there’s another reason that goes further than the neck breaking forces around Maggots and Becketts; what really makes Silverstone is all of us. In the coming days tens of thousands of bonkers British racing aficionados are going to congregate in a featureless WWII airbase, before watching multi-million pound motors fly round (or off) a ribbon of tarmac loosely based on a series of straight runways.

We’ll bring our banners and our wellies, we’ll push other peoples’ campervans out of the muddy bits of car parks, we’ll break out the picnic rugs and ponchos, all to get the privilege of seeing some of the world’s fastest cars duking it out in the rain for points in an eight race championship. Really, we’re a bit silly.

But that’s a given. And what makes it even better in 2013 is that we’re hosting the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship; the first of eight races that will determine who on the planet is the best at making invincible hyper-racers.

So what has the British debut of the WEC got to offer us? Well, for starters we’ve got the first episode of the soap opera that will be Audi vs. Toyota; a battle that seemed so unfair at Le Mans last year but proved to be anything but in the months afterward.

Aston Martin Le Mans

This year though, the fight will be much fairer. It’s 2 on 2 at Silverstone; the #1 and #2 Audis of Lotterer/Treluyer/Fassler and Kristensen/McNish/Duval squaring off against Wurz/Lapierre and Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin in the #7 and #8 Toyotas.

If last year’s record stands we’ll be seeing a monumental fight, full of all the mind bending speed and whisper quiet flybys that we’ve come to expect from these two racing behemoths and their victory hungry drivers.

The rest of the top drawer LMP1 class has been streamlined this year with the exit of Pescarolo, Oak and JRM. But the remaining two teams promise to give us a good spectacle; the British Strakka and Swiss Rebellion teams will be duking it out for the honour of best privateer, and perhaps crossing fingers for a fortuitous trip to the overall podium.

LMP2 again promises to be full of action, with ten teams signed up and ready to race. Ones to watch out for include Oak Racing, Delta ADR and G-Drive, all of whom impressed at the recent Paul Ricard test. With US outfit Starworks out of the running due to funding issues, the title could be anyone’s.

The GTE Pro lot will also be providing us with some good entertainment, with a straight six-way battle for supremacy featuring the massed forces of Ferrari, Porsche and Aston.

AF Corse have brought both of their prancing ponies along (with one Kamui Kobayashi, of banzai overtaking fame, at one of the wheels), while the return of the Porsche factory team to top flight endurance promises to provide spectacular efficiency. But it’s the home team Aston Martins that have the most to gain from victory at Silverstone; not only a good start to the season but adoration from a hugely supportive crowd.

strakka rear flag

GTE Am won’t be disappointing either, with eight competitors fighting it out for the chequered flag. Three Ferraris, two 911s, two Astons and a ‘Vette will be on the grid on Sunday, all vying for the title of fastest gentleman racer.

It’s almost like Le Mans is coming home; a continuation of the exhausting exhilaration provided by the planet’s favourite race. We’ll be seeing all of the same gladiators and machines, but in an arena that’s only a couple of miles from our doorstep; and all with the amazing atmosphere that Britain always magically manages to conjure up.

When the dust settles on Sunday we’ll finally have a clear picture of how everybody stands, but no matter how quick, slow or smashed up anybody is we’re sure to see the same amount of joy, disappointment and despair at Silverstone, with action aplenty and eye-watering speed to get us back into the endurance mood. The wait is almost over, and the WEC is about to make its welcome return. It’s good to be back.

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