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- Toyota claims victory in the WEC opener at Silverstone with a fault-free 1-2 result
- Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Nicola Lapierre score victory for the No.8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid
- Mark Webber scores a podium on his Porsche debut, but both Audis crash out
Toyota has opened up the 2014 World Endurance Championship season with a resounding win on the Silverstone 6 Hours after Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre headed up a 1-2 for the Japanese firm in changeable conditions.
Though it was the No.7 car of Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima qualified on pole position, the No.8 car benefitted from a correct tyre call during a dramatic opening hour to move into a lead it would protect all the way to a chequered flag that was called 30mins early due to poor weather.
A hectic opening to the race saw both Toyotas and Audis jostling for position in the opening laps, but it was Wurz that would retain the advantage initially over Andre Lotterer in the leading R18, ahead of Lucas di Grassi (Audi) and Buemi.
However, in a race that Audi would no doubt care to forget, its first set-back came after just 45mins when WEC newcomer di Grassi lost control of his R18 coming out Club, the car hitting the barriers firmly. Though he would eventually make it back to the pit lane, the defending champion car would be forced into retirement.
With rain beginning to fall midway through the first hour, inter-team strategy was thrown into the mix, with Toyota making the move to put the leading No.7 Toyota onto wet tyres and the No.8 onto intermediates. By contrast, Audi would keep Lotterer on slick tyres in the hope the weather would clear.
With intermediate tyres proving the better choice, Buemi quickly made up ground on Lotterer to pass him even before the Frenchman dropped his car into the gravel trap at Stowe at the start of the second hour, losing him four laps in the process.
Now running 1-2 – the No.8 car around a lap up on the No.7 car -, Buemi and Lapierre simply protected their lead before handing over to Davidson, with Nakajima and Sarrazin matching its counterpart on pace but unable to close up.
Further back, Audi's race would go from bad to worse when Benoit Treluyer caught the white line on the entrance to Copse, the R18 hitting the inside barrier hard before spinning out into retirement, signalling a costly – and rare – double DNF for the Ingolstadt marque.
Toyota, meanwhile, were coasting out front, with Davidson handing over to Buemi for the final stint just as the heavens opened and rain began to fall heavily. With conditions getting steadily worse, the decision was made to halt the race with 32mins remaining and the result declared.
Earning itself the iconic Tourist Trophy in the process, the result marks a perfect start to the season for Toyota, particularly on a day that saw its main rivals suffer a torrid time.
Indeed, having impressed over a single lap, series newcomers Porsche couldn't quite match its new rivals in racing conditions, with the 919 Hybrid just adrift of the leaders during the opening stint even before the No. 14 car of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb lost its wheel and was forced into repairs. Though Jani would return to circuit, mechanical issues would halt it terminally during the second hour.
Nonetheless, the high attrition rate would allow the No.20 car of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber to come up onto a popular podium position, the car picking up pace as the race wore on but eventually finishing a fairly distant – albeit untroubled – third.
Similarly, Rebellion Racing endured mixed fortunes with the No.13 LMP1-L car retiring very early on, but the No.12 team of Nick Heidfeld, Mathias Beche and Nicolas Prost giving the Lola B/12 chassis a solid swansong in fourth overall.
A field already depleted by having just four starters, the LMP2 battle came down to just two cars that, for a time, would run nose-to-tail. In the end, the G-Drive Morgan Nissan of Olivier Pla, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal would prevail over the KCMG car, the latter losing time after a drive-through penalty.
A similarly close battle would define the LMGTE Pro class, with the leaders often running on the same lap and occasionally amongst one another. Though Ferrari led initially, Porsche would rise to the fore, with the No.92 911 of Frederic Makowiecki, Marco Holzer and Richard Lietz heading off Manthey team-mates Patrick Pilet, Jorg Bergmeister and Nick Tandy.
In the LMGTE Am class, Aston Martin Racing secured a welcome win on home soil, the all-Danish machine of Nicki Thiim, Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson coming out top.