I was at Silverstone in April for the European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship weekend. I took along a new zoom lens to its first motorsport event, and by Sunday I think I was getting the hang of it!
I’ve attended the 6 Hours (and predecessor 1000km) for the last few years, this year it was moved from Autumn to Spring with the expected change in conditions. Saturday’s ELMS was run in torrential rain. Thankfully Sunday was much brighter and was mostly free of rain, but again the thermometers flattered to deceive, and while it was warmer than the day before it still felt much colder than readings indicated. In previous years I did it as a day trip but with the addition of ELMS I decided to stay in Northampton to see both races, and also to attend Sunday’s pit walk.
Saturday – See my post about Saturday’s European Le Mans Series race here.
Sunday April 14th – FIA World Endurance Championship
The first order of business was to get to the pitwalk. This was easier said than done. The free shuttle buses were few and far between and it took a good 30 or 40 minutes to walk from the Abbey/ex-Bridge area to the new Wing paddock complex, as there is no crossing point nearby. All this walking meant I missed the day’s Formula 3 race which happened at the same time, though I did bump into theseguys. Was it worth the effort? Definitely.
Will you be attending the Silverstone Six Hours this Sunday? If you’re still considering it here are some things to look out for, a brief field run-down and some pointers for what to bring with you. If you’ve been to any race track before some of these will be obvious, if you are used to F1 or BTCC some things are different.
What is this race?
Everyone knows the Le Mans 24 Hours, right? Many of those cars and drivers compete in a year-long series. This race is the Silverstone 6 Hours and is a points-paying round of the series.
Why you should go
Silverstone throw open most of the grandstands for no extra fee. You get to wander between them whenever you like and nobody will stop you! Only a couple of stands are reserved for sponsors or are closed. Most are open to all!
You get four races on the track at once, for six hours!
If you get there early enough Sunday, or are there Saturday, you get to see Formula Renault 3.5 as well.
Up front you have the height of technology with almost-F1-pace rapid prototypes silently gliding by. In the middle is a closer race for less-advanced prototypes.
At the other end of the scale you have big noisy Corvettes and Astons and Ferraris and Porsches fighting tooth and nail for their class wins just as much as the others.
There are so many drivers and nuances among teams that I can’t hope to cover them all here. For more detail I recommend reading DailySportscar.com – some of their WEC coverage is supported by Nissan so you don’t need a subscription.
The 3-car overall fight isn’t just Audi vs Toyota, since Audi have entered two types of technology:
1 x R18 e-tron quattro (hybrid diesel) for Le Mans winners Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler.
1 x R18 ultra (non-hybrid diesel) for the ‘legends’ of Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen racing as a duo following Dindo Capello’s retirement. (Lucas di Grassi will join McNish and Kristensen at the Interlagos round).
Toyota entered one (hybrid petrol) car for Alex Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Nicolas Lapierre. They were quick at Le Mans but both their cars retired there. No questions of their speed but can they finish the race?
Privateers – Behind these there are 4 privateer LMP1 cars battling for a podium should the top 3 falter. We’ll see two Lotus-livered Rebellion Lolas versus two Hondas (HPDs) from two different teams, Strakka and JRM. Karun Chandhok, David Brabham, Danny Watts, Jonny Kane, Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani… the line-ups in these cars is pretty good. Sadly OAK and Pescarolo withdrew their LMP1 cars for competitive and sponsorship reasons respectively.
In the second tier you have 15 cars in the most unpredicable class in the field. Although Starworks with Stephane Sarrazin among their line-up start as favourites you cannot pick a winner and you certainly can’t pick a top 3! Nissan power most of the field but you’ll find competition from Judd, Honda and Lotus. Likewise most cars are split between Lola and Zytek. This all means the field is very tight.
Bertrand Baguette is with OAK, Nic Minassian has a guest drive at JOTA, F1-tester Brendon Hartley is back with Murphy Prototypes along with Warren Hughes, Tonio Liuzzi puts in a surprise appearance at Lotus (yes two more Lotus liveries here in this team run by Colin Kolles), and the Brundle father/son partnership from the ELMS has entered to back up Greaves’ WEC points-scoring car.
The GTE Pro class (GT cars for Professional drivers) is sparse this season with just five cars but the quality is there – there isn’t a bad car, team or driver in the bunch. Fisichella, Bruni, Bertolini and Beretta make up the two-car AF Corse Ferrari charge, and JMW are bringing their yellow example too for Cocker and Walker. They’re up against the fast Aston of Mucke, Turner and Fernandez and the potent Porsche pairing of Lietz and Lieb in the blue Felbermayr car.
At the back you’ll find GTE Am (GT cars for Amateurs/Gentleman drivers plus one Pro if you like). In fairness some of these cars are quick and mix it up with the GTE Pros. Things seem to work in pairs in GTE Am: we’ll see two Ferraris, two Corvettes, two Porsches and two Aston Martins. The Pro drivers are all good so this’ll likely come down to who has the best gentleman drivers. So far that seems to be the Larbre Corvettes.
You will need..
– An advance ticket (deadline Thursday). This isn’t strictly necessary but if you book in advance they are £30 for Sunday versus £35 on the day.
– An FM radio. I’ve made the mistake at this event before. Make sure you bring either a radio or a phone which can access the Tune In Radio app at a former aerodrome miles from anywhere. You will need to be able to hear John Hindhaugh and the Radio Le Mans crew tell you what is going on because you sure as hell can’t hear the circuit tannoy in the stands unless you position yourself right next to a speaker, and being a long multi-class race you’ll easily lose track of positions if you try following by sight alone (unless you lap-chart..). On Tune In Radio you will need Radio Le Mans and/or Radio Silverstone. I don’t know the exact FM frequency but it should be somewhere near 97 MHz.
– Suncream and an anorak. It’s August so if the sun’s out it’ll be warm, but long-range forecasts shows rain.. I won’t be using an umbrella as they’re too cumbersome and annoying for everyone else. If it is raining I’ll wear a hat. Hopefully we’ll be in t-shirts and shorts!
– Money. The food concessions at Silverstone are expensive. I’ve moaned about this in this space before! At least there are better and healthier options than there were 10 years ago I suppose.
– Walking shoes. You can stay in the same place if you like, I prefer to walk around. Many of the grandstands are thrown open for you to wander between at your heart’s content.
– Patience in traffic. Getting in is relatively painless with waits of no more than half an hour. Getting out can be testing which is why I usually sit around to watch the podium ceremonies. Let everyone else get stressed. I don’t try to leave early, I didn’t spend all this time and money getting here to miss who wins.
Race date: Sunday 26th August
Formula Renault 3.5 race: 9:40am – 10:30am (timed race)
Not at the track? You can watch on MotorsTV in the UK/France/other places, and on various websites including fiawec.com. In previous races the website (eventually, a little while after the race started) gave you various different audio options including Radio Le Mans.
I have no idea how you watch this race in North America, I think it might be on the website Speed2 or ESPN3 or something? Pretty sure they geoblock fiawec.com to channel people to one of those sites but try it. If that fails you could try audi.tv.
I have a 3.5-hour drive from home and am notoriously bad at getting up. I plan to leave home between 7 and 7.30am which ought to get me there for say 11am. I’ll miss the pit walkabout but I don’t know if a general ticket gets me into that anyway.
I plan to watch the start from the front straight so I can hear engines fire up and see cars leave the grid, and may stay there until the first round of LMP stops at about 40-45 minutes. After that I will head around anti-clockwise (always track walk against the flow of traffic), stopping at Club, Stowe and the Hangar Straight before probably heading to the bit of viewing area between Maggots and the Village Loop so I can see cars both sides of me!
The outside of Becketts doesn’t really do it for me, too far away. I may not bother with the old start/finish area, it looks pitiful nowadays with all the grandstands gone, and I don’t want to be wandering the FR3.5 garages while the main race is in progress. (No offence, FR3.5 guys). Perhaps I’ll go to Luffield via the infield route. I’d like to watch the last hour or so from Club or start/finish. Will I stay for the podium? Unsure. I’ve done so for the last two years but this time I’d like to get on the road to try to see the IndyCar race at Sonoma. But that depends on the traffic getting out.