While I have followed coverage of endurance racing for nearly 20 years, I have to admit that my visit to the 6 Hours of Silverstone was my first experience of live WEC action – and it has left me craving more!
I joined the 52,000 race fans who journeyed to the see the 2016 World Endurance Championship begin in earnest at the home of British motorsport. Considering that unseasonal snow had caused limited running on Saturday, and that the Chinese Grand Prix was taking place on the same day, it was a great turnout and fans were treated to some amazing action.
All noise, all action
Audi once again look like the team to beat in the World Endurance Championship, with their blistering pace apparent from the staggering gap that they pulled out on the first lap alone.
However as the action unfurled, a race-long battle with Porsche emerged, as the two manufacturers pitched their latest generation of chargers head-to-head on track for the first time. Ultimately Audi’s all-new R18 would come home victorious, but a technical infringement identified in post-race scrutineering would hand the overall win to the No.2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Mac Lieb. The No. 6 Toyota was subsequently elevated to second place, while the No.13 Rebellion R-One, an LMP1 Privateer outfit, was promoted to third after an impressive showing.
Elsewhere, there was a stunning debut for the RGR Sport by Morand Ligier-Nissan team, with Bruno Senna, Filipe Albuquerque and Ricardo Gonzalez claiming victory in LMP2, while the No.71 AF Corse team celebrated victory with their new Ferrari 488GTE.
The race will also be remembered for Brendan Hartley’s sizeable collision with the N0.86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911. The Kiwi racer was lucky not to roll his Porsche 919 after he swept across the track to collide with Michael Wainwright, having tried to overtake around the outside of Turn 2. Hartley has subsequently received a formal reprimand.
Access all areas
I have long been critical of Formula 1’s exclusionary approach to motorsport, particularly at a time when other series such as Formula E and the BTCC are doing so much to promote fan inclusivity. Yet, it was clear that WEC is eager to promote greater fan engagement, and the access afforded to those attending the 6 Hours of Silverstone was impressive.
General admission tickets allowed fans to access the vast majority of viewing areas, both on the in-field and around the track, as well as many of the grandstands. Most notable was the freedom afforded to fans, meaning they could freely move between areas or get as close the action as possible, with many thousands lining the fences just a matter of feet away from the cars.
A wide selection of side attractions were also provided in the WEC Fan Zone Entertainment Area – a particular highlight for younger race day fans, as a six hour race proved a little long for the attention spans of some.
The digital gantries in the pitlane were used to display tweets from fans using the #6hSilverstone hashtag, which was a great touch, while the amazing levels of accessibility afforded by the pitlane walk and driver signing sessions are to be applauded. It was clear that meeting their racing heroes was the real highlight for many and that autographs are still in very high demand.
Great value entertainment
While many ticket options were available, those who had made a last minute decision to attend the race paid just £40 on the door – a fair price considering that the cheapest ticket for this year’s British Grand Prix costs £270.
Couple that with free parking (again, the fans must pay £50 on race day), a regular shuttlebus service and a greater vantage points, this is how motorsport should be run! It was clear from meeting fans that the 6 Hours of Silverstone has converted many new to following endurance racing, as well as making a wealth of younger spectators life-long fans of motorsport during their family day out.
Even as a long-standing fanatic of motor racing, the visceral thrills of this weekend – the smell of hot oil, searing clutches and punished tyres accompanied by truly ear-shatter noise – were some of the most enjoyable that I have ever experienced. I will certainly be back for more.