Over 45,000 spectators flocked to Silverstone on the weekend of the 16-17 April for the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season which was officially flagged of by Hollywood star, and current WEC team owner, Patrick Dempsey.
The first race of the 2016 season lived up to all expectations with plenty of action and excitement with a stunning battle of speed and endurance between Audi, Porsche and Toyota as they fought their way through the six hour endurance race.
The No.2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb, enjoyed a spirited battle for the lead throughout the middle stages of the race against the No. 7 Audi R18 of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoit Tréluyer with Tréluyer taking the lead with three hours remaining. The incredible race-long battle with Porsche had its dramas. Porsche’s car hit trouble after dropping to second place when Marc Lieb was hit by one of the Ford GTs in GTE Pro, which lost time, and Neel Jani was forced into an extra pit stop by a puncture in the final hour. Just a mere seven seconds separated the two cars in the closing stages, only for Neel Jani to require a late pit stop which sealed the race for Team Audi’s no. 7 crew. Marcel Fässler crossed the finish line in pole position 46 seconds clear of the field in P1.
Having thought Team Audi had defeated Porsche in the season-opener, their happiness was short lived when post-race scrutineering revealed that the No.7 car was not in compliance with LMP1 Technical Regulations (thickness of the front skid block), causing the Stewards of the Meeting to exclude the car from the race.
The outcome saw the No.2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb, take the maximum race points from the opening round of the 2016 FIA WEC, to claim both the overall win and the coveted Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy. In second position was the No.6 TS050 Hybrid car of Toyota Gazoo Racing shared by Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Stéphane Sarrazin. Completing the podium line up was car No.13 was Rebellion R-One of LMP1 Privateer Rebellion Racing.
Peter Read, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club Motoring Committee, said, ‘Amongst the controversy of the opening round at Silverstone, we were unable to award the Tourist Trophy. We are delighted to visit Spa-Francorchamps ahead of this weekend’s race to present it to the Porsche team, in retrospect of their race victory. Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb were very worthy recipients.’
The Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy was first awarded in 1905. The winner of that race was John Napier driving an 18hp Arrol-Johnston in a race over four laps of a fearsome 52-mile open road loop around the Isle of Man. His average speed was 34mph.
The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) offers a multitude of opportunities to engineers, teams, manufacturers and drivers to compete in a high profile and prestigious calendar of events, based around the showcase of the sport worldwide – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Much of the prestige of the Tourist Trophy is embodied in its relevance. Even in 1905 the emphasis was not purely on speed but also on fuel economy, making it an enormous challenge on all fronts to the teams and drivers taking part and it remains so to this day. The Tourist Trophy is the world’s oldest motor sport trophy still being competed for.