2015 Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone - day 1
The Blancpain GT series is once again active this weekend with great event on Britain’s most famous race track – the Silverstone Circuit. This is second round of Blancpain Endurance Series this year and fifth event of whole Blancpain GT Series. This means that the main race in Silverstone on Sunday will be 4 hours long and there is a little difference in the organisation of the event between Endurance and Sprint races.
The event started early on Saturday with Bonze Test a pre practice track outing where drivers can learn the track and set some times which will be reference trough out the weekend. This event gathered astonishing 62 cars which is series favorite but really it isn’t a surprise. The GT3 racing is very hot at the moment and Britain has good national GT3 championship and lots of manufacturers (Aston,Bentley,McLaren…) which want to prove itself on home turf. The Bronze test is not obligatory but most of the drivers entered it to gain as much practice as they could during the weekend. In fact, 42 of 62 cars was on track, The last year’s winner of Blancpain Endurance race in Silverston, Bentley Continental GT3 set the fastest time in front of two BMW Z4 GT3 cars entered by successful BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil. The Bentley’s time was 2:02.244 but we can expect better times in qualifying sessions and on the actual race.
After the Bronze test, all of 62 cars entered the free practice session. The weather was cold (14-16 degrees) but the track was dry which suited all the cars. The practice session lasted for an hour during which time the track was full of cars. The Silverstone circuit is 5,8 kilometers long which was enough to accept all the vehicles but the traffic was sometimes restricting factor in achieving best times. However, the practice session was without any significant accidents but there were few spins and of track excursions but nothing serious. We would expect that the Bentley would achieve best time in practice since the car’s dynamics,balance and turbocharged engine is suited for Silverstone but that wasn’t the case. In fact, Bentleys were pretty disappointing during the practice with 29th time overall.
The best time (2:01.990) in practice session was achieved by successful Audi R8 LMS Ultra entered by Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and driven by Frank Stippler, Stephane Richelmi and Stephane Ortelli. The second best (2:02.189) was by their teammates Jean-Karl Vernay, Robin Frijns and Laurens Vanthoor who is the winner of Sprint event in Brands Hatch. The rest was achieved by BMW Z4 GT3 and Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 with highest British car being Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in 9th spot. The times in general were close and experience of the drivers stepped in in determining who was the fastest. The drivers with some previous single seater experience like GP2,GP3, Formula 3000 had some better knowledge of the track and some advantage.
The pre qualifying session started afternoon and weather conditions was not changed which means that track was dry. The biggest challenge for drivers and teams was usage of tires. Since the number of tire sets are limited, almost all teams used old tires for Bronze test and free practice but, however, some of the teams used fresh rubber for pre qualifying session just to give drivers the feel of real limits of the cars and to achieve best times possible. The pre qualifying session was hour and half long giving chance to all drivers to learn track a little more and prepare for tomorrows qualifying sessions and main race. However, in the last minutes of pre qualifying session, red flag was waved since McLaren 650S was on the side of the tracks with flames coming from exhaust pipes.
Same as in the previous outings, heavy track traffic caused some problems for consistency since pro drivers had to calculate where and when to drive in full force since the track space was scarce. From the beginning of pre qualifying session, Audi and BMW has been the fastest. The Audis performance is not in question since the R8 LMS Ultra is fast everywhere, however, BMW Z4 GT3 is not really suited for Silverstone. But, since the BMW Z4 GT3 is car with high amount of down force and small weight it was very fast on Silverstone. The sprint tracks are more suited to BMW Z4 GT3 but this showed that good set up and aerodynamic advantage can overcome basic specifications.
The results of pre qualifying sessions are both expected and interesting. The Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Belgian Audi Club Team WRT was fastest with time of 2:01.097. The second was BMW Z4 GT3 from TDS Racing with 2:01.180 and the third was another R8 but from Phoenix Racing with 2:01.688. Very very close times indeed. Interesting part was Lamborghini Huracan GT3 on fourth pace and McLaren 650S on fifth with a very little difference in times compared to the first three cars. The Lamborghini and McLaren wasn’t so fast in previous outings but we could expect more from them since they are great cars with lots of potential. So stay tuned for day two of Blancpain Endurance Series on Silverstone circuit and three short qualifying sessions which starts early on Sunday’s morning. The main race is tomorrow afternoon and we will be covering it in full.