Opening day of term at Silverstone for WEC's new season

Friday, August 30, 2019

A slightly fresh and overcast start beckoned the steady throng of people making their way to the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire this morning to watch the thirty one scheduled entries at the opening day's track action of the World Endurance Championship's new Season 8 campaign.

Four full season Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTE's were of course part of that entry with three cars being prepared by the AMR factory team and one from Partner Team TF Sport.

What seemed strange about today was just how different people within the AMR family viewed the day - some saw it as almost a continuation of the year with the previous season's activities having only concluded ten weeks ago at Le Mans whilst others saw it as complete new. Those who viewed it as new were the two Gentleman drivers aboard each of the #98 AMR and #90 TF Sport cars as to Paul Dalla Lana and Salih Yoluc respectively, the new turbo charged car was still completely new to them and so were the Michelin tyres.

Today was all about establishing and quantifying the 'package' with which they arrived - limited running had been made by all GTE runners with the new Michelins at the Prologue with this mornings first Free Practice session the first real period of running from which they could collate data after the searing heat of the Prologue at the Circuit de Cataluyna last month.

As for the the new cars with the GTE Am runners for the first time, again FP1 was the first real comparative test session for either Dalla Lana or Yoluc as the former had only been at the Prologue for two of the four sessions and Yoluc not at all although TF Sport did run a two day test at Portimao last week.

For the #98 car in general, the whole package was new with Dalla Lana setting up a driving force including Le Mans GTE winner Darren Turner with 'super-silver' and WEC debutant Ross Gunn. The smile on Dalla Lana's face when we spoke to him said it all - he was happy and hungry for success.

The #90 TF Sport car meanwhile had stability with Yoluc again being joined by Charlie Eastwood and Jonny Adam - a trio that enjoyed much podium success last season in the venerable normally aspirated AMR GTE.

Lap times were good for both pairs of GTE Pro and GTE Am cars ending FP1 at the top or close to the top of the timing screen as the usual pattern of installation lap/check/short run/check/longer run and driver change was adopted by all. Each car was held in the pit lane at each stop to allow their respective crews to cycle through the full service sequence - refuelling/change tyre - hold - change tyres again and leave. With each crew getting picked up on minor transgressions gave every reason why the teams were doing it as in the race situation those transgressions would result in penalties.

This afternoons second Free Practice was less so dominant for the AMR cars - certainly in GTE Pro as both the Ferrari and Porsche Pro cars came into life leaving the #95 Marco Sorensen/Nicki Thiim and #97 Maxime Martin/Alex Lynn cars 5th and 6th in class albeit just 0.75 of a second behind whilst in GTE Am it was the turn of the #98 crew to head the honours in front of the #90 crew at the top of the screen.

Tomorrows final Free Practice and Qualifying will tell us more about just where the natural level of four Aston Martins Vantages will be. Tyres will be an issue on the much more abrasive (recently resurfaced again) track as it has been already today before the crews ready themselves for Sundays new four hour race.

Its going to be interesting - very interesting!

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