The all British Jota Sport Zytek Nissan of Simon Dolan and Oliver Turvey won a shortened 3 Hours of Silverstone as the great British weather played an important role in deciding the opening round of the 2013 European Le Mans Series.
The weather conditions, which worsened as the race progressed, forced a long safety car period and then the red flags came out to end the race after 75% distance.
The Signatech Alpine of Nelson Panciatici made a great start as the rain clouds gathered over the track and it soon made rain tyres the required choice and the cars that had started on slicks made a dash for the pits.
The battle for the lead was between the Signatech Alpine, the Murphy Prototype Oreca Nissan, the Morand Racing Morgan Judd, the Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca Nissan and the Jota Sport Zytek. In the wet conditions Brendon Hartley built up a big lead in the Murhy prototype LMP2 but a mistake at Stowe saw the car beached in the gravel. Franck Mailleux in the Morand Racing Morgan inherited the lead before he aquaplaned off the track and hit the wall heavily. All of the leaders suffered setbacks in the conditions as the drivers fought hard just to keep their cars on the track.
Reigning champions TDS Racing re-took the lead of the race as reached the half way point before the safety car was deployed due to the fact the conditions had worsened considerably. The safety car stayed on track for nearly 50 minutes and the order was shaken up when the cars had to make their stops. Jota Racing moved to the head of the field and they claimed the first round of the season after 48 laps, in front of Switzerland's Race Performance Oreca Judd, driven by Michel Frey and Patric Niederhauser, which finished on the same lap 4.619 seconds from the leader and in front of the Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca.
In the LMPC category, with its young drivers eager for success, the race also turned into a ballet with a series of spins, some of which had unfortunate outcomes. The No.47 started from the sixth row of the grid but got no further than the first lap after spinning and stopping on the straight. Soheil Ayari and Anthony Pons at the wheel of the No.48 Team Endurance Challenge car were at the head of the class after an hour of the race and kept it until the end. The young drivers in the No.49 car finished second in class and 19th overall.
Proton competition secures podium finish in LMGTE
The only true winner today was the weather, but the LMGTE cars survived the conditions quite well compared to some of the prototypes. Virtually every car suffered a spin at some stage or another, aquaplaning on the rivers of standing water that ran across the Silverstone circuit, but most were able to continue to complete the 75% of the 3-hour race distance.
Taking the winner's honours and points for first place was the No.77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Nick Tandy, Gianluca Roda and Christian Ried which finished ahead of the two Ram Racing Ferrari 458 Italias.
Tandy, who started the race before handing over to Gianluca Roda, survived a spin after one hour and 23 minutes, tapping the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche into a similar manoeuvre. However, Tandy had pulled out such a good gap that he was able to take to the track again and continue in the class lead.
LMGTE pole position winner Johnny Mowlem of Ram Racing, said of the conditions: “The only time I've ever seen worse conditions was in 2001 at Le Mans. You can't help but aquaplane everywhere on the track and every driver is in the same position.”
Ecurie Ecosse sets the pace in the GTC class
In GTC, the No.79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 of Ollie Millroy, Andrew Smith and Alasdair McCaig was the first of two cars to finish in this category, almost a lap ahead of the second placed No.62 AF Corse Ferrari of Andrea Rizzoli, Stefano Gai and Lorenzo Casé. The MOMO Megatron DF1 was caught out by the conditions just after the two hour 45 minute mark and was unable to complete the race. Melissa Warren