After the Silverstone 1,000kms someone who had best remain nameless in the press office said to me: “What did you think of that, Paul? Not very riveting, was it?”
Actually, I think riveting described the race perfectly. It may not have been thrilling, and it may not have had an action-packed battle for the overall lead after the problem that struck Allan McNish’s Audi R15 saw him abandon the car with barely half-an-hour completed; but I was riveted. Faultless races from four of the top seven contenders meant that the top four places were predictable, but somehow one had the feeling throughout that the unexpected was just around the corner.
In the end, Peugeot were worthy and deserving winners. They were the two fastest cars and both of them had better fuel consumption than the Audi. And there was the knowledge from the early stages of the race that both Peugeots were capable of overtaking the German cars, when the need arose. Which of course it did, thanks to the fact, as Bruno Famin admitted – in jest – before the start, that Peugeot had adopted Audi’s strategy of qualifying on the second row of the grid. But Timo Bernhard, sharing with Dindo Capello, looked particularly uncomfortable in the early stages of the race, and it seemed clear that neither Audi was going to keep the Peugeots behind for long.
Most impressive, on the new circuit, was the elapsed time, a whisker over five hours and ten minutes: the sort of time taken to complete the 1000kms in the late eighties, before the bulldozers took up permanent residence at Silverstone. I suppose that's appropriate enough, given the record distance achieved at Le Mans this year.
The race for the other classes was enlivened by the penalties handed out to each of the class leaders for transgressing the limits of the circuit. I would have thought that the indications were fairly clear throughout free practice that this was going to be closely watched by officialdom, and it wasn’t long before warnings, flags and penalties started to be issued. Of the three class leaders to suffer, only the LMP2 Strakka Racing HPD was able to recover, with neither the JMW Aston Martin nor Steve Zacchia’s Hope Polevision FLM car adequately dominant in its class to be able to recover, as the inimitable Danny Watts was able to.
It was a fascinating race though, and I am glad I was there. A reasonable crowd seems to have shown up to watch, the weather was kind to them, and the new track layout seemed to work well.
But on the evidence of what happened at Silverstone, it looks to me that Audi is going to have to work very hard indeed to reverse its fortunes in just three weeks time in Road Atlanta, or at Zhuhai, in China, for the final Intercontinental Le Mans Cup round at the beginning of November. I suspect that the R15 will not be remembered as fondly at Ingolstadt as either the R10 or the R8. Attention must now focus on the R18, but I suspect that Audi will have even stiffer competition in 2011 as new regulations come into force.
It’s too early to be thinking about it, but I suggest that 2011 has some very lofty possibilities. But like all lofty things, they can end up in disappointment. Let’s hope not, anyway.