Tyre strategy helps new McLaren 650S to claim first Blancpain Endurance Series victory at Silverstone
Following on from the last round of the Blancpain Sprint Series at Brands Hatch, the latest round of the Blancpain Endurance Series – featuring a three-hour race – was also held in England: this time at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix. Along with Formula One and nearly 300 other championships worldwide, the Blancpain GT Series (which includes both sprint and endurance championships, as well as an overall title) is exclusively supplied by Pirelli.
|The winning Pirelli-shod McLaren in Blancpain Endurance action|
The main three-hour race at Silverstone was won for the first time by VonRyan Racing’s new McLaren 650S driven by a trio of McLaren factory drivers: Rob Bell, Shane Van Gisbergen and Kevin Estre. Their winning margin was just 23 seconds over the Belgian Audi Club Team entry, which triumphed at the Brands Hatch sprint race earlier this month. Crucial to the new McLaren’s victory was a clever tyre strategy that quickly capitalised on the individual circumstances of the race. Bell brought the car in for its first pit stop just 45 minutes into the race, under full course yellow flags. The time gained from this strategy meant that Van Gisbergen had a lead of around 40 seconds once the first pit stops were over, after an hour. He then extended his stint before coming in with one hour to go, managing his tyres perfectly to effectively seal the victory claimed by Estre during the final stint. The McLaren was closely challenged by the leading Audi, which at one point closed the gap to 15 seconds, but the winning crew were able to control their advantage. Bell said: “We talked about it and we knew it was going to be tight, but it was the right strategy: it gained us about half a minute.” Highlighting the competitive diversity of the championship – and the ability of Pirelli’s GT tyres to adapt to a wide range of machinery – there were seven different manufacturers in the top 10: all separated by less than a minute and a half after three hours of racing. These very different cars all used Pirelli’s DHC hard compound slick tyres to cope with the extreme demands of Silverstone: one of the fastest circuits that the Blancpain GT Series visits all year, with high energy loads going through the tyres. Pirelli senior engineer Matteo Braga commented: “Although this was an endurance race, in reality it was a flat-out sprint from start to finish, with the drivers constantly pushing the cars very hard on one of the most demanding circuits for tyres that we see all year. It was a very close race and the drivers also had to cope with the challenge of mixed weather conditions: frequently a characteristic of Silverstone. Key to the winning McLaren’s success was its race strategy and subsequent ability to manage the tyres over the rest of the stints, even though the middle stint was longer than expected. The close gaps at the race finish, as well as the diversity of the cars and manufacturers in the top 10, underline the quality of the competition.” The next Blancpain round is the sprint race that takes place at Zolder in Belgium from June 5-7.
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