Porsche scores second consecutive 1-2 win!

After a shorter-than-previously post-Le Mans break, the World Endurance Championship returned with the German round hosted, as ever, by the legendary Nurburgring. This time around, the race came amid looming concerns regarding the top LMP1-Hybrid class which is potentially in jeopardy. In spite of ACO’s early-year announcements that it will stick with hybrid technology, as stated in the new-for-2020 rule book, factory teams might step out as early as next year. Porsche is poised to take a decision on whether they will commit to their original plan – that of also doing the 2018 season – or if they will pull the plug one year short, at the end of 2017. Toyota, which had previously confirmed its commitment all the way through 2019, might, in the wake of a potential Porsche withdrawal, reconsider its position as well.

This means that, in the worst case scenario, we could be left with no works teams to fill the P1-H class next year and with a very uncertain P1-L presence to round up the debacle. That’s because, despite announcements from Dallara, Ginetta and Perrinn, there have been very few firm confirmations from teams that will actually run these new cars. Thus, the optimistic ACO-fueled figures of 6-8 cars might actually be just half, and with no P1-H, we might witness a very sorry sight at next year’s Le Mans.

Continue reading for the full story.

Qualifying

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Porsche finally unveiled their high-downforce aero package at what is their home round.

However, focusing on the present, Porsche finally unveiled their high-downforce aero package at what is their home round. The car’s huge front headlights and generally elongated front fenders have been redesigned, a much more aggressive front fascia now in place. Toyota already pulled the covers off their high-drag setup at Silverstone so their game had almost no secrets by now. Still, despite all of that, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose-Maria Lopez managed to steal a pole that seemed to be destined for Porsche. Lopez and Kobayashi’s average was a 1:38.118 which put the No. 7 TS050 a mere 0,154 seconds ahead of Bernhard and Hartley’s Porsche.

It was Porsche which was on pole in GTE-Pro, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre delivering the first WEC pole for the new mid-engined 991.

The No. 1 Porsche was third quickest with the No. 8 Toyota following suit in fourth, while ByKolles made its last grid appearance this season. Lower down the grid, Pierre Thiriet again took pole for G-Drive, only this time with the aid of Ben Hanley who subbed for Alex Lynn who was on Formula E duty in New York. The team was, however, under great strain since they were subject to a post-Le Mans penalty following Roman Rusinov’s crash with a GTE-Am Porsche for which the Russian was deemed at fault. Thus, the No. 26 had to serve a seven-minute stop-and-go penalty and start from the back, but, at least, its pole streak was left intact (on paper).

It was Porsche which was on pole in GTE-Pro, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre delivering the first WEC pole for the new mid-engined 991 which is set to be available for customers come 2018. The No. 92 Porsche was followed by defending champions Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen in the No. 95 Aston-Martin, the British team though taking pole in GTE-Am via the ever quick No. 98 Vantage.

LMP1

Toyota’s proverbial bad luck struck extra early on race day, the No. 8 Toyota slowing down during the formation lap.

Toyota’s proverbial bad luck struck extra early on race day, the No. 8 Toyota slowing down during the formation lap, race director Edoardo Freitas calling for an extra lap behind the safety car as Sebastien Buemi crawled at pedestrian pace to the pits. The Swiss made it back home just as the race was about to get properly underway, with the clock already having started to tick down at the end of the first formation lap. The No. 8’s problem was found to be the fuel pump and the car was repaired in eight minutes after which it returned to the track for what was an uphill fight.

Meanwhile, at the sharp end, the pole-sitting Toyota kept its position, Kobayashi leaving the car in the hands of Lopez after the first stint. The Argentine rejoined with only a second to spare between himself and the Porsches, both works teams managing identical times during the first two rounds of stops. The German brand, though, moved ahead during the second stint as Lopez struggled on an old set of rubber. Brendon Hartley was first to go by the No. 7 Toyota followed by the sister 919 before half distance.

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Hartley, Bernhard, and Bamber crossed the line first, 1,6-seconds ahead of team-mates Tandy, Lotterer, and Jani.

This set the stage for a battle between the two Porsches which showed their superiority (pace-wise) ahead of the Toyota which was half a minute behind at half distance and lost 40 seconds more in the next three hours. The No. 1 Porsche led more but was delayed at the final pit stop which put the No. 2 in the lead with a cushion of roughly 20 seconds. The gap was almost gone by the time the checkered flag flew but it was enough for Hartley, Bernhard and Bamber to cross the line first, 1,6-seconds ahead of their team-mates Nick Tandy, Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani. It seemed to be a Porsche decision to put the Le Mans-winning crew in a more comfortable position in the championship.

Toyota finished third and fourth and the worst of all is that the fourth-placed No. 7 was the one which had more points coming into this race and, since no other works car had any major drama, it couldn’t make up its five-lap deficit. This was, the records show, Porsche’s third consecutive WEC Nurburgring win, Timo Bernhard being onboard the winning crew every time. It was also the 15th WEC win for the German manufacturer and their first 1-2 since the Shanghai Six Hours in 2015.

ByKolles’ run was lackluster, the No. 4 Nissan-powered prototype finishing 14th overall and a massive 22 laps behind the overall winner. The result wasn’t a mirror of the true pace of the car but that was never really achieved as the Austrian outfit battled all-weekend-long suspension problems and other issues that affected the car’s handling.

LMP1 Class Standings

Pos. No. Team Drivers Car Laps
1 2 Porsche LMP Team Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley Porsche 919 Hybrid 204
2 1 Porsche LMP Team Jani/Lotterer/Tandy Porsche 919 Hybrid 204
3 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez Toyota TS050 204
4 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Buemi/Davidson/Nakajima Toyota TS050 199
5 4 ByKolles Racing Team Webb/Kraihamer/Bonanomi Enso CLM P1/01 182

LMP2

Jackie Chan DC Racing were first in the P2 class at the start after the No. 26 G-Drive Racing ORECA had to start from the back.

Jackie Chan DC Racing were first in the P2 class at the start after the No. 26 G-Drive Racing ORECA had to start from the back. The No. 38 car which was looking to extend its championship lead after a fantastic Le Mans outing where Oliver Jarvis, Ho Pin-Tung and Thomas Laurent finished second overall, was overtaken after the start by Bruno Senna’s Rebellion ORECA. The two Vaillante-sponsored cars led for a while but Jackie Chan’s team (run by Jota Sport) bounced back to re-take the lead in the second stint.

From then on, the No. 38 was never headed – despite an unscheduled change of the rear deck made necessary by the malfunctioning of a taillight. In fact, by the time they reached the end, Laurent, Tung and Jarvis had build up a one-lap advantage over the No. 31 ORECA Rebellion which assured them of a comfortable drive home to their third win out of four outings. The No. 36 Signatech Alpine filled the P2 podium, Nic Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Matt Rao turning the team’s odds around after the No. 35 sister car suffered a spin on the first lap.

LMP2 Class Top 5 Standings

Pos. No. Team Drivers Car Laps
1 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Tung/Jarvis/Laurent Oreca 07 191
2 31 Vaillante Rebellion Canal/Senna/Albuquerque Oreca 07 190
3 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Lapierre/Menezes/Rao Alpine A470 190
4 13 Vaillante Rebellion Beche/Heinemeier/Derani Oreca 07 190
5 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Cheng/Brundle/Gommendy Oreca 07 189

GTE-Pro

The first hour of the race in GTE-Pro was very much about the battle between the Aston-Martin of Marco Sorensen and the Porsche of Fred Makowiecki.

The first hour of the race in GTE-Pro was very much about the battle between the No. 95 Aston-Martin of Marco Sorensen and the No. 91 Porsche of Fred Makowiecki. They swapped positions multiple times, going wheel to wheel time and again. Eventually, as the first stint was nearing to its end, Fred moved by and, later on, so did the No. 51 Ferrari and the sister Porsche.

The Porsches held the lead through the second stint but Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado managed their tires better and were already ahead shortly after half distance. From then on, it was a tour de force by the AF Corse Ferrari which never relinquished the lead until the end. Porsche’s No. 91 came home second ahead of the pole-sitting No. 92 which was followed by the best of the Astons, the two Fords and the other Aston on P7.

The Fords ticked a trouble-free race but their post-Silverstone BoP change which added 20 kilograms of weight to the Multimatic-built car seemed to affect the Chip Ganassi UK squad. Even more affected was the other Ferrari 488 which was hampered by gearbox issues. This was bad news for the Italian team as the No. 71 was the Spa winning crew (of which only Davide Rigon remained after Sam Bird missed the race to contest the Formula E event in New York). Rigon and Toni Vilander who subbed for Bird finished dead last which was dreadful for AF Corse’s former championship contender.

LMGTE Pro Class Top 5 Standings

Pos. No. Team Drivers Car Laps
1 51 AF Corse Calado/Pier Guidi Ferrari 488 GTE 179
2 91 Porsche GT Team Lietz/Makowiecki Porsche 911 RSR 179
3 92 Porsche GT Team Christensen/Estre Porsche 911 RSR 179
4 95 Aston Martin Racing Thiim/Sorensen Aston Martin Vantage 178
5 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Priaulx/Tincknell Ford GT 178

GTE-Am

It was the first win for Porsche juniors Matteo Carioli and Marvin Dienst.

Proton Racing rebounded from an early contact between Christian Ried and Francesco Castelacci, who had already made “friends” earlier on with the Clearwater Racing Ferrari, to win with their No. 77 Porsche. It was the end of a long dry spell for the team that stuck with the 2015-spec Porsche 991 GTE which was, ACO officials confessed, the hardest to balance in the GTE-Am class. In spite of this, the German outfit won on home soil against Spirit of Race and Aston Martin Racing.

It was the first win for Porsche juniors Matteo Carioli and Marvin Dienst and the first in five years for Ried who took over as team boss from his father Gerold Ried. The race saw no interruptions, aside from some sector yellows.

LMGTE Am Class Standings

Pos. No. Team Drivers Car Laps
1 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Ried/Cairoli/Dienst Porsche 911 RSR 175
2 54 Spirit of Race Flohr/Castellacci/Molina Ferrari 488 GTE 175
3 98 Aston Martin Racing Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda Aston Martin V8 Vantage 174
4 61 Clearwater Racing Mok/Sawa/Griffin Ferrari 488 GTE 173
5 86 Gulf Racing UK Wainwright/Barker/Foster Porsche 911 RSR 173

Full Results

You can find the complete results of the Six Hours of the Nurburgring here.

What’s Next?

The Six Hours of the Nurburgring was the last European round of the WEC calendar as the championship will visit Mexico for the fifth round of the season on September 3. The season will continue with the Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas on September 16, Six Hours of Fuji on October 15, and Six Hours of Shanghai on November 5. Finally, the Six Hours of Bahrain will end the 2017 calendar on November 18.

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