So, we have reached the halfway mark in the season with four races down, and four to go. As we mentioned in our last blog, this was the first time for the WEC to be held on this famed circuit, but the Nürburgring 6-Hour also served as the last European race of the season on the WEC calendar. From there the teams will head off around the world to Austin, Texas, followed by Fuji, Shanghai and Bahrain.
What is significant about this year’s WEC though is, that Porsche is leading the Manufacturer tables with 184 points to Audi’s 151 and Toyota’s 89 points. Last year, following the introduction of the 919 Hybrid, Porsche used the season to learn and develop their new LMP1 contender. Although they only posted a single victory at the last race of the season, they did finish on the podium several times. As a result, they started this year on a strong footing, and following two second places in the first two races, they grabbed the big one at Le Mans in June, finishing both first and second in the race. Importantly, that result earned them double points which has helped them to increase the gap to Audi.
Although two months passed between the Le Mans race and the Nürburgring 6-Hour on 30 August, Porsche came out of the blocks strongly once again to secure the two top places on the starting grid. The #18 Porsche of Dumas/Jani/Lieb was on pole with the #17 car of Bernhard/Webber/Hartley in second place, followed by the two Audis and then the two Toyotas.
Traditionally, the Nürburgring attracts a very enthusiastic band of race-goers, and this time the 62,000-strong crowd witnessed Porsche’s second 1-2 finish of the year. Starting from second on the grid, the #17 car suffered a damaged nose cone and had to have this replaced, but it was Mark Webber who brought the car home for a well-deserved win. This was his first World Endurance Championship race win for Porsche. The #18 car, despite receiving three stop-go penalties, finished in second place after a spirited battle with both Audis in the closing stages of the race.
Porsche’s 911 RSRs did not have a happy Le Mans race this year, when the sole surviving #91 car of Lietz/Christensen/Bergmeister finished a lowly fifth in class. This car did suffer several suspension related woes during the race which accounted for its disappointing finish, but the #92 car was out after the first hour with an engine fire.
When it was announced that the 911 RSRs would be given some relief on the BoP front for the Nürburgring race, we at Virtual Motorpix predicted a Porsche GTE resurgence in our blog Porsche – where to now after Le Mans? But, they did even better than that by finishing 1-2 in class in numerical order – #91 followed by #92 – confirming that the RSR is a great car and a worthy winner. “I like it when a plan comes together,” to quote Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith from the 1980s A-Team TV series, but as we said before the race, we were confident of this outcome all along.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the #92 Porsche which, after an alleged jump start, received a stop-go penalty relegating the car to the back of the field. But at half distance, the #92 car was up into second place but another stop-go penalty pushed it back into second place, to finish behind its sister car.
Toyota Racing, the reigning champions, finished in fifth (#1) and sixth positions (#2) after a clean run to the chequered flag. Anthony Davidson in the #1 Toyota TS 040 said: “We did a perfect job today from our side; there was no more that we could have done. Thanks to the engineers and mechanics for a good day’s work, with no issues at all. We are all looking forward to the upcoming races to see if we have some better chances; we are not going to give up pushing. We gave everything today and at least it was good fun trying.”
The ByKolles team finished first as the leading LMP1 privateer with Pierre Kaffer and Simon Trummer in the driving seat of the #4 car. With various technical improvements in terms of reliability and aerodynamics, the team put in a great effort and the win is well deserved.
KCMG ORECA shone with another LMP2 win and Matt Howson of the #47 car commented: “We came here thinking it would be our weakest circuit, because of its high-downforce, so credit to the engineers for moving the car along. It wasn’t comfortable, it was so physical and especially after full-course yellows, as I lost control of the car, and so did Richard. But great credit to the team, it was another fantastic performance from everyone.”
G-Drive Racing didn’t quite match the pace of the KCMG ORECA05-Nissan but still claimed a double podium position.
The next race will be the 6 hours at the Circuit of the Americas on 19 September 2015, we wait in eager anticipation, as I am sure you do too…
Written: by Glen & Elke Smale