Fresh off a last minute victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Porsche was ready to continue their winning ways at home in Germany, fighting Toyota and Audi for the overall win at the Nürburgring 6 hour race. With two factory cars entered in LMP1, a single GTE Pro entry, and a trio of 911 RSRs in GTE Am, Porsche was ready for an assault on the endurance event. As the fourth event in the World Endurance Championship, Porsche was equally interested in keeping their points lead, as a repeat world championship is a clear goal.
Porsche In The LMP1 Category -
Some 58,000 people were in attendance to witness Porsche repeat last year's Nürburgring victory. Porsche extended their lead in the manufacturer standings of the world championship with the victory, the #2 car drivers currently leading the drivers' championship lost a few points in their efforts by finishing 4th, but still have a healthy gap to second. This was an exciting race under then Eifel Mountain sunshine, fortune equally shone on Porsche here.
The Nürburgring win was Porsche's third overall win of the season following wins at Silverstone and Le Mans, and the first race victory of the season for Porsche's 2015 Drivers Champion victors in the #1 car. This was the team's tenth overall victory since Porsche returned to top-level sports car prototype racing in 2014, a milestone in its own right, and the fifth overall victory for the driver team of Bernhard, Hartley, and Webber.
This is the third victory this season for the Porsche 919 Hybrid, after wins at the Silverstone and Le Mans races. In total the prototype has won ten races since its 2014 debut. For Bernhard/Hartley/Webber it is their fifth success. Porsche started this race from 3rd and 4th on the grid, and ultimately finished 1st and 4th at the checkered flag. Below the gallery is the story of how they managed such a feat.
919 Hybrid #1 -
The #1 Porsche started the race from third position with Timo Bernhard at the wheel. As soon as the green flag dropped, Bernhard pushed past the second placed Audi and latched on to the rear of the leading Audi. For nearly the first hour of the race, Bernhard spent his time hounding the Audi for the lead of the race, but couldn't quite make it past. Eventually Timo had to wait it out until his stint was over, and Porsche made the move on the lead of the race during the pit stops. Swapping out for Brendon Hartley, the #1 moved into the lead, but immediately fell under pressure. On lap 45 Brendon is passed for the lead, and then for second on lap 48, dropping back to third. The team spots a tire pressure issue and calls Hartley in from his stint early, where he swaps out for Mark Webber. Webber worked his heart out and moved the 1 car back into the lead before handing off to Bernhard again. At lap 108 a full course yellow comes out and the car pulls in to swap out for Hartley's second stint running in second position. Another yellow comes out at lap 139, and the team takes advantage to pit and swap out for Webber's second stint. The same thing happens at lap 165, and Webber passes off to Bernhard to run to the finish and the win.
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal:
“A huge compliment to all team members at the track and in Weissach for this outstanding performance. Crew number 1 was able to exploit the full potential of our 919 Hybrid and they were nearly incident-free. Their slow puncture did not cause an extra pit stop. Unfortunately, car number 2 had some unlucky incidents on the track that cost them a top position. We improved our points advantage in the constructors’ championship and crew number 2 collected some valuable points for the drivers’ world championship as well. Getting the season’s third aero package ready for this race was done with huge effort since it was developed at the same time as we prepared for Le Mans. The new package worked well over the entire weekend. We clearly had the fastest car in the race and we want to keep the momentum for the races to come overseas.”
Timo Bernhard, Driver, Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1:
“At the start I managed to improve to P2 and kept putting pressure on the leader. During my first stint I was next to the Audi two or three times. I even overtook him once but missed my braking point because I was focussed on the GT traffic. That allowed him to pass me again. On my second stint I was the fastest car on track and we could make up some time. The final stint was a lot of work as well. To me this win today tastes especially sweet. It was hard fought, for me it is another one on home turf and it helps make up for the bad luck we had in the first three rounds of the championship.”
Brendon Hartley, Driver, Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1:
“Thanks to Porsche, to the mechanics, the engineers, Timo and Mark – it feels great to be back on the top of the podium. Early stages of the race were good and we overtook the leading Audi in the first pit window because our crew was faster. Then we had some bad luck with the traffic and got a slow puncture that lead to an early stop. With my second stint I was a lot happier. The track was coming to the car in terms of balance. I pulled away from the Audi and then we took the lead of the race.”
Mark Webber, Driver, Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1:
“I’m very happy for Porsche winning their home race. It was an exceptional performance against strong competition. This is the day of the mechanics of car number 1 who had some tough times recently and it is good points for the constructors’ championship. We had completely different track conditions in the race than we saw before and I was very happy with the performance of our car and our driving. It was a bit of a mixed up race. We lost some time in a full course yellow period when the car in front of me wasn’t going 80 km/h as the regulations say. Then our sister car had a drive through penalty. We had great battles on track with Audi and I was never bothered which of our cars did it, but the most important thing to me was to beat Audi today.”
919 Hybrid #2 -
The Le Mans winning team had a slightly more eventful race than the #1 team did. Neel Jani starts the car from fourth on the grid, slotting in behind Audi #8 as the #1 car passes for second. On lap 22, Jani gets an excellent run on the 8 car and makes a move to the outside into turn one. Unfortunately there is slower GT traffic in the way, and in slowing down Jani locks up a tire on the white painted line denoting the pit exit. The lockup sends him wide and catches the rear of his car on one of the Ford GT drivers, spinning into the runoff area at the outside of turn 1. Jani would rejoin still in 4th, but now out of touch with the lead trio. At lap 30 Jani hands off to Marc Lieb, and when the Audis pit and the #1 car has a low pressure tire, Lieb moves into the lead of the race. Five laps later, Lieb pits and hands off to Romain Dumas. Dumas has a decent stint and keeps the car clean. At lap 91, there is a full course yellow for debris on the track, and the flag drops just as Dumas is pulling into the pits. As everyone else in the P1 category has already pitted for tires/fuel, they are forced to slow to a crawl, and the #2 is allowed to conduct their full service stop and return to the race lead unabated with Lieb now back in the drivers seat. Unfortunately, after all that good fortune, things start to unravel for the team. On lap 138 Marc makes contact with the Abu Dhabi Proton Porsche GT car #88, and sends them off into the gravel trap. The following lap he comes in to change the nose cone and swap drivers for Neel again. Jani returns to the race in second position, but soon repasses for the lead. At lap 147, the #2 car is called in to serve a penalty for Leib's collision. Jani returns in 3rd, and on lap 156 he attempts to pass around the outside of the Audi ahead to gain second, but the Audi runs him out very wide and he's forced to drop back, where he's attacked by the 4th placed Audi. While battling with the Audis, Jani is contacted from behind by a hapless LMP2 driver, breaking off the car's rear left wheel cover panel. At the next stop, Neel comes in under caution and the team decides not to replace the rear section of the bodywork, and Jani continues, at this point overtaking the Audis with a faster stop and coming out in second. 6 laps later, race control orders Porsche to pull the car in to replace the broken panel. Jani rejoined in 4th and that's where he stayed.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “It is incredible. We have won nine out of the last ten races, including the 24 hours of Le Mans twice. With this result we are going into the summer break and you cannot ask for more. I feel sorry for our number 2 car. It had the win within reach, too. But a fourth place is still a strong result. We saw a fantastic race and motorsport at it’s highest level, now we look forward to Mexico. Until then I wish all team members here and at home in Weissach a wonderful holiday.”
Romain Dumas, Driver, Porsche 919 Hybrid number 2: “I went in the car just before a full course yellow period and lost some time because I had a car in front of me that was slower than 80 km/h. The second full course yellow came at the right moment giving us a huge advantage. Our 919 was good and we wished for a better result but in the end we scored some championship points.”
Neel Jani, Driver, Porsche 919 Hybrid number 2: “Today we could have won that race. In the beginning it was very hard with position fights everywhere. When a full course yellow brought us to the top, luck was on our side – later it worked against us. After the contact while overtaking I got into the Audi sandwich and things got difficult for us. It was nearly impossible to overtake them on the straight. I saved all my boost, but I couldn’t crack them. Then a true bumper-car festival started. But fourth place is better then nothing, and the points are highly welcome for the championship.”
Marc Lieb, Driver, Porsche 919 Hybrid number 2: “Traffic was really difficult today since you always need a little luck where on track and you’re going to meet the slower cars. Our car was good. I feel sorry for the team because of the drive through penalty. It was one of those situations in traffic in which you decide either right or wrong. I got it wrong when I tried to use a gap. I thought he would leave me some room. It is a shame because we had a fairly good chance to win that race and I also feel sorry for the Porsche colleagues of the number 88 car.”
Porsche now leads the manufacturers’ standings with 164 points ahead of Audi (129) and Toyota (97). Dumas/Jani/Lieb lead the drivers’ standings by 33 points.
Porsche In The GTE Categories -
In the GTE-Pro class, the Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR team with drivers Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen finished sixth. Because Porsche is busy developing the 2017 spec GTE competitor, their 2016 spec car has not been developed as thoroughly as the competition, and because of its engine configuration, cannot take full advantage of the aerodynamic aids afforded teams this year. The new cars from Ford and Ferrari have proven very quick, and even Aston Martin's updated car makes better use of the rear diffuser. Adding insult to injury, the Porsche does not work quite as well on this year's spec tires as it did on the 2015 specification Michelins.
Porsche's efforts in the GTE Am category were looking okay, as Pat Long led the race early on in the #88, and the KCMG car was fighting toward the front for the entire 6 hours. In fact the KCMG #78 even managed to bring home a podium finish, crossing the line in second, until the result was stripped from them due to a ride-height infraction discovered during post race technical inspection. While the FIA has not indicated how far out of spec the car was, it was certainly enough to withhold their finish position, which is unfortunate. Pat Long led the GTE Am category from the start, and kept it for his entire stint, however when he pitted to hand off to David Heinemeier Hansson, the car erupted in fire, and they lost the lead putting the car out. Fortunately they were able to return to racing unscathed. Later in the race, however, the 88 car was hit by the #2 LMP1 car, shoving Khaled Al Qubaisi off into the gravel. The third GTE Am car, the Gulf Racing UK Porsche just could not find any speed all weekend, and trundled around the back of the pack for the full 6 hours, ultimately finishing in last place.
Richard Lietz, Driver, Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR #77:
“The race actually went quite well for us. This might sound strange when you finish sixth, but in fact everything worked out just fine. Quite frankly, we can’t do better at the moment. We have to accept this. Having said that, we won’t stop working hard to perhaps bring home the odd surprise result over the course of the season.”
Michael Christensen, Driver, Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR #77:
“That was definitely not an easy race. Our 911 RSR was excellently setup and well balanced. The team also did a flawless job. Still, unfortunately a better result was not possible this weekend.
Wolf Henzler, Driver, KCMG Porsche 911 RSR #78):
“Congratulations and thank you to the whole team for the great work. I’m thrilled that it worked out for us with the podium. We did everything right today. What a shame for the number 88 car. Our teammates also deserved a podium spot. That was just bad luck. I hope our luck has now changed with this result and that we can continue with our strong form at the next round.”
Christian Ried, Drier, KCMG Porsche 911 RSR #78):
“Our race simply ran perfectly. I couldn’t be happier. We managed to keep our noses clean in the race, which wasn’t easy. The caution phase complemented our pit strategy perfectly. It was a tough race but it was also great fun.”
Patrick Long, Driver, Abu Dhabi Proton Porsche 911 RSR #88:
“There are days where you’re simply powerless. Today was such a day. We were strong and we gave it our best shot but we weren’t rewarded for it. It had nothing to do with the 911 RSR. The car was fantastic. We were again well supported by our team. But it doesn’t help: We have to put this disaster behind us as quickly as possible and focus all our energy on the next race in Mexico City.”
1. Webber/Hartley/Bernhard, Porsche 919 Hybrid, 194 laps
2. Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis, Audi R18, 194
3. Fassler/Lotterer, Audi R18, 194
4. Dumas/Jani/Leib,Porsche 919 Hybrid, 194
5. Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima, Toyota TS050, 193
6. Sarrazin/Conway/Kobayashi, Toyota TS050, 190
1. Bruni/Calado (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE, 170 laps
2. Rigon/Bird (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE, 170
3. Mücke/Pla (D/F), Ford GT, 170
4. Sörensen/Thiim (DK/DK), Aston Martin, 169
5. Stanaway/Turner (NZ/GB), Aston Martin, 169
6. Christensen/Lietz (D/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 169
7. Franchitti/Priaulx/Tincknell (USA/GB/GB), Ford GT, 155
1. Lamy/Dalla Lana/Lauda (P/CAN/A), Aston Martin, 166 laps
2. Ried/Henzler/Camathias (D/D/CH), Porsche 911 RSR, 166 (later disqualified)
3. Collard/Perrodo/Aguas (F/F/P), Ferrari F458 Italia, 166
4. Yamagishi/Ragues/Ruberti (J/F/I), Chevrolet Corvette, 165
5. Al Qubaisi/Long/Heinemeier Hansson (UAE/USA/DK), Porsche 911 RSR, 164
6. Wainwright/Carroll/Barker (GB/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 164
Round five of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC is contested in Mexico City on 4 September.