Porsche entered the six-hour race in Fuji, Japan hoping for better results than what they experienced in Texas last month. This was the fifth round of the WEC championship, and even though the 919 Hybrid team had led various races a number of times this year, they’ve only experienced the joy of driving to the podium one time. The GTE teams experienced a little bit better form over the course of the year, but things still haven’t exactly gone their way either. In short, Porsche wanted to deliver in a big way in Japan.
Team Porsche showed up ready to race against the Toyota and Audi scourge, qualifying convincingly in second and third place on the grid. The number 20 car, with Mark Webber on board, had an early issue that held them from contending seriously. A puncture on lap 10 completely threw off the team’s fuel strategy, and additionally, while they had the measure of the Toyotas in one-lap sprints, they simply couldn’t keep up the pace over a full stint. At the finish, the 20 car crossed the line in a well deserved third place.
Marc Lieb started the number 14 car and settled into a quick fourth position. The 14 car was able to keep a steady pace ahead of the two Audis, but couldn’t push to match the Toyotas or the team number 20 car. On pit cycles, they were ahead of the 20 as the race neared its end, but they ended up having to come in for a splash-and-dash stop in the late stages, relegating them to fourth at the checkered flag.
Mark Webber managed to set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:27.759 on lap 12 with those fresh tires and some clean air. In stark contrast to the Texas race, both 919 Hybrids finished the race without fault.
Wolfgang Hatz, Member of the Board, Research and Development, Porsche AG:
We have reached the target we set ourselves for this race – we have one car on the podium and we finished the race with both cars. In the beginning we were even strong enough to fight for the lead, and in the end we have secured P3 and P4. This was a nice step forward, and we should continue this way.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1:
This result is a great joy for us. Most importantly I am very proud of the progress we made over the course of the weekend. The first free practice on Friday was difficult, but we managed to improve in every session, had a great qualifying and this time we have also turned our performance into a good race result.
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal:
P3 and P4 are very good results for us and this is down to a great performance from all the drivers and the team – not only from the crew on site but also from the guys back home in Weissach. In our fifth race with the 919 we have, for the first time, been able to get both cars to complete the entire race distance without noteworthy problems. P3 and P4 are down to our own merits. With car number 20 the strategy worked out perfectly. Despite the early stop, the pit stop windows were ideal. This way number 20 was able to finish ahead of number 14 who’s drivers did a great job too. Congratulations to Toyota for a strong one-two finish.
Neel Jani, Driver of Porsche 919 Hybrid #14:
I did a double stint. It was quite tricky to drive today and it wasn’t possible to do that distance on a single set of tyres. A big problem was the rubber on the track. The tyres pick up the marbles as soon as you leave the racing line to lap other cars, and then you can’t get rid of that sticky stuff. The longer the race lasted, the worse it became.
Mark Webber, Driver of Porsche 919 Hybrid #20:
I had a good start and was able to put pressure on the Toyota, but then a punctured rear left tyre hurt our race. We then tried to do a double stint with the next set of tyres, but lost some time by doing this. The puncture was cruel, but Timo and Brendon did a great job to get the car back into third.
While Porsche performed relatively well as far as the 919 Hybrid team goes, its 911 RSR fielding didn’t proceed with quite as impressive a result. The factory-backed GTE team suffered bouts of bad luck keeping them from realizing their potential in Japan. Driver Patrick Pilet in his #92 car had a decent start from his second-row grid position, but would soon be taken completely out of contention when heavy contact from a GTE competitor sent his car to the garage for serious repairs, which took an excruciating 7 laps of competition to affect. Out of contention, the #92 car continued to circulate, but could do nothing but look on as the class victory went to someone else.
The #91 car didn’t have quite as much bad luck as its team car, but they couldn’t conjure up enough good luck to mount a serious challenge. The Porsche RSRs simply didn’t have the pace of the Astons and Ferraris, and Bergmeister/Lietz were forced to settle for a fourth place at the checkered flag.
GTE Am Class
Prospeed Competition managed to step up and bring the fight to the pair of Aston Martin factory supported cars. The team’s all-French driver squad (Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Matthieu Vaxivière) secured third place on the podium following an exciting battle to the finish. Since the Silverstone season-opener, where Porsche won both GTE classes, their GT programs have been left a little bit wanting with only a handful of podiums this year. This was a decent result for Prospeed, and Proton Competition followed closely behind to give Porsche a 3-4 finish in the GTE Am category.
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Porsche Head of Motorsport:
Unfortunately we couldn’t do any better today. With one car we lost it all in the first corner. That was a shame and we couldn’t recover lost ground. The second crew did a great job but nothing more could be done there either. Something positive today was that our cars ran faultlessly, precisely as we had imagined. In the GTE-Am class our two customer teams put in a strong performance and went head-to-head for third place right up to the last metre.
Jörg Bergmeister, Driver of Porsche 911 RSR #91:
We already saw in free practice that tyre wear would play a decisive role. We struggled right from the start, particularly with the rear axle where the tyres deteriorated badly.
Richard Lietz, Driver of Porsche 911 RSR #91:
We certainly made the best out of the situation. The team did a great job and the pit stops were perfect. And we experienced no technical hiccups. So we should be satisfied, even if the result is not exactly what we had expected.
Patrick Pilet, Driver of Porsche 911 RSR #92:
After just one corner our race was over. The Aston Martins crashed, one kept his foot on the throttle, swung to the inside and hit the side of my car. I had no chance to avoid contact. Our car was so badly damaged I had to pit and that was basically the end of our race. It was simply bad luck. Now we’re turning our attention to Shanghai. Hopefully we’ll have more luck there.
1. Davidson/Buemi (GB/CH), Toyota TS040 Hybrid – 236 Laps
2. Wurz/Sarrazin/Nakajima (A/F/J), Toyota TS040 Hybrid – 236 Laps
3. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (D/NZ/AUS), Porsche 919 Hybrid – 1 Lap
4. Dumas/Jani/Lieb (F/CH/D), Porsche 919 Hybrid – 2 Laps
5. Di Grassi/Duval/Kristensen (BRA/F/DK), Audi R18 e-tron quattro – 2 Laps
6. Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (CH/D/F), Audi R18 e-tron quattro – 3 Laps
1. Bruni/Vilander (I/SF), Ferrari 458 Italia – 208 Laps
2. Rigon/Calado (I/GB), Ferrari F458 Italia – 208 Laps
3. MacDowall/O’Young/Rees (GB/HK/BRA), Aston Martin – 1 Lap
4. Bergmeister/Lietz (D/A), Porsche 911 RSR – 1 Lap
5. Turner/Mücke (GB/D), Aston Martin – 4 Laps
6. Makowiecki/Pilet (F/F), Porsche 911 RSR – 7 Laps
1. Poulsen/Heinemeier-Hansson/Thiim (DK/DK/DK), Aston Martin – 207 Laps
2. Lamy/Dalla Lana/Nygaard (P/CAN/DK), Aston Martin – 207 Laps
3. Collard/Perrodo/Vaxivière (FRA/FRA/FRA), Porsche 911 RSR – 3 Laps
4. Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi (D/A/UAE), Porsche 911 RSR – 3 Laps
5. Curtis/Bleekemolen/Skeen (USA/NL/USA), Ferrari F458 Italia – 4 Laps
6. Wyatt/Rugolo/Bertolini (AUS/I/I), Ferrari F 458 Italia – 39 Laps
The sixth round of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship is scheduled to be held in Shanghai/China on the 2nd of November.
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