The second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) proved to be a tough test for the Porsche Team. Despite a problem with the hybrid system, the trio of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) finished second with their Porsche 919 Hybrid in Spa-Francorchamps (BE) and extended their lead in the drivers’ championship. Their sister car of Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU), however, after two flat tires, spent more than one-and-a-half hours of the six-hour race in the garage for repairs. In the end that car came in 5th in the LMP1 category for hybrid cars. Despite a troubling day, Porsche leads the manufacturing championship standing with 54 points ahead of Toyota (45) and Audi (41).
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “The opening round at Silverstone wasn’t easy but here in Spa it was even more difficult, although we were starting from the front row with both cars. Having achieved a second place finish despite the technical problems early in the race on the number 2 car proves again: giving up is never an option in endurance racing. Car number 1 was very unlucky in the race. In the world of theater people say a bad dress rehearsal is a happy omen for the premiere. This is how we consider our race day in Spa now with regards to Le Mans. We will not leave a stone unturned and painstaking prepare for the 24 Hours. Many thanks to the entire crew here on site and in Weissach for their efforts.”
The fastest lap of the race, achieved by Brendon Hartley (1:58.431 minutes), gives an idea of what would have been possible for the Porsche 919 had it not been for the bad luck of suffering two punctures. Following the season’s opening race at Silverstone this is the second fastest race lap for Porsche’s Le Mans prototype in 2016.
How the race went for car number 1:
Start driver Brendon Hartley builds up a solid lead until his first pit stop after 23 laps. Timo Bernhard takes over with fresh tires and continues in second position. The number 5 Toyota takes the lead after refraining from a driver and tire change. Bernhard is faster, a breath-taking battle develops between him and Sébastien Buemi. Bernhard overtakes in La Source, Buemi strikes back in Eau Rouge. Entering lap 37 Bernhard reports a puncture, having seven kilometers to drive before reaching the pits. While bringing the car home, the tire falls apart and damages the body work. In the pits the front nose is changed, Mark Webber takes over. On lap 45 the front left tire is damaged again – a result of the first puncture. After a longer stop for repairs Brendon Hartley rejoins the race. When the race is 56 laps old, the number 1 car is four laps down in 14th position when the next pit stop is due. The front gearbox was damaged due to very different wheel speeds of the two front wheels when bringing the car home with the damaged tires. At 16:38 hrs local time the repair begins. At 18:17 hrs the 919 with Webber at the wheel leaves the pits again, having a 51 laps deficit to the leaders. He does a 24-lap stint before he hands over to Bernhard. The gap to the leaders is now 49 laps. After 137 laps into the race, Hartley jumps in for the final stint, using a safety car period. He brings the car home in 27th place overall and fifth in the hybrid class.
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany): “Today we definitely had the pace to win that race. The battle with Sébastien was good fun. Our strategy was alright and I believe I would have left him behind in the end. But in motor sports you just cannot control everything. Most probably I ran over debris in the last chicane where there had been accidents. Then I had to do a complete lap with the damaged tyre and that caused more damage, highly likely including the broken front gearbox. But, whatever, we now fully focus on going to Le Mans for the season’s highlight.”
How the race went for car number 2:
Marc Lieb has a good start and follows his teammate in second position. After almost six laps Lieb reports a problem with the hybrid system. Car number 2 cannot use the full electric power for the remaining race distance. After 22 laps Neel Jani jumps into the handicapped car. On lap 47 he hands it over to Romain Dumas before Lieb gets behind the wheel again after 71 laps. At the end of 95 laps Lieb hands over to Jani. Despite the reduced power Dumas/Jani/Lieb are driving in third position because Audi and Toyota have problems with one car each. On lap 113 the leading Toyota number 5 has technical issues as well, Jani is promoted to second. After 118 laps Jani pits and hands over to Dumas who comes for a final refuelling during a safety car period and finishes in P2.
Marc Lieb (35, Germany): “It was a bit frustrating not to have the full hybrid power after lap six. We were quite busy in the cockpit driving to finish the race under those circumstances. The car is set up for the strong four-wheel drive when accelerating from the corners. But we managed to bring the car home and were rewarded with big points.”
LMP1 Race result 6 Hours of Spa (BE)
1. Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (BR/FR/GB), Audi R18, 160 laps
2. Dumas/Jani/Lieb (FR/CH/DE), Porsche 919 Hybrid, – 2 laps
3. Imperatori/Kraihamer/Tuscher (CH/AT/CH), Rebellion R-One AER, – 4 laps
4. Heidfeld/Piquet jr./Prost (DE/BR/FR), Rebellion R-One AER, – 5 laps
5. Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (CH/DE/FR), Audi R18, – 5 laps
6. Rossiter/Trummer/Webb (GB/CH/GB), CLM P1/01 AER, – 9 laps
27. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (DE/NZ/AU), Porsche 919 Hybrid, – 48 laps
,h3>Drivers’ World Championship standings after two out of nine rounds:
1. Dumas/Jani/Lieb (FR/CH/DE), Porsche, 43 points
2. Imperatori/Kraihamer/Tuscher (CH/AT/CH), Rebellion, 30 points
3. Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (BR/FR/GB), Audi, 25 points
4. Heidfeld/Piquet jr./Prost (DE/BR/FR), Rebellion, 24 points
5. Conway/Kobayashi/Sarrazin (GB/JP/FR), Toyota, 18 points
6. Cumming/Dalziel/Derani (CD/GB/BR), Extreme Speed Motorsport, 12 points
14. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (DE/NZ/AU), 1.5 points
Manufacturers’ World Championship standings LMP1:
1. Porsche, 54
2. Toyota, 45
3. Audi, 41
Porsche Customer Teams
At the six-hour race on the storied racetrack of Spa-Francorchamps, 56,000 spectators watched as the Porsche 911 RSR narrowly missed out on its first podium result at the second round of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC. At the wheel of the Dempsey Proton Racing-campaigned 911 RSR Richard Lietz (Austria) with teammate Michael Christensen (Denmark) scored fourth place in the GTE-Pro class. In 2015 Lietz won the FIA World Endurance Trophy as the best GT pilot in the WEC.
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “As expected, it was a difficult race. The balance of our 911 RSR was better than in practice, but the warm weather didn’t play into our hands. We fought hard and did everything we could, but we still weren’t fast enough. Only as the temperature cooled towards the end the race did our performance improve a little. Fourth place, however, earns us important championship points. Now we’ll turn our whole attention to preparing for the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
Patrick Long was even closer to claiming a podium spot. Driving the 911 RSR of the Abu Dhabi Proton Racing customer team, the American was running in position two in the GTE-Am class with three laps to the finish. His spirited chase through the field, however, remained unrewarded: An LMP2 prototype, which was no longer in contention in the race, shunted Long’s car off the track at the end of the finish straight. Long was forced back into the pits and was ultimately classified as sixth with Khaled Al Qubaisi (United Arab Emirates) and David Heinemeier Hansson (Denmark).
Patrick Long (Porsche 911 RSR #88): “My day was actually rather relaxed. I drove the first stint and then the final stint... and then it was over with relaxing: A prototype drove into my car shortly before the finish while I was running in a clear second place. I can’t tell you how furious and disappointed I am. I’m so sorry for my teammates Khaled and David who drove a strong race today. The team also deserved a podium result.”
In sunshine and spring temperatures in the Belgian Ardennes, the 911 RSR campaigned by the KCMG team also looked to be on track for the podium over much of the distance. In the end, Wolf Henzler (Nürtingen), Christian Ried (Germany) and Joel Camathias (Switzerland) had to settle for fourth GTE-Am place. The 911 RSR run by Gulf Racing finished fifth with the all-British team Ben Barker, Michael Wainwright and Adam Carroll sharing driving duties.
Wolf Henzler (Porsche 911 RSR #78): “After the qualifying we tweaked the balance of the 911 RSR and that had a positive effect. The start was a bit hectic, because just after Le Source a prototype was standing sideways across the track. Luckily I got past okay. I think we performed very well today.”
Round three of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC is the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours in Le Mans/France on 18/19 June.
GTE-Pro class Race result
1. Rigon/Bird (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE, 145 laps
2. Franchitti/Priaulx/Tincknell (USA/GB/GB), Ford GT, 144
3. Stanaway/Rees/Adam (NZ/BRA/GB), Aston Martin, 144
4. Christensen/Lietz (D/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 142
Bruni/Calado (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE, 140
Johnson/Mücke/Pla (USA/D/F), Ford GT, 100
Turner/Sörensen/Thiim (GB/DK/DK), Aston Martin, 40
GTE-Am class Race result
1. Lamy/Dalla Lana/Lauda (P/CAN/A), Aston Martin, 140 laps
2. Collard/Perrodo/Aguas (F/F/P), Ferrari F458 Italia, 139
3. Yamagishi/Ragues/Ruberti (J/F/I), Chevrolet Corvette, 139
4. Ried/Henzler/Camathias (D/D/CH), Porsche 911 RSR, 139
5. Wainwright/Carroll/Barker (GB/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 138
6. Al Qubaisi/Long/Heinemeier Hansson (UAE/USA/DK), Porsche 911 RSR, 136