This race had shades of the Fuji 6-hour just a few weeks ago. It started under yellow (luckily a bit shorter this time), was plagued by rain early, and drying conditions later, and saw a Porsche LMP1 1-2 victory. This being their fifth overall victory in as many races, and fourth 1-2 victory of the season, Porsche is absolutely on fire this year. By taking that fifth victory, Porsche has officially become the “Marken Weltmeister” (Constructors Champion) in Shanghai. One race before the season’s finale in Bahrain, no other manufacturer can mathematically take away that constructor’s title. To paraphrase the scholarly linguist, Aubrey Drake Graham “We started from the bottom, now the whole crew is here”. It only took Porsche one year of teething to be in a position to take on the best in the world and win. Porsche has won the title with 308 points ahead of Audi (238) and Toyota (137). This victory marks Porsche’s 13th constructors’ World Championship title in endurance racing, and its first since 1986.
There is still the drivers’ championship on the line in Bahrain with Timo Bernhard, Brendan Hartley, and Mark Webber leading by 12 points over a trio of Audi drivers. In the GTE category, Porsche trails Ferrari in the constructor’s championship for GT cars by 10 points, though they managed to close the gap a good distance here in China this weekend. Those title fights will go down to the wire! Lets get down to the race report.
Porsche In The LMP1 Category –
As mentioned before, the race started under yellow and stayed that way for 13 minutes. Yellow would be the name of the game this year, as there was another section of safety car conditions, as well as four additional full-course yellow segments, not to mention countless local yellow flags waved for cars getting it a bit wrong in the tricky conditions. With four hours of wet weather at the start of the race, Porsche was again on the back foot, as Audi was the faster of the field in those conditions. Brendon Hartley started the 17 car, and Marc Lieb ran from the start in the 18 LMP1. Timo Bernhard took over from Hartley at lap 52 in the lead, but slowly starts falling down the order, first losing the lead to the #7 Audi, then allowing the #8 past, then being passed by his team mate Neel Jani, now aboard the 18. When the two Audi cars pit for refueling, Jani takes over the lead, and Bernhard retakes the lead of the race as he finds pace in his car. Timo passes off the lead to Mark Webber at 132 laps in, and the call is made to switch onto Michelin’s amazing ‘slicktermediate’ rain tire. Webber makes the best of drying conditions and starts to stretch a gap on the Audis, switching to full slick dry tires at lap 132. It was a relatively uneventful race for the 17 car this weekend, and their victory gained them a good lead in the driver’s championship points standings, as well.
In the 18 car, things were slightly more dramatic, but not enough to prevent them from taking the second step of the podium. Lieb started the car and immediately moved into the lead over Brendan Hartley who had issues with electric boost after sitting behind the safety car for a few laps. Once those issues were figured out, though, the 17 was allowed back into the lead on team orders, which was right when Audi #7 chose to pounce, attempting to split the two Porsche cars, the Audi ended up tagging the #18 car of Lieb and spun him around with a quick hip-check. Once Lieb found his way back to the black stuff, he was in last position, and had to spend the next 5 laps overtaking 25 cars to rejoin the back of the LMP1-H group. On lap 11 he took 5th from the #2 Toyota. Passing off to Jani, the car moves into 4th on pit strategy. Jani is driving like a man possessed, as he quickly makes up time and takes over the lead of the race on lap 72. As conditions start to dry out, Jani’s car starts to suffer from increased braking temperatures comparative to his sister car, and has to reduce pace to keep things moving steadily. At lap 101, Jani allows Bernhard into the lead, and lap 114 sees Romain Dumas take over the car on slick intermediates. Dumas had a quick spin while trying to negotiate around lapped LMP2 traffic, which dropped him back to 3rd until the 2nd placed Audi pitted for fuel and tires. Lap 132 saw him move to slick tires and moved into the lead of the race when everyone else pitted. Porsche called Dumas in for a quick refuel on lap 162 to get him to the end, allowing Webber to retake the lead. Dumas rejoined in 2nd, and stayed there to the end.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1
“For sure it will take some time until it really sinks in what we have achieved today. In what is only our second year in the WEC, we first won Le Mans and then took the World Championship title – it is difficult to believe this has happened. Due to the changing weather conditions this six hours here were extremely tense for us. Thanks to everybody who has worked hard for this success, at our home base in Weissach and generally at Porsche. Now we will try to secure the drivers’ title, too.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“First of all I want to thank everyone at home in the work shop in Weissach and here on site. This title really belongs to all of them. After an already difficult race in Fuji, I think today was another strategic master piece. We could rely on our Michelin tyres every moment and under all circumstances. We stayed focussed despite any problems we had, especially regarding our number 18 car. Those drivers fought their way back from being last to first in an unbelievable manner. Crew number 17 is on a great run at the moment and it continued here, they well deserved that win. Our mechanics today were the best in the pit lane.”
Mark Webber, Driver 919 Hybrid LMP1 #17
“What this team has done in such a short period of time is just incredible. I have been involved in some pretty professional motor sports projects and I must say it is impressive to come to this level and have this results this year. It’s really hard to produce these cars and this top performance week after week. The constructors’ title is great for Porsche and everyone was working hard. Racing for these guys is amazing.”
Neel Jani, Driver 919 Hybrid LMP1 #18
“Marc did a super job to bring back the car to the leading group in the race after the incident on lap one. When I took over, it was raining quite heavily. The visibility was very poor and there was aquaplaning. But the car was superb in this condition. I could attack and found my way from P4 to take the lead. Towards the end of my first stint I had trouble with the brake temperature and that was tricky. On a half wet or wet track, no one wants an unpredictable brake balance. I had a few moments when I almost went off. So my stint had a bit of everything.”
LMP1 Category Results –
1. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (DE/NZ/AU), Porsche 919 Hybrid, 169 laps
2. Dumas/Jani/Lieb (FR/CH/DE), Porsche 919 Hybrid, + 26.294 seconds
3. Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (CH/DE/FR), Audi R18 e-tron quattro, + 30.311 sec
4. Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (BR/FR/GB), Audi R18 e-tron quattro, + 50.906 sec
5. Wurz/Sarrazin/Conway (AT/FR/GB), Toyota TS040 Hybrid, 4 laps behind
6. Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima (GB/CH/JP), Toyota TS040 Hybrid, 5 laps behind
Porsche In The GTE Pro Category –
The Porsche 911 RSR shared by Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen made for a Porsche Double-Victory in Sunday’s six-hour race on Shanghai International Circuit. This win makes for the team’s third victory of the season, which also won the Nürburgring and Circuit of the Americas rounds this season. At the wheel of the sister 911 RSR, French pilotes Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet finished in third.
With this result, Porsche has defended its manufacturers’ title chance in GTE-Pro where Porsche managed to close the gap to Ferrari to just 4 points. Meanwhile Richard Lietz has extended his lead in the Cup for GT drivers, and Team Porsche-Manthey has also extended their lead in the championship for teams. At the final race of the season on 21 November in Bahrain, a maximum of 44 manufacturers’ points are still up for grabs, so Porsche can still make this happen. Another victory like this one, and Porsche could be the Doppel-Weltmeister once again.
This race was predominantly held on a very wet track with at least 2/3rds of the running being on wet tires. The conditions on track were not quite as extreme as they were recently in Fuji, Japan, however the drivers still had to overcome a lot of challenges in this race. The start drivers Frédéric Makowiecki in the number 92 car and Richard Lietz in the 91 vehicle got away cleanly at the start moved quickly toward the front of the GTE-Pro pack. Mako, who had started the race from 4th, moved his car into second after just five laps. Lietz who had started from 5th, managed to settle into third place shortly thereafter. Lietz proved why he is the sole leader of the drivers championship at the moment, moving into the lead after just 10 laps, laying the foundation for his 3rd win of the season.
Just like in Japan, and frankly Petit Le Mans before it, the rain-drenched track was an absolute boon for the rear-engine racers with excellent traction out of the corners and great stability on the brakes. Makowiecki suffered an off during a duel with the competition which included a punctured tire, and fell back to sixth place, but after switching out for Patrick Pilet, the #92 car moved its way back up the order to settle into second behind the leading 91 car (now with Christensen aboard). The race strategy of the Porsche Manthey team proved a perfect match for the race, as they made the perfect call of when to switch to slick tires. As the track dried, the race course came to the Ferrari, and near the very end, the Bruni/Villander 458 Italia moved into second place, overtaking the Mako/Pilet car and demoting them to third. Good points were made, and the result was an excellent win for Porsche. We’ll see how the points shake out in Bahrain. It should be a good one.
Marco Ujhasi, Overall Project Manager GT Works Motorsport
“The focus and the systematic preparation in practicing for the race have paid off. The conditions were difficult, but the drivers and the team made no mistakes. Now everything is wide open again heading to the season finale. The circuit in Bahrain doesn’t particularly suit our 911, but we’ll try our very best.”
Richard Lietz, Driver 911 RSR #91
“That was a difficult race. In the first three stints the decision to run wet tyres was good, but afterwards it became tricky. We changed to slicks at exactly the right time. For some it was perhaps a little early, but you need to take a risk in such a situation. During this phase of the race, Michael drove masterfully. Well done. I’m pleased for the team. To come from fifth and win is fantastic.”
Frédéric Makowiecki, Driver 911 RSR #92
“We experienced a problem with the front tyre which threw us down the field after a good start. Afterwards we put on the pressure over the entire race but narrowly missed out on second place. Still, third place also yields us a lot of points towards the manufacturers’ championship.”
GTE Pro Category Results –
1. Lietz/Christensen (A/DK), Porsche 911 RSR, 151 laps
2. Bruni/Vilander (I/SF), Ferrari F458 Italia, 151
3. Pilet/Makowiecki (F/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 151
4. Rigon/Calado (I/GB), Ferrari F458 Italia, 150
5. MacDowall/Rees/Stanaway (GB/BRA/NZ), Aston Martin, 149
6. Turner/Adam (GB/GB), Aston Martin, 149
Porsche In The GTE Am Category –
After an amazing victory in Japan with the Dempsey squad, the Porsche teams of Proton Racing could do no better than 4th and 7th in class. Falling just short of a podium, Dempsey/Seefried/Long fought valiantly, but in the end could not keep up with the faster Ferrari and Aston Martin squads. The Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi car suffered a spin in the nasty conditions, and was caught in the gravel trap for a while, effectively ending any chances they had of a good showing. It wasn’t the best day for Porsche’s GTE-Am racers, but they all made it to the end, which is a victory in itself.
GTE Am Category Results
1. Perrodo/Collard/Aguas (F/F/P), Ferrari F458 Italia, 146 laps
2. Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda (CDN/P/A), Aston Martin, 146
3. Bertolini/Shaytar/Basov (I/RUS/RUS), Ferrari F458 Italia, 145
4. Dempsey/Long/Seefried (USA/USA/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 145
5. Roda/Ruberti/Sylvest (I/I/DK), Chevrolet Corvette, 144
6. Castellacci/Griffin/Hall (I/GB/GB), Aston Martin, 139
7. Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi (D/A/UAE), Porsche 911 RSR, 139
Championship Standings Results –
1. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (DE/NZ/AUS), Porsche 155
2. Lotterer/Tréluyer/Fässler (DE/FR/CH), Audi, 143
3. Dumas/Jani/Lieb (FR/CH/DE), Porsche, 113,5
4. Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (BR/FR/GB), Audi, 91
5. Davidson/Buemi (GB/CH), Toyota, 67
6. Tandy (GB), Porsche & Oreca, 66,5
7. Bamber/Hülkenberg (NZ/DE), Porsche, 58
8. Nakajima (JP), Toyota, 55
1. Porsche, 308
2. Audi, 238
3. Toyota, 137
1. Ferrari, 259 points
2. Porsche, 255
3. Aston Martin, 165
1. Porsche Team Manthey, #91 Porsche, 144 points
2. AF Corse, #51 Ferrari, 130
3. AF Corse, #71 Ferrari, 129
1. Richard Lietz, Porsche, 135 points
2. Michael Christensen, Porsche, 117
3. Davide Rigon, James Calado, Ferrari, 115
4. Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander, Ferrari, 112,5
5. Frédéric Makowiecki, Porsche, 93
7. Patrick Pilet, Porsche, 75