This year's 6 Hours of Silverstone was an absolute stunner. Probably one of the best races that I've seen in quite a long time. There were epic on-track battles, dicey strategy decisions, and a whole lot of competitive cars on track. As season openers go, this one was excellent, and paints a picture of a promising WEC season in 2015. Porsche suffered some failure, but also reveled in the opportunity to triumph over them. In the grand scheme of things, the team netted an LMP1 pole position, a pair of podiums (one in P1 and one in GTE Pro) and scored a lot of really great points to start the season off on the right foot. Here's the race rundown car by car.
Porsche's Results In The LMP1 Class
After starting from pole, Mark Webber looked like he had the race in the bag for the #17 919 Hybrid. Streaking away from the start, the Aussie ran out to an easy 7 second lead in only 23 laps. A full-course caution evaporated his lead, so Webber took advantage of that to pit for a set of tires and a fuel stop. After the race went back to green, Webber again set the pace and started bumping up his lead again, gradually gaining time over the competition. Almost 90 minutes into the 6-hour race, Webber was called into the pits to retire the car with a gearbox failure. It's a crying shame, as Brendan Hartley and Timo Bernhard never even got behind the wheel. They looked really good for a Porsche win, but it wasn't in the cards.
The trio of Dumas, Jani, and Lieb are rapidly proving to be a real asset for Porsche in the LMP1 category. Dumas started the car from second and managed to keep his position immediately behind the #17 for the entirety of his stint. The lap after Webber pitted under yellow, Romain brought the 18 in for service and swapped out for Marc Lieb. Lieb stayed in second until taking the lead over when the 17 was forced to retire. Pitting from the lead, Lieb handed over to Neel Jani. Jani would then take the car on a serious stint with featuring tight battles with the Audi of Marcel Fassler. The battle saw the Audi and Porsche trading the lead back and forth for more than 20 laps when the Audi pitted. For the rest of the race, the drivers changed out again in the same order, leaving Jani to battle Fassler again in the final stint of the race. For a while it looked like Porsche would take the win, because the #18 had a pit stop in hand over the leading Audi, and on top of that, the Audi had earned a stop-go penalty. Somehow, beyond belief, Marcel was able to pull off some superhuman laps to retain his lead of just a handful of seconds, relegating Jani, Dumas, and Lieb to settling for second place on the podium. The Toyota was close behind and ready to pounce with any hint of a bobble. Luckily, Jani held up under pressure and didn't let that happen. Second place is nothing to scoff at, and the boys certainly looked happy during their podium celebration.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1:
“Second place is a great result for the season’s opening race after we managed to put both cars on the front row yesterday. For the crowd it is fantastic when the first three cars finish less than 15 seconds apart after six hours of racing. We have seen the most exciting battles today with a very special Swiss input. This opening round was a great promotion for endurance racing and for the WEC.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal:
“Congratulations to the entire team. The crew and all our drivers have done a great job here. Our pit stop crew today was the best in the entire pit lane. This second place is a very good result for the 2015 generation of the Porsche 919 Hybrid, because Silverstone is the circuit that suits our car the least. Nevertheless we are leaving the paddock with mixed feelings, because we wanted to finish the race with both cars.”
Mark Webber, Driver of Car #17:
“It was really going smoothly, and I had a nice run at the front of the field. Then we had a drivetrain issue. I only felt it a lap before, but I couldn’t continue. It’s a real shame because we were in a great position. We had a really good build-up to the weekend. The guys worked hard, but we didn’t get the result. We were in better shape with the tyres than we thought we would be, and that was a nice surprise. Our hybrid technology is just sensational, it puts us in a good position in both the short and long term.”
Neel Jani, Driver of Car #18:
“This was quite an interesting race with great battles. Especially fighting with Marcel Fässler was good fun. This is what racing is for! It is a shame that in the end it didn’t work out for us to take the win when the leading car had the stop and go penalty. It became quite tight again. It is great that all three manufacturers are so close together. This is going to be an exciting season. In the end I was really able to attack with our Porsche 919 Hybrid. We have improved the car a lot since last year. There is still some work to do, but we are going in a good direction.”
Porsche's Results in the GTE Pro Class
Fred Mako and Patrick Pilet split this car for a compelling drive. Pilet started the car, and moved into the lead early in the race after the first set of pit stops. Everything looked great for the pair, as they traded driving duties and Mako went out for a stint and returned the car to Patrick still in the lead. They had the race well in hand, and looked good on long runs of green flag action. They kept their nose clean and were driving quickly, fending off attacks from the Ferraris and Aston Martins. Near the end of the third hour, Pilet was forced to pit with a failed shock absorber. The subsequent repairs cost the car over a lap on the track, and they lost their chance at victory. In the end, they had to settle for a 7th place in class. A sad end to a promising race.
Christensen and Lietz drove a compelling race, and managed to salvage a weekend for the Porsche Manthey GTE team. Once their team car was forced to retire, it was like a switch was flicked, and the team lit the wicks. They were sitting fifth when the 92 retired, which promoted them to fourth. Lietz fought hard in the subsequent stint to catch and pass the car ahead to gain third. After switching out drivers, Michael took the fight to the second placed car, and in the final handful of laps set his sights on the leader. The gap was eventually proven to be too much to catch up, and Christensen eventually finished just 10 seconds behind the leading Ferrari. Yeah, the results could have been better, but the team salvaged what they could and mounted an excellent effort. Nothing to be ashamed of this weekend.
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport:
“That was a perfect race for our number 91 car. The drivers, pit crew and engineers did a superb job. We’re very pleased with second place. And with the number 92 Porsche, we can’t fault the drivers’ performance, the strategy or the pit stops. We’ll now analyse the shock absorber problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again. All in all, it was a positive start to the season for us.”
Michael Christensen, Driver of Car #91:
“It was good start to the season. We had a very well set-up car and we were within striking distance to the top at all times. The whole package works. In an ideal situation, more would certainly have been possible. In the last hour of racing we tried everything to win. At the flag we were only seconds away from victory.”
Patrick Pilet , Driver of Car #92:
“That was bad luck. When you’re leading the race for such a long time, you want to win, of course. Still, compliments to our team. The strategy was good, the pit stops were perfect and our mechanics changed the broken shock absorbers in record time. Even so, the race for us was over. This wasn’t exactly how we’d hope to start the season, but we can build on today’s effort. Now we’re turning our attention to Spa.”
Porsche's Results in the GTE Am Class
Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long, and Marco Seefried mounted a serious effort to get accustomed to their car for the WEC, but ultimately Dempsey didn't have enough seat time in the RSR to be truly competitive. Because of his busy schedule, Dempsey was forced to sit out of the pre-season tests with the car, and didn't even make it to Silverstone until after the second practice session was already completed. Add in an early-race car setup gaffe, the team could do no better than 6th in class. Progress was made, so we'll see if they do any better at race 2 in Belgium.
Al Qubaisi, Bachler, and Ried had another race that looked promising for a Porsche class victory, but it all fell apart. Klaus Bachler was fast in the #88 car, leading early on, but the car dropped down the order eventually finishing in fifth. When you're facing competition from a pair of factory Aston Martins and a pair of AF Corse prepped Ferraris, your chances are going to be minimal. Considering the talent of the so-called "Amateurs" in those cars, it's really no wonder they finished where they are. That's no downer on Khaled Al Qubaisi, he's certainly talented and capable, but just can't put down the lap times that Paul Dalla Lana (Aston Martin #98) can, or Rui Aguas (Ferrari #83) for that matter.
Patrick Long, Driver of Car #77:
“It was a tough day for us. Apart from our unscheduled pit stop early on in the race where we had to make several minor changes to the car, everything actually ran according to plan. Working with Patrick and Marco went very well. Patrick did a great job. During his second stint, he was three seconds faster per lap compared to his first. As a team we can build on this – first in Spa, then at Le Mans. That’s our main goal for this season.”
Photos and Driver Quotes provided by Porsche.