Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber take their second win of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship season after a thrilling battle with the sister No.2 Porsche 919 Hybrid at Nürburgring.
Pole-sitter Kamui Kobayashi maintained the lead as the field charged down to turn one on the opening lap but things weren’t going quite to plan next door. An extra formation lap was needed with the #8 Toyota crawling around the circuit at snail’s pace with a fuel pump problem, the car eventually got back to the garage as the Gazoo Racing mechanics went to work.
After spending at total of 10 mins in the garage the #8 car was back out and circulating but already 5 laps down. For much of the first stint Kobayashi lead while the two Porsches ran in tandem, Timo Bernhard took charge early in the #2 Porsche while Andre Lotterer sat in his mirrors in the #1 car.
The two Porsches swapped positions after the first pit stops when the #1 car got ahead of the #2 but they swapped again when team orders designated the #2 to repass the #1 car. It turned out to be a sensible decision for the Porsche squad when Brendon Hartley (who had taken over from Bernhard) got past Jose Maria Lopez who was now now behind the wheel of the #7 car. Hartley made a clean move up the inside under braking for turn one and took the lead away from the Argentinian.
It became a Porsche 1-2 at the head of the field when Neel Jani in the #1 also got past Lopez in the #7 around the outside at turn eleven.
The two Porsches duelled for the rest of the race running nose to tail and sometimes a little too close for comfort. The #2 and the #1 nicked, tucked and weaved through multiple incidents that unfolded right in front of their eyes.
After multiple position swaps and some extraordinary side by side moments the #2 Porsche took the lead for the final time at the last pitstop with a much shorter stop than the #1 car. Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley backed up their Le Mans 24 hours’ victory with a win in the 6 hours of the Nurburgring.
Finishing just 1.6 seconds behind were Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy in the sister #1 car. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez held onto third place in the #7 Toyota while the recovering #8 Toyota of Sebastian Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima grasped fourth after their fuel pump problem on the formation lap put them down five laps.
In LMP2 the first chapter was written by Rebellion racing with their #31 and #13 running first and second for the opening hour. Meanwhile a few people had to sit in the naughty corner with lengthy stop and hold penalties for various incidents earlier in the weekend. This included the #26 G-Drive, #24 Manor and the #35 Alpine. After the first round of proper pitstops, the Le Mans 24hrs winning #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car took the lead in class while the two Rebellions fended off the other Jackie Chan car and the #36 Alpine.
In the end, Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung took the victory as the team celebrated the #38 cars third win in four races. Filipe Albuquerque, Bruno Senna and Julien Canal claimed second position in the #31 Valliante Rebellion while the #36 Signatech Alpine of Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Matt Rao fought through to complete the LMP2 podium.
As always the GTE-Pro Battle was a thriller, the first hour was intense with some extremely close battles throughout the field. For majority of the opening stint the entire GTE-Pro class ran line-a-stern with just five seconds separating the top six. Once the race settled down the real contenders emerged but things were still close nit with moves happening everywhere.
The #51 AF Corse Ferrari took its first win of the year with the 488 GTE being driven this weekend by James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi. Coming across the line in second were Fred Makowiecki and Ricard Lietz in the #91 Porsche followed by Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in the sister #92 Porsche 911 RSR.
The winning pass was made by Calado, on #92 Porsche at the Valvoline-Kurve, the #92 slipped to third after Makowiecki in the #91 also got by Christensen with two hours to go.
Aston Martins #95 ‘Dane Train’ of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen led at the start after the Pole-sitting Porsche locked its wheels into turn one. The #95 began to slip back a little in the mid-stage of the race but a remarkable drive from Sorensen in the final hours meant they collected a healthy bunch of points finishing up in fourth place.
The best of the Fords came home fifth, with Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx in the #67 losing a potential fourth place after a tangle with the #1 LMP1 Porsche. Nick Tandy in the 919 went round the outside of Tinckell and slight contact sent the Ford pirouetting into the gravel.
Things heated up quickly in AM as an early brawl erupted for second place. While the #98 Aston cleared off in the lead, the Proton Porsche, Spirit of Race Ferrari and Clearwater Ferrari all duked it out for second. Christian Reid in the #77 Proton car defended from the two prancing horses behind him but had to yield when Francesco Castellacci forced his way by at turn four in the Spirit of Race car, Keita Sawa pounced on the opportunity also getting by Reid as the #77 car went from second to fourth in one corner.
After hours of tussling, the Christian Ried, Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst Proton Porsche emerged victorious. The #77 car got the lead courtesy of a brilliant move at the final chicane by Dienst on the #98 Aston Martin of Mathias Lauda with just under two hours remaining.
It marked the first win for Ried since 2012, the first ever WEC class wins for Dienst and Cairoli and the first win in the WEC for a Porsche on Dunlop rubber. The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari eventually fought its way to second in the final hour, leaving the Pole-sitting #98 Aston of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda to take third.
The WEC circus now flies off to Mexico City and the Autodromo Hermanos Rodrigues for round five of the Championship from the 2nd – 3rd of September
IMAGES: FIA WEC http://www.fiawec.com