WEC: Podium For Porsche In Japan
Not unusual at Fuji International Speedway, bad weather hampered the Japanese six-hour race, round 7 of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Rain and fog caused the race to be interrupted and therefore neutralised several times, heavily influencing any action on the track, which lies at the foot of Mount Fuji. The two 919 Hybrids started from the front row of the grid, with championship leaders Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard and new Toro Rosso Formula One recruit, Brendon Hartley, taking pole position in the No2 car. Neel Jani, André Lotterer and Nick Tandy started from second place in the sister No1 car.
Earl Bamber drove the first stint in the No2 car, his first WEC start, though the race began under safety car conditions due to the adverse conditions. When the safety car pulled in at the end of lap five, Bamber maintained in the lead. Lotterer started the No1 Porsche, but on lap six he dropped to fourth, behind the two Toyotas. After touching the No8 Toyota of Sébastien Buemi, he incurred damage to the car’s front flap. Nevertheless, Lotterer had caught and passed the No7 Toyota of Kamui Kobayashi by the end of lap 22, to sit third, later dropping to fourth after a scheduled stop for fuel and a driver change.
On lap 28 the safety car was redeployed due to worsening weather conditions, only for the race to be red flagged on lap 39. The No2 919 had built-up a 12 second lead before the safety car period, which had now been entirely eroded, worse still it was now the only LMP1 runner not to have pitted for fuel. As a result when the race was restarted, Bamber pitted immediately, allowing the sister Porsche to move up to P3. With Bernhard in the No2 car, now fourth behind the two Toyotas and Jani in the No1 Porsche, the No2 entry was lapped by the No8 Toyota directly before yet another safety car period.
At the end of lap 65 the safety car released the field, but by the end of lap 79 it was back on track again, later reappearing after 88 laps, and again after 111 laps. Though Tandy had taken the lead when the No8 Toyota pitted, after the series of safety car periods he was unable to defend against the Toyotas, ending up in third spot. Worse luck still for the sister car, it was unable to unlap itself in the melee. When the race was ultimately red flagged for good after four hours and 31 minutes (with 114 laps complete) due to worsening fog, the No1 Porsche was classified in third, the No2 car in fourth. As just over 75 percent of the race duration had been completed, full points were awarded.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1, commented: “Heavy rain, thick fog, a start behind the safety car, two red flags and numerous safety car periods and yellow zones: Given these adverse conditions, we can be glad that nothing serious happened today. In the end it was a lucky one-two race win for Toyota. But we were close and in Shanghai we will do everything to do the next step in order to defend our championship titles.”
In the manufacturers’ world championship standings, Porsche continues to lead, with 270 points. Bamber, Bernhard and Hartley top the drivers’ rankings with 172 points, their advantage over the best placed Toyota drivers is now just 39 points. Jani, Lotterer and Tandy remain in fourth position with 98 points. The penultimate race of the WEC season takes place in Shanghai on 5th November.
Podium For 911 RSR
The Porsche GT Team navigated through the difficult circumstances at Fuji with similar luck to their LMP1 colleagues. In the GTE-Pro class, Richard Lietz got away perfectly from pole position in the No91 911 RSR, with Michael Christensen following in the second No92 RSR – after seven laps Christensen had gained two positions and was running third. Following the first red flag period, at the restart it was Christensen who moved into the lead.
In a race that yo-yoed around up and down the field in every category, come half race distance, Christensen was fourth, with Lietz in fifth. But further pit stops and safety car periods eventually saw Kévin Estre snatch the lead in the No92 car, with Frédéric Makowiecki running third in the No91 car. After a fourth safety car phase a lapped Ford ran into the leading Estre, putting him into a spin. Unsurprisingly, the collision affected the 911’s aerodynamics both front and rear, the incident also put the car back into third place. Makowiecki, inherited the lead in the No91 car, but he would eventually be overtaken by a Ferrari. He continued in second, with Estre in third, which is where the pair sat when the red flag was thrown for good, ending the race.
Of the eventful race, Kévin Estre said: “I’ve never had to wait so long for my turn in a race. When I finally got to drive after three hours, I managed to overtake two prototypes after the restart after the first safety car phase and pull slightly clear of my pursuers. After another restart I lapped a slower Ford. He obviously missed his braking point in the next corner and drove straight into my car. I spun and had to continue with my 911 RSR damaged at the front and rear. It became increasing difficult at the end. I’m pleased that I could defend my third place to the flag.”
With just two races left on the calendar at Shanghai and Bahrain, Lietz and Makowiecki currently rank second in the GTE-Pro points standings, five points behind the leader. Christensen and Estre remain way down the order, residing in 11th spot.
|1. Nakajima / Buemi / Davidson||Toyota TS050||113 laps|
|2. Conway / Kobayashi / Lopez||Toyota TS050||113 laps|
|3. Jani / Lotterer / Tandy||919 Hybrid||113 laps|
|4. Bernhard / Bamber / Hartley||919 Hybrid||112 laps|
|1. Calado / Guidi||Ferrari 488 GTE||109 laps|
|2. Lietz / Makowiecki||911 RSR||109 laps|
|3. Christensen / Estre||911 RSR||109 laps|
|1. Bernhard / Hartley / Bamber||919 Hybrid||172 points|
|2. Nakajima / Buemi||Toyota TS050||133 points|
|3. Davidson||Toyota TS050||118 points|
|4. Jani / Lotterer / Tandy||919 Hybrid||98 points|
|1. Porsche||270 points|
|2. Toyota||211.5 points|
|1. Calado / Guidi||Ferrari 488 GTE||120 points|
|2. Lietz / Makowieck||911 RSR||115 points|
|3. Rigon||Ferrari 488 GTE||105.5 points|
|11. Estre / Christensen||911 RSR||67 points|
|1. Ferrari||238 points|
|2. Porsche||191 points|
|3. Aston Martin||176 points|