Porsche secured the constructor’s title in the FIA World Endurance Championship after taking a one-two podium finish in Shanghai, China three weeks ago. In China, the winning drivers were Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber who lorded it over in a six-hour race of which two thirds were held on a wet track. The sister car of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb finished second and hence the season’s fourth one-two victory for the Porsche team.
Porsche has won the title with 308 points ahead of Audi and Toyota. For Porsche, it is the 13th constructors’ World Championship title in endurance racing and the first since 1986. Between 1964 and 1986, Porsche took 12 constructors’ titles in the then Sports Car World Championship.
The drivers’ world championship title will be decided at the season’s finale in Bahrain on November 21. Porsche drivers Bernhard, Hartley and Webber are leading with 155 points ahead of three Audi drivers who have scored 143 points.
After the start behind the safety car the race goes green at the end of lap four and pole-setter Brendon Hartley stays in front. After 33 laps, he comes in for refueling and takes another set of rain tires. The team uses the third of several full course yellow periods for the next pit stop and Timo Bernhard takes over after 52 laps. The conditions still only suitable for rain tires. The lead is temporarily lost to the No. 8 Audi and on lap 57 the No. Audi also overtakes Bernhard. On lap 61 the sister Porsche with Neel Jani at the wheel passes Bernhard as well. As the Audis pit, Bernhard lies second behind Jani. The following Porsche pit stop doesn’t change the order. Bernhard comes in for fuel only after 84 laps and then reduces the gap to Jani.
On lap 101, the two Porsche 919 Hybrids swap positions because the No. 17 car is the faster one at that point of time. Bernhard hands over the leading car to Mark Webber after 115 laps, and now slick intermediate tires are the call. After 132 laps, Webber changes to pure slick tires and continues to lead the race. At the end of lap 154, Webber comes for his last refuelling stop and gets another set of slick tires. He then drives directly behind Romain Dumas until the sister car has to refuel – and No. 17’s way to victory is clear.
For car No. 18, Marc Lieb started from P2, briefly moves into the lead when Hartley has difficulties with boost, but then gets pushed off the track by André Lotterer in his Audi No. 7. Lieb rejoins the race as the last car. He then overtakes 25 cars within five laps to catch the LMP1 cars. At the end of lap 11, he overtakes the No. 2 Toyota for fifth. After 33 laps, he pits for fuel and another set of rain tires. The team uses the third full course yellow period for the next stop. Lieb hands over to Neel Jani, who continues on another set of full wets. Jani is fourth but improves quickly. On lap 72, he takes the lead from the No. 7 Audi. After 83 laps, he comes in for fuel only and stays in the lead. On lap 101, Jani lets Bernhard pass because he has high brake temperatures temporarily. After 114 laps, Jani hands over the car to Romain Dumas who gets slick intermediate tires. A misunderstanding when lapping another car leads to a spin on lap 126 and causes Dumas to drop back to third until the No. 8 Audi has to pit.
After 132 laps, Dumas pits for slicks. He rejoins in fourth but takes the lead after the pit stops of the Audis and his teammate. After a final “splash and dash” at the end of lap 162, he finishes second.
After the race, Porsche team principal Andreas Seidl said, “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 masterpiece. We could rely on our Michelin tires every moment and under all circumstances. We stayed focused despite any problems we had, especially regarding our No. 18 car. Those drivers fought their way back from being last to first in an unbelievable manner. Crew No. 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.”
For his part, technical director Alexander Hitzinger said, “We have won Le Mans in our second year and now the constructors’ world championship, plus we have dominated every single qualifying – you cannot ask for more. I am really proud on this team. We have been aggressive in our development and didn’t accept any compromise when it was about performance but we accepted the risks of that as well. Nevertheless we have managed to get the Porsche 919 Hybrid reliable too.”