Full report to follow later
The #8 Toyota of Sébastian Buemi and Anthony Davidson took their fourth win of the season, coming home over a minute ahead of the sister #7 TS040 of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kabuki Nakajima. The #14 Porsche of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb took third place after a race-long tussle with the two Audis.
“In Qualifying we missed out. Porsche had the upper hand in that with pace, but we knew we had the car to do the job in the race with a slightly different tyre spec to them. Great win, this it what it is all about,” said an exuberant Davidson after the race.
The start of the race was a frantic one, with pole-sitter Dumas able to hold the lead for Porsche, but got interrupted by a sizeable incident in the middle of the pack involving the KCMG Oreca and #51 AF Corse Ferrari. Alex Imperatori lost all power and suddenly stopped on track, Bruni in the Ferrari had nowhere to go and ploughed into the rear of the prototype, ending the race for both parties. Luckily nobody was hurt.
“It was quite a big impact,” explained Imperatori. “It was lucky that me and Gianmaria are ok after the crash. It’s a race against time to fix the car ahead of Bahrain now. There was a fuel pump malfunction, which affected the electrics, I lost all power. I was hoping that everyone would avoid me, but it wasn’t the case.”
The safety car was deployed and Toyota quickly dived into the pits with both their cars, refuel and put a new set of rubber on, effectively eliminating the need to pit for splash at the end of the race. It left both cars at the back of the field though, 26 seconds off the two Porsches sitting 1st and 2nd.
Sébastian Buemi was on a charge when the safety car went in, and by the second hour had the lead of the race after a blistering stint which saw him slalom his way through the LMP1 field. The #8 was untouchable after that, and pulled out a comfortable lead as the race went on.
Alex Wurz managed to get the #7 past the Audis and Porsches also, and made it a 1-2 for the Japanese marque. The #7 did have power issues, but nothing serious enough to put the second place finish in any real doubt.
Porsche then found themselves under pressure from their fellow German rivals, who lacked straight-speed once again, but were able to keep up through the twisty sector 2 to keep both 919s on their toes. The #20 had the edge over the #14 for a while, but Brendon Hartley suffered a puncture which cost them a change to fight for the final podium spot, and finished a lowly sixth.
With just under 90 minutes to go Tom Kristensen and Neel Jani were in a close fight for third. The Dane couldn’t find a way through, and after a close call with Buemi who came round to lap the #1 and #14, Webber found a way through and created enough of a buffer to prevent the Audi from fully catching the third place Porsche. In the end Marcel Fassler would end up fourth in the #2 Audi, getting past Lucas Di Grassi in the final stint, finishing over a minute behind Jani.
The #12 Rebellion returned to the top step of the podium in LMP1-L, with the trip of Mathias Beche, Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld all running a solid race, the sister #13 R-One and the Lotus didn’t challenge the class champions.
G-Drive Racing managed to secure the Ligier’s second WEC victory, after a dominant performance by Olivier Pla, Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov, they are still very much able to win the class championship as we head into the final rounds.. They were untouched by the rest of the field, as the SMP and Extreme Speed entries squabbled for the remaining places for the duration of the race.
Second in the class went to the #30 Extreme Speed HPD of Ryan Dalziel, Scott Sharp and Ricardo Gonzalez. “We expected the Ligier to have that sort of pace,” said Dalziel. “They have a 2014 car after all, we can’t wait to use our new one.” The #27 SMP Oreca came home third.
Porsche took a surprise 1-2 in GTE Pro, bringing the #92 entry of Fred Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet firmly back into the title race. After the class leading #51 AF Corse Ferrari retired it seemed that the #97 Aston Martin of Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner would take an easy win, but the engine expired in the final part of the race while they were in the lead, handing the win to the German team. Third place in the Pro class would go to James Colado and Davide Rigon’s #71 AF Corse Ferrari, who finished a lap down on the Porsches.
“Massive blow, we had a good qualifying and race pace, care felt better and better all the way through. We’ve worked so hard, now we need a new engine for the next time out,” said a disappointed Turner.
Aston Martin Racing did take the win in GTE Am however, after the #98 of Pedro Lamy, Christoffer Nygaard and Paul Dalla Lana led a team 1-2 ahead of the #95.The two Vantages fought amongst themselves for much of the race, while 8Star and Prospeed Competition eventually settled for third and fourth respectively.
Next up on the WEC calendar is the 6 Hours of Bahrain in a fortnight’s time.