Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas powered the #14 Porsche 919 Hybrid to victory in Brazil, scoring Porsche their first overall win of the season, and crucially, since their return to the prototype ranks this year. This race was a thriller and a fitting final race for Tom Kristensen.
“Finally, in the final race of the season we got our first win,” said a triumphant Jani after the race. “We’ve come so close before, and now to get the win is such a relief. It made out mission for the year a success.”
It was an up and down affair in every class. Many on-track battles lasted the entire six hours, but unfortunately the race had to end under safety car conditions. A scary incident involving Mark Webber’s #20 919 and Matteo Cressoni’s #90 8Star Ferrari in the final hour would put a dampener on what was one of the more exciting sportscar races in recent memory. Thankfully, and more importantly though, both drivers are reported as ok.
The #20 Porsche dominated the first quarter of the race with Lieb and Webber behind the wheel, but the performance of the car deteriorated towards the end of the race. The 16 second lead they had vanished, creating a two-way scrap for the lead until the flag between the sister #14 919 and the #8 Toyota. Even Audi played a role in parts, something which hasn’t been possible since the round in Texas due to a lack of outright pace.
The #14 and #8 battled for second place overall for hours during the middle portion of the race, with the #1 Audi getting involved during the middle portion after double-stinting tyres to save time. This eventually turned into the battle for overall honours, with the #14 holding the advantage going into the final hour.
Too many mistakes by the Sebastian Buemi and Anthony Davidson cost them a chance to control the race for Toyota. The newly crowned champs followed the lead Porsche home under the safety car, wondering what could have been as the medical team and marshals on site dealt with the cleanup of the accident which ended the race for the #20 and #90. Their finishing position did give them the manufacturers’ title for Toyota though.
“It’s been difficult, we have tough opposition. Our car wasn’t really up there, we are having to over-drive it to keep up,” admitted Buemi.
Replays showed Webber spearing sideways into the wall on the outside of the final curve leading up to the pit straight after hitting the side of the #90 Ferrari he was trying to lap. The Australian was taken to the medical centre, but not before showing a thumbs up to the crowd. His teammates – Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard joined him while he underwent the standard medical checks. Cressoni was also confirmed as ‘ok’ by the 8Star team soon after the impact.
It was a perfect job by the medical staff who attended to both drivers, and extracted Webber safely and promptly from the wrecked prototype.
Tom Kristensen would end his career on another high, finishing third overall after a great race by himself, Loic Duval and Lucas Di Grassi in the #1 Audi which came home third. The Dane – who announced his retirement from sportscars prior to the race – was greeted by an emotional Dr Wolfgang Ullrich after getting of the car at the end of the race – his former teammates Dindo Capello and Allan McNish were also on the scene for his send off.
The man who played a major part in Audi’s dominance of sportscars since the turn of the century has officially hung up his helmet to end an illustrious era for Danish sport and the German marque, he stayed a class act from start to finish.
Rebellion Racing’s #13 R-One won LMP1 L in a race which saw all three entries spend a lot of time in and out of the garages. A tough season of development for both them and the Lotus crew.
KCMG won the LMP2 class in what turned out to be a rare race of attrition for all four entries. Richard Bradley, Alexander Imperatori and Matt Howson took charge in the class early after a bad start for the G-Drive Ligier. But Howson would have an impact with a barrier from the lead which cost him a lap as the race settled down, which at the time looked like it would hand the win to SMP.
It was no easy ride for the other runners though. Olivier Pla had a sizeable accident in the Ligier which cost the G-Drive team the title after just 90 minutes of running, the Frenchman went flying into the barriers at turn 1 after a suspected brake issue.
“I think there was a problem with a front right brake, it was quite bad. To lose the race like that, it is difficult.” said his teammate Romian Rusinov after incident.
Both SMP Orecas suffered issues throughout, and handed the lead back to the KCMG crew towards the end. The #27 would take the LMP2 title though, as all it needed to do was finish. The team held it in the garage to conserve the car in the final stages, and brought it out to cross the line and win the championship.
Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke won take their second win of the season for Aston Martin after a tough start to the race. The team lost a lot of time early when the full-course-yellow was called for by the race director to clean up the debris left by Pla’s Ligier. They spend the remainder of the race playing catch up, but in the end held the lead when the safety car came out at the end, knowing they would need to make one last stop unless the race was interrupted.
Porsche had a much better outing, especially with the #92 of Fred Makoweicki and Patrick Pilet which came home second and led the Pro class for a considerable amount of the race. The #99 Vantage of Darryl O’Young, Fernando Rees and Andy McDowell slowly faded away after providing the British team with hope of winning at the start, the trio also lost time due to an incident with the other Porsche GT entry of Jorg Bergmiester who tapped the car into a spin at turn one late in the race.
AF Corse had a tough race in both GTE classes, the champion #51 458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander never featured and the #71 of James Colado and Davide Rigon had to settle for third in class after struggling to match the pace of the frontrunners. AF Corse did manage to win the manufacturers title for Ferrari though, as Porsche didn’t quite score enough points.
Aston Martin Racing would do the double, as their domination of the Am class continued at Sao Paulo. The #98 Aston of Paul Dalla Lana, Christopher Nygaard and Pedro Lamy ran a perfect race, coming home ahead of the Dane train #95 entry which spent much of the race recovering from a spin, puncture and penalty.
“We’ve had a completely perfect run all season,” said David Heinemeier-Hansson during the race. “It seems we have gathered all the sh*t that could possibly go wrong and put it into one package. It’s frustrating.”
Yet they still finished second, and continued their run of finishing on the podium in every race this year, a phenomenal, near faultless season for the Danish trio.
Post Race Quotes
Neel Jani – Porsche Team
“The first thing I would like to say is that Mark is basically ok so that is good. To Tom (Kristensen) I would just like to say thanks and it was nice to race with you. At the beginning of the race we had a good battle with Anthony but we lost a bit of time to the leading sister car. At the end we could undercut the Toyota as we stopped about ten laps earlier. I think we could have been ok even if the safety car had not come out. I am delighted for the team who were fantastic all season long.”
Romain Dumas – Porsche Team
“It is a big day for us this is clear. We started to speak about this project in 2011. We have progressed throughout the season and we have had a lot of poles so it is nice to get a win of course. This track and with this new tarmac was very good for us this weekend and we have shown that we can do it in our first year even though we still learn so much about the 919 Hybrid package.”
Marc Lieb – Porsche Team
“It was quite interesting because I lost a position on the first lap and Anthony got me in to turn four and I was concentrating more on Timo really and all of a sudden there was this blue car passing me. I struggled and was in dirty air but it was a good fair battle. It was a real pleasure to race against Anthony and going flat out like that. It was amazing.”
Sebastien Buemi – Toyota Racing
“If you look at the seconds we lost in the incident then you could say that we could have lost the race there but I think really we lost it in many, many small areas too. We had to push more than ever to be honest. The altitude here did not really help us. We worked hard but it was just not enough. We have won both titles in 2014 so it has been a great year and now we look to next year and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
Anthony Davidson – Toyota Racing
“From our point of view we won the Championship today and we showed why we are the champions because we never gave up today. If someone had told me today we had been fighting with the Porsche cars for victory I would never have believed it.
“So it was great we had that chance and like Marc said it was great racing. It was an epic race and I haven’t had one like this since Le Mans in 2011 with Peugeot when we were fighting the Audis when it was no-stop the whole race and with just the two of us in #8 we are both really tired at the end. We drove every lap like a quali lap and the track allowed us to do that. The cars were properly stuck to the ground and there was no sliding at all. We didn’t have the advantage of better tyre-deg over the Porsches but ironically we couldn’t double stint the tyres as we had too much wear on the front and although we had the speed we weren’t allowed to show it.”
Tom Kristensen – Audi Sport Team Joest
“I think we are incredibly proud to be on the podium here today. We needed a little more electrical grunt but as Anthony said the circuit and the surface feel absolutely amazing with the grip. We wanted to achieve what we did today. We lost 30-40 seconds with an issue at the pit stops so we always dropped back. We also had to do seven stints and a splash so we had to save some fuel. When the team said I could ‘go’ after saving some fuel I went for it again and everything felt good and I was able to make a small gap to Sarrazin before the safety car came.
I think it (my retirement) will hit me soon but I am still in the race moment now and I have just got out of the car and I am enjoying things. But this is it! I look back at a long time of a lot of people I want to thank and also the fans of this fantastic championship which will go in to a great future and I look forward to following it. All of my happy memories I take with me from here. My first race that I did with Audi I finished on the podium so it is all a dream come true for me and also thanks to the kids on the right, they did a great job.”
Loic Duval – Audi Sport Team Joest
“We had a great race and the grip from the track helped us. We thought it would be the good time to try for a double stint but for the first 15 laps I was able to maintain the gap to the Porsche ahead but we struggled with the front left tyres and I lost a lot of time, about 4-5 secs at the end of my stint. But it was worth trying.”
Matt Howson – KCMG
“We were well in the lead of the class when I went off and ironically I was not pushing and cruising really. The lap before a Toyota had put me on the grass at turn ten. Then I snatched a brake, ended up on the marbles and went on to the grass and this time I hit the Armco. Unfortunately the floor dug in to the grass and it took the floor off. It is actually my first on track mistake of the year and it was a big punishment. Richard and Alex did a lot to make up for the position we were then in and it was a great team effort. KCMG started off with a lot of ambition and it has been really satisfying to claim three class wins in LMP2.”
Darren Turner – Aston Martin Racing
“The contact with Toni (Vilander) was when I think he had a puncture or something and he just caught the back of me and we both went off. Then later on I was trying to challenge James at T6 and I just got high up on the kerb and it was enough to just send me in to a spin. The guys did a great job with changing the strategy and Stefan did a tremendous job as always. It would have been tight if had been green to the end with fuel and the safety car at the end was even more stressful for us and if we had gone green we would have been in all sorts of problems. It has been a great season in many ways for Aston Martin Racing with lots of positives.”
Pedro Lamy – Aston Martin Racing
“We had a good set-up today. With the new asphalt we had great grip and we felt good all race. We were fast and the team did a great job in the pits. It was easier for us in the end with the safety car so we were quite happy not to have any big pressure