We’ll have a full race report from that one as soon as our fried brains have recovered from a simply astonishing 2014 FIA WEC season finale here at Interlagos in front of a weekend crowd of a reported 55,000.
For now lets say first that we’re very grateful that Olivier Pla, Mark Webber and Matteo Cressoni are all reported to be OK after substantial accidents.
Beyond that though this was a fabulous race despite the sensible decision to end it under Safety Car conditions with the clean up from the Webber/ Cressoni shunt . All three factory LMP1 teams showed fantastic pace an commitment, the six were never separated by more than 61 seconds until Webber’s race ending shunt with the vast majority of the running seeing at least one, and often more than one, battle separating the cars by a handful of seconds – or less!
All three factory teams led this race at one point or more with the altitude, and the grip from Interlagos’s new surface bringing the Audi back into the mix with a vengeance, Lotterer posting the fastest race lap as the R18s mounted a fantastic mid race challenge to rattle the Toyota and Porsche squads.
The #20 Porsche had looked vulnerable for some time with the car seeming down on power but the fight was still in the crew as they fended off repeated attacks from their opposition.
The #8 Toyota was pushing very, very hard, and necessarily so with the V8 down around 80bhp due to the altitude. It showed, the TS040s ultimate pace was blunted, and the compensatory aggression saw the car off track at least half a dozen times
The #2 Audi suffered a brief delay for the replacement of damaged rear deck and wing after contact in traffic, that short delay enough to leave the car fifth.
Mike Conway’s late race attack in the #7 Toyota looked like it might bear fruit, the Toyota closing on Tom Kristensen’s Audi before the Safety Car was scrambled.
That left what can only be described as a dream podium:
Third the outgoing World Champions, Audi, local lad Lucas di Grassi, 2013 Drivers Champions Loic Duval and, of course the legend that is Tom Kristensen, standing on a podium for Audi Sport one last time in this his final race, his 19th podium in the first 24 FIA WEC races.
Second was the #8 Toyota, confirming the Manufacturer title to add to the now confirmed Drivers title for deserved 2014 World Champions Toyota Motorsport, Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi. They had to push very hard indeed, as they have throughout the season, to squeeze the very best result they could from the car, they looked likely to take the battle for the win right to the wire too, but were happy to be able to celebrate their World Championship from the podium they were denied in Bahrain.
The winners of the race though for the first time in the FIA WEC were Porsche, the 919 Hybrid scoring four pole positions and now a race win in this their ‘learning’ year.
The team were both elated and understandably downbeat whilst they awaited the news over Mark Webber but as the reality sunk in there was perfectly justifiable joy, particularly for the #14 crew, Neel Jani’s pace fending off a highly spirited final hour attack from the #8 Toyota that was only really settled by the accident to the sister car.
Romain Dumas has had LMP1 success at this level before of course and Neel Jani has won for Rebellion at Petit Le Mans before too but for Marc Lieb this was a dream win “I hoped for this opportunity and this sort of result of course,” said Lieb later, “but this is very, very special!”
LMP1 L was a survival of the least delayed, the CLM suffering repeated transmission woes before retiring and both Rebellions spending chunks of time in the garage too, the #13 eventually leading home the Championship winning #12 car, Kraihamer, Leimer and Belicchi taking a third win of the season.
LMP2 was nowhere close to the nail biter in Bahrain, The #37 suffered a mechanical failure and retired, the #26 Ligier’s shunt though effectively ended their Championship hopes leaving the #27 SMP Oreca to run a conservative enough pace to ensure their finish, an unchallenged second, allowing the crew too to pit the car to dial out excess camber that had left both SMP cars with front right punctures!
The Teams Championship then went to SMP Racing, the Drivers’ to Sergey Zlobin, a gentle giant who has worked hard with his team to fend off the challenge from the ultimately quicker G-Drive and KCMG squads.
KCMG may have finished third in the points, but their win here made it three from eight, a real title challenge removed by misfortune rather than any lack of pace, an error from Matt Howson mid-race could have cost them dear but with the misfortunes of others it wasn’t enough to keep Messrs Howson, Bradley and Imperatori from the top step.
GTE Pro produced another fine battle though not quite as wheel to wheel as in Bahrain.
Porsche needed a 1,2 and for Ferrari to have a very bad day to prevent Ferrari from taking the Manufacturers title – They gave it a good go, the #92 leading at times around a race that saw differing strategies seeing cars rise and fall up and down the order. Mako and Pilet would eventually finish second, edging out a fine run from the #71 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado and Davide Rigon, another car that led the order more than once, and eventually led home the title winning #51 car.
The Manufacturers title though went to Ferrari
The #99 was unlucky to be the victim of a pair of incidents, one involving contact in the Senna Esses with Jorg Bergmeister’s #91 Porsche and the other, when Darryl O’Young tangled with the sister AMR #95 Am car as Rees battled for the class lead. That dropped the Craft Bamboo car out of ultimate contention, but finally the day came good for the #97 car, another car pushing very, very hard to find the edge they needed to overcome a fuel disadvantage, the late Safety Car settling the matter in favour of Messrs Turner and Mucke for a second win of the 2014 season.
In Am it was an Aston 1,2 to finish the year, the #98 car bringing home the win, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Christoffer Nygaard having a rapid and trouble free run that saw the car always in contention and in the position to take advantage after a blow out for David Heinemeier Hansson left the one time class leader, and already confirmed Champions, tumbling down the order before mounting a fight back that finally saw them back up to second, the Dane Train therefore finished the season having never finished lower than second!
To do that they had to overhaul the spirited resistance of the #81 AF Corse Ferrari, the top trio finishing well clear of a race long fight between the Privateer Porsches with the #61 AF Corse Ferrari suffering repeated delays and more than one penalty – There was no dream result for Emerson Fittipaldi!
We won’t be back here in 2015, we’ll miss the track, and racing like this, but we won’t miss the organisational shambles found by the WEC when the World Championship travelling circus came to town in Sao Paulo – The runners and riders put on a show – Fittipaldi Group will do well not to be remembered for less positive reasons.