The #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber were victorious in the 2017 6 Hours of Nürburgring, the championship leaders leading a 1-2 ahead of #1 car of Andre Lotterer Nick Tandy and Neel Jani. The winning margin, in what was the first 1-2 finish for the team since Shanghai 2015, was just 1.6 seconds.
Both cars tussled throughout the race, but the winning move was made at the round final stops, with the #2 losing the lead to the #1 crew with just a handful of minutes to go, the Porsche team managing the positions by putting 20 seconds more fuel into the #2, allowing the #1 – better placed in the championship – to take the lead.
“It was a great team effort from Porsche team,” Bernhard said after the race. “Both cars could have won today, our teammates deserved the victory as much as we did. They were quick today. There was close fighting until the final hour, and we kept changing places.
“It was a fantastic day for Porsche, scoring a 1-2 on home soil.”
The win means that Bernhard and Hartley equal the record of 10 wins overall in FIA WEC competition from the ex-Audi trio of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer. Perhaps even more surprisingly, all 10 wins for the Porsche duo, have been scored since the last overall win, for the Audi boys back at Spa in 2015.
Behind, Toyota were unable to challenge for the win when the race settled down. The #7 TS050 of Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway finished a distant third, a minute back, after losing the lead in the second hour, unable to match the race pace of the Porsches ahead.
“I tried to defend (at the start) but it was a matter of time,” Lopez admitted. “We struggled with grip, we knew Porsche was good on race pace. It’s good to be fighting with Porsche, it’s the first real race experience I’ve had, so I’m happy.
“We’ll work hard and try to be stronger next time.”
The sister car meanwhile, lost its chances of a victory before the race even started, after a fuel pump issue on the formation lap cost it five laps in the pits for repairs. Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima recovered to fourth overall, but still laps down to the lead trio.
Dominant run for ‘Mighty 38’
LMP2 was dominated by the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing crew, after Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho Pin Tung didn’t put a foot wrong throughout, regaining the lead after the slipping from first to third in opening scramble, and pulling away.
In the end, the winning margin was over a lap, the trio proving untouchable in the second half of the race.
The #31 Rebellion ORECA of Bruno Senna, Julien Canal and Filipe Albuquerque finished second, with the #36 Signatech Alpine of Gustavo Menezes, Matt Rao and Nicolas Lapierre just six seconds back in third.
While the race for the win wasn’t in doubt during the second half of the race, the battles for the podium spots raged on throughout the six hours, with both Rebellions, both Jackie Chan DCs and the #36 Sigantech Alpine in the mix.
At the end, just off the podium was the the #13 Rebellion ORECA of Mathias Beche, David Heinemeier Hansson and Pipo Derani, after what proved to be one of DHH’s best races to date, the Dane putting on a masterclass of defensive driving to keep the team in the fight in the second hour. The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA completed the top five.
Further down the order, two contenders were knocked out early, the G-Drive ORECA, due to its penalty for the Le Mans incident, and the #35 Signatech Alpine A470, which suffered gearbox issues and retired. For the G-Drive crew, finishing sixth was impressive, after starting last on the grid, and losing two laps from the Stop and Go, but Roman Rusinov, Ben Hanley and Pierre Thiriet were capable of a much higher finish on pace.
AF Corse takes win after GTE Pro showdown
GTE Pro was another thriller, the opening hour was close-knit, with fighting up and down the field. Once the race settled down, the challengers emerged, and the #51 AF Corse Ferrari took its first win of the year ahead of the two Porsches, the #91 ahead of the #92 that in the end, finished 50 seconds back, scrapping for the remaining podium spots.
The win was a big one for the pair in the #51, as it’s Alessandro Pier Guidi’s first WEC win as a Ferrari factory driver, and James Calado’s second.
The winning move was made by Calado, on the #92 Porsche at the Valvoline-Kurve, which slipped to third after a move by Fred Makowiecki in the #91 on Michael Christensen – also at the Valvoline-Kurve – with two hours to go.
Aston Martin’s #95 ‘Dane Train’ of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen led at the start after the Pole-sitting Porsche locked its wheels into Turn 1, but slipped back after a valiant defensive effort from Marco Sorensen and finished just off the podium in fourth.
The best of the Fords came home fifth, with Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx in the #67 losing a potential fourth place after a tangle with the #1 Porsche at the Warsteiner-Kurve. Nick Tandy in the 919 went round the outside of Tincknell, and slight contact sent the Ford spinning into the gravel.
“I was having a great stint, got into a good rhythm,” explained Tincknell. “I saw the two Porsches coming, the first came down the inside, and I saw Nick dive around the outside and it was never on – he still swiped me even though I gave him room. It’s an unfortunate thing, a shame for the team.”
First 2017 win for Dempsey Proton
Dempsey Proton’s Porsche came home with its first win of the season in GTE Am, Christian Ried, Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst battling hard throughout, emerging victorious after a move at the final chicane by Dienst on the #98 Aston Martin of Mathias Lauda with just under two hours remaining.
It marked the first win for Ried since 2012, the first ever WEC class wins for Dienst and Cairoli and the first win in the WEC for a Porsche on Dunlop rubber.
The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari eventually fought its way to second in the final hour, leaving the Pole-sitting #98 Aston of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda to take third.
“That was an incredibly tough race,” Pedro Lamy said. “We were looking strong in terms of overall pace but we were unlucky to lose out on the race win during the second half. We’ve still scored good points this weekend so I am just glad that we have kept ourselves in a good place for the championship.”
Fourth was the Clearwater Racing Ferrari, a lap down after battling for the top three spots in the first half of the race. The team lost a lot of time though, from a spin into the gravel at the Ford Kurve by Weng Sun Mok, who went too wide into the Valvoline Kurve.
Next up for the WEC runners is the Six Hours of Mexico City in September.