Porsche LMP Team’s pair of 919 Hybrids dominated the 2017 running 6 Hours of Mexico, the championship leaders in #2 – Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley – winning their third race in a row ahead of the sister #1 919 of Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy.
“It was an awesome race by Porsche Team,” Hartley said. “The car felt incredible, the team made our lives very easy, it was unfortunate the Toyotas didn’t have the pace of us. It’s great for the championship though.”
For the entire race, both Porsches were untouchable and crossed the line a full lap clear of the pair of Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050s in a race which unfortunately featured little interest, with no on-track action between the two marques, just teammates swapping places during pit cycles. There wasn’t even the rain which was predicted before the start of the race, to throw a spanner in the works.
“We were only strong in Sector 1, which is mainly straights, we didn’t have the grip of the Porsches in the tight, twisty bits,” a deflated Davidson said after the race. “It was a shame we didn’t take the fight to Porsche, it was damage limitation for us finishing third.”
Third and on the final step of the podium was the #8 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, after swapping positions with the sister car multiple times during the race. The #7, which had the edge on pace at times, eventually finished fourth.
Rebellion beats Manor to first LMP2 win
The best action arguably came in LMP2, which went down to the wire for the class victory.
In the end it was Nicolas Prost, Bruno Senna and Julien Canal in the #31 Vaillante Rebellion ORECA which took the win, after looking the quickest and most consistent from the word ‘go’. It was a notable win for the Swiss-flagged team, scoring its first WEC LMP2 win, as well as its first of the season.
At the end, the winning trio crossed the line ahead of the Pole-sitting Signatech Alpine which fell away and came back into the race toward the end, taking second after a late spin at the baseball btadium by Ben Hanley in the #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing 07 Gibson.
In the end, the trio in the winning ORECA crossed the line ahead of the Pole-sitting Signatech Alpine of Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Gustavo Menezes, which lost the lead on the opening lap of the race, and spent the rest of the race scrapping for a podium position.
After the last set of stops, Lapierre was second but on old tyres and Ben Hanley in the #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing 07 Gibson had fresh Dunlops. The Britain, on his debut with the Manor team, took second place from the Frenchman in an attempt to chase down the leader and take the win before the end of the race. He came close, and got within 10 seconds of Senna before a costly spin at the stadium ended his charge, and lost the team second place.
The new driver combination of Hanley, Matt Rao and Jean Eric-Vergne was superb throughout the race. They led the race with less than two hours remaining, and almost scored the Manor team its first WEC class win. Vergne did a lot of the work, charging through the field midway through the race, before handing over to Hanley who was fast, but unfortunately couldn’t quite seal the performance with a winner’s trophy.
It was however still Manor’s first podium with a full-season WEC car, rewarding the team for all its efforts over the past 18 months.
“We had the fastest car out there, the team did a mega job,” said Senna. “We knew from the first stint it was all about waiting for the rain at the end, which didn’t come. I have a 100% win and a 100% spin record here in Mexico, since I had a spin last year. I need to get out of that habit and concentrate on winning now!”
Prost added: “I’ve never hoped for a Senna to win a race so much in my whole life!”
Third and just off the podium was the #26 G-Drive Racing ORECA of Alex Lynn, Roman Rusniov and Pierre Thiriet. Lynn started the car, which ran as high as second in the opening hours, before the it faded during Thiriet’s middle stint after Rusinov battled hard to keep the car in the mix for a podium.
The sister #13 Rebellion ORECA climbed the standings to fifth, a good result after the car started the race last on the grid following a pre-race grid penalty.
Jackie Chan DC Racing’s race was a disaster. The title-leading #38 ORECA of Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho Pin Tung came home last in the class after clutch issues cost them five laps, while the #37 which looked strong at points, could only manage sixth.
Aston Martin wins again in Mexico
In the GTE Pro class, Aston Martin Racing scored its second victory at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. The team’s #95 ‘Dane train’ Vantage of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen won a tight battle with the #71 AF Corse Ferrari which lasted the entire six hours, to score their first win of the season.
They didn’t cross the line first though. Instead, Davide Rigon took the chequered flag first in the #71 488, but he and teammate Alessandro Pier Guidi were handed a 10-second time penalty for speeding under a Full-Course Yellow for a debris clear up, dropping them to second.
“It was so close throughout,” Sorensen said, “I think there wasn’t a lap where we didn’t see the #71 in front of us. It’s been a long time since I’ve pushed a car that hard!”
A distant third was the #91 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR of Fred Makowiecki and Richard Lietz, which came into its own in the second half of the race and climbed to a podium spot.
The best of the Ford’s, making it four brands in the top four, was the #67 of Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx, which still holds a lead in the standings after Darren Turner, Daniel Serra and Jonathan Adam retired with braking issues.
“That was a really good weekend for us,” said Priaulx. “To come away from a track that isn’t good for us still leading the championship is a great result. There were moments in the race where we had very little grip and we had to fight hard to keep our competitors behind us.
“Every race matters in this championship and we have fought every step of the way since Silverstone, so we need to keep on pushing. We’re still leading the championship and we now have it all to fight for in Austin so I’m really happy.”
The #92 Porsche finished fifth.
The sister Ford and Ferrari meanwhile, fought hard with each other, but came together in controversial fashion at the baseball stadium in the third hour.
Olivier Pla in the Ford and James Calado hit one another entering the tight section – Calado in the Ferrari running up the inside – with Pla hitting him again after going wide and rejoining the circuit, handing the 488 a left-rear puncture and damaging the rear-right corner of the GT.
The incident caused tempers to flare in the garages, after the collision which prompted both drivers to pit straight away, losing both teams time.
“We clashed last year,” Calado said, “and back then it was my fault. This time it was just absurd, amateurish from him.”
The Ferrari eventually finished sixth, with the Ford seventh after a trip to the box for repairs after the contact.
Proton wins two in a row in GTE Am
In GTE Am, the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche of Matteo Cairoli, Christian Ried and Marvin Dienst outlasted won their second race of the 2017 season, and second in a row.
Like Pro, it was often tight for the win between the Porsche and #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage, of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda. The Aston led early, but Dienst and Cairoli combined to comeback and take the lead just before the halfway mark.
The two cars continued to fight into the final hour, when the Aston finally had to serve a drive-through with all-but sealed the Porsche team the result.
The Gulf Racing UK Porsche, finished third and completed the GTE Am podium, which was the first all-Dunlop GT podium in WEC history. Mike Wainwright, Nick Foster and Ben Barker were all fast and consistent all weekend.
For the championship leaders in the Clearwater Racing garage though, it was a tough outing.
Mom Weng Sun had a collision with the #92 Porsche early on which damaged the car and forced the organisers to give the team a drive-through penalty, that turned into a second drive-through for speeding in the pit lane. The car eventually crossed the line two laps down.
The FIA WEC is set to resume in two weeks-time, when the teams visit Circuit of The Americas in Austin Texas.