Porsche’s no. 17 car surges to maiden WEC victory in 6 Hours of Nürburgring


NÜRBURGRING – Porsche enjoyed a memorable homecoming as its no. 17 car surged to victory in the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on Sunday, heading up a one-two finish for the German marque.

For the first time in the history of the series, the FIA World Endurance Championship graced Germany this weekend for the fourth round of the 2015 season.

Running with a new high downforce package for the race, Porsche enjoyed the measure on rivals Audi in qualifying on Saturday before converting this into its first six-hour race win of the season.

Starting from pole position, the no. 18 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas surged into an early lead as the sister no. 17 car fended off the two Audis behind.

However, when a fuel sensor failure caused the no. 18 drivers to use too much fuel, the stewards handed the car three stop and go penalties, ending its chances of an overall victory at the Nürburgring.

Luckily for Porsche, supreme stints from Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber saw the no. 17 car take up the mantle and create a lap’s lead over the chasing Audi cars behind that lasted to the very end of the race.

The result marks the no. 17 crew’s first win in the WEC, beating their previous best result of second in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

For Webber, the result is made all the more poignant by the fact that it came at the site of his first victory in F1. The Australian driver won the German Grand Prix for Red Bull at the Nürburgring back in 2009.

Despite being hit with three stop and go penalties, a titanic triple stint from Neel Jani saw the no. 18 car fight back to pass both of the Audi cars in the final round of pit stops and complete a Porsche one-two on Sunday.

The no. 7 Audi of Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler completed the podium in third place, but the trio saw their championship lead fall after a difficult race. Audi’s no. 8 finished fourth after a late swap of position, whilst Toyota’s no. 1 and no. 2 cars trundled home in P5 and P6, four laps down on the leaders.

In LMP2, KCMG followed up its Le Mans class victory by clinching its first six-hour win of the season on Sunday. The no. 47 car of Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley and Nick Tandy crossed the line one minute ahead of the no. 26 and no. 28 G-Drive cars which filled out the podium.

Porsche did not only enjoy home success in LMP1, though. In GTE Pro, the no. 91 and no. 92 Porsche 911 RSRs swept to a one-two finish in class. Richard Lietz and Michael Chrstiensen claimed their first class win of the season ahead of Frederic Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet in the no. 92 car, completing a near-perfect day for the German marque.

It was a day to forget to AF Corse in GTE Pro, though. Defending champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander suffered an early stoppage in the no. 51 car that effectively ended their race. Although they could get back out on track, they finished 30th overall. The no. 71 did salvage something for the Ferrari-backed team, finishing third ahead of the three Aston Martin Racing cars.

In GTE Am, SMP Racing bounced back from a poor start to claim its second straight class win with the no. 72 car of Victor Shatter, Andrea Bertolini and Aleksey Basov. The trio finished 40 seconds clear of the no. 98 Aston Martin Racing car, whilst the no. 83 AF Corse rounded out the podium.

The next round of the 2015 FIA WEC season takes place at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, in three weeks’ time.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).