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.