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.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”