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Porsche secures titles in FIA WEC season finale at Bahrain

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Porsche Team’s trio of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard have captured the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship following a dramatic, troubled but triumphant afternoon into evening at the Six Hours of Bahrain, the eighth and final round of the season.

The trio’s No. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid went to the garage early with engine troubles and lost five laps. In the final hour of the race, Webber limped home fighting hybrid issues, but was still able to bring the car home in fifth place overall.

The No. 17 car won four races on the trot from the Six Hours of Nürburgring at the end of August through the penultimate round of the season, the Six Hours of Shanghai, earlier this month.

On the whole, Porsche claimed its sixth consecutive victory in today’s race, as the sister No. 18 trio of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb finally broke through for their first win of the year. As the third car, the No. 19 entry of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenberg won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in mid-June, it means all three of the factory entries have claimed a win this year.

Lieb was the particular standout from today’s race, as he fought off the advances of the No. 7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro driven by Benoit Treluyer. Treluyer, along with teammates Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler, came up just short of both the win and the Driver’s World Championship.

A late race pass by Sam Bird on Tandy in LMP2, Bird in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan and Tandy in the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan, netted the G-Drive trio of Bird, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal not just the race win but that class title as well. It ends a dramatic season-long title battle between the two of them, where several differences of opinion joined some instances of contact on track – particularly at Fuji.

Richard Lietz won the GTE-Pro driver’s title and Porsche the manufacturer’s cup, while like in LMP1, the overall spoils went to the sister entry for the first time in 2015. Frederic Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet, the latter of whom won the GT Le Mans championship in IMSA this season, took the class race win in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR.

GTE-Am was split, with Aston Martin Racing’s trio of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda winning in their No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 for the first time since before Le Mans, at Spa back in May. Meanwhile SMP Racing’s trio of Andrea Bertolini, Victor Shaytar and Alexey Basov, the season-long class dominant entry in the No. 72 Ferrari F458 Italia, won that class driving title.

Today’s race brought to a conclusion one of the more exciting seasons in recent memory, as most if not all eight rounds packed drama, thrills and chills into every six-hour event (and most of the 24 at Le Mans).

Tequila Patron to end ESM and IMSA partnerships after 2018 season

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Earlier on Monday, Tequila Patron, a long-time sponsor in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, both at the team level – they have a long standing partnership with Tequila Patron ESM – and the series level, announced that they will be ending their sponsorships at the end of the 2018 season.

After sponsoring Highcroft Racing in 2008 and 2009 in the American Le Mans Series, Tequila Patron and ESM formed a partnership in 2010 to launch their own team. Since then, they have scored overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Petit Le Mans. They have also competed internationally, in both Prototype and GT categories.

“On behalf of the entire Extreme Speed Motorsports organization, it has been an honor to represent such an amazing brand for the past 13 years,” said team co-owner Scott Sharp via a team release.

“I have the deepest gratitude for all of (Patron CEO and ESM co-founder) Ed Brown’s support. Together we have tackled various challenges, won races at each step, and built ESM into such an incredible team. Simultaneously, it has been thrilling to watch Ed and his team build the Patrón brand in a meteoric fashion and along the way become an icon in the motorsports world! We will miss not carrying the now infamous green and black livery, but the same passion for excellence will remain!”

IMSA President Scott Atherton also expressed gratitude toward Patron for their long-time involvement.

“IMSA and Patron Spirits have enjoyed a fantastic partnership for more than a decade. Tequila Patron rose through the IMSA ranks, from a high-profile team sponsor with Patron Highcroft Racing beginning in 2008, through its entitlement sponsorship of the Patron GT3 Challenge starting in 2009, and its presenting sponsorship of the American Le Mans Series beginning in 2010,” Atherton detailed.

He continued, “Tequila Patron continued in a prominent position as the American Le Mans Series merged with GRAND-AM to create the new IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and has been our entitlement partner for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup since 2014 in addition to its longstanding support of the Tequila Patron ESM race team and its pair of Nissan DPi race cars.

“All associated with IMSA – competitors, promoter partners, series officials and fans – will miss the iconic Tequila Patrón brand next year. On behalf of IMSA, we thank CEO Ed Brown and Tequila Patron for all they have done over the many years to help us grow IMSA and the sport as a whole. We’re more proud than words can express to have counted Tequila Patron among our family of premium brand partners.”

Team co-owner Scott Sharp, in a story posted on SportsCar365, asserted that the ESM team has every intention of continuing in 2019.

“We’re working on a number of options,” Sharp said. “Obviously I think we’ve singly got the best team we’ve ever had, personnel-wise. Having been refining over the years and making selected additions, we’ve gotten ourselves to be super strong. The goal is keeping everyone together. We’re working through a few different options that will hopefully allow us to do that.”

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