Porsche weathers the storm to claim FIA WEC victory in Mexico

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Porsche’s no. 1 crew of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley weathered a turbulent 6 Hours of Mexico at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to claim their second win of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season.

In a race that saw all of the leading LMP1 manufacturers suffer setbacks across the course of the six hours, Porsche’s no. 1 919 Hybrid saw off the challenge from Audi to claim the first WEC victory in Mexico City.

After locking out the front row of the grid on Saturday, Audi looked ready to take the fight to Porsche in the race, and duly delivered in the early stages as Lucas di Grassi led in the no. 8 R18 after the first hour.

Porsche hit the front at the halfway stage just as a rain shower hit the circuit, prompting each team to keep an eye on the sky and change its tires accordingly.

The no. 1 car was hit with a stop/go penalty after crossing the pit entry line before bailing out at the last minute, handing Audi the advantage.

However, a brake failure for Oliver Jarvis while behind the wheel of the no. 8 Audi in the fourth hour sent the car into the wall, dashing its hopes of victory. Although Audi was able to patch up the car and send it back out, further issues resigned the no. 8 to the garage after 166 laps.

A tire battle ensued at the front between the no. 1 Porsche and the no. 7 Audi, Andre Lotterer piloting the latter with fresher and more suitable tires that saw him pull Bernhard in at around five seconds per lap.

Bernhard’s lead fell to under 20 seconds as he tried to make it through a wet-tire stint before switching back to slicks to stay on-strategy. The German was handed a reprieve when Lotterer locked up, hitting the wall and losing 30 seconds in the process.

A late rain shower threatened Porsche’s advantage late on, with Audi banking on a late splash-and-dash for Lotterer in the no. 7 car. The German marque rolled the dice, fitting him with intermediate tires with 12 minutes remaining to place pressure on Bernhard at the front.

With five minutes to go, the pressure on Porsche almost tolled. Coming out of the stadium section, Bernhard slid off the track after hitting the curb, kissing the barrier. Although the incident did not damage the 919 Hybrid, it allowed Lotterer to close in by 20 seconds.

After completing the final few laps in a tentative manner, Bernhard crossed the line after six hours of racing to secure the no. 1 crew’s second win of the season following last month’s success at the Nurburgring.

Lotterer brought the no. 7 Audi home in second place, while Toyota completed the podium with its no. 6 car after an impressive final stint from Stephane Sarrazin.

LMP2 saw the RGR Sport by Morand Ligier-Nissan claim a memorable home victory, putting the Mexican flag on the top step of the podium. Early incidents saw the no. 43 car shared by Bruno Senna, Ricardo Gonzalez and Felipe Albuquerque drop back, handing the advantage to the no. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Nissan.

G-Drive enjoyed a sizeable lead heading into the final hour, only for a dramatic brake failure with Rene Rast behind the wheel to scupper the Russian team’s hopes of victory, dropping it outside of the points.

This left the RGR Sport by Morand team to win the LMP2 class, with the no. 36 Signatech Alpine entry finishing second as Extreme Speed Motorsports – rather aptly for a team sponsored by a tequila brand – rounded out the podium in Mexico.

GTE Pro saw Aston Martin and Ferrari engage in a fierce battle throughout the six-hour race, with the British marque emerging victorious with its no. 97 Vantage V8. Darren Turner and Richie Stanaway saw off the challenge of the no. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE, while the second AMR entry was third despite a trip into the barrier earlier in the race.

Abu Dhabi Proton Racing scored victory in GTE Am after a race-long battle with KCMG and AF Corse. An early crash ruled the no. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 out of contention for victory, leaving the no. 88 Porsche 911 RSR to finish a minute clear of the no. 83 AF Corse, with KCMG’s no. 78 finishing third.